Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cold Frame

[picture above was just after putting frame out - nothing really bursting forth yet]

[more recent pic of lettuce]

Two treated 2x8s recycled from dismantled deck
One storm window from KLW's pile of extras
Three brass hinges saved from door replacements at previous residence
A good number of wood screws, all found in dumpster

We've had some decent cold spells, frosts and even a couple inches of snow. Despite that, the lettuce and spinach inside the frame are doing very well. A few days after putting it out, I measured at 630 AM an air temp of 39 F, and a temp inside the cold frame of 50 F. By now it doesn't provide that differential, but apparently it's enough cover for cold-tolerant plants to flourish. I've got beets in there too - they look okay but their fate is unclear at this point. Probably pick some lettuce this weekend. Extending the season. Can use the device in spring next year too.

It's fall now and there's a little lull here with respect to fishing. Stream trout is over. Water is getting to be too cold for carp. Maybe one day in the coming weeks I'll look after some fall smallmouth. Not sure. So, a person turns to a little thinking and decides to share things like this following post. It may be useful for folks interested in hunting/gathering/gardening - a group that tends to intersect well the fishing population.

Our backyard is defined by a large black walnut tree - Juglans nigra. The tree poses a significant problem: it uses a natural herbicide to discourage growth of a range of plants beneath or near its crown. Some notable positives though: shade is provided for most of the day in summer; dead branches are dropped, providing kindling for bonfires; good habitat for birds and bugs; husks can be used to make dye; green branches can be made available for carving; many pounds of nuts are produced each year.

A person with a walnut tree could moan that it's messy and shady and tough on tomato plants. Staining blobs of nut husk on patio, clogging lawnmower blades and smelling funny. Always have to pick up sticks. Rake leaves. I figure though that when a person is presented with a food source in his own back yard he shouldn't complain about any related hassle or connive with some sawyer to sell his soul in the form of rough cut lumber. Rather he should work out by trial and error and research some means of making use of the protein. It would be foolish of me to go buy nuts at the store just after using my motor vehicle to collect up these offered nuts and take them to the city compost pile.

In fall of 2007 and 2008 we tinkered with the fruit of the tree a bit and ate a few. No real concerted effort was made until this year though.

I decided to let the nuts be as they were on the ground - I just herded them into a corner and allowed the wind and water (and even the fly larva) to eat away at the husks for me. This worked well - it allowed me to easily crumble away the husks in a bucket of water using no tool at all. Much preferred to the labor-intensive methods aimed at removing the husks while still green.

To avoid molding, the "residual husk" must be removed from the nut. When the husk comes off while green, this task is difficult. But it seemed to me that when the husks were degraded and disintegrated by the elements, it was pretty easy to clean them by simply agitating a mass of nuts in a five gallon bucket with some water. Just enough water to make a thick slurry to keep the nuts abrading against one another. That abrasion seemed to wear off the residual husk pretty well. I just used an old shovel handle and really got them whipping in that bucket.

I read that after cleaning, a person could set the nuts on a screen in a garage, or put them in a gas oven (only pilot light on) to dry the exterior. This step was my downfall last year - I stored them in a poorly ventilated container and they molded. So this fall I put them in my food dryer and turned it on over night. Next morning they were clean and dry, as far as I could tell.

They are now curing in burlap sacks and onion bags. It seems like popular opinion is that they should cure for ~0.5-2.0 months. I ate one the other day and it tasted pretty good. Next challenge is determing the best method for removing meat from shell. Winter task.

