Friday, October 30, 2009

Boat Canvas Zipper Repair

Here is a really cool zipper repair kit(s) we found to repair a broken slider on the boat's canvas.

These kits are available for all different kinds of zippers - and they are great!

This is the "Marine" kit for boat canvas... the kit cost $14 and has 5 new sliders and stops in it.

Here is the busted slider (gray) off the boat top's side curtain. No way to repair this dude - I worried we'd have to replace the entire zipper that wouldn't be too easy or quick.

3 of the new sliders matched the busted one.

It was really easy to fix. I was able to pry out the zipper from the canvas "stop" at the end...

...then just slid the new one on.

Nice -n- Easy. The way we like it!

Here's the new slide and zipper. Its a good time to spray silicon on all the zippers and snaps to keep them smooth and working.

We got the repair kit from an outfit in Albany, OR - ZRK Enterprises. You can find them on the web at:

This is DEFINITELY the way to go...

Stowing the Boat and Hanging the Curtain

Its cold and rainy but we'll still go fishing... we've been stowing the boat and cleaning it up. Lots of fish slime to wipe up, mud to wash off, and small repairs to do.

Here's a simple hanging solution to hang up the boat's back curtain out of the way - just a couple big clamps pinched onto the curtain and nails to hold it up.

Pretty simple, but very nice and convenient. Only caution is to make sure it doesn't crimp your canvas odd, or have a chance to blow down.

We're adding a couple bungees across the canvas in case the wind blows... so it won't get in the mud.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Last Salmon of Puget Sound

We're getting ready to head off for deer hunting, so we can't fish anymore for a while. One of the best "late season" fishing opportunities is up in Puget Sound - at the Hoodsport Hatchery.

This time of year the fish STACK UP thick - Chum Salmon. A favorite memory and good times for the kids.

There are lots of salmon there now...

...just be sure not to go there on tuesdays or thursdays - the Indians are netting and it is UGLY. Really a disturbing event - its cool to see all the fish, but the people get alittle mean.
Thousands of fish piled up, clubbed, and then stripped of their eggs. The carcasses usually are left, but sometimes they are sold in bulk for fertilizer or pet food.
This is a big reason why the crabbing is so good in this area... and when the fall colors are on the trees - it is gorgeous! Definitely worth a look on a Saturday - if not to fish at least to watch.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Filleting a Sturgeon

Since we got a keeper sturgeon, we figured we'd post pictures of filleting it while we taught the boys.

I haven't had to cut-up a trout in years, and soon they'll be taking care of the salmon for me, too. Might as well have them take care of cutting up the 'gators, too.

Here you can see the slit we make in the tale to bleed the fish. We also cut the gills, too, while it is hanging on a rope in the water to bleed it out well. Careful - don't cut through too far and cut the tail OFF! There aren't any bones in there to stop the knife!

The first cut, start at the base of the last dorsal fin and cut all the way up the back - just under the top row of spines.

The skin is very rough and will dull the knife quickly, so be sure to sharpen it frequently.

Now, with the top spines removed, fillet on each side of the backbone downward to the ribs... and then outward along the ribs.

CAREFUL - DON'T cut into the guts! Smelly!

Here you can see the meat separated from the backbone in the middle...

Now, simply continue downward on each side until the fillets are separated from the carcass. Larger fish are easier to fillet, but the larger slabs are more difficult to handle.

Just make sure to stay away from the guts! ESPECIALLY if the fish came out of the Willamette! ;-)

Now, with the fillets off the body, run the knife along the inside of the skin to separate the meat from the skin.

As you can see here - there is a dark meat inside of the skin that we want to trim off once the skin is completely removed. The dark meat is strong tasting.

Also, if there is any yellow or orange fat, trim ALL of it off. Especially on a Willamette fish! Ha!

Here are the final fillets - ready to cube up, batter, and deep fry!

We get about 2 meals from these smaller keepers... but a large, 50" fish usually gives the troops about 7 meals!

Sturgeon is FANTASTIC - definitely one of our favorite. Firm sweet meat that is not fishy-tasting at all (if you trim it well!).

Replacing Thermo-stats on the Mercury Outboard

Part of our motivation to get out fishing this weekend - in spite of the rain - was that we've been working alot on the outboard, and wanted to put some time and gas through it to make sure its back together reasonably well!

As you may remember, we've been plagued with the motor running alittle too hot - especially at lower RPMs. Earlier, we replaced the water impeller, and now we are taking care of the thermostats. Fortunately, they are located at an easy-to-access spot on top of the motor, as shown.

Two bolts and they are both easy to take out.

We popped them both out, cleaned them off, and tested them by putting them in hot water, to confirm they pop open at the expected temperature.
There was some sand and grit... as we suspected. They both worked as we expected, too.

