Monday, January 2, 2012

Day 22: Timing is Everything - or is it?


It was the first thing my Dad said after I explained my killing spree. “Dammit Chris, (Dammit is a title where I come from), you picked the wrong time to start this thing.” He elaborated on weather conditions, hunting seasons, gathering and growing, and high winter tides. “You didn’t do your homework.”

He’s right, you know. I picked a difficult time to push back the steaming plate of industrial ribs, especially with the holidays looming. Waiting until spring would have been wise. But I felt compelled to act by a strong emotional response to information absorbed from books and documentaries. Learning has always been a dangerous, full-contact sport for me.

What’s funny is that the information wasn’t new. I heard it before, but somehow pushed it back into the dark recesses of my mind and just kept right on eating. About half way through Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt physically sick. The time to act presented itself, regardless of season. My poor timing just makes the killing spree all the more challenging. So far, 15 clams and 2 squid have died. It’s not an impressive body count, and certainly not enough to feed me.

Deer season ended before I gained the skills to actually kill one. Target practice with my bow is going well, and I can kill the hell out of a stationary target, but a moving object is a different story. I am hesitant. I don’t want to botch a shot and wound an animal or cause slow death. I’m squeamish and perhaps too emotional. My goal is a clean kill. I want to behave in a humane manner, even in the act of killing. I think it’s possible.

Crab season also closed on the 31st of December. I’m big into the seafood scene, especially shellfish. While it’s probably not very nice to say, I experience little to no distress cleaning and cooking clams, squid, and oysters.
Mollusks lack brains, or at least the complex nervous system of higher mammals. I read arguments online stating that shellfish feel no pain. But I’m not sure. The razor clams flinched more than just a little when I slid a filet knife up through their diggers and out their siphons. I moved quickly, trying to be humane, but that flinch was always part of the process.

Squid were an easier kill. A bath of fresh water ended it all in seconds. Taking the squid apart was simple. My Filipino jigging comrades teased me for cleaning the squid before cooking.

“Eat the whole thing,” said Marlo.

“Wait, even the eyes and guts?”

“Sure, sure, everything except for the beak.”

Manny recommended teriyaki sauce. Marlo eats whole squid swimming in spicy broth. Eating eyes and guts sounds nasty to me, but it’s really all about the sauce. The right sauce can make anything taste good. I agreed to try whole squid soon, but I may have lied.

The biggest challenge to my fishing and gathering plans is the closing of Hood Canal to all recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting. I planned to pick oysters and clams daily. It doesn’t get much easier than that when you live on the Hood. Basically, all I needed to do was align life with the moon and pick up supper at low tide. But for some reason, this won’t be an option until May. I think I’ll be experiencing a very veggie winter.

There are several reasons the Hood Canal might be closed, but I have yet to find a definitive answer. Naturally occurring marine toxins are often a problem. The bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, made several folks sick after shucking and sucking raw oysters commercially grown along the Hood in September. Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills are symptoms of vibriosis. The illness is annoying but deadly to people with weak immune systems or liver disease. Dioxins, red tide, and people-pollution are deadly to all of us.  

So, while I’m waiting for the green light to fish the Hood, I’ll keep jigging from public piers along the Puget Sound and finding sweet spots for lake trout. I’ll focus more attention on my chickens, growing foods, and foraging edible plants. I have a yard full of dandelions, so there is always something to eat around here. Yum.

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