Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Orchids and bromeliads, awesome plants on an Amazon Cruise

Amazon Cruise, June 2014

The most surprising find to me were the orchids.

I knew that orchids come from the jungle...but yeah, didn't expect we would actually see them. In the rainy season they are easier to spot. This one above was not too hard.

But would you have noticed this one

from back here?

which really you have to spot from back here!  Our crew were great-I am always so impressed with naturalists-they have to be able to spot the interesting thing in a sea of details. Then be able to point it out to the tourists (see the branch going left about half way up the tree?  Now look out at the end of the branch and up a little....)

huh, in there is the purple orchid.

Yup, that's a bird nest.  Complete with eggs! (yes, not a plant, but we saw it on the same trip with the orchids...)

This nut is a relative of brazil nuts, though these are not edible, but it is fun to pull out the parts like a puzzle and put back together. 

when the nut has fallen out.  These are one of the only trees that can handle being under water for months at a time so they are plentiful on the banks.

Bromeliads grow opportunistically in crevices of trees

They are so funky looking I just kept snapping photos

Crazy busy flowers

Did I mention it was the rainy season?

Our crew also found the giant water lilies that are famous here in the Amazon.  They are harder to find in the rainy season because the stem is anchored in the mud and only goes about 6 ft up.  The flowers start white, capture insects, turn pink, and die after 3 days

All the near ones are disintegrating while the good looking ones are in the back.  Here is a better picture from our previous cruise.

And don't forget the awesome bananas!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Going up stream in the rainy season, Amazon Cruise

Amazon Cruise, June 2014
During the World Cup trip we took an Amazon cruise. 
 This was our boat, the Iracema, named for an aunt of the family who owns/runs the cruises.  I booked through Rainforest Cruises, who I had used before and were excellent once again (quick response time, good understanding of what I was looking for and just overall helpful).  The cruise was run by Amazonia Expeditions, and was simply delightful.

These were the passengers and crew.  So nice to be in a small group-it feels more relaxed somehow. Mo Jr. is relaxing on the ground.  He was our main everything-waking us up before the sunrise, going out on the canoe trips to point out the wildlife and arranging everything we did.  He has a very good sense of humor and when we met Mo Sr. it became clear what that come from!  We could not have had a nicer group leading us around.

We got on in the late afternoon and had a lovely sunset...you can see I forgot to grab the camera earlier...

Our first day trip was an overall intro the Amazon during the wet season.  It was strangely foggy so we didn't get a sunrise.  

I don't think I've ever been on the water in such fog.  You think it is my bad photography skills...but it was really like this!

It is thinner than what we get in the San Francisco area, but extra spooky.  The water is so calm the reflection is spooky too.

It lightened a little after breakfast

and we got into canoes to go up river.

It is hard to grasp, but because this is the wet season, we are paddling around at the TOP of the forest.
Imagine the 30-40 ft of tree that is underneath.

And not just in this one place, but all around.  And upstream and downstream.  For thousands of miles.  It's crazy how much water there is!

as you travel up stream

more of the forest reveals itself

until it feels more like a stream

where you are finally near 'the ground'.  Of course that is nuts since there is 'ground' at the bottom of the ocean.  But the Amazon river just goes up and down and there is no single ground level, it all depends and where and WHEN you are.

We parked the boats at a little waterfall and got out into the jungle!
The inches of leaf litter make the ground all spongy

 Now this feels like the jungle-no trails mean you have to meander through the thinner spots.

you wouldn't have to go far to get lost.

As long as you find your way back to the stream

Loved just standing at the top of the waterfall and looking around.

Monday, July 21, 2014

so much citrus

Garden and preserving update  July 2014

The prettiest are the pickled plums

I had a new crop of Rangpur limes delivered and wanted to try something new-preserved limes.  Most recipes are for preserved Meyer lemons which are generally mild but I figured you won't know if you don't try.  

I started looking for recipes at Punk Domestics.  They seem to have a nice mix of usual and unusual.  There were quite a few that all have the same basic idea-mix lemons, salt and juice and let sit anywhere from a week to 3 months.  I ended up at West and Wander because there is a recipe for lemon salt as well.  Shockingly Delicious and Prim and Primal have the most recipes for using them-everything else vaguely  references Moroccan food.

I'm terrible at following a recipe word for word. First off, I have WAAAAAY more fruit than the recipes I find. Does everyone else scale down? Do you really only do a jar at a time? I usually just scale it up and see what happens. For the preserved limes, I cut everything into quarters and tossed with salt rather than try and keep them whole.
I think this let me shove more into each jar. Maybe that is bad?

I also needed way more juice than the recipes.  I'll chalk that up to different type of fruit. So far they look pretty good.  I think I will try the next batch with added spices.

I still had extra limes so I made the lemon (lime) rosemary salt.
washing the rosemary seemed tough till I put it in a strainer and swished it around

easy peasy lemon squeezy!

guessing at the proportions

mix and dry in the oven for 30 minutes-not bad!  Now I need to find a reason to use it!

Next up the pluots

I decided to preserve them like my Mom used to do peaches.

but DancinTurtle also found pickled plums-lemon, mint, vinegar.  Pretty tasty-lightly pickled and refreshing.

All the finished pluot products.

And finally the garden this month
the roses had a second burst of flowers

the apples are getting big

and oh my gosh the blueberries are so pretty.  They are sooooo close to being ready...