Sunday, January 31, 2010

Grande Ronde Steelhead

Went fishing yesterday on the Grande Ronde River in Washington state. It's only about an hour's drive from my house here in Idaho. The last part of the drive is down a 4x4 road that drops a thousand feet or more into the river canyon. I saw eagles, ducks, geese, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. It was a splendid morning. The drive is beautiful and the canyon is peaceful. Even on a Saturday I only saw a couple of drift boats threading through the rapids.

The steelhead I caught was about 5 pounds which is average for this river. There are a few 10 pounders in there, but I've never caught one. It was a female, so I'll be curing the eggs for bait. I've got the fish brining right now and I'll be putting it in the smoker in just a little bit.
I find my spiritual center in God's own cathedrals. "I will lift mine eyes up into the hills, it is from there that my help will come." The words of the Psalmist are constantly on my mind when I am in the mountains and canyons of the West. As I stand in the icy river, watching it flow by, I am keenly aware that the river, the fish, the canyon, the bighorns, and I are all part of God's creation. I find a deep sense of peace, I am aware of my right place in God's universe. I am filled with grace. I am blessed.

I say a prayer of thanks for the fish and the beautiful morning and a thank you to the fish as well.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Giant Egg!

We got a giant egg the other day. It was off the egg scale. It wouldn't even fit in an egg carton. It had two large yolks inside. Weird. Ouch!
I'm just relaxing after a day of teaching in the morning and puppy patrol in the afternoon. I found a great but, alas, impractical solution to puppy energy. Every time she woke up I took her hunting. Walked about a half mile down to the end of the pasture and back. She got into the creek, chased rabbits, found a rabbit skull and chewed on that. I even took a couple of shots at the rabbits with a 20 gauge. She doesn't seem to mind the slightly louder sound of that either.
We went out hunting three different times. Of course, this took about three hours of my day. But after each time, she came back and slept like a baby.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Little Hunter

Luna and her favorite toy. A mallard wing saved from hunting season. We went out for a long walk, long for a small puppy, and saw a rabbit. I took a shot with the .22 but missed. I probably would have got it with the 20 gauge, but I think the noise might be too much for her. The breeder got her used to a .22 starter pistol, so she had no problem ignoring the .22. She didn't notice the rabbit at all. It was a ways away. That'll come later I'm sure.
She is a wild ball of furry, snapping, growling, teeth. Teething puppies, Oh my! She's getting a little better about fingers and toes, but she'll chew anything in her path. All of our seed catalogs have been torn to shreds. The best time to pet her is when she's half asleep. We really do love her. She's going to be a great hunter and a great addition to our animal menagerie.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Puppies and goose meatballs

After a long day of antics, Luna has finally gone to sleep. She was so wild. Chew, bite, run, play. Her favorite game is to chase the real duck wing. I saved a bunch of duck and goose wings from hunting season this year and she loves them.
We had a glorious meal of goose meatball spaghetti tonight. Sorry no recipe pictures. I borrowed the recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook. I made a few modifications, but essentially it was the same. I baked the meatballs instead of deep frying them. I bake my meatballs in a casserole with tomato sauce to cover halfway up the sides. 350 degrees. Excellent recipe and an excellent meal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The puppy, Luna, is home

Luna, our puppy, is home. We drove down to Southern Idaho to pick her up. We hit a couple of snow storms on the way. On Whitebird grade a semi got stuck going up and we almost ended up stuck behind it when we lost momentum.

Luna slept all day in the car, so she had a frieghtening amount of energy when we got home. Lab puppies have a well deserved reputation it seems and she set out to destroy everything in her path. Chew toys, cat toys, shoes, toes, fingers, and even the living room carpeting.
After the initial burst of energy when we got home, she has settled some. She goes nuts for a half an hour then falls fast asleep.
The breeder had already introduced her to gunfire and real birds, so we got to see her retrieve a real bird while the breeder fired a starter pistol. We have a rabbit living in our strawberry patch and can't wait to put her to work chasing it out. She is a beautiful dog. We are truly blessed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Simple venison and greens

O.K., so this guy keeps taking pictures of his dinner. Why? Well, I guess because I would be interested in what other homesteaders and hunters were eating too. So, this is a simple 30 minute meal. The most complex part is getting the brown rice down right. I think it's just practice and probably depends a lot on the rice you've got. I use 2 1/2 cups of water per cup of rice. A little salt and oil. Simmer covered for 25 minutes. Simmer uncovered for a further 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat but leave the pan on the burner. Good luck.

