The End.

The Waxing Mind has served me well over the past years as I questioned and ranted without any clear direction. I knew something was churning inside of me yet I wasn’t able to find a way to clearly communicate what that was. I wrote, thought and wrote some more as I tried to find a way to pinpoint what exactly it was that was on my mind. When I reflect back on previous posts now the pattern emerges and it all just makes sense now.

 

With that said, my mind has a clear direction and it just seems like this blog just no longer made much sense to me. This will be my last post on this blog and if you’ve enjoyed the reading, please migrate over to my new blog, Intrepid Pioneer, and give it a follow.

 

Intrepid Pioneer is about navigating through the technological noise while reuniting with simpler and more honest way of life. This site is not about anti-technology, but its more about modern homesteading principals. Intrepid Pioneer is not about claiming to be an expert, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’m relentlessly searching out my own answers to try new things, to live a homesteading lifestyle in a city on 1/11th of an acre with which I rent. This site will be a source of experiences both the good and then bad while covering topics the relate to the mission of an Intrepid Pioneer:

Grow. Ferment. Fish. Forage. Hunt. Preserve.

Those are the foundations of this blog and sometimes there may be supportive stories that align well with one of those 6 foundations. You may find food recipes or an article on fitness but these common threads will relate to the holistic approach of the pioneer spirit.

Check out the Intrepid Pioneer

Altoids Survival Kit

Over this past weekend I put the final touches on my Altoids Survival Tin. There are a few reasons I wanted to put this kit together. One, I was just curious to see just exactly how much items I could actually fit into one of these tins. Surprisingly, one can fit a fair amount of gear in it. The other reason I wanted to put it together was for piece of mind — I commute an hour each way, each day, and I live in earthquake country so if I ever found myself in a situation and 30 miles away from home…this would be able to help get me home to my family. Additionally, this Altoids tin I will carry whenever I’m in the woods on my person, so if I ever find myself without my backpack and disoriented I will have access to some basic necessities until I can figure things out.

Contents of my tin

Contents of my tin

Altoids Survival Tin Contents:

1 box razor blade

1 Xacto razor blade

2 size #10 fish hooks

2 barrel swivels

2 size 2/0 fish hooks

2 size 2 fish hooks

1 magnify glass

5 rubber bands

6 split shot weights

20′ 15lb mono fishing line

1 pocket knife

6 200mb ibuprofen

1 first aid quick facts guide

1 SPF30 sunscreen

4 band-aids (various sizes)

1 packet insect repellant

2 antibiotic creams

2 alcohol cleansing pads

1 spool of green thread

1 compass

1 bic lighter

1 candle

1 tweezer

1 sewing needle

The last item I need/want to pick up is some Purified H2O Tablets from my REI store.

This tin is in my commuting backpack, along with 40′ of 550  paracord and a mini flashlight. This is relatively cheap insurance as I’m willing to bet this whole kit cost me under $10 as most of the items I had laying around the house and I just needed to assemble the gear.

A response to the death of an elk

Recently, a fellow parenting friend posted on Facebook about how he and his one year old daughter had just witnessed the death of an elk. Although the killing effected him and has since also affected me as I’ve spent the last almost week pondering this exchange between he and some of his friends about the situation. I also wanted to position an oppositional viewpoint as I grew up in a household of non-hunters yet I now find myself planning and working towards become a bow hunter so I can bring honest free range organic meat for my family’s dinner table. I’ve wanted to respond for sometime now, but just wasn’t exactly sure how to best put my words, so here goes:

Granted anytime an animal dies there is sadness, this issue is extremely complicated and more thought may need to be given to this topic. Instead of avoiding it, this is a perfect opportunity to have open dialog about what this all means and how each of us processes death for food.

First off, no one on this Facebook thread actually knew the hunter and know exactly what they went through to get to that exact point that they witnessed There is circumstantial evidence based on one’s own observations. The hours of scouting, tracking, and woodsmanship that may have gone into this hunt had happened long before the trigger was pulled.  Or maybe not. We just don’t know. Additionally. it could also appear that to take a shot into a herd of 30 elk, and dropping what possibly sounds like the herd bull elk in its tracks could also potentially be that of an expert marksman. To not harm any other animals in the herd and to thread that bullet to drop the elk that fast, does not seem clumsy to me. We also don’t know how many times this hunter had been out in the woods hunting this elk, this could have possibly been after many trips to the woods in a relatively short hunting season.

Secondly, for a person to chime in about the use of knives is ridiculous. There are hunts in Hawaii where people track wild hogs with dogs and then once they corner the animal they jump in with a large bowie knife and slit the throat of the hog. So in fact, it’s done. To me that doesn’t seem like a very humane way to take the life of another animal. It should be a quick kill. I’d actually be willing to bet that what this person was really wanting to discuss was the idea of “fair chase.”

