the sage of the west

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Fly fishing the Upper Owens River in the winter is fantastic.  It is stunningly beautiful.  Peaceful.  Quiet except for the occasional piercing sound of a hawk.  Clear and very cold this day.  Not another person to be seen.  The fishing went off. 

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Fun Fact Friday: How Do You Survive in the Big Empty? These Lagomorphs Use Superpower Adaptations, of Course.

By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region

It’s wide open in the Big Empty of sagebrush country. For the more than 350 species that live here, hiding spots are few and horizons are long. When you’re a favorite food of lots of predators you need special adaptations to survive. Lagomorphs are adaptation champs in this ecosystem. The term lagomorph describes mammals in the order of lagomorpha, better known as hares, rabbits, and pikas. In sagebrush country, some lagomorphs you might see are jackrabbits, cottontails, and pygmy rabbits.

Rabbits and hares have big eyes set on the sides of their heads. This gives them a wide viewpoint to look around for threats. Their large ears act like giant microphones to capture the slightest sound. And their long back feet act as a speedy superpower. With them they can spring into the air and dart quickly in a jig-jag pattern to escape predators. Jackrabbits can run at speeds of 40 miles per hour and their powerful hind legs can propel them in 10-foot leaps with each bound. Imagine trying to keep up with one of these athletic racers!

But, it’s tough to survive on big feet, eyes, and ears alone. It also helps to have superpower hiding adaptations. And rabbits and hares have some that act just like invisibility cloaks.

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Fun Fact Friday: To Migrate or To Staycation? Sagebrush is a Great Home for These Birds

By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region

Brrr! It’s getting cold out in northern sagebrush country! With snow beginning to fall, animals are on the move. Like Greater sage-grouse, more than 350 species call this place home, but some only spend part of the year here and others stay year-round.

Many birds head south. Sage thrashers and Brewer’s sparrows fly to the warmer southern United States and Mexico. Swainson’s Hawks left months ago, gathered into kettles of tens of thousands of birds to travel all the way to Argentina for the winter months. Imagine doing a round-trip trek of more than 12,000 miles from South America to northern North America each year like these world travelers do!

For some, the sagebrush landscape is their favorite winter resting spot. All summer Rough-legged hawks spent in the Arctic tundra. Their journey south brings some of them to the western sagebrush landscape. You might see them perched on utility poles, transmission lines, fence posts, and other high ground throughout the winter months.

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Fereldan and Freemarcher “Andale” Pie

Throughout Ferelden and The Free Marches, you are likely to come across an odd name on Tavern menus: “Andale Pie.” Those from outside of this region of Thedas may be quite bemused as to what this actually is.

Andale pie, as it has come to be called, is much more of a category of food than an actual dish. Pronounced “ann-dale,” it is actually a phonetic pronunciation of the two words “and ale.” 

Ale is a very big deal through Ferelden and The Free Marches, and the vast majority of people drink it instead of water. The vast majority of Ales in this region are served “young,” that is they are served after only fermenting for a few days - a week at most. They are much weaker than Ales that we are used to in the real world. 

Additionally, each Tavern and Inn usually brews their own ales and beers, thus ensuring that each tavern will have their own unique flavor to their spirits. And thus, this has ensured that ale pies have become a staple food through this region of Thedas, especially for those who regularly dine at the local inns and taverns.

There are so many different kinds of ale pies through Ferelden and The Free Marches, that they have become condensed into one major type of dish: Andale Pie.

Throughout Ferelden and the Free Marches, you will encounter 4 major types of Andale pies, depending on the region, the season, and the available ingredients. 

These four types are: meat, fish, poultry, and vegetable. These various types are then divided into more categories depending upon the local regions, and what meats, fish, poultry, vegetables, etc are available. For example, they prefer lamb for meat and ale pies down in Dragon’s Peak, and they prefer roach and pike when making fish pies further west throughout the Hinterlands and the Arling of Redcliffe. Down in Gwaren, however, they very much prefer fish and ale pie - usually made with cod and salmon. Further up in the Free Marches, especially in Starkhaven, lamprey, eel and herring are much more popular in fish and ale pies.

What spices and ancillary ingredients are used very depend on the region. For example, in the north of the Free Marches, Antivan spices are often used - such as Sage, Rosemary, paprika, basil and Saffron. In the West of the Free Marches, Orlesian and Tevinter spices are often used, such as nutmeg, mace, rosemary, ginger, pepper and cumin. This is in addition to the normal Free Marcher spices, which include bay leaves, mint, borage, chives, caraway, parsley, marjoram, and juniper berries. In should be noted that usually only the higher end taverns include these spices, as they can be quite expensive because of their demand. Most taverns will only use one or two, and thus many taverns and inns become famous for their “house spices” (which is usually just one or two spices blended together).

