Sunday, November 29, 2009

how not to skin a rabbit

Got another bunny during backyard bunny patrol with the 20 gauge. The last one was great eating. This one will be too, but cleaning it was a disaster. I accidentally punctured the body cavity while starting the skinning process and decided to go ahead and gut it before skinning it. Bad mistake. Always skin the rabbit first. Lesson learned.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving thanks, giving back

I am a teacher. I am probably a much better teacher than I am a farmer. I am certified in special education and English and am paid by the state, but I work with homeschool families with special needs children. It's a fantastic arrangement. I get to use the gifts that God has given me to be of service directly to the children and families. Teaching is such a beautiful calling. I feel blessed to go to be able to go to work each day. I begin each day's teaching thinking to myself, "how can I best be of service to these kids?" I work with the parents and children to decide what their needs are and try to meet them.

Kids with special education needs are so amazing to work with. They have such beautiful minds. They may be challenged in one way, but surprise you with their strengths in another. Watching a non-reading student make his first halting attempts to read, then growing into a kid who asks, "what are we going to read about this week?" "How many words do you think I can read in a minute?"

Every day I try to remember the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. Lord make me a channel of thy peace...that where there is error, I may bring truth...that where there is doubt, I may bring faith...that where there is despair, I may bring hope...that where there are shadows, I may bring light.

I am truly thankful for the gifts I have been given. The biggest gift of all is the opportunity to be of service to others.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

venison bratwurst

Making venison bratwurst at the homestead today. Using last years venison and last years pork trimmings. I hope I am blessed with a deer soon because we are almost out of venison. We used to use the hand crank grinder, but when you are making 10 pounds or more of sausage at a sitting it really makes sense to use the electric version.

6 pounds venison
4 pounds fatty pork trimmings
2 cups milk
3 eggs
1.5 cups soy protein (as a binder)
4 Tbs. pickling salt
1+ Tbs Mace
1+ Tbs White Pepper
1+ Tbs Nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
hog casings

The most comprehensive book for beginning sausage making is the one written by Rytek Kutas, "Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing."

Went out stump sitting and watching for deer last night. Didn't see any deer, but saw a beautiful great horned owl. Saw a flock of about 20 geese too. They start to fly over the Palouse at about this time of year. They can be called into decoys as they pass overhead between the river valley and the wheat fields.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dawn on the Palouse

I was sitting out on an abandoned homestead near my land and watched the most breathtaking sunrise. The deer didn't make a showing, but I sat out until I was too cold to stay any more. A half an hour before sunrise it was heart-stopping still. Not a whisper of wind, not a bird stirring. Finally an owl called in the predawn light. As the sun came up, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. That I was one very, very tiny but essential piece of this amazing planet. I've never had it so good.

So, eventually I went home, warmed up in front of the stove, then went for a walk around the back of the property with my 20 gauge. Shot a nice rabbit. We'll be having Hasenpfeffer for dinner Wednesday night.

hunting in a blizzard

We went deer hunting in sort of a blizzard yesterday. Saw one deer and lots of sign of them chasing around. They are definitely in rut. The snow was absolutely gorgeous until we had to drive home in it. An hour and a half with chains on in a white out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A shot and a miss

Went deer hunting at an abandoned homestead on my neighbors property. Four deer came in over the lentil fields. Took a shot and missed. Just got a little excited there. Buck fever.

The Muenster cheese tastes good, but it doesn't taste like muenster. It sort of tastes like feta only not as salty. Maybe I should just brine it and call it feta.

Wouldn't ya know it!

I was duck hunting yesterday and set up a blind on shore after hiding the boat. Didn't do very well duck hunting, but I was just quietly relaxing and saw the most amazing thing. A doe deer walked not 10 feet behind me followed by a grunting and snorting buck. They were so in love they didn't even notice me. I was sort of wondering what might happen if I shot a deer with #1 duck loads.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New field gun

Got a new 20 gauge side by side shotgun. Nice and lightweight for hunting grouse and upland birds all day. We saw 20 Grey Partridge in our backyard the other morning. We will be getting our hunting dog puppy in February, after the end of hunting season, but I should be able to go out without a dog and take a walk around the neighborhood. I am pleased.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey tip

I made a beautiful 21 pound turkey the other day for a gathering of friends. I got a great tip from my 1st edition "Joy of Cooking." Instead of covering the turkey with tin foil, melt animal fat (lard, bacon grease) and dip cheese cloth in it. Cover the turkey with the cheese cloth and baste every half hour with pan juices or more fat as needed. Bake in a slow oven at 300 degrees. It was amazing. Happy Holidays.

Monday, November 16, 2009

ugly cheese

Cheese making mistakes result in ugly, but hopefully tasty, cheeses. The cheese one the right is a cheddar that the cheese cloth got bunched up under in the press. This caused a slight dent in the cheese. The cheese on the right is a Muenster that the cheese press was uneven causing the slanted top. I also forgot to add calcium chloride, an optional ingredient that helps create firmer curds. This caused the curds to separate when I stirred in the salt. Live and learn. I'm sure they will both taste just fine.

