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

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

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!

Getting A Little Raw

Happy Thursday everyone!

As finals week looms in the near future I’m trying to be as active as possible here so I can make up for the inevitable lack of posts once my tests begin. However, I think it is a distinct possibility that blogging may become a procrastination tool, albeit a productive one.

I want to introduce this recipe with a bit of a confession. I’m a not a good cook, nor a particularly good baker. I’ve tried my hardest to improve and I definitely have, but still 99% of my finished products are failures. Fortunately, these failures rarely diminish my desires to continue. For better or for worse, this cooking blog wil continue to be, a cooking blog.

But the following recipe. It is the best one yet. Not only was it original, it was amazing. I have really been craving chocolate recently, but I didn’t want to splurge calories at the local vegan bakery. So instead, after getting some inspiration from The Minimalist Baker, I decided to walk down the untraveled route of vegan desserts. And what a successful journey it was.

Now, I love dates. If you don’t love dates I feel sorry for you because they are an incredible gift to my dessert craving. Low in calories, high in nutrition, and they taste amazing. I looked into my cupboard (aka an ottoman under my bed full of my cooking/baking supplies), saw that I had peanuts and chocolate, and I had my inspiration. Raw, chocolate, peanut butter brownies. After a quick trip to the campus convenience store that surprisingly has fresh dates, I was ready. I broke out the blender and made the brownie.

 

Ingredients:

6 fresh dates, pitted

Quarter cup of peanuts

Half cup of cocoa powder

 

Simple and nutritious ingredients!

Directions:

1. Blend peanuts in blender on high until they are well ground, almost peanut butter consistency.

2. Add cocoa powder and blend on low until the nuts and cocoa are well mixed.

3. Add one date at a time, blending until it has been incorporated into the mix. Once all the figs are added, blend until the mixture is an almost crumbly consistency, but can easily be molded together. If it still too crumbly add another fig or a little bit of water.

4. Mold into a brownie shape and put into the refrigerator until the brownie can be cut easily into sections.

Of course I’m sure you’ve all noticed by now my photographs aren’t the best, especially seeing as they are taken with an iPhone. And my brownie wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world. But don’t judge a brownie by its photo, or a book by its cover, and take my word for it that this dessert is amazing, and actually pretty good for you as well.

Not the prettiest, but the most delicious

Also pitting the dates was a fun exercise on top of it all.

Until next time!

Vegan Collegiate Does San Francisco Part 2

So I got you guys covered for half of my more interesting meals, now just a couple more…

After my Thanksgiving meal, I doubted that anything was going to be able to come close to the uniqueness and scrumptiousness. And yes, I was right. The Fig Cafe definitely won the dinner of the vacation. However, the following night we went to The Harvest Moon Cafe, also in Sonoma, and once again they were great about my veganism. Our waiter pointed out what was vegan on the menu, what he could make vegan, and offered to just compile all the side veggies from the meat dishes into one dish. I was tempted for a moment to go for the veggie meal, but I love pasta to ever say no to it. I ended up getting their homemade pasta with local mushrooms and olive oil. Maybe not the most impressive meal, but it was delicious! I’d go as far as to say the mushrooms were some of the best I’ve ever had. I started the meal with a parsnip and potato soup, which was perfect for a Fall meal, and I got biscotti for dessert. The biscotti were definitely delicious, but without eggs they were quite crunchy and a little too hard. But still quite yummy.

Mushrooms and pasta… doesn’t get much better

All in all I definitely give Sonoma’s restaurants a thumbs up for being vegan friendly, home grown, and delicious. Now maybe it’ll give me some inspiration for cooking in my own kitchenette….

Although this doesn’t really fall under the category of Sonoma’s fine dining, I had Jamba Juice for the first time en route to San Francisco. I have really been missing out. I got the acai, blueberry, strawberry soy milk smoothie and it was not only delicious but incredibly filling. Definitely look forward to homemade smoothie posts in the near future.

Until next time!

