We almost bailed this year. Coming off of a big family visit, Skyla fighting a serious sinus infection, and with work piling up, all that goes into out annual king-salmon fishing and camping trip with the Sweeneys seemed too daunting. It would be so much easier to simply stay home and fish our local waters. But at the last minute, mostly at the urging of Sweeney’s younger daughter Laine, we decided tradition wins out and went for it. A twenty-hour whirlwind of shopping, packing and fishing-gear organizing ensued.
We hauled it all to our campground and found the boat ramp closed, which added yet another complication. But as we unpacked our gear and set up camp, I realized we were having fun. It felt great just being there. When the Sweeneys arrived, the uplift was complete.
5:00am came fast, but the kids woke up easily (wish I could say the same for their dad) and cheerfully, and we were on the water in time for the good tide. For the next two days, we fished hard, cooked and ate outside, played frisbee, read books and napped in the afternoon. We had a wonderful time. And now, looking back at our camping trip, I’m so happy we didn’t bail. It was more than worth it.
My brother, Adrian, brought his family out to visit from NYC, so a little crab feed seemed in order. We put the boat in the water at the crack of noon, sank some pots, and settled down to enjoy a little picnic on the water. That’s my brother, his daughter Nora, Skyla and sister-in-law Sarah, waiting for the pots to fill.
Here’s the whole crab crew, minus our mom, who stayed onshore to watch baby May, with our first keeper of the day.
More soon followed. With a bucket stacked full of fat Dungies, we decided to call it a day.
Skyla drove us home…
…while Weston–maintaining his reputation as the World’s Greatest Sleeper–and Cousin Nora sacked out in the bow. Great weather, plenty of crabs, big fun, and the anticipation of an epic dinner. Mission accomplished.
With summer berry season in full swing, we found ourselves with big piles of strawberries and raspberries. So many, in fact, that they were going soft faster than we could eat them. (Based on the rate at which Skyla and Weston can consume berries, this means we had A LOT!) Simple solution: the best popsicles ever. And a fun project for kids, too. We just mashed up the berries–leaving some pretty much whole–with a little sugar, let them juice out in the fridge for awhile, then filled popsicle molds. A couple hours in the freezer and we were off to the races. Unlike liquid-juice-based pops, these have great texture, with bits of fruit to chew on as they thaw, and the flavor is pure, fresh, ripe berries. Awesome, fun and delicious. My kind of project.
When we aren’t harvesting food, it’s easy to forget about all the incredible life that inhabits the nearshore waters of Puget Sound. Our friend Aidan came to visit from Montana, and the kids wasted no time in getting down to the beach. We don’t generally harvest any shellfish in the summer, so this was purely an exercise in catch-and-release. In spite of the weather–it came down in buckets with thunder and lightning shortly after we retreated–Skyla, Weston and Aidan spent hours looking beneath rocks, digging holes, and generally grubbing around in the mud. I’m always amazed at how even island kids, who live every day surrounded by water and beach, never seem to tire of these activities.
But sometimes, it takes a visitor from the mountains to motivate us toward something we take for granted. The kids found horse clams, steamers, cockles, mud shrimp, rock pricklebacks (small, eel-like fish that live under rocks), sculpins, shore crabs, kelp crabs, rock crabs, a small Dungeness, pile worms, and a few critters we couldn’t identify. Each new find was celebrated, observed, and gently released. And then, with weather sweeping in, we headed home to eat sandwiches instead of seafood. A great day in my book. Thanks, Aidan, for reminding us to look more closely at where we live.
For the last seven years, I have been fortunate to work with Patagonia on a very cool project, which is now known as Patagonia Provisions. It’s a food company whose reason for existence is to make delicious food that’s good for people and the planet. Along the way, I’ve met some of the most inspiring people around–people who are growing, raising, catching and making food in ways that can help solve the current environmental crisis. The passion and knowledge these people bring to the food world is mind blowing.
This movie, made by my friend Chris Malloy, introduces these people and shows what they’re doing. Which to me, is really amazing stuff–reef netting for salmon off Lummi Island, raising free-roaming buffalo in South Dakota, pioneering new crops and ways to grow and use them in Kansas and the Skagit Valley. And now, you can see the film this coming Thursday, June 30th, 7:00pm at the Seattle Patagonia store. Come on out if you can make it–we’ll have good food, beer, and conversation with Chris and some of the people featured in the film.