25 December 2010

Holidaze and the New Year


The Paleohund pack wishes you happy holidays and a happy new year!

I will be spending time with family followed by a 6 day new year celebration down in southern Virginia with some quality friends. In that time I plan on updating and finalizing the various pages on the site. I also intend on ironing out my goals and plans for the website in 2011. 2010, even with the knee injury, has been awesome. Anyway, have fun, be safe.

22 December 2010

Snowy Hike

Saturday after doing CrossFit with my older brother and eating a power breakfast, we met up with one of our younger brothers and went for a hike. My older brother lives in a gorgeous area with a trail not far from his house which leads to Gambrill State Park in the Catoctin Mountain Range. As if the CrossFit workout was not tough enough, my dogs and I ended up hiking over 4 hours.

My brothers and two of their dogs

Cyprus and Dakota took the lead

Monkey cooling down in a creek

With that last photo, my older brother turned back with his two dogs. The trail from there started to increase in elevation as we approached the Gambrill trails. We could see a few foot and paw prints and at least one mountain bike tire track along the trail. Cyprus generally stuck with us, but often sprinted off-trail, following one scent after another. Shaman did well in the Palisades Pack, and with it being his first time wearing it I did not load it. Periodically I would come across rocks that seemed even in size and weight, so I would place them in each side of his pack. And other than periodically nearly taking out our knees as he ran by, he showed no signs of dislike of this burden. I decided to wear my KSO Treks with Injinji Socks and although my feet were cold, I did my best to keep them dry and that made a world of difference.

Shaman Sporting the Palisades Pack

Cold Toes
Shaman hanging by me
On the way back we took different trails and I have to admit we were lost for some time. However using the setting of the sun as a guide and eventually finding the distinct footprint of my Five Fingers, we made it back as the sun was setting. At some point my younger brother remembered he had GPS tracking on his phone. Once we used that I felt like we were cheating the system. Had we not had the GPS helping us, I was still glad my brother was there. Who else were the pups and I to eat later to survive?


Group Shot
Overlook
Cyprus taking in the view
Once we got back to my brother’s house and I had given each dog a quick post-adventure inspection for injuries I focused on bringing warmth and color back to my toes. Oh the burn! I think next time I will hesitate about wearing the KSO Treks in the snow for long time periods like that. In my pack I had picked up some additional rocks that I can use to slowly transition the weight capacity each dog can carry. Looking back I probably should have bought a Palisades pack for Cyprus, as I am not quite satisfied with the storage and water capacity of the Singletrak pack. The hike itself definitely finished off what CrossFit hadn't already beat out of my legs. We all slept well that night.

21 December 2010

How to Eat Pigeon

Ingredients:
1 - City-Raised Pigeon, Freshly Caught

Directions:
Eating pigeon is extremely simple. If fact, it can be explained perfectly with photos:




Outside of my office we have had a group of hawks thinning out the pigeons and squirrels. Thought I would share.

20 December 2010

CrossFit, My First Impressions

This past weekend I did my very first CrossFit workout. My older brother is a member of CrossFit Frederick and I joined him early Saturday for a holiday themed WOD at their facility. The WOD was as follows:

1. L-Pullup
2. Man-Makers
3. Box Jumps, 24"/20"
4. Ring Dips
5. Air Squats
6. 1 pood (35#) Kettlebell swings
7. Mountain Climbers (4 count)
8. Dumbbell Clean
9. Push-ups
10. Thrusters (45/30#)
11. Burpees
12. Glute-ham Sit-ups

Similar to the Twelve Days of Christmas song, we would do 12 sets with each set adding a new exercise and working our way back through the other exercises. So the first set was simply a single L-Pullup. The second set was 2 man-makers and a single L-Pullup. By the 10th set I was beat, arms quivering and breathing fairly hard. The last two sets were killers and I was delusional trying to remember what to do next and keep proper form. It felt really good to finish and even today, two days later with every muscle aching, I am glad I pushed so hard.

I was thoroughly impressed with the gym. The instructors were very knowledgeable, were very good at being drill sergeants, and worked with me to make sure my form was correct. Having never tried many of the exercises, I really liked how they showed each exercise and how to scale it down before we got started. They also explained what muscles were worked by the different exercises between frequent interruptions by the group joking around. You could see the camaraderie among the members and see how they were there to have fun. Once the WOD began it was all business.

I can definitely see the appeal of CrossFit and if there was a gym close to me I would be a member without question. I am hoping to make morning CrossFit sessions a part of every visit with my brother. We followed our workout with a large breakfast of pastured eggs, bacon and scrapple I brought with me. My knee held up surprising well, so we followed breakfast with a long hike in the nearby mountain range with our dogs. Good times.

17 December 2010

First Snow

So yesterday was the first real snow we have had this winter. The hounds both have a particular reaction when it comes to snow. Shaman has seen four winters and thinks he has seen enough for a lifetime. He goes outside to do what he has to do and that is that, time for the fireplace! Cyprus on the other hand loves the snow. She is all hops and sprints. To Shaman's “F**k This!”, Cyprus is more of a “F**k Yeah!” Needless to say, I got more photos of Cyprus.
Deer in the headlights look.

Flying.

Shaman moves a bit.

Who needs steps?

Ready to go in.

More Hiking Photos

Sunday following the Saturday Hike I took the dogs out to another park to hike. Here are a few pictures:

Shaman tends to stick by me.

I did not let Cyprus hold my cellphone this time.

Cyprus seeing if her vest is a flotation device.

Back on the dock.


15 December 2010

Updates!