Warm chickens

The chickens have been staying warm in their cozy hen house. They wouldn't go outside this morning until it warmed up to about freezing. I don't think they liked the snow on their feet. Later in the day, as the snow began to melt off, they were rooting around for bugs under the trees and through the snow. They'll be getting lots of leftover treats from our house warming party yesterday. Happy chickens!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

farmstead in the snow

Our first real snow! Soft and silent. Reading animal tracks in the snow. A stray cat and lots of bunnies. I'm not so sure how we'll deal with the bunnies and the spring lettuce.

It makes me think of goose hunting. At our rented place last year, the geese would fly up from the rivers in the valley to feed on wheat seeds. We'd set up blinds and decoys for a morning of shooting and a nice goose dinner. We are hoping we are still on the flyway, and that we can set up again. That usually starts in December sometime although I've seen a few geese flying already.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

plowing in the snow

After borrowing a cultivator I am breaking the ground in our market garden area. Unfortunately, it snowed the night before. I had reasonable success. There is a lot of root structure from the volunteer wheat and hay that's been growing there for the last 10 years since it was abandoned. After cultivating, I was able to rototill a few beds for garlic with a hand rototiller. Other than the garlic, we're just going to leave it alone until spring when it dries out a little bit. It's good to be outdoors. Good to get the garlic planted.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then... know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Alder - Pit Salmon

Here is a great way to cook salmon and steelhead. It seems like more of a summer recipe, but since the steelhead and salmon are running right now it came to mind. Use a whole side of Salmon fillet.

Use the marinade of your choice or:
1 part olive oil
1 part soy sauce
fresh garlic, pressed
spices to taste - thyme, rosemary, oregano, ...

Dig a pit in the size of a large weber grill.
Salmon can be marinated or not.
Build a fire in the bottom and let it burn down to coals.
Gather a big bushel of green alder leaves.
Wrap the marinated salmon in tinfoil.
Prick some holes in the tinfoil with a fork
When coals have burned down, place half of the green alder leaves in the pit
Put the wrapped salmon side in
Put the other half of the alder leaves on top.
Let smolder for 1/2 an hour.
Carefully dig out and serve.

Moist and smoky at the same time.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

hunting dog

Just found out the breeder's dog is pregnant. We'll be the proud parents of a hunting puppy in December. A new addition to the animal menagerie.

tilling and last minute planting

Finally decided to till the garlic beds with a hand (motorized) tiller instead of dealing with begging, borrowing, or stealing a tiller for the tractor. Got two beds tilled and planted one with "Brown Rose" garlic. Early Italian, Okrent, Killarney, and Chesnok Red varieties still to go. It'll be well below freezing by the weekend. Cutting it down to the wire. What's the quote? "Italians come to ruin most generally in three ways: women, gambling, and farming. My family chose the slowest one." Pope John XXIII Well, things have been feeling a lot more like gambling than gardening around here lately. Garlic is a pretty hardy plant though, and getting dragged around by a rototiller in the rain isn't so bad as it sounds.

When in doubt, do the dishes.

I was getting worked up this morning about the troubles getting a tiller lined up, about not getting our garlic planted in time, about whatever jumped to mind. Finally, I just decided to get busy around the house and farm. Doing the dishes, cleaning the chicken waterers, cleaning up feed bags, checking eggs, watering raspberry cuttings. Getting busy doing something useful can be a great way to escape turmoil. When you're done, you feel better AND the chores are done.

Monday, November 9, 2009

trying something new

You know, trying something new can be exciting, terrifying, and sometimes hilarious. The tractor debacle, the chronically escaping chickens, the flea beetles in the brassicas, what next? Pig adventures? Goats mishaps? Tilling up an apple tree? We will be taken care of though...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tractor mis-adventure

What I learned today. Just because three point hitches on tractors are "universal", doesn't mean that all implements will fit without modification. We rented a tiller only to discover that the drive shaft was too long. It could have been easily modified, but since it was not our tiller we were out of luck. We didn't learn this until after we had struggled with it for several hours. Which brings to mind another important lesson I have learned. Ask for help.

chewing tobacco recipe

Ever wonder how to make your own chewing tobacco? Well, maybe not, but here's how anyway.

1. Dry and cure your tobacco. This process can range from moderately difficult to extremely complex. For my purposes I a. harvest the leaves, b. tie into bundles, c. hang in the sun for three weeks, d. hang inside for another month. I would suggest looking for further reading on this subject.

2. Strip off the tobacco from the stems and put in a food processor. Give it a few quick spins to shred it to your desired cut. (Long, short, snuff)

3. Take 2 cups of apple juice and simmer them in a stainless saucepan. Reduce by half until thickening and tacky.

4. Stir in a tablespoon or two of blackstrap molasses.

5. Promptly stir in tobacco and turn off heat.

6. Stir until all tobacco is coated and tacky.

7. Bag, or better yet place in an oak cask to cure further.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Steelhead fishing

A beautiful day of steelhead fishing on the Clearwater River in North Central Idaho. Alas, no fish for the smoker. It's been an unusually warm couple of days. Who knows? Maybe that affected the fishing. In any event, we will be doing a major fall tilling and planting garlic tomorrow. We plan to sell about 6 varieties of specialty garlic at the farmer's market next summer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Prayer of St. Francis

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace -- that where there is hatred, I may bring love -- that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness -- that where there is discord, I may bring harmony -- that where there is error, I may bring truth -- that where there is doubt, I may bring faith -- that where there is despair, I may bring hope -- that where there are shadows, I may bring light -- that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted -- to understand, than to be understood -- to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life...

