Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Time Value of Moose

Hanging in a local kitchen.
The recipe for Bacon Apple Moose Meatloaf included a brief description of acquiring the required moose burger. Everyone I know in Galena use Moose as widely as other American's use beef (I don't think we've eaten beef since August). Moose hunting is therefore a serious endeavor each fall for many people. I was kindly invited to go along with a new friend Jason and his son Daniel one weekend last September in the midst of firewood cutting. I'd never been moose hunting (or really any kind of big game hunting) despite growing up in Alaska and was thankful to have an experienced local invite me along. 
We took Jason's boat to his camp on the river Friday evening. After unloading we took a short trip to this nearby lake to look for a moose. We didn't see anything, but we did hear something large in the woods and we saw a nice sunset.
Hunting is a bit like hiking, but instead of trying to be loud to scare away animals you're supposed to walk quietly so they don't hear you. It was a bit of a hard switch trying to make zero noise while walking in the woods. 

Saturday brought a beautiful morning to spend on the edge of a lake.
After a couple hours a cow moose came across the lake to me. Cows are not legal in this area so I just watched quietly and took a picture.
I spent a long time scanning the grass with as little movement as possible. 
Another sunset on the lake. No moose, but it was a great day anyway. 
Back at camp watching the fire and waiting for Jason and Daniel to return from their hunt.

I still amazes me how still the river can be at times. 

Sunday morning we all went to the spot I had spent Saturday. 
Daniel spotted a bull as he was coming out of the trees. He already had a good shot by the time I saw it and got his 3rd moose in 4 years. Though a little disappointed not to get my own moose, I was happy Daniel got one. Hunting itself is a relaxing day in the woods, the real work starts when you pull the trigger and have a moose to harvest.
Unfortunately the moose had just enough life to run into the lake. We pulled it out using the winch on Jason's 4-wheeler.
Daniel pulling the antlers to the side so they don't snag in the mud and Jason winches the moose onto the bank.
I was too busy helping cut a 600 pound moose into pieces that could be carried home to take any photos of the field dressing. This wasn't actually a large moose, but as Jason pointed out, even a small moose is still a large animal. It took the rest of the morning and all afternoon to get the moose back to camp.
Heading back up the river with a boat full of moose. We made it home just before sunset
I also forgot to take any photos of processing the moose once we were back to Jason's house. We hung the game bags up for a couple of days. Then we spend all of tuesday cutting it into steaks, roasts, and pieces that could be ground into burger. Corrie and Melinda came over after work and helped with grinding and wrapping the meat. Moose processing is hard work but enjoyable and we probably had about 300 pounds of meat in the freezers by the end of the day.

I've often heard people say how great it was to get "free" meat (mostly moose, caribou, sheep, or bear) and fish (salmon and sometimes halibut) in Alaska. My dad taught me long ago that this food isn't really free and although we did fish, we raised animals instead of hunting when I was younger. I think people forget that it takes hard work and often expensive equipment to go into the woods and bring back food. Then we mistake it as free because we didn't directly spend much money on it like we would buying meat at the store. Thinking about that while I worked at cutting up moose meat left me wondering* what my moose burger is actually worth. The following musings are not an attempt to establish an accurate fair market price, merely to have a ROM estimate to satisfy my own curiosity.

Costs:
Equipment - A lot of money can be spent on a boat, 4-wheelers, rifles and hunting camp. I don't have anyway of estimating the depreciation associated with hunting so I'm going ignore this even though it is significant.
Supplies (fuel, food and hunting license for the group) - I think this came out to about 300 dollars (mostly fuel) for the weekend or one dollar per pound of meat.
Time - I don't think the time spent hunting should be included. I enjoy being in the woods and have spent many days walking though the wilderness without getting any food. That leaves the time to field dress the moose haul it home and process it. I think the combined work of everyone involve probably exceeded 60 hours. That works out to about 5 pounds of meat per hour.

Before going hunting I was looking up prices for beef and found an assortment of beef cuts for about $5/lb plus $1/lb for shipping. If we equate moose to beef and trade supply costs for shipping that works out to about $25/hr (tax free). On one hand, even though I'm ignoring the cost of equipment and the time spent actually hunting the moose, all of the adults involved are capable of earning more at a "real job". On the other hand, although it's hard work moose processing, like firewood cutting, isn't quite the same as "working" in the corporate sense. There is also something about eating something you grow or hunt yourself that makes the work more enjoyable and moose is delicious.

