Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wilderness Survival and a Couple New Recipes

Has anybody else been watching the Discovery Channel show "Out of the Wild: The Alaskan Experiment?" The link is HERE if you want to check it out.

Anyway, Scott and I have been watching it and I'm having rather mixed feelings about it. To start out, the Show's producers took 9 volunteers from "the lower 48" who wanted to give this a try. The volunteers were each given some basic survival training and a GPS-call unit (for rescue should they decide to give up, or need medical assistance), and were dropped, en masse, in the middle of the Talkeetna (tall-KEET-na) wilds. The spot where they were dropped off had already been primed with a huge bundle of "supplies" that the volunteers then had to pick and choose from, deciding what to leave behind (for the producers to rescue later) and what to take. They had enough tarps with them, and sleeping bags and foam sleeping mats, to make yukon packs with, containing the supplies they decided to pack along. And initially, they packed EVERYTHING. (This included a few "worthless" supplies such as a violin that nobody knew how to play anyway.) Right away, it became apparent that they weren't using (or hadn't been provided!) all their survival knowledge. By the time they reached the first "planted" cabin (placed their for their convenience, but needing some repair) after their first day's hike, they'd hiked OVER a ridge, instead of around as their map directed. Going around would have taken longer but would have been an easier trek for the older members of the team.

And once at the first "cabin", they spent most of their time hunting TINY game: mice! They were surrounded by blueberries and cranberries (from what _I_ could tell, just watching the TV) and they didn't bother to pick any. They went fishing at a nearby pond or lake, and had access to some cattails (so-called "nature's grocery store" and at no other time of year as easy to identify as in the fall/early-winter) but didn't even give them a second look...... I'm guessing they may also have had easy access to such things as cottonwood (inner bark can be dried and ground and added to flour to extend supplies); monkey flower (according to my Alaska's Wild Plants book, the greens may even be found under ice in the winter, and still consumed); cloudberries; crowberry (tasteless, but edible!); labrador tea (gotta be kinda careful with this one, but with a couple of showings by an experienced survival guide, they could have identified this without problem); serviceberries; Chocolate Lily bulbs (reportedly best harvested in fall, bulbs can be ground and used as flour replacement or suppliment); Cow Parsnip (roots are celery substitute, best after frost); raspberries; rose hips; wild chive; shephards purse (seeds are a pepper substitute); lambsquarters (leaves are sometimes refered to as "wild spinach", and seeds are similar to quinoa and can be used as a starch in soups; Napoleon's troups evidently used ground Lambsquarter seeds to make a black bread); Dock (seeds also used as flour extender); Mare's tail (must be cautious not confuse with Horsetail; late-season "frosted" greens may be added to soups); Willow (inner bark is flour suppliment/substitute; spring leaves are higher in Vit. C than an orange). I also know that the group was walking through thick Alder thickets, and I wouldn't be suprised to find out that Alder is also in some way, shape or form usable as food.

And yet...... It was at the THIRD cabin (days 9 through 11) that the group FINALLY started even picking the lowbush cranberries and the blueberries around the cabin. I don't know if this is a fault on the part of the volunteers, for not making uses of the abundance of wild fruits & veggies in their paths; or if it was a tactic of the producers, telling these folks that they SHOULDN'T pick berries and greens because they might be toxic. Granted, a number of things do have similarly-shaped imposters that can be toxic, but with a bit of training, it's easy to identify the good from the bad. And at the VERY least, the cranberries and blueberries and lambsquarters and cattails could have been harvested a LOT sooner than they were. (Hell, the group still hasn't caught on to the lambsquarters! And the cattails were back at the first cabin, but haven't been seen since.) One of the things that the producers (the Narrorator at the opening of the show) say is that this group has been put down in one of the areas of Alaska with the GREATEST abundance of wildlife, both plant and animal, that their task is to see if they can survive the 60-day hike (with a couple of days rest-stop at each wilderness cabin along the way) by living off the land. So far, with the exception of a couple handfuls of berries each, and some peas and flour that they found at the second cabin, the group has "survived" on scanty rations of first ground-squirrel (other places it's similar to ground-hogs) then porcupine "stew". This scanty diet of meat-only stew hasn't provided NEARLY the calories that each member of the group needs. And a hand-full or two of blueberries isn't much better. But, a few minutes of shaking a lambsquarter stalk over one of their tarps, then moving on to another lambsquarter stalk, pulling leaves off as they go, as well..... That would provide the group with some DEFINITE starch and greens to add to their stew-pot, and would increase their rations significantly.

