Monday, November 30, 2009

Playin' With Our Food... and Fun

This weekend we started experimenting with Sturgeon again... This time of year is a good time for Science Projects - especially when fishing. The colder water usually makes for slower fishing, so having experiements and science to keep the kids interested always helps.

Plus it is fun. You might recall all the chemistry we did last winter and spring with fizzing sturgeon bombs... we're still working on those, but also want to learn more about the Ampullae of Lorenzini on the noses of these fish... and how to exploit them to the benefit of our freezer.

We've used video cameras in the deep to see what Sturgeon and Salmon are seeing, and below 30' deep, they aren't seeing much. Sturgeon eyes are very basic, light sensing devices that see little detail and mostly help navigate a dark world. The nose sensors and 'wiskers' must be doing more...

There is some very interesting reading in the library and web about these Ampullae - alot of research has been done on paddlefish in the midwest. Also some work on Sharks.

Paddlefish have the most Ampullae, followed by Sturgeon. Sharks come in third.

Having lots of teeth means you don't need as many sensors?


Last few years they've discovered that Sharks are very sensitive to magnetic fields - especially strong ones from rare-earth magnets.

Some folks are trying to make magnetic 'barriers' to protect people from sharks.

They are also trying to find ways to save sharks from biting hooks and becoming by-catch.

Mmmm... looks tasty!

Besides magnets, we are also interested in seeing whatother baits can be effective for sturgeon.

Our favorites have been Smelt and Anchovies, but we also use Sand Shrimp, herring, squid, clams, and hot dogs.

Most research indicates Sturgeon eat alot of tubiflex worms... but try finding those in a store!

When snooping around for info about fish-n-magnets, we heard about this "Mako Magnet". Sounds pretty popular for shark fishermen, but it is actually a SOUND device - a speaker in the water putting out sound (vibration) of injured baitfish.

So, we're going to see what sturgeon think of sound.

The vibration idea is another we've been playing with for a while... but mostly using electrical devices and piezo-speakers underwater.

We are going to try some mechanical devices this year - with no electrical voltages to "muddy" the experimental waters.

We have noticed that live Sand Shrimp attract more attention (in terms of biting) than frozen ones - one thought is the "clicking" noises. Crabs seem attracted to the 'noise' of other crabs feeding, so we'll see.

This is a reported photo of a Mako attacking the "Mako Magnet".

Scary, but in a good way.

Vibration is linked in the scientific research to how the fish - especially the primative ones - feed and sense their world.

Finally, we'll do some experiments with voltages. The Ampullae are very sensitive to electrical fields, and we will see if we can "turn it on" for fishing.

Not a new idea for fishing - ProTroll has been using it for a while, and we have a "Black Box" that came with the boat when we bought it.

Never used the black box yet, but this winter may give opportunity.

Here is a simple device we will use also to try different voltage levels near out bait, to see if the fish have a preference.
The small resistors (with colored stripes) will be used to create different voltages from the battery, and we'll encase the battery to minimize its voltage in the water.
We're also going to make a "fluttering" voltage using a small microcontroller - so the voltages will randomly turn on/off and make an electrical "vibration" in the water... maybe like an injured baitfish?

Then again, maybe we'll be catching fish and never get around to all these experiments. We also hope to go back to the hatchery and play with their captive fish again like we did with the fizzy bombs. Its easier to watch the fish reactions on camera that way.
Lots of fun ideas to try. Hopefully the Winter Steelhead Fishing is so good we never get around to these, but they are waiting in the boat to try, and we'll post any new things we find... maybe!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Enough Work - Lets Get Out Fishing!

Alot of work done this weekend - its been fun, but now its time to get out for more fishing!

Sturgeon on the Willamette is really the only game going on in the area... unfortunately the colder weather and 3 million gallons of raw sewage in the river are what we were up against! Yuck.

It was great to get out, though! The weather was cold, but the wind was gone and the water flat.

The fishing was slow... but the boys all caught a fair share of shakers. All of the fish had very sharp spines. Back in the spring, the fish were all 'smooth'.

Look at the sharp spines on this dude! Watch your ankles when he starts to thrash!

Alot of trash in the water, too. Everyone hooked plastic bags, some socks, and other cloth materials. Alot of nasty stuff floating by, too.

