Well, here it is: The new, paperback second edition of Closer to the Ground. This version is completely redesigned, with new cover, lots of photos, recipes, and yes, a lower price. After more hours than I can count spent searching through family photo files, working with the design team, and fixing a few things from the original text, I can hardly believe it’s available–and two weeks ahead of schedule. Amazing.
We also made a little book “trailer” video for it, which you can watch HERE.
I’m really excited about how both the book and the video turned out. Hope you like ’em.
One of the things I really love about picking chanterelles with the kids is the chance to just walk through the forest chatting about whatever comes up. It’s such a relaxed way to spend time together, without all the intensity that rises when we’re doing other activities, like fishing or team sports.
On the afternoon above, Skyla and I talked about everything from her new teacher at school to potential Halloween costumes. Nothing all that consequential, but nice.
I also really appreciate that picking mushrooms isn’t as gear-intensive as our other pursuits–nothing to prep, no gear to wash off afterward, not even any lunches to make. We just go when we’re ready, walk around as long as we want, and quit when we’re done.
Some would say, “just go hiking or walking in the woods,” but I don’t think I’m there yet. I still need to have some kind of goal, or purpose to our outings, and I think searching for mushrooms provides just enough of it. For both me and the kids. As Tom McGuane once said about fishing, “I have to have a game to play.”
And I haven’t even touched on the eating part: chanterelle pizza, pasta with cream sauce, sauteed chanterelles on polenta…
Or the beauty of walking slowly through the woods this time of year. Or how close to home we can pick chanterelles. Or…
Okay, so that’s more than one thing I love about chanterelles. But you get the point.
Not many yet, at least where we were, but the ones we found were prime. Seems like we’ve had more than enough rain for a true bonanza, but I’m wondering if it’s because the summer was so dry, the soil still needs another good soaking or two.
Or perhaps someone was picking ahead of us and all we saw were the ones they missed?
Hard to say, but few-and-far-between is okay…we just wanted enough for a meal, and a little walking between scores makes it all the more fun. Anyway, we ended up with a couple of pounds for a pretty casual hour’s walk in the woods. Perfect.
The goal was simple: Travel to nearly untouched, far-northern waters to make a conservation film centered around steelhead. All we had to do was catch a bunch of fish for the cameras (the proverbial spoonful of sugar for viewers) while delivering some important information (the medicine) to anglers. At least that was what Conservation Hawks head and film producer Todd Tanner (That’s Todd sitting next to me on the way in…can you see the pre-shoot anxiety weighing on him?) told me when he called to introduce himself and invite me along as part of the crew. I figured with nobody else fishing these pristine waters, it would be a slamdunk. Ha!
The fish were late. Or we were early. Either way, Mother Nature had her say, and despite ideal conditions, we found fishing far from easy. Todd’s blood pressure rose day by day. Pictured above: This is what a fully intact, roadless steelhead watershed looks like. Awesome.
But we had a ton of fun anyway. Despite the tough fishing, I think we all enjoyed the company of like-minded filmmakers and anglers. Best part for me was time in an incredible place with my good buddy and fellow Patagonia Ambassador, Kate Taylor. That’s her enjoying a tasty pre-fish beverage. Also thoroughly enjoyed hanging with Tom Rosenbauer, of Orvis, and Tim Romano from Angling Trade. Lots of simpatico.
Fishing for cameras was…interesting. Okay, it’s flat out weird trying to focus on fish with a mic on, cameras moving around, and drones buzzing by. But I think filmmakers Jeremy Roberts and Rick Smith are going to come up with something good. Especially if they edit out my crap casting, which pretty much fell apart during the trip. That’s Rick with the camera, and Kate trying to act natural, above. Below, still-photographer and new buddy, Tim Romano keeps the competition down by splashing water on the lens of anyone else trying to take a picture.
Finally, after days of searching, we found fish. At least enough to qualify as “sugar” for the film, I hope. And certainly enough to calm the bulging veins in Todd’s forehead.
And then, the serious work starts. Finally plowed through about four days worth of processing, but the kids pitched in and made the work both faster and more fun. It wasn’t long ago that kids “helping” made things slower, but I think the investment of time then is really paying off now. We started with butchering four kings and a silver into fillets, and then smoking-sized chunks. That’s part of the pile, above.
Skyla made two big bins of brine, and we filled ’em up. A little salt, a little brown sugar, and the magic happens.
18 hours of soak time, and the chunks went onto racks with a box fan blowing over them to dry. All this wet weather really raised the humidity, and it was tough drying, but after about four or five hours, the fish was good to go.
11 hours in the smoker, over a mix of alder and apple wood–all the while, our mouths watering–and our first batch of smoked salmon was ready. Even though it finished up at around 2:00am, I had to eat two big pieces on the spot. Oh, man! Refrigerated the rest overnight, then the kids and I went to town with the vac sealer, and stacked it in the freezer. Then we started up with the brine again for round two. A LOT of work, but definitely worth it.