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Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Mon Feb 22, 2021 7:59 am
by Alphaville
oh wow that must have been a very nice hike

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:21 am
by Western Red Cedar
@ertyu and @alpahaville - thanks for the comments. Happy to share some nice scenery with folks in other locations.

@M2aS - I'm a big Bill Bryson fan. I read Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid before A Walk in the Woods and was pleasantly surprised when Katz reappeared in the latter. He really adds some good humor to the story, though it was painful imagining them hauling canned goods on the AT.

@AH - You're welcome. There were at least a couple other near misses that I forgot to include but remembered after reading your comment. I definitely think one facet of backwoods competency is humility. Realizing when you've done something slightly foolish and taking the time to slow down and reevaluate is very valuable in my experience. Glad to offer some inspiration. One of the cool things about interacting here is to keep that inspiration bouncing around by sharing our experiences.

@theanimal - I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. It is hard to compete with some of the epic landscapes you have access to in Alaska.

Ptarmigan are present in the Cascades in Washington State, but I think you're right that it is a grouse. After doing a bit of online digging I think it is a female spruce grouse. I spotted it at a pretty high elevation (about 5,000 ft.) which is more common for the spruce grouse. They also don't fly off when disturbed as I'm used to with the ruffed grouse. I thought the "unusual" behavior was the result of the solar eclipse, but it turns out its just the MO for the spruce grouse.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Tue Feb 23, 2021 9:40 pm
by Western Red Cedar
Walking in the Snow

Last Friday I had a lovely walk on my lunch break. We had a fresh few inches of snow the previous night, which accented the four inches already on the ground. It always surprises me how differently I perceive my environment when it is blanketed in snow.

Lately I've been thinking about how I can be surrounded by beauty, but take it for granted simply because I've become accustomed to it. I'm not sure if this is just a natural human tendency, or a mental construct that needs to be reframed. I suspect it is probably a combination of the two. The new layer of snow had me in high spirits.

I walk through this area almost every day, but a fresh dusting reframed my perspective.



I spotted this badass out in the river fishing despite the temperature:


I walk along the river almost every day. I regularly see Osprey, but only see Bald Eagles a few times a year. I was walking towards a couple and they asked if I had seen the eagles. Sure enough, there were two perched on the telephone poles directly in front of us. I sat and watched for a few minutes before continuing along the rocks toward the river. Lovely seeing them take off down the canyon.


That afternoon was a good reminder that I can have meaningful interactions with nature without straying too far from home. I still love the epic journey deep into the mountains occasionally, but there is a lot to be said for choosing a home base with good access to trails and natural areas.

Sourdough bread and baking adventures:

We are three loaves deep into our sourdough adventures. The first loaf turned out pretty good, but was somewhat dense. We didn't use parchment paper on the second loaf, and it stuck to the pan even though we used oil. DW was pretty upset with that, but we salvaged some of the bread and used the rest for croutons that were delicious. We made our third loaf last weekend. We added garlic and rosemary to the dough. This one didn't rise very much, either before or in the oven. The sour taste of the last two loaves was amazing, but it doesn't seem to be rising as much as we'd like. We are using a ceramic bread pan, so that may be part of the problem. But I suspect that we don't have enough active yeast through the wild fermentation process.

My brother-in-law was a baker and has a 10-year old sour dough starter. He sent us some dried starter, but we haven't started over again yet. I also bought some commercial yeast, but didn't want to add it to our starter because it looks like the commercial and wild yeast compete with each other. It's all been a good learning experiment, but we are looking forward to when we have light airy loaves after spending a couple hours in the kitchen. We'll keep our eyes out for a dutch oven when DW is thrifting.

