Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BLOG 48. Gray Beards

Cliff Jacobson

A few years ago, I presented a program for the Minnesota Canoe Association. About 150 people attended.  With the exception of six teenage girls—who were there to show slides of their trip in the Boundary Waters—everyone (including me) had gray hair.  Murmurs of “look at all the gray beards” bounced around the room.

Gray is now largely the hair color of those who enjoy the Boundary Waters Canoe Area each summer. When, in 1968, at the age of 28, I made my first trip into this region, most of the paddlers were not much older than me.  Now, the average age is close to fifty. Where have all the young people gone?
Where have all the young people gone?  Cr. Mike Rapatz
To technology, mostly. Today’s kids would rather play on their computer than go outside. Few have ever gone canoeing, fewer still have camped out-of-sight of an RV. They have no use for wilderness. Richard Louve, addresses this concern in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv makes the case that kids are so consumed by TV and video games that they have lost their connection to the natural world—they see no value in wild places and therefore, no reason to preserve them. I taught eighth grade environmental science for 30 years and I can say he is right on target.
Cr. Mike Rapatz
What isn’t, is society’s view that kids must be flooded with (mostly useless) information and tested frequently to ascertain their knowledge of it. The result is that teachers have no time for social or environmental concerns. They must teach to tests that are designed by those who don’t hike, camp or canoe or give a wit about wilderness. Teachers who do take their students outdoors without meeting the “approved government objective”, are asking for trouble. If it’s not in the state-approved curriculum—or more accurately, “not on the test”—it’s not acceptable. Even nature centers are not immune from regulation. Where once, they could present a variety of interesting topics, they, like teachers, must now key into the “approved curriculum”.
Cr. Zoe Kesselring
Field trips?  What are they?  Or rather, what were they? Schools no longer have money for away-from-school activities. Field trips now are largely self-funded, meaning the kids—not the school--pays for the bus ride. Admittedly, a few (very few) teachers defy the odds and meticulously collect bus fare—usually two to five dollars per head.  Some kids pay, some don’t.  Caring administrators often look the other way. Ultimately, teachers tire of the extra work and the field trips just go away.

Then, there's the matter of party size in the BWCA. In the 1970's, when I began to take kids "up north", the party size was 10 and there was no limit on the number of canoes in the group. Our groups were all co-ed, nine kids and one teacher.  Now, two adult leaders are required for every teen group, and the maximum party size is nine.  This translates into seven paying teens, not nine as in the past. And with two leaders, expenses double.  No wonder school groups are largely a thing of the past.  Nine people and four canoes are the rule in the Boundary Waters, which means someone has to ride "dead weight"--hardly a good time for a teenager who wants to paddle. Frankly, I think that this rule should be re-visited. 

There's also the matter of "fun", or possibly the lack of it.  Get a group of kids together and they'll naturally make noise--singing, dancing on logs and yelling at their friends are part of the growing up game. And so is congregating with their friends. Yes, kids must learn to respect the quiet and sanctity of the wilderness, and it's our job to teach them.  Still, when they do forget the rules, we--and those around them--need to be compassionate.    

When I taught environmental science at Hastings Middle School (I retired in 2001), I offered free after school canoe trips on the nearby Mississippi River. We went twice a week when the weather was good, and always had a full house.  But now, with today’s ludicrous demands on teachers, I’d have no time for it.
Cr. Robyn Keyport
When snow covered the ground I took each of my classes on a half-day snowshoe hike.  The kids would ask: “Mr. J, what do we have to write down?”

            “But what do we have to know for the test?”
            “Won’t be on a test!”
            “Yeah, great, but then, why we goin’?”
            “Just for fun and to learn to love wild places.  Is that okay?”
            “Yeah, man, way cool!”

Get the point?  Too bad our politicians don’t. 

The result is that we’re raising a generation of youngsters who love malls more than trees.  And unless we change our educational expectations, and quickly, I fear that we will continue to lose more wilderness and more of our sanity.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

BLOG 47. Dehydrating Hamburger and Beans

by Cliff Jacobson

Hamburger and beans form the basis of dozens of outdoors meals.  Examples include spaghetti, lasagna, beef and been burritos and chili.  Add hamburger and rice or noodles to soup and you have a complete meal.  One of my favorite tripping meals is a mix of Oriental Raman soup, with dried hamburger and shitake mushrooms.  For more flavor and nutrition add one-half a bouillon cube per person, and some dried veggies. 
Cliff: making chili with dehydrated hamburger and beans
You can buy dried hamburger from Mountain House and Cache Lake.  The Mountain House product is freeze-dried; Cache Lake’s is dehydrated.  Both are excellent; you can’t taste the difference.  Rehydration takes about ten minutes: start the meat in cold water, bring to a boil, “cover and cozy” for ten minutes then have at it.  Mountain House says their hamburger rehydrates in three minutes.  Maybe; but it’ll be a lot more tender if you give it more time.

Dried hamburger is expensive—around 50 dollars a pound.  But you can dry it at home for the price of the meat.  Here’s how:

-- Buy the leanest hamburger you can find—85 percent lean, minimum.  Ninety or 95 percent is better.
-- Fry the hamburger (like you’re making spaghetti) until it is well browned.  WELL BROWNED!  Don’t worry, you can’t over-cook it.  Under-cooking, however, can be dangerous!
-- When the hamburger is thoroughly browned, and has absolutely no pink color, scoop it into a strainer and pour a full kettle of boiling water over it.  The boiling water will strip out nearly all the fat: fat-degradation is the culprit that causes spoilage.  The meat is now about 99.5 percent lean.
-- Set the temperature of your dehydrator to 140 degrees F or “high”.  Line each tray with three sheets of paper toweling and scoop the burger onto the sheets, using a metal spoon that has been sterilized in boiling water.  One pound of burger per tray is enough. 
-- Dehydrate for 24 hours.
-- Re-package the dried meat in vacuum-sealed plastic bags or Zip-lock bags. Double the bags—a single plastic bag is not reliable enough. I keep the vacuum-sealed meat in the freezer until the day of my trip. Room temperature double vacuum-sealed burger will stay fresh for about six months; frozen, it’ll keep for two years.  Unrefrigerated Zip-locked burger should be used within two weeks.  It is definitely worth buying a vacuum-sealing machine if you want foods to last over the long haul.

Many paddlers bring packaged, dried beans on their canoe trips. They rehydrate the beans in a water-filled poly bottle a day before use.  This works, but it’s time-consuming, heavy, bulky and messy.  I prefer to dehydrate beans and vacuum-seal them in plastic, just like hamburger.

-- Buy canned beans at your grocery store.  Pour the beans, with their liquid, into a strainer.  Allow the liquid to drain. Do not pour boiling water through the strainer.
-- Line your dehydrator tray with plastic wrap.  Or (better) use commercial plastic dehydrator liners.
-- Pour one 8 ounce can of beans on each tray.
-- Set your dehydrator temperature at 120 degrees or hotter. Your beans will be dry in 24 hours.  Double vacuum-seal or Zip-lock them and you’re done.  Rehydration takes about ten minutes. 

That’s all there is to it!

PS. You’ll find more cool cooking tips in my book, Basic Illustrated: Cooking in the Outdoors.

Cliff Jacobson