Gone Fishing (Homesteading #20)

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I flew out to visit my grandparents by myself for three weeks during the summer that I was eight years old.  They took my cousin and I to the mountains for a leisure weekend.  Stars glittered through cracks of the log ceiling of the cabin.  Helen and I giggled and talked but fell asleep soon after a day of playing, swimming, and fishing.  We fished in a well stocked lake and deftly pulled one trout after another out of the blue.  That evening as we sat in the cabin’s kitchen cleaning the fish, I asked if I could take my fish home on the airplane.  My grandma laughed thinking of my mother’s expression after finding fish in my luggage but gently told me no.  We ate good that night.

The last time I went fishing was a at a city park near us when I was twelve.  They were hosting a fishing contest for kids.  They stocked that area with trout and I took home my small fish in a bag.  I named him George and when he died in my hands I swore I’d never fish again.  I have eaten plenty of trout since then though.  I have fond memories of my uncle’s freezer filled with it.  Eating it grilled or fried, its delicious, crisp skin and buttery flesh the very taste of summer and family.  Fond memories.

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I asked Bret (my granddaughter, Maryjane’s daddy and still one of my kids) to teach me to fish.  He drove three hours Saturday to come pick me up, a bubbly Maryjane in tow.  We went to the reservoir.  The parks in the city of Pueblo are all stocked with fish and one does not need a fishing license but we were at a state park so I doled out the $13 and change plus the $7 park pass for the day and we were off.  By the time we got to the park it was noon and sweltering hot with zero trees.  We parked and walked with all of our gear a half a mile or more just to find a place to settle by the water.  The reservoir was packed.  It was a hundred degrees out.  We nestled in near the rocks and set up.

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Maryjane was delighted playing in the water.  Bret strung the fishing line through the fishing pole loops.  It looked like a sewing machine, the way you have to wind it through holes just so, thread it through the eye just so.   He didn’t stop to teach me- I’m sure I looked confused enough.  Plus I was keeping an eye on the little one in water.

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We hiked across the boulders to a clear place and he showed me how you pull your finger against the line, click open the thing, and smoothly let go as the line goes flying into the water.  I set my stance, placed my finger, looked out across the pulsing waters and let go.  It plunked down two feet in front of me.

“Here, let me do it,” Bret said.  He sailed the line out far into the depths.  He handed it to me again and told me to reel in kind of fast, as we were mimicking a fish.  I caught a stick.

We repeated this process, I plunked it down two feet on the other side of me, he took it, sailed it out into the water, I reeled it in and caught something much bigger.  “I have a fish!” I exclaimed.  But it was more likely a log this time and he had to use his knife to cut the lure loose.  I felt bad.

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Then Maryjane and I got hungry and pranced back across the boulders again to eat the tuna fish sandwiches I packed.  We gulped down sweet tea and ate our homemade chocolate chip cookies while Maryjane splashed in the water and Bret and I talked.

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In the end, the day was far too hot.  The water way too crowded.  Usually fisherman go early in the morning or in the cooler evening.  The bugs are out and the fish are more active.  Next time we will go somewhere quieter and earlier, but I had such a lovely day with Bret and Maryjane.  Fisherman walked past us without any fish.  I asked Bret if he and his friend often catch fish.  “Once in awhile,” he shrugged, “it’s really just about the experience.”  I could get used to this too.

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Harvesting From the Marsh (or one’s back yard)

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It was the first really warm day yesterday.  Beautiful.  The birds sang and the sun shone truly bright and comforting as I found my way through the foot high brush in the marsh.  Water snaked its way through patches as the large, old willow tree, in all its knowledge of history past hundred years or so, drank steadily and protected the greenery beneath.  Plantain has sprung up.  Used to heal wounds and also as food, it is a welcome sight.  Dandelions grow tall and bush-like, tantalizing me with its toothed leaves and delicious flavors highlighted by the sunny yellow flowers.  Dock rose up in long slender arms and invited me to have some.  It is a powerful blood cleanser, anti-cancer, and healing to the liver, but one wouldn’t know by its mild bite and delicious addition to meals.  Lamb’s Quarters showed shyly between wild grasses.

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Wild strawberry leaves sit between plantain leaves and take me to memories past.  A walk in the woods with my best friend some twenty-four years ago but really a day ago it seems.  We walked and dreamed.  Seventeen years old and filled with hope and certainty that our friendship would stand the tests of time.  We walked without shirts on, unbidden and wild and innocence, in dappled sunlight we walked in carefree youth and joy.  We agreed to meet ten years from the date with our families and walk this way again.  August 11, 2001 came and went as did 2011 and I only wish her great joy and blessings on her path in her own woods.  Strawberries will make a luxurious addition to our salads.

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We walked further, accidentally frightened frogs, and came across the pond.  Looking up into another ancient willow sat four birds.  Large owls sat in statue.  The husband, wife, and two infants, large and downy, flew one by one.  A gift for this fine day of free food and soulful walking.  How great is nature to provide vast amounts of food for us.  Free for the taking, ten times more nutritious than cultivated greens.  Cleansing, and filling, and healing.

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Try wild greens on mixed salad.  Or top pizza before baking.  Roast with potatoes and garlic.  Sauté with bacon and mushrooms.  Make into a smoothie.  Indulge.  Wild greens are actually milder than spinach.  There are many ways to prepare it.  In gratitude is the best way.

Dock has tasty greens.  Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.

Dock has tasty greens. Harvest the root in fall to make detoxifying extracts.

Lamb's quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!

Lamb’s quarters are found in many back yards proving that weeds can be delicious!

Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh.  The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.

Dandelion flowers can be made into jelly or fritters and the greens sautéed, roasted, or eaten fresh. The roots can be used to make immunity boosting extracts.

Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find.  Be grateful.  It makes the food more nutritious and healing.

Cut herbs like plantain with a sharp knife and only take up to one third of what you find. Be grateful. It makes the food more nutritious and healing.

Owl in tree.

Owl in tree.

Watching owls take flight.

Watching owls take flight.

Rainstorm moving in.

Rainstorm moving in.