Fair Chase Defined:
Fair chase is defined by most as a situation where the hunted is not put in a disadvantaged position and has a real chance to escape.
In the wild, this means you don’t shoot a moose when he is swimming across a lake, you don’t walk up to a caribou mired in the mud and shoot him and if you find two helpless locked-up bucks you do every thing you can to get them apart and let them escape unharmed.
Some extend the definition “fair chase” to not hunting over bait, food plots, watering holes or any other artificial means of concentrating wild animals. Others believe hunting islands, blind canyons or using natural terrain blockades isn’t fair chase either. Short of obeying state and federal fair chase game laws, the concept can get pretty gray pretty fast. Basically it is up to the individual hunter or club or organization to draw the fair chase line in the sand.
Wild animals in nature are always aware of their surroundings and the possibility of predators. Their flight-or-fight is always on alert. That is the reality of their environment. The human notion that if a one runs into a lion in Africa or a bear in the Pacific NW, it’s going to be able to feel remorse for attacking you is ludicrous. Ultimately, we too are animals, but with the ability of reason & rationalization. Both sides of the hunter vs hunted have a chance to win. The hunted animal can flee or attack and the hunter chooses when is the perfect opportunity to take a clean ethical quick kill shot. It’s not a free-for-all in the woods.
My last point would be to all those who commented on the original post, as I’d like to see how many of them would admit that they are actually omnivores and eat meat too, even if on occasion? It would seem that they prefer to get their meat from either their grocery store butcher or from their local farmer and let them do the dirty work of killing their food versus taking their own responsibility for what they choose to eat. I do know that the original poster is a vegetarian and I totally respect that. Yes, there is less blood on a vegetarian’s hands than those of a meat eater. It should be known that animals die so other’s can eat, even if you choose to eat veggies. They just might be smaller animals like field mice, rabbits, moles, etc. They can get chewed up in a tractor or a combine as a farmer is clearing a field (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1). In his book, The Mindful Carnivore, author Tovar Cerulli mentions:
“In my latter days as a vegan, I was shocked to learn how many whitetails are killed by farmers. Considering that deer were being shot to bring us tofu, how vegetarian were our stir-fries? Considering that they were even being shot to bring us greens and strawberries from the organic farm just down the road, how vegetarian were any of our meals?” (http://www.tovarcerulli.com/2011/03/deer-part-of-every-stew-every-salad-every-stir-fry/)

This too is a fact of nature, so as you see it’s not that there are a shortage of complete morons in this world there are those who consider and accept the ramifications of their actions for sourcing their own food and realize it is more complicated issue than just a quip on Facebook.

Foraging Chanterelle Mushrooms

Learning to live off the land through growing, cultivating and foraging for food is a process that I’ve just recently really embarked on. The knowledge that I seek in this arena will bring about healthy, sustainable and truly organic food for myself and my family. It is through learning to do this that I will have fun while finding a sense of freedom from a food chain that produces unhealthy garbage. I’m looking to be mindfully inserting myself into the cycle of food that I choose to nurture my body and spirit.

Just recently, I set about on my first ever mushroom foraging trip. Some friends of ours have been picking mushrooms for years and so we trusted them and their local knowledge about these edibles. As we arrived to the super secret spot we parked along the road, grab our wicker baskets, strapped our young toddler children to our backs and then headed off into the woods. It took us novices a bit of time to develop our ‘eyes’ to hone in on the chanterelle species. Once we did though they were like golden neon signs glowing amongst of the woodland area. Surprisingly in the two hours that we gathered we ended up with just about 12oz of quality mushrooms.

The meal I prepared with our chanterellles is from author Hank Shaw (@Hank_Shaw or honest-food.net) and his tag line of “Sexiest Soup Ever” was just all that I needed to proceed with preparation.  This was my very first time taking a stab at a Veloute and as it smelled fantastic, I think this is where I might have gone wrong. As I was so worried about over cooking and temps to high, I think I fell off at the other end of the spectrum with temps to low. The consistency of my soup was just way to thin than I expected this soup to be. The flavors were great, even though my soup was not thick enough. As a side note I had to substitute the brandy with Jack Daniel’s Honey whiskey (which was a gift and buried in my liquor cabinet.) Otherwise I followed Shaw’s recipe to a T and took my time, cherished a couple of Belgian Trippel’s  from New Belgium Brewing and just enjoyed the preparation process of new ingredients and new cooking methodologies.

This excursion into the woods just further solidified my desire to find/grow my food. I do believe that the time I spend with my food the more I pay attention to how I will prepare the meal and through all that goodness I take pride in what I’ve accomplished. Staying close to my food’s roots, taking refuge in knowing where my ingredients come from.

