Saturday, August 27, 2011

Feeding a Civilization, or Poisoning a Nation?

I recently took the opportunity to watch a documentary film called Food Inc. by Robert Kenner.  Now let me explain exactly where I stood prior to watching this film, and where I now stand.  I was on the road to really trying to become as self-sufficient as I could with my eating habits.

Anyone who knows me also probably knows that there are quite a bit of things that I would love to rely on myself for to feed my family, but that there are hundreds, if not thousands of food items that I wouldn't think twice about buying from a grocery store.  Well there was a lot of truth to that.  My personal goal was to stock my freezer with about half of the meat and fish that my family would eat throughout the year with wild meat that I had hunted and killed.  I didn't care where the other half of it came from, and I've just recently started to be more concerned about eating organic fruits and vegetables.

My wife and I have gardened organically for 6 years.  We've mainly grown the usual heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, and some herbs as well.  We've recently moved to a different house, and along with moving meant leaving behind our 4 beautiful raised veggie garden beds and soil that we had worked to near perfection.  Now our garden area is a former lawn that we've covered with cardboard that we re-purposed from our moving boxes in order to kill the grass and weeds.  It's officially the beginning of our efforts to "Lasagna" the area into rich gardening soil so that we can start an organic winter crop.

The clock is ticking!  We're only a few days from September, but I think we're going to be fine.  Maybe a little behind, but hasn't Mother Nature been quite a bit behind with just about everything this year?  Hell, I'm still a couple weeks away from anything but green tomatoes in the little patch that I worked in the spring so I could at least watch something grow that I'd be able to eat while we prep the main designated garden area for the real deal.

Since watching Food Inc. I have truly reevaluated my standpoint on what I feel is acceptable in the feeding of myself and my family.  I'm really surprised that it took me so long to check out this documentary, since it has been out since 2009.  And I really feel silly for not putting more heart and thought into what I'm putting on my table.  I know what it means to eat healthily.  Just like the nutritionists have taught us in recent decades, shop "around the rim" at the grocery store.  All the "good stuff" is on the outer edge of the store.  Well that's just fine, but where did that crap come from, and how good is it really for me?  What's really in that sausage?  What kind of inhumane treatment did that chicken, cow, or pig go through in order to get wrapped in cellophane and put out on display for my purchasing pleasure?  What was in the feed that they were fed, and what kind of hormones and antibiotics were pumped into them to keep them "healthy" enough to join me and my spices for a hot meeting on my Weber grill?

I can honestly say that for the first time, I really want to never buy meat from anyone that doesn't free range and organically raise their livestock.  And in time I want to get to the point that I'm filling the freezer with nothing but game meat that I've killed, and blanched vegetables and fruit that I've grown myself.  On the occasion that we find ourselves craving beef or chicken or bacon, we'll be certain that we are buying it from local, honorable, humane, and organic ranchers.

I want nothing more than for all of us who care where our food comes from to snuff out incorporated mass production of what has turned our civilization into an obese, lazy, and flat out sickly nation!  The greed for the almighty dollar has turned our food supply into a giant slop house full of nasty chemicals, and flat out abuse of not only the animals, but the workers and farmers that are at the bottom of the totem pole in the industry of feeding our nation.

I'm truly sick over this whole subject.  How could we let this happen?  Is this just the price we pay to be called "civilized"?  I think we're better than this.  I think that if we all really start supporting those who aren't committing such atrocities, and buy local, in season, free range, organic meat and produce, we truly can change.

So now it's time for me to close this post with a quote by Rocky Balboa from the great movie, Rocky IV.

"During this fight, I've seen a lot of changing, in the way you feel about me, and in the way I feel about you. In here, there were two guys killing each other, but I guess that's better than twenty million. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"


Monday, August 22, 2011

The cost of a little fun

I woke up this morning "shoulding" all over myself! Things were going through my head like, "You should have a better deer rifle! You should have already decided exactly where you're going to hunt next month! You should have already scouted a lot more than you have!" There are a few more "shoulds" that I thought of that I'll keep to myself for dignity sake, but all in all I started the day worrying about my readiness regarding deer season. A very wise woman once told me that we are not supposed to "should" all over ourselves. I try to live by that advice, but sometimes I look down and see that I've stepped in a great big smelly pile of "should".

So here's my current situation. I've budgeted right around minus forty dollars for myself to spend on deer hunting this season, so I need to do a little refiguring of exactly how I can do everything as cheap as possible. I have an idea. I'm going to challenge myself to keep total track of every dollar I spend toward deer hunting until my freezer is filled with venison, while keeping the expense as absolutely low as humanly possible. I want to find out exactly what the price per pound of meat will be when all is said and done. Will it be $6 per pound, or $60 per pound? So let's see here. Where do I start the list of expenses that will incur from cradle to grave throughout this hunting season, or more appropriately from field to freezer? Here's a question. Do I include the cost of my hunting license? I know I'll include the deer tag itself, but since I buy a hunting license every year for bird hunting, I'm not so sure I should count it as a deer hunting expense. So I've got the cost of the tag for sure, thirty dollars. Then there's the ammunition. Do I count all the expenses of getting my shooting dialed in? And what about the price of the box of bullets or just the cost of however many bullets it takes to bring down a deer? Hopefully it'll just take one! One shot, one kill, right? Ooh Rah! We'll see if I can uphold that old Marine Corps saying, otherwise all the talk in my first post about being an expert rifleman will be out the window. What about the cost of gas that I'll burn driving to scout? Maybe I could waive half of it if I combine scouting for deer with dove hunting if I hunt in the same place for both. Hmmm, I think I'm onto something there. But wait! What if I waive it, then I don't deer hunt there after all? I think this has just become a job for Microsoft Excel! It's time for a serious spreadsheet! So here we go. This is when the nerd in me gets revealed. But seriously, if I'm going to truly find out how much my venison will cost per pound when all is said and done, I need to do this, right? I know a lot of you are probably thinking that I should lighten up a little bit and put more thought into actually bagging a deer instead of creating spreadsheets and playing banker. But before I heed that sort of advice, let me ask another question. What happens if I don't get a deer this season? I guess that will mean that next year I'll carry this year's expenses over and add them to the cost of next year's venison, if I'm successful then. If I'm not, then each year's expenses will keep carrying over until I bring home some meat. I think that if that happens, which I realize 100% that it very well may happen, this venison could honestly reach the $60 per pound price! WOW! If that happens, anyone who might find themselves dining upon the aforementioned venison at my table, better damn well know that I consider them a Super V.I.P.! And God help anyone who leaves any of it behind on their plate! You think the fines in Singapore are steep for wasting food?  For now I'll keep my sights set on bringing home a buck this season. (Pun intended).