I like to think of this as my job description each day. I like to meditate on it before I go out to teach in the morning.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

dawn on the Palouse

Dawn on the Palouse! Sorry, when the photo's compressed you kind of lost the barn to blackness. Peaceful. The only sound was the chickens waking up.

Goose Pot Pie Recipe

This is a great recipe for pot pie. We use Canada goose, but you could try it with duck, venison, wild turkey, pheasant, or even chicken.

1 goose breast-about 1.5 lbs-diced into 1/4" cubes and browned
2 T. butter
1/2 c. water
1c. thin sliced carrot
1 medium potato, 1/4" cubes
1/2 c. celery
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. frozen peas
2/3 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Do not add the liquid.

Use your favorite double pie crust recipe. I use a 1948 1st edition "Joy of Cooking". For the wash on the crust I use 1 whole egg+a splash of cream or 1/2 and 1/2.

Heat over to 375, Prepare Crust, put crust dough in fridge under plastic wrap while you are chopping vegetables.

Melt 2 T. butter in 1/2 c. water in sauce pan over medium heat.
add carrot, cook covered for 5 minutes
add potato, cook 5 minutes longer, stir as needed
add celery, onion, and peas, cook 3 minutes longer
Combine browned goose cubes and condensed cream of mushroom soup.

Roll pie crust and place into quality 9 inch pie tin. Add filling. roll and place top crust. cut vent slits. brush with egg and cream wash.

Bake 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cheese - waxed and ready to age

Our cheddar cheese is all waxed and ready to age. Can't wait to try it, but I think we'll wait about 4-6 weeks. Give the little bacterial cultures a month to work their magic.

taking a break

After three beautiful days in the field deer hunting, seeing but not shooting anything, I think I'm going to take a break and go steelhead fishing. Also need to put some time in at the farm. Tilling, planting garlic (already late on that one), fixing things up for winter, working on the big truck. It really seems endless. I feel so blessed to have the life I have. There is not one single thing that I do that I say to myself, "I hate doing that." I love my job, I love growing and raising food, I love hunting and fishing to fill the freezer, I love working on the house and farm, I even enjoy puttering around with the various broken machines.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Homemade cheese press

Rather than buy a $200 cheese press, I made a simple one for less than $20. At the moment it is kind of rough cut as I have not been able to find my file and other tools to make it pretty. Materials:
2X6 board
12 inch carriage bolts, nuts, washers
Length of dowling
Cheese mold

Cut your 2X6 into lengths that will fit your cheese mold. On my small molds I can put 2 side by side. Drill holes for your carriage bolts. On the bottom piece I used a wide bit to drill a recess for the bottom of the carriage bolt so it doesn't stick out and the board sits flat. Cut your dowling to the correct length. Rough cut a "follower" (the circular piece used to press the cheese evenly). as you tighten the bolts, it will apply pressure to the cheese and squeeze out the whey. I plan on tidying up the whole thing, but it works efficiently at the moment.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A round of cheddar cheese

I started making this cheddar on Halloween morning without realizing that it was an all day process. Not that it demanded your attention all day, but that you had to be around the house to take various steps involving keeping the cheese at various temperatures. Draining and pressing at specific times. We used the book, "And That's How You Make Cheese." It was a very concise step by step recipe. Unfortunately, it will be another 6 weeks before we can taste it. But, it looks like cheddar (without the annato coloring), smells like cheddar, and feels like cheddar. We can't wait to try it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs

Our rooster and some of his hens gleaning fallen apples. Chickens with a healthy diet of grain feed, leftover fruits and vegetables, and bugs and other forage food lay healthier eggs. The shells are much harder and the color of the yolks is a dark orange instead of pale yellow.

Deer hunting - filling the freezer

Colleen and I spent the day deer and elk hunting in one of our favorite meadows a couple of weeks ago. We are going out again today. The weather is supposed to be beautiful. Beautiful for humans anyway, maybe not so good for deer hunting. We'll be going back to Vassar Meadows and still hunting though a couple of square miles of close forest. Last time I was there I saw two deer, a beautiful coyote, and had a white throated sparrow land on the butt of my rifle while I was sitting still against a tree.

"Orare est laborare, laborare est orare"

"To pray is to work, to work is to pray" St. Benedict

"Benedict legislates for a monastic life that has rhythm, measure, and discretion. His monks are not overdriven by austerities in fasting and night vigils. They do not own anything personally, but they have enough to eat and to drink (even wine when it is available) and to clothe themselves. They work with their hands about six hours a day but they also have leisure for prayerful reading and common prayer. Their sleep is sufficient and they may even take a siesta in summer if needed. The young, the sick, and the elderly are cared for with compassion and attention."