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

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First Foraged Food: Stinging Nettles

About a month ago, I took my first foraged walk with the intentions of finding plant food in the wild. As I strolled quietly with my eyes alert in a large, heavily wooded city park I started noticing vast patches of stinging nettles, they had yet to go to flower. I donned my leather gloves, unfurled my paper bag, grab the shears out of my back pocket and went to work gathering the top 6-8″ of the plant.

As a child playing in the 5 acre woods that enveloped our A-frame home I had numerous run in’s with the common stinging nettle. Often times my exposed legs or arms would come under siege by the stinging hairs of this plant. The itching usually waned into some bumps and welts that eventually passed a few days later. The sting was really nothing more than an annoyance. I only mention this story as it is a reminder of why I’d chosen to eat them. One, I can easily 100%, without a doubt, identify these plants. There are no opportunities for me to miss identify them. Two, in some odd way I think of it as me overcoming their defense mechanism and ultimately winning a battle. Lastly, they are a true superfood loaded with vast nutrients that are good for our bodies and best of all they are free—both in cost and from pesticides.

According to Wikipedia, stinging nettles have a flavor similar to spinach and cucumber when cooked and are rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. In its peak season, stinging nettles contain up to 25% protein, dry weight, which is high for a leafy green vegetable. In a Livestrong article:

A 1-cup serving of blanched stinging nettles contains 37 calories and 0.1 g of fat. One cup contains 6.6 g of carbohydrates and 2.4 g of protein. Including stinging nettles in your diet gives you a huge boost in vitamin A. A 1-cup serving contains 1,790 IU of this vitamin, nearly three times the amount you need in a single day. Vitamin D works with calcium to strengthen your teeth and bones, although its main role in the body is to normalize the amount of calcium and phosphorus in your bloodstream. Your body is able to store extra vitamin A, so the additional vitamins you consume are not wasted. Stinging nettles also serve as an excellent source of vitamin K, a vitamin your body requires for blood clotting. Each 1-cup portion contains 369 to 493 percent of the daily recommended intake. Like vitamin D, your body can store vitamin K for later use.

Over this past weekend, I took Hank Shaw’s recipe from his book Hunt, Gather, Cook and his blog to morph into my own. I created the nettle dough, but since I lack a pasta machine, I hand rolled out sheets and then tried to evenly space apart ricotta and spicy Italian sausage filling for ravioli’s. I put the second sheet on top, pressed the edges together, and adhered the dough between the rows to create the pillows. Then utilizing one of my pizza cutters I cut along the edges and in-between the rows to form individual raviolis.  I boiled them up and tossed in some of my homemade, backyard pesto from last season’s garden. All in all this meal’s ingredients were pretty damn local. The salt for the flour was seawater that last summer I had boiled down, the nettles I had foraged from Seattle only 25 miles away, the eggs came from a local farmer, so as for the pasta dough only the actual flour wasn’t sourced locally. I’m challenging myself to find it local though and I think I know of a place up north. The basil in the pesto was from my garden while the pine nuts and olive oil where not. Lastly the garnished tomatoes, we’re organic, but not local.

I’m very proud of this meal and am aware of every ingredient that I put into it and ultimately what I consumed for my body. This mindful meal was, albeit time consuming, was so richly rewarding.

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stinging_nettle
http://www.livestrong.com/article/350785-stinging-nettles-nutrition/#ixzz1wGgkl5Rr
http://honest-food.net/2012/02/06/nettle-pasta/

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: www.tovarcerulli.com

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.

Renewal

Spring is a time for renewal as cliché as that sounds it’s true. The darkness of the Pacific NW winter is waining as the days grow longer. With this fresh perspective and internal changes happening within, I thought it would be best to revisit the Waxing Mind. I’ve given it a new fresh look and I feel invigorated with my writing.

Over the last couple of days I’ve gone back and reread some of the earlier posts and I see a common thread to the posts as the themes seem to have stayed the same over time. While I enjoy writing what I find most intriguing is that there has been a good size shift in my paradigms. Which could be from maturity, wisdom or just plain stupidity — only time will tell.

My plan is to update weekly on average. Topics will encompass those that affect my life and I’m sure effect others similarly. Posts could be contemplative, how-to, anecdotal stories of my latest adventures/endavours as I work towards my own personal goals of sustainability.