Some good looking nuts:

Wally the Walnut Tree:

If anyone out there has good experience and notes on black walnut harvest, do speak up.
Fall Harvest

A week or so ago the forecast called for frost, so we pulled the plug on the remainder of the gardens: ran out as night fell with Danny and proceeded to pick anything edible that was still hanging on. Many green tomatoes. Reading up now on best uses for those. Following morning the plants were droopy and sad looking - bent over their cages and stakes in despair at season's end it seemed.
Summer Harvest

Things that worked:
new location for vegetable garden - away from walnut tree
organic blood meal as fertilizer
cherry and grape tomatoes
green peppers
holy mole hot peppers [not that hot though]
moving the rhubarb
buckthorn trellises
trellising of main grapevine
lettuce & spinach

Things that were marginal/decent:
pumpkins, squash, zuke
big tomatoes
new locations for lagging grapevines
transplanted blueberry bushes
newly planted raspberry patch
green beans - good but we left many on vine too long

Things that failed:
carrots (not sure why but have some ideas)
cucumbers (shaded out by tomato plants)
starting plants from seed in spring - utter failure

Informed trial and error will always work out better than the individual genius planner - someone said that just the other day and that is the mode we employ in the garden. Take notes and do better next year.

Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating. The food he grows will be fresher, more nutritious, less contaminated by poisons and preservatives and dyes than what he can buy at a store. He is reducing the trash problem; a garden is not a disposable container, and it will digest and re-use its own wastes. If he enjoys working in his garden, then he is less dependent on an automobile or a merchant for his pleasure. He is involving himself directly in the work of feeding people.

- W. Berry, Think Little, ~1968

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Door Closes on Stream Trout 2009

Sunday morning, September 25th I was looking for something – some appropriate act to close out the 2009 trout season. The catch and keep had been done for a while by then, and I hadn’t been out in weeks. If I remember correctly the last outing was back in mid-August: tricos. That was not to be matched and I knew that. So – no harvest and no hatch. In spite of those constraints, some little deal was necessary.
If you were to look on the blackboard in my shop, you’d see a heading that says “HIT HARD” – meaning fish a lot at these streams (listed below) in 2009. Right next to it is a heading that says “EXPLORE.” The HIT HARD list, at this point is kind of laughable. I didn’t hit anything hard. And when I did fish, I gravitated to the Root River system. The call of that river is pretty strong and its tractor beam landed on me this year. Kind of drew me in and enchanted me a bit, which was welcome and very cool. As I sit and type here, I can barely recall any outings in the Whitewater basin, save a few early deals – winter mostly. Likewise for one of my favorite streams (that I’d included on the HIT HARD LIST): before Sunday, September 25th I’d fished it half-heartedly for 2 hours. So that’s where I went. I closed out 2008 on the same stream. It offers a lot: brook trout, eater brown trout, big brown trout. My plan was to fish ~700-1100, but I found that around 1000 I had everything I’d come for: good number of fish, quite a few brook trout, a lot of fall air on my face, thoroughly numb feet, and a somewhat clear mind. So – at 1000 I walked out of the stream and drove home.
Here a few notes:
(1) Before my feet touched the water, I flipped a nymph rig into the top of a hole not more than 20 feet from my parked car. First cast brought out a pretty little brook trout.
(2) Standard nymphing was solid.
(3) Hooked one brown ~11-12” that immediately plunged deep into the pool and went unseen for ~20 seconds. It’s a reflection on the Sage 2 wt: more mystery, challenge and feeling has been added to trout fishing since I received that rig. As that fish dodged and pulled just after hooking, all kinds of images were flashing through my mind: big fish maybe. Pretty cool.
(4) Good number of brook trout were caught. Colors are amazing – nature’s canvas.
(5) As I stood nymphing one really good hole, I noticed upstream that a fish was rising fairly steadily. Not in one place – kind of roaming and violently slashing. In the air was a sparse assemblage of bugs of various species/sizes: some big crane flies, some micro sized, pale mayflies and a few in between. I had given all my high-vis tricos to my neighbor. I think those would have worked well. Instead, I pulled out a parachute ant with an orange post – thinking I’d just put a black body of ~ #16 out there. Right on. The strike was applied with conviction, and I landed what I figured would/should be my last trout of the day.
(6) Couldn’t resist swinging a bugger in a big pool on the way back downstream though. Caught one ridiculously short-mouthed, long-bodied female brown on ~third cast.

BWCA Corps of Discovery

Motley bunch indeed.

Finally finished the BWCA post below. Sorry for being a loser-blogger.