  • Had a follow up appointment regarding my knee. Going to wait 3 months for the second surgery. I've been given clearance to run and be active. I've been missing my weekly sprints with the dogs. Need to find out what causes pain and/or instability. One hell of a way I plan to test this out is to:
  • Do a CrossFit workout. This weekend I will be staying with my brother who goes to CrossFit Frederick. For as long as I've known about the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, I've known about CrossFit. They tend to go hand-in-hand in many ways. This will be my first go at it.
  • After some more thought after last weekend's hike I ordered Shaman his own pack. This time I went with Ruffwear's Palisades Pack. I look forward to testing that out in the 3 months I have until the next surgery.
  • Yes, I am still eating duck. And yes, it is still f**king amazing.
  • Today marks 45 days of being strict Paleo. I've dropped a belt size... which has been quickly consumed by the extra layers I have to wear with this blistery cold weather we are having in Maryland.

14 December 2010

Duck, It's Whats For Dinner (and Lunch All This Week)

Last week at one of the farmers markets I mentioned to the owner of Twin Post Farm, where I get both chicken and duck eggs, I would like to try a meat duck. She had both Pekin and Khaki Campbell available, the first being around 6lbs, the latter 3lb. I asked for one of each.

I bought the larger one at $4.50/lb ($27) and cooked it on Saturday. Using my River Cottage Meat Book I followed the Roast Duck and Beets recipe, substituting the potatoes and beets with sweet potatoes and buttercup winter squash, which I was able to find local and organicly grown.
The Duck and the Bible
Being my first time cooking duck I was a little anxious, but everything worked out fine. As compared to chicken, the duck was far fatter and the skin was tougher. I was used to being able to just pull the meat off the bone, whereas I had to use my knife for most of the duck.
Rendering Fat, Boiling Vegetables, Making Gravy
Another thing I've never done is render fat. As per the recipe, I pulled some of the excess fat out of the duck cavity and put it in one of my cast iron pans. After draining most of the fat into a jar, I fried the liver in the remaining. The taste of the cracklings and the liver were spectacular!
Rendered Duck Fat with Cracklings and Fried Liver
I have to say that the final product was amazing! The skin could have been a little crispier, but the meat and the fat were juicy and the gravy some of the best I've ever tasted.
Done Roasting
Final Product
I have yet to have a bad meal out of the Meat Book. At times I am tempted to just go through the whole book and try cooking everything.
Pre-Rinse Cycle
In the event you want to know what the hounds had for dinner:
Turkey Head and Feet with Duck Blood

13 December 2010

Saturday Hike

Saturday, with the weather being a little chilly, I took the dogs for a hike at a local trail. Having just completed a month of physical therapy, I wanted to test out my knee. Also, having recently got a new pair of KSO Treks, I figured I would take those out of a test spin.

Cyprus and I were wearing packs, both mildly weighted. Cyprus wore Ruffwear's Singletrak Pack, both water bladders filled, and I let her carry my car keys and cell phone among other things I could fit into her pack. I have not yet bought a pack for Shaman for a few reasons. He is very adaptable and a great hiking partner, so I know other than getting him used to carrying a certain weight, he will have no problems. Cyprus, on the other hand, does not have the hiking or trail experience Shaman does, so I got her a pack first. Also, never having bought hiking packs for dogs before, I didn't want to buy two packs without trying them out first and I am confident my little lady will put it to the test.

We hiked for about an hour and a half. From one of my races earlier in the year I came across a large rock that fits perfectly in my hiking pack, weighing about 35lbs. Even with this weight my knee held up fine. For about 90% of the hike I was able to get both dogs to walk behind me, off leash, with no problems. Periodically Cyprus would sprint by us, but all I would have to do is whistle and she would come right back. I started making a game of this, giving her the okay to jet past me, typically saving it for uphill sections. She would sprint uphill with the weighted pack lightning fast. After several of these sprints she tired slightly and started behaving. I've found success in training by giving their misbehavior a command, and letting them do it periodically, such as chasing something or jumping up on a person, but only when I give the okay. So the dogs start waiting for me to give the okay before doing acting. They know it is coming and I can wait for a safe setting for them to be a dog.

In taking Leave No Trace to the next level, I walked with a plastic bag picking up trash along the way. Leave Less Trace I guess. I would get the dogs to stop and wait for me to pick up trash, either bending down or walking off trail to get something. By the end of the walk I had filled the bag completely, mostly with plastic bottles.

Anyway, here are some photos of our hike:






The hike got me thinking about this summer. Whereas I will not be doing any of the races I did last year and I will be recovering from a second surgery, I figured I would start planning a backpacking trip. I am considering 2 or 3 weeks of backcountry camping with the dogs, probably on the Appalachian Trail. While I am recovering from the surgery I will have plenty of time to plan and prep.

09 December 2010

Coyotes and Greyhounds, is it Dog Fighting?

First, to soften you up, check out The Daily Coyote. Amazing photos of a domesticated coyote. I stumbled across the book about a year ago and very much enjoyed the photos in it.

Now on to the hunt. The NY Times back in April had an article with the following title: Coyote vs. Greyhound: The Battle Lines Are Drawn.

