Category Archives: Reflections

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.

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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.

Fishing The Drano

Highway 14 along the Columbia River is a breath taking stretch of road. It makes me get lost in my own thoughts of what Lewis & Clark might have experienced in their time traversing this landscape centuries ago. The mystic clouds concealing the mountain tops, the lush green foliage pops color as the wide rolling river zigs and zags in the valley of mountains dividing two states.

I muster the mental strength to keep my car between the lines as I’m mesmerized by the beauty that surrounds me and I’m running on complete fatigue as I’ve only had 3 hrs of sleep in the last 24 hrs. Granted I’m never late to fish and this trip has been on the books for quite sometime. The giddy excitement of what the day has in store keeps me fueled, well that and Red Bull, as I traverse the twist and turns of the highway enroute to our destination…Drano Lake.

We arrive at the boat launch just as the sun begins to peep above the ridgeline painting the waning night in rich hues of purple, red and yellow. The slight chill in the air is refreshing with each breath and we shove off. As the rods get the final touches of rigging, we settle into the morning quietude and I relish in the beauty that surrounds us. The solitude of the morning is interrupted with a  whack….whack…on a rod and we spring into action to set the hook but just missed it. The fish must have retreated into the darkness of the deep. All that excitement made me thirsty so I figure it’s 5 o’clock somewhere and I crack my first tall boy for the day.

As morning fades to high noon and nary any further bites the switching of presentations begins and the rods are reset. Fresh bait and a new look. Optimism fills the boat and we enter what has been called the toilet bowl or the Drano 500. Not very exciting fishing as 20 opened bow river boats track in a roundabout circle each hoping that their turn over the hole will yield a little action. The cluster of boats is close, I feel like one could play Frogger and hop from boat to boat and the even more surprising feat is that the bank fisherman although their casting seems combative not much is exchanged between the boats and the bank. We witness about 7 fish caught all on the lower end of the springer scale weighing in around 10-12 lbs. At least with all those boats combined and the low fish counts we know that it’s just not us feeling a bit lackluster.

My wind burned face is turning into a mild sunburn as the day progresses, I’m three beers down and enjoying myself, but the end of the trip is here. We thank our guide and pack up the car to begin the long stretch home. We ended up with no fish, no buzz and a sunburn. I guess that’s why it’s called fishing and not catching.

The American Dream

TED Talk: Why are we creating a world that no one wants?

The American Dream has been shattered and exists only as a figment of an imagination for so many people. This conceptual ideology is the fuel that acts as a catalyst so that we keep the machine moving forward. This nation is in crisis and society seems to be mesmerized by so many distractions and that they must keep working their fingers to their bones so that they can get their slice. My troubles is that I too have been chasing that elusive dream, trying to acquire those little luxuries that make that dream a reality for me. What I find now is that those products don’t last as long and I’m just left holding an empty wallet and shackled by debt.
Technology has definitely played a part in all of this. Human interactions are now through text messaging rather than a face to face conversation. When I walk by a restaurant, which should be an epicenter of connectivity, I witness two individuals across from the table from each other staring down at their smartphones. Something is wrong.
With that American Dream comes health care and the current model of you have to work to earn it, doesn’t make sense to me either. I’ve distilled down that in my own life, the real reason I’m working is for health care. Yes. I’ve got monthly bills to pay just like everyone else, but without health insurance I’m screwed. If we all just realize that we the people are already paying for the uninsured through raised premiums and deductibles, reduced benefits then a more socialized health care model just seems to make sense. The insurance companies are the only ones who have anything to loose and everything to gain in this current model. This seems like the only option left going forward to protect Americans.
The housing market has been crushed and continues to attempt to stand like a little calf trying to stand up for the first time in it’s life. The housing market is fearful of the past and trying to move forward, while the banks are left appearing dumbfounded that this all went down and stating that they don’t want to be in the business of real estate as many of their properties are in foreclosure and/or short sales. Just yet another reason I’m continuing to rent. Yes, there are numerous projects I’d love to do to my rental: put in rainwater collection, build raised veggie garden beds, put in energy efficient windows, but at the same time when something breaks I just make a phone call and it’s no longer my financial burden. Homes no longer seem like a smart investment to me. Yet, I still would like to own sometime. I guess I’m just not in a hurry as it no longer seems like a smart investment.

As I look toward the future the model must change and morph to reflect what’s important. I’m on the verge of a major downsize, ditch my cable, home phone, my iPhone, move into a smaller space that is more affordable to heat and maybe more energy efficient. I desire to grow, gather and hunt as much of my food as possible. Then maybe I can round at the edges at the local food co-op which is more expensive, but if I’m not buying that much it puts it into reach. I shop at Goodwill and Value Village looking for clothes and other essentials that can be purchase second hand. I own my car, but I take the bus to work everyday. I say all of this aloud here as I look to find ways to make cuts to balance my budget without having to take on a second job and to find precious time to spend with my family. I am a one of the 99%.

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.

