Friday, December 23, 2011

School Bread

We made cinnamon bread in class at Aka this week!  I used this recipe, referred to me by my friend, Vaughn.

I taught the kids two important things to make bread-making easy: (1) disregard all the steps the recipe gives you, just put all the liquids together, then put all the dry ingredients in (flour last) and (2) don't measure flour, just keep adding it until you get the right consistency (a ball that is just past 'sticky').

[Who does the dishes?  Girls, of course]

[post rising dough - thankfully it wasn't a cold day]

[rolling out the dough]

[adding a thin layer of water - I taught the students that this is the most important step of the whole recipe because if the dough is too wet, all the cinnamon sugar will melt out into a pool at the bottom]

[adding tons of cinnamon sugar]

[I didn't stick around for the tasting because I had to catch a boat, but I daresay this was the best bread I've ever had come out of a class - and I've probably made bread ~10 times with my students]

Friday, December 16, 2011

Homemade Pasta

[It's a lot of work]

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cards

This is the lesson I do with my kids every year at Christmas.  Usually doing the whole thing (including the snowflake and the writing) would be too much for kindergarten, but at Geruma the kindergarteners are very advanced.  I love these two kids - they have so much personality.  They know the days of the week, weather patterns, fruits and vegetables, the alphabet, and many verbs.  And when I ask them questions in Japanese (outside of class) they always answer with "yes" or "no".  It's very cute.

[You can see they have never written Roman characters before, but I had them do it so that a 10 years from now they can look back with amusement at their first attempt.]

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stock/Family Shoot

A few of the photos from a shoot I did at the beach last weekend:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Huntin' Fool Cover, December 2011

If you've been following my blog for awhile you may remember last year's sheep hunt in Oregon.  I never gave a real thorough recap on the blog, partially because I submitted the story to a magazine that required an exclusivity contract until publishing.  Well, this month I've been published in one of the most popular hunting magazines - and I made the cover!  This is great news because cover stories win a pair of $2000 Zeiss Victory FL T 10x42 binoculars.

Here's a scanned copy of the magazine:

Here's the story (and a few pictures at the bottom):

Mwinter/spring is probably like most hunters': using the Huntin' Fool to help with my decision-making as I pore through websites of the western states, comparing notes and point totals with my dad and uncles, and finally applying.   The spring of 2010 started like all others: checking websites as the results came in and watching my point totals tick up while the backup plan to an 'over-the-counter' state seemed like the reality once again.  But then I checked Oregon, the second-to-last state to post its results.  I'd drawn the only nonresident Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep tag in the state - one that 535 of us applied for!

I live and work as an English teacher on a small island in Okinawa, Japan, which makes scouting in Oregon difficult.  But thanks to the Internet, I was able to do a lot through email and Skype.  I made hundreds of phone calls to the biologist, past hunters, landowners, and anybody else to whom I could get a phone number.  I gleaned a lot of valuable information from the choices of the lottery and raffle tag holders and also tried to learn as much as I could about the resident tag holder for my same season.  My dad and uncles attended the Oregon FNAWS welcome orientation in July and I was also lucky enough to get a passionate response on an Oregon hunting forum from Shane, a guy who took time off work and away from his family just to join us on the sheep hunt.

It took me 34 hours and over 7000 miles of travel via ferry, flying, and driving before I could meet up with my dad and uncles to embark on this most epic of hunts, one which I am only allowed to draw a tag for once in my lifetime.

Scouting proved difficult as the unit is huge, but having permission and gate combinations sorted beforehand helped immensely.  Shane’s wise decision to bring along his dirt bike helped to reach some of the far corners of the unit while my dad, uncles, and I concentrated on the long, centralized ridges.  But the pickings were thin – and mostly ewes.  More than once I’d wished for a bull elk tag, but I reminded myself not to get too greedy.  I had talked to one of the two hunters from the September sheep season and he offered advice on where he'd last seen the biggest rams.  My dad and I made a plan to hike seven miles out that ridge and hunt it from above on opening morning.

