Saturday, July 16, 2016

I've Had Nothing to Say

 I know that I've violated the first rule of blogging by not staying current on my blog posts. I suppose that at least once a week I should be posting something, hopefully entertaining or at least informative. However, I've found myself with nothing to say, or if I did have something to say, I don't have the time to say it; and if I did have the time to say it, the damn internet wasn't working anyway, so all that great commentary would be left to rot in my brain. I know that's not a very good excuse, but what the heck, it's not like I'm getting paid to do this thing. In fact it costs me money, which I don't mind so much. It provides me with an outlet to express myself, but like I mentioned, I really haven't had too much to say lately. I've been fishing more this year than I've done in ages. Unfortunately I don't get started too early anymore, so to escape feelings of extreme guilt, I stay out later, so that by the time I get home and have supper, it's pretty late and I don't really feel like doing anything. In any event, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. After fishing season it will be easier to start blogging on a more regular basis.... but what if I run out of things to write about? I've got very strong feelings about what is going on in the world right now, and I'm sure that I will be expressing those feelings somewhere down the pike, although I don't know what good it is to express my opinion. There's no shortage of people giving their opinions on the internet. Anyway, as I sit here, I'm getting tired. My gut is full of a cheeseburger that I had at Mary's Inn Chinese American restaurant. It's one of the few places that I know of where you can order a cheeseburger and fries and also a bento box at the same time. In any event, I wanted to touch base and let those of you who follow this blog know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. I'm going through a time of transition as I get older and have to face the fact that I don't have the energy I once did. I'll write more when I can. Meanwhile there are over 350 other posts that you are free to check out anytime the desire strikes. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Alaska's Bountiful Harvest

A Pacific Halibut about 71 pounds before gutting and removing the head

Three troll caught, ocean bright Alaskan King Salmon. The largest one was 22 pounds
Locally caught Dungeness crabs. My son's caught these in two pots set overnight
Fresh blueberries from the back yard. The kids picked about two gallons in a few hours
Samonberries from around the house

            One of the joys of living in Alaska is that there is so much to enjoy of nature's bounty. Many Alaskan's, especially those of us who are living outside of the larger towns, utilize the abundance of food sources that are prevalent here. Every season brings something that can be harvested. Right now salmon and halibut are abundant, and the wise person catches some for now and some for the long winter ahead. For many people, especially those out in the bush, smoking fish has been a way to preserve it for hundreds of years. Now we have freezers, but smoking is still a very popular way to preserve fish, and it's a very tasty way I might add. Dungeness crab is available year round, although it's much more pleasant to pick crab pots in the summer when the weather is more favorable. Although, here in Hoonah, it's only a five minute boat ride to the other side of Pit Island  to pull your pots. For some folks, who may not own a crab pot or two, on the extreme tides where the tide is very high, and then very low, in fact it's a minus tide, meaning that it is below the mean low water mark, large areas of the bottom are exposed, and those who want to can search the eel grass and find crabs hidden beneath. The minus tides are also the time to dig clams and cockles. They are fairly easy to find because they spit water out of their holes in the sand. Unfortunately, I don't care for either one, but I wish I did. I like to dig them, and I love harvesting what nature provides. The common rule for digging clams is that you only dig them in the "R" months, when the water is cooler and there is less chance of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning. The Salmon berries are almost done growing, and with the rain that we're getting today, I suspect that they won't be worth picking. They have a relatively short growing time- a few weeks of being ripe I would say. They are so named because of their similarity in appearance to salmon eggs. They are kind of a watery berry, but they are good to eat raw, or in jam. I'm not sure, but you might be able to make a pie with them; I suspect you would need a lot of corn starch or flour to thicken up the mix. You have some competition for them, as the birds and the bears also like to eat them. Just last week I saw a  rather mangy looking brown bear eating berries up behind a house on the upper road. With all the heat that we've had this summer, I think he was shedding his coat. Of course in the fall and winter here in Southeast we have Sitka Blacktail deer to hunt. Over on the mainland there are moose and black bears. I've never eaten black bears that I can remember, although I did eat some brown bear once, which is a real no-no. Terrible stuff and subject to Tricinosis. Some of the natives hunt seals. I ate that once also when I was living at the farm. To me it tasted like a raw fish, not to my liking at all. There is some kind of animal that grows on the rocks  that the natives used to harvest called gumboots. I don't know if they taste like boots or are just as tough as a boot or a combination of the two. I've never had the nerve to try one. For those whose tastes lean toward the exotic, there are also octopus here. I understand that on low tide some folks used to search the holes  in the rocks that were exposed and search for a pile of clam shells  outside the hole. They would then pour a little bleach inside to drive the octopus out. I've eaten it before, but it's not to my liking. Really tough, and the flavor doesn't appeal to me. Last, and certainly not least, there are shrimp in these waters. I've only had success catching them once. One time there were two octopus in my shrimp pot, so I suppose they had a feast. The other time I had seventeen big ones, one bigger than a dollar bill. They were tasty. Often when I'm long lining for halibut, I will catch Pacific cod, and they will be filled with shrimp. Surprising that anything that swims so slow could catch a shrimp, but perhaps they experience a burst of speed when there is food present. Kind of like me.Of course this isn't all that is available to those who want to harvest the land and sea. There are other plants that are edible, and fish and eels and skates. I guess if push came to shove you could eat these little squirrels. Up north there are caribou and moose and I don't know what all. I know that certain groups of natives hunt for whales. I'm not sure if they eat walrus or not. Doesn't sound appealing to me, but I grew up on Campbells  soup and Wonder bread, so I guess it's a matter of what's available. Anyway, there you go. It's the busy time of year for me. I've been out fishing quite a bit and don't have a lot of time for doing blog posts. However, there are about 350 others that I've written, so if you need a Wilderness Blues fix, feel free to check the archives. Hope your summer is going well. I'll chat again soon.

