To everything, there is a season

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This lovely lass is Tehya, a one year old Puma concolor (aka American Cougar or mountain lion) currently residing at the zoo. A large new outdoor exhibit with lots of high rocky outcroppings and beautiful plantings is her new not-so-big backyard. Ideally she would like a mate and about 200 square miles. Tehya came last fall, along with another kitten, from Wyoming Fisheries and Wildlife after their mothers were shot (two different moms; they’re not sisters but raised together, they have that affection for one another). They do enjoy their new space; there’s a lot of running, jumping, bird chasing and contented sunbathing. They seem especially invested in tearing up giant mats of newly planted sod and basically messing up the horticultural efforts of the zoo. To me, there’s a certain justice in that.

Pumas are part of a vicious cycle that ends at the zoo. They become a nuisance to us after we encroach on their territory. If the current trends of persecution and habitat degradation continue they will go on the Endangered Species List as “vulnerable.” Currently they are plentiful but decreasing in population size. In California it is legal to shoot any mountain lion that is deemed a threat to people. This highly adaptive cat, once common in every major habitat type of the Americas, was virtually eradicated over 200 years in the entire Eastern United States. The remaining few individuals east of the Mississippi (primarily the Florida Panther, numbering about 100) are designated as critically endangered, at a local level.

To me this is the perfect learning opportunity. We know, from our own history, what has happened to these animals as we cut down forests for our towns and cities in half the country. As developers build more and bigger houses, a serious turf war escalates. We still have an opportunity to consider how we want to respond to their needs in the Western United States, keeping in mind that the plight of one species is the plight of many- and ultimately, ourselves. In the meantime, I try to handle critical comments about zoos keeping beautiful animals like Tehya in enclosures and Tehya, frisky and in her prime, eyeballs toddlers with a stare that makes mothers nervous.

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FAST AND FANCY (and fairly healthy) POTATOES ANNA

Okay- here’s another one of my original recipes that works every time and makes me think I would definitely be a better professional chef than movie director.

YOU WILL NEED:

Enough new tiny fingerling potatoes to feed your family. A quart berry box will do for four. Maybe two. We’re talking small- the little teeny oblong red and white potatoes you see this time of year at your local farmers market.

Half and Half

Really good, very light olive oil. I’ve said many times: don’t skimp on the quality of your oil.

Salt, fresh ground pepper, small clove garlic through small hole garlic press.

The best Parmesan Reggiano cheese you can buy- preferably a chunk you can grate at the moment. Nothing in a green cardboard can.

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In a skillet, pour five, six teaspoons of olive oil. Enough to thinly cover the bottom.

Slice those potatoes 1/4 inch thick- no more, no less. But don’t bother peeling them.

Heat the oil on medium high heat, with a lid (no spatter). Add potatoes, salt, pepper, garlic.

Saute until tender and slightly brown. They won’t brown a lot with the lid on but that’s okay. I actually use a fairly small, deeper skillet so I can give them a flip without removing the lid- again, no spatter.

Turn the heat on low, remove lid, add just enough half and half to almost cover the potatoes. Use your judgment here. Simmer on low without the lid for about 3 minutes to reduce half and half. If you over did it, you can always sprinkle on just a smidge of Wondra or flour but, heaven forbid, don’t clump things up.

Remove from heat and pour potatoes into a shallow baking dish. I use a pie plate. You want a layer that’s not more than two potatoes deep, pretty shallow.

Grate the Parmesan, generously, over the potatoes. Put under the broiler until bubbly and brown on top. Watch them closely, because it just takes a few minutes.

Serve with a spatula. Lordy, are these delicious. They are like glorified potatoes au gratin, from scratch, in less than 15 minutes. Yup. I would show you a picture except we ate them all really fast. With a salad of fat sliced heirloom tomatoes.

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21 responses to “To everything, there is a season

  1. Beautiful, beautiful animals. I hate what is happening to wildlife in Florida. Developers have been allowed to bulldoze and bury alive gopher tortoises. And the Florida Panther, as you mentioned, is critically endangered.

    The potatoes sound so good. I’ll have to give it a try when I get around to cooking.

    Hugs to you.

  2. Old taxidermists never die…they just begin a gnu.

    Two good Montana buddies were out hunting for a cougar that was killing their sheep. They staked out an area of the woods near their fields, and waited. After a while, sure enough, there came the cougar. They patiently waited until it was close, and then they both jumped up and shot it at the same time. They couldn’t tell whose bullet had taken the cougar’s life! They decided to share the credit, and also to have the cougar stuffed, and they decided to take turns keeping the stuffed cougar. However, this arrangement turned out not to be to their liking. Instead, they decided to divide the stuffed cougar in two, and flip a coin for who would get which end. Bill lost, and ended up with a mounted trophy of the cougar’s rear. So even though shooting the cougar was a great sporting victory, for Bill, it turned out to be a catastrophe.

