Homestead Food Procurement Pt.1
Originally Posted November 2014
This article will discuss the killing and slaughtering of wild animals for human food purposes. Please if this kind of topic upsets you, stop reading now. If you continue to read and leave negative comments, folks will see why I'm called cantankerous. This is also intended for folks looking in to starting hunting, heaven knows I can't cover it all in one blog post, but will be happy to try to answer any questions you might have.
I'm going to attempt to (once a week) do a post on homestead food procurement.
There are many different ways to put food on your table, in your pantry, and in the freezer. I hope to touch on a different way each week. This week; I want to discuss hunting. While many people do this outdoor activity solely for sport, At Briarhill Farms it is nearly a necessity. Apart form the price of meat in the grocery stores, the way that meat animals are raised and processed are disgusting and should be reason enough for folks to seek out their own source of food.
In North America (most states) you can find many types of game animals to hunt. Large game includes animals such as White-Tail Deer, Mule Deer, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Elk, Moose, Feral Hogs, Etc. Small game includes Rabbits & Squirrels Etc. Then there's fowl & game-birds, Ducks, Geese, Wild Turkeys, Quail, Pheasant, Grouse, Etc. Although I have not personally hunted every one of the critters I mentioned above, it's fair to say the goal and results are the same.
1. Locate the game you are trying to harvest.
It's fair to say if you live in Florida, you won't be hunting Moose in your home state. If you are not familiar with the game animals that are available to hunt in your area, each state has a department that governs hunting and fishing. Check their web sites for rules and regulations for specific species, and the times of year in which you can hunt them. It's also advisable (in most cases required) that you take part in some sort of hunters safety education before you hunt. Finding game is not usually as easy as walking in to the nearest forest and shooting a 10 point buck and walking out an hour later. Although I have heard rare stories of beginners luck happening that way. My advice is; start small, go rabbit or squirrel hunting. Ask someone who is a seasoned hunter to allow you to tag along. You'd be surprised how often they'd enjoy the company. Be constantly observant for other people while you are hunting, and for goodness sake be 100% sure of your target before pulling that trigger.
2. Make a good, clean, quick, kill.
This should go without saying. When you are taking the life of an animal, please do it as quickly and humanely as possible. Practice with your firearm so that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt how it's going to shoot, and where it's going to hit. Make sure your weapon is appropriate for the type of hunting you are doing. I was eating a piece of deer roast one time & started finding pieces of lead shot (about #8 size). That told me that someone was probably hunting squirrels, rabbits, or quail and spooked a deer up and shot it with an inappropriate weapon. That deer was wounded, scared, and in severe pain for a long time because somebody was careless and stupid. My favorite line from the movie The Patriot was "Aim small, miss small". That's the God's honest truth. Pick your target, be sure of your target, & hit your target.
3. Put forth every effort to locate an animal that you have shot (waste not/want not).
So you've shot your game, Now what? Find it! Humans, I am sure are the only critters that grasp the concept of death. We will lay down as soon as we are injured and just wait to die. The animal kingdom is another story. A deer might be mortally wounded and run a half mile before laying down and dying. It is your responsibility as a hunter to track down, and locate this animal so it is not wasted. I can't explain to you how bad it feels to lose an animal that you know you've hit (I've done it & it's horrible).
a. So have a plan, call someone to help you look. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes to find that blood trail that you keep missing.
b. Don't give up too quickly. You may be a mere 5 feet away from your kill when you call it quits.
c. Don't run after large game immediately after shooting it. If it's wounded it will outrun you if chased. If you wait several minutes it is more likely to lay down and bleed out without running too far.
4. Make good use of the animal you have killed.
Fresh meat from the wild is amazingly delicious, and nutritious. Understanding how best to prepare your kill for the freezer can only come from experience. Of course having a good teacher can go a long way to reaching that level of experience. If you don't have a teacher there are a lot of good videos on YouTube that can actually get you through the process of processing. Just remember to keep your kill cool until it's ready for the freezer. Don't be afraid to try new things when it comes to fresh meat. And last but not least, don't be wasteful with good meat. Try to use it all, share some, and be creative with it.
Last but not least. Take a kid hunting. Teach them responsible hunters ethics, and secure the future of outdoor sportsmen.
I'll leave you with this. My favorite recipe for a wild game meal.
Rabbit Squirrel and Sausage Gumbo--
Ingredients-1 rabbit cut into pieces (about 2 pounds)--2 squirrels cut up (about 1 pound)--2 cups flour
--1 1/4 cup oil--4 cups chopped onions--1 cup chopped bell pepper--1 cup chopped celery--4 cloves minced garlic--4 quarts chicken or beef stock--1 pound smoked sausage diced (andouille is best) --
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper--2 cups chopped green onions--1/2 cup chopped parsley--2 tablespoons of Louisiana Hot Sauce---
Brown squirrel and rabbit in bacon oil until evenly brown on all sides on a medium heat. Remove and set aside.
Next you make your roux. If you will use the same pot that you browned the rabbit and squirrel in, remove the bacon fat and scrape the bottom of the pot clean of browned pieces and reserve. You will use these pot scrapings later. Or you can get a clean large heavy pot. This is what you will cook your gumbo in.