I've always thought Greyhounds looked like emaciated rats. Maybe that is just how they are bred for conformation and racing purposes. Most of the Greyhounds I have met have been rescued and were former racers. I think the ones shown in this article, as well as the mixed breeds, look far healthier and fitter than the ones I am used to.
Shaman and a Greyhound
The Oklahoma gentleman interviewed calls them calm and gentle in addition to being efficient killers. He argues that hunting coyotes is exactly what they were born and bred to do, what they live for. According to the AKC, the Greyhound is an ancient breed seen on Egyptian tombs are far back as 2900 B.C. “It was used on practically all kinds of game from deer, stags, foxes and such, but the hare is the Greyhound’s natural quarry.“ The history of the breed goes further to say they were brought over to the Americas by the Spanish and used to intimidate and punish the Indians. And George Washington is known to have traveled with a large greyhound named Azor during the American Revolution. So at least according to this brief history, it looks like the Greyhound has been quite the versatile hunting dog.

Although coyotes help control rodent populations and are important part of the ecosystem, they are considered a major pest by ranchers whose livestock are killed by them. The article goes on to state that in 2008 the federal Agriculture Department killed nearly 90,000 coyotes in 2008 by the use of traps, aerial gunning and bait filled with poisonous gas.

So if coyotes are pests, why not let them be hunted with dogs? The Chairwoman of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Miranda Wecker thinks this is simply dogs ripping apart other dogs and should be likened to dog fighting rather than hunting. So is this man from Oklahoma more of a George Washington or a Michael Vick character?

The hunter continues with “If you didn't let them run, you would be denying what they were bred to do.” I fully agree with this. However they could hunt other things and not deny them the chase. Watching my two run after a deer, rabbit, or squirrel is a beautiful sight. And they come back with a twinkle in their eyes screaming “Best. Thing. Ever.”

I am torn. Since I was a little kid I always threw dogs in the same group as coyotes, foxes and wolves. So the child in me says this is dog fighting. However, having seen my dogs before, during and after a chase, I understand why this hunter does not see anything wrong with what he is doing.

The article mentions hunters often leave the coyote carcasses behind. If they are an overpopulated pest, I am possibly okay with this, however if I am going to hunt something I want to use what I've killed. I would not go so far as to feed the dogs coyote meat... I have major concerns about that, even though wolves are known to kill and eat coyotes from time to time. I am thinking the pelt could be used for many things, and I'd be willing to try to coyote meat.

I am going to side with the hunter on this one. Although I am 150% against dog fighting as a sport, I would be okay hunting coyotes with my dogs. When I get home I'll ask them if they would like to take a trip to Oklahoma.


08 December 2010

Walking on Eggshells

Eggs tend to be a breakfast staple in my kitchen. I tend to eat as few as two to as many as a whole dozen each meal. I would like to note that have only eaten a dozen eggs the morning after one of my ultra-marathons or some equally as physically demanding event. I average probably four and ideally they come from different farms, and all from pastured, happy hens. More recently at least one of the eggs is from a duck. All this being said, I end up with a lot of eggshells and rather than just throw them away I have been trying to find something, anything to do with them.

At first, where there is still some egg white inside each shell, I would throw them outside and Cyprus would crush them a bit and eat a bit of them. After that I noticed my local blue jays were picking up the tiny pieces Cyprus left. Still, the quantity was a bit overwhelming and my backyard was starting to build up. Not enough blue jays I guess. And the lawnmower was not helping chop them up, so I decided to try something else.

Next I started adding them to my compost pile. Very soon the compost became 90% eggshells and coffee grounds. I know shells will break down, but unless they are crushed it will take a long time. And I was looking for a quick, yet sustainable, disposal method and crushing each and every shell into tiny pieces just didn't do it for me. So I went to the internet for ideas. From drain cleaners to skin-tightening face cream, I realized most options do not involve some quick and easy solution.

Therefore I have started a pilot program of keeping the shells in the kitchen. Once I collect a decent amount I will dry them out in my oven. I then take a morter and pestle, feeling like an alchemist, and break them down into a powder. I intend to work this egg powder in my yard in areas I plan on growing vegtables this spring.

Dried shells

Crushed shells

Stored shells

Ready to be worked into the soil

I am starting to realize that although something like this is neither quick or easy, it should pay off later with healthier vegetables.

07 December 2010

Tracking a Beagle

Whether it is my knee being injured or the colder weather, I have found myself reminiscing on the many adventures I had this past year both planned and unplanned. One event that occurred over Easter weekend involved my friend’s beagle who managed to get outside of my fenced-in backyard and into the nearly 200 acres of woods behind my house. Here is the story as told to a friend in an email with a few edits:
Molly the Beagle
5am I fed all three dogs and then went back to bed. 8am I woke, ready to feed myself this time. I have been leaving my back door open so that the dogs could go in and out of the house and fenced backyard as they please. Right as I am about to fire up the cast iron to cook my bacon/eggs/liver/sausage power breakfast, Shaman comes trotting up with a look of concern. I look outside and Cyprus is at the back fence staring into the woods behind my house. I step outside and hear the baying of the beagle into the woods. Wearing a shirt and shorts, I threw on my KSO Treks, ran out the back door, jumped over the fence, and headed into the woods. I should note that I have never ventured into these woods because it is a dense combination of small pine trees and thick briars. 

