Summer is here.
It’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been busy. Busy doing lots of things; so busy that most of my time has been spent doing stuff.
I’d rather do things than write about things.
But what is a blog if not a place to share what I’ve been up to? In a lot of ways this is a record of my experience with the outdoors, from my first forays into fishing to my current obsession with everything outside. I don’t know if this is entertaining or educational to anybody else; I just know I enjoy writing about my experiences outside and in the kitchen.
So in place of wordy prose recounting each recent adventure in great detail, here are the bullet points.
I caught a bunch of minnows and ate them. Two days in a row I fished the Flat River and caught a whole mess of striped shiners on flies. They were swimming in very shallow riffles in large schools; As long as I casted into the school, I’d hook a fish… But it was tough. They moved constantly. There were smallmouth bass chasing them!
I kept enough to fill the smoker, smoked them over hickory, and ate them in a variety of ways. They’re no trout, but they were tasty.
I fully appreciate how crazy it sounds to not only target minnows with my fly rod, but keep and eat them. But I did, it was fun, and they tasted good. Plus, smaller fish are lower on the food chain, have fewer PCBs and mercury, and are more plentiful and sustainable than larger, slower-growing fish.
If only they had fewer bones…
I went turkey hunting. One early morning a few weeks ago Mark and I headed north, his truck loaded with camo and firearms. We didn’t shoot any turkeys, but we saw plenty. This was the first time I sat in a blind with a shotgun on my lap, and will most certainly not be the last.
It was exciting and boring, awesome and lame. It was amazing to watch Mark call in the turkeys, to hear them get closer and closer. At one point we were both hidden in tall grass, dressed in full camo, watching a hen in a nearby field. We heard a tom close by but never got a good shot.
The mosquitos ate us alive. I went home full of holes, sweaty, but excited. Although I didn’t get a turkey, I did get a taste of spring turkey hunting. I liked it.
I built another raised bed. Our garden is growing furiously. The radishes are getting bigger and bigger, I swear the mustard leaves gain an inch every day. It’s nice to know it’s possible to grow nice things to eat organically– all I’ve used is dirt, water, and cow manure. Of course I don’t know what the cow was fed, but I’d rather not cover my backyard in pesticides and synthetic fertilizer.
Our property is full of food. I’m getting obsessed with foraging, which is finding and eating wild food. Even on our three and a half acres there is a huge variety of things to eat. I’ve discovered mint plants, black cherry trees, chokecherries, shagbark hickories, plantain (not the banana), dandelions (which are indeed tasty), wild carrots, garlic mustard, prickly lettuce, wild mustard, wild grapes… Wandering our yard looking for something good to eat is quickly becoming a habit of mine. When I go fishing I don’t just watch the riffles and pools, I take note of which vines are growing where and which greens might be edible.
I built a compost “box.” I picked up some free pallets in my truck, brought them home, took them apart, and built a sort of frame for a compost pile. Every day I take our kitchen scraps– which are many– and add them to the pile. With recycling, bottle returns, and composting, we have greatly reduced how much trash we sent away to the dump.
I also discovered it’s possible to actually fall in love with a motor vehicle. I love my truck.
I’m also smitten with our lawn tractor. I use it often and not just for mowing.
I’ve mowed a series of trails through our tall grass; Then I took a rake to grab the dry and dead grasses. They went into a big pile next to our compost bin, and will also make nice fire starters. Circle of life or something.
I brewed beer with pine. You read that correctly: I went out our back door, sliced off a few new growths from our many pine trees and added them to a brown ale I was brewing. I used hops too, but the overwhelming smell of the beer is pine. I love it. We’ll see how it does after fermenting and bottling in a few weeks.
I went to a farm, met a farmer and her animals, and went home with fresh eggs and a gallon of raw milk. Two Sparrows Farm is a small family farm about 20 minutes from home; I went there to put in a deposit for 10 free range chickens. Whitney gave me a tour of the farm, introduced me to the animals, and talked about farming. Although I’m not a milk drinker, I do cook with milk, and I’m always interested in less processed foods. Raw milk is a mystery. Some say it’s bad for you, some say it’s a cure-all; It’s certainly a different substance than what comes from the grocery store. I like it.
And I made butter and cheese with it!
I found brook trout 15 minutes from my front door. There is a very small stream not far from our house, and the Michigan DNR says it is a designated trout stream. I’d fished it a few times and never caught anything, but I was sure there were trout in there. The other day I returned with a cane pole, worms, and lots of OFF!, and sure enough I found some fish. Probably the prettiest fish that swims!
The mosquitos absolutely ate me alive as I bushwhacked through thick brush, but it was worth it.
I made sushi. There has been a lot of fish coming through our doors lately. Crappie, bluegill, perch, rock bass, striped shiner; I’ve been fishing quite regularly and keeping fish on most outings. I now have a pretty killer beer batter– now I’ve got to learn other ways to cook all this fish. Smoking is always good, but doesn’t work as well for less-fatty fish like bluegills.
I have a love/hate relationship with fish, and that includes sushi. Of course it’s general a bad idea to eat freshwater fish raw (parasites) I thought smoked striped shiner would work nicely with sushi rice, avocado, cucumber, and nori. I was right!
Call me crazy but it was very good.
That’s enough writing: I have to go play outside now.
Summer is here.