Brown flour and oil to make a roux. Bring to a red brown color something on the order of milk chocolate. Add onions, green pepper, celery and garlic and saute' for 10 minutes to create your "Cajun Trinity."
After your vegetables are soft, add stock, rabbit and squirrel pieces, and sausage, pot scrapings from the rabbit and squirrel browning and all seasonings. Reserve the green onions and parsley.
Bring all this to a boil then reduce heat to simmer (low setting) and cook slowly for 1 1/2 to two hours. Stir occasionally and scrape the bottom of the pot to prevent sticking.
Test the rabbit and squirrel for tenderness and if not satisfactory simmer some more. Don't worry about over cooking. You cannot overcook when using a low heat and tending occasionally. If the gumbo looks a little too thick add more stock or water 1/2 cup at a time until you like the consistency.
When your rabbit squirrel gumbo is cooked add the green onions and parsley, cover and simmer 5 minutes. You are now done.
Serve this with cooked white rice. This should be served with a ratio of 1/3 cup rice to 1 1/2 cup gumbo. I like potato salad or a baked sweet potato as a side. Of course you must serve some toasted french bread too.
Relationships On The Homestead
Originally posted November 2014
I should preface this post by saying I love my wife very much, and that is a must for a lasting relationship if you're living the homestead life. I'd also like to say that the stories in this post may or may not have happened exactly as depicted here... I really love my wife... If I should happen to disappear anytime soon, someone may want to alert the authorities to this post... I really really really love my wife...
Having a partner on the homestead is a great thing. Especially if that partner is your spouse, that you can work with, trust, rely on, and love unconditionally, and if you receive all of those things from your spouse you have attained a great thing. I am fortunate to have such a person in my life. My lovely wife Lorrie and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary this December 2014, and we have not killed each other yet, and that is some kind of feat seeing as how we've been running around together since we were both 14 years old.
I know it might be hard to believe, but I (The Cantankerous Cultivator) may not be the easiest person to live with. I am; as my moniker implies a bit cantankerous at times, I occasionally (or often) smell rather bad, I have a lazy bone, and an opinion on most everything, and I've been told I snore, and that my sarcasm is often a tough pill to swallow... All that aside I am a really great guy. Lorrie and I get along better than most couples I know. I can't stand to be away from her for long periods (it's kept me out of prison), and I think she feels the same way.
It wasn't always this way...
I remember a time early in our marriage Mrs. Lorrie was in the kitchen washing some dishes. I thought it would be funny to pop a towel towards her just to make that "popping sound"... Apparently I was closer than I thought... It was at that point I discovered that Mrs. Lorrie had a throwing arm that could rival any major league pitcher as she threw a jar of jewelry cleaner at me. She missed, I lived, she had a whelp, I slept on the couch...
Moral of this story? You don't need jewelry on the homestead, because you don't need jewelry cleaner becoming a weapon.
You know what else you don't need on a homestead? Carpet! besides the fact that it gets nasty, dirty, muddy, and gross. It is also responsible for the biggest fight in the history of Briarhill Farms. Apparently laying carpet is one of those things that two hard headed people should not do together. Especially when they both have razor sharp knives to cut the carpet. We lived through it, nobody went to jail, I slept on the couch...
You know what you DO need on a homestead? A woman like the one mentioned in Proverbs 31.
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
That's the kind of homestead spouse I've got. We can deal with the small things, and the bigger things are just things. When it's all boiled down to syrup we know we can handle just about anything this old world can throw at us. With God on our side there is nothing we can't do, no obstacle too big, or problem we can't overcome.
Autumn On The Homestead
Originally Posted October 2014
This is probably my favorite time of year. While I really dislike the onslaught of bitter cold that is coming, the cool mornings and evenings of autumn are indeed the best. For me it symbolizes the end of a hot summer, hard work, and smelling bad most of the time. It opens opportunities to pursue some of my favorite things like deer hunting, outdoor fires and delicious apple cinnamon stuff from my wife's kitchen (she's making apple butter as I type this).
The color changes of the leaves remind remind me how great an artist God is, and if you're fortunate enough to enjoy leaves changing against a spectacular sunset it is unfathomable to suggest that such an artist does not exist. The colors, the tastes and the smells that come along with this season are the most comforting to me. They cause me to reflect on the accomplishments achieved throughout the year, and even the failures. It's also a time to look ahead and make plans for the coming spring. What's going in the garden? How many new farm babies will there be? Is there enough firewood? It is indeed a great time.
Autumn By T. E. Hulme
A touch of cold in the Autumn night--
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.
So You Wanna Be A Homesteader?
Originally Posted October 2014
So... The notion of becoming a homesteader is appealing to you? That's great! I think the world needs more homestead minded people. Let's see if you're really cut out for the homestead lifestyle. Because I'll be honest with you. It's not for everyone. But, if you're ok with many of your friends & family thinking you have gone off the deep end, and you are willing to put in countless hours of work, continue reading.
Homesteaders job description...
