Making tracks

I’m not a hunter, never have been and it isn’t likely I’ll start hunting now – although I’ll admit it is a useful set of skills to have, come the apocalypse. (Would we be able to tell if there’s an apocalypse? I suppose the news would be a tad cheerier…)IMG_0600

Food security has been something that keeps cropping up – perhaps a growing cause for concern reflecting uncertain times? Zombies aside, I’ll stick with doing what most of us do, and track down my food in stores, hoping that the bulk of it has been produced ethically. We are currently living in an area that has, should the lights go out for the final time, reasonable food security, at least for those in the know…

The recent wilderness trip I accompanied did have a hunting component. Participants are encouraged to produce and provide for themselves and their community, learning and applying skills taught by elders and mentors, and ensuring they know how to survive and even flourish on their traditional lands.IMG_0579

I was excited and nervous about the hunting. Personally, I’d rather not be around guns, and young people with guns, even when they are being monitored closely by trained experts. However, I could see the importance of teaching and learning these skills, and the youth involved were excited to learn.

So let me get the gory part out of the way first – the only animal shot and killed on this trip was a duck. It was shot on the boat ride out to the camp. The duck supplemented a rice and vegetable dish later in the weekend. The decision was made that one duck was enough – there were plenty of other ducks in range throughout the journey, but the lead hunter emphasised this was about eating, not sport.

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Something to eat? Where?!

Students learned how to prepare it for cooking and eating. They were very respectful and thankful to the duck, and a prayer was made reflecting this. Almost everyone had a small piece of roasted duck, myself included, and the young man who made the shot was thoughtful about what he’d done. He didn’t want to kill it, but understood that to eat meat, a creature had to die. He certainly wasn’t boastful about shooting the duck.fullsizeoutput_15ab

On the morning spent hunting, we saw deer tracks, many bear tracks, and plenty of grouse tracks, but nothing else. No actual animals were sighted, but students learned how to spot likely areas for future hunts, and where to set up in these areas. Our lead hunter did draw a bead on a seal as we headed back, and I have to admit to being relieved when he said the distance was too great to be certain of a clean shot. The size and scale of the animal shouldn’t make any difference to how I felt, but seeing a duck shot and prepared was probably easier to experience than if it had been a seal.

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Tracking a scent

If the trip had been for trophy hunting, there’s no way I’d have gone along, and, as indicated above, I was (silently) rooting for the animals. That said, the whole process was fascinating and thought provoking. I’ll never be a hunter, but I can see the importance of hunting in traditional communities.

I’ll leave it there, and start to make tracks towards a long weekend. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend!

PS All the photos posted here were taken last week on a cold and sunny Sunday morning on or near Combers beach.

Crimes and pie

Huh?! We took a very quick camping trip to Green Point a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to find out how Scout would fare in a tent – or how we would fare with her at close quarters in a tent, and if she’d be a happy camper…

Well, we needn’t have worried! Sticks and branches to chew? Check! Other dogs to grumble at? Check! Tasty tidbits that “fell” off our plates? Check! Scout didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn? Check! (Phew!)

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A happy camper

Two nights of camping, and a chance to try out a new tent. A new tent? Isn’t your old tent a recent addition? Yes, and it is/was a perfectly fine tent, but some #*@* broke into our storage locker and made off with bits and pieces of our camping gear, including the flysheet. Not sure when the crime took place, but I’m glad I was packing the day before, and not the day we set off, so had just enough time to stop and pick up a new tent. Just because somebody else made a poor choice, this wasn’t going to spoil our fun – but it did put an unwanted dent in our bank balance.

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Rain later?

Anyhow, we had a fine time, glass half full and all that. On the Saturday evening, Wayne from Tofino Photography  joined us for a gourmet meal of hotdogs, chips, and pumpkin pie. Gourmet?! Not so much, but food does taste better cooked outdoors, and I have to say, store bought pumpkin pie is one tough product. It was tossed about in the back of the Jeep for a couple of days, buried under loose gear and other edibles, yet maintained shape and flavour when we finally got round to eating it. Scout would have had several slices, but not if she wanted to share a tent with us overnight.

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Time to fill glasses

We had great weather on Saturday, and had hoped to have a dry spell all the way through to Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. We had to break camp in steady rain, but can report our new tent, bought in something of a rush and unresearched, was very much a dry on the inside tent. Mind you, our previous not so old tent was also a sterling dry on the inside tent. Alright, I’ll get over it, glass half full…

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But no rain earlier!