I'm just..... I'm finding it difficult to figure if they've been told NOT to harvest these wild-greens (despite the Narrorator's schpeal about how abundant things are in the area the volunteers are at), or if they're just too simple-minded to do so even after instruction. Scott and I sit watching the show and going "but, but, but..... You NEED some greens/starch!!!!" Even Scott has made comments like "weren't those cattails?!?!" or "was that some of that weed that we've got in our back-yard that you say is edible?!?!" Scott, who believes lambsquarters are weeds, recognised the blueberry and cranberry bushes at the same time I did, and was wondering why the group wasn't picking them. Granted they've got other things on their mind during their hikes, but rigging a belt-bucket and picking a hand-full here and there as they pass through the thickets..... It only makes sense!!! Then to see them starving themselves needlessly...... *shaking head* It'll be a wonder if ANY of the 9 (now 6, actually, as 3 have used their GPS units to call for the helicopter to lift them out, and have given up) make it out of there!!

I have had to chuckle a bit as Wendy was just recently posting about a wilderness survival class she and her family have been taking. It was a bit of syncronicity, that she's posting about the survival class she's taking at the same time that I'm watching this show. Though personally it sounds like her survival class was a little stronger on the "feed yourself in a survival situation" than were the instructions the "OOTW:TAE" volunteers were given. I'm thinking their survival instructions were more to do with setting snares and crossing rivers. Not that those aren't useful skills, but it's not going to do you ANY good, to know how to cross a river, if you're not eatting enough to keep ya walking TO cross the river! Passing out from hunger, face-down in the river is kinda gonna negate any water-safety lessons you may have had.


One thing that both Wendy had pointed out, and that had been mentioned on the show, that _I_ needed to do, was to have on hand a source of fire, in an emergency. Yesterday, when I went to the hardware store to get myself a new pair of gardening gloves (lost my old ones, and they were so tattered it was time for a new pair anyway), I picked up one of those manganese (OOPS! Should be "Magnesium.") & flint fire-starter sticks. Backwoods Home Mag, this past issue, had an article on putting together a survival key-chain (the basics, on a key-chain, to be carried everywhere) and one of the things THEY also mentioned was one of these fire-starting sticks. (I already had the thumb-nail-sized LED flashlight and the mini-leatherman that were recommended, and carry them with me everywhere. But to combine them all together on a key-chain, hadn't quite thought that far ahead.) Anyway, so I picked up the fire-starter-stick and have put it on a key-ring to be combined with the others. The fire-stick is not heavy, but it IS bulky, and it's not something that is immediately necessary to my every-day activities. So for now, it's on a key-ring ready to be added to my larger key-ring as needed.) Sooner or later I'm going to add a GI-style can-opener and maybe a mini-pill-bottle (to be carried all the time) to my key-ring. But for now it's simply the leatherman & LED flashlight.

(I've got a neat Samsonite key-ring that has 5 or 6 different key-chains that hang off a central hub. With the press of a lever, I can remove any component from the key-ring by sliding the little nobbed attachement out of the channel in which they sit. So, most of the time I simply carry my LED light and leatherman. The manganese fire-stick is on a seperate individual key-ring that can be slid in as needed, but I don't expect I'll need to have it handy in my day-to-day. But, should I go camping this summer, I can add it to the key-ring and keep it handy with my other tools. In that case, I won't need my cell-phone and can leave that behind, but WILL need my fire-stick, which takes up a similar amount of room in my pants pocket.)


Ok..... On to other things. Here are a couple "New" recipes from this past week. Enjoy!

Maple Teriyaki Salmon Fillets

1/3 c apple juice (I used apple cider vinegar and a pre-made teriyaki, since I didn't have apple juice on hand.)
1/3 c maple syrup (I used a mix of maple syrup, for flavor, and honey, since maple syrup is very expensive in my area.)
3 Tbsp soy sauce (I think I upped this to 4 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves minced/pressed
(I also added a few drops oriental style chili oil for a bit of heat.)
4 salmon fillets (about 2 pounds)

In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Remove 1/2 c for basting; cover and refrigerate. Pour remaining marinade into a large, resealable plastic bag (or covered dish). Add salmon, turning to coat (or seal bag then turn to coat). Refrigerate 1 to 3 hours. Drain and discard marinade. Broil salmon 4 inch from heat for 5 minutes. (Or grill!) Baste with reserved marinade. Broil (grill!) 10 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting frequently. Yield: 4 servings.

