Monthly Archives: October 2017

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

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It’s that time of year and we had a lovely pumpkin to make a traditional Jack-O-Lantern with. We decorated with some fun decorations for the kiddies and we have our treats ready! It’s not technically our holiday and we don’t really celebrate but we do like to give out candy and have a Jack-O-Lantern anyway in the interest of being good neighbours. This Jack-O-Lantern art also meant we had pumpkin seeds. Over the years I have tried lots of pumpkin seed recipes but about 15 years ago I found a really good one. The result is delicious roasted pumpkin seeds you can eat whole without taking the shell off.

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The first step is get your seeds sort of cleaned up. They don’t have to be perfectly clean, just mostly. Put the seeds in a pot and add a teaspoon of coarse salt with enough water to float all the seeds plus two inches. Bring the seeds to a boil and then simmer gently. You will need to simmer a long time until all the seeds have a clear cooked look. It takes about 45 minutes but you use the look of the seeds not the time to decide. How long the seeds need depends on the type of pumpkin you use and the ripeness. As you simmer, occasionally stir and the uncooked ones will show up as lighter. You’re ready to start baking when all the seeds are greyish and don’t float.

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In this image the seeds are about half cooked. Some are clear and have sunk down. Some are still floating. You can’t really over cook at this stage so keep simmering until they are all boiled and greyish. Don’t rush this step or you will have tough seeds.

Once all the seeds are soft and greyish, drain the water.  Add enough margarine or butter to generously coat all the seeds and spread them on a cookie sheet. They will be salty from the boiling but you can add more salt if you like. Bake the seeds at 350F until they are all dry and golden brown. Every few minutes stir them and spread them again. Be careful with baking and watch closely because you can easily burn them.

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This is what they look like as they bake. They will brown in spots which is why you need to keep stirring them or you’ll end up with burnt spots.

Once the seeds are all baked to a uniform golden brown they are ready. No need to shell the seeds. The outside shell has been softened by the boiling and you just pop them in your mouth and eat them whole. I have been told the seeds will keep for a long time prepared this way, but they never have lasted to the time we blow out the candle on the Jack-O-Lantern at my house. YUMMY! Happy Halloween!

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Riding Mountain National Park’s Mount Agassiz Day Use Area

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Last Sunday we awoke to a lovely warm sunny day that was beyond inviting. October is a weird month up here on the 51st parallel. It can be warm as summer and as cold as winter in the same day. Smart people take advantage of nice weather because chances are it won’t be nice the next day or in a few hours. Even though it was a lot earlier than I would normally care to be moving in the morning, we packed up the dogs and drove to one of our favourite places. We live on the east side of Riding Mountain National Park. It’s not a true mountain. It’s a long escarpment at about 732 metres (2400 feet) rising abruptly about 100 metres (320 feet) above a really flat plain going down to Lake Manitoba. From our house about 45 km (30 miles) away we can see “the mountain” clearly.

There used to be a ski resort on the east side. The nearest town of McCreary has as it’s statue symbol a funny cartoon fellow with downhill skis. In places like British Columbia the old Aggasiz Ski Resort would barely be a bunny hill and “the mountain” likely wouldn’t even have a name. On the Manitoba flat plain, this is a startling and steep place. Many years ago the old ski resort went out of business and the road up to the lodge was rarely used by anyone except the odd bunch of horse trailers bringing in riding horses for trail riding. We saw both white tail deer and elk on the drive in. Last trip we saw several bears. It is a wild place. More recently the Federal Government has decided to develop this spot. Very little on the east side of the mountain is accessible and so it has been designated as a day use picnic area. We took advantage of the lovely weather to take a hike.

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The only facilities are garbage cans, recycle bins, an outhouse and a big wood pile. There are several picnic tables and a typical “warm up” shelter, a place that in winter is sheltered from wind with a big wood stove to provide heat. There are some paved trails that follow a small creek.

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Because it was late fall, the deciduous trees were bare and the native plants were long since brown and finished. People mowed lawn was the only thing still green and that not by much.

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The narrow creek is lined with round glacial boulders. It was recently made over and so no sand has accumulated in the creek bed. The flow is constant from a flat plateau above that is a large swamp marsh. All of the water runs down into this valley and from there wanders out of the park onto the plains. It’s not a big creek. You can almost jump over it and it was barely ankle deep on this. It is a novelty here though because it is not a typical sluggish green ribbon a most creeks on the flat plain are. It is a genuine babbling laughing creek running merrily over pretty rocks. There is a small bridge over the creek at the end of the path. From there you can start climbing uphill.

The land is clear on wide trails of what used to be the old ski runs. It is a steep but easy trail up to the tops of the old ski hills on either side of the creek. This is the view looking north. We took the south side. We stopped for about twenty minutes to watch a huge flock of mixed Canada and Snow geese circling above in a lazy flock that never quite made proper Vs. We also saw three ravens chasing an golden eagle out of the area with many indignant caws. Except for chickadees we did not see any song birds. The chickadees flocked nearby and then moved off to other things.