Friday, June 3, 2016

And Yet Another Botts Family Outing

Like so many Americans this past Memorial Day weekend, my family, or at least my oldest daughter Jen, my wife Jan and myself took to the road. It was only a thirty mile trip out to False Bay, but nonetheless it took the better part of an hour and a half to cover the distance. To say that the road is rough would be the understatement of the year. Even the potholes had potholes. I was weaving around the road like a drunken sailor trying to find a spot that I could drive  without dislodging a kidney. In that short drive I think I had to stop at least twice, maybe three times to take a leak. All that bouncing kind of shakes down the juices. At least once I stopped because of Jen. Whenever we take her on a drive anywhere, we always make sure we have at least a half roll of toilet paper or some paper towels, because she will most certainly have to go before we get to the destination. The road to False Bay is littered with discarded TP from the various trips that she has made. The number of pot holes was rivaled only by the piles of bear crap. Frankly, if  a person could figure out a way to collect it and turn it into an asphalt type material, they would be rich. It would kill two birds with one stone too. Filling in all the potholes with bear poop would be a win-win situation. You know that age old question, does a bear crap in the woods? Well I believe the answer is no, not if there is a road available. I don't know  what there is about walking down a road to make them so free flowing, but obviously the need for a laxative doesn't exist. When we finally got to our destination, I was surprised that no one else was there. It was really kind of nice, not having to listen to anyone else's kids or any loud music or arguing. Jennifer decided she would make the fire so we could roast some weenies. Frankly, I had my doubts that she knew what she was doing. The first twigs she grabbed had leaves on them. Not exactly what most people use for fire starter.Nonetheless, she assured me that she loved to start fires and was quite good at it. Ok Pocahontas, go for it. I left her to her own devices and went on down the beach to pick up some pieces of driftwood for the fire. When I returned, to her credit she had quite a nice blaze going. Fortunately it hadn't rained for a week or more, and the remains of a previous fire were still in the fire pit, some charred wood and ashes. We added some of the driftwood and cut some sticks to skewer the hot dogs. In short order there was a good bed of coals so Jan decided to roast her dog. While I was sitting in the chair relaxing, I noticed that a steady stream of black smoke kept pouring from the fire. I asked Pocahontas Jen if she had put some plastic in the fire, but she said no. Meanwhile, for reasons unknown, Jan  had her hot dog placed squarely in the black smoke. I'm not sure, but maybe she thought the fire was hotter there. When she pulled it out, it wasn't the least bit cooked, but nonetheless was totally coated in black. It looked like one of the animals that was rescued from Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez disaster. She wiped it off and showed me all the oily residue. We searched the fire and discovered that one of the pieces of driftwood was bubbling with a tar like substance on the end of the stick and was producing all the smoke. Fortunately we were able to remove the offending stick. What are the odds though? Of all the driftwood that ends up on the beach, we manage to find one that was once part of an old creosote piling to burn? It's a typical Botts thing. In any event, Exxon Jan re-dogged her stick and was able to enjoy a well cooked weenie with only the normal offending wood smoke chasing her around the fire. She kept smelling her hair and sweatshirt and declaring that she smelled like wood smoke. I'll never understand why anyone would seek out an offending scent and keep sniffing it if it was offensive. However, for reasons unknown, that's what she does.After scarfing down a few weenies, Pocahontas Jen and I took off down the beach to do a little beach combing in the tide line. I took a pistol with me just in case one of the bears decided to make an appearance, which fortunately it didn't. Ever the teacher, Jen enlightened me about the various life forms that had succumbed to the elements and were deposited on the beach. She found a number of oyster shells as well as a moon snail and lots of sea urchins. She always