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Author Archive

A Week of Falling Trees

15.Dec.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The skiers returned from Montana to Craftsbury last week, on Tuesday, a day that also marked the beginning of a week of falling trees.  Tuesday morning or afternoon (I’m guessing, since I wasn’t actually here) it started to snow, and by the time we landed in Burlington at about 5pm, there was a thick coat of slushy wet slop on the ground with more falling.  During the drive to Craftsbury the precipitation turned decidedly more solid, but still wet and heavy, huge flakes and clumps of snow.  All of us were relieved to make it safely to Craftsbury, and we settled back into our house and fell asleep amid a continuation of the storm.

The next morning I remember waking up a bit of rain/sleet on the window, and noises of wind, but nonetheless a beautiful wintery landscape, complete with snow-pasted trees and deep banks of white.  As we prepared for a morning ski, an email message came through from Pepa informing us that there were many branches knocked down onto the trail and it would be great if we could help pick up some of them while out skiing.  From our house, nothing seemed particularly out of place, though the trees had an above average amount of snow coating branches and trunks.  However as soon as a few of my teammates and I entered the woods on our skis, it became apparent what the storm had been like – branches all over the place, big clumps of small sticks protruding from the middle of the trails like pins in a pincushion, and larger branches strewn about, and an occasional entire tree across the trail.  The groomers were only able to take the machines around a few of the small core-trail loops, and even that I’m sure took considerable clearing.  Beyond the few short loops of freshly groomed trails, all hands were on deck cleaning up the rest of trails.  Kaitlynn and I skied a few of the core trail loops, and then ventured out onto Ruthie’s Run, which took a record-long time to ski around, between the constant pick-up-sticks and ungroomed 8+ inches of snow with an icy and grabby top crust.  We counted big trees down on just Ruthie’s out and back trails – chainsaw-worthy trees – and our count reached 12 by the end, in addition to at least 15 small trees (actually mostly tree-tops), and at least 10 bent-over trees that would need to be cut or helped to straighten.

Andrew strides up an ungroomed hill on the first day after the big snow

Andrew strides up an ungroomed hill on the first day after the big snowstorm

Kaitlynn picking up sticks

Kaitlynn picking up sticks

Arches all over

Arches all over

As it turned out, it wasn’t the bit of wind that accompanied the original storm that caused most of the problems – it was the weight of the heavy, wet snow that coated all the trees.  Because Day One of major tree clean-up was followed by Day Two, and beyond… It seemed from reports that easily as many trees fell the night after the storm as the night of the storm – collapsing under the weight of the snow, tipped over the edge of their breaking points by more snow that continued to fall.  We’ve had intermittent power outages at the Outdoor Center and the GRP houses since Tuesday night. On the second major clean-up day, I joined the crew out on the trails for the afternoon, dragging branches and trees and picking up countless sticks. Ruthie’s Run had been completely cleared the day before, but we spent 3 hours with 7 people out clearing it again.

One of the chainsaw crews: Lucas Schulz, Eric Hanson, Alex Howe, Ben Dann

One of the chainsaw crews: Lucas Schulz, Eric Hanson, Alex Howe, Ben Dann

Trail clearing crew

Trail clearing crew

A Pisten Bully is useful for pushing trees out of the way and grooming as you go

A Pisten Bully is useful for pushing trees out of the way and grooming as you go

Another one

Another messy tree

View from the back of the Pisten Bully after the trail has been cleared

View from the back of the Pisten Bully after the trail has been cleared – it’s a little messy with tiny branches and bark left behind, but really nice skiing!

Thanks a ton to the grooming crew including Keith, Lucas, DJ, Eric Schulz, Eric Hanson and all of the GRP athletes and everyone else who put in hours and hours clearing the trails and making them skiable again so quickly! And for operating the generators when needed and keeping the Outdoor Center going!

