Friday, August 27, 2010

Ice Age Trail Upgrade

The Ice Age Trail has received an upgrade. I took a walk on this new two-mile superhighway for bikes, and here are my observations.

The new path is called the Ice Age Junction Trail, and it goes from Highway PD in Fitchburg to the junction with the Military Ridge State Trail in Verona. It's beautiful new smooth blacktop. It mostly goes around the hills that the walking trail has enjoyed. It's a quick ride for people who want to get from point A to point B.

The walking trail still exists, and it goes to the same place. It's still grass covered, maintained with lawn mowers. It's a bit more strenuous than the bike trail, and a bit longer. It meanders through the prairie flowers and wild berry bushes with no apparent concern for speed of travel. More meditative. Less efficient.

In addition to going through the prairie flowers, the blacktop version of the trail goes through a small woods. I think there is some incongruity in a blacktop path going through a woodsy natural space like woods. I get it that cars go through woods on blacktop, but I think of bikes as being more nature friendly. Blacktop is a manufactured surface made of non-natural stuff. It has little in common with spaces filled with flowers and woods.

The new trail has a stopping off point for those who want to rest. It has more access points for bikers than the former walking-only trail, from area streets. Those are good features. It covers part of the walking trail and crosses it. Both trails go under Verona Avenue through a bridge that has been there for some time, but now the path at that location is easier to traverse due to a small bridge that goes over a watery space. I remember crossing it by climbing on rocks and doing some jumping. This is an improvement for bikers and walkers.

I'll stick to the walking trail with all its beauties and meanderings. The day may come when I try the blacktop trail on my bike. Thanks, Madison, Dane County Parks, and the Community Foundation, for offering a new alternative, even if it is blacktop.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blackberries Galore

It's still blackberry picking time in Madison. This morning I found some along the Verona link of the Ice Age Trail, accessible from county road PD. It would have been wonderful if the mosquitoes hadn't emailed all their relatives to say that I would be coming. The only person who wasn't complaining about the bugs was the dog that came along with the other lady who was picking. I finally decided that I could have brought home many more berries, but the mosquitoes became a major obstacle. Alas. It's not easy being part of their food chain.

I really have found enough for one season anyway. I have made a blackberry pie, blackberry ice cream topping, blackberry cobbler, and put some blackberries in the freezer. I regret that our fair city leveled a very promising blackberry patch in Elver Park near my home. It cut my harvest in half. I don't understand why the city fathers didn't wait until after the berries were finished. Fortunately, there are other blackberry patches. And there will be more in a patch at an undisclosed location on Washington Island later in August, when I expect to be there.

The blackberry cobbler that I made is my adaptation from the Cherry Cobbler that I reported on, from the Prairie Farmer WLS Cook Book of 1941. They could have thought of blackberries while they were working on cherries, but they didn't. So here is my version. I like it a lot in spite of the seeds.

Blackberry Cobbler for  2

1 - 1 1/4 cup (approx.) fresh blackberries (Maybe thawed frozen ones will work; I don't know.)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk (approx.)

Find a baking dish that is 7x7 inches, or 6x8 inches. Pyrex sells a 6x8 dish. Goodwill occasionally sells old Corningware baking dishes that are about 7x7. The dish should hold about 1 1/2 quarts. The cobbler won't come up to the top of the dish.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put berries and water in baking dish. Combine sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, and sprinkle over the top. Put in oven and stir occasionally until the mixture is heated, about as long as it takes to mix the dough that goes on top.

Mix together the 1/2 cup flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles pie crust dough. Add milk and stir until soft dough is formed. Stir as little as possible. Roll out dough 1/3 inch thick and place on hot berry mixture. If dough is too wet to roll, add more flour. Place dough on hot berry mixture to cover most of it.

Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve plain or topped with whipped cream or with ice cream.