I ran for a solid 10 minutes following the sound of the dog baying. The thought of losing my friend's dog was pushing me to run hard. After some time I realized I was not getting gaining on the dog and that the vegetation was getting thicker and harder to traverse. I turned around and ran back, coming out of the woods 2 houses down from mine. I ran to my house, grabbed my keys and the dogs, and drove to a road that parallels the large forest behind my house. With the window down I eventually came to a place ahead of the faint baying of the beagle. I pulled over, left the keys in the car, let the dogs out, and ran into the woods. I tried a "FIND Molly" command a few times, but it didn't do anything. Eventually, as we ran further, I noticed Shaman's ears perk up when Molly would bay, so I tried the "FIND Molly" command again this time he understood. So Cyprus and I followed Shaman... running about 4 miles through more trees and briars, but also several knee-deep swampy parts. I could not tell if we were gaining on her or not. Eventually I saw the white of her tail sticking up ahead. I yelled (in an angry voice) "Molly! Come here!"... but being a beagle on a trail she paid no attention to me. By this point I am extremely muddy and especially bloody from all the cuts on my arms and legs... and there is no way in hell I am going to let this dog keep on running. With adrenaline surging I commanded my dogs (in my deepest, guttural voice) "GET HER!"

Shaman and Cyprus take off. Shaman chooses a dryer, higher ground, while Cyprus runs straight at Molly. Cyprus slams into the little beagle and pins her, biting down on her sides. As Molly struggles to get away, Cyprus lets out a growl (that put my guttural voice to shame) that seemed to say "If you move I will rip you in half you little shit!" I run up, grab the beagle (who is now shaking like she has epilepsy), tell Cyprus to RELEASE, and hoist the little shit dog onto my shoulder. I praise both dogs and then tell Shaman to "TAKE THE LEAD", which I use when I want him to run ahead of me when we are out running trails. Again we follow Shaman... and, no lie, he brought us back out of the woods exactly where we went in. We make it out of the woods and to the road near my car. I currently look like Swamp Thing starred in the Passion of the Christ. I have both dogs WAIT while I make sure no cars are coming. No cars, but two cyclists were coming close. There I stood with a dog on each side, holding a shivering and drenched beagle on my shoulders, bleeding and muddy as they approached. "Happy Easter" I said. "Good morning" was returned in a rather shocked response as they proceeded to peddle harder and periodically looked back at me. I let the dogs get in the car, threw in the beagle, and headed home. I was ready for breakfast.

Back home, Beagle caught
So, after a long shower and pulling 11 embedded ticks off me (not counting what was on the dogs), I was able to eat breakfast for the first time in a long time feeling I earned it. I realized that there was no way I could be mad over the situation, as I had not lose my friend's dog, I had the most intense trail run yet, I got to combine my trailing running experience with my dog training experience, and my dogs performed flawlessly.


06 December 2010

Minimalist Shoes

Want a chance to win a pair of minimalist shoes? Check out Running and Rambling's post. He will be giving away a pair of Terra Plana's VIVOBAREFOOT models.

I have a few planned posts on my experiences with several of the minimalist shoes out there. Ultimately I think going barefoot is the way to go but that is not always possible unfortunately. I first got started with a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for running and weight lifting. Wearing these to work, although comfortable, are not quite approved of. Being a Professional Engineer for a local government, I am not in to wearing athletic shoes for my day to day work. That is where Terra Plana comes in. Check them out and check out the give away mentioned above.

04 December 2010

Updates!

Thank you for visiting Paleohund! Here are a few quick updates:

  • I have started drafting various other pages and sections for this website. So lieu of posts I am preparing to work on a few of these pages.



  • This morning I had a cooked a deer heart omelet in pastured bacon fat. 6 eggs and about half a heart cubed. I am pretty sure if I had told myself several years ago that I would be eating something like this I would have probably shat myself. That being said, it was delicious!

01 December 2010

Meditations on Hunting

One of my most favorite reads is a book called Meditations on Hunting by Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. At least once a year I have Enoch Pratt send me down a copy of the first translation of the work. Although I've been tempted to order the newer version, I have fallen in love with this older book and its penciled hunting illustrations between chapters. The book does not go into the details of hunting, but more into the larger topics of why we hunt today when we do not need to hunt to survive and how for Paleolithic man hunting was his occupation. The book also touches on the domestication of the modern dog to the scarcity of game and how it different classes viewed the hunt.

