Category Archives: Environment

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.


Cascadian Sea Salt


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!

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.

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.

Field Notes

There’s been  a lot of reporting in the news lately about our food in both in not-so-good light and in some promising rays . Over the course of the last week I’ve selected a few to pass along and share with the great collective. This is going to be a new catergory I plan to incorporate called Field Notes, where I can pass along what I believe are useful links and/or news stories to share for the common good. It could be monthly or it could be weekly, so come on back and check in on the Waxing Mind.

The meat industry and the concerns around their ‘farming’ practices are once again a topic of an NPR story. Again, it’s all around us and yet we continue, myself included, to bury our heads and then unwrap that cellophane wrapped cut from our grocery store and we still eat it. I’m making progress in moving forward with hunting and fishing my own meat, but it takes time, so my immediate issue is how to fend for it in the mean time.
Assessing Consumer concerns about the Meat Industry

The mere fact that this is even a story and this is even going on, just is so sad. That these PA minimum wage workers use the past dated food to feed their family. There is no need for a food shortage anymore.
School Cafeteria Workers

My wife and I just hit up our farmer’s market this past weekend and it was the second market this season. While we were there we picked up some kale, not really knowing what to do with it, but we also know that its a superfood packed with nutrients. In the past we’ve just sauted it with olive oil and garlic, but I wanted to try something different and then I saw this tweet. Love it when life works out that way. Now I just need to decided which way to try it.
10 ways to Prepare Kale

Even in the face of bad farming practices that are not sustainable or even that healthy. I remain optimistic about the future of farming, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution has been doing work to promote progress in the food industry and currently there is the possibility for some changes that US senate is debating right now in  congress for our Farm Bill, for some additional info check out:
Food Revolution

If you are up for the change, and like me, want to support your local small farmer then I’d encourage you to take action here:
Food Farm Bill

The Mindful Carnivore Review

“Hunting brings us into close contact with land and animals. Approached with humility, such contact can help us recall our place in the natural world, reminding us to celebrate all those lives intertwined with ours. Approached with arrogance, it only alienates us further.”

The mere act of eating flesh can be a difficult choice for many. The decision is rife with emotions and rationalizations and any individual who puts any thought into their food chain and ultimately its source is forced to deal with the conflict. Author, Tovar Cerulli, shares his personal experience how he chose to tackle this dilemma head on in his newly released book The Mindful Carnivore. As a devout vegan for a decade he now finds himself stalking the woods in search of his own grass fed organic meat for his family’s dinner table.

Tovar’s tone through the entire book does not come across as preachy doctrine. To me it feels as though we are sitting by a campfire, maybe sharing in a whiskey having a  conversation about what it means to hunt and fish. He shares his personal journey with his trials and tribulations and how he reached such a decision to take up hunting while accepting the consequences associated with those decisions.

“If my existence was going to take a toll on other beings, I would rather exact that toll consciously, respectful, swiftly — and for the specific purpose of eating. I could make a deeper peace with intentional harm, with the kill I had prepared for and chosen.”

After finishing this book I was surprised as I thought it would help me to answer some of my own questions as I reflect on my omnivorous behavior. The reality is that hunting is complicated and his prose presents his own personal reflections which actually opens up further questions for myself. As I look toward the future and I take up bow hunting as what Tovar describes as ‘Adult Onset’ I wonder what my reaction will be in the field as I take the life of another living animal in the name of food. I’ve learned after reading The Mindful Carnivore that intention in the woods must be clear and to respect both the animal and your shot. Never falter on your skills and ability and be completely honest with yourself as to where your draw those lines.