makes the most of every situation and seems to thoroughly enjoy herself. We walked on the shifting rocks until I was quite certain my legs were about to detach from their sockets and then turned around. Meanwhile, Exxon Jan was putting away the picnic supplies and playing musical chairs with the fire, trying to find a spot where the smoke wouldn't blow in her face. I could have told her it's no use. No matter where you sit, that's where the smoke is going to gravitate to. All in all it was a pretty pleasant day. We made it home with our kidneys still intact, I could see through my smoke stained eyes well enough to avoid a number of the potholes, and by the time we had driven the last few miles to our home, most of the bear poop that had been embedded in the tread of our tires had worked it's way out and was laying along side the road for some unsuspecting jogger. Good times.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The White King

  As you can see from the pictures, this blog post isn't about chess pieces, it's about a fish. A king salmon. A white king salmon to be more specific. Last Saturday I spent the day fishing and in an uncommon bit of good fortune, I managed to land five kings. I actually had eight on. Two of them took spoons, and for whatever reason, managed to get off. I always play the scenario over and over in my head trying to figure out what went wrong when I lose one. The first one I lost I figured maybe he was still too fiesty to bring in. The second one I let soak a little longer, but I still lost him. Go figure. The third one that got off I never even saw. He hit pretty hard, and I let him soak for what I thought was a proper amount of time- let him tow the fifty pound cannonball around for awhile to let off some steam. As it was though, he swam into the leader above him and managed to tangle the two lures and got off. I can't say I was very happy, but I wasn't overly distraught either. I already had four kings on board, and shortly after that one got off, I caught one more. All in all it was a pretty good day. On Monday, buoyed by the good fortune I'd had several days before, I returned to the same spot where I'd fished with such success, but the whole situation had changed. The feed that had been prevalent on Saturday was nowhere to be found. It just didn't look fishy at all. I made a few passes where I'd caught some of the fish I'd had on, but nothing. Then I tried another spot and was ready to give up when the guy in the picture took a spoon on the bottom. I was really fearful that it might get off. He was really fighting, even though I'd let him soak for awhile. When I got him to the surface he started thrashing and in my mind I could just see him throwing the hook and laughing at me as he sped off to go find a girlfriend in one of the local rivers. I imagine if I only had one chance to procreate, I'd fight like heck too for the opportunity. I feel kind of bad for catching him and keeping him from making more little kings, but not bad enough to let him go. Someone else will pick up the chore that he's leaving unfinished. This particular king salmon was a white one, so named because the flesh inside is ivory colored or a very light pink, as opposed to the bright orange-red flesh that most salmon have. I'm not really sure why they have white flesh. The area around Glacier Bay is the only place that has white kings as I understand. They aren't all that uncommon around here. Because it's early in the year and there aren't many kings on the market, the price is pretty good for them and the whites are the same price as the reds. Usually though, the cold storage pays quite a bit less for white kings. It doesn't make sense. The locals, and folks who know salmon often prefer the white fleshed kings to the red fleshed ones. Often if a fisherman catches one, instead of selling it for a pittance, he'll take it home and eat it himself or give it to a friend or family member. They have what has been described as a buttery flavor, and the flesh seems softer than their red fleshed counterparts. I've never really heard why they are aren't red. There is some speculation that they don't feed on krill or shrimp, thus never taking on the orange hue. I really don't know. This guy weighed twenty pounds and was a little over thirty six inches long. Not huge by king salmon standards, but not bad either. Hopefully there will be more where he came from. Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Thirty Six Hour Marathon

