Thursday, November 28, 2013

Beekeeper Kids

    Linda recently visited some of our kids and grandkids living near Portland.  My only serious regret about owning the Beez Neez Apiary Supply is that it often ties me down and keeps me from spending as much time as I would like with my children and grandchildren.  I'm more than a little envious at times and wish I could pick up and go with her more on grandkid trips. Her latest trip  included spending a day or two with Lance and Luna, seven and nine respectively. Their mother was previously our partner in running the bee store and an avid beekeeper. However, due to a serious allergy to bee stings, she now has to avoid the little darlings. She has made several trips to the emergency room over the past year or so due to inadvertent bee stings. Her most recent incident involved a sting that happened while she was minding her own business, weeding her vegetable garden.

     In spite of their current lack of bees, Luna and Lance are very clear about their continued affiliation with the brotherhood of beekeepers.  Recently, one of their friends from school was freaking out over a "bee" flying nearby. Luna told her "That's a wasp. It's not a bee. We know. We're beekeepers."  I'm very happy that they still use the title of "beekeeper" as part of their identity.

    I have two other grandchildren who are actively keeping bees. I started Chloe and Autumn with bee hives this past spring.  I wasn't able to get down to visit them often enough to be a very good mentor. I don't know whether their bees will make it through the winter. If they don't, I will have to shoulder a good portion of the blame for being such an absentee mentor.  Their major accomplishment this year as beginning beekeepers was to become very comfortable with the bees.  I realized just how comfortable they had become when I received a photo attached to a text message that showed Autumn ready to work her beehive while wearing capris and slippers. Amazingly, in spite of a fair amount of exposed skin when working their bees, neither Autumn or Chloe was stung this year.
Autumn Kang, ready to open a bee hive.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fishing with Mike and Gavin

    I went  and visited my brother Mike this past weekend.  Friday we made an unsuccessful attempt at turkey hunting near Dayton, Washington. Saturday morning we went fishing for whitefish on the Columbia River. Gavin, Mike's oldest son, came with us.  We put in the boat just upstream from the Vernita Bridge. That is a free flowing portion of the Columbia, upstream of the McNary Pool and downstream from Priest Rapids Dam.   Chinook Salmon spawn in the gravel bottom there and the whitefish come in behind them to eat any loose eggs the current pushes out of their nests.  It is pretty fun fishing as we usually do fairly well. The average size of the whitefish we catch is about 14 to 15 inches long and the limit is 15 fish per angler.
My nephew Gavin

    We got up pretty early so that we reached the Vernita Bridge at about 7:00 am.  It was ten degrees and still, which didn't feel too bad when we were putting the boat into the water.  It was a different story when we started to motor upstream towards the dam.  It felt pretty frigid at that point. I felt sorry for Mike who was steering the boat and had to face into the wind.  At least I could turn around and face the stern. Gavin pulled his head down into his coat like a turtle. Once we stopped and started to drift downstream it felt much better.  I hooked a fish within a minute or so after getting my line into the water.
Another whitefish in the boat

    We always drift fish for whitefish.  We use a couple of rubber salmon eggs for bait on a relatively small hook with several feet of leader.  A slinky weight is attached right at the swivel along with the leader. The slinky weight will drift along the bottom and will rarely get snagged.  For the whitefish our bait looks like just a few more salmon eggs drifting downstream in the current.
My brother Mike has to face into the cold wind to drive the boat.

    There were still a lot of Chinook Salmon in the river, but they were a pretty sorry looking lot.  They looked like zombie fish that were dead but didn't know it. Some of the salmon still had the energy to jump clear out of the water but most of them quietly swam in the current, patiently waiting for the end. There were a lot of dead salmon on the bank and a lot of other animals gathered to feed on them.  We saw a coyote on the far bank and lots of seagulls and Blue Herons on the near bank. We stayed on the shallower north side of the river and the water was very clear. We could usually see the river bottom passing beneath us. In some places the water was only three or four feet deep. At times I could see the schools of whitefish beneath us. Surprisingly, the whitefish I saw in the water looked larger than most of the fish we were catching. I don't know if that was because the bigger fish were merely easier to spot or if it was due to the fact that the larger fish were less inclined to fall for our artificial bait.
The end of the road for the salmon