We reached the end of the ridge in the late afternoon and set up a small camp in the only grove of trees before making our way to the very end for evening glassing, where my dad promptly spotted three rams.  I examined them as best I could on 60x before finally determining that one was probably a full-curl on his left and over a full curl on the right horn. It gave me a lot to think about that night while my dad did what dads do: he built a fire much larger than we needed.

On opening morning we were up at dawn for the 10-minute walk to the end of the ridge, where we could still see the rams feeding on a faraway point.  Just as they appeared to be going out of sight, two of the rams turned and began working back towards us.  Eventually the bigger one bedded on a point facing us, conveniently so that his hide served as a light-colored backdrop from which we could judge his horn lengths every time he turned his head.  This sheep hunt differed from all my deer and elk hunts  in that I had ample time to make a decision. There came a point when I was sure of the horn lengths, a little apprehensive about the mass, but feeling like I had all the information I needed to make a decision.  That, of course, was agonizing.  It was 9am on opening morning of a ten-day once-in-a-lifetime hunt and I had a dream ram in front of me.  But I was also hunting in a unit that put out a 189 ram last year and has the potential to produce more like that.  If I subtracted the 3-4 inches from the broomed side along with my questions about the mass, I could be looking at a low-180's ram.  Was that what I came for?  Well, the answer, as it became apparent, was that I came for a ram that would make me happy.  I had to balance my circumstances - a huge unit, unguided, help that is getting up in age - and conclude that this was a beautiful ram less than a mile away and unaware of my presence.  So I decided to take the plunge down off the top of the mountain and see if I could get a shot at him.  My dad followed a little ways, but stopped knowing that we'd have to go back up to retrieve the camp.

I made a plan to follow the backside of a ridge down and pop out across the creek bottom from the big, bedded ram.  The smaller ram was feeding in the bottom so I expected the larger ram to follow.  I'd take him when he fed closer to me.  But I only made it a short distance when the big ram jumped up, ran to the bottom, crossed to my side, and began working out away and to my right.  I quickly adjusted my plan and climbed back over to the center finger ridge to head him off from above.

When I came upon a cliff - an inevitability in this country - I started ranging everything below me.  All the likely shooting windows were 250-300 yards - further than I'd prefer but a distance I can do.   I only sat for a few minutes before I spied the two rams feeding between large boulders below. I tried to set up my camera to video the shot, but fighting the tall grass with my short tripod became a chore that cost me at least two shooting chances.  After moving down to the left 50 yards, I set the camera down to concentrate on the nice window I was expecting the sheep to enter.  The big ram came out first, standing broadside at 304 yards.  I quickly checked that the curls extended down to his jawline and came up to his nose (and beyond) before settling the bobbing crosshairs behind his shoulder and pulling the trigger. I ejected the .270 Win. shell, put in another, and lined up again.  Unfortunately the ram was still standing.  He had flipped directions, but he was still broadside so I took another shot.  The rams were confused after the first shot, but now they knew trouble was brewing.  The younger ram led the way back.  I looked left and saw him run through a window before the bigger ram appeared and paused.  Recognizing this could be my last good chance, I fired once more before he stepped out of sight.

I worked my way down until I could look back into the hole where the ram had last stepped and there, on the ground, was a downed sheep.  I put the binoculars up and immediately felt an awful knot twist in my stomach.  The left horn looked half-to-three-quarter curl.  Something I had learned in my sheep research was that when rams run, the biggest always leads.  Even though I was sure the smaller ram had been the first to retreat, doubt crept in.  I ditched my rifle and pack to be more agile on the 20-minute ravine crossing, but once I reached the sheep and lifted his head, I was relieved to see I had in fact killed the ram I was after.

When I got back to my dad I sat down without saying anything, not realizing until I sat down that his vantage point didn’t afford him a view of the action and he didn’t yet know the outcome.  After recounting the story and radioing the result to the rest of the team, we hiked back up to get our camp.  Shane immediately set out from the truck and reached the ram at the same time my dad and I returned.  A flurry of picture-taking ensued along with appreciation for the ram's ability to die on the only flat spot around.  The meat-cutting went quickly, the pack down out of sheep country did not.  Needless to say, we slept well that night.