 I got a call last week from my friend Jim Dybdahl. He said he needed a favor. Jim is one of those guys who is pretty self sufficient. He's got a good mind and can figure things out and if he can't he's got the kind of personality that attracts people to him, so he will know someone who can help. In the almost forty years I've known him, he's never asked for a favor from me, so I assumed it was pretty important. As it turns out, he was asked if he would relinquish a few days of his fishing time to tow a couple of rafts from Angoon to Hoonah. One of the young fellows who grew up here is going to try his hand at oyster farming. I'm hopeful that he can make a go of it. From what I can gather, the rafts we were going to tow were used in three previous attempts at farming. I'm not sure why its so difficult to be successful at it, except that you're combing two very tough professions- fishing and farming. Both are labor intensive, require a large outlay of cash and long hours under grueling conditions without a guarantee of a pay check. With the oyster farming, you also have to contend with environmental conditions like water temps, wind and water quality. In addition, the cute little otters that all the tourists think are so fun to look at are not much more than furry eating machines. They have worked their way into Icy Strait and are leaving a desert in their path, wiping out Dungeness crabs, clams, abalone and anything else they can get their grubby little paws on. Eventually, the stock will collapse because they will literally eat themselves out of existence. From what I can gather, they happen to love oysters too. Strings of oysters hanging from a stationary barge will no doubt seem like manna from heaven. Otters aren't the only predator that likes oysters. Some of our less than honorable boaters seem to feel no pangs of conscience about robbing someone else's property. These are the same clowns who take crabs  and shrimp from other folks pots. I'm not sure how you justify stealing. I well remember a guy who pulled into the dock at L. Kane's years ago for fuel. He said he had taken some crabs from a pot in Spasski Bay, but justified it by leaving a six pack of beer behind. I guess that's better than nothing, but a six pack doesn't pay the rent. In any event, I agreed to go with Jim. He likes to get an early start, so I had to get up at 3:00 AM so I could meet him at the boat at 4:00. The trip to Angoon takes seven hours and the plan was to get the raft ready to tow and do a little fishing. As it was, we got there at about the time we thought we would, but there was a miscommunication and the raft wasn't out front where it was supposed to be. We had to wait for a number of hours for the tide to get high enough for us to enter the bay where it was anchored. We did go fishing for a few hours, but there was almost no sign of feed or fish anywhere. Go figure. In almost every other situation Jim would have caught one or two big kings, but let me join him and the fish disappeared like a fart in the wind. Oh well. We finally made it in to the bay and tied on to the rafts. One of the rafts has a structure on it like a really skookum tent, complete with a stove and cot and a few other things to make it comfortable for the watchman. When the tide book said that the tide was slack, we took off with the rafts. Unfortunately the tide was still running like a river against us and at one point we were actually moving backwards. It was kind of unnerving to be towing those two rafts and thinking about being able to control them in the tide. It finally slacked off and we were able to make a little forward progress, but honestly, it was painfully slow. For the first three hours we were underway I could look right up the bay into Angoon. Eventually we started making a little more headway, moving along at a smoking fast 2.5 knots. Of course there was nothing much to do but talk, so I did plenty of that, so much so that my already raw throat became dry as dead men's bones and I had to keep replenishing my water bottle. I'm not sure how much water I drank on that day and a half trip, but it was impressive. Even more so was the number of times I had to step out back to pee. All that water has to go somewhere. We towed all through the night, past Tenekee Inlet, Freshwater Bay, False Bay and around Point Agusta. We were just coming off nineteen foot tides and during the day there were multitudes of logs and other drift all around us. I kept praying we wouldn't run into any of them during the night. Jim assured me that at a little over two knots, if we did strike one it wouldn't do any damage, but nonetheless I wanted to avoid them at all costs. Remember the Titanic! We kept scanning the video sounder for signs of feed or fish, but it was pretty bleak. We did see one elephant seal and a few whales in the distance, but I assume they weren't having any more luck than we were at locating fish. They probably had to go hungry until the tides drop off.We each managed to take a few painfully short naps and arrived at Burnt Point with the rafts intact. We got them tied up and headed for home. Overall, it was a great trip. I got to spend time with my friend, who was generous with his advice about fishing, I made some good money for the time spent and I was able to help out someone who I admire. It was a win, win situation

