Monday, June 13, 2011

Oyster bonanza!

Mad photo creds to my bro Ryan at . This photo was taken without permission. Sorry.

So the hottest thing of the new summer season has got to be oyster mushrooms. If you didn't get some I am sorry and reading this blog is going to break your heart.

I almost missed it myself... I called a friend a couple weeks ago and someone told me he was out picking oysters. It was late, so I couldn't go out right away. Had a hard time sleeping. Got up early and was in the forest skipping around with that bounce in your step that you can only get from a romance with a mushroom. They were out there, in full force.

I had been checking a bit earlier in the year, expecting them to come more like in the spring... or rather what I thought was spring... sometime around April. But this year they liked the end of May and beginning of June. What do I know, right?

I felt like I was about a week behind the ball, so I picked hard for a few days and got many pounds. Some I ate, mostly dried though.

Paul Stamets, regional mushroom guru, says that laying them out gills up in the sun allows them to soak up a bunch of vitamin D. According to many science types, this is a nutrient that is lacking in our diets, due to lowered liver intake and our angle on the sun for most of the year. It's being blamed for some of the epidemic of depression, or at least the seasonal affective disorder. So I'm stoked to have my own vitamin D source. I don't think I'm lacking in liver intake though...

This picking season was also very fun because I infected my new girlfriend (I think I can use that term...) with the passion for mushroom hunting. (That was one of those sentences that you couldn't wait to find out how it ended, right?) Moving on... Getting someone hooked on wholesome fun feels really good. It's good to share.

So yeah, good times. If you didn't get to pick oyster mushrooms... you should drop everything and go to your nearest mature alder grove. They're the white guys on the trunks of dead trees, or on logs on the ground... look them up, find someone who knows. I think they're an easy one, hard to mistake for poison, but do the research... there may still be time... or you may find some that have dried themselves for you and your preservation work is done. Just lay in sun for vit.D


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Here’s a thought. . .

One of the things I like about my house and therefore my life in general is the reduced barriers between me and the outside world. Living with my house, I feel more connected to my environment than I think I would with a less rustic model.

Let me explain.

The boots come off at the door, sometimes. Mostly if I’m at home, around the house, doing stuff though, I’m trudging though the world inside, outside, leaving the door open, dripping with rain on the floor, dirt sometimes accumulating, occasionally mud or even traces of goat poop. I just can’t be taking off my boots everytime I need something from the house. So my floor adjusts to the reality of not being quite such an indoor floor to being more of a hybrid floor. Like the floor you might have in an old shop.. you don’t take your boots at the door to the shop: You need them in there!

I have running water from a tap over a sink that drains outside. But it comes from a long hose of dubious quality. In the summer you can taste the toxins. I ainn’t drinkin’ that. But I’m fine rinsing things in it or washing up. In fact I quite appreciate it. But I also apprecite walking across the property to a hand pump to get water. There’s a ritual in a walk to the fountain. And pumping it by hand makes you connected to the source. You can feel with every pump that the water is way down in the ground right beneath your feet. You imagine as you wait for the rush to hit that the water has trickled through granite for ages before it got to you. It’s still a long steel tube that does this magical thing of gushing with fresh, delicious, pure, clean water when you move a handle at the top, so there is a bit of disconnection. And everytime I need fresh jug I get to see the weather and the goats, the birds and the bees and the garden.

At a whopping 96 sq. ft. , there isn’t room for a toilet. So every day, several times a day, I get to git out for a piss, or pop out for a poo. When I piss I don’t go far, just around the yard usually. But pooping happens just like it did in the good ol’ days when men wore loin cloths and women did too. Pooping takes me out into the forest. It takes me to a special little spot, different each time. It takes me to a new little pocket, or a new bush or tree, or so some little rise, a patch of soil on a bluff. And there I make my gift. I deposit a little bit of leftovers to share with the world. I have an exquisite diet and I believe that the world around me deserves to have some of my shit, just as I deserve some of its. And this activity gets me out to see the world around me, and even to expose myself to it, get a little vulnerable with it. In fact.. :
One time I was out pooping, and I heard a little bark. Just a little woof. But I turned around to take a look and there was a wolf about fifty feet away looking right at me. And heshe had barked at me. I felt vulnerable indeed. I turned around so I could face him at least while I finished my business. She stared at me. I stared at her. Then I got up and walked away.
That was exciting. I also hear ravens, see eagles in the forest, saw a little vole once, I find mushrooms for breakfast on morning poo walks.