    We ended up catching just fourteen whitefish. That is a lot less than we usually catch. I brought home eight fish while Gavin kept the rest. I filleted them out and put them in a seasoned brine to get them ready for my smoker. I found a brine recipe on the internet at The recipe I loosely followed was called "Matt's Favorite Salmon Brine Recipe". The ingredients were as follows:

Ingredients:   1/2 cup salt
                      1 cup brown sugar
                      1/4 tsp garlic powder
                      1/4 tsp liquid smoke
                      1/4 tsp Lowry's seasoned salt
                      4 Tbsp molasses
                      1 quart water

Instructions:  1.  Mix all ingredients until salts and sugar dissolve
                      2. Soak fish for 6-8 hours in covered container.
                      3. Lay out chunks of fish on smoker racks and sprinkle with lemon pepper.
                      4. Allow to drip dry for about 15 minutes.
                      5. Smoke for 8 hours.

       Obviously, I modified the recipe a bit as usual. I used knotweed honey in place of the molasses. I did not use liquid smoke but rather used alder chips in my smoker. I also used fresh ground pepper and Trader Joe's "Everyday Seasoning" in place of the Lowry's seasoned salt and the lemon pepper.  Since its rather cold out I wasn't sure the smoker would get hot enough. I finished it up in the oven for about an hour to make sure it was done.  So shortly before the timer dings, Linda calls out "Are you doing something with fish?"  Happily, the smoked whitefish turned out well and even Linda thought it was tasty.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Plucking Chickens with Friends

    I had a request from a young couple in our Ward who wanted a lesson in plucking chickens.  I don't really consider myself an expert on the topic, but I have plucked more than a few chickens, geese and ducks over the past few years.  I was very happy to accommodate them. Not everyone shows an interest in my quirky hobbies. They came over on Saturday morning and brought their two young children (three years and one year old respectively). Three year old Lucas showed an active interest in the process while his younger brother, Eli, seemed more interested the various toys in our back yard. I think its a good thing for kids to know where their food comes from. Most of them seem to handle it much better than some adults I know.

     I first demonstrated the easiest way I know to kill a chicken. I had learned years ago from my mother that it was easier to decapitate a chicken with a piece of pipe than it was to cut their heads off.  You simply hold the chicken by its legs, place the chicken's head under the pipe, stand on the pipe, then give a sharp pull.  I prefer to continue to hold on to the chicken until its wings stop flapping. I let go of one once and it ran off into the street.  I find the pipe to be much quicker and more humane than cutting off their heads with a knife.

     After I had killed three chickens, I suspended each one from a different limb of our plum tree and we sat down to a communal chicken plucking.  I prefer to dry pluck them as I hate dealing with wet feathers. My mother came out in the middle of the process and asked why we hadn't scalded the birds to loosen their feathers. I'm sure that I am doing it the hard way.  If I were doing a lot of birds at a time I would probably rent the processing equipment from the Snohomish Co-op and go ahead and scald them. Like I said, I hate dealing with wet feathers.

    It was an enjoyable morning in spite of the unpleasant task. It is amazing how good company can make almost any job enjoyable.  We were also very fortunate that it didn't rain. Throughout the plucking, Lucas had lots of interesting questions. He is a very outspoken three year old who like some of my grandchildren, only has one volume setting. He hasn't yet mastered the concept of speaking quietly. I was imagining what comments he might make the following day in Primary about plucking chickens at Brother Tunnell's house. As it turned out he didn't mention it at all during Primary. Rather on Saturday night at Red Robin Lucas chose to regale their waitress with a graphic description of butchering and plucking chickens. Those with small children have no secrets.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Speaking in Church

    One of my responsibilities as a Bishop's counselor is to conduct our weekly Sacrament Meeting every third month. Part of that responsibility includes asking people to speak.  Some people are a little  nervous about speaking in church, but most are pretty willing in spite of their fears. I've served in the Bishopric for several years this time around and I've only had a few people who absolutely refused the invitation to speak in church. The way our rotation is set up I have the months of January, April, July, and October.  Between General Conference on the first Sunday of October, Fast and Testimony Meeting the following Sunday, and the Primary Program the last Sunday, there was only one week in October for which I had to recruit speakers. There is a pre-determined theme for most meetings so when I ask someone to speak I am asking them to speak on a particular gospel topic.