Simple venison and greens. In this case, Swiss chard. But you could use Collard greens or spinach too. Fry up six strips of bacon in a large pan. Take them out to drain. Transfer half the bacon grease to another pan. Fry your 1/2 inch thick venison steaks in the bacon grease over medium high heat. In the other pan put your whole bunch of washed and spun Swiss chard. A little moisture on the greens is important for the cooking. I cut the thickest end part of the red ribs off of the chard, leaving the ribs that are part of the leaves. It's all edible though if you want to cook it a little longer. Throw your chard into the grease at medium heat and they will quickly wilt. Cook them down a bit and add a few dashes of red wine vinegar. Chop up your bacon and throw that back in with the chard.

By this time you've made your salad, your venison is done, the rice is perfect and you're ready to eat, right? Don't worry, it takes time to get comfortable in the kitchen. Just make your mistakes and learn as you go.

This is a savory, quick, and reasonably healthy meal.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Twenty Eggs!

Holy cow! Twenty eggs today. The chickens must think it's spring here in Northern Idaho. It's been in the 40's and 50's for the last week. We are letting our customers from last summer know that we have eggs for sale again. We've been selling a few dozen a week all winter, but now production has really increased. We recently acquired a free refrigerator to keep in the garage for eggs and farmer's market produce. We may have to plug it in sooner than expected.

Tomorrow is my "long day" of teaching, as I refer to it. I have six hours of face time with students and families. That is way more face time than an ordinary public school teacher has in a day. I'm not complaining though. It leaves me Friday off for steelhead fishing.

Applesauce and other random topics

Goose season is over here, but here as a fantastic picture of Colleen all bundled up for hunting in the pasture. The flyway doesn't go right across our land and I think I may search for neighbors willing to let us try their land next year. We'll see.

I was sick yesterday and spent most of the day curled up with the cats. This is Maggie, the princess of the house. She curled up beneath a cowboy hat. I had planned on starting on barn projects, but physical labor was out of the question. We need to shovel out a bunch of very old manure from the place where the pigs are going to go. We also need to fork out about five tons of moldy old hay from the center of the barn. There are owl pellets, cow pies, and who knows what all in this deep layer of hay. I think we are going to hire some local unemployed friends and acquaintances to help. Pay a reasonable wage in cash, plus a farm lunch. Bake up a ham and what all. One problem is that there is no easy access to the area below the loft where the hay is piled. We'll have to fork it on to tarps, drag it through a side door, and then on to the loader on the tractor. Hard, dirty, sweaty work. Then I need to put up some windows and doors and patch some holes in the sides of the barn. Lots to do before we get goats in spring.

We are starting to get people interested in pre-ordering half and whole hogs this year. Orders for eggs are higher than we can supply. We've had people ask about large orders of meat chickens, but we have to figure out how to do that legally. We will be ordering seeds on Wednesday. Things are coming along.

And finally, applesauce. We canned a batch of apple sauce from the tail end of our fall apples from the orchard. It turned out splendidly. We still have enough for another batch of apple sauce or apple butter. Canning is so satisfying an activity. We still have a bunch of frozen tomatoes that we couldn't get canned in the fall. We need to make them into tomato sauce.

We went puppy supply shopping last night. The puppy comes home on Saturday. We can't wait. It should be an interesting event introducing her to the cats.

Sick or not, I plan on teaching today.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


A friend and I had a great time shooting shotguns (trap) and revolvers in the pasture today. I was alarmed by my saggy pants in this picture though. My belly is too big, and I have no rear end apparently. I need to lose some weight around the middle and find another brand of jeans.

Back to the shooting. We shot trap with 20 gauge shotguns. I have a nice Charles Daly side-by-side. It's my lightweight rabbit, grouse, pheasant, partridge gun. Good for walking all day with. We also shot my .44 special Smith and Wesson revolver, a Ruger .22 single-six, and my friends Glock .45.

All of my guns have actual hunting or animal defense uses. The .44 is my hiking and hunting sidearm. Potentially useful for black bears and mountain lions. The single-six could, theoretically, be used for grouse or rabbits. I actually shot a grouse with it once on a backpacking trip, but I've don't really try to hunt with it any more. It made a great backcountry meal. A welcome break from freeze dried noodles and peas.

We both shot well in trap with the shotguns, making me eager to grouse hunt with the new puppy next fall. I shot about 7 out of 10, while my friend hit one 10 out of 10.