Cascadian Sea Salt

Image

Over the course of the last few years or so I’ve really been focusing on finding local food to support my family and in so doing supporting the local farming community. Through this exploratory process I’ve also wanted to find out not only what I could buy locally, but more specifically what I could grow and produce on my own. I find this search very empowering as not only am I in search of a more sustainable way to live, but I also find it very liberating to work towards a goal of self reliance.

I’ve made sea salt in the past but I used a gallon and it was very time and energy consuming. This time around I only used a 1L Naglene bottle and filled it when I was off shore in the Puget Sound. Now, I’m sure there are concerns about what might be in the water, but just like any food in today’s day and age there is an inherent long term risk. Even with the USDUH saying this food is ok doesn’t mean there are not recalls anyway. I’d rather know where my food is coming from and take what precautions I can and take my own responsibility.

If you’d like to proceed with making your own sea salt, here are the steps that I do (takes about an hour for 1L)

1. Gather sea water
2. Filter the water as you pour the sea water into a large stock pot (you want large as you want to boil it and the more surface area you have the quicker this goes). I use a colander with a paper towel or you could use a paper coffee filter.
3. Vigorously boil seawater, uncovered, for at least 20 min. I do 30 minutes. Your goal is to have the water evaporate and leave behind the salt crystals.
4. Pour the reduced sea water into a pyrex lasagna pan (you should already have some salt crystals appearing). You may even need to scrape the stock pot to get all the crystals.
5. Bake the sludge filled seawater in the pyrex for another 30 min at 350ºF
6. Once these steps are all done your pyrex should have all salt crystals, now just scrape into a container and you’re ready to use the sea salt.

You now have 100 mile sea salt!

Field Notes: Meat on the Table

The on-going debate about our food has the consumer struggling to make decisions about what to eat. It’s a challenge as the Big Food industry is cheaper and during these tough economic times where every penny counts, it’s hard to pay for more expensive food. It’s true in my household, the downside to all of that, which is where I personally struggle, is how it affects health. Not just in me alone, but more in a we as a society. We may be paying for cheaper food, but we are paying more for health care, medications and the like. That’s not a red or blue issue, that’s just what it is. Either way we are paying more for cheap food.

This battle against the giant is on-going and it’s all over the news, but I think many choose not to look at it, instead we find ourselves buying the crap food at the grocery store because it’s what we can afford. I feel guilty when I buy that pork shoulder for $2/lb, but that $8 shoulder can yield at least 3 meals for my family. I know that damn pig is hopped up on drugs, yet I find myself in a paradox of what I can do. I struggle.

This week’s field notes is about food and mostly meat. These are the stories that I found interesting to this topic.

Big Food fighting GMO labeling
http://grist.org/food/big-food-puts-its-back-into-fighting-gmo-labeling-in-california/

Antibiotics In Meat
http://www.motherearthnews.com/sustainable-farming/antibiotics-in-meat-zwfz1207zhun.aspx

All you need to know to eat good, grass-fed meat
http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/grass-fed-meat-zm0z12jjzkon.aspx

New Cuts of Meat Slash Prices, too
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/foodwine/2018724361_groc26cheapcuts.html

Venison vs Beef
http://www.livestrong.com/article/326549-nutritional-values-of-venison-vs-beef/

Bluegrass Music of the Mountains

The glow of the evening sun sweeps across the vast valley casting hues that compliment the beauty of the natural world. I sit in peace surrounded by the mighty Cascades. The worries of daily living seem moot at this point as I recline into the comforts of my camping chair as I am present to the American roots of bluegrass music filling the air. There is something majestic about listening to bluegrass high up in the fresh mountain air. It just makes sense, lyrically, as the music blends into the mountains and where one chord starts and the other ends, the wind just carries each note away.

Growing up north of Seattle, the annual Darrington Bluegrass festival, was often talked about, but I had never attended. After spending over a decade away from the Pacific Northwest upon my return my attendance to this event had bumped to the top of my to-do list. Still, it took another two years for the timing to work out and now that I’ve attended only one day, the festival is on my calendar for next year in ink! In fact, my family and some great family friends are planning on camping up there for the full 3-days. This experience has made a lasting impression and already I look forward to attending next summer.

On the range…finally

The great fervor of new activities and interests sparks not only my imagination but is a constant assault on my being. The decision to arrive to archery with the intention of bowhunting has been a journey. My obsession with eating quality food, the environmental impact of our current food production model has slowly led me to this point. I come from a family of non-hunters and I think when I shared this news specifically with my mother there was a hint of mild disbelief that I have what it takes to kill. She might be right and only I will know in that exact moment when I’m face to face with a wild game animal if I can release an arrow into flight. My father is one of those who thinks all wild animals taste ‘gamey’ so if and when the time comes for me to serve up some venison to him, I just won’t tell him and hope that I prepared the meat in the best way possible.