With the 'stats out, we flushed water through the motor for a while.
Easy to do, though not sure how effective it proved to be...
The real problem is likely to be the Poppet valve - a simple valve that lets water pressure build up in the motor before openning to release the pressure. Its at the base of the motor and so will take more to replace it, but it would explain the motor's heating up. It is likely clogged with sand from camping on the island this fall during fall Chinook...

So, we took it out and sturgeon fished - keeping a close eye on the motor temp gauge!
The motor ran great - strong and clean. Plenty of water out of the "tell-tale" vent on the motor, too.
But... at lower RPMs and boat speed the motor did heat up higher than it should have. Never red-lined, but did get hotter than we like.
We ran it hard-n-fast for 15 miles or so... next step, fix the Poppet valve. Stay tuned...

Back to Sturgeon Fishing - Grandpa Gets His First!

With salmon season more-or-less over, and cooler weather coming, its time to start fishing for Sturgeon again.

Its been pretty slow by most reports - a few here and there but not a real strong bite yet...

...we did hear reports of pretty good fishing below the Longview, WA bridge, so we headed out. Here are the shrimp and smelt we took along for bait.

Friday was ugly weather... so we took raingear and the boat top along. Saturday morning turned out foggy, but beautiful and dry!
We first stopped at the "Tunnel" spot... do you recognize it? There were 8 or 9 boats there, and it was extremely quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, NO ONE had even a bite that we could see.

So... we moved. Good thing, too. Out at a spot in the main river, we got bites immediately - and the first one was a keeper! Not huge, but at least 39" long so we were happy.
The water was pretty warm, and all of the shakers we caught fought extremely strong! We had some great splashing runs, and thought a few of them were keepers as well...

...but we only got the one keeper. 6 other shakers to the boat, and a few missed... it was pretty slow for 'normal' sturgeon fishing.
The sun came out, and it got HOT!

Best part is that Grandpa finally came along. The kids have all caught hundreds of fish, and keepers too - but this was the old man's first time out and he had fun with a shaker.
He didn't even have to bait a hook or touch the fish, either!

Next time we'll put him on a keeper...

Good job, Gramps!

Cornmeal and Roasted Corn

This weekend there was alot of rain... so we built a nice toasty fire and read. With the fire, we wanted to dry out all the corn we recovered from the garden.

Here's the wood stove, with corn drying. To the right of the stove is the chantrelle mushrooms drying, too.

Here's a closeup of the stone slab we've used in the past to bake cookies on the woodstove with. It is great!

Here is the corn drying... but it got too hot for too long and ROASTED.

It smelled GREAT! We were all pretty excited at how good it smelled - we hadn't thought to roast it.

Here is the ground up cornmeal. On the left is the roasted meal - it smells EXACTLY like peanut butter! Very good smelling.

On the right is the regular, dryed cornmeal. We ground it very fine.

Both smell very good - we were eager to try it... we had homemade chili, stew, and cornbread, with butter and rasberry jam. WOW!



More Early Mushrooms - Chantrelles this time

We got a few Chantrelle mushrooms this week - they are GREAT!

We chopped a bunch up and rolled them into scrambled eggs for breakfast. These are our favorites to eat - great, unique flavor, and the texture is very good.

Meaty but not chewy... and firm.

These shrooms will stay fresh a while, if you keep them cool and 'breathing'. Its best to store them in paper instead of plastic so the moisture doesn't build up.

Here you can see the bunch after we dried them - they loose about 70% of their volume.

Adding water and then sautee'ing brings them back.

The best part is that these are pretty easy to identify in the wild. NEVER eat a shroom if you aren't 100% sure! Most mushrooms in the NW are edible... but most taste aweful and the few that are bad for you are REALLY bad!

Right now there are lot of people collecting these fantastic mushrooms by the bucketful. They are also in most of the local groceries for about $7 per lbs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Fall's Big Chore - Raking up Leaves!

Sorry about the last post - this one will be better.

Fall leaves are great - until they get wet, brown, and mushy. Until then, they are alot of fun.

Not sure what she is doing with this, but she thought it was fun...

Boys like using power-tools. He was having fun until he thought of a way to fire up a motor...

Blowers are a great way to take care of leaves...

...and it keeps the kids at it!

We've also turned the chickens out into the garden. They love all the bugs and left overs.

After just a few months they were well-trained to go back into their roost at night. We aren't as well -trained, and have to keep reminding eachother to lock them up!

Here's a nice leaf picture - this would make a great picture for a puzzle! At least for a long wintery day with nothing else to do...

The flowers, cabbage, and carrots are still doing well in the garden.

Now our garden is more of a compost pile, though... getting ready for next year!

Tending the Rabbits and Their Ears

Ok, this posting is pretty gross - Ear mites in a rabbit! Yuck.

They got pretty bad in the older rabbit - the babies haven't any sign of them.

The only real way to clean them is to wrap the rabbit up in a towel and hold her while someone else digs them out and applies the medicine.

The good news is that she is healing up quickly. Her ears are much better, and she seems to be in a better mood, too.
The bad news is that we are all creeped out - EVERYONE has itchy ears! The younger kids had trouble getting to sleep after helping with this one!