Here is an excerpt of the book from the chapter Suddenly We Hear The Sound of Barking:
Suddenly a dog's bark shatters the prevailing silence. This bark is not merely a point of noise that appears at a spot on the mountain and remains there - rather it seems to extend rapidly in a line. We hear, and almost see, the barking run loose, weaving swiftly through space like some erratic star. In an instant the barking runs over the plains like a lightning bolt. Many different voices follow it, advancing in the same way. The game is seen, raised in dizzying flight like wind on the wind. The entire countryside is polarized, seemingly magnetized. The fear of the pursued animal is like a vacuum into which everything in the environs is thrown. Beaters, dogs, small game, everything heads that way, and even the birds, frightened, fly rapidly in that direction. The fear which causes the beast to flee absorbs the entire countryside, suctions it, carries it racing along behind, and even the hunter, outwardly quiet, is inwardly moved, his heart racing wildly. The beast's fear... but is it so certain that the beast is afraid? At least his fear is not at all like fear in man. In the animal fear is permanent; it is his way of life, his occupation. We are talking, then, about a professional fear, and when something becomes professionalized it is quite different. Therefore, while fear makes man slow of mind and movement, it carries the faculties of the beast to their greatest performance. Animal life culminates in fear. Skillfully the stag eludes the obstacle; with millimetric precision he threads swiftly through the gap between two tree trunks. Nose to the wind, neck arched, he lets swing free the regal antlery which balances his acrobatics, as the pole does for the tightrope walker. He gains distance with the speed of a meteor. His hoofs hardly touch the ground; rather, as Nietzsche says of the dancer, he limits himself to acknowledging it with the point of his foot; acknowledging it in order to eliminate it, in order to leave it behind. Suddenly, on the spine of a low ridge the stag appears to the hunter; he sees him cut across the sky with the elegant grace of a constellation, launched there by the springs of his slender extremities. The leap of the roe dear or stag - and even more of certain antelopes - is perhaps the most beautiful event that occurs in Nature. He lands again at a distance and accelerates his flight, because the snorting dogs are close on his heels-the dogs, abettors of all this vertigo, that have transmitted their delightful frenzy to the mountain and now, in pursuit of the game, tongues hanging out, bodies stretched to their full length, gallop obsessed-hound, mastiff, beagle, greyhound.
Although this is a translation from Spanish, it is still breathtaking. Most of the book is written in this manner, quasi-philosophical musings from well thought out ideas. He also speaks of our evolution from a hunter-gatherer people without skirting around any of the biblical bull. Also in this chapter:
The dog enters domesticity toward the end of the Paleolithic Age, in the later Capsian culture, contemporaneous with the Solutrean-Magdalenian. Its first documented appearance in found in Spain, in the Cave of the Old Woman of Alpera. It seems that it was not yet use in hunting. This happens a little later, at the beginning of the Neolithic Age, in the period called Maglemosian. The dog was, then, the first domestic animal. It is not even certain that man domesticated it; certain evidence suggests that the dog spontaneously approached man. Doubtless the leavings of food attracted him. Perhaps, even more than food, the dog found something else attractive in being close to man: warmth. It is enough to see the happiness of today's dog when he is beside a fire. The coals intoxicate him, and do not forget that man is, first and foremost, the animal with fire in his fist. The manipulation of fire, the success of having it at his disposal, was man's first physical discovery and the root of all the others. Before anything else, he dominated flame; he arises in Nature as the flammiferous beat.
Domesticated by fire?
I think I can accept the advent of domesticated dogs occurred through our ancestor's use of fire. I am sure the people that managed to befriend these canine beasts had many other benefits than simply a hunting partner. They had the protection and intimidation abilities, and maybe a few found the companionship enjoyable. And I am sure that the scraps mentioned above are similar to the scraps my hounds get, as I cannot physically eat every part of the animal. But going back to fire, I've taken Shaman to countless bonfires and he seems to have a natural inclination to hang by the fire. Now he never tries to jump over the flame like I've often done, he does keep his distance. But I have seen the intoxication mentioned above, staring into the flames absorbed.

The chapter goes on to touch topics like MovNat's Zoo Human concept. I am sure no one will accept the charge of being degenerate, but Ortega y Gasset presents his case like this:

From the zoological point of view, the domesticated animal is a degenerate one, as is man himself. In the artificial existence which man offers, the beast loses not a few of his instincts, even though he refines others which man needs and tries to select in breeding. The space left in the animal’s life by the loss of these instincts is filled by teaching and training. But generally this is something that is only trivially and superficially understood. Through training man introduces certain forms of human conduct in the animal. That is, domestication partially de-animalizes and partially humanizes the beast. This is to say that the domestic animal is an intermediate reality between the pure animal and man, which, in turn, is to say that something like reason operates in the domestic animal. That is what has never been pointed out, although it is completely obvious.

Cyprus: U Degenerate!   Prynn: Yo Momma Degenerate!
Later in the book the topic of hunting as an escape, a vacation from the human condition are delved into.

Man cannot re-enter Nature except by temporarily rehabilitating that part of himself which is still an animal. And this, in turn, can be achieved only by placing himself in relation to another animal. But there is no animal, pure animal, other than the wild one, and the relationship with him is the hunt.
Only the wild animal is properly in the countryside, not just on top of it, simply having it in view. If we want to enjoy that intense pure happiness which is a “return to Nature,” we have to seek the company of the surly beast, descend to his level, feel emulation toward him, pursue him. This subtle rite is the hunt.


Simply put, we should embrace our hunting ancestors and grab our gun or bow or spear and hunt (and do not forget your degenerate wolf!). Now I won't go so far as to say find you a club and you will be able to take any woman back to your cave. But maybe we should step out of our cubicles with their artificial light and give hunting a shot.

30 November 2010

30 Days Strict and Discussing Paleo

I have been going strict paleo for 30 days now. Besides a few bites of pork juice soaked bread at Woodberry Kitchen, I have been eating great without any urges to cheat. And other than a few late night social outings, I have been getting great sleep. All in all, I feel amazing.

One issue I've had when I've talked to people about how eating paleo has helped me lean up has been the response: "well you run like a 1,000 miles each week." Looking past the fact I would have shot myself long before completing that type of distance in a week, people would always attribute my improved health to my ultra-marathon running and training. They would assume that my ability to once or twice a month go off and run 30-50+ miles of backwoods trail involved a heavy training schedule. Hardly.

30 miles into Highland Sky 40M Trail Race
Having been rocking the paleo lifestyle for a few years, I quickly found the aerobic and anaerobic benefits of sprinting. For minimal time investment each week I was maintaining and improving my performance during my ultra trail races. So if anything, it was not 1,000 miles per week but maybe 10 minutes of sprints that helped me stay in shape. Ultimately though I know it was the high quality fuel I was consuming: high fat, moderate protein, and low to no carbohydrates from local, organic vegetables and grass-fed/pastured meat.

Where I am going with this is simple. With my knee I am unable to run. And although I've leaned out considerably over the years, I am far from having single digit body fat or well-defined six pack. And given I will not be able to run for at least a year, and not play soccer for probably two, I can now show results purely from diet.