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The trail was lovely climbing up the hill. It was wide and easy and dry. Soon we were high above the creek and the valley floor. The sun was bright and the breeze was light and the dogs were having a blast. I resisted the temptation to let Misty off the leash. There are a lot of animals in this park including bears, wolves, cougars, skunks and porcupines and it is just not safe for an enthusiastic puppy. Even so, she had a great time looking at all the plants and sniffing a whole world of new scents I can only imagine.

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At the top of the hill the trail thinned down to a little track suitable for a deer or horse. You would not get lost following it but the footing was a bit more precarious. Even as we admired the view and contemplated continuing, heavy clouds came rolling in from the west and lowered ominously. Soon the sun was covered. We decided to head back to the truck and call it a day.

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Looking into the rapidly disappearing sun, we could see that our trail followed an old cut for electric supply to the ski resort. It would have been fun to continue but with the weather changing fast, not wise. We were not dressed for cold and had no survival gear.

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By the time we got back to the truck, the wind was really roaring, the sky was completely covered and the dark grey clouds were low on top of us. By the time we drove out of the park and into McCreary, a cold fall drizzle had started. We just made it. Oh, it was a lovely time enjoying the sun on a fall day before the weather turned and we plan on going again once we get back home in the spring. A full Alberta clipper blizzard has hit us since our trip to Agassiz and the ground here is covered with snow. Full winter is here. We head south soon, so we won’t be back to Agassiz until spring.

Hollywood Beach Manitoba

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Hollywood doesn’t just exist in California. There is also a Hollywood Beach in Manitoba. A historical marker on the beach says the beach was created as a public space in order to celebrate the Canadian Centennial in 1967. No one seems to know how it got its name although “there was a movie made there once” and “when they named the beach it had a downed holly tree on it” are the two most popular explanations I have heard.

Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach is near Langruth Manitoba and has something to do with the now ghost town of Lakeview. It is about three kilometres long and one of the nicest of the Lake Manitoba beaches as far as quality of sand goes. We have been here many times. There used to be a long narrow sand bar that trapped the water on the beach so it would get smelly and greenish and the beach would be very unpleasant in hot weather. That’s why we haven’t been there in several years. We were delighted to arrive and find the past floods and very high water seems to have cleaned the beach out and restored it. The choking sandbar is gone and the beach is clean and lovely.

 

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Technically the beach is a campground. There are no services, no gate, no fees, and no amenities of any kind except for fire pits, ‘recycle everywhere’ bins and someone regularly mows the grass. It would be a really lovely spot to boondock for free if one had a self-contained trailer that could manage without hookups. We have never camped here ourselves. That may change now that we have seen how nature restored the beach. There are also no “No Dogs Allowed” signs. Misty loved the beach. She will be five months old tomorrow and she has grown so much.

 

Manitoba is in full fall gold and yellow display and the lovely colours included the beach. We enjoyed the 53 kilometre drive to the beach due to the fine fall colours. The beach was littered with gold leaves.

 

The beach is on a narrow spit of land with a marsh on other side of the road into the beach area. We have canoed in the huge marsh behind Hollywood beach. During our visit today we saw innumerable arctic terns, curlews, gulls, ravens and even a small flock of tundra swans on their migration south. There was one large blue heron, a straggler, as most have long since migrated. In the past, during summer, we have seen huge flocks of red wing black birds and yellow headed blackbirds among many other marsh birds, as well as white pelicans. Those have apparently already headed south. Beyond the marsh is a lot of pastureland and this makes a trip to Hollywood Beach a bird watcher’s delight.

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The beach is on a thin strip of land with deep wide marshes on the other side.

We enjoyed the fine details of the beach as well, including a spot absolutely full of tiny snail shells, both rams horn and pond snails. I don’t know why so many empty shells covered the area at the end of the beach. We also found evidence of the flood’s work on tree roots still in the sand. This demonstrated again that the terrible floods of the last decade have ended up doing some good. These floods, difficult as they are for humans, seem to be part of the cycle of the lake itself.

 

There was a family having a picnic when we arrived. They had made a fire and the little ones were having fun. Otherwise we had the beach to ourselves. It had been warm and sunny when we left Alonsa and we had planned on trying to get one more canoe trip in. The wind had picked up and it got cloudy and cool as we arrived. The water was bitterly cold. We decided to skip a freezing cold canoe ride and just enjoy a long walk on the beach instead.

I think it would be especially lovey to do an overnight trip in summer with our trailer. With absolutely no amenities or nearby towns, the night sky over the lake would be perfect for stargazing or watching the aurora. The start of the roadway into the beach and the campground spots are big enough for even a big rig. The further on ones goes, the more the road deteriorates and the smaller the “campsites” which are really just big mowed areas with a fire pit.

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After a nice walk down the length of beach we had our own nature call in this lovely but no facilities place and headed home. We really enjoyed the visit and we will be back. Hollywood Beach in Manitoba is a very special place.