It is really sad how polluted the Willamette can be. Makes the sturgeon grow big, though.

Mmmm... Sweet Meat...

We did catch a big keeper, too! The current was dead, and we were just slowly spinning on our anchor. Hardly noticed the small tapping on the rod... and then it was FISH ON!

This dude was 45" long, nose to tail-fork. Fat, too!

The current finally started to run, but it didn't help the bite at all. A few more shakers, but nothing too exciting.

Shakers are fun, though!

Here is the gimpy-tail on one of the bigger shakers we caught. It was really odd-looking. This was a big fish, too. Not much of a fight, but then, he was missing his motor!

This fish would have been a legal keeper if he had a normal tail... maybe the fish are 'evolving' to stay alive longer?

Not likely in the Willamette!

We did some experimentation with the fish, too. See all the small, jelly-filled cavities in the nose of the fish? Just like sharks, Sturgeon noses are covered with these Ampullae of Lorenzini that allows them to detect slight electrical charges in the water. Sturgeon actually have more than sharks. Sharks are sensitive to magnets... are Sturgeon?

Doesn't appear that they are. None of the fish seemed to react to any of the powerful magnets we put next to them.

Maybe if they had more iron in their diet, they might be attracted more? We'll keep trying...

Another great day of fun on the water. Even in the gloom of the Pacific NorthWest Winter it is a great place to play!

Work in the Berry Patch

Now that the Boat House is done, and most of the fall harvest and leaf raking over, it is time to start on those big repairs or construction projects - and trellises for the berries need to be put up.

There is a big buck deer that has been at the berries, too. We've put up some cameras to see if we can get a shot of him.

Here you can see the posts we put in.

Alot of work yet to put in ground-cover and wires for the vines to climb, but they will come, too.

Chicken Plucking

This long weekend finally gave us some time to finish off the last of the meat chickens.

We've brainstormed a few different ideas on how to pluck the birds... and came up with a simplified experiment.

Basically, our idea is to put rubber 'fingers' in a bucket and pull the chicken through it to pluck the feathers.

We put a bunch of holes in an old bucket.

The 7/8" drillbit was just the right diameter of hole to use.

We got a bunch of these rubber 'fingers' off ebay. These are the same fingers used for the "Wizbang Chicken Pluckers" that are all over YouTube.

Do a search on YouTube - the Pluckers are fun to watch!

Here is the bucket full of fingers.

After the fingers are in, simply cut the bottom of the bucket off with a sawzall.

We decided to take a few of the fingers out so that it wouldn't be so hard to pull the chicken through. It is easy to add or remove them.

The cold and rain have been tough on the meat chickens - they are not a very hardy animal. The laying hens are all doing well, but we've had 4 of the meat chickens die over the last 2 weeks from the cold, soaking rain.
Its pretty nasty in their pen, too. Most of the birds are about 8-10 lbs in size, so it is time to finish them.

Another trick we tired this time is to use an old feed sack to hold them in while we 'dispatched' them. Our trip to Wyoming didn't give us time to get some 'killing cones', so we thought the sack would be better and quicker than wrapping them in a towel and bungee-cord.
It worked really well. The sack was alittle too big, but the birds seemed comfortable and it held them well.

The chicken plucker worked really well! As you can see, 30 seconds of pulling the chicken through it didn't work as well as the motorized Wiz-bang Pluckers... but it worked very well as it was.
The key is a good scalding - not too long or too hot, so the feathers come out easy but the skin doesn't tear.
Feathers were flying everywhere!

While we were scalding chickens, it was also a good time to boil the deer antlers from our hunt in Wyoming.
The meat and skin is much easier after boiling for 20 minutes or so.

The work went pretty well. All the boys helped pluck and gut the birds, and the weather was very nice on the day we did it. Nice to have all those big birds in the fridge, and great to be done with dealing with them.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

10th Annual Shaving Cream Fight!

Every Thanksgiving we have a Shaving Cream fight! It is loads of fun. We also started to use Whipping Cream, to make it all a little more... palettable.

This year it was raining pretty good.

We buy everyone a bottle of shaving cream at the Dollar Store, and share Whipped Cream.

