I’ve often been asked about how to grow shiitake mushrooms, and since I’ve never posted about it, here it is.

Start with a young hardwood forest in need of thinning. Alder is what I have around here, but lots of different hardwoods will work, especially oaks. I look for logs that aren’t too crooked, and about 4-8″ in diameter. This year, I thinned a couple of acres of pure alder that I have, which was way, way more than I needed for mushroom logs. The rest will go to firewood, and my remaining trees should grow faster and larger now.

The best time to cut the trees is in the winter or very early spring, definitely before sap starts to flow. Once they are starting to leaf out, you’re a little on the late side. When processing your logs, be careful not to bang up the bark. Trees with sap running tend to get the bark damaged very easily. I cut the logs right where the tree falls and carefully carry and load them by hand.

alder forest

In the past I used to cut my logs at 42″, because that was the size of a standard pallet, and I used to stack my logs on pallets. Now I just throw a couple of un-inoculated logs on the ground and make my stacks on those. So this time I cut my logs at 48″. Much longer gets hard to handle, though. Make sure the logs are straight and relatively uniform, without damage or rot. I also take the time to scrub off all the moss and other stuff growing on them. If you have a pressure washer, this can go pretty fast. Some people wash and scrub them down to clean bark without any lichens left on it at all, but in my experience, they don’t need to be perfectly spotless.

Since alder is a wood that rots easily, the alder tree has some defense mechanisms against invading fungi. Alder will encapsulate and “wall off” any rot very effectively, and right after you cut or damage an alder tree, it produces an antifungal compound of some kind, so I always stack my freshly cut logs in the woods for a couple of weeks or so before inoculating them, to let this defense mechanism run its course.

Keep the logs cool and in the shade, while you’re waiting for your spawn to arrive in the mail, and while you’re working on them. We lost over 100 logs one year because I had not learned this lesson yet. Logs that sit in the sun get sunburned, which makes the bark less useful for shiitake mushroom growth, but worse, the logs warm up and grow Trichoderma, a locally prevalent, aggressively competing fungus. If that stuff gets a toehold before the shiitake can get established, then the logs fail to ever produce mushrooms. So keep your logs cool and in the shade!

I order my spawn from Northwest Mycological Consultants in Corvallis, OR. I generally grow one of the cold weather strains, as they tend to tolerate my benign neglect, they fruit on natural cycles well, and the resulting mushrooms are of extremely high quality. This year, I also bought a wide range strain, that has a longer fruiting season than the cold weather strain I usually grow. Timing wise, I usually order my spawn about the time I take down the trees.

inoculating shiitake logs

I use sawdust spawn, rather than plugs. This requires a special tool for inoculating, which you can also order from NMC. I also ordered the special hardened drill bit from them, and it has drilled several thousand holes now with no troubles. Regular hardware store bits will not do that.

The other huge time saver is the drill. Don’t even bother with a regular shop drill, or cordless drill. You’ll be drilling holes for days that way. What you want is a high speed angle grinder, and to make a simple adapter so that you can mount a drill chuck on it. This is a way, way faster way to drill a lot of holes without hassle. Put a stop collar on your drill bit so you don’t make the holes super deep.

inoculating shiitake logs

You want the holes to be a little bit deeper than the length of the plug of spawn that you’re putting in there. You want there to be a little bit of open space at the bottom of the hole underneath the spawn. You also want to be careful to not tear up the bark too bad when drilling holes. Pull the drill straight out so that it doesn’t snag and tear the bark around the edge of the hole. I put the holes about 3-4″ or so apart and several full length rows around the circumference of each log. More is better for fast, successful colonization, but too many holes wastes spawn and leaves you with fewer logs. At the rate I generally do it, a five pound bag of spawn will inoculate about 20-25 logs.

I’ve found that laying the logs out in the grass to drill them is easier than trying to drill them on the bed of the truck, or on the sawhorse set up that we use for inoculating on. Having some teenagers around to move logs for you is nice…

inoculating shiitake logs

Inoculating is pretty straightforward. Open the bag, shove the tool into the spawn, it will fill with spawn, then put the tool over a hole and depress the plunger. Voila! Spawn is now inside the log. Repeat several hundred times…

Once you have a pile of inoculated logs, now it’s time to seal the holes with wax. We use a small thrift store slow cooker to melt wax in and keep it hot. There’s a million ways of doing the wax, too, but since we’re small time and usually only do up 50-100 logs at a time usually, we just use paint brushes. The wax protects the spawn from invasion by pests, and from drying out.

inoculating shiitake logs

Now write the strain number on the ends of the logs so you can keep track of which is which. I used to not do this, and then got frustrated when some logs performed better than others, but I couldn’t say for sure which was which. It only takes a few minutes and a big sharpie to label them.