Applicant must be willing to work in excess of 12 hours a day, sometimes seven day a week, every holiday, in every kind of weather condition, for very little monetary return. Vacations are non existent, the work is hard, dirty, smelly, wet, cold, hot, sticky, painful, and endless. Nice clothes are easily ruined, manicure, pedicures, hair-dos, and clean floors are things of the past. Animal feed comes in 50 pound bags that you'd better be able to load, unload, carry, and stack. You must be able to carry, push, pull, drag, chase, and catch all manner of farm critter, vermin, and predator. Your confidant & best friend (besides your spouse) is now a cow, goat, sheep, chicken, dog, cat, or (my personal favorite) a hive of bees that you will learn to carry on very normal sounding conversations with. Still with me? You're determined huh?
Homesteaders fringe benefits...
The satisfaction of living life on your terms. The guarantee of fresh wholesome food that you yourself produced, grew or nurtured. The unconditional love of a milk goat, livestock guardian dog, or other critter. The sense of accomplishment when winter rolls around, and you know there's plenty of good food and firewood to see you through till spring. Watching your children or grandchildren play in the country barefoot and free. The smell of summertime cut hay or wintertime woodsmoke. The good neighbors and friends you make at the farmers market.
So if you were to ask me I would say that the homestead life is worth it. The benefits far out weigh the cost. Just remember to live simply, work hard, and play harder.
Simple- Small Space Gardening
Originally published in Bayou Life Magazine 2013
Remember the summer days of your youth walking through your Grandparents garden picking tomatoes, snapping string beans & shelling peas? Now that we’ve become older and so much wiser the pursuit of fresh vegetables usually ends up taking us to the local chain store where we purchase pretty vegetables that lack flavor and that traveled from places far far away. We’ve convinced ourselves that this is the right way to do this “healthy living thing”.
Folks, I’m here to tell you there’s a better way. There’s a healthier way, and there’s a way that involves you in the production of your own food. You can grow your own fresh vegetables. I can think of very few good reasons for not growing at least some of your own vegetables. Two of the most common excuses I hear are “I don’t have room”, and “I don’t have time”. Let’s look at these excuses.
I don’t have room to have a vegetable garden-
Here at Briarhill Farms we have what we call our “kitchen garden”, it is planted and cared for before any other garden spot on the place. Why? It’s where we get our food for our table. Sure we have areas to grow stuff for market & selling from the farm. Those areas are there to generate part of our income, & help supply vegetables to other folks. If they fail we loose a little money. If the kitchen garden fails we might go without necessary vegetables we need for the year.
Our kitchen garden encompasses about 250 square feet, which is very small compared to the types of gardens we are accustomed to seeing. But you would be amazed at the types and amount of vegetables it is possible to harvest from such a small area, more than enough for us, and some to give to other family members as well.
By utilizing different planting methods such as raised beds, containers, planting in the ground and even hanging baskets it is possible to maintain a garden capable of feeding your family in just a small space. A popular trend recently is using old shipping pallets for small space gardens. By covering one side of the pallet with landscape cloth and filling the pallet with garden soil you can create an attractive and functional 4’x4’ garden spot that will grow many vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
I don’t have time-
I’ve told people that gardens are only hard work when you are first setting it up, and I believe that. That’s not to say once you’ve got it set up and planted you can just walk away and come back six to eight weeks later and start eating tomatoes. It just doesn’t work like that. Time spent watering, fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting can be kept to a minimum in a small space garden with these few tips.
1. Plant what you know you & your family can & will eat. I know very few families that can put away squash from 12 plants, or can eat the fruit from a flat of tomato plants unless they plan on preserving (which is not a bad idea either). Don’t over plant one type of vegetable, be diverse and try new things. If you don’t like radishes, don’t plant them just because they’re easy to grow. Plant your favorites, enjoy what you harvest.
2. Figure out how you are going to water your plants before you plant them. If you can only water from one or two sides of your garden you don’t want to plant corn in front of your string beans causing the water to miss getting on your beans. Also, water as early in the day as you can so the leaves of your plants will have time to dry before nightfall, this helps reduce fungus problems.
3. Fertilize your plants when you plant them, I recommend good old fashioned cow manure. Side dress with the same manure about every 2 weeks to maintain healthy vigorous growth.
4. Pest control is a necessary thing in most gardens. The first sign of aphids, tomato horn worms, thrips, or squash beetles is the time to act. Don’t assume they will go away on their own because they won’t. Visit your locally owned garden center and seek out organic solutions. Remember you are going to be putting this stuff in your mouth later; you don’t want to eat sevin dust. Besides that the pollinators are having enough problems with pesticides without us gardeners adding to their dilemma.
5. Harvest your vegetables as soon as they reach ripeness, leaving them on the plant too long only invites more bugs & disease you don’t need. Serve them up fresh or preserve them for later.
So there you have it in a nutshell. Train yourself to eat items that are fresh, local and in season. You’ll reap many benefits other than just delicious fresh veggies. What a great way to engage your children or grandchildren. If you’re still not convinced to try it yourself I will encourage you to visit one of your local Farmers Markets or roadside stands. Support your local growers, producers, and artisans.
The Cantankerous Cultivator: