This Just In – “Outside” is good for you…

Forest Stream

One of the motivators for us in turning this lot in the city into a homestead was that in our minds – there’s just something not right about living in such proximity to other people. Now, it’s not that I don’t like people. I do. It’s not that I don’t like the modern convenience of being 5 minutes from the store – there is just something about the ideal of country living to me that speaks to my core.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here or not, but my ideal place is on a 10 acre plot, with the house smack dab in the middle of the parcel. No one around you for 5 acres on any side… I like the open green space, and I like it quiet. Here at the Little House on 17th Street – the cacophony of sirens can wear on you, and the constant car traffic at times – can really get on your nerves.

There is something calming and peaceful about life in the country that the city simply can’t offer.

… and now there is scientific proof to back it up. A recently released study by the American Chemical Society has shown that increasing frequency of depression and mental health issues can be tied to increased urbanization, and simply trading your gray backdrop for a green one can make a huge difference in one’s outlook on life.

Imagine that!

That was one of the motivators (aside from the housing market going belly-up) that led us to start this particular homesteading project. It was our attempt at creating something we could be pleased with – that would help to make us happy. Instead of it nagging at us that we couldn’t get to that dream home in the country… and likely never will – we brought the country to us.

There are times however, when even we have to get away. We have to simply get out of the city, get off the paved roads and get into the woods. My favorite places to go are many of Oregon’s rivers and watersheds. I have an intense passion for fishing and hunting, and much of my time in the woods is spent in these pursuits. There is something incredible about getting up at the crack of dawn, walking into the silent woods as the forest begins to awaken around you, the crunch of the leaves under your feet, the swishing of the grasses along the river’s edge… the lacerations from the Himalayan blackberries that are EVERYWHERE, (wait.. that wasn’t so pastoral..) but there is something soothing about getting out and tossing in that first cast into a perfect seam, the anticipation and the adrenaline surge from the takedown.

It recharges you.

I have recently lost some of that charge and my batteries have felt pretty depleted in that department lately. The last time I fished was last January. Yup, 1 full year ago… Life has been so chaotic, and nuts – and it’s not that I haven’t had the time – I simply haven’t made the time, and there’s something seriously wrong with that.

In that vein, I had the chance tonight to attend the ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) meeting where they unveiled to the public their Coastal Multi-Species Plan. Essentially a plan that will shape the fisheries management policies on the coastal rivers of Oregon for the next decade and a half – naturally – I wanted to be sure to be there in order to hear what is being planned, as well as air my concerns with the aspects of the plan that I feel are not beneficial. There was a group of us there, folks that I know well who had concerns, and I feel the meeting was productive overall, but as I returned home this evening replaying parts of the meeting in my head – I realized there were a lot of folks in there fighting for the resource – working hard to ensure that these fish will be around for many generations – yet here I am – and I haven’t even taken an opportunity in over a year to get out and enjoy the resource while it was here.

One of my favorite quotes, by a writer named Edward Abbey popped into my head.

Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive them.”

I’ve somewhat lost sight of this bit of wisdom in the past year… the past year was capped by work, home, more work at home, wasting time, more work… I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a mental health break.  I think it’s time to start focusing on getting my hind end back into the woods, getting down to the river, and creating some memories with the family out in the beautiful wilds of Oregon… perhaps this weekend is a good time to start.

Advertisements

Winter on the Homestead.

Here at the Light homestead, we are in the middle of the – ‘not-really-sure-what-to-do-around-the-house-because-one-second-it’s-raining-the-next-it’s-really-cold-and-getting-things-done-on-the-homestead-to-do-list-is-ultimately-*BREATH*-really-difficult-in-this-nasty-weather-and….” – in other words, it’s that time of year where I try to find every excuse in the book not to go work outside… because its raining/COLD… The part of this that doesn’t make sense is…  I don’t mind being in the misery if I’m fishing. How exactly DOES that work?

In the last few days of 2012: my wife and I made it back home from Spokane, laid her Grandfather to rest, spent quite a bit of time with extended family, had an opportunity to spend some quality time with good friends from the east coast, and with the events of the past couple weeks and a strong desire NOT to work on the homestead… I needed some time on the river. So I’ve been doing everything in my power with the two days left on my 2012 license to get some meat for the freezer.

One of the wonderful things about Oregon is that in addition to the temperate climate region which allows us to garden year round pretty easily without a lot of extra stuff, there are harvest opportunities available year round. I know that there are some homesteaders out there that are not into meat consumption, period… choosing to grow all of their own food on their land and living a vegetarian lifestyle, or at least a lacto-vegetarian, or ovo-vegetarian lifestyle. On our homestead we look at things a bit differently.

