Pin It Crippen Creek Chronicles: 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm

The snow is snowing, the wind is blowing.
But I can weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
I've got my love to keep me warm.
-Irving Berlin

A foot of snow fell on the valley floor here in Skamokawa. Guests had to cancel, cooking classes canceled. Nothing to do but curl up by the fire and just enjoy what is.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Happy Holidays!

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."

-Hamilton Wright Mabie

We do not have snow as this picture suggests--this is from last winter.

It is 4:30 pm here in Skamokawa and we have just completed the day's chores. The sun is setting over the Willapa Hills creating one of those skies that makes you wish you could paint. I love this time of day when the light changes and all is quiet but for the bubbling of Crippen Creek and the crackling of a fire in the fireplace. As I sit here sipping a cup of hot tea (I would prefer a glass of wine, but I've really got to cut some calories,) I am reflecting on the fact that it is the season to wish you all a Happy Holiday! And I only know that because the calendar tells me so. We are blessed to be without television and radio reception and thus are spared the relentless assault of inane Christmas commercials. And so we are better able to enter into the deeper meaning of the season.

While some may think that our wishes for a Happy Holiday is a sellout to political correctness, we prefer to think that it is a sensitivity to and acknowledgment of the fact Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated this month. My calendar shows me that there is also Hannukkah and Kwanzaa and we know many people that celebrate the Winter Solstice. As different as these traditions are from one another, they do seem to share the common theme of wishing their fellow beings a season of peace and joy. They also seem to share a tradition of gift giving. So now I would like to share our thoughts and suggestions on gift giving and certainly hope that it will not be crass.

First, I would like to recommend a wonderful book on this subject called The Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben.

It is a quick and easy read but full of wisdom and history of our gift giving traditions. He offers creative suggestions for those that have grown weary of this season's crass commercialism.

The Christmas we now celebrate grew up at a time when Americans were mostly poor ... mostly working with their hands and backs." If we now feel burdened and unsatisfied by the piles of gifts and overconsuming, it is not because Christmas has changed all that much, "It's because we have." - Bill McKibben

Our second recommendation is for a new book by our good friend and local Skamokawa author, Beth Sheresh. Beth has just published a wonderful cookbook entitled, Picture Yourself Cooking With Your Kids. What a great way to spend quality time with your kids, the little ones and the big ones. And if you don't have kids, it's still a great cookbook. There's even a recipe for the Speranza Family Meatballs. Beth is a great bread baker and all around great foodie. Check out her blog the kitchenmage.

While you can certainly get these books at we hope you will support your local independent bookstore. We are fortunate to have Trillium Books in nearby Cathlamet.

Last but not least, if you are tired of buying and receiving stuff, may we suggest the gift of an experience. The Inn At Crippen Creek Farm offers gift certificates for all occasions.

A cooking class ($55-85 depending on the class)

An overnight stay , double occupancy ($132, taxes included)*

Romantic Getaway (An overnight stay with dinner for two - $199, taxes included)*

Culinary Getaway (An overnight stay with an Italian Country Cooking Class for two- $290)*

*includes a bountiful country breakfast

We would also be glad to work with you on customizing a package to meet your needs.

If you have never been to The Inn At Crippen Creek Farm, you may wonder just what it is that you will experience at our country bed and breakfast. For starters, you can expect warm hospitality and complimentary appetizers with wine on arrival.

Some guests like to help with the farm chores.

This pile of firewood is still waiting for some lucky guest that wants to stack it.

Some like to go for a walk or bike ride on a country road.

Some like to venture out to the Washington Coast during the clamming season.

How about a picnic after a morning of kayaking?

Early risers in the winter can enjoy watching the elk graze on the front lawn

Enjoy some of the finest dining in the area right here at the inn with a locavore dinner.

How about a rousing game of Scrabble? I'll teach you my favorite two letter words that are bound to make your opponents utter four letter words.

Take a cooking class and learn the fine art of Italian Country Cooking.

And finally everyone's favorite activity--hanging out.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, . . . I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturb’d Retirement, and the hours Of long uninterrupted evening, know.
—William Cowper

As the days grow shorter and the darkness and weather force us to spend more time in our dwellings, it seems apt that this time of year also sends us inward to our personal interior....a place to rest, reflect and be renewed. Thanksgiving Day is a perfect time to start this journey as we gather with family and friends and pause to celebrate our blessings. We hope that despite the economic turmoil our world is experiencing, that you still find much for which to be thankful.

Kitty and I find ourselves truly grateful for the many guests that have graced our home in this past year. The wonderful conversations over a shared meal is truly heaven on earth.