Please feel free to book mark this page or give it a follow. You can also catch my tweets on Twitter by clicking on the icon in the photo. Thanks for stopping by.

Ethics of Eating Meat

Recently the New York Times posted an essay contest that revolved around the ethics of eating meat. According to their website:

 

Ethically speaking, vegetables get all the glory. In recent years, vegetarians — and to an even greater degree vegans, their hard-core inner circle — have dominated the discussion about the ethics of eating. From the philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1975 volume “Animal Liberation” galvanized an international movement, to the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer, who wrote the 2009 best seller “Eating Animals,” those who forswear meat have made the case that what we eat is a crucial ethical decision. To be just, they say, we must put down our cheeseburgers and join their ranks.

In response, those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say. They say, of course, that, well, they love meat or that meat is deeply ingrained in our habit or culture or cuisine or that it’s nutritious or that it’s just part of the natural order. Some of the more conscientious carnivores have devoted themselves to enhancing the lives of livestock, by improving what those animals eat, how they live and how they are killed. But few have tried to answer the fundamental ethical issue: Whether it is right to eat animals in the first place, at least when human survival is not at stake.

So today we announce a nationwide contest for the omnivorous readers of The New York Times. We invite you to make the strongest possible case for this most basic of daily practices.

 

I wanted to share, now that I’ve submitted, my essay and thoughts on the ethics of eating meat:

The ecology of the animal environment is cyclical in nature. A predator versus prey relationship exists in our world whether humans participate or not. Humans are animals just with a higher level of reasoning. Regardless of the human’s ability for higher-level cognition or emotions, we all must eat and some choose to eat meat. Further complicating the decision homo sapiens make about food is that they battle a physiological conundrum of being omnivores.

 

Meat, not only as a source of food, but also the process for which it becomes food, has been demonized. Eating meat is not wrong and the delicate ecosystem of meat as food needs to be nurtured just as mindfully as how small family farm produce is grown. The ethos of how and why we choose to eat meat, in my mind, hinges on responsibility. Ethically speaking, it is not wrong for us, as a species to eat meat, just as it is not wrong for any other animal in the animal kingdom to choose to do so.

 

The death of animals in the great American Foodscape is inevitable in the practice of our current food production model, even for vegetables. As field mice get ground up in a combine, or an organic farmer kills a deer for eating his/her produce — it’s just a fact of farming that animals die. If Americans would understand and realize the true cost of their meal then it’s plausible that a moral high ground could be achieved on how meat is tended to in the animal’s life and how the animal is slaughtered. Additionally, if there is consciousness put into the process of raising those animals that will eventually become food, then their death becomes just as important as their life. Better yet, if just once in a person’s life they had to actually go out into the woods and hunt their own food, the resulting understanding for how an animal becomes meat would establish a karmic value for that meal and the ceremony around the dinner table would reflect that gift and sacrifice of food.

 

The battle of eating meat and the ethics that surround it are solely based on the fact that we as a species of animals have the mental aptitude to decipher right from wrong. There are many reasons why one chooses to eat meat, but whatever those decisions are it shouldn’t mean the omnivores are wrong. All living beings die, either by the grace of nature or by the hands of a predator, so grab a fork and a steak knife and dig in.

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%.

Sustainable Renting

I rent. Therefore managing my homesteading projects for maximum sustainability initiatives means I’ve got to find creative solutions that will also allow me to get my deposit back when the time comes for me to vacate this property. As a tenant I’ve often searched for resources for projects that I can do given that I don’t own. My head is filled with vast ideas. Many of the projects either require landlord permission or that I own. With the current status of the real estate market combined with some poor decisions in my 20’s I’m just not ready yet to purchase.  I struggle with moving forward to reduce my footprint on this planet while also aiming for some sustainability as a tenant.

I believe that through sustainability we can achieve independence and with independence comes true freedom.