And I know that if I accomplish nothing else that day, I will at least have put a little back. You know… if you take it, put it back. I take from this land everyday. Everyday I put a little back. Put it back®.

My windows are single pane. This has some advantages that people may not realize. Yes you lose a bunch of heat to them. But you can hear a lot better through them too. Insulating against heat loss also insulates against sound transmission. It’s nice to hear what’s going on. I would like to use my hearing more.

The single pane also shows me the amount to moisture that the world is settling on all my stuff. When the window is steaming and dripping, I know that all the cold parts of my house are also getting wet. Every so often you find another mouldy treasure. It’s the harmless green, not the black mould though. I would like to keep the world’s soggyness off my shit. That’s one way my house could serve me better, less moisture. I don’t know what to do about that though. It’s a wet climate.

My woodstove heats my meals. It’s got the removable rings. You git a few sticks burning and throw a wok down in ‘em and you’re cookin’ in no time. It heats the house up in just a few moments too. A few moments later and you’re sitting in your underwear, keeping low and drinking lots of water. But it’s good. Keeps the damp off. Keeps the damp off the stuff kept up high. You wouldn’t believe in such a small place how it can be smokin’ in my little sleeping loft and cool as a cucumber down on the floor.

My wood stove puts a very real and daily link between me, the cold, my firewood pile, the trees that live and die on this island, what my work does for me and what my work will be like in the coming months when it’s time to cut firewood again for next winter.

And it gets cold by morning. I guess that’s the windows… I think the walls and ceiling are quite well insulated. Used rigid foam. Higher –r value than the pink stuff. And I didn’t use that crap they sell you at the store. I used old oyster foams. Been sitting in the ocean for ten years, detoxifying. Sat in the sun on some beach for a few more years, getting blasted by the UV. Then I got ‘em at the dump, sliced ‘em like bread to the thickness of my walls and packed ‘em in. By the way, the easiest way to do that is with a chainsaw. Do it inside, the little bits go flying everwhere. You can sweep up and pour the debris into your walls. Oh and you can only cut it short bursts because the little balls get stuck to the muffler and melt, creating a supremely foul odour that is sure to kill if you breath in too much of it.

Back to my increased connection/hybrid life… The cold in the morning, the briskness some evenings when it’s too late to light a fire, that crisp crack of the icey whip of winter really makes you feel alive... makes you feel like sleeping in too. I’m sharing the sharp bite of the season with all the creatures that live around me. We’re in this together… somewhat.

My house helps me to keep my consumption in check. There are many reasons that I don’t buy very much, and one of lesser ones is that I don’t have enough room. I’ve got very few shelves and no cupboards in the kitchen, so I can’t get any products. There’s no room for a jar of pickles or a bottle of ketchup. And I can only have toys that serve an important survival(ish) function.. like they must also be weapons, or be used to make things (tools or materials), they must also clothe me or make music or teach me things or be highly edible. So… this is good for the wider earth connection, maybe.

My fridge is a sliding glass window with shelves behind it, outside. The dutch call it a ‘cold closet’. It works quite well, it’s passively cooled, no power needed. It’s better in the late fall early spring. Things are hard to work when they freeze and tend to get mushy if they thaw a bunch of times. But by golly I know how cold it is outside by the viscosity of my chicken fat. I know when the last cold weather was… mustabeen a few weeks ago now. Very mild lately.

Thin tin roof: I know when it rains at night or early in the morning. It’s loud.