Where does that put the time value of moose? There's a reason our ancestors traded hunting for farming and industry. If we're evaluating this from a purely economic sense, hunting might make sense for anyone who is unemployed or earning low wages and also already has the required equipment. If I'm a working tradesman or professional trying to justify taking a week off for moose hunting I should probably admit that I really just like going hunting** and the "free" meat is only a nice bonus.

*Seriously, I just naturally wonder about these things while I work. That's why engineering economics was probably the most influential course I took in college. Learning how to calculate and understand opportunity cost, realizing that the value of everything changes with respect to time, and discovering that the time value of money could be calculated is what pushed me from being a natural saver to becoming an investor. 

**I also did the math for Salmon fishing and the result is the same. It's more profitable to stay at work, but it's a lot more enjoyable sitting on the bank of the Copper River and Sockeye Salmon is also delicious. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Unexpected Adventure

Last night I was starting supper about 5:30 when a couple of friends from church showed up at the door to invite me along on an adventure. One of them had gone through the ice on his 4-wheeler earlier and they were hoping to get it out before it froze in.
I haven't gone sledding behind a snowmobile in years. The Northern Lights on the horizon were a nice bonus.  
4-wheelers want to float upside down because of the tires, so Ross had tied a tree to the bumper while he walked back to town. 
I didn't take any pictures during the removal process because I was too busy. We lifted the front end using 4x4s as levers and a stack of 2x10s for a fulcrum because they spread the weight across the ice. Once we had the front tires out we were able to pull it forward with a snowmobile.
Ross removing the anti-roll tree and examining his machine. 
The rear wheels were either locked up or frozen and wouldn't turn. The wheels were also too wide for the sled, so we build a pallet for the 4-wheeler to ride out on.
Saturday evening at the lake... 
We hauled it back to town and left it in another friends Garage to thaw. I heard today that Ross actually got it running again last night after I went home. Not quite what I had in mind for saturday evening, and I didn't get any new Aurora photos, but it was a fun adventure.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Aurora Photos

Celebrating the end of our week by staying up late and going "out" Friday night.

The forecast called for active Aurora last night so I kept an eye on the sky all evening. When they started dancing at eleven we decided to go out of town and escape the light pollution.  These are Corrie's photos which turned out nicer than mine.













Tonight's forecast calls for higher activity than last night's did. Hopefully it will be clear tonight as well. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cooking in Galena

One of the things I missed while visiting other parts of the world is cooking for myself. In Galena it's pretty much the opposite. There isn't a restaurant in town (although their is coffee shop that sometimes offers food) so we cook everything ourselves. Don't worry though, we're not starving out here. Here are a few recipes I've been perfecting over the last couple of months:

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
Combine in a large bowl:
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
2-1/2 cups hot water (uncomfortable to touch, but not boiling)
Mix well before adding:
1-1/2T of yeast (4-1/2t or two packages) 
Mix briefly and let the yeast work for a few minutes before adding the rest of the flour:
2 cups of whole wheat flour
2-1/2 to 3 cups of white flour

Once the dough is stiff enough to handle kneed by hand for 5 minutes. (The oatmeal will make the dough feel lumpy even after sufficient kneading, this is normal.) Place dough in a greased bowl near the wood stove (or other warm place) cover with a damp cloth and allow it to double in size. Punch dough down, divide in two and place in well buttered bread pans. (Don't skimp on butter, the bread will stick to the pans.) Preheat oven to 350 while the loaves rise. Bake for about 40 minutes until done. 

This started as a recipe from a cookbook called More-with-Less that I modified repeatedly to increase the amount of whole grain and simplify the procedure. It's now well over 50% whole grain, is quick enough to make once a week and it tastes great. 

Sometimes I add raisins or finely chopped apple to one loaf before putting it into the pan. 
Note: The heals are best eaten hot with butter and/or honey. 


Bacon Apple Moose Meatloaf (BAMM)
Step 1
Find a legal moose during moose season.
Shoot the moose.
Haul the meat back to town and grind some into moose burger... This really deserves its own post someday.

