4-H Outdoor Cooking Workshop–Beef Stew in a Dutch Oven


We were able to teach 2 4-H workshops about outdoor cooking.  It was great!

We got there early to set up and get the fire and coals going.  We chose to use liners for the Dutch Ovens, to help us clean up.  Rob ordered them from Amazon, but feels he could have probably purchased them at some place like Cabelo’s.  We just were not going near any of those kinds of stores.  The event was held 1 hour from our house, and we needed to take every single thing we needed except water.  So, we spent the week making sure we had what we needed, and loaded it up into the van, a little each evening.


Rob got a good fire going in the portable fire pit and we spent the next 2 hours making sure it did not get too big, or go out.  He also got the charcoal going on his Dutch oven table, in the metal charcoal starters he uses.  We had to be very careful to keep everything contained, and very safe.

The kids came, and the first thing we had them do was listen to Rob tell them how to be safe with fires and how to build them. Then, they rolled 10 cotton balls in 2 spoonfuls of petroleum jelly (squished in a baggie) for fire starters, and we also gave them some fire starters in a box.  They put that all in their big Ziplock, with instructions about fire building and recipes they could try at home.  We figured they could provide their own matches:)


We had 10 in one session, and 11 in the other.  We gave everyone a job on the stew we were making.  Some browned the meat, someone else opened the can of tomatoes, a couple cut the carrots, and everyone who ran out of jobs peeled potatoes.  I had a simple recipe for them to follow, but we let them put in more potatoes.  For some of them, it was their first time peeling potatoes.  For others, they obviously had had practice before.

1-2 cups beef (either raw and browned, or cooked, leftover)

2 cups beef broth (either homemade, or 1 14-oz can)

2 cups baby carrots

1 onion, chopped

4 potatoes (they used more)

1-14 oz can tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon thyme

Brown the meat if it is raw, in a little bit of oil.  Put the ingredients in the pot.  Put coals under the pot and on top of the pot once the lid is put on.  We were not careful to count them.  Cook for about 30-45 minutes, stirring a couple of times.


It came out great.  I made one batch at home, which we warmed up for class #1 to eat.  Class #1 made the stew again, and it was cooked for class #2 to eat.  Class #2 made a batch and we took it home, uncooked, because by that time, we wanted the coals and fire to die out so we could transport our equipment safely.  While they ate their stew, Rob told them how to properly take care of cast iron properly.

After they enjoyed their stew, we roasted Peeps in honor of Easter, and then moved on to regular marshmallows.  They loved that part, of course!  Rob made sure they knew that the sugar on the Peeps would get super hot, so they needed to be careful to not burn themselves.  They did great.  These were supposed to be 4th-6th graders, but we could tell that a few younger ones had slipped in, so we wanted to be extra careful with them.


It was an awesome day.  The sun came out, which made it even better, and the kids were receptive, polite, and eager.  Our daughters, Ja’Ana and Patsy helped, as did our niece, Alissa.  Part of the idea was for the older 4H members to help with the younger ones, and that’s what they did. At the end of the day, we felt like the kids had learned something, and had a great time doing it.  We heard many nice compliments, and one little girl said the stew was her favorite, which surprised me!  It was good, I’ll have to admit!





A Strange Place for a Nest


Today, when we took our daughter and niece to their Driver’s Ed class, we were amazed to see a mama goose had decided to make a nest right outside the office buildings where the class was held.  Nestled into the dirt of the flowerbed, this goose has decided that she is hidden enough behind the tiny, green bush.


Daddy goose wandered the parking lot.  He wandered around the Driver’s Ed cars, the downed branches and trees from the recent wind storm, and away from my daughter and nephew, who were trying to get a closer look.  We were a bit early, but soon 20-30 teens arrived and filed past near the nest.  Mama goose put her neck out and looked a bit nervous, but stayed put.

We talked to a man who was waiting for his teen’s class to start, and he said the mama goose had stood up and there were eggs under her.

I can’t wait to see if she’s still there next Sunday afternoon.  Now, that’s determination!  Let’s hope we can show the same tenacity while teaching our daughter to drive:)

Crabbing on a Pole at the Oregon Coast


Too bad it is a female!  Rob and Patsy spent some time trying to catch both fish and crab off the jetty at Newport, Oregon.  They have tried twice in the past few days, but so far, no keepers.  Here’s hoping……


Everything that was caught went back into the bay.