The rate of trees falling seems to be finally declining, and hopefully we’re nearing the end of power outages too, here a week after the storm. It’s still wise to be a little bit extra cautious on the trails when rounding blind corners, you never know what might have fallen down since the last time you skied the trails!

Kaitlynn skating during one of our distance skis on Sam's Run

Kaitlynn skating during one of our distance skis on Sam’s Run

After a relatively uneventful ski, 4-5 days after the storm, we came across this 14+ tree pile-up

After a relatively uneventful ski, 4-5 days after the storm, we came across this 14+ tree pile-up

Completely uprooted!

Completely uprooted!

Candlelit evenings with no power, but not quite device-less...

Candlelit evenings with no power, but not quite device-less…  (In which I happened to be reading about Powerlessness, apparently!)

Wintery landscapes

Wintery landscapes

Icy trees

Icy trees

Throwback to Montana - we haven't seen much sun in Craftsbury, but wintery snowy landscapes make me almost as happy as sunshine and the smiling faces of my teammates!

Throwback to the women’s team in West Yellowstone, Montana – we haven’t seen much sun in Craftsbury, but wintery, snowy landscapes make me almost as happy as sunshine and the smiling faces of my teammates! This week has been a bit unusual, but I’ve actually enjoyed it, and we fit in lots of great training sessions!

Awesome wax techs Bryan Cook, Nick Brown, Brayton Osgood (L to R) in sunny Bozeman, where they nailed kick and glide two days in a row! Thanks guys!

And one more photo from Montana! Awesome wax techs Bryan Cook, Nick Brown, Brayton Osgood (L to R) in sunny Bozeman, where they nailed kick and glide for our classic race weekend! Thanks guys!

Icy trees

Erg races!

9.Nov.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The GRP rowers are down south, in Princeton, NJ, for the fall “East Coast Speed Order.”  Yesterday they raced 6 km on the rowing erg, and today a 4+ km race on the water.  Look for results here. It looks to me like there are a lot of Craftsbury names at or near the top of the results, headlined by the Graves brothers in first (John) and second (Peter), Elizabeth Sonshine in third, Hugh McAdam in first, and Phil Grisdela in third in their respective on-the-water races from today! Nice work everyone! However I will have to leave a more detailed analysis and commentary to someone who was at the races and/or knows the sport…

Not to be left out of the racing and erging fun for the weekend, most of the GRP skiers had a classic rollerski time trial Saturday morning, preparing for the start of the ski season at the end of this month.  There was even a dusting of snow on the sides of the road, and a bit of ice on the surface of the road, to heighten our feeling of fast-approaching winter! Then, since it just so happens to be the weekend of the SkiErg World Sprints, many of us raced 1000m on the Concept2 SkiErg on Saturday afternoon before our strength workout.  1000m is extremely hard, but actually I found it fun, because it’s over quickly too!  A little over 3 minutes for the fastest guys, and slightly under 4 minutes for the fastest women – it’s not so bad, though the likelihood of gigantic blow-ups is also pretty high!  It’s cool to have a standardized way to compare, for people from around the world to be able to race each other without being in the same physical location.

Everyone can enter the race, just find a SkiErg and race to your fastest time by the end of today, and post it on the Concept2 online logbook by tomorrow (www.concept2.com).

Current standings for the World Sprints can be found here, with more entries to be added throughout today and tomorrow.

Caitlin and Liz pulling their 1ks

Caitlin and Liz pulling their 1k Sprints in the new gym at Craftsbury

All levels of involvement: warming up, spectating, and testing

All levels of involvement: warming up, spectating, and testing

Andrew testing, supported by the cheering squad

Andrew testing, supported by the cheering squad

Ethan pulling FAST splits, with the rest of the team cheering him on

Ethan pulling FAST splits, with the rest of the team and Pepa cheering him on

Concept2 co-founder Dick Dreissigacker checks out the splits, while Ethan tries to recover from his 3:00.6 1k! That's within 1.5 seconds of the current world record!