My Quest for Meat

The long downward demise of our food system is not only a disgrace, but also rather alarming. Catastrophic decisions have been made in how our nation farms both for produce and meat. The nutritional value of produce has dramatically decreased over the years due to pesticide usage. Produce and meat recalls no longer shock society and are becoming more and more normal. Hormone’s, such as RBsT, are changing how our children develop and obesity/diabetes among Americans is now reaching critical levels. None of this should be new news, I believe we are all ‘aware’ of it. Authors such as Upton Sinclair, Rachel Carson, Steven Rinella, Hank Shaw, Tovar Cerulli, Novella Carpenter and Michael Pollan have lamented on this subject over the years. The question I ask myself, is how can I affect change in my life and with my family to eat healthier and more sustainably — not just organic?

 

My thoughts on this subject have been caught in a mental wave pool since 2005. These thoughts are always near the forefront of my mind but they fluctuate back and forth and there really is no escape or outlet. The more I contemplate the status quo the greater I find a massive internal paradigm shift. I want to be mindful about what I put into my body and how I care for my body so that I can live a long healthy life with those that I love.

 

In this light, I am choosing to start bow hunting. There are numerous reasons that I’ve arrived at this decision. Those mentioned previously, but more specifically I want to be completely honest with myself as to where my meat comes from. Wild game is truly free range, and grass fed lean meat. Can I look the animal in the eyes, take his life, and then later serve him on my dinner table? I will choose which animal to harvest, and I will be responsible for placing my kill shot as merciful as possible. This is a great responsibility that I will take seriously. In bow hunting the great challenge is achieving close proximity to your target. Typically bow range is less than 50 yards requiring great skill and patience, therefore in my mind leveling the playing field. It is not the ‘thrill of the kill’ that I look forward too, if it was all about the ‘thrill of the kill’ then I probably would have a job at a slaughterhouse where I could fulfill that thrill. People may wonder how can you kill a defenseless animal? They are not defenseless, the environment of the wild and laws of nature are based on a lifecycle of predator vs prey. Comments regarding how hunting is bad seem like an oxymoron — especially if said from those who choose to get their meat from a supermarket. Those animals are defenseless; they live in jam-packed fenced pens and are force fed grains with growth hormones so they can get fat and ready for slaughter. Ultimately, the large agra-business model, puts value on getting to market as fast as possible and less on quality. Equality in the wild does not exist, as man is only king of the food chain in the supermarket.

 

Hunting provides an opportunity for humans to face mortality and realize that death is not an abstraction, but rather a condition of living. Urban life has separated us from wild places, numbed our senses to death and further distancing our understanding of food sources. Therefore, our emotional awareness and our own actions of sourcing food have been anesthetized even though the end product still supports death. The cognitive disconnect between cellophane wrapped choices at the butcher counter and the process it took for that meat to arrive to that counter should be a considered by anyone who choose to eat meat. I am choosing to have a visceral participation in the wild, not just as a tourist, but as a way to provide food for my family.

 

In this day and age, our food cost will only continue to rise. The current large agricultural model is based on food miles and with the skyrocketing price of oil it is just a given that we will be paying more for the continued decline of quality food down the road. I’m looking to try and break free from the current model and institute a sense of independence. As a man who was raised in a non-hunting household, I have not taken this decision lightly. It’s been almost 2 years of investigating, thinking and processing emotions on the ideology of hunting that I’ve come to this. I say all of this as I’m not necessarily looking for approval, maybe a bit of understanding, but more importantly I deeply believe that we should all examine and question our sources of food both individually and collectively and make thoughtful decisions on how we choose to fuel our lives and our families.

 

Breath of Fresh Thinking

I’ve strayed from my writing. This activity has actually been a period further clarification and direction for this blog. In this long stretch, I’ve moved across country, expanded my family by one (the first), transitioned jobs and have recently worked to managed the news that I am a recently diagnosed type 1 diabetic. Through the culmination of these events and continued reading on my part I feel like i’ve got some clairvoyance on some of the repeated periodic posts about some vague notion of more mindful living.

It is with this new knowledge that I feel I have found a bearing for this blog. My revised new aim will be to focus my energy on living a sustainable mindful living in our rapid technology based world. As I explore my own how-to’s I will share through this publishing vehicle my thoughts, processes and rants accordingly. It may range of food recipes, brewing techniques, canning/perserving, fishing/hunting, gardening, or?

So this is where I’m at right now. Stay tuned.