Two weeks ago I picked up my first ever bow, a Mission Riot. It’s the step up from the Craze yet fully adjustable in both the draw length and draw weight, so if my son ever decides that archery is something he wants to pursue when he gets older I can pass this along to him. A week after I brought my Riot home I headed out with my good friend, who is a bow hunter, to the range to begin the tuning and sighting in process on my bow. We set up on the range and I focused in on the 20yd target and started releasing arrows. My groupings for the most part where close together, but not dead center, so we started making adjustments…then the Cascadian rains started falling. We stayed out on the range for a bit longer, as thats the real conditions I may face in the field. Once I was throughly soaked I packed up and headed home to the family to celebrate my birthday.

Some things I learned on the range:
1. I expected my right arm, which is my draw arm to be more tired than my left and in fact my left arm, bow holding arm, was more fatigued. Near the end of my practice session my 20 yard pin was really floating around and I found myself just waiting for the pin to cross over the bullseye and then I released the arrow. Which I now realize is not smart, so I will be working on that when I’m on the range.
2. I struggle to see the arrow in flight, and in my state lighted nocks are illegal in a hunting situation. Therefore I want to learn to follow through with my arrows without the illuminated nock. Any tips on how to ‘see’ the arrow in flight is welcomed.
3. The point of trigger release is unexpected and surprising to me. I’m betting that it’s like driving a stick shift the first time, it’ll just take time with the bow to find that moment when the arrow is fired. I just need to put more time in on the range.
4. Finding the proper mechanics of holding the bow, lining up to my anchor point and releasing the trigger is still awkward and surprising, but a rush too, so I realize that this is just going to take time on the range. I’m in a period of knowledge and learning and this is all very exciting.

I’m lucky that there are about 5 ranges within a 45min drive of my home, so over time I’m sure I’ll go to check them all out and see what other shooting situations I can put myself into. In the meantime, I am going to spend my attention on 20 yards and more specifically my mechanics and fundamentals of shooting.

Friday Field Notes

Exciting and interesting events are taking place in and around the Pacific NW and beyond. This Field Notes will highlight a few locally as well as a more national tie in on a couple of the topics.

Wild Steelhead Found Spawning in the Elwha
Since the removal of the old dam, large wild steelhead have been tracked and visually spotted in the upper reaches of the Elwha river that is past the site of the dam.

Small Local Farming Creating a New Profit Model
An interesting article on small farming models.

The Antithesis to the idea of being a localvore
An article that presents an idea that the 10,000 mile diet is a much better solution that going local. Personally, I think he’s full of shit.

Local Seattlelite, Langdon Cook, featured on NPR

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce
This is a great site, I wanted to focus on as I keep a printout of their dirty dozen list in my wallet for when I’m at the grocery store picking up my produce. More during the winter months when my farmer’s markets are not open.

Into the Woods

It had been about a decade since I last found myself backpacking through the woods. With each step I felt more at ease and life seemed a bit simpler. At times there were challenges and hurdles to over come with fatigue being at the top of the list. The good news is that with a bit more training I can overcome that.
The weather was a mild temperament and behaved herself for the most part. Once camp had been established, the rain started, so it was a perfect opportunity to climb into my warm bag, read a bit of Thoreau and then take a nap. After a few unsuccessful attempts at locating dry fire wood eventually the younger brother located a secret cache and we had our fire going. As the sun fell behind the mountains the stories and laughter filled the air before we all turned in for the night.


As I climbed into my tent for the night I found that everything was wet. I learned a few things from this trip:
1. If using a tarp as a footprint to your tent, it must be smaller than the foot print of your tent. If it extends beyond then the rain can pool up on the tarp under the tent.
2. An inexpensive plastic poncho or trash bag can pull double duty on keeping your pack dry on the trail and also work as a trash bag to pack out garbage.
3. Storing your clothes in a dry bag in your pack is always a good idea, don’t cut weight in your pack by discounting the importance of the dry bag. Ditch the whiskey instead if necessary.
4. Using cotton balls dipped in vaseline is an awesome fire starter. It should be a must have. I kept my in an old medicine bottle to keep it dry.

This 14.2 mile weekend trip was an important time with my brother in law and his brother, was visiting from out of state. It was also a chance to test myself under a loaded pack on a trail. I know that with a bit more training and conditioning I will be able to be a successful in the backcountry. As I inch closer and closer to becoming a hunter and I put myself through a series of instructional steps to test the waters and see if I have what it takes, I now know that I will be able to pack out an animal from the woods. This was a successful trip and realization.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.