Concept2 co-founder Dick Dreissigacker checks out the splits, while Ethan tries to recover from his 3:00.6 1k! That’s within 1.5 seconds of the current world record!

Reflections on a Sourdough Summer

30.Oct.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

Food is an important part of any athlete’s daily routine, and a part that we often overlook sharing much about. There are certainly some pictures we’ve posted of particularly notable edibles on this blog, but in general I don’t believe food has gotten quite its fair share, compared to how much of our daily thoughts and life it occupies.  That’s not to really imply that any of the athletes at Craftsbury take the food for granted – we are extremely lucky to be able to eat at the spectacular Craftsbury dining hall for most of the year. This post, I have to warn you, is going to be all about food, and the process of making one particular kind of it – bread!

While I’ve always considered sourdough bread to be among my favorites – along with crusty European baguettes and German pretzel rolls – I’d never made sourdough myself until this summer. On frequent enough occasions in the last few years, I would make oatmeal whole-wheat sandwich bread, baguettes, and various other types by hand, and I have done some experimentation and made complicated-sounding breads just for the sake of trying something new.  I’m not a bread machine person, or a person who tends to avoid making things that sound complex.  But sourdough… I always stopped before venturing into sourdough… Because even though most of the instructions say “it’s really pretty easy” to create a sourdough starter, and other such reassurances, those statements are usually followed by what seem like long lists of instructions consisting of a different step every day for 4-6 days and then a lot more attention to the sourdough after that.

Note: Before you get too far into this, beware – I am passionate about baking and bread, and cooking explorations in general, and when I’m enthusiastic about something in this way it leads to long descriptions.  Scroll ahead to the pictures or skip to a different blog on our site if you’re impatient, otherwise, carry on reading!

This summer, I suppose you could say that I needed a cooking or baking outlet, preferably one that did not result in a profusion of sugary dessert-snacks to feed my team/housemates and myself. I unquestionably love sweet things (yes, thank you for pointing out Pete H, I have a sweet tooth!), but I’ve gone through a time of giving more thought to nutrition and food choices this year, which leads me to gravitate away from excessive sugars if possible.  Bread was the perfect choice, because the GRP skiers consume a considerable amount of bread for breakfasts and snacks, and bread is a healthy baking result derived from a process that can include creativity and embellishment.  So it was an ideal summer to venture into sourdough bread baking.

Beautiful toasted loaves of cranberry-walnut sourdough!

Beautiful toasted loaves of cranberry-walnut sourdough!


What exactly is sourdough, you might ask?

Well, from the standpoint of the basic grocery-store consumer, sourdough bread is typically a crusty, white bread with a particularly tangy taste.

From the standpoint of the baker, or someone who wants to know what makes this type of bread distinctive, it gets a bit more complex. Sourdough bread is baked from a dough that is made with a sourdough starter. It doesn’t have to be a white bread, sourdough breads cover the spectrum from whole wheat to rye to white to a variety of other grains or mixes.  A sourdough starter is a way of cultivating natural yeast – rather than using store-bought yeast from a jar or packet, the natural yeast contained within the starter leavens the bread, causing it to rise and develop air pockets. This natural or wild yeast can’t be called on at any minute though – while it is in the air around us, it has to be properly cultivated and encouraged in order to be concentrated enough for use in bread.  A starter is typically made from just flour and water, although as I understand it, starters can sometimes contain fruit juice in the early stages. It takes a little while to establish a good population of yeast, but then once the starter is “active” it can be maintained indefinitely for future use, and shared with friends too.

Nice and active starter, see all those big air pockets? From the yeasties!

Nice and active starter, see all those big air pockets? From the yeasties!