So, back to my "shoulds". I'm not going to worry about any of that stuff. I'll use the gun I have. I'll scout as much as I can, and I'll hunt wherever I hunt! I like the challenge that I made for myself regarding the cost of deer hunting, but I just hope that it doesn't spoil the overall enjoyment of the whole experience. Don't get me wrong. I know that a HUGE part of this whole thing is for the experience, the sport, and the adventure. I just think that in the beginning if I know exactly what my investment adds up to, I might find even that much more satisfaction if I can indeed do this for far less money than one would initially expect. Cheers!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A U.S. Marine or a Hunter? You decide...

Hello!  My name is Matt, and I'm a recovering United States Marine Corps Staff Sergeant.  I grew up in Calaveras County, in Northern California where I learned to fish for rainbow trout, and was introduced to bird hunting.  My dad had an old L.C. Smith side by side double barreled 12 gauge shotgun that had been passed down from my grandfather.  He had long since hung up his hunting hat, but when I had the opportunity to take a hunter's safety course when I was 15 he told me that if I found someone that I could hunt with I could use his shotgun.  So I started chasing dove and quail through the sage brush and scrub oak covered foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains with whoever would take me and my trusty old 32 inch barreled shotgun. That old L.C. Smith seemed as heavy one of Custer's cannons to a 15 year old kid, but to carry that thing loaded with   #8 shotgun shells made me happier than a room full of dentists in a teeth pulling contest.

I wasn't very successful.  A lot of the time I would find myself trying to snipe ground squirrels around New Hogan reservoir since hunting valley quail without a dog in sagebrush was just about as easy as agreeing on a budget if you're a U.S. Congressman.  It went a little like this:

1.  Quail see you.

2.  You see quail.

3.  Quail runs into thick sagebrush.

4.  You never see quail again.

So I found myself harvesting the occasional dove or quail for a couple years until I graduated high school and joined the Marines.  That's right, the few and the proud.  Eight years on active duty didn't afford me very much hunting opportunity, so I ended up taking quite the sabbatical from my 12 gauge.  I replaced it with an M16A2 service rifle, which I took to with ease!  I always scored expert on the rifle range so after 3 years of being a Marine I was invited to attend a month long rifle and pistol coach training school at Stone Bay Ranges near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Now I'll fast forward to October of 2001.  I had been out of the Marine Corps for almost 2 years.  My oldest friend, Ty, who I had known since 4th grade, finally convinced me to get geared up and join him on his beat up old hand-me-down john boat for some fast action duck hunting on the San Joaquin delta waterway.  We meet at his house at 4 am, and head for the boat launch ramp.  After putting the boat in the water, motoring to his favorite tule engulfed hunting spot, throwing a few dozen decoys out in his best V pattern, we poured coffee down our gullets and waited for shooting time.  And we waited for shooting time.  And then we waited some more for shooting time.  About 15 minutes before shooting time I started hearing the thick foggy air cut with the sounds of fast beating wings.  It was on!  Ducks were buzzing all around, and then a few dropped into our decoy spread with loud splashes.  Waiting in silence, the clock finally reached legal shooting time.  We raised our guns just as the ducks jumped up with their wings beating faster than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest!  BANG!  BANG!  BANG!  Two ducks dropped.  Then it was official.  I was HOOKED!  From that day forward I was a certified duck nut.  Since then I've hunted every season as often as I could.  I taught myself the tricky system of hunting on public refuges across the pacific flyway in northern California's Sacramento valley, and have become a very successful waterfowl hunter.  I'll never give up my obsession with duck hunting, but there's something that I need to add to my freezer this year.


Several years ago on a Sunday morning I saw a Big 5 ad. telling me that they were selling Russian Mosin Nagant 7.62X54R rifles for $79.  How could pass on that deal, right?  So anyway, I have one of those, and that's what I'm planning on using this season to bring down a blacktail or California Mule deer.  A buck.  Any legal buck!  I'm not going to be picky.  My goal is to bring home a buck while spending the least amount of money possible.  My wife and I have fallen in love the idea of organic living.  She is an organic gardener, and we both love to cook.  We have been trying to take one step at a time to convert our diet into a home grown, and wild caught or harvested feast.

So will you join me on my adventure?  I can't promise anything other than this.  It's gonna be fun!  I'll post as often as I have something worthy of sharing.  Please feel free to comment on anything and everything you like!  I love a good debate.  So let's take a shot at finding out what this whole deer hunting thing is all about.  Are you ready?  Let's do this, then!