More Fungus Around the Farm

All the rain and darkness this last week has really kicked off a mushroom bloom. They are bloomin' everywhere.

We were out looking in the back woods, and the kids thought they'd look for truffles, too.

We found a couple little ones - they are starting to grow!

October is definitely the earliest we've ever found them. These are small and not ripe at all.

The Shaggy Mane mushrooms have really exploded, too. Dozens of them are up in all the usual places - barkdust, lawns, and all over town.

With so much rain, these mushrooms don't last long - after one or two days they ripen and turn to black, inky gew. They are mostly water... and very UNappetizing when they turn inky.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Plucking and Cleaning the Meat Chickens

This is going to be another long post. Many of our meat chickens are jumbo-sized and ready to butcher, so here we go!

The night before, we took the 8 largest birds and put them in cages to keep them from food. These dudes are huge!

And smelly!

We kept them in the garden house overnight. These cornish cross birds are very docile and layed back... very easy to handle.

They do get pretty agressive when hungry, though. These things are eating machines.

This weekend was very rainy, so we setup shop in the new boat house. Just a table, some buckets, and a propane stove to heat the water for scalding the birds - there really isn't much equipment needed.

We bought these birds back during the 1st week of August - just over 9 weeks ago. We weighed 4 birds at a time, and they weighed over 43 lbs! Thats 10 lbs per bird!

They really are the size of small turkeys!

Ok, lets get on with this...

This was our first time butchering chickens. I've skinned pheasants before but never tried scalding and plucking birds. We decided to try this first time all by hand.

We didn't use any 'killing cones', either. They would have been nice, but instead we simply wrapped the birds up in a towel, tied their feet together, hung them from a fencepost, and used a bungee cord to secure them to the fence. The cord and towel really helped them settle down.

A friend said if you pluck them right after killing them, the feathers come out easy... so I gave it a try. They did seem to come out easy... but the skin tore easily, too.

We skinned a couple birds, thinking it would go faster, but it really didn't. Chicken skin seems to tear much easier than a wild bird skin does... and skinning them was as tedious as plucking them in the end. We learned alot this first time!

The birds turned out really nice. Here is the first one, skinned and ready to be cleaned.

The next few parts are alittle gorey, but very interesting. It is alittle gross skinning animals, but fascinating and very quickly everyone - even the older girls - loose their disgust and get very excited to explore the miracle and mechanics of a living animal. Previously living, that is...

To gut them, we simply made a slit just under the breastbone, as pictured here. Then, we just reached up and into the cavity, took hold of all the guts, and literally pulled them all down and out.

Quick, easy, and smooth.

After the guts were out, we rinsed them in cold clean water.

The final step was to chill the bird in a bucket of icewater for 10 minutes.

We'll be freezing and canning the birds, but they need to sit in the refrigerator for a few days to age, first. More on that later.

The scalding and plucking is definitely the most interesting, new, and time consuming process of chicken'ing.

We kept the water hot, and submerged the birds for about 20-30 seconds. You could see the skin turn tan and opaque.

Smelled like chicken soup...

After 30 seconds in the hot water, the feathers came right out. Too much time and the skin would tear easily.

It was fun pulling out the feathers... but took a bit of time. Pretty tedious getting every last quill and bit out, though. Us newbies took about 15 minutes to pluck each bird.

We kept the livers for our neighbor's cat, and also the hearts and gizzards. The gizzards were the most fun - very hard and big! My wife found a really cool trick - after the gizzard is split open, the inner lining peels right out - nice, easy, and clean!

Good thing - she is probably the only one in the family looking forward to eating these...

Here are a bunch of the birds finished and waiting to be bagged for the refrigerator. They were big birds!

The older kids were really wanting to help and do this, but their schedules kept them away for the first ones.

We saved them a couple of the birds to do!

Here's the gang out plucking their birds. They did really well!

Hard to pluck while your holding your nose...

Like we've said before - one of the best things for kids is farm work and chores. They really enjoyed the work and we had a great time talking about all the little cool things we found doing this.

Here's the crap left over from those big birds... just one night's worth of refuse.

They eat alot, grow quickly, and fertilize IMMENSELY!

There was suprisingly little else to clean up and deal with. We only had a small "wal-mart" plastic sack worth of feathers... I expected garbage bags of them, but there were just a few!

There was only a half-bucket of heads, feet, and guts left over, too.
These birds have HUGE feet! Way bigger than any I saw for snacks on the streets of Taiwan or Shanghai!

Here's a proud kid after finishing the plucking. I think he is as glad its done as he is of his work.
Hope you enjoyed this - we really did. There are 13 more birds left that aren't as big as these dudes were - we'll be butchering them in 2 more weeks when they are bigger.
We learned alot, and had fun.
We all definitely recommend using an automated chicken-plucker next time. Check out this one!

Stay tuned - we are hoping to rent one of these pluckers for our next round.