Then stack them under some conifer shade, so that they have good airflow, but no direct sun beating down on them. They’ll take all summer to fully colonize the logs, and it will probably be the following spring at least before you see any mushrooms. You can get more production by soaking the logs and managing them more intensively. There’s a lot of great information in the “Shiitake Growers Handbook”, by Paul Przybylowicz and John Donoghue.

inoculating shiitake logs

My last batch of successful logs were inoculated in 2008, and were still producing mushrooms as of a couple of weeks ago. If I had forced fruiting, though, it would have used them up faster. My 2011 logs were invaded by Trichoderma and have never fruited. I have a good feeling about today’s batch, though. I think these will be successful.

shiitake logs

You know you’ve really fallen out of the blogging habit when your teenager actually notices that you haven’t posted in a long time. Sigh.


Between my gawdawful internet service and the fact that Flickr, where I host all my photography, went to a bandwidth-gobbling “magazine” format, dealing with pictures got a lot less fun last year, and therefore, blogging held a lot less appeal, too.

tug and barge

But here it is, a year later, and I’ve got hundreds more good photos than I had last year, and I’ve been feeling the urge to get back to this, so I’m just going to bite the bullet and deal with it.


So, what has happened since last year? Well, last year at Lumpy Waters, Sean and I let a perfectly safe and sane, incident free long boat surfing class on Friday afternoon. The rest of my Lumpy Waters 2012 was safe and sane, too, although a bit cold and windy.

Long boat surfing class, Whalen Island/Sand Lake, OR

After Lumpy Waters was over, I moved right into hunting season. I saw a lot of animals this year, and watched one group of elk off and on throughout the season, but could never catch the legal bull out in the open during elk season.


I went to a couple of Appleseed shoots, and learned a LOT about shooting accuracy that I did not know. I even shot a qualifying Rifleman score on one target.

Appleseed shoot, Feb 24th, 2013, Ariel, WA

I went to Seattle with the family and my brother, and we saw the King Tut exhibit, which I had seen many years ago, the last time it was in Seattle.

Pacific Science Center


We moved the shop for CRK from the building behind the Skamokawa Store into the Skamokawa Landing building around the corner, and had a pretty busy kayaking season. Ginni and I got out for some coastal recon for a trip we are putting on the calendar for next year. And we paddled through fields of flowers…

paddling through flowers

Oregon Coast paddling

I got the sawmill running again for the first time in over two years, and milled some lumber for Brian down in Nehalem. We tried fishing for kings one evening, but to no avail. We did see over 50 silvers jumping, of course…


fishing with Brian

Back home, though, this was the year I finally figured out how to catch fall kings in the river near Skamokawa, and I managed to keep a couple of them.

cat and fish

I did a lot of other stuff, too, and took a lot more pictures from the deck at the new shop, like this one:


I’ll try to get back here again before another year goes by…

My favorite image of this hike

As my wife Shannon has said, there is a special place in hell for fickle bloggers, and I suppose I’ll be spending at least some of eternity there. It’s been a busy year, and suddenly I realized that I had multiple sets of photos sorted out to go with blog posts that I never got around to finishing and posting. So, I’ll throw this one out there, and try to catch up with the others later. You can see the rest of my pictures from this trip here.


After a few years of trying in vain to shoot a deer in the thick, dense rainforest that I live in, I started yearning for a little more open country to hunt in, and started thinking of making a trip to the east side of the state to hunt mule deer. There is a special “High Buck Hunt” in Washington every September, in which you can hunt only in select wilderness areas. I had been looking at the Glacier Peaks Wilderness area maps, and when I found out that my neighbor Levi was also thinking along the same lines, we decided to do a little recon trip up there to see what it was like.


When I was in high school, I did quite a bit of backpacking, with the Boy Scouts and with the outdoor education program at Charles Wright Academy. And the last time I went backpacking was probably in 1982 or 83. So, there were a few issues to be concerned about. Much of my gear was from the seventies and early eighties, and not very light weight, my boots are not really backpacking boots, I am not exactly in tip-top backpacking condition, AND I decided that I might as well take a rifle and a bear tag, in case we found a bear that looked good. Oh, and a spotting scope and folding tripod, and a few other things here and there…

After a long drive up through Seattle and out over Stevens Pass, and a short time driving a few miles down the wrong Forest Service dirt road, we finally made our first night’s camp at the White River Falls campground, and the next morning, spent an hour and a half or so, repacking our bags, and leaving a bunch of stuff in the car. We finally got to the trailhead, loaded up and started walking around 10:30 AM.

Me, first time on a backpacking trip in 30 years...

Levi, ready to hike

The first few miles were along the White River, walking through some really beautiful old growth forest, and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and biting flies. Eventually, we stopped at this crossing of Boulder Creek to put on some vile bug juice, and for Levi to tend to his blisters, since he had a pair of boots that didn’t fit quite right.

tending blisters

A little ways past this crossing, we came to the junction where the Boulder Pass trail #1562 takes off of the main White River trail #1507. There was a large group of tents there at the junction; we later talked to some kids who were on a trip that had been horse packed in and was camping there at the junction.

bear sign

As soon as we left the White River behind and started working our way up the switchbacks, the work suddenly got a lot harder, but the annoying insects started to subside as well. Part way up this hill, at about 3500′ elevation, I “hit the wall” as they say, and ended up stashing all my hunting gear in the brush, so I could shed about 25# of weight. It did get easier after that, and we made it up to the campsite in the trees at 4000′ in short order. We checked out the river crossing beyond the campsite, filled water bottles, and I dropped my pack at camp and went back down for the hunting kit, and brought it up.

lower campsite

first view of the upper basin

We camped there that night, and I ate a freeze dried backpacking meal for the first time since I was about 17 years old. The only deer we saw in person while we were up there showed up at our campsite soon after we settled in. It turned out she was very interested in the salt that we left behind wherever we had peed.

camp deer

The next day we decided to get ourselves up to Boulder Pass and have a look around. I packed up optics and the rifle and butchering tools in case we ran across a bear, and we headed up. I started out wearing my crocs, and carrying my boots on the pack.


the upper campsite

We went astray after crossing a snow field, and couldn’t easily find the trail on the other side. We knew we needed to start gaining elevation, so we started looking on the high side, and eventually found a trail, although it was much more overgrown than what we had been using. After a few hundred yards we saw “boulder pass” and an arrow pointing the way painted on a boulder, so we figured we were on the right track. But this was an old, unmaintained trail, and we ended up bushwhacking up through some timber, coming across the trail from time to time, but eventually we lost it altogether. Along the way, I finally had to put my boots on, as the crocs were not up to the task anymore. We came out way up high, and in a steep, open meadow, which we crossed, and up above we found the remains of the old trail, headed in the direction we wanted to go.

climbing up along the old trail

red algae on the snow pack

We crossed some more snow, but eventually made it back to the regular trail, just below the pass. At the pass itself, we had one more chunk of thick icy snow to cross and climb over, and then we were standing on the pass itself, looking down into Napeequa Valley.

Napeequa Valley

Napeequa Valley

Napeequa Valley

We sat up there, had lunch and drank our Fort George beers after cooling them in the snow. We played around with the spotting scope, boggled at the scale of the Napeequa Valley, and then finally headed back down to camp, coming across some marmots, and finding our way on the regular trail.

Fort George beer at 6300'

Looking into the Napeequa


looking down the valley

The next day, we decided that we should move back down to the campsite at the trail junction and look for a bear down below. We hadn’t seen any ripe berries, or fresh bear sign near where we were, and we thought the berries might be better down by the river.

Boulder Creek

When we got down to the intersection of the trails, though, the big group was still camped there, and we decided to just pack out to the car, have a break in town, and then go check out the surrounding area. We ran into a group of young people headed in on the trail near the bottom, and one of the guys was clearly VERY bothered by the fact that I was carrying a rifle. The other three seemed friendly enough, but about a half hour later, they passed us headed right back OUT again. Apparently, we had ruined that guy’s day, and he wanted to get far away from us, and apparently, any place that we had even been.

at the pass

We stopped by the USFS office in Leavenworth, hoping to find some more specific information about trails, and which ones allowed pack animals and which did not. The woman at the desk HAD a booklet that had all that information in it, but she said there were no more copies available when I asked to buy one. Apparently, the FS did not have a budget to print any more copies. We purchased a few maps, but generally, we got very little in the way of useful information, and the women working in the office seemed beleaguered and not well equipped to answer most of our questions.

After a burger and a beer in town, we headed out the Icicle Creek road, to the very end, where we camped just inside the wilderness boundary at the trailhead. Every single FS campsite on the Icicle Road was operated by a for profit company, and even just a simple tent site seemed expensive to me, especially considering how crowded with RVs many of the campgrounds were. We were happy to pitch our tents in the woods just off the trail for free.

There were LOTS of ripe thimbleberries here, and signs that bears had been there recently, so I stayed up until sunset with the rifle, wandering around and looking for a bear. About an hour after dark, and with me almost asleep, I could hear the bears moving around in the berries, about 50 yards away….