Well, it's off to process the rest of this falls apples. Apple sauce, apple butter, and pie filling.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Venison Diane

O.K., so I'm not a food photographer but here is a picture of our scrumptious wild game meal last night. When I cook with meats like venison or goose, we usually eat small portions. The meat is so dense you don't really feel like eating a big slab of it. We had venison diane over brown rice. Garnished with fresh parsley, home canned beets from our garden, and a big salad. The venison diane usually calls for igniting some brandy in the pan you've cooked the venison in, but I skipped that part.

2-4 venison steaks cut 3/4-1 inch thick. We used sirloin, but I've also used backstrap.
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup beef or venison broth
6 tbs. butter total
a few tbs. of red wine
black pepper

Melt three tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until golden. Add the beef broth and a little wine and reduce by half.

Prepare the venison by pressing coarsely ground pepper into both sides. Melt another three tablespoons of butter in a steel frying pan. (the wine will eat the cure off of your cast iron) Fry the venison in the butter until rare or medium rare. Remove venison and set aside in a warm oven. Deglaze the venison pan with a little more wine, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the broth and onion mixture and reduce a little more.

Put the warm venison steak, which you are hoping is a nice medium rare now, on the brown rice and drench in sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley.

I usually aim for a steak the size of a deck of playing cards on this type of recipe then supplement with a vegetable and salad. Have fun and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You can't beat bacon and garlic

Quick food? Comfort food? Healthy food? For a quick meal last night I improvised with three of my favorite ingredients. Bacon, garlic, and wild game. The bacon was from a whole hog we bought locally, the garlic was "Chesnok Red" from our garden, and the goose was shot in the pasture behind our house. It was simple and quick. I cut the goose into strips, wrapped it around whole peeled garlic cloves, wrapped that in bacon, and stuck a toothpick through it. Baked in a 350 degree oven until the bacon was done, but the goose was medium rare. I don't know how to tell you to estimate the cooking time, only that you don't want to over-cook wild game. Better to err on the side of too little time as long as the bacon is done.

It was wonderful to pop one of these treats into your mouth. You only needed to eat a couple as the goose meat is so dense it fills you up quickly. Roasted garlic is always a treat, and anything is better wrapped in bacon.

The meal was topped off by a large salad. Balancing our the weight of the bacon and goose.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baby Goats!

We we to a goat breeder's farm today to look at baby goats. This is a yearling we might get. She would be "in milk" when we got her. It would be less complex for us to get a milking doe after she gave birth than to get one that was pregnant and deliver kids ourselves. It seems like our ideas for the barn will work just fine. We're still worried about all the moldy old hay that's piled up in the center, but we can either figure out a way to empty it or simply block it off from the goats. Getting the old hay out will be a major undertaking and may even require cutting a new door into the side of the barn.

These are some of the young goat kids. They are so amazingly cute. I was amazed at how they could be in the chilly barn with the door open at such a young age. We got to see a kid and momma that was only an hour old. The circle of life. Birth and growth in Spring.

Colleen got to hold one of the baby goats. Aren't they both adorable together? We are going to get a couple of Saanan dairy goats this Spring. It will be a major life change for us. Well I guess all of this farming will be a major life change. I've been traveling and playing my whole life. It is getting very different to be tied down to a home and to animals in one place.
"Tied down" is really the wrong phrase though. Grounded, more like. Lightness and weight. Lightness seems like freedom, but weight gives meaning. The more I put down roots and dig deep to one place and a life there, the more significant my life becomes.

We are hashing out the final details and hope to have made a decision about the goat venture in a day or two. We are truly blessed with the opportunity to do this.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Palouse Goose

After spending an embarrassing number of mornings in a blind in the back of our pasture, I finally shot a goose. In years past they have flown regularly over this part of the Palouse, but I had always hunted on or former landlady's farm. We are about five miles from there. I don't know that the different location made all the difference though. I think that the cold front a few weeks ago, the one that froze our pipes, pushed a lot of the geese further South for the winter.

There were good numbers of geese this morning though and after striking out on a couple of flocks called a group into my decoys. It was perfect. It was everything I love about waterfowl hunting. They came into my calling as nice as nice. They bowed up and floated in as slow as slow. I got a perfect shot at about 20 feet and dropped the goose on the spot. A quick, humane, ethical kill.