For more information, please visit Tovar Cerulli’s blog:

Mental Advancements

In this era of rapid technology advancements combined with the process of food manufacturing I’ve found, that for myself, a greater sense of mindfulness to what I digest is necessary. There’s been this internal storm brewing within and I just haven’t been able to quite put my finger on it or let alone verbalize it beyond some sort of non-sensical mutterings. This past year I’ve really been spent investigating, reading and educating myself on ways that I as a renter can begin a homestead even on property that I don’t own and that will be easily transportable when I transition into my own land down the road. Through the course of my investigation I’ve come to realize that processing and canning fresh produces is easy and can be fun especially if done in a party-like atmosphere. Now in the darkness of winter I will know exactly where at least some of my vegetables and fruits come from and most importantly what’s in them. Over the course of the summer I’ve also been on a few crabbing expeditions and have spent a weekend cracking and vacuuming packing dungeness meat for the winter. As much time I’ve spent on various rivers around me this summer, which hasn’t been as much as I’d like, I’ve been rather unsuccessful stocking my freezer with salmon. I haven’t given up as the season isn’t over yet and there are still a few trips planned before the season expires.


The greater since of providing for my family food that is nutritional has more weight in value that anything else I could do to provide for them. My head is filled with ideas and during these long pending grey damp Northwest winter I plan to delve into gardening and how best to grow my own produce next year and supplement with our local farmer’s market or to participate in a local farms CSA. Composting is also in my near future as not only will it help my garden grow and be more fertile, I also hope that it will reduce the amount of waste my household produces and in doing so reduce some expenditures from my pocketbook.


Right now, these are the thoughts that fill my mind constantly, what are ways I can reduce my impact while saving or further stretching my hard earned dollars that also add to my family’s well being in it’s fullest sense without completely loosing a grip on technology. The fulcrum of living is a delicate balance and requires mindfulness in each step of the process.

A simplier life in a complicated world

There’s been a storm brewing in my mind for at least the past year if not a bit longer. As I find myself looking at the all the various messes going on both within our nations borders and beyond internationally, I see a growing need for independence. Out of that independence grows community. I talk with some people who are near and dear to my heart and they were taught, the only person you can trust is yourself. That statement is partially true, but it seems so narrow minded to me. I think we can trust others and find a great since of community. As I look around me at vast consumption (from energy – to the acquisition of stuff), endangered animals, watersheds and just about everything. I find that I struggle on a daily basis with technology (and I’m a geek) and finding ways to resort back to a simpler life in a complicated world.

The biggest catalyst for me is food and its consumption on our nation.

Food is the one thing that we should all watch carefully, as the dust finally settles it will remain king. We all must eat and those who control it will have much unnecessary power. Therefore, the internal shift for me is trying to find ways to put food on my table. Locally. I really think that I’m becoming more and more of a localvore as I can with my food. I’ve starting an herb garden with tomatoes so that we can preserve the yummy red sauce my Italian wife makes from fresh sourced san marzano tomatoes in our backyard. Hopefully, we get a large enough harvest to last us all winter long next year. I have a feeling this summer is going to be a busy one as I work diligently to stock up our pantry. I fish, because its fun to be out in nature battling the elements of nature — man vs. nature kind of thing, but also to be able to put the freshest, non-hormone farmed crap, into my families belly. Plus, sharing food is really the greatest gift of all, there’s magic that surrounds a dining room table full of laughter and great conversation.

Right now, as I struggle with trying to figure out how to live in this technology advancing society without becoming a luddite. I choose to focus my activities on independence. I grow food, I fish for food, I can/preserve harvests, I make candles for power outages, I brew my own beer—all these activities are local. Another reason we are going to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) from a farm that is less than 20 miles from our home. I don’t know where this will take me, maybe it’s just a realization or more specifically a shift in a personal paradigm, but moving forward on this blog will be posts relating to these challenges and it’s triumphs.

A Conceptual Market

There’s been an idea floating around in my head for the last week or so and I definitely want to try and put it out there. I believe it’s got some legs of its own, and I also think it’d be fun for those who participate as well as it would tie in the shift I see thats happening today. Right now, with so many of us, living miles apart and in different corners of the nation, I present this as a concept. It will probably require input from the community, which will allow for others to feel a sense of ownership and the ideas will help to flush my original concept. So with out further adieu….

A potluck style dinner or afternoon to celebrate all things homemade and/or recycled. With the primary emphasis on food (not recycled food though). The focus is not a ‘gift exchange’ but rather a marketplace to trade goods with an aim of pantry stocking and/or basic needs. I envision bringing back a concept of community with friends, a reduction in waste and a common goal of working towards a more green approach to life and our food. This potluck style meal, could happen only twice a year to start (fall & spring), and then grow to a quarterly event.