      I apologize to any blog followers I have who are not Mormons as the preceding paragraph is full of  unfamiliar terms. I guess I should provide a brief explanation and glossary.  Mormon readers can feel free to skip to the next paragraph. First of all, we have no paid ministers in our church. Everybody who is an active member has the opportunity to provide voluntary service in some capacity.  The Bishop is the man who serves as the equivalent of a Pastor in Protestant churches. The Bishop is assisted by two counselors, of which I am one.  Sacrament Meeting is our main Sunday Service in which we take part in the Sacrament, referred to as Communion in most Protestant churches. The Primary is the children's organization within the LDS Church.  General Conference takes place twice a year.  On those two weekends, instead of our normal church meetings, we watch and listen to speakers broadcast from Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. Fast and Testimony Meeting is one of our weekly Sacrament Meetings for which there are no pre-arranged speakers. Anyone who feels inspired by the Spirit can walk up to the podium and address the congregation. Now, with the relevant terms explained, I will proceed with the narrative.

     The one Sunday this past month for which I had to recruit speakers was October 20th. The theme for that particular week was Music in the Church. I have strong feelings about the importance of music. Though I am not a talented singer, I love to sing the hymns. I have enjoyed participating in the ward choir wherever we have lived.  It is also one of my specific assignments within the Bishopric. Consequently, I felt I should "call my own number" and put myself on the program as the concluding speaker.  The last speaker is sometimes referred to as the accordion, since they have to either expand or curtail their remarks to fit the available time remaining.  I prepared my talk in segments so I could easily shorten it if necessary. One of the more important segments in my mind was a brief recruiting pitch for participation in the Ward Choir. I prepared a lot more talk than I expected I would need.

     As it happened, the other adult speakers were also very enthusiastic about the topic. They addressed it well and covered many points I had included in my talk.  They also both spoke longer than planned.  I was not particularly disappointed that the time expired with my talk still in my pocket.  However, the Bishop decided I would not be pre-empted, but merely deferred to the following Sunday. I was assigned to fill any time remaining from the annual Primary Sacrament Program.

     The Primary Sacrament Program happens once a year and provides the Primary children (ages three to eleven) the opportunity to both sing and speak in our Sacrament Meeting.  It is one of my favorite meetings as we literally hear wisdom from the "mouths of babes". I love to listen to the children sing. The program never seems to happen exactly as planned and it always includes some unintended humor.  As it turned out, the Primary children did not use all of their available time and I did finally give a portion of my talk.

     In a nutshell, my talk consisted of expressing gratitude for our wonderful hymns and the way they can help me feel the spirit.  I love how a hymn can bring back memories and feelings.  Forty years ago I served a mission for the Church in Northern Italy. At that time we only had about 50 LDS hymns translated into Italian so it was a pretty small hymnal. Those hymns in particular now have very special meaning to me.  I was also able to put in a plug for the ward choir.  Attendance at choir is up, but I'm not sure I deserve any credit for that. We usually have better participation in the fall when we are working on the Christmas program.  That is another reason I love singing in the choir. I get to start singing Christmas music several months earlier.