Vegan Collegiate Does San Francisco, Part 1

Hello all! I hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing holiday! Mine was a bit hectic only in the fact that I started in San Francisco and ended up in Sonoma. But I still enjoyed an incredible Thanksgiving meal, regardless that it was in a restaurant, with my family. But more on that feast later…

First I’ll go through my San Francisco vegan experience. I had gone on happycow.net before the trip to look for some options, but most of them had been ethnic restaurants and I had kind of wanted to try something more San Franciscan. Much to my luck, my parents and I stumbled upon The Plant, and organic cafe right on the Embarcadero. About 75% of the menu was vegan or had a vegan option so it was practically impossible to choose. I was originally leaning towards the Barbecue Tempeh dish, featuring Korean barbecue sauce. However, I decided to go with a lighter option for lunch. I settled upon the Wasabi Plant Burger, featuring the cafe’s famous beet Plant Burger. A bright red burger with onions and a wasabi-raspberry sauce, all on wheat bread. It was huge and it was delicious. In case the burger wasn’t enough it came with incredible roasted potatoes and salad. As a starter we got tofu spring rolls with a killer peanut sauce. I wish I had been able to get pictures of all this but I was too hungry to think of it. The following is a picture from Eat, Live, Run (thanks for letting me use your picture!). If you go through the link, you can actually find a recipe she created to match the burger.

The Plant Burger

Now on to Sonoma and my Thanksgiving meal. I was a little skeptical at first. We were planning on going to The Fig Cafe and I had checked the menu before hand to make sure there was a vegan option. There was a “Chickpea Panisse Cake,” which sounded like it could go either way. But when we got there our waitress quickly stymied my fear: it was vegan! Not only that, but the restaurant prided itself on being vegan friendly. I will attest to the fact that they were very accommodating.

I started with their Fig and Arugula salad, without the pancetta and cheese of course. It was very good, my only criticism was that there weren’t enough figs and they were chopped too small. But the pieces I had were sweet and flavorful.

On to the main course, the Chickpea Panisse Cake. There were too many levels of it to truly give it justice. I tend to eat my meals in pieces, for example I’ll eat the potatoes first, then the spinach, then the rice. Etc. For the this meal I started with the Delicata squash, roasted with lots and lots of flavor. I definitely tasted cinnamon. Next was the swiss chard. It could have been flavored a little more, but when I mixed it with the homemade cranberry sauce it was delicious. Next was the main event, the chickpea cake. Amazing. They seemed like they were fried, but I actually think they were baked. I haven’t eaten something that seemed so cheesy since being vegan, but this was amazing. The crust was perfectly crisp and the inside of creamy and flavorful. When I mixed it with the pesto-like sauce on the plate, WOW. But I think the best part of the meal were definitely the brussels sprouts. I love brussels sprouts. And these were above and beyond. I actually asked for a side of them and our waitress brought them out no question, even though it was a pre fixe meal. They were roasted with balsamic and sugar, and they were perfectly cooked. Crispy but also tender.

Finally, I ended with the chocolate orange sorbet. Again, this wasn’t actually on the pre fixe meal but when I asked if they had any vegan options she was quick to recommend this. And it was a great recommendation. Super chocolatey and smooth, with undertones of orange. Not overpowering, which is nice because I’m not a huge orange fan. I actually had to fight off my dad for this, even though he had ordered his own dinner.

All in all it was a fantastic meal. However, I still kind of wish I had gotten a homecooked meal. But there’s always next year! I really have to get better about taking pictures in restaurants, as I only remembered to snap a pic of the chickpea cake. I will get better I swear!

The Fig Cafe’s Chickpea Panisse Cake

I hope everyone has a great rest of the weekend!

 

PS I was not asked to do a review of either of these restaurants, this is not sponsored by anything other than myself!

Figuring it Out

It’s taken a little while but I’m finally feeling more comfortable cooking my own food in this abominable kitchen. It really is an important skill I need to learn as next year I won’t have a choice but to cook when I’m in my own apartment.
In this post I’m going to start a list of things that work well made before hand/frozen and a list of things that don’t work as well…
Successful pre-made meals:
Brown rice
Pasta
Spreads like my vegan Nutella

Unsuccessful pre-made food:
Sweet potatoes- I made some sweet potato fries on Monday and ate them Tuesday. Even in that short amount of time they started to get green spots and tasted much less flavorful than when I first made them. Fortunately making the fries takes no time at all so that’s an easy side to make when I want them.

Things I want to make and refrigerate:
Lentils
Soups
Whole meals?

I also have some refrigerated pre-made chickpeas so I’ll let everyone know how they are!

