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?


seeds!

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.


Coho

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.


blackberries!

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


rocks

Summer is flying by, and I’ve had little time to spend processing photos and blogging. So here’s a quick handful of pictures from this summer.

I do love fireworks, and I can get some really good ones right down the road in Cathlamet. The dog, however, does not think so highly of fireworks…


fireworks!

I went out one day and sat in the skiff for an hour in a place I had never tried fishing in before, and brought home this nice summer chinook.


early summer Chinook

Way back in April, I took Forbes magazine reporter Rebecca Ruiz out kayaking on the river here. She wrote this article that came out in the July 13 edition, and featured a few of my photos.


forbes screenshot

Raspberries have been really prolific this year, and for once, I have been staying on top of making jam as they get ripe. So far I’ve canned 18 pints of raspberry jam.


jammin'

Alice and I took a 20 mile skiff ride up to Ginni’s place on the island and back. It was fun, and since Cathlamet has a dock, we even stopped and grabbed some groceries on the way home. I love river life.


skiff ride

This is the gate to my little patch of forest. The grass gets really tall now that the sheep are gone.


gate

We got a bunch of coho salmon from the Astoria based trolling vessel “Little John”, and we smoked it.


salmon ready to smoke

Elderhostel programs have been humming along; here’s a picture of one of the intergenerational Elderhostel kids at Rocky Point.


Anna at Number 7, Gray's Bay

The feral bunnies still come in the yard and eat my kale, and dig in my beds.


backyard bunny

Wapato was a staple food for the native people here. It grows in the mud in the freshwater tidal sloughs and bays around here, and when properly cultivated and maintained, it produces an edible tuber, similar to a potato. Here’s some wapato underwater at high tide.


wapato

Chatterbox orchid (Epipactis Gigantea) grows on the abandoned pilings around here.


Chatterbox Orchid

We just got back from SSTIKS 2009 last night, and both Alice and I slept late today. It was a great weekend, made even more amazing by the fact that for the first time in a couple of years, it did not rain! It was mostly sunny and warm, and the water was warmer than I remember it ever being at SSTIKS. Warm water, though, means happy algae and we had to contend with some really yucky masses of smelly, orange algae blooms, especially when the tide got low.


John Pederson

The big highlight for SSTIKS this year was the presence of John Pederson and his son Lars, from Ilulissat, Greenland. John actually hunts seals from a kayak, which is what they were intended for in the first place, and anyone who got to take one of his strokes classes got to practice silent paddling and sneaking up on seals, which showed up as if on cue. His son Lars joined the kids’ games, and was an aggressive dead fish polo player.


Alice and her new kayak

Alice finally got to paddle her new kayak for the first time, too. It looks nice! Only a few people were able to fit in it though, and I will be loosening up the fit a little to make it more comfortable. It is a pretty snug fit, even on Alice.


kid's games

As usual, I spent a good deal if time with the kids’ sessions, playing games and getting all wet. Also, as usual, my drysuit started its annual summer leakage this weekend as well, but this time, I am going to try to repair it myself, rather than send it in. Wish me luck!


kid's games

We held an informal rolling competition, too, and although I’ve been feeling sore and inflexible and out of practice lately, I was talked into competing by Mckinley and Dubside. I missed several that I normally hit every time, but I was surprised to find myself not at the bottom of the points spread after all. I really need to do more yoga, and spend more time in tight fitting kayaks, though. Sadly, none of the pictures I took of the rolling came out very well; the lens was covered with water on almost every one.


kid's games

A couple of kayaks that Maligiaq Padilla built were there for a little while on Saturday, and I got a chance to scope out some construction details on those.


kayaks


qajaq frame detail

And Brian from Cape Falcon brought a beautiful East Greenland replica frame to donate to the fundraising auction. A lengthy bidding war ensued….


Evan trying on the East Greenland frame


auctioning the kayak frame

The salmon for the Saturday night dinner came fresh from the Copper River this year, and was delicious.


salmon!

Unfortunately for me, I came to SSTIKS without any spare camera batteries and my Pentax battery was almost dead when I got there, so I did not get nearly as many pictures as I would have hoped for, but there are more on my Flickr page here.

Every year I am reminded again how lucky I am to live near this event; I can hardly wait until next year!