That brings up other issues, as to do I care that much about wanting a six-pack and do I need the approval of others as to how I've accomplished my weight loss? First, yes I would like to at some point in my life have a noticeable six-pack and may be a little vain (see item 6). Second, I do not care what others think, however I do like to argue and debate. And when someone overweight gives me fitness or nutrition advice I want to tell them to STFU and smack the low-fat yogurt out of their hand. That is after I explain how they are wrong.

29 November 2010

Sunday Bloody Sunday

I heart deer season!

I spent a good part of Sunday either meeting up with hunters or slicing and dicing what they gave me into more appropriately meal sized portions. Throwing, say a whole ribcage, in the backyard loses it novelty after the first few times and the neigbhors have stopped calling the police. I ended up with several hearts, livers and meaty leg bones. I sliced up some of the heart and liver for myself... I look forward to comparing it with the grass-fed beef heart and liver I have been eating lately. And for lunch today I cubed some leg meat and cooked that in lard. It was delicious!

Although I currently do not hunt, I know I will eventually. Other than time, luck, and a well placed arrow or bullet, here is free food for you and/or your dogs. I have been offering the hunters help to clean the deer they shoot, hoping to learn everything so that when I do start I can be self-sufficient and avoid wasting anything. Of course if you have dogs that eat raw it is really hard to waste anything. Personally, I can easily justify the taking of a life of a deer if I can do it in a manner that utilizes the whole beast.  




The above hanging deer was from the first hunter I met with. He hunts rather close to Caliope Organic Farm who have lost most of their lettuce to deer like this one. While we were talking we saw cars slow down and a herd of five deer come sprinting by. They ran by about 100 feet from us. I will admit it was a strange feeling seeing in my vision both the quite dead cleaned deer and the quite alive running deer.

I just finished rereading Meditiations on Hunting by Jose Ortega y Gasset. It is interesting that one of my favorite books is on hunting and I have never hunted. He does delve briefly into the morality issues with hunting, and ultimately posits that "Every good hunter is uneasy when faced with the death he is about to inflict." In a future post I intend to present some of the ideas in the book and how they relate to our hunter-gatherer roots and the domestication of dogs for hunting.

27 November 2010

Turkey Day 3 of 3: Eating the Birds

This is the final of three posts on this Thanksgiving and the special bird that made the meal.The previous posts can be found here:

10.9 lbs of awesomeness
Actually the weight of the bird was the only issue. My grandmother said she usually gets a 15lb bird at the grocery store, so if I could get something around that size she would be happy. My bird, which was one of the larger of the heritage birds, ran just shy of 11lbs. Grandma was not a happy camper. However, after seeing the size of bird and listening to my explaination that the weight of a 15lb bird from a grocery store includes the giblets and the injected brine. I said my bird was comparable to a 13lb grocery bird. A bit of a stretch, but it worked. Grandma was happy again, so I was happy.

From Tom to Nom Nom
Long story short, the dinner went great. The turkey cooked amazingly well. The white meat was juicy and the dark meat was far from greasy. We had 18 people and two little kids and the bird fed everyone with some to spare. I am extremely satisfied with how everything turned out and very glad we had the opportunity to eat a fresh, local, pastured turkey this year. I hope we can continue this trend.

I took the carcass home and have made a large amount of an excellent stock that smells of Thanksgiving. And having currently surived two Thanksgiving feasts, with two more on the horizon, my plan of sticking to my guns and eating paleo throughout the holiday is going well. I have not walked away from the table feeling bloated and have throughly enjoyed spending quality time with so many family and friends. Life is good.

Wake Up Call and Death Sprints

My mornings usually go like this:
Sunrise. Light creeps into my room.
I stretch and yawn.
All hell brakes loose.

When I get up, that means breakfast. Cyprus will jump up and either off the bed or on to me. If Shaman does not move fast enough, Cyprus is back on the bed to move him along. Sometimes I am not ready to get up, so I try to calm Cyprus down and get her back to laying down. This works fairly well, but if I am unable to reign her in before she convinces Shaman it is time to wake, I have to get up.

Having two or more dogs can present issues in and of itself. Individually both dogs are extremely obedient, but in situations like this they can feed off each other and get out of control quickly. I also see this frequently if they are told to STAY and someone or something of interest presents itself. If either dog was alone, there would be no issue and they would not break the STAY command. But together you can watch them start to eye each other. One may lean towards the target, which will cause the other to lean towards it as well. At that point, unless I break out my deep alpha voice, whether it is a twitch of a paw or an all out explosive burst, they are both off after said person or thing trying to be the first to it.

This reminds me of the summer before my senior year in high school. One of my brothers was going to be a freshman and we were both training hard in preparation of the upcoming soccer team tryouts. We would run a half mile loop in my parent's subdivision for up to 10 miles. Yes, extremely boring. Hell, some runs I was solving my computer programing homework in my head as I ran. Anyway, my brothers and I have always been extremely competitive, so when we ran, it would either be at separate times or in different directions as not to cause conflict. One day, at the request of our father, we ran together, side my side. We were supposed to run 8 miles that day and things started innocently enough. However, one of us must have pulled slightly ahead of the other, causing us both to start running faster. Not saying a word, next thing we know we are in an all out sprint, throwing elbows. We did not even make it a third of the way around the first loop before we were both physically spent and on the verge of vomitting. The more I think about this moment, there was no reasoning behind our unplanned sprint. It was pure instinct. We had to beat the other one.