Now we know Scout is a happy camper, we will plan trips further afield to quieter and more remote spots. And when Wayne joins us next time, we’ll go a few steps better than “gourmet” hotdogs – the weekend above was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I think the sausages contained turkey, but apart from the unbreakable pie, we might have committed a culinary crime…

I’m heading out to an off the grid location for a few days, and will catch up with your blogs when I get back next week. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!B7C06A23-D7C7-487C-9015-5EBDC61A0225

Squashed…

…but I don’t mean our spirits!

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The cloud will lift…
After recent political events, it would be easy (and understandable) to feel somewhat crushed, but that’s not going to help in the longer term. So my period of moping is now over, and it’s time to look up, be determined to focus on what is good and what is valuable all around us. An unpleasant event has come to pass, yet caring folks will continue to speak up and out against bigotry, and seek to find genuine solutions to real problems. I forget where I read it and who said it, but there was a commentary on recent events that said the answers are likely to be found in a series of small solutions instead of one giant fix. Well, the world does appear to be in one giant fix, that’s for sure, but good people will fight to produce the series of small solutions. After all, you have to hope…

– Yeah, alright, but why squashed, PlaidCamper?

Well, because my moping period found me back in the kitchen, a place I find great comfort in during the good times, and even greater comfort during the less good times. If this blog wasn’t OldPlaidCamper, it could have been OldFakeChefDude. I’m certainly an almost outdoorsman, and most definitely an almost chef. I’ve faked it and earned a (meagre) living in a few kitchens in the past. The stories I could tell (but won’t, because you probably enjoy eating in restaurants, and I don’t want to be arrested…)

– Yeah, alright, but why squashed, PlaidCamper?

img_20161103_170459I was cooking with squash! A comfort food if there ever was one, and one of my favourites. Roast it, steam it, mash it, sautée it, make soup from it, but eat it up, with all that vitamin goodness and colour on a plate. Mmm, squash. Acorn, butternut, crook neck, kabocha, pumpkin (least favourite), delicata, spaghetti, and more. Food list poetry? I think so.

There are so many ways to enjoy squash (my meatatarian brothers insist a squash is best enjoyed when left to rot atop a compost heap – food heathens! – although they always dig into the butternut and black bean chilli…) and here are two ways with squash that we’ve cooked recently:

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Camping! Only six months away…

PlaidCamper Parcels

(Really? Chef ego much? These kitchen primadonnas…)

This first one is great for if you’re camping. Get a good campfire going (glowing at the base) and keep it stoked.

Put diced squash, halved mushrooms, quartered shallots, whole almonds, broccoli florets, chilli flakes and a teaspoon of ground cumin onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Add a generous glug of good olive oil. Give it a mix and then fold up your foil into a parcel.

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Did I really take a picture of this? Yup!
You might want to double wrap it if the foil is the thin stuff cheapskates like me buy. False economy. Place on the hot metal plate or over the griddle. Turn the parcel from time to time to allow even cooking. Trust your sense of smell – you’ll know when it’s ready! Burn your fingers unwrapping the parcel (you won’t mind because it’ll taste so good) and enjoy the contents. Delicious campfire fare! dscf3791

The care and attention I’ve given to quantities and timings might be an indication as to why I’m not a chef any more. I can create and follow precision recipes, but mostly enjoy the slapdash approach. Closer to Jamie than Heston. To make up for the lack of detail in the first recipe – recipe?! – I’ll simply copy/paste the second (and add the link, because the other recipes on the page are also quite wonderful) from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:

Pappardelle with squash and sage

Serves four.

About 750g squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2-3cm cubes
4-6 fat garlic cloves, skin on, lightly squashed 
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil 
75g walnuts, very roughly chopped (optional) not optional, Hugh, essential
250g pappardelle (or other pasta)
50g unsalted butter
15-20 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
Finely grated parmesan or hard goat’s cheese, to serve

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put the squash in a roasting tin, add the garlic and some salt and pepper, trickle over the oil and toss together. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking, until the squash is completely soft and starting to caramelise. Add the nuts for the last 10 minutes, taking care they don’t burn.

When the squash is about halfway cooked, bring a large pan of water to a boil, salt it well and add the pasta. Cook for the time suggested on the packet, then drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter very gently in a small pan. When foaming, add the sage and cook over a low heat, without letting the butter brown, for three minutes. Turn off the heat.