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Hidden Truth

 Jan and I were over in Juneau a few weeks ago. I had to go in to the doctor for a physical. There really wasn't much physical stuff involved, aside from taking my blood pressure a few times, having me stick out my tongue,and pressing on my overblown gut. Fortunately I didn't have gas or it would have been a more interesting experience. There are times when it really doesn't make sense to jostle, prod, poke or otherwise disturb the patient. Although I'm sure that most general practitioners have seen it all, for the sake of the patient, it's good to be sensitive to what they have to say. I well remember a friend who was in the naval hospital for some kind of operation or test, I can't recall which. In any event, it seems that he was given a drug that made it difficult for him to communicate with the doctors and nurses. As I recall, he was given a barium enema by a burly nurse whose bedside manner was a bit brusque. He was supposed to be getting some x-rays of his lower tract I believe. For whatever reason this nurse kept poking him in the gut. He tried to tell her to stop, but she kept at it, poking and prodding and generally being rough. Finally all the harsh treatment bore fruit and he blew. Even in his altered state he claims to have had a good laugh when he saw the nurse behind him coated in the remains of the barium enema dripping off her glasses. As the saying goes, payback is a bitch. None of this has anything whatsoever with the post I wanted to write, but at my age, when I think of something I have to mention it or it might be lost in caverns of my mind for a long period of time, perhaps never to resurrect again. The main point of this post was that while we were in Juneau, we went shopping. It's a common thing to do for those of us living in the outlying villages here in Alaska. The cost of goods is so high that it's imperative to shop when you go to one of the larger towns. The local stores aren't totally to blame. The freight company, in this case, Alaska Marine Lines, has taken advantage of the monopoly that they have to gouge the outlying areas. I believe they're still charging a fuel charge, similar to the airlines, even though the price of fuel has dropped dramatically. Anyway, we were in the Juneau Fred Meyer store picking up an assortment of canned goods and other odds and ends, and Jan asked if we wanted to get a few cans of peas. I happen to like canned peas on occasion, so I said yes, and she grabbed four cans. What we didn't realize, until we actually served them with a meal is that they were unsalted. I've eaten raw peas off the pod, and they have a sweet flavor. I don't know what they did to these peas in the canning process, but good Lord they were nasty! I thought I could work my way through what I had on the plate, but there was no way. I suspect that the label would have had more flavor. Really, if stores are going to carry foods that are unsalted or otherwise unaltered to make them taste good, they should have a special "flavorless" section. That way unsuspecting shoppers don't grab up one thing, thinking it is another. In all fairness, the can does say no salt added, but there is so much advertising on everything, we just passed over it somehow. Have you noticed on TV when an ad comes on for something like life insurance for only $9.95 a month, that they like to say that you can't be turned down for your health or age? That's all fine and dandy, but what about all the writing underneath that is so small you'd have to sit right under the screen with a magnifying glass and be a speed reader to take it all in? It's actually kind of deceptive. Do politicians write these ads before they start their political careers or what? It's like what has happened with so much in the grocery stores. Cereal boxes are still the same physical size, but the amount inside is smaller. Same with my favorite pizza. You buy the pizza thinking that it's filling up the whole box, but after opening it, there's only a half a pizza inside. It's kind of like buying a ticket for a plane. You pay for a whole seat, but actually you're only getting about a half of one. Is it any wonder that flying is one of the most stressing things anyone can do? It's not the fear of crashing that bothers most people, it's the fear of being stuck in the middle seat between two fat people. What ever happened to getting what you paid for? Like the saying goes, you can polish a turd, but that doesn't make it a diamond. There is a lot to be said about all the modern conveniences that we enjoy, but for my money, I'd gladly go back to a time when there was integrity in the workplace, when what was advertised was actually what you got; and, if for some reason you didn't get what you paid for, the business owner made it right. If this political season has shown one thing, it's that Americans are tired of being lied to, whether by our politicians, corporate giants, or canned peas suppliers. No one is innocent. How about if we start speaking the truth about what we're portraying- about ourselves, our businesses or our government. How refreshing would that be?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Demand"O" Dog

