Sunday, November 3, 2013

Deer Hunt and Black Walnut Stout

I'll start by saying don't get your hopes up about the deer. We had a heck of a good time hunting above 8,000ft in the Sierra Nevada's, but the animals wee few and far between. This was the same story we heard from many hunters in this particular valley this year. Hunting is very unpredictable. Some years, a lack of food or strong weather, or many other factors will drive nearly all of the deer from one area and into another. Some years there is abundance everywhere you look. I have a feeling this year the deer had moved to lower elevation to intensively forage the incredible acorn crop...but that's just a hunch.

We did manage to have an excellent time hiking into our alpine camp by flashlight, slowly stalking through forest, meadow and open sage scrub, and yes, back at base camp, throwing the hatchet for a bit.

Dad, showing us how it's done.

When we left I was sure to fill up a gallon of fresh snow melt from an alpine stream for an upcoming brew...

I wish we'd had time to do a little fishing...I could hear the trout calling me in this spring.

Ron and Jesse came by the next weekend with some brew supplies, and we got cooking!

Ron cracked and cleaned the black walnuts I had foraged a week before while Jess and I started cooking the malt.

The plan was to make two brews; a one gallon experimental batch of ridiculously potent wheat beer and a one gallon experimental batch of black walnut Sierra Nevada spring water oatmeal stout (both with home grown cascade hops).

Cascade Hops from the family vine.

Black Walnut Snow Melt Oatmeal Stout

Potent Wheat Brew

We whipped up the concoctions (with fancy and not-so-fancy hats as it is tradition) and then moved outside to work on the cider.

We had four gallons of this year's organic heirloom golden delicious hard apple cider just waiting to be bottled.


It was a team effort, and by the end of the day we could happily sit back and admire the fruits of our labor.

Bottle Rack

Bottled Cider

Want to read more about the brews we made? Check out

Keep the old ways alive!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Swamp Lobster

"I went down to the river side, where the water flows all slow and wide,
waded out to the tule reeds to the place where the swamp lobstas feed.
Cast them lines out two by two, sat back an waited for you know who.
Patiently on that river bank, but when I pulled in my lines my heart sank!
I've got the swamp lob blues...I've got the swamp lob blues!"- Hillbillies
Alex and I got out for a little swamp lobster freediving. Alex was a natural and was slaying them!

Right off, we found two skateboards at the bottom...not cool! Littering is stupid, and as Alex and I discussed between breath holds, no self respecting skater would throw away a perfectly good board!

I had one crawdad attack my glove! Talk about guts huh?

When we got home we used a salt brine to help the swamp lobs clean themselves.


Once cooked, Alex got crackin'

This was one heck of a spread! We savored every bite!

Fur Tanning- Egg Yolk and Traditional Tools

“Some men hunt for sport, others hunt for food. The only thing I’m hunting for, is an outfit that looks good! See my vest! See my vest! Made from real gorilla chest! See this sweater? There’s no better, than authentic Irish setter!... Like my loafers, former gophers…”-Mr. Burns,  The Simpsons
What’s more hillbilly than eating squirrel? I suppose tanning squirrel pelts could qualify! My friend Naomi wanted to learn traditional hide tanning and as I have had a bit of experience with this technique and know how difficult it can be, I suggested we start small…really small! Luckily my waste-not-want-not forager mentality drove me to freeze a few squirrel pelts from earlier in the season, so we had plenty of materials to work with.
Hide tanning is one of the oldest hominid traditions and (in my opinion) art forms. As soon as our early ancestors started hunting, and perhaps even while still scavenging, they found uses for animal hides. If simply scraped and left to dry, animal skins are transformed into tough and resilient rawhide. This prized material has been used by cultures throughout the world for millennia for a variety of purposes from foot wear to ornate parfletch bags. At some point some brilliant ancestor realized that the application of animal brain or egg yolk coupled with vigorous stretching would produce a soft hide or fur that remained extremely flexible when dried. The genius ancestor or ancestors we have to thank for this technological innovation are unknown, but the tradition is still present. And this is the subject of today’s post.
The basic principles of fur tanning are simple. The hide is made up of millions of fibers that want to align and dry as stiff as a board (rawhide). By coating with mashed animal brain or egg yolk, the fibers are coated with oils. By agitating and stretching throughout the drying process, each fiber is coated with oil and cannot adhere to neighboring fibers. The result is a dry, soft and flexible fur. Next, the hide must be smoked for at least ½ hour to preserve the skin (helps keep away moths and mold). The beauty of a traditionally tanned fur is incomparable. And it is 100% organic. You could take your shirt off, throw it on the ground, and if it were to rot on the spot, flowers or berry bushes could grow out of it with no risk from harmful chemicals!
We started out scraping free the membrane layers with a hafted Altamira shale biface.
Next we applied egg yolk and laced it into a frame to begin stretching the skin.
Once dried (and very flexible) we sanded the remaining membrane from the hide with abrasive sandstone. This left the skin very smooth.
Finally we smoked the hide over a black walnut and sage fire.
This was a good and educational Saturday.
Interested in learning to tan furs yourself?
Check this out!
Keep the old ways alive!