Toss the sage butter, the hot squash and walnuts into the pasta – add any pan juices, too, as well as the garlic, provided it’s not too burned. Season to taste and transfer to warmed dishes. Finish with more pepper and serve with parmesan for people to help themselves.

A great one to try out over the coming winter at a cabin. Or at home. The recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Squash Recipes – go on, follow the link, read the others, you’ll be glad you did.

Old Hugh has some amazing recipes. I first heard about him many years ago when a friend was telling me about roadkill pie. Retching noises. Personally, if I ran over a squash I’d be mortified, but it could be worse. Even back then, falling wildlife populations in the UK meant you’d most likely run over an unfortunate hedgehog. There are recipes for clay baked hedgehog, but you’d really rather not…right? Stick with the squash.

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Glass more than half full (an anti-moping technique and we all deserve it…)
Well, not a hugely outdoorsy post this week – thanks for your patience – but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing some anti-moping activity we’ve been engaged in.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a recipe or anti-moping technique, and have a wonderful weekend!

As an extra treat for the curious-minded, here is a link to a fun article about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and it mentions his connections to roadkill cuisine, but that really isn’t what he’s about!) More about Hugh FW

Yoho in colour, a Dickens of a fish – and who was Dolly Varden?

Dolly Varden – what a name! But who was she? Or, who is she? A mystery, or mysterious unknown person, at least to me. For a naturalist, it must be great to be qualified and knowledgeable enough to be able to identify and name a new species. How does that happen?

A sunny spring hike in Yoho National Park a couple of weeks ago had me pondering this as I came across a name I’d never heard before. Naming a new species? Maybe you have to be the first person there. Or the first person to tell someone else. How are the actual new names chosen? Do you name it for yourself, or for a nearest and dearest? (Best be careful here, a loved one might not appreciate their name being used for a new species of insect or mollusc – just saying). The place it resides? Or whatever comes to mind? I’m pretty sure there is a sound scientific method these days. Dolly Varden…

We’d intended to go snowshoeing as snow had fallen later in the day and overnight after we’d taken our monochrome Field pictures (A Field Day). Instead, the Rockies played their usual weather tricks, and freezing winter one day gave way to an almost summer like sunny day the next, with temperatures reaching double digits in the high teens.

On the way to Emerald Lake we stopped and took in the views up and down the Kicking Horse River as it kicked on in the early thaw.

  Beautiful looking upstream…

  …and beautiful looking downstream!

When we arrived at Emerald Lake, you could see the remaining snow on hiking paths was packed and easy to walk on without snowshoes. Of course, with spring temperature fluctuations, it was now avalanche season in Yoho, and this determined where we could hike safely. 

  Couldn’t miss – or ignore – the warning!

Jackets had to be removed, and no need for hat and gloves. It was so warm that butterflies were out! Best of all, you could breathe in pine fragranced air and hear almost total quiet – hushed enough to enjoy the occasional knocking of a woodpecker, the call of distant songbirds and the rush of wings as ravens flew overhead. Aah, spring. The path wound through trees and descended to the edge of the lake.

  Tantalizing views through the trees close to the lakeshore!

  Across Emerald Lake

It was actually pleasant to be in the cool of the shade from time to time, although really it was even more pleasant to feel warm sun on your face!

  Easy hiking on packed snow

Is it time to get back to the question at the heading of this piece? Yes it is, PlaidCamper! 

At intervals along the edge of the frozen lakeshore there were wooden signs providing information about the geology, flora and fauna around Emerald Lake. The rock flour or silt that is found in the water provides the beautiful summertime colour the lake is named for. Silt prevents much light penetrating the water and consequently there is relatively little aquatic life. However, according to the information, one of the larger fish species found is the (drum roll) Dolly Varden char. 

I was so intrigued by what seemed a strange name for a fish that I looked it up later. It comes from a Dickens character in Barnaby Rudge, who wore muslin over petticoats – a fashion in the late 1800s –  and the fish colouring and patterning is reminiscent of this. So, Dolly is a fashionable and literary fish! Probably better than naming it after a potential future ex…

It was such a delightful hike around the lake. We’d hoped for a blast of winter and were rewarded instead with a beautiful spring day. That, and making Dolly Varden’s acquaintance, made for a different mountain adventure. 

  Get it down, make it watertight, and go fish for a Dolly…

Now, I wouldn’t mind betting there’s a great recipe out there for Dolly – I’m thinking lemon, rosemary, and a hint of garlic. Any ideas?! Thanks for reading, and keep your guy ropes secure.