Later, when we cleaned the goose, we marveled at the heavy layer of fat on it. We breasted and skinned this one as the wounds were to significant to make a pretty roast out of it. I do the breasts, and Colleen does the legs. She's just better at disjointing them. It's her wildlife biology background I think. She directs all the cutting when we butcher deer too. I gut and field dress, she is head butcher.

Unfortunately goose season ends in a week. We'll both go in the morning and then I'll go as many times as I can before the season closes. I think at least one of these goose breasts is destined for a pot pie. Can't wait.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vocatio - "a summons"

The original meaning of vocation in 1426 was "a call from God to follow a spiritual way of life." The word comes from the Latin vocatio meaning a call or summons.

I'm back to teaching this week and loving it. I love working with young people and their families to help them grow and succeed. That said, teaching is very exhausting emotionally for me.

I teach special education in an alternative setting. I work for a publicly funded charter school that provides services for families who are essentially "homeschooling." Working together with families and children to come up with the best way to meet their special learning needs is fantastic.

It meets my needs too. I don't handle the stress of the full time public school world very well. I work part time as an "independent contractor" with the charter school and therefore arrange my hours with the families I serve. If I want to plan lessons at 2 am, then that's what I do. The other day I planned my lessons on a notebook in the goose blind.

So, my students are wonderful. I work with each student one-on-one and they are each so different and unique. I have a student who, just out of the blue, decided to do a powerpoint biography of John Muir, one of my heroes. This student does "service learning" with the National Forest Service. I met with another younger student this week for the first time. We got some work done, then just chatted and drew and got to know each other a little better.

I get to use the skills and the patience that God has given me to best serve these families. The students and families, in turn, teach me. I grow and learn each day. I start each day with a prayer that I may be of service to these kids. I pray that I may bring a little knowledge and light and love into their lives.

I am truly blessed to have a job that I love so much. It is truly a "calling" in the Latinate sense of the word.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wild goose fried rice

The other night we had wild goose fried rice. Sorry no picture. We gobbled it all up before I thought to take a photograph. Goose is an extremely low fat, low cholesterol meat to use in any dish. You can make this with one breast, feeds two plus leftovers, or two legs.

The key to fried rice is to cook the rice the night before and refrigerate it over-night. We made brown rice, but you can use white if you'd like.

1 cup (before cooking) long grain brown rice, cook according to instructions

2 eggs scrambled separately and set aside
1 goose breast chopped to 1/2 inch cubes and fried over high heat. A dash of Cayanne and 2 dashes of cumin. Set aside.

4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 small broccoli florets, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 Thai pepper, chopped (or other hot pepper)
2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce-if you can't get it that's fine too.

Put 3 tablespoons of peanut oil and 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil in your wok. Heat to high and throw in your garlic, onions, Thai pepper, and carrots. Cook until garlic begins to turn golden. Add your broccoli and 2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce. When the broccoli softens to your liking add your frozen peas, pre-cooked goose, and scrambled eggs. When the wok is again hot, add the rice. You may need to add more oil. Add it and get it hot before you add the rice. You can add soy sauce too, but the fish sauce is salty already. Fry hot until the rice is hot through.

Have fun, add any veggies you like. Everything we used except the broccoli came from our garden. Either from the root cellar or the freezer. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Our new huntress, Luna

The geese are starting to fly over the Palouse and over our land again. The warming temperatures have brought them up from the Clearwater and Snake Rivers to feed on waste grain.

We went down to Boise to visit the newest hunter in our family. A three week old black lab who we have decided to name Luna. She will be trained as a hunting dog and cherished as a new family member. She is just about the most adorable little creature I have ever seen.

She squirmed around and cried for a few minutes then fell asleep in my arms.

Here is Luna with her mom and dad.

Here is Luna walking and crawling on the carpeting.

Colleen and Luna, two of the most beautiful girls in the world.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lost chicken rescue operation!

We noticed a chicken missing from the coop the other night. That's not too unusual. Sometimes they wander off and spend the night in the garage or in the chick coop. After another day, we began to wonder about predators. I was looking for the bucket of oyster shell that we sometimes feed them to boost calcium for egg production. The bucket was upside down and when I turned it over there was a cold, wet chicken sitting on two eggs. She had been under there at least of couple of days. Cold and wet is a bad thing for a chicken to be, so we brought her in a warmed her by the fire for a couple of hours. The cats were mighty curious. I wish I had a picture of the cat peering over the rubbermade tote we had the chicken in. After a couple of hours, we re-introduced her outside and she seems fine. All's well as ends well.