Daily Life of A Jackson Lake Lodge Wrangler

I wish I could say I’ve been better about posting but I’ve been too busy working and having fun so I don’t feel too guilty. As of tomorrow I will have officially lived in the Tetons for a month — I can’t believe how fast it has flown by.

As promised, I’ll chat a little bit about my daily schedule here at the corrals. I work about ten hours a day every day I work, which is five to six days a week. I definitely didn’t expect to work as much as I do but I enjoy my job immensely and it’s nice to bring in the money.

Our corral has two main fenced in areas, a catch pin, a chute and a pony pin. The back corral is where the horses stay all night. The front corral is where we tie them up during the day, unload guests and feed lunch. The catch pin is for holding horses after rides and in the morning. It is connected to the chute where we saddle, unsaddle and let guests feed treats.

A standard day starts at 5:45 when I’ll wake up, throw on my Western shirt, boot cut jeans, boots, belt and cowgirl hat. I’ve upgraded my outfit quite a bit since I’ve gotten here. At first I didn’t want to invest any money in work clothes but it’s actually fun to dress for the job appropriately.

I get to the corrals around 6:15 and grab coffee before herding the horses into a catch pin and chute. We have fourteen horses at the corral, and we saddle all fourteen in the chute at the beginning of the day. By the time we’ve saddled, fed and tied the herd it’s about 7:00 and we all head to breakfast. On an average day there are three wranglers working.

After breakfast we take out the first ride at 8:00. The horses are saddled all day but we put in their bridles and feed bags right before they go out. We also re-brush them, fly spray, paint hooves, etc. while we wait for the guests. While the 8:00 ride is out we clean the back corral and waters. Horses poop about once every four hours, so you can do the math for how dirty the back corral can be.

Once the 8:00 ride comes in we feed out hay and then go to lunch ourselves. Next up is the 11:45 and while that ride is gone we do most of the other chores like wipe down, sweeping, mopping, cleaning feed bunks etc. We also give pony rides on occasion if we have enough staff. By the time the 11:45 returns right about 2:00 we turn right around to get out our one hour ride of the day at 3:00. While that ride is out we feed out for dinner and finish any extra chores we can fit in — cleaning tack, raking the front corral, bathing horses. The best part of my day is always when we take the halters off the horses from the 3:00 ride and they race to the back corral to eat. It’s nice to see them really move even though they work hard during the day. After we make sure everything is locked up we almost always sit out for some beers.

I suppose that doesn’t sound as exhilarating as I might have hoped but when you have the Tetons in your view all day, there are few things better. Next week I’ll go into more detail about the actual trail rides we take out, what it means to be an interpretive guide and more!

The food continues to be mediocre here. One month of not cooking and I’m going out of my mind just a bit.

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Horses eating dinner in the back corral with Mt. Moran in the background

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Just some more nice shots of the Teets

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Moose spotting at the National Elk Refuge en route to Jackson

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Never enough pictures of this place… this one featuring The Grand, our tallest mountain at 13,770 feet

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The National Park Service and The Grand Tetons — Patchwork Partnership

I can’t believe how fast ten days have flown by here. To say I have been busy is a complete understatement — I wake up at 5:30 nearly every day to work ten to twelve hours at the corral, mostly doing manual labor (cleaning horse poop, feeding out hay, cleaning more poop). I’ve never been one to say no to a party but I’ve been finding myself doing that more and more often, preferring to fall asleep at 9:30 rather than do anything after work. I love that it’s the best fitness regime I’ve ever had and the fact that I’m getting paid to play with horses, but I do wish I had more energy to take advantage of the park.

IMG_0042 Living in a national park has been educational already. Since it’s federally regulated land, seemingly small crimes in other states, such as smoking marijuana, are still felonies here. NPS officers have jurisdiction over the Jackson Lake Lodge, which means they can patrol the employee village as they like. They also hold the lodge amenities to a certain set of rules, like that no one can have a TV in their room, or that we have to safeguard all our hay from foraging elk.

Undoubtedly, NPS has done a fantastic job preserving the park. From what I can understand, people who return to the Tetons see little change to the landscape, which is wonderful considering how stunning the views are. But the park itself has an interesting history compared to others. Originally the park consisted only of the Teton range and the lake at its base. Homesteaders owned the majority of the surrounding land, from Moran to Jackson. Many residents were opposed to its creation or expansion because it meant the government would just take away their property and enact new rules. So instead, John D. Rockefeller decided to take action. He set up the Snake River Land Trust and began buying up the properties surrounding the mountains. By the time he gifted it to the government he had accumulated over 300,000 acres of land to add to the park. At first, FDR, the president at the time, deemed it the Jackson Hole National Monument before that was dissolved and the land added to the park.