(Some recipes direct to place a piece of foil on the grill, and place the salmon skin-side down, then half-way through you're supposed to carefully peel the meat of the salmon from the skin, which SHOULD stick to the foil, and flip the meat over, face ONTO the skin, to finish cooking. The hubby grilled the salmon this time without flipping and it turned out perfectly, and still the skin stuck to the foil so it didn't have to be cleaned off our plates, so all we had to do was fold the skin up in the foil to discard it, once it had cooled on the grill.)


No Fuss Pierogi

1/2 onion, diced (would use more, next time!)
1 Tbsp butter
16 oz pkg elbo macaroni, cooked & drained
16 oz container cottage cheese
salt and pepper to taste
(I also sprinkled it with paprika before serving.)

In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter. Add macaroni, cottage cheese and salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, melting cheese into macaroni, or until heated through, stirring often. Makes 4 servings.

(For our personal preferences, I would DEFINITELY increase the amount of onion, and I might add chopped black olives next time. Otherwise, it was ok. Not fantastic, but a "new" side dish for when Scott grills steaks or something. Something other than the usual Stove-top stuffing or potatoes (baked, mashed, or french fried) or boxed pasta mix.)


Chad's Salsa Verde

The So-hot-it'll-kill-ya version

29 serano peppers, stem-ends cut off, but not halved OR seeded
1 good-sized tomato, cored but otherwise intact
1 fist-sized onion, peeled but not halved
enough water to cover in saucepan

Simmer all for 20 to 30 minutes or until skin peels from tomato and all ingredients are tender. Place all in blender and blend till almost pureed, adding a little of the simmering liquid if needed. (Not so much, though, that it's a completely liquid mix.) Serve with tortilla or corn chips.

The "Specially contrived for Kati-the-wimp" version

5 to 8 jalapeno peppers, stem ends cut off, halved and seeded (or, seed most of them, but leave the seeds in 1 or 2)
2 fist-sized tomatoes, cored but otherwise intact
1 fist-sized onion, peeled but not halved
enough water to cover in saucepan

Simmer and process as for first version. Much easier on the tastebuds for those of us who enjoy a BIT of heat, but don't enjoy getting knocked on our asses by it.

(Chad happens to be the future-son-in-law of our neighbours Jim & Theresa, whom I know I've mentioned here before. He's a chef at his family's resteraunt here in NP, where J & T's younger daughter Jamie is a waitress. J & T are the next-door-neighbours who have we've developed the closest relationship with. Good folks! They've taught me quite a bit about gardening, given me cuttings from their rhubarb and chive plants, AND my lilac bush! If something should happen to Scott and I both, they're the folks that we've picked to be Tay's legal guardians. They've lived in this neighbourhood almost as long as I've been alive.)


Quick & Easy, BEST EVER! Brownies (at least according to Scott and Jim)

1 box brownie mix (Ghiradelli mix, with walnuts included)
1 tub pillsbury or betty crocker frosting mix (Scott likes the coconut & pecan frosting that's used on german chocolate cakes. Tay prefers cream-cheese frosting.)

Mix brownie mix and bake as directed according to the box. Once mostly cooled, top with frosting. See how long you can go before you simply MUST cut into it. Try not to eat the whole pan at once.