 Those of you who have read this blog for awhile know that we have a very head strong, carrot loving, exceptionally demanding dachshund. I love him to pieces, but Lord, there are days when I don't know who will prevail upon whom. In most cases, the dog wins out. I never wanted to have a dog. I love dogs; I used to walk around town with dog biscuits in my pockets to feed to other peoples dogs. They all loved me too.I got all the benefits without any of the responsibilities. If someones dog took a dump in their yard, that was fine with me. Not my problem. If they were spastic and carried on barking for hours on end, that was their mess to deal with, not mine. I didn't have to worry if their dog needed walked or bathed or fed or sent to the vets. All I wanted to do was pet them and enjoy their friendship. However, all that changed when we ended up with a dog of our own. I've watched the changes come over him as the years have progressed. Much like Jan and I, he's put on some extra pounds, and I think he sleeps more than he used to. Frequently when he hears a noise outside  and wants to hop up onto the back of the couch to check it out, he looks at the couch like it's Mount Everest, and on occasion opts to stay on the floor and let the noise go unchallenged.  On sunny days he wants to spend unlimited time outside. That's understandable, I like to be outside when it's nice too, but it's not always possible. He's developed an exceptionally annoying habit of sitting below my chair and making the most irritating sound.It's not really a whine, although that would be bad enough. It sounds almost like a little kid straining on the toilet. Inevitably, he will start in when I'm sitting down trying to catch a little nap. I try to ignore him, but he's like a mosquito in a small space when you're trying to go to sleep. He can't be ignored. I keep thinking that eventually he'll give up and leave, perhaps go sniff the floor for a few crumbs, but that never happens. He is the most persistent being I've ever come across. We refer to him as Demand-o- dog or the demand-o commando. He's unrelenting in his pursuit of whatever it is he wants, be it a spin outside or a few baby carrots. It really has a tendency to wear me out. Frankly, he's worse than a little kid. You know, there's a reason why people have children when they're young- they have the energy then. However, you can be ninety years old and  have a dog or cat and you're stuck with feeding them, playing with them, walking them or cleaning out the litter box. They're a lot of work! I agree that they are good companions, and I always know when someone is on the porch, but when he's gone, I may just opt to have him stuffed. I can still pet him, I won't have to worry about where I step out in the lawn, and if I want to take a nap, I can do so uninterrupted. It might just be the best of both worlds.