There was lots to look at, though, as there always is at the beach.  We were marveling at the size of the rocks the jetty was built with.  The kids wanted to know where they came from and how in the world anyone moved them here to build the jetty.  We don’t know.  Maybe the mountains.  Maybe a big truck.   All we know is that they are huge!


The waves were really crashing.  It was beautiful.


In the midst of it all, the wild strawberries are bravely blooming.

We had fish from the grocery store for dinner last night.  Some fishing and crabbing trips are like that.  We didn’t catch anything edible, but instead, added many more fun memories to those we already made.  This summer is not going to be the same as last year’s “Summer of Adventure,” but I have a feeling that although it’s not summer yet, new adventures are already beginning.

A Visitor to Our Yard


All you can see of our latest visitor is the tail.  Look through the fence, on the right hand side.  It’s a turkey.

On Wednesday, my aunt and mom came for lunch.  My aunt had just finished asking my mom if there were any birds starting to come to her new feeders in her yard.  I had just told them that there were lots of birds here in our new yard, as the gentleman who owned the house before us had put up feeders, fed them, etc.  I pointed to the birdhouses, and to my shock and surprise, a turkey jumped over the fence from the neighbor’s yard and began to walk across our yard.  I said, “look, there’s a turkey, now” and  fumbled with my phone, trying to get ready to take a picture, but was not fast enough to get a good one..  I went barreling out the slider into the back yard, raised the phone, and watched in surprise as the turkey jumped onto the fence and over, leaving me with a picture of its tail only.

Not being able to get through the locked gate to chase it further, I tore through the house to the front door, with Ja’Ana and Alissa close behind.  They politely pushed past the 2 unsuspecting Jehovah’s Witness gentlemen who had just appeared on the doorstep, and took off down the street to see where it was going.  The gentlemen seemed quite good-natured, though surprised and were soon on their way.  The girls came back with the news that the turkey had jumped over a neighbor’s fence and headed off across their yard.  We all settled down to the salad lunch the girls had prepared and enjoyed a peaceful lunch with no more surprise visitors.  It was a beautiful bird and I was delighted he chose to meander across our yard.

Time to Get the Camper Organized for Camping


It is hard to get a block of time to organize the entire camper.  I decided to break it up into chunks this year.  I doubt I’ll ever have an entire day to accomplish that task, so I though I’d get started really early to make sure it was done before I wanted to go, thus hopefully alleviating stress at the time.

I went out there and looked through the freezer a few days ago.  I was amazed at what had migrated into it.  I removed a bag of rolls, probably leftover from Thanksgiving or Christmas, some cranberries (?), and a few other items.  I noticed some of our daughter’s food items lurking in there, as well.  I’ve told her they have to go soon.  The fridge was relatively empty, save for a few extra eggs and cheese, that are in there for lack of space in the kitchen fridge.  I won’t stock the fridge until right before we go camping.  But, the freezer is a different story.  I plan to put a few packages of hamburger, bacon, sausage, etc. in there.  It keeps as well there as in any other freezer, so it’s a way I can pre-plan.

I usually make a casserole or spaghetti sauce and freeze for easy cooking on rainy camping nights when we don’t want to cook over a fire.  I can thaw, and pop into the mini oven we have in the camper.   I put the casserole(s) into dishes and pans from the camper, so they fit into the oven, and I can just put them away out there after we eat the casserole.  Close to the time of the camping trip, I make a few food items like potato salad, or cooked chicken or a casserole and put the prepared items in the fridge for the first night, when we are busy setting up and have no time to cook.  We have a really aversion to trying to get fast food for the kids while pulling a camper–too hard, so it’s nice to say “dinner’s in the fridge, no need to stop.”  If we are going to be on the road a lot, I pack a lunch and put it in a cooler right inside the door to the camper, so we can reach in, grab it, and hand out sandwiches, etc. without even having to put the steps down.

Today, I went through some of the food cupboards.  Remember, we lived in the camper all summer last year, so I had quite a bit of food in there.  A lot of it was partial packages, as I was cooking in there daily last summer.