So, I'm skipping work today. Last Sunday I woke up with a TOUCH of a sore throat. Except it wasn't really sore. More like a tickle. Monday was about the same, a little more noticable. Tuesday I started having a hard time breathing. Like I had a weight on my chest. Also started coughing a bit. Wednesday, the coughing and breathing hadn't improved. Maybe even had gotten a bit worse. Thursday, I was starting to cough so much that I was loosing bladder control. (Yeah, I know, TMI!) Also started sounding somewhat "froggy". Friday, yesterday (Saturday), Today..... VERY froggy sounding, coughing so hard I wind up having to run to the bathroom every 5 minutes or risk losing bladder control completely. It still hurts to breathe. I'm just NOW starting to cough up phlem, and not enough of it to clear out my chest. I'm putting off going to the Dr's office because I know they're going to tell me that I've "only got the creeping crud" and that there's nothing they can do about it. Once I've had it for a couple of weeks, and it's made it's way into my chest completely, then the Dr's will HAVE to do something (antibiotics, most like), but until then I'll just wind up sent home with advice to drink plenty of fluids and take the Robitussin that I'm already taking. [I'm probably ODing on Vit C. I'm also drinking about 6 (20-oz) jars of water a day. (Old spaghetti-sauce jars, I've got two that I use for drinking water. They've got ounce markings on the side that make it easy for me to keep track of how much I'm drinking.) I'm also adding echinacea tincture to just about every jar of water or mug of tea I make myself. That's along with the Robitussin. AND I found a bottle of Lortab that I have left from last year's bout with bronchitis that I took last night (3 am this morning when I woke up coughing and couldn't stop) and then again this morning once I let work know that I wouldn't be in. The lortab doesn't exactly do anything for the cough, but it kills the pain in my chest enough that I don't feel the NEED to cough as much. In the mean-time, though..... I'm starting to feel rather woozy and won't be much use for the rest of the day, once the Lortab kicks in well enough.

Oh, and FWIW, since I started writing that last paragraph, Scott told me he WANTS me to go to the Dr's office tomorrow. And NOT to First Care (which is who my insurance requires me to see first) but to ICHC (interior community health center, whom I've always had good luck with) to see the Dr about this damn cold. Said that I've been taking robitussin for a few days now (true enough, since Thursday) and that it's not done any good and I'm sounding WORSE, and it's become hard for me to do anything without becoming breathless and coughing. So, to hell with them telling me that I've only got the creeping crud, I'm TO go to the Dr's tomorrow and make sure I leave with antibiotics or SOMETHING to help me get past this. (And yeah..... I DO worry about the antibiotics being so overused that they become ineffectual, but at the same time.... I can't keep on this way, because it's hard for me to even get dinner made when I'm coughing so hard it gives me a nasty head-ache and racks my body AND makes me wet myself. I've gotta try SOMETHING. ANYTHING.)


Ah, on to happier things. (DAMN, this post is getting long.)

Time for the first Food Independence Days Challenge (IDC from last year) post of the year.

Planted: Nothing BRAND new, but I did transplant 3 basil seedlings that a coworker gave me as a thank-you for the pepper seeds that I gave her. (Her pepper seeds also sprouted!!!) I also transplanted the 2 hyacinth bulbs I had that sprouted, but haven't yet flowered. They'd gotten pretty root-bound and hopefully this transplant will allow them to flower. (I'd love some hyacinth flowers!!!)

Harvested: nada

Tended: yep, my lettuce and pepper seedlings. Also cleared the leaf-mulch off my strawberry patch. I'm not sure yet if the strawberry plants survived the winter. But that's all besides what I mentioned above.

Preserved: nope

Make Preps: I bought myself that fire-starter stick. Told Scott that I want him to find me a pitchfork for here at the house, so I don't have to borrow the FIL's pitchfork every couple of weeks.

Cooked Something new/from scratch: the maple teriyaki, the pierogi stuff, the salsa.

Manage Reserves: still eatting potatoes from last year. Gotta get them all eatten, as the temps have warmed up enough that what're left are going to start going bad soon.

Work on/toward local food systems: gave some pepper seeds to a bunch of friends, and at least one of those friends has had success with the seeds. Got some basil seedlings back in exchange.

Compost/Manage-reduce waste: compost bin finally thawed out (and the water receeded from around it) enough that I could get over and turn it. Found out that last year's compost wasn't completely composted yet. Added in the willow leaves that I'd used as mulch-cover for my strawberry patch, as well as some birch leaves from our back-neighbour's tree. AND a (NASTY!) bucket of kitchen scraps that'd been sitting all winter and so-far into this spring. (Man, it thawed and liquified and was FLIPPIN' GROSS!!!!! But, once mixed into the semi-processed compost and the new leaf-mulch, didn't the small decreased enough that it's tolerable and should quit smelling altogether as soon as it starts "heating" and composting.)

Learned a new skill: nope.