Svea 123 stove

When I got home, tired and a little sore, I gathered up all my gear and weighed it. It turns out that AFTER we ate a bunch of food, burned some stove fuel and drank our beers, my pack and rifle still weighed 65 pounds. That sure did explain my sore hips and shoulders! Since then, I’ve been sorting through gear, setting aside the stuff that we didn’t end up using, and replacing a few of the heavier items with more modern, lightweight gear. I now have a couple of small, titanium pots that weigh less than half of what the pots I carried weigh. For now, though, I’m sticking with the Svea 123 stove, as it’s compact, simple and reliable, relatively light weight, and I already own it. There’s still a lot of weight shedding I need to do, both from my gear, and from my midsection. But it was a great trip, and my love of backpacking has been rekindled after 30 years of dormancy.

devil's club

Ultimately, I want to get this particular set of gear down to something more like 35-40# with food. And Levi is in the same boat, in addition to needing to replace his boots. We just talked a couple of days ago, and decided that we aren’t ready for this hunt, this month. But, with a year to get ready, and a better idea of what we’re dealing with, we’ll be ready next fall for sure, and in the meantime, I’m going to apply the lightweight, bivouac style camping to my local deer and elk hunting this fall.

paintbrush flower of some kind

The year is nearly over now, so here’s another lengthy blog post to catch up.


There was still a weekend of classes left at the Lumpy Waters Symposium after the Friday surf class that my previous blog post covered. On Saturday, Karl and I taught a class for beginners to get used to rock gardening, and rescuing each other in that environment, and we got to play in a little surf at the end of the day, too. The mouth of the Salmon River in Oregon is a really, really beautiful place. I will definitely go back there again sometime.

getting out

On Sunday, Amanda I and I led a small group of beginners on a trip to the Three Arches Rocks at Oceanside. There was a strong northwest swell and a building north wind, so we stayed on the south side of the rocks, but we did get to check out the largest arch, and get a little taste of the swell and wind.

checking out the big arch

Once the last Road Scholar trip of the year was over, I moved into the early deer season and started hunting every afternoon. I actually took a shot at a deer this year, for the first time ever, but missed. Mostly, what I brought home every day was chanterelles, which were plenty tasty, but not venison!


I also hunted all eleven days of elk season this year, and got close to elk a few times, but not close enough to see my way to a good shot, and I ended the elk season empty handed, too, except for some great pictures and more chanterelles.


Next year, for elk season, I’m putting together a small posse, instead of going it alone again. It’s nearly impossible to push an elk towards you, when you’re hunting alone.

Devil's Club

busy beavers were here

I hunted all four days of late deer season, too, but got faked out by an older, smarter buck, who waited for me to sneak past him, and then doubled back around behind me and vanished. I guess that’s why he’s a four point now.


Looking down at Skamokawa valleys

smoked turkey

We went to Seattle again for Thanksgiving, and for fun, we took the ferry over to Bremerton on the way home.

downtown Seattle

The weekend after Thanksgiving is when the Solstice Forge Hammer-In is every year, with good food, beer and coal fired fun.

Solstice Forge Hammer-In, November 26, 2011

The timber company that owns the land behind me sent a crew in this fall to clean ditches and maintain roads. They took out a bunch of alder along the road where it passes through my land, so I borrowed the Farmi logging winch from my neighbor Krist and spent a few afternoons bucking and skidding firewood logs into a pile in the pasture. I think I may have about four or five cords of firewood there when I get it all split and stacked. I sure love the Farmi winch. Someday I need to own one of these.

Tractor Logging with the Farmi winch


Tractor and Farmi logging winch

Way back last February, when Alice and I were on our way back from visiting colleges, my beloved, well-worn Subaru started making horrible engine noises, and when I got home, I parked it with the suspicion that it had a timing belt pulley going bad.

I ended up driving the Mercedes all summer, and putting the Subaru on the back burner, but then in early November, Shannon flipped and totaled her Toyota when she hit some black ice on KM Mountain. I ended up giving her the Mercedes to get back and forth to town, and finally was forced into dealing with the Subaru.

Bad bearing

It turned out I was right about the timing belt, and a couple of days and $300 later, I had my Subaru back on the road again. I am so happy to have this car back, with its ipod capable stereo, heavy duty roof rack, working cruise control and all wheel drive. Yay!

new timing belt


It’s been a very busy summer this year, and I’ve fallen far out of the habit of updating this blog. But as fall and winter hours are approaching, I’ve been thinking more about it. Then when an Elderhostel client mentioned last week that she had actually read my blog, I decided I’d better update it. When I logged in, I realized that my long out of date WordPress software was now rendering unsightly error messages, so this morning I finally sat down and installed the latest version, and now all is well again.