I always keep the camper cupboards well-stocked.  When we are camping, we may eat out occasionally as a vacation treat, but most of the time we cook at the camper.  Sometimes, we camp a long ways from restaurants, but not always.  Unfortunately, much restaurant food makes me extremely sick, due to my several gluten intolerance.  We like our own cooking way too much anyway, and I feel so much better eating our food, so we cook, even when we are camping in a populated area like the coast.   It also saves money. We often experiment with different campfire cooking recipes, especially Rob, and tend to have more big breakfasts with things like bacon, fried potatoes and pancakes.  So, I stock spices, and ingredients for many recipes and take lots of food.


During this past winter,  we occasionally went out to the camper, looking for an ingredient or two for a recipe,  so I wasn’t sure what was in there anymore.  It was time to sort it out!  I do try to organize the cupboards in the late winter every year, anyway, to keep things fresh and to know what I have and don’t have, but this year it was critical.


I pulled partial packages of things out.  I made cookies with all the bits of chocolate chips and M and M’s I found.  I found an empty sugar container and filled it.  I saw I did not have marshmallows.  The syrup is almost gone, as is the pan spray, and so it went.  A couple of things had spilled or leaked slightly.  I wiped them up.  I am making a list of what is needed and will slip a few items onto my grocery list each time I go so I won’t cost me a fortune to re-stock at any one time.  I’ve already slipped a case of water, some cookies I got for free from Fred Meyers Friday Freebies, and some chips.

After I sort out and re-stock the cupboards, I will go through the entertainment cupboard. I like to keep books, games, toys and craft kits in there, especially for Patsy, as she is still young enough to want things to do to keep her busy. She likes to embroider dish towels, so I’ll make sure there are some of those kind of supplies in there as well.   I will sort out the DVDs as well to make sure there’s plenty of interesting movies for times when I want a nap.

I will make sure the bathroom supplies are stocked.  I robbed shampoo and conditioner from there during the winter, as well as body wash, etc.  I will make sure there are enough old towels out there, that too many have not been pilfered during the winter.

We will also make the beds with clean sheets.  The camper was used as a guest house a couple of times, so sheets need to be replaced on the bed because they were used and washed.


I always keep a sewing machine in the camper.  I will make sure I have a sewing project or 2, either a garment for one of the girls or a quilting project.  My daily life is so busy that I often quilt ONLY while camping.  Sad, but true, so I make sure I have supplies in the camper, because I really enjoy it.  It’s the main reason why I finish so few projects.  When you only work on them a couple of times per year–well, you don’t finish very fast.  I also like handwork like embroidery or crocheting, so I make sure I have a project or 2 along.  I will visit the library before we go each time and stock up on reading materials.

Rob will fill the lower outside compartments with fishing poles and supplies, crab traps, and cast iron cooking kettles and supplies such as charcoal.  Bait will be purchased when we actually go camping.  He will make sure all the mechanical things are working well, such as the water heater, tires, jacks, etc.  He is also in charge of the outside kitchen, and we will need to go through it once we get to the campsite.  Where we have it parked, we cannot open it up properly, but I know it’s pretty messy in there from last summer.  We love that feature and used it a lot last summer.


As we finish sorting and renewing our supplies over the next few weeks, we will hopefully be able to take a moment and remember the wonderful summer we had last year.  This year, we hope to clam, crab, fish, hike, play and walk on the beach, and visit the mountains.  Since Rob’s job ended up being with the school system, he has the summer off.  I do not, but do have flexibility with my job, as I am a personal support worker for my DD service niece and nephew.  There are some times when they are going on vacation with their family, so I’m free then. Also, I can take them with us if we want to go camping for a couple of days when I’m supposed to be working.  It will be a great experience for them as well, and fun for all.  Part of what I do when I am working with them is help them have new experiences, grow and develop as people, gain life skills, etc., and I can do that while camping, fishing, crabbing, etc.   In-between camping trips, we hope to grow a big garden, can and freeze the produce, and participate in several church activities for both the kids and ourselves.  It’s shaping up to be a great summer!








Mystery Bird


Yesterday afternoon, we were treated to the sight of a large bird soaring over the river.  At first, the girls thought it was a bald eagle, but upon further examination, it did not have a white head and black body.  As it circled around, presumably looking for fish, we wondered if it might be an osprey.  Some of the kids thought it might be a hawk, but I’ve never seen one fishing before.  Maybe they do, but the ones I’ve seen have always been searching for mice and other things from fields.  Before we could decide, it swooped by one more time and flew across the river, to perch in the top of a tall tree.  We could never see it closely enough to identify it, but no matter what variety it was, we enjoyed the noble, majestic sight of it very much.