     I personally don't mind speaking in church.  Most of my serious public speaking miscues have happened when I was conducting the meeting, rather than on the program as a speaker.  My most horrendous mistake happened when I was doing the sustainings in a Sacrament Meeting earlier in the year.  Adding to my previous explanation of Mormon terminology, we try to give every member the opportunity to serve in some capacity. They don't really volunteer but rather are asked to serve. A part of that process includes the principle of common consent. We present the name of each individual newly called to serve in our Sacrament Meeting so that the ward members have the opportunity to either sustain that calling or to actually oppose it. Votes to oppose a call are very rare.  So I'm presenting Pat Fawcett to be sustained in some capacity and instead of saying Pat Fawcett, I blurted out an involuntary spoonerism, "Fat Pawcett". It was far and away my most embarrassing moment in public speaking. Fortunately for me, Pat has a great sense of humor.  She suggested that a home made cherry pie would make it all better. I was very grateful to get off the hook that easily.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Canning Meat

     I've spent a lot of time over the past few weeks adding some canned meat to our food storage.  As of the current date I've done more than a dozen pints of chicken and 28 pints of venison.  While canning meat is a bit labor intensive, the resulting product is a pretty wonderful convenience food to have stored away.  You can fix a tasty stew in no more time than it takes to cook potatoes or carrots. I also like the security of not having all of our meat stored in the freezer.  A lack of power is often included in the aftermath of natural disasters. If all of your meat is frozen you can eat like a king for three days after which all you have left is stuff like rice, beans, and oatmeal. Not that I don't enjoy rice and beans, but I think I would enjoy them a lot more with some chicken or venison added to the meal.

      Canning meat requires a pressure cooker and a longer processing time than most home canned items. Pint jars of chicken or venison need to be cooked at ten pounds of pressure for 75 minutes. That limits the amount of canning that can be done in a particular day. However, I'd rather spread out the joy of plucking chickens anyhow.  I had to persevere to get all of the deer deboned and canned quickly as we didn't have much empty space in our freezer.

      I saved out 4 pounds of the venison which is now marinating in the fridge so it can be made into jerky. I'll do that tomorrow so I will be home most of the day to keep an eye on it. I'm using two different jerky recipes this year. One is experimental and came from a wild game cookbook I've had for a number of years.  The other is the tried and true recipe I've used in the past, a commercially made seasoning and cure mix.  I bought the commercial product for two reasons. First of all, I've used it before so I know it will turn out well.  That will give me a frame of reference in judging the "experimental" recipe from my wild game cookbook.  Secondly, it was advertised on the package as an "Authentic Wyoming Recipe", made in Riverton, Wyoming.

      As I looked over the ingredient list for the commercial product I did experience a bit of buyer's remorse.  The commercial recipe has salt, sugar, sodium nitrites, caramel color, spice (not further described), spice extractive (also not further identified),garlic powder, soy sauce powder, and less than 2% propylene glycol added to prevent caking. I don't know if the consumption of propylene glycol is a health risk, but I have heard that nitrites are very good for you.  The cookbook recipe seemed simpler. It includes salt, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce (pronounced wooster), onion powder, garlic powder, and freshly ground pepper.  I looked at the ingredients for my onion powder and garlic powder and was pleased to learn they contained just onion and garlic respectively. No artificial colors, preservatives, or anti-caking agents. Then I decided to look to see what preservatives might be lurking in the Worcestershire sauce.  I found no apparent preservatives but I did find caramel color, dextrose, natural flavors (not further described), malice acid, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein.  I guess that is a step up from nitrites and propylene glycol. The soy sauce had hydrolyzed soy protein, corn syrup, caramel color, lactic acid, and potassium sorbate as a preservative.  I guess the moral of the story is to stop reading the labels if you really don't want to know all of the ingredients.

Canned chicken and chicken broth

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Deer Hunting near Dayton

     This past weekend I went deer hunting with my son James. It is actually more harvesting than hunting as does are much easier to find than a buck with a minimum of three points on each side of his antlers. I had planned on going deer and elk hunting with my brother Mike but it didn't work out this year. However, I had drawn a doe tag for the Marengo area just north of Dayton and I didn't want it to go to waste. James didn't have a license but graciously agreed to accompany me so I would have help packing the deer to the car.