Some updates:

Alice is off to college. She finally chose Lewis and Clark College in Portland. We took her over there in August and set her up in her dorm along with about 700 other new freshmen moving in all at once. What excitement! We’ve already been to see the first theater production, only a month after school started.

Shannon and Opal moved out of the house in town after all this time, and moved back in here in Skamokawa. Some remodeling was in order and honestly, this worn out old mobile home could use a LOT more. But, it is what it is. All this change got me to get back out into the shop again and start cleaning and remodeling that space, so I have an office and “man-cave” again.


I bought a tractor! After all these years of borrowing tractors, I finally had to admit that I had an ongoing and frequent need for a tractor in my life, so we applied for a loan at the credit union and I went out and bought this awesome Yanmar 3220D diesel 4WD tractor, and a couple of mowers. I still need to find a tiller, though.

Buoy 14

I had a decent summer salmon season this year, keeping several kings and silvers, and catching fish nearly every time I went out. I also went to Brian’s “MAN-TITS” event down in Oregon, where we launched our kayaks into the ocean and fog at daybreak and spent hours trying to catch king salmon from the kayaks. Two were actually hooked and lost, but not by me. No, instead of a salmon, what I hooked, and finally released, was a very annoyed sea lion. Wish I had some pics, but I was a little busy at the time…



This year was the fifth and final Lower Columbia Kayak Roundup, here on Puget Island. It was the biggest and best yet, and according to some, the most jam packed BCU symposium that has ever been held in North America. I finally got my L2 Coach assessment done, passed the Moderate Water Endorsement and took my first Five Star prerequisite, the Open Water Navigation class. I also got to co-teach the three day Sea Paddler Training course at Ilwaco and Seaside.

Sea Paddler Training, Loco Roundup 2011

Sea Paddler Training, Loco Roundup 2011


The weekend after all of that BCU stuff and assessments was over, I led a short coastal play trip back at Ilwaco. It was pretty choppy and fun, and we ended up not traveling a great distance, instead just playing around the base of the cliffs at Cape Disappointment, under the lighthouse. Taking video in these conditions was a bit challenging…

In other kayaking news, Ginni and I are importing and selling Flat Earth kayak sails, and I’ve been playing with them on the river every chance I get. Super fun, and catching and surfing wind waves got way easier when I put a sail on the kayak!

Sailing kayaks on the Columbia River

Not only have I fallen behind in the world of blogging, but I have also gotten pretty backed up in processing and posting photography on my Flickr page. For one thing, my Pentax W60 is finally starting to give me troubles, after three years of nearly continuous, hard use. It seems that I’ve worn out the shutter button, so now I’m scraping together some dough to replace it. What did keep me taking pictures for a while this summer, though, was my new iPhone. Silly, I know. I got the phone so that we could charge credit cards using the new Square app, saving us a lot of money in bank fees with the old merchant account. What I hadn’t counted on was how big the world of cool and useful apps was. The Hipstamatic camera app has been super fun to play around with, and I’ve been surprised at the quality of pictures I’ve been able to take with it.




fish head


I have a few more days left of paid kayaking work in the next couple of weeks, and then hunting season will be here, and I’ll be out crawling around in the woods in the rain, looking for deer and then elk. Stay tuned for that adventure, maybe this will be the year that I finally get some meat in the freezer.

The Powwow at the End of the World
By Sherman Alexie

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam and topples it.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam downriver from the Grand Coulee.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific and causes all of it to rise.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon waiting in the Pacific.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors of Hanford.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire which will lead all of the lost Indians home.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours; the third story will give us reason to dance.

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Sherman Alexie, “The Powwow at the End of the World” from The Summer of Black Widows. Copyright © 1996 by Sherman Alexie.
Source: The Summer of Black Widows (Story Line Press, 1996)

cat and water

Ah, March. In like a lamb, and out like a lion, at least this year, anyway!

March is one of my favorite months, for a lot of different reasons. For one, my birthday is in March, and has almost always been accompanied by blooming daffodils, and, by the end of the month, trilliums are also blooming in the woods.


And for another, it is when I usually start fishing for springers. I have made a tradition out of starting on my birthday, but I usually don’t see much action until the end of the month, or later. I got my first strike while trolling yesterday, but it didn’t stick, and that was all the springer excitement I’ve had so far this year.

Dynamic Water training

It’s also when I start getting the first kayaking work of the year. I usually have a custom tour of some kind in early March, and this year was no exception. Andrew had someone sign up for one of his Gray’s Bay tours, but his broken foot was still healing, so I took the tour. That turned out to be the same weekend that Jukka Linnonmaa from Kayak Finland came to visit, so he came along with us. It was a beautiful day, as was much of early March, and we made it all the way to Knappton and back.