Michael in Alice's kayak

After a few trials and a tribulation or two, Alice’s kayak is finally finished.


finished qajaq

When I last posted, I had a finished and oiled frame. I still had a piece of fabric left from when I ordered materials for my last kayak a couple of years ago. I dug out the fabric, bought a couple of rolls of dental floss and set up the kayak frame at the paddle center one night, and proceeded to sew the skin on.


interior view

The zig zag stitch on the inside of the skin tightens the skin considerably and I went through this stitch several times, taking out more slack each time. Finally, I decided, wrongly as it turned out, that the skin was fully tightened and I stitched up the center seam. After such adventures with the woodworking part, it was sad to see the frame get all covered up in bright white fabric…

A couple of days later, I mixed up some acid based dye powder in some vinegar and water, and dyed the fabric what I was thinking would be a grayish brown. And the skin suddenly sagged and loosened…. a LOT. I went to the paddle center to get the iron, but when I got back the sun and the wind had dried the fabric somewhat and it tightened up again. I used the heat gun on some of the worst of the wrinkles left behind, and went to bed, planning to take it to Brian’s shop the next day to put the polyurethane on.

In the morning, it had loosened again, even worse than the first time, but I thought it still might be salvageable if I could shrink it back up again. So I loaded it up and headed down to Brian’s to put the coating on, a part that I didn’t enjoy much the last time I built a kayak. I also didn’t remember the details very well either, and wanted to put it on where Brian was handy to yell at me if I did something boneheaded.

I coated the skin, but it was so loose by now as to make it impossible to get a decent finish on, or to get the excess off. By now, I knew I was going to be reskinning this boat at some point. I thought about it overnight, and the next morning went back to Brian’s, begged a new and different fabric off of him and came home to cut off the newly installed skin.


sewing up skin

Eight hours later, I had the new skin sewed on, with the coaming installed and fabric dyed and drying. This fabric was much nicer to work with; I was able to keep the skin almost perfectly wrinkle free, and it stayed that way.


ready to coat

It took a couple of hours to put the coating on the bottom of the hull. The next morning, I found that the edge had dripped a little in spite of having masked it off with tape, and there was a little haze in the coating, telling me that I left it on a little thick. I shaved off the worst bubbles with a razor and then coated the deck. I did this out in the sun and wind, and it dried pretty quickly, although I did catch a number of mosquitoes and other bugs.


finished qajaq

As soon as it was dry enough to handle, I put the deck lines and fittings on. The toggle and beads are caribou antler, that I purchased in the silent auction at SSTIKS a few years ago.

I have a set of brand new float bags for it, and a Snapdragon spray skirt to fit as well. It’s finished!


qajaq


finished qajaq


frame

I have been making noises for a while now about building a Greenland style qajaq to fit my daughter Alice. She has paddled my Romany, but that is a big clunky boat on her. SSTIKS is coming up soon, and one of the best ways I have to motivate myself to finish projects like this is to have a deadline. With that in mind, and a chance to put the final coat of polyurethane goop on the skin at Brian’s shop on Friday, under his expert gaze, I set aside this week to devote it almost entirely to building Alice’s qajaq. As of tonight, I have about 50 hours into this project, with another day and a half or so to skin and coat it, and it will be done in plenty of time to go to SSTIKS.


frame

I kept thinking I would break this process apart into several blog entries, but each night, when I stumbled into the house at 10:30 or later, ready for a beer and bed, blogging was never what was on my mind at that point. Now, I have the frame finished, and the time set aside to finish the rest, so I can take a little break and post some photos and comments.


frame

I did not set out in this case to replicate any particular qajaq. What I wanted was to build a qajaq that would end up about 15 feet long, 18 or 19 inches wide, and snug enough to be a good fit, Greenland style, on a 15 year old girl. I had a stack of books that helped me through this process; I mainly use Robert Morris and HC Peterson’s books for construction technique, and Harvey Golden’s masterpiece, “Kayaks of Greenland” as my guide to design and details.

I wanted to make a qajaq that fell generally within “Type V” or “Type VI” parameters, as described by Harvey. I ended up deciding to follow the Type VI description more specifically.