Some last thoughts…
I made an amazing curry last night with brown rice I made ahead of time, some button mushrooms sliced up thin, and frozen peas. I unfortunately caved and used the canned curry sauce I got from Trader Joe’s but to be honest it was amazing and I wouldn’t have been able to make anything nearly as good without a good amount of time or spices.
Here’s a picture!

Mushroom and pea curry!

So what do you guys usually make and then refrigerate?

I’ll continue to add to the list… as I figure it out!

My Addiction

It has been a great weekend for cooking and college veganism… parents weekend! Which means my darling mother came and took me grocery shopping. With no budget I got to by as much brown rice, pumpkin butter, and sweet potatoes as I could possibly want. And with so much food around I felt inspired to use it. I pre-made chickpeas with peanut sauce, brown rice, even sweet potato fries. But more importantly I took advantage of a slower week to make my favorite creation… vegan nutella!!

As a side note before I begin I also want to add I had my first vegan candy bar… Go Max Go’s Joker, or basically the vegan version of a Snickers. It was amazing, of course.

Now, onto bigger and better things. Vegan Nutella. The combination of my two favorite things. I took advantage of my mom being here to buy fancy, organic hazelnuts. OK to be honest I didn’t actually want to buy $12.99 a pound nuts but apparently these guys are hard to find anywhere! They didn’t have any at the local Trader Joe’s and only the over-priced ones at Whole Foods. But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. So I bought the hazelnuts.

This, like most of my college recipes, is going to be a bit experimental because of my lack of preparation, time, and resources. Adopted from Chocolate Covered Katie’s healthy Nutella this is a bit less complicated but I think equally delicious. I also consider this to be my first own recipe as it really is using my knowledge of cooking!

Ingredients

2 cups hazelnuts

1/4 cup carob powder

1/2 milk

Three packets of Sweet n’ Low (I’m sorry for this one but it was literally the only sweetener I had…)

Directions

Toast hazelnuts until lightly toasted (watch them carefully! They burn easily) at 400 degrees. Scrub the skins off of them and blend in blender for about a minute and a half, or until they’ve made a sort of butter. Then add rest of the ingredients and blend until mixed well. It helps to blend a little and then stir with a spoon to make sure everything is mixing well.

Delicious. Of course I promptly ate a disgusting amount of it (can anyone say Sophomore 75?). A few adjustments I would make… A little more sugar. It doesn’t need it but to really seem Nutella like it could have been a little sweeter. Also be careful of how much carob you put in… I don’t actually have measuring cups so I put in a little too much and it covered the hazelnut more than I would’ve wanted. All in all I don’t think it needs much more added. I know some people put oil in to make it smoother but I think these just add unnecessary calories.

Here are some pics of the process!

Pre blending

 

Post blending

Finished product… Almost gone already

Enjoy!!!

Return to the Hop

Sorry for having been so inactive recently. I moved back to Baltimore just a few days ago and getting situated has been a process. But now my room is set up, my friends have returned, and the frat hopping is in full swing. But more importantly the challenge of being a vegan collegiate is on.

Like most college students I have a meal plan set up through the university. I have 500 dining dollars I can spend around campus as well as 7 meal swipes per week. Eating through university dining is actually the least difficult way to go. They have a new system in all the dining centers where the food tag also states whether the meal is vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free. This is makes it incredibly easy to find food.

However, the big issue I have to overcome is eating in my room. I am trying to eat breakfast and lunch in my room, utilizing the tiny kitchenette we have. At the moment it includes two minute stove tops, a toaster oven, and an electric kettle. This does not make it the best place to try out recipes and make vegan deliciousness.

So I will keep a constant update as to what I have found to be the best things to have in the room. At the moment having tea, soy milk, and soup are all necessities. I tried to have fresh fruit but unfortunately with the unpredictability of my schedule they go bad very quickly. So now I’m keeping frozen veggies (carrots, broccoli, and edamame) for quick lunches. Just pop them in a saute pan with a little bit of water, warm them through and throw on a condiment to make them more interesting. I’m addicted to hot sauce so Tobasco is my go-to.

However, in all the chaos that is my kitchen I was able to make raw zucchini pasta for about eight people on my floor, including a veggie tomato sauce. And everyone loved it! Score for a low carb, vegan diet.

More to come soon on my trials and tribulations with college dining.