A very active starter, and a gamble on container-size, can lead to a mess

A very active starter, and a gamble on container-size, can lead to a mess

Stirring down the starter - a big batch since I'm getting ready to bake something

Stirring down the starter – a big batch since I’m getting ready to bake something

 


Caitlin’s sourdough starter process:

In mid-May of 2014, when I returned to Craftsbury to start the new training year, I knew I would be at the house where I live in Craftsbury with few interruptions until the fall, and it would be a perfect time to start the process of a sourdough starter. On the recommendation of my teammate Emily, who had made sourdough this winter, I looked on the King Arthur Flour website (one of my favorite recipe sources) for guidance about starting sourdough.  Here’s the link to their page about starting sourdough: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/04/05/creating-your-own-sourdough-starter-the-path-to-great-bread/

As the experts at King Arthur attest to, creating a sourdough starter is as much art as science – there are many variations and suggestions out there, but there is room for flexibility within a framework of conditions that will enable the growth of the sourdough yeast and bacteria. I started with 1 cup of rye flour and 1/2 a cup of cool water from the tap. After 24 hours, half of the original was discarded, and I added a new 1 cup of King Arthur “Special” bread flour and 1/2 cup of water to what remained, and mixed everything together.  The 3rd day started the twice a day feedings – to add new flour and water is considered “feeding” the starter.  Every 12 hours, I’d check on the starter, which was in our kitchen on a shelf, discard half of it and feed it with a new 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water (always “special” bread flour from here out). This is not a process to undertake if you’re particularly short on time, flour, or capacity to remember to do something every 12 hours – luckily I had plenty of everything, with a busy training schedule which fortunately causes me to return to the house frequently.

The starter is supposed to be highly active and ready for baking within about a week.  Mine was only slightly active – swelling a little between feedings, with a few bubbles – after about 1.5 or 2 weeks, and I started to get kind of nervous, afraid I might have to start over. At that point I chatted with Emily again, who recommended putting it in a warmer spot to see if that helped the activity level – for a truly active starter, you should expect that it will double in volume from one feeding to the next. I found a spot out of the way, on top of our freezer, and started leaving the container there.  Vermont in early summer is moderately warm but not at all hot, and it turned out that was exactly the missing piece – heat! With the starter on the warm freezer top, it became much more active and was soon doubling. Time to bake!

 

A dash of honey

A dash of honey to sweeten the dough

All shapes and sizes, and fillings - several of these have cheese, others cranberries, others are plain

All shapes and sizes, and fillings – several of these have cheese, others cranberries, others are plain

Sometimes several batches at once

Sometimes several batches at once

Cranberry walnut loaves rising

Cranberry walnut loaves rising

Thin crispy crust and nice crumb

Thin crispy crust and nice crumb


To make a true sourdough bread, you need an active starter, flour, water, salt, and nothing else (other than time)! It’s also possible to make a bread with store-bought yeast supplemented with sourdough starter to give it flavor.  And, there are a number of other bread-related items that can be made with sourdough starter, much of it as a way to use the otherwise-discarded starter (what you would throw out when the starter is fed).  So I’ve dabbled in many variations, and quite a few shapes too. Below are suggestions based on what I’ve done, and links to the recipes for trying it yourself:

Sourdough bread: in baguette or loaf form, all white flour or 1/6-1/4 whole wheat. It can be “flavored” – mixed with shredded cheddar cheese, mixed with blue cheese and cranberries, with walnuts and cranberries, swirled/wrapped with cheese inside, swirled with apples and cinnamon sugar, and more. See this recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/extra-tangy-sourdough-bread-recipe (I’ve never used the optional sour-salt – if your sourdough is active it should have plenty of sour flavor as is.) Try out the recipe just plain a few times to get acquainted with it, with only white bread flour because it behaves more predictably, and then make additions as desired! Be warned, this bread does basically take two days – it’s not bad, but does require some serious planning ahead to time all the stages to fit within the other constraints of your day.