Each of these transitions were hotly contested by members of the community. After the creation of the Monument, cattle ranchers actually drove their stock across the land in protest. As part of the deal for turning the land into the park, the government grandfathered in some private properties as well as grazing areas. There are still two private grazing areas in the park, shared by domestic cattle and wild bison.

The history is much more complicated than this but I could go one for pages about the nitpicky details. Rather, it’s just interesting to reflect on how we can look at a beautiful place like the Tetons without considering the strife it created. NPS has continued to take contested actions in the park up to this day, such as reintroducing wolves in 1995. For obvious reasons, cattle ranchers were livid about this decision. Today, the park is considering vaccinating the wolves for Parvo, and the final decision has yet to be determined. Interestingly, many paths at Colter Bay, another GTLC property, have been closed due to new wolf dens. The cohabitation of tourists and wildlife continues to adapt all the time.

This post might seem a little dry, so next time I’ll talk about the corrals and all the fun horses I get to play with! Until then, bon appetit and safe travels (still trying to get over the fact that I won’t have the chance to cook for the next four months).IMG_0041

The Beginning (The Badlands and Driving 2500 Miles in Four Days)

As promised, I’m back and better than ever with my newly focused Petite Kitchn. I just arrived at Jackson Lake Lodge yesterday and am still getting settled. Driving so much in four days is incredibly taxing even though you’re just sitting on your ass. My mom and I trekked across I-80 through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and finally Wyoming. Our major stops were at the Flight 83 Memorial in Pennsylvania and the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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The Flight 83 Memorial was intense. It is easy to forget about the other two flights that were involved with 9/11. Obviously the most deaths occurred in NYC but it was meaningful to go somewhere and see the great appreciation for the other heroes of that day, the 33 passengers and flight attendants who managed to bring the plane down rather than have it hit Congress. With the ongoing construction of the memorial, I hope that their bravery is never forgotten.

The Badlands were absolutely breathtaking, but in a different way. At this point in my life I have gone to 13 of the National Parks and each time I am impressed by how diverse they are. Badlands stuck out the most to me because of its prehistoric history — parts of the park are 35 million years old. The Wall (the primary rock formation) creates an eerie skyline that seems so out of place in the flatness of South Dakota. While the Grand Tetons certainly stand out with their pure beauty, the Badlands was awing in just its existence.

I’ve added some of my pictures here from my iPhone. I’ve started using my Canon again but haven’t quite figured out what cord is necessary to get the pictures onto my laptop. When I do, I’ll add the rest of the higher res ones.

Next time I’ll talk about my arrival at the Grand Tetons and what it means to work in a National Park, having worked in one about 24 hours now.

The Badlands, featuring part of The Wall

The Badlands, featuring part of The Wall

The Badlands, featuring the Back Door

The Badlands, featuring the Back Door

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Badlands

The Grand Tetons National Park

The Grand Tetons National Park

Transitions

Over the past three years I’ve maintained this blog, sometimes more frequently than others, but it has always been a food blog. However, with my departure for the next phase of my life coming quickly (ten days as of May 13) I have decided to take Petite Kitchn in a different direction.

I am moving to Moran, Wyoming for five months to work at Jackson Lake Lodge, a guest resort in the Grand Tetons. My exact job title is “Corral Wrangler” which basically means I will be taking care of the horses on the property as well as taking guests out on trail rides. I will be living with a roommate, enjoying communal bathrooms, and subsisting on a meal plan. The way I see it, it’s going to be something like an adult summer camp.

While I will still blog about food, my main focus will be living in the West, working with the horses and guests, posting pictures of the Grand Tetons, and other musings about life. It has always been my plan to wean myself off social media while I’m there so starting next Sunday I will begin deleting my accounts (Twitter first, then Facebook, then maybe Instagram though I might keep this one for pictures). Thus this blog will become my main point of contact when it comes to telling people about my trip. I want to use my time in Wyoming to its max — writing short stories, tweaking my five year plan, getting in touch with nature. The less distractions the better, and social media tends to be my greatest distraction.

So while I’m at Jackson Lake Lodge let me know what topics you might be interested in hearing about. At this moment I have no idea what to expect, which is similar to how i felt about college. I ended up loving Baltimore so much and I hope to return someday. So anything could happen.

Next week I will post about my three day road trip out to Wyoming and then bi-weekly after that — I’ll decide the exact days once I get a better feel of my schedule.

So until then, prepare yourself for something a little different!

Thai Turkey Sliders and Black Bean, Sweet Potato Empanadas

Ah! I have already failed my NYR… three weeks since I’ve posted. But I’m back so I forgive myself. To make up for it I have two recipes, hooray!