Cyprus throwing an elbow
With time my brothers and I were able to run together, generally peacefully, and definitely without any death sprints breaking out and consuming us. And with dogs I am sure with group rather than indiviual training I could break them of their similar competitive drive to beat the other. It would kill me if they got injured or killed chasing after something simply because one thought the other was going to get to something first. But at the same time, it is this competitive streak that can help one excel and improve in many aspects of life. Of course I am confident that I can train them to ignore the other and stay put and not even remotely damage any innate desire or instinct. Still, when I see the dogs push harder and harder to get one up on the other, I see a glimpse of me and my brothers, our sprints to the death, and have a hard time not smiling.

26 November 2010

Wolf Behavior

While waiting to get a haircut I flipped through the various magazines available and stumbled across the November issue of Outside. In this magazine I came across an interesting article on the various wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park and their observed behavior and mannerisms.

The article comes at us through the eyes of Rick McIntyre who has spent over 3,500 consecutive days monitoring the various packs in Yellowstone. Apparently this means he has no social life, but his observations are quite useful in terms of understanding wolves and their pack behaviors. Below are a few interesting things in the article.

One pack, the Druid Peak pack, peaked at 37 members. This is the largest pack ever recorded. According to McIntyre the average pack size in Yellowstone is 8. So how the pack was able to sustain that many members without serious drama is interesting. It brings to mind Dunbar's number, which for humans puts the maximum number of stable relationships we have at around 150. Maybe wolves have the potential to maintain extremely large pack sizes, it just usually not sustainable in most environments. The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone also included an overpopulation of elk. As the elderly elk  slowly ran out, not having natural predators before, I am guessing the large pack size became unsustainable. 

The number one killer of Yellowstone wolves? Other wolves. Whereas most areas have de-listed the wolves from the Endangered Species List, one would think hunters are responsible for any decline. Wolf-on-wolf violence seems to be increasing as the elk and wolf populations reach more sustainable numbers. So is dog fighting natural? Was Michael Vick in the right? Hardly. Death is natural, but is violence? Is war? I think so. Overpopulation and limited resources, if it gets out of hand, will eventually come to a head. Wolf on wolf, man on man, country on country, whatever, history has shown this is the case. It will be interesting what will ultimately happen to mankind in the long run, but that is another issue in and of itself.

Pack cohesion highly depends on relationships. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it seems a loss of a member can lead to the downfall of the pack. McIntyre mentions that when the alpha female of a pack was killed by a rival pack, the alpha male simply gave up and left the pack. What does this tell us? I doubt wolves are monogamous in any sense, but it seems to be that this example is one where the alpha male's life as #1 was tied to being with that special female and losing her uprooted his world. The article also goes into a year when one pack did not have any offspring survive and how that seemed to upset the pack as a whole. In that case I am sure their yearly cycle included the care and training of new pups and this change of routine threw them into a funk. Sounds a lot like what happens with people when they lose a friend, loved one, or a child.

Wolves may follow a moral code. The article talks about a certain alpha male of the Druids, known as Wolf 21, who seemed to be a badass and a half. He frequently fought and won fights, highly outnumbered (like 6 to 1) and seemed to take it in stride. He was known to never kill a rival, always letting them go. As mentioned above, wolves will kill other wolves, and here is an example of one who seemed to rise above it. Another story involves Wolf 21 caring for a younger sibling who was unable to feed himself. When 21 would bring food back to his pack, he would sit with his sibling to make sure they ate. I have often heard of the sick and elderly being left behind or killed to protect the pack... survival of the fittest, but here is an example showing otherwise. 

How old do wolves live? Wolf 21 apparently lived to 9 years old, before he just curled up under a tree and died. This is old for a wolf. Regarding dogs, unless you own a Great Dane, 9 years old seems rather young. I have often read that hunter-gatherers would live to an average age of 35... and in 2008 the average life expectancy the US was 78.4. Modern life does have its perks. And the domesticated dog tends to have dedicated shelter, veterinarians, food, and overall their survival is 100% dependent on their owner. So as with humans, one would expect that these modern conveniences would extend the life of dogs versus the hard knock life of the wild. I imagine Wolf 21 would live quite awhile longer if he had Mr. and Mrs. Human and their influence. That is unless they feed him Old Roy or some other bullshit. The question I would have is would Wolf 21 have been such a physically awesome badass had he not had to fight for survival? Would he have been the same had he be raised in a modern environment like a domesticated dog?

My thoughts. I am sure for each wolf that lived long or had specific behaviors there was a wolf that did the exact opposite. With each individual, how evolution rolls, there will be slight changes from genetic makeup to behavior. The things that improved survival propagated and that which didn't died off. I am sure Wolf 21's 'moral code' of not killing his rivals was not the best move in terms of survival. These rivals could heal up and return with his buddies to try, try again. Did that make him a better wolf? I am not sure if the rivals that were spared changed their tune, if they in-turn started sparing rivals they defeated or they were unchanged. From the rest of the article, it seems both the elk and wolf populations are transitioning to more sustainable levels. And the reintroduction of the wolves has allowed the plants, trees, songbirds and other parts of the ecosystem to boom. It seems that, at least in Yellowstone, there is some sort of balance forming. I look forward to reading more on these packs and their impact.

If interested, the article can be found here.

23 November 2010

Sustainable Agriculture and Woodberry Kitchen

Yesterday I participated in a sustainable agriculture task force through the EFC of University of Maryland, College Park. We had an amazing discussion on how to improve the local food options in Maryland's 157 municipalities. Ultimately we will create several action items for municipalities to complete to achieve the Sustainable Maryland Certified recognition. I got to meet several intelligent and interesting people who work in all aspects of the food system. One lady in particular was Joan Norman of One Straw Farm which is the largest certified organic vegetable farm in Maryland. I spoke with Joan about my plans of visiting Woodberry Kitchen for dinner to which she said ever since they opened they have been buying from her.