Sourdough-yeast hybrid: Try it also with rolled oats and whole wheat flour, cinnamon-cranberry swirl bread, cheese swirl bread, etc.  Recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/rustic-sourdough-bread-recipe  (when using rolled oats, I added 1/2 cup of oats per recipe, and 1/2-1 cup of whole wheat flour, each of those in place of the white flour called for. However I also adjust the moisture by adding more flour or water as I knead the bread, since I know approximately what I’m aiming for after having repeated this process a fair number of times.)

With extra starter: sourdough popovers, sourdough waffles or pancakes, both of which are fantastic and quite easy.  Recipes: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sourdough-waffles-or-pancakes-recipe

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-popovers-recipe

In general just check out all of King Arthur Flour’s sourdough recipes here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough/view-all

Oh, and if you’re not quite into all the sourdough complexity, but are inspired to make bread anyway, try this excellent sandwich bread, of course from King Arthur again! This was one of my go-to breads before sourdoughs: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/vermont-whole-wheat-oatmeal-honey-bread-recipe


Ready to roll - cranberry cinnamon bread, spread the dough and filling like this, then roll it into a log and put it in the bread pan to rise!

Ready to roll – cranberry cinnamon swirl bread, spread the dough and filling like this, then roll it into a log and put it in the bread pan to rise!

The swirl bread after baking...

The swirl bread after baking…

Cranberry-cinnamon swirl

Cranberry-cinnamon swirl snack

Waffles!

Waffles!

Summer breakfast, on the relaxed days when we can linger instead of rushing out the door to train

Summer breakfast, on the relaxed days when we can linger instead of rushing out the door to train immediately

I used to think popovers were something to be afraid of, in case they came out flat, but these turn out perfectly every time!

I used to think popovers were something to be afraid of, in case they came out flat, but these turn out perfectly every time!

Throughout the summer I’ve been quite pleased with the flavor and texture of my sourdough breads, and my housemates surely enjoy them too, as the bread has seemed to disappear about as quickly as I can make it.  Particularly if it’s full of melted shreds of Cabot cheddar cheese! I actually really like the opportunity to experiment on flavors and additions, which is facilitated by how quickly each batch gets consumed.  And, a side benefit of making all these batches of bread… hand-kneading… when I was younger my mom always tried to convince me that I should knead more bread to make my arms stronger. They’re stronger this year, which happens to be a good thing for ski racing! Whether from kneading or from an improved strength training program, who knows, maybe some of both!

When I left for fall training camps these past few months, I put my sourdough in a jar with a lid, gave it one last feeding, then popped it straight into the refrigerator. It actually keeps for a while, and just needs to be taken out and fed a few times before it’s nicely active again – I took out the jar 4 days ago, having just returned from Park City (see Liz’s previous post for tales of our training activities there) and it’s definitely active and ready for bread-making by now.  In fact last night I made sourdough popovers to go with dinner, and don’t tell my housemates, or else there could be a stampede, but there may be fresh bread this evening.

Thanks for reading!!

~Caitlin

Austria, at first glance

8.Sep.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The skiers arrived in Austria this afternoon, Monday September 8th, after leaving Craftsbury on the morning of the 7th.  While we’re undoubtedly jet-lagged, sunshine and astoundingly beautiful scenery helped keep our spirits high throughout the day and helped us fight the temptation to nap.  Everyone headed out for a jog at some point during the afternoon, and here are a few photos from the first glance at the town and area.  More to come soon – tomorrow morning we head to the Dachstein glacier for our first on-snow session of the season!

Ramsau below and looking down the valley

Ramsau below and looking down the valley

Overlooking the town of Ramsau

Overlooking the town of Ramsau

Kate Miller and Liz Guiney

Kate Miller and Liz Guiney

Past a snowmaking pond

Past a snowmaking pond

A quick run through town brought us to this church, but there is much more to explore in the coming days

A quick run through town brought us to this church, but there is much more to explore in the coming days

Waxing skis in the most idyllic setting, tomorrow it's glacier time!

Waxing skis in the most idyllic setting, tomorrow it’s glacier time!