     The place I hunted was on property leased by a wind farm on the ridge above the Tucannon River valley.  The first day we spent about 4 hours driving around to various locations on the ridge where we saw a lot of mule deer does, but no white tails. My tag was specifically for a white tail doe. As it got closer to evening we set up where we had some cover on a little hill overlooking an alfalfa field in the valley. As I had hoped, as evening approached, some white tail does came out into the field to graze on the alfalfa. I had a good shot, but unfortunately I missed. That was the only deer I remember having missed over the past ten or fifteen years.  I tried a second shot on a moving target which I also missed. My tag was good from the first of November through the twelfth so I had until the following Tuesday before my doe tag expired.  We drove back to Ellensburg to spend Sunday with James and his family, with the plan that I would return Monday morning and try again.

     I had a wonderful sabbath day with the Tunnells.  I got to spend some quality time with the new baby, Nora Lavender, while Britton, Lucy, and John always make me feel welcome.  Nora seemed very inclined to sleep while I held her. Either she finds me very soothing or very boring. I would prefer to think soothing.  I am so very grateful for the love of my grand children and I can't begin to describe the joy they give me. The highlights of church for me were the privilege of sitting with my grandchildren through Sacrament Meeting and a very moving Sunday School lesson about the importance of Family History work. I left church with a desire to repent and get busy again with my genealogy. Later that evening I went with James and his family to a dinner at a friend's house. There were about four other young couples there, all members of one of the other Ellensburg wards, with a goodly quantity of young children. I was the sole representative of the older generation.  The dinner was wonderful. The host had made a tasty lasagna and Beth had brought her fantastic home made bread sticks.

       James decided to accompany me back to Dayton. Whether it was an effort to keep me out of trouble or just the opportunity to spend time together, I was grateful for his company.  James and I left Ellensburg at about 8 pm Sunday evening and drove to Pasco. We spent the night at my nephew Gavin's home to shorten our drive to Dayton early Monday morning.  We needed to be in our chosen location before daylight. We got up at about 4:30 am the next morning and arrived at the field at 6:10 am.  James dropped me off and drove back to Dayton to handle an important errand that required cell phone service. The chosen location was the same field where I had missed my shot on Saturday. It is an alfalfa field in the Tucannon River Valley which has a lower part and an upper part, separated by a band of ground too steep to plow, about 50 feet wide. The weeds that grow in the unplowed portion of the field provided good cover for an ambush of the deer grazing in the lower portion of the field.

     As I started to walk across the field it was just light enough that I could see to walk. I walked slowly and carefully across the field, trying to avoid making noise lest I spook any deer who might be grazing in the lower portion of the field.  As I approached the unplowed band of weeds I was able to see part of the lower field.  As I reached the weeds I saw two white tail does in the field below, about 100 yards away. One of them happened to be looking in my direction. I had read that deer notice movement more than anything else so I just stood still for about ten minutes until the deer again lowered their heads to graze. At that point I raised the rifle and shot the deer that presented the best target. One deer was standing broadside to me while the other one was bladed to one side. This time I was successful. By 7:30 am the deer had been field dressed and loaded into the back of the car and we were driving back towards Ellensburg. It didn't require a great deal of physical effort or hunting skill, but success always feels good. Besides, I didn't want to disappoint grandchildren to whom I had promised some venison jerky.
The scene of the successful hunt.  The deer in this photo is barely visible in my iPhone's telephoto lens.

      When we arrived in Ellensburg we had a celebratory lunch with Beth and the kids at their new IHOP restaurant. With all of the wonderful fun things they had on the menu the kids chose a grilled cheese sandwich, a cheeseburger, and chicken nuggets.  Not many kids have an adventurous palate. They always seem to prefer the familiar.  John was wearing his spiderman shirt and kept wanting to climb the walls of our restaurant booth.

John and Lucy sharing a booth at IHOP with their very grubby grandpa.

      I really do enjoy going hunting once in a while.  I have a lot of fond childhood memories associated with hunting with my dad and brothers.  The best part of this particular hunting trip was getting to see grand kids and spending several days with my son James.