Jukka and Me at Altoona

Jukka stayed with Don and Kitty at the Inn at Crippen Creek Farm, and showed us slides of some of his paddling travels after dinner. He’s been paddling in a lot of the places that I want to go paddling, like Japan!

The next day he asked to borrow a kayak, and since my other plans for the day had fallen through, I decided to go paddling with him, too; he and Andrew and I paddled to Altoona and back, about 20 miles. On a beach downriver from Skamokawa, Andrew made an incredible find: fossilized teeth and a piece of jawbone from a Pleistocene era horse of some kind. Besides bringing us this amazing good luck, Jukka was great company, gifted me a beautiful Finnish knife, and sold Andrew one of his digital cameras and a waterproof case for a song.

fossil teeth and jawbone

Columbia River Kayaking also held a leadership scenarios training day for Josh and Katie this month, has been busy getting ready for the first of this year’s Exploritas programs, which starts this coming Sunday, and we cleaned up the paddle center in preparation for the upcoming kayaking season, even as we await some kind of news from the bank regarding the future of Skamokawa Center.

high tide at number 35

In between all of this, and occasionally getting up before dawn to go fishing, I overhauled the home website for Red Alder Ranch, cleaning up the appearance a bit, and getting rid of some old, irrelevant pages. I still need to finish updating the links page, but it looks better than it did!

Springer fishing sunrise

I’ve also been engaged in some spring cleaning on a larger, and less “virtual” scale, clearing away some old trucks and boats that are no longer useful, and endeavoring to clean up my shop so that I can work on a couple of boatbuilding projects that have been brewing for a while. Stay tuned for that.

My old, mostly faithful Toyota 4×4 left today, on its way to a new life with a group of young Mexican guys down in Portland. It was actually a little bit sad. That truck was my daily driver for years when I lived down in California. But it’s been sitting in my pasture since 2004, with a jammed up timing chain, and I finally admitted to myself that I really wasn’t going to get around to rebuilding the engine anytime soon, and it was time to move it on.

Toyota truck in the weeds

As if by magic, almost as soon as I started clearing out old projects and cleaning the place up a bit, my good friend Scott emailed to say that he wanted to give me his ’68 GMC pickup, as it was time for him to move it on. What can I say? Nature abhors a vacuum, I guess. I’ll be going up to Seattle sometime soon to pick it up.

Spring Chinook nigiri

Levi did catch a springer the other day, and gave me a piece of it. I cooked some up for dinner one night, but saved the rest of it for some springer nigiri. It was as delicious as it looks!

young hemlock

When I was a kid, I was really, really into fishing, and somewhere along the way, I picked up subscriptions to Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines. I read the hunting articles with gusto as well, and used to read all the outfitters’ ads in the back, imagining what it would be like to hunt javelina in Arizona or moose in Alaska. But hunting was not something that my family did, not my parents’ generation anyway.

My dad had an old Winchester model 94 rifle, chambered in obsolete .32 Winchester Special. When I finally got to be a teenager, and had been through hunter safety training at Boy Scout camp (in direct contravention to my mother’s orders to stay away from the rifle range), I was allowed to at least handle this rifle, and I used to take it out of the cabinet and clean it. It was in pretty rough shape though, with lots of copper fouling and crud. I don’t think it had been cleaned since sometime in the early fifties, if then.

But I never knew any adults who hunted, and so it pretty much slipped off the list of things to think about. When I lived in Northern California, one year I went looking for a wild turkey for Thanksgiving, having read a small book about turkey hunting. They were everywhere in that neighborhood, but I wasn’t able to find the flock that day until I had tramped all over about 300 acres of land. When I finally came across them, there they were, on the other side of the fence where my hunting permission stopped.

pack and rifle

When I moved back to Washington, I started fishing again, and pretty much had to teach myself how to catch salmon, since that was also something that I didn’t learn from my family. I had a pretty frustrating first season, first not hooking any fish, and then hooking and losing them, but I eventually figured it out. For the past three years, I’ve been talking about getting a hunting license, too, since I live surrounded by elk, deer, grouse and bear, but I would always get caught up in other activities and, since hunting would require a steep learning curve, I would let it slide.

This year, though, I finally decided it was time to do something about it. I dragged out some of my brother’s rifles that are stored here, and ended up selecting the SVD Tiger/Dragunov as the closest thing to an elk rifle that I had, and I went and bought a license, my first one ever. I spent a few days during early deer season scouting around behind my land here, and the first day I went out, I jumped a small buck in thick alder and brush. He was up and out of there so fast I didn’t have a chance to shoot. I spent the next couple of days trying to find him again, but with no luck.

timbered slope

When elk season started, I went over to the forest behind Andrew’s place, where there was a lot more elk sign than at my place. I spent several days, getting into the woods at dawn and hunting until afternoon. I had a great time, and covered a lot of territory that I had never seen before, including a nice stand of second growth timber, which is not all that common around here anymore.

