A lousy picture of a great meal–if we do say so ourselves–the kids and I made last night. Weston had been asking for udon, but I couldn’t find a restaurant on this side of the Sound that serves it. I did, however, score a three-pound package of good, fresh udon noodles in the refrigerated section of our local market. Then it was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink exercise in broth making: smoky, dried bonito flakes, liquid from rehydrating dried shiitake and matsutake mushrooms, a little white miso paste, and chicken stock. Massive umami and aromatic vapors.
We also added napa cabbage for its beautiful contribution to the broth flavor, and bok choy for texture and because, well…it just seemed like we needed more vegetables. That’s Weston prepping veggies in another lousy low-light photo. Meanwhile, Skyla and I breaded and fried the chicken katsu to go on top. A fun–and tasty–project for a chilly January night.
I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days this week with Lummi Island reef netters, Riley Starks and Keith Carpenter, learning about this ancient fishing technique. We toured their fishing equipment, or “gears,” which are on dry land for the winter, went out on the water to see where and how they fish, and shared an exquisite dinner and lodging at Nettles Farm. Pictured above are the skiffs we used for transportation, onshore at Legoe Bay, where the reef netting takes place.
Reef netting involves a pair of anchored pontoon boats, each equipped with 20-foot tall spotting towers and a net suspended in the water between the two boats. Individual schools of fish are spotted from above, and when they enter the net, the entrance is manually raised to trap the fish inside. The visual aspect of this alone allows fishermen to target specific species of salmon while letting non-target species pass through unharmed. In the event that non-target fish are trapped along with the harvestable fish, they are released unharmed with minimal contact, which results in a by-catch mortality of less than half of one percent.
This is a huge difference from non-selective methods of fishing, such as gillnets, which kill all the fish that come into contact with the fishing gear. Today, with so many salmon stocks in serious trouble, while others are returning in abundance, if we are going to harvest any salmon at all, this is the kind of method that makes sense. It lets fishermen to fish longer, produces higher quality fish because they are each handled individually, and most importantly, allows depressed stocks to pass through with little or no harm to their populations. A truly uplifting vision of how commercial fishing can work. It turns out, once again, that the best ways for the future are, in fact, the ways of the past.
How much does it rain here? Well, moss only grows where it’s really wet, chilly and dark, right? This isn’t a picture of some broken down heap in someone’s yard, either. That’s the back of my everyday transportation, parked out in the open and driven regularly. And yet, the moss, algae and lichen continue to grow. And grow. Last year, I had to pull an alder sapling out of the driver-side back window sill.
So, when someone who’s considering a move to the Great Northwest asks about the weather, I just show ’em my car. It’s the perfect proof of our climate here. Either that or a sure sign of laziness from an owner who hasn’t washed his car in 22 years. But I prefer the former.
One of the really fun parts of Closer to the Ground being selected for Timberland Regional Library’s community reads program was the music. TRL commissioned the Bushwick Book Club to write some original music “inspired by” the book. I have to admit, I was skeptical at first–it’s kind of a weird thought to have something you’ve written turned into music–but then, at the first event in Tumwater, Geoff, Moe, Wes and Aimee took the stage and played their songs. Great musicians, fun songs, and lots of toe-tapping going on. If you haven’t already, click on the songs in the player above to hear what they came up with.
My favorite part of their performance was when the musicians talked through the process of writing the songs. Each band member read a short piece of the book, then actually demonstrated how they came up with the music by playing their instruments. When the second song came up, the band even got the normally reserved book audience to sing along.
Too much fun! The music brought more life to a book event than I ever imagined possible, and I found myself tapping my toes and singing along, too. Thanks, Bushwick Book Club. I hope we can work together in the future.