It quickly turns into pandemonium.

A glob of whipped cream in the mouth or eyes isn't so bad... but make sure its whipped before you savor it!

Here is how we look at the end of it all.

We started this back in 1999. Back then it was mostly Mom, Dad, and the older 2 kids. The younger ones watched from indoors, crying at the bizarre and scary mayhem...

Even the 2 year old got into it this year.

Sometimes the youngest ones get alittle freaked out by it all... not this year!

He liked eating the whipped cream as much as plastering it onto everyone.

Can you recognize anyone?

By the end of the fight, we have shaving cream in our ears, under our shirt, in our shoes.

We all ditch our outer cloths to let the rain wash out the cream... and head for the showers!

Great fun this year. A definite highlight of the season!
Here's a short Video clip of the action. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A New Mushroom in the Pasture

There are dozens of new and cool mushrooms out in the pasture and woods - this is the mushy time of year.

Here's another one the kids are always eager to find - the Black Fluted Helvella. Easy to ID and pretty common. Very interesting look.

They are reported as edible, but like most mushies, it is more fun just to look and see. Note the one on the right - it is covered with a white mold or fungus that is common on these mushrooms. A fungus-on-a-fungus...

Hunting mushrooms is a GREAT way to get out and explore the forest. Always interesting things to find, a chance to hit the library and books to ID what we found, and in general it is finding treasure in the woods. Besides... not much else to do in the rain!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Decent into Madness - Hiking the Ape Cave of St Helens

Every few years we like to hike the Ape Cave at the base of Mt St Helens. Winter is the best time to go, for the snow and fewer people.

This year we went with the two younger boys and their scout troop.

Mom always makes alot of Golden Graham cereal smore cookies - the best survival food on the planet!

All the previous years there has been at least 2 feet of snow up there. This year... rain!

We all camped at the lower parking lot. There were 2 other groups of scouts this year too. What gives - no snow and lots of people!

Oh well - get those tents up, boys!

Despite many valiant efforts of the boys to light anything on fire with everything possible... none of them could get a fire going in the downpour.

A good scout leader can ALWAYS get a fire going - even if it has to be lit on the propane stove to get going! Twice we had to do this... it was wet!

Meanwhile... success in getting all the tents up!

Not sure how dry, but at least it will keep out the rest of the rain.

Finally! Success with the fire! Keep it big -n- hot, boys, we don't want it to go out.

A good hot fire keeps the boys farther from it - less playing with embers and sticks lit on fire.

With tents up and the fire going, many of the boys focused on fixing their dinners.

Thats alot of potatoes!

Many of us brought foil dinners already made and quickly cooked on the grill or fire.

Fresh venison sausage is great in a foil!

Lots of ketchup always helps hide the crunch of undercooked potatoes...

Later that night, with all the boys fed and full of energy, we took a long hike (several circles and loops in the woods) off to explore the lava tubes - tunnels in the lava left by trees and logs that were encased and then burned out of the flowing lava.

Especially fun in the dark!

These tubes are the best part of Ape Cave - if you look at the walls of the tube you can see the old bark pattern left from the trees.

They say the lava and the Ape Cave itself was formed almost exactly 2000 years ago. What major event occurred on that date?

Later as we listened to the rain on the tents, the sound got softer...

...and we woke up to snow! Yeah!

There was about 2 inches of snow, and it kept falling hard all day.

While everyone else finished packing up camp, we went off and explored the lava tubes again.

Here is where the longest tube comes out.

That lava is tough on the hands and knees!

Finally - off to the cave!

It was nice this time - usually the lower gate is locked, and we have to hike a 1/2 mile or so up to the cave enterance. This time it was still open.

Alot of other people there - about 20 cars!

With all the rain and hyper-active boys in a dark cave, the air was very wet and humid. Tough to take many pictures in there.

The hike went well - most had never been there. No major injuries or boboos. Everyone had a great hike on the Upper Cave.

We emerged into the bright light of snow!
Without wasting a stride, the boys immediately grabbed snow to throw.

The hike back was very beautiful.
It was still and silent. Can you hear the silence?
Except for the screaming of many 13 year old boys throwing snow, that is...
...oh well, thats why we came, right?