After the meeting I drove to downtown Baltimore to walk around and kill time until Mike, an old friend of mine, got off work. We had discussed dinner options and once Woodberry came up I was sold. Being a farm-to-table restaurant, I knew that if we went anywhere else I would regret it. And having read the menu online my mouth was already watering thinking of all the awesome offerings.

Upon seating, I immediately apologized to my friend for any perceived gluttony. I ended up starting with the Veal Cheek and Farro soup, followed by the Butcher's Board. The board contained all sorts of charcuterie, including beef, veal, and pork. It was explained to me that they do all of the butchering in house. I do not know why I was surprised by this, but upon thinking about it longer, it gives the chef almost complete control over the meat. And you can definitely taste it! I shared several pieces of each with Mike who found himself highly impressed with it all, especially the corned beef tongue.

For the main course (as if I had not eaten enough already), I got the Truck Patch Farms Pork Chop with buttered cabbage and pork belly. As if things could not have gotten tastier. Once I had consumed every the meal I actually deviated from my 60+ day strict paleo challenge and soaked up the last of the juices with a bit of their homemade bread. Well worth it in my opinion.

I can not recommend this place enough. The staff, especially our waitress Amanda, were extremely friendly and the atmosphere was quite classy and relaxing. Many paleo friendly options. If you are ever in Baltimore, eat here.

22 November 2010

Turkey Day 2 of 3: Processing the Birds

Saturday I helped Greenbranch with the slaughter and processing of their 157 turkeys. As I mentioned in my previous post, one of these birds will be going home with me and will be the centerpiece of Thanksgiving this year. One of my goals has been to 'meet my meat' and I am honored to have been able to help out and extremely satisfied to have learned so much.

The farmers eyeing the flock
I arrived at 8am and helped get everything set up. The process basically involved catching a bird and placing in a cone, killing and letting them bleed out, steeping in a scalder, placing in a de-feathering device, evisceration, soaking in cold water, and then bagging. I managed to participate in each of these steps throughout the day. Here are my experiences and thoughts with each.

Catching The Bird
In the begining with so many birds it was easy to catch them, but as the day went on they had more room to run. Or maybe we selected the slower birds and in the end had all the speed demons that had escaped capture thus far. Usually a lunge for a foot was enough to snag one. I eventually stopped this part of the process as I realized I am not quite as quick with my knee as it is. Anyway, this is a great workout.

A Spanish Black Turkey

A Narragansett Turkey
The Kill
Once caught, the birds would be placed upside down in metal cones. Their heads would stick out of the bottom where they would be killed with a knife and bleed into a bucket. I have participated in this part of the process before with chickens, so other than everything being bigger, the kill process is the same. There are many ways to cut the throat and the one I have found to be the quickest was the stick method. In the morning when we had fewer people I did most of the killing... I was titled The Executioner. It was in the morning that we did all of the heritage birds and they definitely felt different than their white cousins. Around noon we took a break, which I desparately needed. I was able to kill many without incident, but one of the last heritage birds got to me. I cannot really explain it, not sure if it was a moral dilemma or what, but I had to stop. In the afternoon and into the night there were more people so I was able to move on to other sections. At the end of the night I went back to this part and did both the killing and the foot holding.


Heritage birds in the cones

As the bird dies you had to hold the feet

Bled out
The Rest
Once the bird has been bled out, it then goes into the scalder for about 40 seconds. The feathers can mostly be pulled out by hand at this point, but there is a device that does it far quicker. After all the feathers are gone it is then eviscerated. It was this step that I was most curious to learn but at the same time most afraid to try. A part of cleaning the birds is to keep them presentable, and the last thing I wanted to do was mangle several of the birds as I learned. After a few examples, I feel I picked it up quickly. It was this process and the killing that I spent most of the day doing. The basic process involved cutting off the head and feet, cutting off the neck and an oil gland near the tail, and pulling out the guts, keeping the liver and heart. I feel that with each bird I got better and better and overall it was this part that I felt the most satisfation and walked away much more confident. I feel like I could gut a deer now with no problems. Once clean, the birds went into an ice bath before bagging and being weighed.


Scalding
Feather Removal
Evisceration
Bagging
Conclusion
After 10 hours at the farm I drove home both physically and mentally wiped, not to mention covered in blood. The dogs thought I was the best thing ever... like one big blood popcicle. As I mentioned above, I was extremely honored I got to help and definitely feel I could check off that I met my meat. It was an amazing experience and I will gladly help out next year if they need me. And I have to mention that as a way of saying thanks, each one of the helpers was given a bird. And where I stayed the entire day I was told that my heritage bird would be free! That was so awesome of them. So, as I say often, and will continue to say: go meet your farmers. Volunteering and helping out has its perks. It is events like this where farmers could use an extra hand and if you are lucky, you will walk away feeling closer to your food, learned a lot, and get some goodies. And, if you are especially lucky like me, you will make some amazing friends in the process. In addition to the bird, I took many of the heads and feet for dog food. When I bagged them all up to put in my chest freezer I calculated that it provides me with a month of food for both dogs. Combined with the venison I received recently, I will not have to buy food for the dogs in a long time. Needless to say, I went to bed and slept like a baby.


Taking a break after killing
One of the helpers caught red handed
For dog food and/or voodoo