I can hear the cars go by. I don’t love traffic, and it isn’t the most romantic way to connect with world, but I can sense the rythym of the community when I hear the cars. I know how many big trucks are how busy, I know when there’s a maniac dirt biker tuning up his ride. And it doesn’t bother me to hear it. It’s far from constant which makes it more interesting and the noise more tolerable. It’s also filtered and dulled by the forest.

I live near one of the busiest roads on the island. It means people can stop by anytime. When they do it really makes me feel connected to the community. My phone is... different.. so people often find dropping by is a good way to find me.

I like the idea of living in a shop. It's a rough environment full of potential, constant creativity, blank slates abound. The tools are all there. You don't have to tip toe around. I can scrape the meat off an animal hide on the floor of my house without fear. I can clamp a vise to my kitchen counter. A workshop often has a more intimate and freeflowing relationship with the land it inhabits: tools and the humans that operate them often go back and forth from the shop and the land around.

I find the average house to be quite different. The drywall and the nice floors and perfect and expensive countertops make it much more important to keep clean and prevent damage. Shoes come off at the door, so if you're in, you're in. You can't just screw something down to the ground if you need to keep it from wobbling around.

That’s all I can think of right now, but I’ll keep you posted as more things come to me.

Sometimes the best way down a slippery slope is to slide.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Avatar changed my life... again.

So I just saw avatar...

Hollywood as it was... it really wrapped me up in the plight of the navi' and the beautiful world they inhabit. And of course this connected in my heart with the devastation we're seeing on our own planet and the horrible mindset that is sometimes behind it.

I don't know if it's silly or stupid or sad or great or what -- but I hadn't ever cried for our planet before... That night after watching HomeTree fall, I cried... just a bit... I was mostly thinking of the ongoing oil leak, but it's just a symbol, as hometree was. It's everywhere.

I suppose something about having it all at once in that story and having it dramatized somehow made it more real than the real story that we hear about all the time. I wonder if this is yet another effect of being raised by movies and TV. ... But it could just be the slow boil/frog in the pot thing --> you know, just a bit here and bit there, suddenly the pot is boiling and we haven't noticed any changes big enough to alarm us. Even the big leak is almost like, "Big fucking surprise. It's just another catastrophic disaster at the hands of greed and laziness." ... But in this film we got to go from Eden to hell with demons in just over a couple of hours.

The picture below is actually of me after the film... scared, confused, angry, devastated. That's Kate behind me there.

And I think that that emotional connection I found after the movie, with the real world as I understand it is sticking around a bit. I can still feel some aftershocks as I write about it here. Maybe it's like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets.

And I say that the film "changed me... again" because I every once in a while I have a quick, nay punctuated, and deep connection with a thing (person, book, film etc.) and it sends me off in a different direction or more forcefully in an old/same direction. And this film made me remember again, not that I had really forgotten entirely, that what I want is to be an animal in a great and beautiful community of animals. I want to have my place and have close friends and neibours and allies in the non-human world. I don't like feeling like an awkward visitor on my own planet; it seems disrespectful or at least ignorant of the beauty we have.

you get the point. See the film. even if you think its stupid.

ps. in case you're wondering why I'm posting twice in one day... I'm at my mom's and the internet is at my fingertips.. not down the road and around the corner between 9 and 9 for 15 minutes at a time.

Soccer doesn't need you, but you need soccer.

So, one of the best joyous parts of my life right now is soccer. It is so amazing to run one's balls off chasing someone or getting into just the spot as the perfect pass comes sailing in. I play twice a week religiously.

I mean religiously in a partly literal way. It is a sort of worship of the human body, talent, coordination, and spirit of play. I am blown away by what my ankles will tolerate, how much I can run, and how inspired I am by those I play with.

This past weekend, a bunch of us from our little island went to Comox for a tournament. There were five teams, played against all of them on saturday and walked away undefeated. Sunday was semi finals and finals.

We went to the finals against a very good team from Victoria. We were up 2-0 at half-time, but they came back and scored their tieing goal in the last play of the game. We lost in a shoot out. It was a great game and we all had a fabulous time. I am proud to have scored one of our goals in the final.