Love Is…

Love is a chameleon that takes on many forms, from laughing at each other to the pain of loving and caring about someone else more than yourself. Love is not always easy, although its roots run passionately deep. Building a lifetime of memories and sharing in all of life’s tribulations is something so special, it’s really the greatest gift and the biggest lessons. Love is waking up on the wrong side of the bed and yet you wouldn’t have it any other way because the one person who rocks your world is next to you.  Love is arguing over directions someplace, only to find out that it doesn’t really matter as long as you are together and a gps helps too. Love is the understanding that as much of who you are as individuals – the real binder of a relationship is how you grow together while also remaining individual. Love is an exploration with your soul mate for your entire existence both physically and emotionally so relish in the every moment.

Repeated.

a misty morning,
an erie calmness,
slipping into the hands of God,
the rawness of nature grabs a hold,
drifting…
casting…
drifting…
repeated.

the mind is focused,
the soul set free,
a spiritual element of man,
silence shattered,
the siwash set,
the tail flutters,
tension…
a battle royale…
tension…
landed.

respecting the journey,
honoring thy life,
giving thanks,
bonked for the table,
drifting…
casting….
drifting…
repeated.

Dreams & Change

The sun is hiding behind a wall of clouds that’s about to envelop us in a deep blanket of snow. As I sit here, with my cans on my ears and listen to Blind Melon’s Change my thoughts begin to float into a sea of moods. Not moodiness nor sour emotions, but more of excitement and gratefulness. I am so grateful that I’ve been blessed in my life, yet it’s not without its trials. Those trials are a place to draw strength from even though, at times, it seems that I’ve had my ass kicked and handed to me on a platter. Somehow I always seem to rite myself like an inflatable plastic punching bag. In the words of Shannon Hoon, “keep on dreaming boy, cause when you stop dreamin’ it’s time to die.” There have been times that I’ve felt as though I’ve been defeated, but that just isn’t the case. My craft and art may have hit a plateau over the past few years, but I’ve continued to learn and draw inspiration from those around me. It’s just that I still have yet to fully blossom. This walk is slow, patience is so important which is built upon strength and determination and of course dreams

Change by Blind Melon
I don’t feel the suns comin’ out today its staying in, its gonna find another way.
As I sit here in this misery, I don’t think I’ll ever see the sun from here.
And oh as I fade away, they’ll all look at me and say, and they’ll say, Hey look at him!
I’ll never live that way.
But that’s okay they’re just afraid to change.
When you feel your life ain’t worth living you’ve got to stand up and take a look around you then a look way up to the sky.
And when your deepest thoughts are broken,
keep on dreaming boy, cause when you stop dreamin’ it’s time to die.

And as we all play parts of tomorrow, some ways will work and other ways we’ll play.
But I know we all can’t stay here forever, so I want to write my words on the face of today.
and then they’ll paint it And oh as I fade away, they’ll all look at me and they’ll say,
Hey look at him and where he is these days.
When life is hard, you have to change.

A Growing Sense

As I mature and traverse through my life, the dawning of realizations and connections increase. The web of living becomes greater and the increase in awareness is even greater. Not just repercussions of actions, or the cause & effects of any decisions made by me, but the culmination of actions by societies. There are so many “case in point” examples I could site here, but if we each individually dwell on it, from an economical, environmental, political and educational the thread runs deep. Our food sources, our natural resources, the high cost of war, and a planet in turmoil. Yes, there are things we can and should be doing, but this isn’t about that right now. This involves a shift in not just awareness but in the integrity of everyone from all walks of life. It is for this, I believe, that as individuals we can and probably should shift a bit backwards in how we live. If we know that our food source is garbage, then maybe we should plant individual gardens, or join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or maybe learn to hunt or fish if we choose to eat meat. I also believe that as individuals we have special and unique skill sets that are different from the next. Therefore, the barter system, must be brought back. It is through sharing, trade and exchange that we all can survive. I’m also the first to admit, that my inner geek, loves technology and the advancements it has had on our global culture, but it’ too is a double edge sword that comes with a price. The medical advancements help us to live longer and more productive lives, yet it also creates more of a strain on the economy. Not that I think, it’s good or bad, liberal or conservative ideology, it is what it is and we must all acknowledge that. Of course that’s just one example of a technological impact. I really keep coming back to the concept of a modern day homesteader. This is festering ideology from within myself that continues to grow strong the more and more that I think about it. I also believe that I’m not alone. Friends and family are already working to a similar goal and I draw from their inspiration and strength. It doesn’t have to be a live of the land, whilst off the grid, in a small home in the middle of rural Americana. The modern day, means modern amenities yet a mindfulness about their usage. It means growing some food, but understanding that you’ll have to supplement. How one supplements could be from a CSA or a local farmer’s market. Maybe it does mean becoming a vegetarian, or eating just fish. Learning to can jars, for pickles, jam or my wife’s killer tomato sauce and stocking a pantry for the winter. This could also mean composting and the recycling of all food waste instead of sending it out to a landfill. The list could go on and on and the more that I research the greater the excitement becomes. I really don’t know what it this all means, but the increase of awareness and the connections that I’m making from my own ideologies are those that I intend to teach my children while I continue to develop.