We had another snow day Monday. It’s unheard of here in our part of Oregon to get 4 inches of snow on March 6, but we did in our back yard.  It melted quickly and we were off to do errands in the afternoon, since Rob got a day off work because the schools were closed.


For the most part, we have had extremely rainy weather lately.  There is standing water all over.  This picture really doesn’t give justice to the gorgeous rainbow we saw, though.  No matter how much rain—there’s always a rainbow, if you just look hard enough.

Outdoor Games


Spring is getting closer!  We had a beautiful, sunny day today and it got me to thinking about outdoor activities the kids could do.  My nephew, Jake, figured out the first one on his own.  When we were getting our taxes, he found these perfect stepping stones and had a ball jumping from stone to stone across the area.  Those are the best kids of outdoor games, in my opinion, because they use imagination.


Triumphant!  King of the Rock!!


Patsy decided to set up the croquet in the soggy, soggy yard–boots are a necessity here in rainy, rainy Oregon!  It was good to get out some of the outdoor toys and games that have been stored away all winter.


Jake loved it!  He also took the 1 badminton racket we got at a yard sale last weekend, and the birdies we purchased today, and hit the birdie around for a while.  I was throwing it to him, like one would a baseball, and he was trying to whack it back, as one would do to a baseball…..hmmmm….we are going to try to find another racket, for sure.

The kids also ate popsicles and blew bubbles.  After all, there were a few rays of sunshine!   I was very pleased to see them playing outside this afternoon.  It has been a record year for rainfall, and so they have been cooped up, playing Wii, reading, playing games, etc. more than I’d like.

When Jake’s mama shows up in a little while, I’m hoping he will be pleasantly tired, and ready for a quiet evening at home.  His big sister, Michaela, participated in a Special Olympics basketball tournament today, so he stayed the night, and hung around with us today.  We had a lot of fun!


Winter Hike on the McKenzie River Trail


This is a guest post by Ja’Ana and Alissa.

On President’s Day, we took a hike with our youth group.  We drove east of Salem on Hwy 126 towards Sisters.  We passed Detroit Lake, and then went to the McKenzie River trails.  We could not park in the parking lot because there was too much snow, so we parked on the side of the road.


The trail led us down a pretty easy path towards 2 waterfalls.  The thing that made it harder was that there was snow on and around part of the trail.


At times, we hiked above the river and there were steep drop-offs.  There was a part where we could see the railing, and parts where it was buried by snow.   Where we were hiking over snowdrifts, we had to follow the beaten path.  If we got to one side or the other, we sunk through the snow.  The more we got into the snow, the colder and wetter we got.

We took lunches in our backpacks and enjoyed them at the second waterfall.

In all, we hiked for about 2-1/2 hours, and went in to 2 waterfalls and back again.  We think that during the summer, this hike could have been made much quicker because it would have been easier.


Once we got back into the vans, we soon warmed up and made our way home.  It was a fun, eventful day and we are glad we went.



Late Winter Sunset


A couple of evenings ago, I enjoyed a gorgeous sunset from my sister’s deck, overlooking the Willamette River in Oregon.


I really was breath-taking, even more lovely than these pictures can relate.

Winter is starting to wane, although it’s been a severe one with lots of snow and ice, for our part of Oregon.  I’m looking forward to spring, but don’t want to miss one moment of beauty that winter offers, either.  I’m glad  I don’t have to.

Icy Again–Really?


This winter just keeps on coming!  Here, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we don’t see very much icy wintry weather very often.  This year is an exception!  Last night, we were treated with another round of freezing rain.  I guess Rob won’t be barbecuing today!

This batch of precipitation is supposed to quickly turn to regular rain and should be melted off by tonight.  School was not cancelled where we live, although a 2-hour delay would have been nice.  Rob had to drive in it to where he catches the school bus with a little boy who needs guidance on the bus.  He made it fine, but left super early to ensure that he could drive slowly.  Our deck was treacherous, to put it mildly, and the cars were covered with ice.  He drove a longer way that avoided hills, to avoid slippery slopes.


The grass was crunchy when I walked out to take pictures.


It’s beautiful, but dangerous!  I’m ready for spring, but there’s a lot of winter left…..So, I’ll enjoy it while it’s here.