The next day, the second of the season, we were packing up to move onto our next hunt: South Dakota pheasant hunting.  But we had to stop at the Enterprise Fish and Game office first, where the biologist took a green score of the horns then – much to my dismay – drilled a hole in the horn for a DNA sample and to insert an identification plug.  The final Boone and Crockett score on this 7.5-year-old ram was 182 4/8.

It’s hard to explain hunting tag lotteries, once-in-a-lifetime $1300 sheep tags, and B&C scores to non-hunters.  It’s even harder doing it to children who speak a different language. So instead, when I returned to Okinawa I spent a lesson with each of my Japanese classes giving them a video and pictorial tour of the American hunting experience and its cultural importance to us.  I was also able to share a sample of Bighorn Sheep summer sausage with every student, which they loved.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Zamami Baseball

I joined the baseball team last year prior to the annual November tournament, but had a terrible showing and didn't blog about it.  This year I was able to play in more games and while things didn't go much better at the plate, they went well in the field.

[not a very large cheering section for either team]

For the first two games I went 1-7 in batting, including at least three strikeouts (one I strongly disagreed with).  I did do well playing second base, though, committing zero errors.  The team had high hopes for my batting because I routinely hit the ball further than everybody during batting practice, but I think only I noticed that I had less fielding errors than anyone else on the team.  

['Santa' owns a restaurant under the same name. He has three kids: GenTA, KanTA, and UTA, hence "san" "ta" (san = 3 in Japanese)]

In the semi-final game I was relegated to eighth in the batting order and right field (where I had two flawless plays!).  One run had scored on an error and there were runners on 2nd and 3rd when I came up the first time, facing the principal of Geruma school on the mound.  On the first pitch I cranked the ball over the center fielder and to that wall visible in the upper left of that picture above.  It was a very solid double, knocking in both runs.  The next runner walked, then I stole third (on my own!) then he stole second, then we both got knocked in on a single.  On my second at-bat I again cranked the ball to center on the first pitch, but this time it was caught.  I struck out the third time.

Unfortunately we lost the game 7-5 because our pitchers walk almost everybody, but I was very glad to finally exhibit some of my power, and off a school principal no less!

[I have no idea what the name of our team means]

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Doctor's Family

I photographed two Zamami families this past weekend.  The first was for stock photos, which I will share later, but the second was the Zamami doctor's family.  I ran into the wife (who speaks English) on Saturday night and was talking about photography.  I offered to take her family's pictures for their New Year's cards and they immediately accepted, so we set a time for Sunday morning.

It only took 25 minutes to get 4-5 poses, which was fortunate because concentration began running thin on the young children, dogs, and baby after about 15 minutes.  I gained a new respect for family portrait photographers.  I did this session for free because I'm a nice guy but also just to see how it would go (always learning!).  I can see I have room for improvement, but I'm happy with the variation I got in such a short time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Running Socks

I like to wear them until they are worn out.  Do you think I need a new pair?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Toru the FIsherman

I haven't been in either a blogging or photographing mood since returning from America on November 2nd, so yesterday I grabbed my camera and forced myself outside.  My intent was to photograph close ups of things I would usually walk past, but instead I walked past those things and photographed Toru - Zamami's dentist - who spends all of his free days fishing off this rock.  He didn't know I took the picture, either, so I awarded myself five bonus points.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Arashiyama Bamboo

Now that I have gone through David Nightingale's HDR course, I can begin tackling the shots I took in August back before I knew how to do HDR but correctly guessed I would soon learn.  I had higher hopes for the color version of this shot it wasn't doing it for me, so I went B&W instead:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Idaho Elk Hunt, 2011

This hunt has been in the making for about five years now, so I was excited to execute the plan this year and have it work out as I always dreamed.

Arriving at the McCall, Idaho airport in the rain on the morning of Tuesday, October 11th, I was optimistic my plane would still get out.  Eight hours later, it did.  We flew up and over the mountain range and into a massive cloud bank, which forced us to turn around and approach the airstrip from another direction.  At about 5pm we landed, many, many miles away from the nearest road, but only a couple hundred yards from the next person (a few Forest Service employees staying in their cabin - they would fly out two days later).  I watched the plane take off, knowing I was to be completely alone for the next week.  I hustled up and got to hiking, as the area I wanted to hunt was far, far away from the airstrip.  I made it 4-5 miles that night before it got dark and I set up camp.