Shannon and I take issue with the industrialization of ‘food’, and I use those quotations lightly. The idea that the meat you pick up at the store is raised in large scale CAFO type operations full of antibiotics, with meat products and GMO corn in the feed is disturbing, not to mention seriously damaging our food supply. We don’t have a problem with a carnivorous lifestyle, in fact, we enjoy it… but we do want to ensure that what we take in has the least amount of industrialization/processing/adulteration/carcinogens/shards of metal and glass/rat poison/etc… my wife is REALLY good at this… I’m not. But that’s something I’m working on changing in my life. Trying to be better about avoiding processed foods and drinks, and sticking to natural foods. Looking at labels and avoiding the stuff I can’t pronounce. That stuff isn’t food. It’s chemicals.

The homestead mantra is Michael Pollan’s quote from Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Eat Food. Not A Lot. Mostly Plants. – Michael Pollan

As a result, as much as possible, we try to eat more plants than we do meat, but also we try to supplement our food that we grow here on the homestead or pick up at the local markets with natural options either by hunting or by plain old gathering (blackberries, nuts, etc..) Here in Oregon, we have big game hunting opportunities available to us; deer and elk, bird hunting – duck, goose, and turkey — as well as year-round fishing for the big boys… 2 different types of Salmon; Chinook and Coho, and the legendary Steelhead, and in the summer fresh albacore tuna.

The last couple days, I hit some of our coastal rivers in search of some of the ever elusive Steelhead. On the first day, my friend Dave and I banked it on one mid-coast river and weren’t able to rustle up much other than a cutthroat trout that we sent on its merry way. It was really slow, and we only saw a couple of fish caught. It was a beautiful day though, with the sun shining and the temperature warm, which was refreshing. However, “Mission: Fill the Homestead Freezer”… FIsh 1, Me 0.

Yesterday I had a trip lined up with my friend Matt Halseth, who recently got his guides license and started up his business. We’d been trying to line up a chance to fish with one another for a while now, and it finally panned out yesterday as he didn’t have clients. Along with another really cool guy Curtis, we put into another coastal river in the dark, and started downriver. It was crazy cold here in Oregon the last couple days. It got down below freezing, and within moments of heading downriver in the boat, I wasn’t sure if my toes had gone on strike, or had just simply died. They almost didn’t recover. Though, by cramming a couple of hand-warmers in the toe of my boot – all was well, until the hand-warmers quit working. The fishing was slow to begin with, and we didn’t touch a fish for the first 4 hours. But we didn’t let it get us down, we know we’d get em once the air temperature came up and the water warmed a bit. Around 11 it picked up quite nicely, and we picked up 5 fish in the next few hours. It wasn’t lights out fishing we really had to grind em out, but we had a great time, a lot of laughs, and ended up 5/5 on the day, with one beautiful native hen released to go her merry way. (Something that can’t be said for many of the other boats on the river…)

Image

4 keepers…

Image

One of which was a very good sized, very hot (peeled line like crazy) 12-14 pounder. (the girl on the left in the above picture) Here she is again…

Image

The guys decided they didn’t want to mess with their catches last night because of New Years Eve (we got back pretty late), and they transferred the meat to me, so I was able to put all four fish away last night instead of just the two I caught, so I was very thankful for that.

Probably managed to put away close to 20 pounds of fish when it was all said and done. Since sizes are deceptive without a frame of reference, the Forschner Scimitar fillet knife next to the fish is 17 inches from tip to tip.

Image

Tried a new smoked Salmon Brine, well, it’s not new, it’s an adapted version of our standard brine recipe. We like to keep it simple, and let the fish speak for itself. We were out of brown sugar last night, so we ended up adapting by using regular sugar and molasses… we’ll see. I don’t know that it will have quite the same taste… but I’ll let you know.

1/2 Cup Raw Sugar
1 TBS Molasses
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt
1 tsp Celery Seed

Mix the Raw Sugar and Molasses together to make a brown sugar substitute, add the salt and celery seed and mix well with a fork. Dissolve the mixture in warm water continuing to mix well with the fork. Pour over chunked fish in a non-reactive bowl, add cold water to cover fish. Let brine for 24 hours.

Smoke however you prefer. I typically will put it in the smoker until it looks done (anywhere from 6-12 hours depending on air temperature) with 2 pans of Alder chips. Turns it into candy.

I’m looking forward to putting a lot of fish away this coming year, both smoked and filleted, which is doable since the winter run of coastal Steelhead is just getting started, then come the Springers, then come the Summers, then the Fall’s…. but the winters are nowhere near their peak and it only gets better from here out. Seriously… give Matt a call. He’s a great guy, and really knows what he’s doing when it comes to catching fish. A real class act — if you’re thinking of getting out this year, send me an email and I’ll put you in contact with him…

After taking a couple days off, my to-do list today is about a mile long, and my cup of coffee excuse to be online is almost gone, so I’d better bring this to a close.

2012 is in the rear view, 2013 up ahead and the world is making resolutions… here on our homestead, we’ll keep on keeping on…

Cheers,
Ben