First up, Thai Turkey Sliders. They’re GF and DF so guilt free and delicious. I’ve actually been very proud of myself for exploring new recipes that aren’t just easy stir fries or taco bowls. This is definitely one to keep in the book because it doesn’t require too much that you wouldn’t already have in the pantry. Plus it’s a good dish for entertaining if you just increase the recipe (adapted from here). I apologize, the pictures are atrocious this week.IMG_0001

Ingredients

Burgers

8oz 93% Lean Ground Turkey

1 Medium Carrot, shredded

1 Large Scallion, minced

¼ Teaspoon Sesame Oil

1 Teaspoon Chili Garlic Sauce

2 Tablespoons Natural Peanut Butter

Freshly Ground Salt & Pepper, to taste

½ Teaspoon Ground Ginger

Sauce

2 Tablespoons Vegan Mayo

Handful of Cilantro, finely minced

1-2 Teaspoons Sriracha

Bibb Lettuce Leaves, for serving

Directions

1. Combine the burger ingredients a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.

2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and spray lightly with cooking spray.

3. Form the turkey mixture into 16-20 miniature “sliders”.

4. Cook the patties for about 3-5 minutes per side, until cooked through.

5. Stir together the mayonnaise, cilantro, and chili garlic sauce, to taste.

6. Serve the burgers on buns with the cilantro-chili mayo on Bibb lettuce leaves.

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Now the next recipe I sadly didn’t take pictures – vegetarian empanadas. This was one of the harder things I’ve ever tried to make, since it also consisted of making the dough from scratch. Even though I followed the directions, the dough didn’t turn out quite right (very dry) so I probably would buy store bought next time. Other than that, these have been great because I just popped a couple into a few plastic bags and froze them for later. A great addition to my freezer-friendly meal plan and it’s also vegetarian/DF. Recipe adapted from here.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup canola oil

1/4 cup cold water

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 jalapeno chile

1 tablespoon cumin powder

1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes

1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Instructions

1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine canola oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and egg in a medium bowl. Gradually add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Knead lightly until smooth. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.

2. Preheat broiler.

3. Place jalapeno on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chile; cut in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes. Finely chop.

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. Combine cumin, jalapeno, sweet potatoes, and next 5 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth.

6. Divide dough into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. Roll each dough portion into a (5-inch) circle on a lightly floured surface. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), spoon 3 level tablespoons poblano mixture into center of each circle. Moisten edges of dough with egg white; fold dough over filling. Press edges together to seal. Place empanadas on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut 3 diagonal slits across top of each empanada. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until lightly browned.

So there you have it! Two new dishes to try out, both healthy and freezable. Bon appetit!

Large Scale Cooking

I’ve always been hesitant to make anything I have to separate into portions and either freeze or eat that week. There’s something depressing about it, like the fact it makes me feel old and adult-ish. But now that I am an adult I felt that I should try it again. I had a box of pre-cooked lentils in my fridge so that became the main theme of the dishes, along with soup since it’s so chilly here and I was so hopeful that Juno would actually shakes things up in Charm City (she didn’t but it’s still been plenty cold enough for soup).

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I took all the recipes from other websites so rather than go through each one here and rewrite them, I’ll just post the links and my reviews of them. First up, lentil stew with sausage, kale and sweet potatoes. This was my favorite dish of the three, based on both taste and how long it lasted. Here is the original recipe. The only changes I made were using chicken sausage instead of pork, and I chose kale instead of mustard greens because they cost half as much at Trader Joe’s. I also only used one large onion which was plenty. It tasted delicious right when it was done cooking, but also a day later. I separated it into five portions and froze one of them, while keeping the rest in the fridge. The only complaint I have is that the sausage started to toughen up. But the taste remained wonderful.

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Next I made lentil lasagna using this recipe. I was pleasantly surprised by this considering the fact that it was only five ingredients and one of them was creamy tomato soup rather than red sauce. The directions are a bit confusing so to clarify my layers went as such: Tomato soup, pasta, pesto, lentils, tomato soup, pasta, pesto, lentils, tomato soup, pasta, pesto, lentils, tomato soup, pasta, tomato soup, pesto, cheese. Sorry that isn’t especially clarifying but the original directions make it sound like you should only have two layers of pasta. I also used much more than one cup of precooked lentils, but that’s because I like meaty lasagna and because I wanted to use up the whole package. Clearly this dish isn’t dairy-free but there isn’t too much so my stomach felt alright after eating it. The slices weren’t incredibly easy to separate but I managed to cut up half and put it in the fridge while packing up the rest in one serving packets to freeze. It tasted good the whole week after but next time I think I’ll freeze more because I got sick of lasagna after about three days in a row.