  3. Bonnie! This is such a funny and fitting shaggy cat tail. I think you are never at a loss for the just right comment.

  4. You, my dear, are the best of sports and never at a loss for open-heartedness!

    xo

  5. The big felines (and small ones, too) have always been my favorites of all God’s creatures. The husband saw some on his last trip to Wyoming. My sightings have been at zoos!

    Those potatoes sound yummy.

  6. I could never figure out why people are so interested in shooting cougars. Or bears. It makes me want to shoot THEM (only that wouldn’t be right, either).

  7. It took me a moment to digest the last word of Bonnie’s comment. So funny. I wish I had that wealth of wit in my head to be able to comment like that. She’s a prize to be sure.

  8. That puma is SO regal looking! They are gorgeous animals, to be sure.

    Thanks for the visit, Vicki, and the kind words. I would be most happy to meet you, in fact, that would make my decade!!

  9. Nice kitty. What kills me is the moms who say to their toddlers, “Oh look honey, he likes you!” Yeah, he’d like to taste you…

    By the way I hear Tom Paxton in my head every time you do a zoo post. 🙂

  10. A few years ago, the Florida Wildlife Commission released a few collared Texas panthers into our area to see if the habitat would support FL panthers (it already does by the way…confirmed by roadkill and documented tracks). The plan was to let them roam for a year and then collect them using the collars to locate them.

    They got them all back alive and healthy except for the one in my county because some moron shot it.

    Felis concolor AKA cougar, puma, mountain lion, Florida panther, panther, painter, wildcat, catomount …
    I use that example to show the kids why we have to have a formal system of classification.

    As for that delicious sounding recipe … a quart container enough for 4?
    Have you seen my children eat?

  11. The plight of the pumas (and many, many other species of animals) makes me sigh deeply and wonder where it will all end. We paved Paradise, etc.

  12. Gorgeous, gorgeous animals. Mountain lions live in my neck of the woods in Montana. I’m rather small in stature (not freakishly short, though, Miz S), and they are the reason I don’t hike the trails alone.

  13. I don’t understand at all the mindset that responds to nature with a gun. I’ve always thought designated snipers to fire back on the animals’ behalf would make hunting more of a sport.

    And how nice to discover another Tom Paxton fan! ANy others lurking here in the comments?

  14. There are two animals I don’t want to encounter in the woods, this gorgeous mountain lion and a bear. I want these creatures to have all the room and food they need. But I suppose since we can hardly figure out as humans how to share the planet with other humans, the mountain lion’s plight is far down on the list.

    When I worked, I rode my bike to campus everyday at UC Santa Cruz. I rode on a bike trail through a very large meadow surrounded by redwood canyons. There was a sign I passed by every morning on my way to the office, it said: “You are now entering mountain lion habitat.” I wondered every morning if I would make it or be some creature’s breakfast. It was always an exhilarating ride.

  15. Beautiful pictures of such an awesome creature! The potato recipe sounds yummy. I will have to look for some fingerlings at our farmer’s market.

  16. I’ve not been to the NC Zoo in a few months and your lovely pictures of the cougar make me want to go back. It’s so hot tho…

    I hope you like being with WordPress more than Typepad. I’ve not used either, but I’ve heard much better things about WordPress than Typepad.

  17. Vicki, you need to visit http://www.brookvilledailyphoto.blogspot.com. There is a gorgeous photo of a Cooper’s Hawk there today. You will find a feast for your eyes of beautiful photos.

  18. Reading these comments, I’m a wee bit nervous about our meet-up next week. Dont’ be surprised if I just sit and marvel at you and bonnie exchanging bon mots. And, of course, twittering the whole conversation to Mary, whom I already miss.

  19. There are will mountain lions where I live. Some dude e-mailed me some photos of one prowling around his home out in the hollers. Pretty scary, but beautiful.

  20. My recent adventure: We live in a canyon in Montana. One of our cats came thundering across the deck and dove below the porch. I rushed to the front door, ready to yell at the offending dog that was likely chasing my cats. I saw Ruby the cat racing down the middle of the road, past the house, fluffed about twice her (already ample)size. I yelled “RUBY!” startling the critter in pursuit, which swerved into our yard and over the fence to the neighbors’. It was a gorgeous mountain lion. Just a few second’s difference would have made for a completely different story…

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