Please enjoy the video of me scoring in the semi-final game. Thanks to Sherry for a perfect set-up pass.

I don't know if I could ever leave the sport, and consequently I don't know if I could ever leave my home on this little island.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hello again – been a while. There is much to share, but I’ll stick to one idea ‘cause I think it is more interesting than a general update kinda thing.

I would like to share with you a great accomplishment of mine. For nearly a year now I have been eating almost entirely food that I grew, gathered or killed myself.

I didn’t grow much grain so the bulk of the protein and carbohydrates came from meat. I raised goats this year and they reproduce readily. I shot a deer with a crossbow. And there were many opportunities to scavenge meat from other people’s slaughterings. I came up with a new term for this type of meat gathering: a slopportunity. Get it? … anyway, I got some pig, chicken, moose, cow, lamb, ‘coon, beaver. Oh, and I did buy some bison meat and fat in the fall.. I forgot about that. But I’d’ve made it without that… Oysters & clams, bit of salmon …

I rendered my own cooking fat from the animals that came my way. They all worked fabulously for frying or baking but especially interesting to me was the chicken fat as it was liquid like olive oil at room temperature which made it great for salads. That was my one weak spot, I thought. But it worked out. ‘Coon fat was semi-liquid at room temperature and worked fairly well for dressings as well. I got into light-sautes for my kale salads anyway which worked well with any kind of fat.

It occurred to me that most animals gain weight for the winter. So when I ate, I ate as much as I could. I also wanted to eat as much fat as could possibly be deemed somewhat reasonable. It’s delicious. But I also wanted to know if it would make me fat to eat fat, as is the common idea amongst most people. It didn’t work. I still weigh the same as I’ve weighed since I was eighteen.

I ate a lot of potato, rutabaga and carrot hash for breakfast. I also ate a lot of stew at all time of the day. Stew is a complete food and it is delicious, nutritious and fairly easy to prepare. It works well on the woodstove, a slow cooking kind of tool. I also ate a bunch of nuts

I have bought some stuff that I ate, but that was just treats, not the stuff that was actually feeding me on a day to day basis. Even the bits of a meal that bring it up from mere sustenance to delicious I was able to get from the garden or field or forest. The deliciousness came mostly from thyme. But there was also some basil I dried. The previous winter I made my own salt from sea water (which I’m not sure is entirely healthy). But this year I was given a big bag of salt in trade for some work that I did for a friend.

It is hard to say how much work it was or how much ofmy waking life was consumed by food getting and producing… but I would guess that it was no more half a week, as in part-time work, three or four days a week on average. A bunch more time went into preparing this food every day. But you know: while much of it was chore-ish, the majority was just a part of living. Like sleeping. You have to do it, but it isn’t work, just a part of life. It’s like the the ol’ gatherer/hunter (h/g) quote, “we work four hours in the morning and then we make things.” The distinction is arbitrary. If you counted making things in my work load, I’d be a workaholic for sure.

So, the food self-sufficiency has been a goal of mine for while. And while it isn’t perfect (some of the animals I ate were fed with a lot of imported food etc.), I feel fairly accomplished. Life long learning though. It’s not so hard.

I’m looking forward to the next month or two: The Spring Dearth. This is the time of year where the winter veggies are rotting, growing and getting woody, or had to be harvested to get the garden ready for this years crops. I ate the last of my kale yesterday. There are a dozen potatoes left, two rutabagas, and a bunch of carrots. But I have preserved a lot of that stuff in ferments and freezers. So we’ll see. But I’m planning on toughing it out, and not buying any staple foods.

See you out there. Life is good.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's fall now...

And it's a time to take a deep breath; first one in the past six months or so when this crazy whirlwind called summer started.

I've done a lot. It's been fun and hard. Lots of gardening, and building and working for money and bits of this and that.