What I ended up with, for you qajaq nerds out there, is 14′ 9″ LOA, 19 1/4″ wide at the masik, and 5 3/4″ deep from the top of the keel to the underside of the masik. It should be a good fit on Alice, and might even turn out to be a decent “cheater” rolling boat for someone a little larger.


shaping the frame

I learned a few important lessons this week, as I always do with projects like this. One thing I did not realize when I started this project is that I had sold off all of my perfectly clear, matched sets of gunwale quality lumber. I did a lot of scrounging through the woodshed trying to find a pair of good sticks for the gunwales, and in the end, I came up with one pretty bendy quartersawn piece, and a much stiffer flatsawn piece. I knew that this would be challenging to make a good frame out of, but I didn’t quite realize just how challenging it would be. The first night after I got the lumber picked out and sawn to size, I even left a heavy brake drum hanging off of the stiff piece suspended between two sawhorses, hoping that would help. It didn’t do much, and it ended up taking a lot of careful lashing, shims and clamp ties to wrestle these two divergent pieces of wood into a mostly symmetrical frame. I ended up having troubles with my homemade mortising jig for the router, too, and buggered up a couple of my mortises, which also gave me headaches later.


shaping the frame

I eventually prevailed, though, and after I got the gunwales and deck beams bent and pinned into their basic shape, it was time to set up the masik, which is the piece that supports the front end of the coaming. In addition to the masik, I added another deck beam, the seeqqortarfiupo. This one supports the aft ends of the forward deck stringers, and provides a snugger fit on the thighs, which seems to make for easier rolling. I used clamps and battens, and a few hours of fiddling around to set up these important deck beams. I hope I got them right!


masik and coaming

One of the other problems I had was also related to the wood I had on hand, ironically, since I own a sawmill, and have no excuse… but the white oak I had to make bending stock for ribs out of was a little too dry, and had a lot of grain runout that did not make things too easy when it came to bending ribs. My first run at steam bending the ribs resulted in a pile of broken and almost broken pieces. I patched up the better ones with lashings, but the next morning I came out and tried again. The steamer seemed to get hotter that time, and I had much better luck.


broken ribs

When the qajaq gets exceptionally shallow, it helps the ribs fit easier, with less breakage, if you notch out the inboard side of the mortise. I wish I had done this sooner, and on more of the mortises, but better late than never.


rib joint

I fussed around with the chines quite a bit, too. If I put them too far apart, the boat would have tons of primary stability, but no secondary stability, and would be harder to balance brace and roll. But if I put them too close together, the boat could turn out to be uncomfortably tippy. I also used a string across the chines and keel to make sure that the skin wouldn’t touch any ribs, something I wish I had done on my last kayak project.


sheer line

One of things I love about building kayaks is that you don’t need a ton of space, or a lot of expensive tools. And you don’t need to be talented at furniture grade joinery either. This stuff, plus a drill, router and a couple of small shop power saws and a planer were all that I used. There is no metal in this craft either; the frame is held together with joinery, lashing with artificial sinew and seine twine, and pegs.


tools


lashed joinery

I finally got the frame nearly finished late last night. I was working away and caught myself brushing mosquitos off my arms with a sharp chisel in the brushing hand, and I realized it was time to quit. When I got in the house, I realized it was a quarter to midnight, and I had been at it since 1 PM. Once I got the frame mostly completed, I oiled it.

Nothing brings me the same kind of sensory joy that heating up a nice fragrant batch of “boat sauce” does. This is made from linseed oil, pine tar (you probably won’t find that at Home Depot!), turpentine and Japan dryer. I warm it up in a can on the propane burner in the shop and brush it on hot. Hours later I will come back and rub the frame down with a rag, and today I got to set it up in the sun and wind to finish drying.

All that remains now is to put the skin on and rig up the deck lines, and it will be ready to paddle. More later, when that part is done! For more photos of the construction process, you can check out my flickr set here.


masik

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.


beetle

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


all done

So, this is one of my other favorite things to do with salmon. Gravlax is basically cold cured salmon, and the recipe originated in Scandinavia, where so many of the interesting ways of preparing fish come from.

Start with a couple of small fillets. I usually use coho, but this year I saved a couple of fillets off of my spring chinook instead, since I couldn’t wait for coho season to have some of this delicious treat. I freeze the fillets for a few days to kill any parasites, since gravlax does not involve any cooking of the fish.

Thaw out your fillets and then rub them down with a light coat of olive oil, probably not an original Scandinavian ingredient, but what the heck. Then I usually rub them down with a little scotch whisky, but this time I used a little sake, since I am all out of good scotch. I usually grind a little bit of pepper on the fillets too.

Then mix up a cup of non-iodized canning salt and a cup of sugar, and put a thin layer of this in the bottom of a glass dish or pie pan. Lay the first fillet on this salt sugar mix, skin side down, and coat it well with more of the sugar/salt mixture. Put on a layer of thin slices of red onion. Cover that with a handful or two of fresh dill, and then another layer of onion slices.


Making Gravlax

Coat the other fillet with the sugar/salt mixture and lay that on top, skin side up, and then use the rest of the sugar/salt mixture to cover everything well. Cover it up and put the whole thing in the fridge, after admiring your work of course, and maybe having a shot or two of the scotch.