Finally I made chicken noodle soup, based off the recipe of Tyler Florence’s recipe. The recipe calls for you to make your own broth but since I don’t have the patience, time, or funds to do so I just used Trader Joe’s chicken broth and that worked fine. A few adjustments I would make: the two carrots wasn’t really enough for me so I would definitely double the amount; I didn’t add the noodles because I wanted to refrigerate and freeze the soup so instead I will just make egg noodles when I want the soup and then add them, but this means that you need less broth (1 1/2 quarts instead of 2). After I made it I just froze two portions and put the rest of the fridge.

Let me know what your favorite dishes are to make ahead of time! 

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How to Fit As Many Calories As Possible Into A Brownie (and have it be dairy-free)

Sometimes you just have to be a little naughty when it comes to food. I love to bake but I’ve found that it usually ends in me eating an entire roll of cookies or an entire pan of brownies. The solution? Make something so rich and sugary that it is physically impossible to eat more than one slice without getting a tummy ache. That is this cookie-brownie-oreo-with-chocolate-ganache recipe. Don’t get me wrong, this thing is delicious. But I would be seriously impressed with anyone able to eat the whole pan.

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Classes start back up next week, but since I graduated in December I am about to enter a serious lull of things to do. Which is also what decided this baking binge. There’s seriously no better way to convince people to hang out with you than making something so good that people have to try it. Then just force them to stay by turning on a marathon of Parks and Rec. It’s a flawless plan. What are some other ways you make plans to hang out with people that costs minimal money? I always need advice on this subject since I am currently unemployed and out of school.

“Betcha Can’t Eat More Than One” Brownies (adapted from I Just Got Dumped Brownies by Gal on A Mission)

Triple layer brownies

Ingredients
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted margarine, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
Oreo Layer
  • 15 Golden Oreos
Brownie Layer
  • 10 tablespoons (1 and ¼ stick) unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Chocolate Ganache
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon coconut cream

Cookie Dough Layer

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line an 8×8 baking dish with aluminum foil. Lightly grease. Set aside.
  2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Layer – In a large mixing bowl, cream the margarine, light brown sugar, and white granulated sugar.
  3. Add in the egg and vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add in the all-purpose flour ½ cup at a time and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add in the salt and baking powder. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spread the cookie dough layer on the baking dish and spread all over. Make sure the layer is even.
  6. Add the Oreos on top of the cookie dough layer.
  7. Brownie Layer – Wash and dry the large mixing bowl, combine the melted margarine, sugar, eggs, and cocoa powder. Mix together.
  8. Add in the vanilla extract, flour, and salt.
  9. Spread the brownie layer on top of the Oreo layer and make sure it is even.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean it is done.
  11. Allow the brownies to completely cool.
  12. Prepare the chocolate ganache layer by melted the chocolate chips and shortening in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until the chocolate chips are melted. Stir in the coconut cream. Spread on top of the cooled brownie bars.
  13. Slice and enjoy!

Seriously. I dare you to eat more than one. Also, highly recommend enjoying this with a big glass of almond milk. Yum.

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Pork Tamales, New Years Resolutions and Help Needed

Once again I have been delayed in posting. I’m sure you all think this will be a never ending cycle – no posting, posting, apologizing, no posting, etc etc. But here is my list of New Years Resolutions, which I plan to stick to:

1. No dairy. I think I’ve developed a minor lactose intolerance so I’m testing it out to see if this will help.

2. Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide. I don’t know if you’ve heard about this new fitness trend, but Kayla is a force to be reckoned with. I’ve tried this guide before, but literally gave up in the last week. This time I’m going to do the whole thing. Look for #theKaylamovement on Twitter. It’s big.

3. Blogging. Ah yes, there it is. I will blog, at least once a week. I just finished school and now am in the midst of applying to jobs so it’s the perfect time to get back into the habit.

So there you go! I’ll keep you updated on how they are all going. Fortunately, number three will be obvious.

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For tonight’s dinner I had tamales with rice and beans. No dairy to be seen! However, I cannot claim I made the tamales. Trader Joes did, bless their hearts. This is where the help needed part comes in. Since the beginning of December I’ve felt very unmotivated to cook. I still love to eat and what not, but I’ve felt very uninspired. When I do cook, it’s just pasta or vegetables. So I want to know, how do you all get out of a cooking funk? How can I reinstate some desire to cook interesting things? I’ve tried Pinterest without success. So please, bring on your tips!

Look for another post soon, hopefully homemade this time.

Bon appetit!