Here’s a list of items that could be exchanged: canned foods, homemade beer/wine/mead, fish, veggies & herbs from gardens, etc. I also think soaps and candles and other sundries along those lines. Lastly, we all have clothes that either don’t fit or we don’t wear anymore, so a clothing exchange could also happen during this event as well for those that want to participate in that. In some ways it would be like our own farmer’s market, but on a much more local scale and a way to share between friends. We wouldn’t set up tables or tents, so I haven’t really thought about how the market should work, but this is just to see if any friends are interested. We can also work out the details of distance later as well. As we all know that distance for some is closing in a few short months too.

We could rotate the potluck each time so everyone who chooses to participate can get an opportunity to host.

So of the names I’ve come up with have been: Pantry Raid, Pantry Harvest, Marketplace Madness or?????

A Haida Legend: Salmon Boy

haida-salmonLong ago, among the Haida people, there was a boy who showed no respect for the salmon. Though the salmon meant life for the people, he was not respectful of the one his people called Swimmer. His parents told him to show gratitude and behave properly, but he did not listen. When fishing, he would step on the bodies of the salmon that were caught and after eating he carelessly threw the bones of the fish into the bushes. Others warned him that the spirits of the salmon were not pleased by such bad behavior, but he did not listen.

One day, his mother served him a meal of salmon. He looked at it with disgust. “This is moldy” he said, though the meat was good. He threw it upon the ground. Then, he went down to the river to swim with the other children. However, as he was swimming, a current caught him and pulled him away from the others. It swept him into the deepest water and he could not swim strongly enough to escape from it. He sank into the river and drowned.

There, deep in the river, the Salmon People took him with them. They were returning back to the ocean without using their bodies. They had left their bodies behind for the humans and the animal people to use as food. The boy went with them, for now, he belonged to the salmon.

When they reached their home, in the ocean, they looked just like human beings. Their village there in the ocean looked much like his own home and he could hear the sound of children playing in the stream which flowed behind the village. Now the Salmon People began to teach the boy. He was hungry and they told him to go to the stream and catch one their children, who were salmon swimming in the stream. However, he was told, he must be respectful and after eating return all of the bones and everything he did not intend to eat to the water. Then, he was told, the children would be able to come back to life. But, if he didn’t return the bones, to the water, salmon child would not come back.

He did as he was told, but one day after he had eaten, when it came time for the children to come up to the village, from the stream, he heard one of them crying. He went to see what was wrong. The child was limping because one of its feet was gone. Then, the boy realized he had not thrown all of the fins back into the stream. He quickly found the one fin he had missed, and threw it in and the child was healed.

After he had spent the winter with the Salmon People, it again was spring and time for them to return to the rivers. The boy swam with them, for he belonged to the Salmon People now. When they swam past his old village, his own mother caught him in her net. When she pulled him from the water, even though he was in the shape of a salmon, she saw the copper necklace he was wearing. It was the same necklace she had given her son.

She carried Salmon Boy carefully back home. She spoke to him and held him and gradually he began to shed his salmon skin; First, his head emerged. Then, after eight days, he shed all of the skin and was a human again.

Salmon Boy taught the people all of the things he had learned. He was a healer now and helped them when they were sick.

“I can’t stay with you long,” he said, “you must remember what I teach you.”

He remained with the people until the time came when the old salmon who had gone upstream and not been caught by the humans or the animal people came drifting back down toward the stream. As Salmon Boy stood by the water, he saw a huge old salmon floating down toward him. It was so worn by its journey that he could see through its sides. He recognized it as his own soul and he thrust his spear into it. As soon as he did so, he died.

Then the people of the village did as he told them to do. They placed his body into the river. It circled four times and then sank, going back to his home in the ocean, back to the Salmon People.

The legend of the Salmon People really speaks to me, I find such richness in not only the story, but the wisdom as well. I find that I too, very much feel a cyclical notion to all that is happening now. The environment, survival, economy, the basic needs and our own individual journeys — I think we all can relate. We need to nurture the Earth, our Families and each Other then and only then can we too return.