On a more positive note, our sourdough pizza (with some commercial yeast) has been amazing. We've done pizza Saturdays the last two weekends and it has been a lot of fun. Sci-fi marathon with a fresh mozzarella and artichoke heart pie last weekend:


Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 4:07 pm
by Western Red Cedar
Financial Update:

457 B - 148,811
Roth IRA - 62,472
Savings - 29,451
Pension - 37,776
DW Roth - 53,856
DW Savings - 1,312
Brokerage (shared) - 21,509

NW - 355,187 (Increase of $13,092)

Another step in the right direction financially. I could cover my share of the household expenses at a 5% SWR right now. I'm currently covering 60-70% of our expenses to allow DW to save more and because I make more money. I'm planning on working through at least the end of the year, and possibly until the middle of 2022. I have now started seriously considering whether to request a sabbatical or whether to just plan on leaving for good and jumping into a semi-ERE lifestyle. Health care is still a big unknown variable in my plan if we plan to live in the US.

DW and I talked about her teaching English online while we are slow traveling. She is very open to the idea, and teaching for a few hours per day would bring in more than enough income to cover her expenses. This strategy could dramatically change our plans and allow us to extend the trip for a much longer duration. I also think it would provide a bit of structure, purpose, and balance for DW.

In terms of investments, I've shifted future contributions in my 457b so that 50% of my bi-monthly contributions are in emerging and global index funds. I'm not a very savvy investor, but it seems like international markets have a lot more room for growth based on current valuations. We are heavily tilted towards US markets, and that has worked really well for us since we started investing a little over five years ago. I figure additional diversification is probably wise at this point.

Baking Updates:

We finally produced a very respectable loaf of sourdough yesterday. Our starter is very active and was actually growing and expanding as it was supposed to. I'm not exactly sure what caused this, but I have a couple theories. Our landlord adjusted the boiler so our apartment is much warmer now. I also don't think I was feeding it appropriately. I never really dumped part of the starter out, and usually just added a bit of flour every morning. I think using the starter with the first few loaves of bread and a couple weekends of pizza may have mimicked the feeding process I should have been implementing all along.

Either way, it is nice to have an active starter and high-quality bread as a result of my labor. We also made a couple pizzas last night, which turned out the best yet. This morning I made my first savory sourdough pancake with garlic and rosemary. Very tasty. The only problem is that I'm eating way more carbs than I normally do and it has been too cold to get outside lately. I'll probably have to slow down on all this baking to keep my nutrition in check. Luckily, it is supposed to warm up this week so I can get out on my bike quite a bit. I'm planning on heading out for a ride this afternoon as the weather is finally in the high 30s. I realized in the fall that anything below 35 wasn't a particularly pleasant ride.

Morning Routines:

One of my goals has been to develop a better morning routine. I've finally developed a good habit (on weekdays) of starting the day with 10-12 minutes of meditation. DW and I share a headspace account. I really like the guided meditations, and the one focusing on anxiety was/is particularly helpful.

I used to always try to meditate sitting up with a straight back, often against a wall or something for additional support. A few months ago I adopted DW's practice of meditating lying down under blankets. I was taught that posture was really important to support appropriate breathing, so I resisted a habit of lying down. I realize now that it is much more relaxing and peaceful, which makes me look forward to the practice and has made the habit stick.

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 4:41 pm
by Frugalchicos
Very nice journal and impressive pizzas. I just had dinner and you got me hungry...

It looks like you are right on your path to ERE. Good for you guys!

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 4:53 pm
by Alphaville
yo, that's a beauty.

i've seen an italian pizzaiolo that combines commercial yeast with sourdough, so i would not fear.


lievito madre appears translated as "mother yeast" (lmao) but it's sourdough
also mistranslated dry active yeast as "brewer's yeast" .

i originally found him in this lollercoaster:
great video full of good advice (and hilarious mockery)

Re: Western Red Cedar's Journal

Posted: Sun Feb 28, 2021 6:50 pm
by Jiimmy
Nice update there WRC! Sounds like the money goals are very much within sight.

And nice to hear about the sourdough experiments working out. I've tried twice and came away with very dense unappetizing loaves. I may try again someday.