MW Mobile Blog

For friends, family and the random search engine visitor. This blog started as an experiment in mobile blogging from my Palm TREO 600 700 Prē HTC Evo,Samsung 5. Now it serves as a simple repository of favorite activities. Expect bad golf, good fishing, great sailing, eating, drinking, adventure travel, occasional politics and anything else I find interesting along the way including, but not limited to, any of the labels listed here...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Good Pike - Bad Dog

Brian and Stephanie's new dog, Tucker, is a 17 month old Golden Retriever. Watching a dog's first experience with a lake is always fun. We did not want to miss the puppy's introduction to Big Shag Lake, and Tucker did not disappoint:

You'll note we are encouraging Tucker's intense interest in the northern pike in the live well. Little did we know the dire consequences of this innocent act. We'll come back to that later.

Trolling for northern pike from the pontoon boat continues to be the order of the day. How to prepare the bony beasts for consumption is always a hot topic of conversation at camp, as the illegally introduced fish dominate the lake and there is no longer a size limitation.

Brian offered a possible alternative by bringing his smoker to camp. Smoked northern is the plan.

First step was to catch enough fish to make the effort worthwhile. We caught 3 smallish pike and and I caught a nice 21 incher. The next order of business was to figure out exactly how to smoke northern pike. We settled on the advice of contributors to the bulletin board:
Any tips on smoking pike for beginners?
Buzzbomb - Team IceShanty Regular - Re: Smoking northern pike

"The way I do it is scale the fish first, then remove the fillets leaving the skin on and give them a wash.  Leaving the skin on gives you something to hang onto till  it's eaten, and it doesn't come apart in the smoker I take the ribs out, but leave the y-bones in. Then put them in a brine made of a gallon of water, a cup of salt and a cup of sugar (you can use pickling salt or table salt, it's not written in stone, but I like to use brown or yellow sugar...all a matter of taste).  I'm assuming you've got a few or 1 big one to make it worthwhile.  Let them brine overnight or all day (once again it's a personal pref.) but a few times you should 'push' the brine... give it a stir to make sure the brine has access to all parts of the fish.  When it's brined wipe the excess slop off the top of the fillets with a clean cloth (it won't be clean for long, but don't worry) and lay them out on racks to dry.   By this, I mean let them sit in a cool  area with good air circulation and no flies until there's a glossy coating on the fish.  This is called the pellicle, and it's pretty important.  It takes a few hours usually for this to happen, and what that does is prevent the salt and sugar from leeching out of the fish, so it retains the tastes you've been putting into it and keeps it from getting too dry.  How long you smoke it for  depends on what kind of smoker you've got, but remember that it's more a drying process than a cooking one, and the flavour of the wood needs time to get into the fish.... You just keep an eye on it and test a's fun. When it starts to look really good it probably is getting close. I like to use apple wood for fish  or if you're in the country try chokecherry and just a little red willow , and hickory or maple for birds, venison and sausage, but there again you'll have to see what you like best.   Soak your wood chips beforehand so they smoke more and longer, and watch out for the fish on the bottom racks so they don't get burnt because sooner or later those chips dry out .Keep the spritzer bottle from the barbecue handy!  You can experiment and put different things in the brine (honey, chillies, etc). Some guys like to sprinkle spices on top of the fish before smoking, but I never saw the need. When it's done, just break the fillet open and lift out the rows of y-bones as you eat them."
So... We learn this is a much more time-consuming, multi-step process than we anticipated, but "In for penny, in for a pound."

I cut two large filets from the big fish, slicing right through the y-bone, scaled it, but left the skin on. The smaller fish were scaled, gutted and left intact. Then into the brine. We used Buzzbomb's recipe, but added a few secret ingredients. Okay. We added half a lemon, a can of beer, and a pinch of dry rub spice.

Six hour later we needed a cool, protected drying rack with good air circulation. This was a puzzlement. Necessity being the mother of invention, Brian came up with an ingenious jury rigged platform across the top of the bath tub with windows open and fans blasting. Then three more hours of waiting and checking in on the fish watching for "pellicle". Finally, Brian fires up the smoker and we are almost ready to start smoking the fish.

Then it happens.

I'm watching the Cubs game in the den and I notice Tucker bouncing by the door with something in his mouth. It's one of the small pikes. After a chase around the table, I retrieve the fish with minor puppy teeth damage.

In the bathroom I find a second fish on the rack and the third in the tub, but... where are the filets? Brian and I launch a search of the house, wondering where Tucker hid the filets.  A sneaking suspicion blossoms into the dawning realization that the filets are not to be found. Tucker ate them.

The only reason I was able to retrieve the fish from Tucker's grasp, was that he was full and looking for a place to hide it.  Twelve hours of work, fishing, brining and drying the fish shot to hell moments before the pike were to go into the smoker. At this point, we do not know who was responsible for leaving the bathroom door ajar (Wait. Yes we do. It was Brian).

To make a long story even longer, we would not be denied. The three remaining fish (including the fish tenderized with Tucker teeth marks) went into the smoker for about two hours. They looked right. By this time we are into the wee hours of Sunday morning. They went into refrigerator for a Sunday snack.

The fish was accompanied by black bread, beer, and a tomato, onion salad. It was good. Remarkably good. Astonishingly good. It tasted like smoked fish is supposed to taste.