I quickly figured out a few things, mostly about noise, and moving quietly. Almost all my clothes are noisy, my pack is noisy, and especially the rifle is noisy. The safety is very stiff and loud, the plastic stock makes loud noises every time it brushes up against anything, and it is covered with sharp, angular protrusions that are uncomfortable against your body and tend to snag up on every little twig or branch.

I ended up putting this rifle away, cleaning out the piggy bank and buying a “proper” deer rifle, a used Marlin 336 lever action rifle, in .35 Remington. It is SO much nicer to carry!

For days of elk hunting, these old bones were as close as I got to an elk.

elk vertabrae

One of the best things I got out of hunting this year though, was learning the area behind my land at a level of detail that I did not know before. I found two different ways to walk up to the next network of logging roads on the ridge that lead all the way over to Oatfield road, where Andrew and Audrey and the Speranzas live, and was able to drive (just barely!) from that side all the way up to the top, where the ridge is only about as wide as the road and you could look into Middle valley on one side and over to the marsh below my house on the other side. GPS waypoints and Google maps are awesome tools.

On the last day of elk season, I was hunting in the clearcut behind my place, and jumped a blacktail buck out of his bed. He walked about 30 yards up towards the timber, and I stopped, sat down and pulled out the binocs. He stopped about 100 yards away, and stood there, perfectly broadside to me, and just watched me. If only it was deer season!

I came back for the four days of late deer season, looking for this buck every day, and never saw him again. The weather was rainy and sometimes very windy, and the deer stayed hunkered down and out of sight. The day after deer season closed, I went up to the clearcut again, and found the buck’s fresh tracks going right up the middle of one of the logging roads, right out in the open. They’re not dumb, those deer.

do you see the buck?


Well, here it is, almost Halloween and more than three months since I last posted anything! It has been a busy season, and I just haven’t felt very organized about blogging and posting pictures to Flickr. I have to admit, Facebook has absorbed a good deal of the time and energy I have for blogging and social interaction on the computer, but I am not ready to give up the blog just yet. So here’s a somewhat long update.

Pelicans at Buoy Ten

Salmon fishing this year was incredible. Almost every time I went out, everyone on the boat limited. One day Brian and Lisa and I went out in the ocean and kept six fish in under an hour, and put back five natives. It was about as hot as I have ever seen it. I smoked and froze a bunch of fish and when it got to be too much fish to have time to smoke it all, I vacuum packed and froze fillets instead.


In August, we held the Loco Roundup kayak symposium on Puget Island again. After a whole lot of last minute wrangling and logging approved training hours, I took the BCU four star sea kayak assessment, and passed. This is something I have been trying to get done for almost a year and a half, and it finally came together this summer. It was a two day, on the water assessment, leading a group of paddlers near Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River. I was so focused on the task at hand, that it was only later I realized that I hadn’t taken a single picture for two days. But I did take pictures during the training sessions, and that’s where this picture is from.

Cape D

I also passed the three star canoe assessment, and took the new Level Two coaching class. With luck, a lot of hours practicing, and piles of paperwork, I might be ready to take that assessment next spring. I helped Ginni with two BCU assessments this year, one of them was a new two star with canoes and one was a three star assessment with candidates from three countries, speaking two different languages.

Canoe fun

navigation project

At the end of August, Shannon and I went to see Al Green at the Edgefield. Does Al Green still have it goin’ on? Yes, he certainly does…

Al Green at the Edgefield, August 28, 2009

Near the beginning of September, Columbia River Kayaking got the news that we will be allowed to run our own Elderhostel programs here next year, without the need for a middleman like we had this year. This will allow us more direct control over our interaction with Elderhostel and we will keep more money in the bank at the end of the day as well.

pilings and kayaks

Oh, and Elderhostel, for reasons I cannot fathom, decided this year to change the name that it has spent 25 years building brand recognition around. Apparently there is a sizable piece of the over-55 demographic that found the word “elder” to be offensive. The new name, which I might never get used to, is Exploritas. I’m sure there were many interesting committee meetings involved in that decision…

smooth water

Skamokawa Center continues to languish in limbo, though. There had been a foreclosure auction scheduled for October 2nd, but the day before, Greg and his LLCs filed for bankruptcy, which automatically shielded him from the foreclosure action. The auction was rescheduled for Friday, November 13th. Heh, heh, heh….