Traditionally, these pies were made by braising meat in ale, and then adding a bit of the stew from the night before. Sometimes, whatever the stew was the night before would be added to the filling in the pie, thus adding extra flavor. For example, if they had made fish stew - they would make fish pie. If you wish to try this, simply replace 1 cup of the ale with your stock or broth of choice (make sure it’s unsalted, otherwise the pie will be over-seasoned)

The pastry for these pies was quite different from what we used to today. Firstly, they didn’t include sugar (that was far too expensive). Secondly, they usually used a peasant’s flour (a flour usually made out of a mix of rye, barley and oats). Lastly, they would often use ale instead of water, given that water could carry so many different kinds of diseases. A last note: salt was usually not used in peasant’s houses given its price. The exception would be people who knew how to gain their own salt (such as from hickory, minerals, or sea water).

Basic Fereldan Pastry Dough

  • 1 half mug of flour (about 200 grams or 1 cup)
  • Generous pinch of Salt (about 1 tsp)
  • One quarter mug of butter, suet, or lard (about 100 grams, or ½ cup)
  • 1 egg
  • Fresh, young ale
  1. Sift salt and flour together
  2. Chop fat into pieces.
  3. With your fingers, mix fat into the flour until it is mostly combined, and you have a very crumbly dough.
  4. Make a well in the center of the dough and add your egg.
  5. Once egg in combined, mix dough and add just enough ale to bring together a lumpy, firm dough.
  6. Mold dough into a ball and let rest for 20 minutes (in a cold place, preferably) before using.

Basic Andale Pie

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large spoonful butter or suet
  • Enough meat, fish, poultry, or vegetables for 1 serving (roughly ½ pound)
  • 1 mug fresh ale or beer (2 cups)
  • Enough pastry for 1 pie, rolled out into 2 pieces (roughly 100 grams, or ¼ of the above recipe)
  • 1 small spoonful flour (1 tsp of corn starch flour will work nicely)
  • Any regional, local, or seasonal spices, ingredients, etc.
  • Salt (to taste)
  1. Chop your onions finely
  2. In a pot, melt your butter or fat. Once melted, add your onions.
  3. Cook your onions until they begin to turn clear. Add your meat, vegetable, fish or poultry.
  4. Cook your filling until nicely browned, then add your ale. Boil for 5 minutes or until ale has reduced by about ½ cup. Add any additional herbs, spices, or other ingredients.
  5. Cover, and allow to simmer, very low, for 1 hour, or until mixture has reduced by at least half. Season to taste.
  6. Remove a small bit of liquid from the pot. In a separate bowl, combine it with the flour until you have a smooth paste. Reincorporate this back into your pot.
  7. Once your filling has reached your desired consistency, remove from heat and allow to cool. 
  8. Line a greased single-serving pie dish on the bottom with one half of your pastry dough. Reserve the other half for the topping.
  9. Pour in your filling and top with the pastry, making sure to pinch both pastries together to seal. Cut four small slits along the top of the pastry to allow for the escape of air.
  10. Bake in a hot oven (about 400F) for about 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
  11. Serve immediately.
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Fun Fact Friday: What’s a Greater sage-grouse to do when it’s feeling parched? Find a guzzler to guzzle from.

Story by Kelly Bockting, Wildlife Biologist, BLM-MT Dillon Field Office, and Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region

Did you know much of the sagebrush ecosystem receives less than 12 inches of precipitation per year? That’s less than half of the United States’s average 30 inches annually! The more than 350 species that live here are specially adapted to live in this dry place. But the lack of moisture can make it tough for animals to get enough to drink. One way BLM-Montana/Dakota’s Dillon Field Office helps provide that extra drink is with water guzzlers for wildlife.

Wildlife guzzlers catch rainwater and snowmelt in a storage tank and dispense the water into a drinker so all wildlife species have access to drinking water. Since water can be hard to find in the sagebrush ecosystem, guzzlers are generally placed 2-3 miles from other water sources to provide water in between other oases of the range.

Dillon Field Office has installed several wildlife guzzlers in recent few years. Their goal is to provide a reliable water source during drought cycles and to enhance water distribution throughout big game summer habitats. The guzzlers also help reduce pressure on private lands, especially on agricultural lands where pronghorn, deer and elk may congregate in late summer when their summer range begins to dry up. 

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more fc changes coming your way, folks. graphics will be updated shortly.

  • georgette foxworth: katie cassidy → halston sage
  • ariel king: katie stevens→ madelaine petsch
  • nala omita: amber stevens west  → herizen guardiola