Making Gravlax

Twelve hours later, pull the dish out of the fridge. There will be a lot of brine now in the dish, from all the moisture that the salt has pulled out of the fillets. Using a spatula, turn the whole thing over, so the top fillet is now on the bottom. Use a spoon and pour the brine all over the whole assembly, admire your work again, and maybe repeat that scotch thing, too. Then return it to the fridge for another 12 hours.

This is what it looks like after 12 hours.


after 12 hours

When the second twelve hours is over, pull it out again and separate the fillets. Scrape off all of the salt and dill and onion, and wipe the fillets down with paper towels. Now they are ready to eat. Take thin slices off, at a shallow angle, and put them on rye crackers, with cream cheese and slices of fresh red onion, or toast, or bagels, or whatever you like. In the Sunset Magazine fish cookbook, where I first learned how to do this, there is a recipe for a delicious mustard sauce that you can put with the fish as well.

Bon appetit! You have just taken a couple of small salmon fillets, and a few dollars of other ingredients and made it into a delicacy that sells in the fancy delis for $30/pound or more, and yours is going to taste a lot better!


alder lumber

After many many weeks of no movement, I finally got the mill all put back together this week. I changed out the big drive side bearing, new up and down chains, new lumber scale and pointer, cleaned up the blade guides and put all new adjustment hardware on them.

I still have a little welding to do before it is all back in service, but after several hundred dollars and many hours of work later, I am making boards again. These boards are alder, from some logs I brought home from a neighbor’s house. Next stop is Brian’s shop, to mill up the logs we pulled out of the river this winter.


guide adjustments


blade guide

People are often surprised when I tell them I can my own fish. The first time I canned fish, it was albacore, in California, and the instructions we had to follow made it needlessly messy and complicated. So here is a little photo essay of how I can salmon at home.

WARNING! Please be aware that there are hazards to this activity, and some of the risks are worth noting and making a strong warning about. Canners, operating under pressure, can explode if misused or if the valves and other safety features are not working properly! Also, on some types of canners, there is a pressure release valve that should be tested every year. Failure to do that could create unsafe pressure levels in the canner, or, fail to reach the adequate temperature to produce safe food. Don’t rely on just my instructions here! Read a book, or better yet, the instruction manual with your canner! If you insist on doing something boneheaded and blowing yourself up, or canning up a nice crop of botulinum, well, don’t come crying to me. I told you so!

Enough said…


fish flesh

I like to use wide mouth, half pint jars. Pints are too big, I think, and half pints make a bite-sized, less imposing gift for the faint of heart. Cut the fish so as to fit in whatever size jar you use, and carefully pack it into each jar, as fully as you can without going over the top of the jar. Throw a pinch of salt on the top of each jar’s contents.


packed into jars

Then carefully wipe each jar’s sealing edge clean, and put a NEW lid on, with a ring and screw it down snug.


jars ready to go

My canner is pretty much the cream of the crop: an All American, aluminum model 921. It has a weighted pressure control, rather than a petcock. I like the weighted kind better, but don’t lose your weight! It’s a drag to have a canner full of fish starting to warm up and then realize that you can’t find the weight. This canner also has no rubber gasket, which can fail. It has a carefully machined fit lid, and you need to dog the lid down evenly and snugly. Pack the jars in the canner. Use one of these metal layer separators on the bottom too. Put a couple of inches of water in the bottom before you close it up!

Once you get the canner packed and sealed up, put it on the heat, and watch for when it starts to vent steam. Once you get a good head of steam coming out of the vent for 10 minutes, then either close the petcock, or put the weight on, using the 10 PSI setting whichever you use. When the pressure comes up to 10, then start the clock. I use an hour and fifty minutes at 10 PSI.

When the time is up, turn off the heat and let it cool off. I usually deal with it in the morning, so it is good and cold when I have to handle it. I check and clean each jar as it comes out and then label it with a pen on the lid. Done!

If I figure an eight ounce tin of hand canned fish might go for 6 or 7$ at the co-op, then my 12# fish is “worth” about $100-120 if I had to buy it at the store.


in the canner

And I’m not done. I decided on this fish to take a couple of small fillets to make gravlax out of. I usually use coho for that, and have never made gravlax from a springer before. Should be good!


fillets for gravlax

Last but not least, I take the head and fins and all the other scraps and put it in the dutch oven with a little butter and cook it up on the stove. Salmon cheeks….. mmmmm…


fish head