We could only imagine how much better those two prime filets would have tasted.

Well, one of us did not have to imagine.

Postscript: Tucker suffered no ill effects outside of some overnight intestinal distress,  except for the deep rooted long term psychological damage caused by overwhelming shame and guilt.

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Walk in the Woods - 2016 Edition

It was time for another walk in the woods. The family commercial forest, originally purchased as an investment by my grandfather, is now in fourth generation hands. It was due for a walkabout with  professional foresters. We were looking for advice on the timing for the next selective cut to benefit the growth, health and investment in the forestland timber. Identified simply as "The Forties" among the family, it was assessed three years ago and last cut fifteen years before. This outing the family was represented by  me, Emily, Brian and we were accompanied by foresters Ken and Mike. They've worked with us before and know the property well.

Ken and Mike marking the property and measuring trees
A warm beautiful day for a walk, but this being the U.P. in the spring, we were prepared for the spring insect onslaught. Still, we were surprised. The expected ticks were virtually non-existent, but the no-see-ums and and flies were AWESOME!  I mean "Coughing On Inhaled Insects" awesome.

The white specks are bugs in the halo around our heads caught by the flash

I'm always a bit frustrated when posting pictures on a walk like this. Photos do not do it justice. The closest I can get is using panorama pics which I'll include in excess.

Over the beaver dam and into the woods
Into the woods we go...

Brian and Ken
A rare sighting - Spruce Hen
With the extinction of the DoDo, the Spruce Hen moved up to become dumbest bird on the planet
Consensus - fresh bear tracks
Woodpecker work

A good day. A good walk. We finished by introducing Brian to Cudighi - Yooper haute cuisine he had not enjoyed before - at Ralph's Italian Deli in Ishpeming,  Ralph's was recently recommended by a usually reliable local source.

Cudighi with the works at Ralphs

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Departure Day - The Last First

As per usual on my Michigan trips. the blog is lagging hopelessly behind. We've been at the lake house a week, and I've yet to make a single post.  To deal with this situation I am implementing my usual solution, which is to post something - anything -  somewhere in the middle of the gap and start blogging at both ends. Hopefully we catch up at some point.

We'll begin at an end - the last post of cousins Ken, Donna, Adam and Davids first trip to Shag Lake. It was great fun having them here, and although their trip was short, we packed a lot into it including a number of "Firsts": first visit, Adam's first fish, our cumulative first fishing experience in snow storm on a pontoon boat, the first geocache experience, and my first ever loss in a game of Hearts. It was bound to happen sooner or later. But I digress... As a proper sendoff, we also had a farewell dinner on the grill.

Steaks with a soy sauce sesame oil marinade, campfire potatoes, steamed asparagus with a lemon garlic sauce, and a selection of grilled veggies including onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms. 

It was good.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

70th Chicago Honor Flight

Reveille came early. Our Honor Flight Chicago marching orders were to get to Midway Airport by 4:00 AM. So after last night's overly exciting Cub game, we had maybe three hours of sleep, to be up at at 2:30 and rolling by 3:00.


The orange shirted volunteers were working hours ahead of us and warmly greeted us curbside. By the time I returned from parking, Dad had been registered, his portrait taken, checked out by a red shirt volunteer nurse, and sorted for our adventure with 103 WWII and Korean War veterans.


After coffee, donuts, and entertainment at the gate, we're on our way to our way to D.C.

I'm wearing the green shirt of a guardian. This pic was taken by an Honor Flight volunteer who apparently misunderstood this moment of intense concentration on my part as I am mentally reviewing and focusing on the lessons of my Guardian Training three days before.

It was raining as we landed at Dulles in D.C...


... but the greetings for the vets was warm and the coordination between Chicago and D.C. Guardians went off without a hitch. It rained most of the day for the tour of the Memorials,  but no one seemed to care. There is no way to capture the pride, joy and patriotism of the experience in a blog post or a few photographs, so I'll just pick a few to to include here. There are many more on the Honor Flight Chicago Website.

70th honor Flight Memorial Flag Box
Most meaningful for my dad and our family, was the flag box that accompanied the vets throughout the day and and during the flights. The flag box is a tribute honoring WWII and Korean War Veterans who have passed and could only participate in spirit and the memories of their families and friends.  Dad's three brothers Ben, John, and Sam, his cousin "Goldie", and brother-in-law Howard were all represented in the flag box and accompanied dad on this trip.

 The ceremony at the WWII Memorial was a special moment for us and all the vets.

But there were more Memorials & Museums to see before heading back to Dulles, Midway and home.

Air Force Memorial
Coast Guard Memorial
Korean War Memorial
Korean War Memorial Wall
Lincoln Memorial
Enola Gay at Air & Space Museum
Air & Space Museum
It was a long, heartwarming and remarkable day, but there was more to come.

Mail Call on the flight back...

... and when we arrive at Midway, a friends and family greeting that had to be seen to be believed.


Kudos, congratulations, and heartfelt thanks to Mary, John, Tracey, Laura, all the Honor Flight Chicago volunteers and organizers, as well as friends, family, and kids that contributed letters or showed up at Midway for this extraordinary day in the life of my father and all veterans that participated.

For the final word, we'll go to The Man himself:

NOTE: I may add additional videos to this post as I find and edit them. Stay tuned.