Archive for December, 2015

Foraging Your Protein

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Here in the high desert, fishing might seem like an unlikely pastime. But we have world-class trout fishing, and recently I decided to learn to fish. After exactly one month of reading and practice, I had the day commemorated above. Of course this is balanced against several days when I didn’t get anything, which is part of the fun. NATURE DOES NOT EXIST FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. If you insist on a sure thing, go buy your fish at the store.

For people like me who are learning on their own, here are my recommendations:

  1. First, get a basic book on fishing. Read it. I used Fishing for Dummies, and everything you need to know to get started is in there somewhere. A good book will help you understand what tackle you really need and what can wait.
  2. Study the section on reel types, but if you are new to all this, get a spincast reel for your first reel. They are so very easy to use. I caught all the trout above on a $20 spincast rod and reel. They work.
  3. Get a fishing license. It’s the law. Be sure to go to your local Fish and Game office and get it in person, because if you tell them you’re a beginner, they will load you down with useful advice about where to fish.
  4. Plan to be outdoors in a pretty area, and catching fish is a bonus.
  5. Practice casting in your back yard before you go out to fish.
  6. In popular fishing spots you will usually see lovely grandfatherly people who got there ahead of you. Walk up to them, tell them you’re a beginner, and ask for advice. A few will chase you off and the vast majority will bend over backwards to help you understand how to fish that particular bit of water.
  7. Before you ever catch your first fish, know how to kill a fish humanely and how to gut it, and how to fillet it if that’s your preference, so that you will actually enjoy eating it. The second trout that I caught was cooked without removing the bloodline. Yech. Watch videos on YouTube that show you exactly what to do. Do this BEFORE you ever go fishing. Don’t waste an animal’s life, ever.
  8. Don’t get too fancy too early. Don’t start with fly fishing unless you insist. Bait-fishing is very successful.
  9. Make sure you have butter, lemon, and capers in the house at all times, so that when you are finally successful, you can do your catch proud.
  10. Have fun, and post a picture of your first catch, because you may find out that you have fishing friends you didn’t know about.
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  13. Basic sauce for trout: drain a tablespoon of pickled capers per fish. Chop up a clove of garlic per fish. Have ready a quarter of a lemon per fish. Warm a tablespoon of butter per fish, plus a tablespoon for the pan, in a skillet over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, add the capers and garlic and stir over medium heat until the garlic is slightly browned. Squeeze in the lemon juice,  cook hard for 30 seconds, and drizzle over the filleted cooked fish.

Happy Yule!

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Happy Solstice, joyous Yule for those who celebrate, happy Day 1 of the new solar year. Looking back through my archives I notice that I have nearly always posted a picture of the Dec. 22nd sunrise, so here is this year’s.

To the extent  that I make resolutions at all, they tend to come up in  synchronicity with the new solar year.   This is hardly surprising, since all gardeners and foragers sooner or later find themselves adapting to the ancient rhythms of the agricultural year.  This winter I decided to learn to fish, and I’m thoroughly enjoying learning the very beginnings of my new skill.   Our freezer is overstuffed with vegetables from our own garden, our own chickens, and meat and fish from friends.  Nonetheless, a few fresh trout don’t come amiss.

Take advantage of the long nights, build fires, stay warm, and decide in repose where you want to put your energies in the future.  All best wishes for a joyous and peaceful new solar year.

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2015: Things That Worked

The long nights this time  of year are perfectly suited for curling up with seed and nursery catalogs, the most exquisite pornography available  and about as realistic as most pornography.  It’s also the time of year when I look back over what worked and what didn’t during the growing season.  So here are some things that worked, and some things that didn’t. Your mileage may vary.

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Silene, also known as bladder campion, always works. It is a common weed in many places, but not in my area, so I had to seek out seed and get it started. Treat it as a perennial and give it a spot where it can establish itself. The flavor of the young leaves is a very muted version of green peas, and the young stocks are tender. It is not exciting in flavor, nor is it a specially productive, but it is wonderfully available in latest fall and earliest spring, when little else is still thriving. It loses most of its volume when cooked, and I mostly use it in salads.
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Sour cherries worked. My dwarf tree is five years old now and bearing nice crops. From that one small tree I made several cobblers and a full half-gallon of cherry liqueur. The tree also adds to quality-of-life, because in summer sunlight when hung with its hundreds of bright enameled fruits, it is beautiful enough to take your breath away.
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All the lettuces from Wild Garden Seeds worked. Their devotion to trialing their own crops really shows. Every lettuce variety and all the mixtures that I have tried from them have been wonderfully successful. Choose the size and color of lettuce that you want, and they will have something to suit your conditions.
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Grafted eggplants worked. The grafted tomatoes grew beautifully but so do my other tomatoes. The grafted eggplants, however, bore more fruit than ungrafted by a large margin. I consider them Roth the expense and I’ll be planting them again.
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I put in some celery plants as a lark, and I’ll be planting more next year. They need the richest soil you have and some extra water, but they are sturdy and offer delicious crunching and cooking when the rest of the garden is going to sleep for the winter.
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Goji berries worked. They need some extra water but not a lot, and the berries are pleasant out of hand and in salads. They offer maximum antioxidants for minimum carbohydrates.
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Rattlesnake beans worked. They are hard to stop. The pods have a very good flavor if picked young but do need stringing, no matter what the seed catalog says. They get quite tough as they age, so pick them over every day or two.

Every year I try some new things, and some work out and some don’t. In most cases a failure only means that you’re out a few dollars’ worth of seeds, so garden boldly.