Monday, May 9, 2016

Knightly Bees and Peckish Perch

This will be my final entry about the camping trip from back in October 2015 that Evelyn and I took out to Knight's Rest here in Oklahoma.

The Masseys, who own Knight's Rest, maintain a really nice fishing pond on the property, and it's stocked with perch, bluegill, and various other pan fish and sunfish. This little pond is chronically under-fished, and that's both good and bad:

It's good because it means that the fish who live in that water will bite on practically any lure you happen to toss out -- which means you'll almost always have a big pile of fish to cook up for dinner when you toss in a line.

It's bad because some of those fish think they're starving, and will swallow your entire lure rather than simply hooking themselves! I had to put a fresh hook on my line a couple of times due to over-eager perch swallowing the hook sufficiently that it couldn't be retrieved until we started cleaning them for dinner. This isn't a problem if you have spare hooks and lures (we both had plenty) but potentially a problem for someone in a survival situation where they need more than one fish, and taking the time to gut and clean the first in order to retrieve their only hook could be an issue.

While many of us have fishing gear of various qualities (and quantities!) I was putting the test on a mini rod & reel that I had purchased specifically as part of my survival/prep gear. I wanted something small enough to pack out easily, but sturdy enough I wasn't going to be in constant fear of it breaking at a critical moment, like when I was depending on it for eating vs. going hungry.

What I settled on was this little gem: the Zebco Dock Demon Spincast Combo
  • Available through Amazon for $16.80, but I picked mine up at Wal-Mart for less than $10.
  • Very light, with less than 11 ounces total weight to worry about carrying. 
  • Small enough to be easily handled by anyone, even a small child, but not so small that full-sized adults can't use it.
  • Sturdy enough that in the several months since I got it, I've managed to land catfish and bass that had a whole lot more fight to them than the perch we were pulling out of the pond.

If you're looking for a really light weight, easy to pack fishing set, this is definitely one to consider.

Cooking them up was a bit of trial and error to top off the adventure of extracting eaten lures. Evelyn decided that roasting sounded like a great idea, and set about building a green limb roasting spit arrangement similar to those used in the 1600s and 1700s by various Native tribes.

It managed to stay together just long enough to finish roasting some of the fish.  The rest went into a stew pot, as being the easier route to take for dinner!

Now Evelyn and I are fairly passable cooks, both in the home kitchen and using a grill or campfire set up. One of the reasons that we manage to eat well is because we both maintain a good selection of herbs, spices, and spice blends to use in our camp cooking, even when what we're eating is fresh fish or a duck we took 2 hours to pluck.

A little bit of seasoning can go a long way towards staving off food boredom, and its resultant lack of desire to eat anything at all. In the field, especially when situations become critical, making sure that you eat enough to keep your strength up -- and that you actually enjoy that food sufficiently that eating doesn't become a chore to be avoided -- is critically important. Good nutrition can mean the difference between seeing tomorrow's sunset and your tribe having to take time out of their survival to bury you.

There are dozens of easy methods of storing small amounts of spices and seasonings in airtight packaging to stash in your gear. Even a 29 cent packet of Ramen is a lot more palatable with a bit of extra spices tossed into the mix while it's boiling. And that plain beef or chicken broth from a cube and hot water actually becomes a passable soup when you throw in a little bit of something other than salt.

We were at Knight's Rest just before winter truly set in, and the Bees were busy gathering as much as they could during those final warm days. In the early mornings we could hear the huge wild hive come awake as things began to warm up for the day.

The ever-productive girls from that wild hive were frequent visitors to our camp. Yes, girls; honeybees are female, except for perhaps 6-10 males produced once a year for the sole purpose of mating with the hive queen. They are also surprisingly docile as long as they don't perceive you as a threat to themselves or their hive. Stinging you isn't on the agenda -- it's a death sentence for them -- so simply leaving them alone to do their thing is the best way to deal with them coming into your camp.

Bees are just easy-going working girls, wanting nothing more than to go about their job. I keep telling myself this, because even though I know that it's the case, I'm still rather paranoid about getting stung. That paranoia cost me a bit of pain towards the end of our time at KR.

One poor little bee decided to land and rest. Unfortunately for me, where she wanted to rest was on my face. And then in my hair. And then back to my face. And of course, I made the mistake of trying to brush her away, which knocked her down the back of my shirt - trapping her and agitating her at the same time. The results were not pretty: one dead bee, one panic stricken Rhi, one highly amused Evelyn, and a chuckling Jen Massey, who provided us with a surprisingly effective remedy for the sting.

While most folks consider it a wives' tale, meat tenderizer actually works to take the pain out of a bee sting. A paste made of meat tenderizer and just enough water to turn it into a slightly sticky clump, when applied directly to the area where the sting happened, will feel like a miracle worker within a couple of minutes.

While you might not keep meat tenderizer in your kit for cooking, keeping a small sealed jar of it in your first aid kit as a cheap, effective means of dealing with stings isn't a bad idea.

The Takeaways From Our Adventure
Personally, I learned a lot during that month we spent in the field. I learned just why we in the community seem to harp so often on actually using and maintaining the various skills you have.

Keeping a fire going for days or even weeks at a time isn't easy. Keeping a fire going in adverse weather conditions can be a serious trial of patience, but is even more important than keeping it going while the weather is nice and cooperative. If you don't practice starting and maintaining a fire in all sorts of conditions, along with any other potentially critical skills, you might just find that you've forgotten something important when your life is depending on your knowledge base.

I have a deep-seated appreciation of those who actively choose to raise and grow our food, and I learned that while I "can" live off the land, I like my creature comforts too much to ever actually look forward to a situation where I have no choice but to do so.
  • Plucking a bird is time consuming, frustrating, and messy. I'd rather spend $18 on a bird at my local grocery store, buying one that's ready to cook, than spend $10 (or the time to trap/hunt) on a live bird and then 2 hours getting it ready just to begin the cooking. 
  • Gardening may sound like a fun hobby, but its also time consuming and labor intensive to grow all your own food, and greatly restricts what is available in your diet to things that will grow in your area. 
Don't ever forget to be thankful for global transportation, groceries that carry produce year round, and the convenience of not having to carefully hoard every spare scrap of food to make it through non growing seasons!

I learned that sometimes an old remedy (meat tenderizer on bee stings) continues to get passed down for generations because it actually works.The science backs it up, and so does empirical data!.

I learned that a determined enough animal will find a way into your supplies, even when you think those supplies are secure. Large enough animals can do a considerable amount of damage, even when they're not "predatory" in nature. So never make the assumption that you've covered all the contingencies.

I learned that a rattlesnake will keep moving after you shoot it, even after its been blown into two pieces. And that I never, ever want to make Evelyn decide that I'm a valid target!

Practice your skills, folks. Even the minor ones you don't think you'll ever need should be practiced regularly. Its no joke -- we weren't in a life or death situation, and we were camped where we had plenty of backup and leeway close to hand if it was needed, but that won't always be the case.

Whatever you happen to do... just make sure to bee prepared!

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