I hiked most of the next day before reaching my desired area around 4pm.  I was tired of walking, so I set up my camp in a small grove of trees which protected me from the cold wind.  This camp location offered a short 100 yard walk to an edge that was a good vantage point to glass (look through binoculars) the canyons and ridges below, which I did that night.  The next morning it was cold and I was a little slow (and not motivated, since I hadn't even seen an elk track the entire previous day) to get up, but at 7:45am I went down to the edge to glass.  There was a ridge to my right that was blocked by a tree so I took a few steps up to see the ground behind the tree.  While I was looking through the binoculars I heard some hoof beats back up the hill by my camp.  I leapt to my rifle, which was laying on the ground a few yards away, and stood there looking up at the edge above.  I could see about 50 yards.  Pretty quickly a cow elk came into view, then a calf, then some more cows.  They crossed through some trees to my right with more following - about 10-12 in total.  I expected there to be a bull with this group and that he would be at the back of the pack, so I just waited.  Then I glanced back at the spot where I saw the first cow and there was the bull, quartering towards me and looking about, waving his 6x6 rack each time.  I was after a 6-point bull so I raised the rifle and waited for him to step out.  My ideal shot placement is just behind either of the shoulder blades, which is where the heart and lungs are.  But after waiting 10 seconds and realizing he was looking right at me, I decided I had a totally okay shot with how he was standing, so I settled the crosshairs in front of his shoulder and pulled the trigger.  He didn't drop in place, but ran away in what appeared to be an uphill direction.  This is bad news because a mortally wounded animal will usually go down because it is easier.

[first blood]

[30 yards later]

It took me an hour of sorting through tracks in the snow, then replaying the scenario before I finally found his tracks.  On his second uphill leap there were a few drops of blood in the snow - a good sign, but nothing conclusive as it could be a flesh wound.  But on each of the ensuing foot prints there was an increasing amount of blood until, at about 100 yards, I looked up and saw the bull lying dead a few yards in front of me.

[can you spot him?]

[hey, there he is!]

[a pretty good bull for this wilderness area]

I spent the rest of the day 'boning out' the meat, which means taking the meat off the bones to save weight.  Since the airstrip was 13 miles away, I needed to cut weight wherever possible, so taking out bones was not going to happen.  I ended up with three bags, each weighing about 50 pounds.  My bullet actually traveled through both front shoulders (not sure how) which destroyed some meat, otherwise my total may have been closer to 175 total pounds.

[I put the bags in the snow on the windy ridge line to get the meat cooling as quickly as possible overnight.]

[the herd of elk actually came within 20 yards of my tent to the left before walking beneath it then straight towards the edge that I was standing under.  I could have shot my bull from inside my tent if I'd decided to lay around for another 30 minutes.]

[even when I don't 'gut' out an elk I still manage to get covered in blood]

[I left my SLR camera at home to save weight, but this is not a bad shot for a point-and-shoot]

Being that I was 13 miles from the airstrip, I had a big trip ahead of me.  I had 150 pounds of meat plus the skull/antlers and all of my camping supplies.  In all but one downhill 5-mile stretch, this meant four trips (I combined those into three for the big downhill).  So 13 x 4 x 2 = 102 miles, minus 10 for the missing downhill trip = 92 miles of packing, which took me four days.  It was a trying time, seeing the same trail eight times and spending much of one day packing in the rain.  Also, I barely made it back to the airstrip in time, arriving just an hour before the plane with my last load.  My feet were wet and blistered and my shower in McCall was one of the best I've ever had.

[with anywhere from 50-70 pounds on my back, this was the only 'action' shot I took of myself]

[not a fantastic 'fall' shot, but this was still a welcome respite during the long pack out]

[it rained much of the third day of packing out, rendering my feet wet and cold for the last 48 hours]

I'm pretty happy with the trip, as it went exactly as planned.  If only I could've planned a better way to pack out the meat.  I can see having a partner in the future would be an attractive option.  But I am very happy with the area I selected and I am looking forward to exploring it more in the future.  I barely scratched the surface this time before this bull walked into me.