We had a splendid Thanksgiving celebration with family, friends and of course good food.

The Table Is Set

Deep Fried Turkey

Oven Roasted Vegetables

Kate's Amazing Apple Pie

Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie

Family and Friends
What more do we need?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Harvest Time

“Harvest home, harvest home!

We’ve plowed, we’ve sowed,

We’ve reaped, we’ve mowed,

And brought safe home,

Every load”

_Harvest Home Song

The garden crops have been put up for some time now. This was our third gardening season at Crippen Creek and definitely our best one thanks to the hoophouse. Our eggplant that took best in show in the Wahkiakum County Fair became ratatouille and eggplant parmigiana. The tomatoes became roasted tomato sauce and salsa.

The chickens are in the freezer and today we completed the harvest with the slaughter of the pigs.

When you are involved in raising your own food, especially livestock, it changes your relationship with food.

To quote Wendell Berry, "Some I know, will think of it as bloodthirsty or worse to eat a fellow creature you have known all its life. On the contrary, I think it means that you eat with understanding and with gratitude." Although the harvesting of the pigs was tinged with a little sadness, we take solace in the fact that we raised them with the best care possible and that they were dispatched without any trauma.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Play Time

It doesn't happen often enough but once in awhile we manage to get in some play time.
Skamokawa is home to some of the best kayaking in the country so we recently treated ourselves to a day of instruction from a world-class instructor, Ginni Callahan. Ginni is one of nine kayakers that own and operate Columbia River Kayaking and one of only 3 US women to achieve the British Canoe Union's highest skill rating, the 5-star award. She is certified as a BCU level 4 Sea Coach and by the American Canoe Association as an Advanced Open Water Instructor. They have tours and instruction for all skill levels.
We were paddling past Twin Gables when friend, neighbor and fellow innkeeper, Stevan Morgain snapped these pictures for us.

Ginni Callahan

If you are considering a kayak adventure in Skamokawa The Inn At Crippen Creek Farm can provide you with a picnic lunch and a nourishing dinner after a vigorous day on the river. Then retire to your room and let the sounds of Crippen Creek lull you to sleep.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Bridge to Nowhere?

Alaska may have it's "bridge to nowhere," but Crippen Creek now has a bridge to somewhere. And that somewhere is the other side of the creek where 7 acres of our land has been sitting fallow for years. The bridge is courtesy of Wahkiakum County Conservation District through a grant from U.S Fish and Wildlife. It is one component of a large conservation program on our land that has been developing for 2 years. It all started shortly after we acquired the land and realized that we knew nothing about managing 15 acres with a creek that has a mind of its own and can become a raging river after a few days of heavy rainfall. With the intent of becoming good stewards of the land, we contacted the Conservation District to see if they could guide us. It turns out they were eager to work with us and all of our neighbors that live on the creek. Their goal was to improve the water quality of the streams and improve the habitat for fish and wildlife. Crippen Creek is a spawning creek for salmon and steelhead so it was a perfect candidate for their program. They chose our property to be a demonstration site since it lent itself to using so many components of their program. They peeled back the banks to a 3 to 1 slope, planted willow and grass and placed large woody structures in the creek to divert the water and dissipate its energy.

Here's a before picture of the creek bank during a heavy rain.

The creek bank after peeling it back

And why a bridge? So we can move livestock without crossing them through the creek and so we can manage several acres of trees that will be planted as part of the conservation program. Anyone want to come to a work party? We'll feed you and give you B&B Bucks.

It should be an interesting winter to see if the plan works as intended. Some people have a knee-jerk reaction to letting the government get involved with their land but our experience so far has been very positive. It's a shining example of a local government agency working for the taxpayers.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Guest Chef

One of the highlights of this summer was a visit from my nephew Michael Speranza. Mike, a professional chef with Custom Culinary was in Seattle on business and managed to get away to Crippen Creek for a couple of nights. Besides just having a great visit, we got a cooking lesson from Mike using some of our great local food that we are always bragging about. But first Mike got a first hand look at where our food comes from.

Chef Michael Sloppin the Hogs
Then we barbecued some baby back ribs from Crippen Creek Farm and beef short ribs from
Zimmerman Beef.

Barbecued ribs with bourbon molasses glaze

Then Mike gave us a lesson in preparing my all time favorite...rack of lamb from Greyfields Farm.

Start with a great piece of meat

Remove fat and silverskin
Sear it

Coat it with Dijon mustard

Cover with seasoned bread crumbs

Roast it

Carve it

And serve it.

Rack of Lamb with demiglaze and acini
This was truly the most incredible lamb I have ever eaten.

And for dessert...Creme Brulee