Sunrise in Port Townsend

The well ran dry this year. There was not enough August rain to keep it full for the whole dry season. I carried water for about three weeks, which isn’t too bad compared to other years. One year I hauled water for something like 80 days. Unfortunately, it always runs out just at the time that there are fish to clean and process…

the well

It was a great year for food preservation. For the first time in a long time, I was very organized and persistent in keeping on top of all the food that was showing up this year. Besides fish, berries were also in abundance and I made a lot of jam. And when Ginni left for Mexico, we had a big garden gleaning day at the farm and hauled away bags and boxes of produce, including an IKEA bag half full of jalapenos. I pickled a bunch of those, and Shannon and I made some jalapeno relish, and I have a big tray of roasted ones sitting here that I need to finish putting in jars tonight. I still have to get in the rest of the apples from here and Ginni’s place.


All of that food, plus the fact that I’ve been really broke this year led me to break ground on a new garden. I haven’t been willing to go all out with gardening here, since the water is not all that reliable, but I have been reading Steve Solomon’s “Gardening When it Counts” and setting this garden up with his minimalist irrigation plan in mind. Basically, you give each plant more space, and then relentlessly weed out any competitors for the water. I borrowed Krist’s tractor and tiller attachment and tilled up a space about 40×60 feet, and then made nine, five foot wide beds out of it. I planted three beds to garlic and the rest to cover crops for now. Fencing is next.

new garden

This will be the biggest garden I’ve grown since I lived in Salmon Creek, in 2000.

garden beds

This is also the first year I have purchased a hunting license. I didn’t grow up with hunting, so I never really learned anything about it, but I have had deer and bear in my yard this fall, and there are always elk around here, too. Last year, we bought a quarter of a local steer for the freezer, and spent several hundred dollars on that. It was delicious, and it’s nice to support local folk who are growing local meat. We bought a half a hog this year from Crippen Creek Farm. But I sure would like to put an elk or a bear in the freezer, too. We’ll see how that goes. With hunting season in mind, I’ve been sifting through the armory here, looking for an adequate elk rifle. I’ve been shooting my brother’s Dragunov rifle, but I haven’t been able to set it up on a bench and sight it in properly yet. It seems to shoot a little low and to the left. My practically new Browning shotgun might actually get put to use this year, too, since grouse are abundant around the land here and they are open until the end of December.

Dragunov SVD Tiger

I should have put up more firewood this year. I did a lot of work in the woods here this summer, making tractor trails so I can access the stands of trees there. But what I pulled out in that process is still only a cord or so, and three cords is more like what I use in a season here. No doubt I will actually end up purchasing a cord or two this year. I’ll get back in there in the spring to pull out another batch of logs to inoculate with Shiitake mushrooms.

alder logs


So, a couple of weeks back Brian and I got around to milling up those logs we dragged out of the Nehalem River last winter. Brian is getting ready to build himself a cabin, so most of the lumber stayed with him, but I did keep some nice clear spruce for planking a dinghy that I hope to build one of these days. Unfortunately, somebody stole the other raft of nice cedar that we had tied up in the river; when Brian set out to move it to the boat ramp the night before I got there, all he found was a couple of pieces of rope, cut short, hanging at the side of the river where our logs had been. Those were the nicest of all the cedar we had, too. Grrr…..

cutting cedar

When we got to the huge log, we couldn’t load it onto the mill in one piece, so we set up to rip it lengthwise with the chainsaws first. Brian wanted to try out the big Husqvarna 372, so once I got the cut started, I handed off the saw to him. Here he is, handing me a small piece of metal that he saw laying on top of the log. “Hey, is this part of your saw?” he asked. I took it from him and looked at it while he kept cutting. In another moment, just as I recognized it as a piece of a needle bearing, the saw made a horrible clanking noise, and started throwing sparks everywhere. Brian shut it off, and I found that the clutch had flown to pieces, taking out the bar oil pump on its way out.

"hey, is this part of your saw?"

We finished the cut with Brian’s smaller Stihl; fortunately the cut was already more that halfway through the thickness of the log. My Husky is currently at the shop in Longview, awaiting repairs…

Here’s Brian, pretending to have ripped this mighty log with a 14″ Echo tree service saw.

mighty log slayer

Brian and big log

Wherever there is fresh lumber being sawn, you will soon find a host of various insects, attracted by the strong smell of wood. This is some kind of bark beetle, which there were several dozen of all over this log as I cut it up.


The last log in the stack got made into big beams for Brian’s cabin, which neither one of us was very excited about lifting and carrying to the stack at that point. I loaded up the little bit of clears that I kept and headed home. Brian is probably in the middle of building his cabin right now. Next up for me is the task of building Alice a Greenland style kayak. I just started tonight, and will be posting pictures and comments soon.

growth rings