As far as the weather is concerned..... Man, as much as I hate that phrase "____ is the new ___", I'm definitely thinking "May is the new June" in regards to our weather this year. The last week of April was INCREDIBLE!!!! Temps up in the mid 70's during the day, dropping down only to the low 40's at night when the sun goes down. By the last 2 days of April, the snow had decreased altogether except in very rare spots like the thin strip between our two car-sheds. And what there was even then, is now gone. So far, 3 days into May, the temps have been just as incredible. We're already working on tans, as we work and play out in the sun. However, the mosquitos are already NASTY! Huge, big, hungry suckers. Hunting season starts!!!! (But, WHO is the prey? US, or the mosquitos?!?!) I'm going to soak my Runner Bean seeds tonight, and plant them tomorrow before I head to the Dr's office. Because while there is still a slight chance of a cold-snap, I'm guessing it won't happen.

In 2 days, my birch tree has gone from barely-visible buds, to squirrel-ear leafs. In the next 3 or 4, we should see a greening of pretty much everything. Our yard is already starting to show some green. I've got fireweed sprouts showing up in my bean patch and my back-yard-bin. If I can get up the energy today, I really want to get out and turn over my flower bed the rest of the way so I can get the seeds sown for a hopeful abundance of flowers. (And, if I can get Scott to help.)

We've been outside more than we've been in, the past couple of weeks. The dogs have been taking daily walks, and loving it. (Ok, so I skipped last night's walk, and this morning's, as I'm feeling so under-the-weather, but other than that.)


OH!!!! Last but not least. I forgot to mention that little Aliya (the premature baby-girl of our friends Deet and Cindy) came home a week ago. The Dr's in Anchorage finally sent her home at 7 pounds 6 ounces. She is the size of a newborn, but has the physical appearance of a 2 or 3 month old baby. What little I got to see (as she was bundled and in her car-seat), she's the prettiest little thing you've ever seen. She was a bit fussy as Mom & Dad opened the car window (and it was chilly out that night) so that I could get a glimpse of her, and she didn't like the breeze. *grin*


I think that pretty well covers all that's going on in my corner of the world. For now anyway.

Have a Blessed Week!!!


LadyStyx said...

Hope the Drs get you to feeling good soon. I usually wait until Im absolutely miserable too. It's gotten so I know when it's a cold and when it's sinuses. When it's a sinus problem, I go in right away because those things go bad and very fast on me.

Tori_z said...

They might have been told to be careful what they pick, but any idiot would - or should - know that berries can be picked and eaten. I've not really done much on survival skills (just the few things you "have to" learn for Girl Guides) but even I know about berries and how to recognise them. Other plants I'm not sure what can or can't be eaten, but everyone knows about berries. And, I'd have thought they'd have been at least given a book between them (if not each) on uses for and recognition of edible herbs. At least, I would have thought so. I mean, it might be fun for the producers if the people can't complete the challenge, but I'm sure they wouldn't intentionally encourage them to not get proper nourishment.

Thanks for sharing the recipes. :)

Wendy said...

Great review of the "survival" show. I enjoy watching those types of show, occasionally (though I haven't seen the one you mentioned - no cable :), but what really bothers me about them is when the "experts" do stuff one should NEVER do in a survival situation - just for ratings - like deciding to walk through the night on a snowy tundra, rather than building a decent shelter and resting. Or drinking standing water in a jungle. Stupid, stupid, life-threatening choices! And while they say "don't do this at home," what're people going to remember when they're in a situation where their lives are in danger? They won't remember "Don't do this ...."

By the way, my husband read your post and he was very impressed with your plant ID knowledge ;).

Congrats on your firestarter purchase. Even if you never need it, it's a good thing to have ;).

Hope you feel better very soon. If you have white pine in your area, you can steep a handful of the leaves in boiling water (boil the water first, remove from heat, and then, add the leaves/needles), strain the leaves out, and sip it like a tea. It's very soothing for your throat, the steam will help with your chest congestion, and it's full of great cough remedy "stuff" :). In some native lore, the inner bark of white pine mixed it with honey was made into a cough syrup.

Tori_z said...

I have something for you on my blog. :)

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Kati, I have been waiting for an Alaskan Pollock receipt to emerge from your repertoire, but with no luck so far. May I request one?

I hope you are feeling better by now, thank you for the good news about Aliya and I hope the mosquitos keep away.

(Thinks... how does Kati cope? Freezing cold and total darkness one moment, non-stop daylight and boiling hot the next, AND mosquitos...)

Slip said...

Hi Kati!
I have been among the missing,good to catch up on everybody. I read your no fuss pierogi recipe and I have a suggestion from my Polish bride, add saurkraut (well drained) and mushrooms. In my world they are called lazy man pierogis.