The trailer house has come along very well. We're not quite done yet, but we live in it anyway. It's dry in there and warm and some things have a place to go while others are piled in as unobtrusive a fashion as possible. There's no sink or water inside, but a hose and a shallow pit do the trick for now. The woodstove got fired up the other day, and it has been drying our clothes and our mushrooms. The shed roof on the north windowless wall is keeping the firewood and the tools and the freezer dry. By winter there may be a fully functioning kitchen. The insulation of the floor might wait till next year.

The garden was great. We had the first season in our new plot of dirt a short 25 minute bike ride away. The soil there never dries out completely, despite serious drought. And things grow like gangbusters without much effort by way of fertilizing... all in all it's the lazy man's garden and boy did we ever get away with some garden neglect. it was great. and we have lots of food to eat all winter. We kept it pretty simple out there, just the basics.

I've been doing a bit of salmon fishing lately. It's fun.. but a lot of work. Caught a few pinks.. no cohos.. I'll keep trying. been casting from shore on the campbell river.

Hoping to do some deer hunting and goose hunting this fall.

Moved from the ol' farm there down to where we've got these goats with a few other folks. That's been fun and challenging. the goats are great, our new lord and lady are great, the location is great.

the goats take a lot of work. we have to walk them a couple of hours everyday that we milk, which is twice a week usually. And then there's the milking on top of that. all in all it's about 3 hours be gallon. not the greatest return.. so there are some doubts that this is an efficient way to get food. We'll see what kind of a hunter I am.

I've been on the board of the friends of Cortes Island for a year now, without really doing much.. but it has been interesting to see the comings and goings of a tiny commmunity NGO.

Did a bit of carpenter's helper work for a while. We saved the community hall from collapsing due to water and ant infestations. And we built the first in a series of composting toilets at the venerable Channel Rock.

That's the main drag of my life in the last half year since I've last written. I'll do some e-thinking this winter and come up with some real deep shit, instead of just journaling, which is kinda lame.

check this out:

oh. and I got this truck. It's awesome.

L!fe is good.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Foodie food.

There are some hot new trends in the foodie world. Local, wild, heritage this and that, traditional, full fat, organic, sustainable, fair trade are all the buzz amongst those interested in food and a lighter way to live on the planet. Almost all my meals are glorious expressions of these new trends. I feel inspired to share some of the more exciting examples of this way of eating and obtaining food. So, this is the first installment of my new foodie series.

This morning, on the menu was, poached eggs on toast, with roasted and refried root vegetables.

The eggs (organic, free range [they go right outside and run around], from the farm I live on), were poached to perfection in water heated by the wood stove that also heats my home. The vinegar in the water to keep the eggs from being diluted into the cooking water was pressed from surplus apples picked last fall on this island and fermented by a friend of mine.

The bread for the toast was baked by my lover, Kate. A traditional German whole grain rye, called Volkenbrot. It is a sourdough bread with sunflower seeds, whole rye kernels, rye flour, wheat flour, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. This was toasted on the surface of the wood stove.

On this toast was wild cultured butter from the cream of the milk of the cows I milk on the farm I live on. On top of this was a cheese made by straining the whey out of yogourt made from milk from the same cows. Then the pesto went on. This came from the freezer, made last year of the basil grown on this farm, garlic from the island, sunflower seeds from i-don't-know-where, sea salt.

On top of this pile went the eggs and topped with salt that I made on the woodstove from water from the sea and pepper that I got from the freestore. And a sprinkle of raw spring garlic shoots, chopped, and a blob of steamed nettles that were dried from last year completed this part of the dish.

At the side of this creation was a little pile of potatoes, parsnips, onions, squash, garlic greens all grown by myself and others on this land that I live on. They were roasted the night before in cow fat rendered from a cow killed on the farm, and then refried.

I was researching the eating of garlic greens when I cam across a foodie blog about just that. And I thought, pshaa!, I can beat that. And this wasn't even an effort. These are just the natural combination of the fabulous ingredients that I have surrounded myself with. It's easy. ... Hot shit.

Sally Fallon, eat your heart out. (??What an expression??)

L!fe is good.