Step 2 
Combine in a large bowl:
~1.5 lbs ground moose
~1 cup chopped apple
~1 cup chopped onion
~1 cup rolled oats
~1 cup shredded Tillamook medium cheddar (theoretically another brand could be used)
~1/2 cup chopped bacon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place the mixture in a baking dish of appropriate size and bake at 350 for about an hour. 

Beans:
2 cups small red beans
cups black beans
cup white beans
Place beans in large stock pot, cover with water and let soak overnight. Drain and rinse beans. Add:
10 cups of water
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp of olive oil
Add onion, celery, garlic, pepper and salt to taste (as available).
Bring to boil and place on wood stove to simmer until done (3-6 hours) stirring occasionally. Removing the lid part way through cooking will result and thicker beans. 


Sometimes I even eat beans with breakfast.

Baked Salmon
Thaw a fillet (If you're in a hurry just place the sealed fillet hot water for 20-30 minutes).
Set the oven to 450 F.
Place the fillet in a baking pan with the skin down.
Smear the top of the fillet with butter. 
Add salt, garlic, and black pepper to taste (I probably use about a Tbsp of each). 
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Kolaches:
My grandma gave this recipe to my dad years ago. If I remember correctly she originally used lard instead of Crisco. We didn't have either of those, so I used butter which worked very well. 
I made the Kolaches for a grade school geography club presentation Corrie and I did on Prague and the Czech Republic. Despite being less sweet than many modern American desserts the kids seemed to really like them. 
Prune Kolaches
Prune filling: cut prunes in half or maybe quarters and boil in a small amount of water until the mixture becomes thick. 
We only brought one cookie sheet out so I got creative. The cake pans worked well as did placing the Kolaches on a piece of foil to rise and then sliding them onto the cookie sheet for baking.  

Apple kolaches and poppy seed rolls
Apple filling: Basically apple pie filling, but with smaller pieces of apple. I cooked it on the stove for a bit before adding it to the kolaches to help it set up.

Poppy seed filling: Approximately a 1:1 mixture of raisins softened in boiling water and canned poppy seed cooked together for a few minutes at low heat.

As an experiment I made enough filling for three Kolaches using dried cherries the same way I made the prune filling. They were really good. 
We decided to subscribe to service called full circle that ships out a box of fresh vegetables each week a couple months ago. They recently sent us a pomegranate which I have never had fresh before. Corrie knew how to get the fruit out of the shell, I made whipping cream and Melinda shaved dark chocolate on top... It turned out to be a much fancier dessert than expected so we took a picture.
Apple Crisp also bakes fine in a cake pan. I think I prefer it without the chocolate though. 
Deep dish Pizza, yet another use for a 9" cake pan...  


Monday, October 20, 2014

River of Ice

I've been watching Yukon freezing up for a couple of weeks now and photographing the river as it changes. This would make a great time-lapse photography project with a more consistent schedule, but this fall almost all of the photos are from different vantage points.

I first saw ice in the river on the trip to Ruby that I wrote about previously.  
Charlie's depth gage was reporting water temperatures between 31.9 and 32.1 degrees F. 
After snow and a few nights in single digits the ice was getting thicker.
 It takes a while for a river that's a mile wide in places to freeze. 
The sun sets in the west over the river now instead of far to the north. 

The ice is starting to build up along the shore now. 

One of the cool things about the icebergs floating down the river is that it makes it a lot easier to see the current. The wind seems to have much less of a visual affect on the ice. I'm afraid my iPhone video does the actual visual poor justice.
video

First photo update: There hasn't been a lot of change since the original post but the sunsets over the river are nice.





video

video

I stood on the ice at the edge today and it seemed solid. Would anyone like to hazard a guess on when the Yukon will freeze solid enough for me to walk across?

Second update: It's November 3rd and, though choked with ice, the Yukon is still flowing slowly along. The locals say it will freeze any day now and be safe to walk across within a week of freezing.

Corrie and I took a walk down to see the river a couple days ago. 
Probably the first time Corrie was the one throwing things in the water while I took pictures. 
Looking up river earlier today.
Bike parking in Galena.

Third and final update: As of the 5th of November the ice is still. There are still a few patches of open water, but a few nights at -10 F sealed the river's fate until spring.



video
You can see the steam rising from one of the few remaining patches of open water in the video above. I remember asking my dad long ago how water could be making steam when it was so cold. I'm glad he took the time to explain it to that curious kid. I still think physics is awesome 30 years later...