Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Random bits

It's catalog time again.  I don't know how it happened, but I've been added to mailing lists for catalogs I would never even bother opening, let alone order anything from.  Also, my husband and I both ended up on Johnny's Seeds mailing list.  We don't need two copies.  So I'll be spending some time today on the phone taking us off those lists.  I remember hearing about a family that lived in a large apartment building.  In December they put out a box and sign near the mailboxes, inviting anyone in the building to leave catalogs in the box whose mailing list they wished to be removed from.  I thought it was a fabulous idea.  It almost makes me wish I lived in an apartment building.  So much material saved from the landfill.  I've put a similar offer out to relatives and a few more consumerist friends, but so far no one has taken me up on it.

Since buying a shotgun I've started reading a couple of hunting blogs.  NorCal Cazadora is good, as is A Mindful Carnivore.  No doubt there are others as well.  I'm so new to hunting and guns that I don't even know enough to ask the stupid questions.  So it's nice to have access to the worlds of thoughtful and experienced hunters.

I had another one of those funny moments when my brain slips back into pre-homestead, pre-frugalite channels.  We have an air rifle, and a supply of lead pellets the rifle uses.  I had thought to do a little target practice.  I know an air rifle shooting pellets is nothing like a shotgun with shotgun shells.  But I feel that any familiarity with any sort of gun can only be a step in the right direction.  For some reason I put it off for about a week because I hadn't thought to pick up a couple of paper targets at the gun store.  When I came to, I couldn't believe the train of thought I'd gone through.  Paying for paper targets?  Perish the thought!  I set up the clever soda can target box my husband had cobbled together.  (Clementine crate lined with newspaper, and a can on a string attached to a screw at the top.)  Flipping the can over the top and out of the way, I put a junk mail envelope in there with two small black marks made with a sharpie marker.  I already know I can hit the can at the distance I was shooting.  That's a pretty big target.  The small marks give me a much better sense of my accuracy.  I still can't believe I was thinking about paying for a piece of paper headed for the recycling bin.  Sheesh!

This coming weekend I'm hosting a cookie baking party.  It's a more social version of the holiday cookie exchange.  Instead of just passing out plates with cookies to friends, I bring the friends and their doughs together for the baking.  Then we divvy up the cookies at the end.  It's always fun to see what kinds of cookies people bring.  I used to ask folks to bring copies of their recipe too.  But now that everyone has email, it's trivially easy for those as want the recipes to get them.  I host get-togethers so rarely these days.  I'd like to do it more often, but it seems I only find the time for such things when the garden is not in full swing. 

I made my first ever batch of duck confit, with duck raised on grass locally.  I'm not sure if the birds were in rigor mortis, or if duck is just a lot more tightly put together than chicken.  The ducks were slaughtered the day before I brought them home and cut them up.  It took quite some doing; almost an hour to break down two birds.  I know my butchery skills are rusty, but it doesn't take me that long with two chickens.  Anyway, the legs were cured for two days, then poached in duck fat, and stored in a wide-mouth quart canning jar covered completely by their own fat.  The confit is supposed to sit for two weeks before sampling.  I'm hoping I can wait that long.  What I really want now is a baguette worthy of the name to smear the confit over, to see if I can reproduce a simple, unctuous, perfect appetizer I once enjoyed in Europe.  I made just a modest quart of stock from the roasted carcasses, and put the breasts into the freezer.  At some point we'll have a feast of duck breast.

As of the end of November we've exceeded our harvest tally from last year by about 145 pounds.  And there are still hardy leeks and a few cabbages out there to harvest, plus a trickle of lettuce and spinach coming from the cold frame.  I'm curious too about the gobo still in the ground.  I wonder how it behaves over the winter.  Does it become sweeter, as many other roots do?  Will it hold until spring?  I don't know.  Yes.  I'll definitely need to dig up a couple at some point to see what I find.  Probably better to do that sooner rather than later, since the ground is going to be frozen pretty soon.  Daytime temperatures are still peaking just above freezing, but the nights are all frozen now.

I'm planning to experiment with repurposing an old wool sweater into felted mittens.  We have a few old sweaters with holes in them, and I'm hoping to get at least a couple pairs out of the first sweater I felt.  This video shows how to do it, and makes it look pretty easy.  I'm no great shakes at all as a seamstress, but that project looks manageable.  It would be nice to revive the old skill of making something so useful from worn out sweaters.  I'll skip the decorative buttons though.

Two and a half weeks to go, at most, for the turkey.  We plan to have her for New Year's Eve dinner, unless we can't get a grass-fed prime rib for Christmas.  I feel very lucky to know of three local-ish farms that raise beef entirely on grass.  None of them are in my county, but there's one each in two adjacent counties, and another at the near end of Lancaster County.  Our chances of obtaining the cut we want from one of them are good.  Prime rib is such a luxurious thing.  Most of the meat we buy all the rest of the year is either whole birds or ground meat - essentially the cheapest kinds of meat, albeit from local grass-based farmers.  So, we content ourselves with the cheapest (not cheap) of the best kind of meat all year, except for this one winter feast.  Feast days are very important to me.  I love the traditional dishes that make up our very different Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  Though I deeply enjoy prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, I wouldn't want to rob this singular day of its significance by indulging in them at other times of year, even if we could afford to do so.  The rarity is what makes me appreciate them, treasure them, and celebrate them.  I'm really looking forward to it!


The Mom said...

I love your target. Free is awesome. We get a half cow each year from a local farmer. He has a strawberry field and raises the cows on his back pasture. After a few years, I've learned to ask for my prime rib when they're cutting it up. I'm getting pretty good at ordering the cuts we want.

Tovar said...

Thanks for the mention, Kate!

I hope that Holly and I -- and others like us -- can be of help to new hunters like you, who are just a few steps behind us on the path.

esp said...

Thanks for the link to the mitten video. I have a wool sweater I've been saving to make into mittens...maybe now I'll get it out and work on them!

Jennifer Montero said...

No wonder you haven't got time to read catalogues! You sound very busy - but purposeful.

I admit I had a Pavlovian response when I read the words 'grass fed prime rib'. We're treating ourselves to a goose for Christmas dinner, something we don't eat ordinarily because don't grow ourselves. And I can save all that goosefat to make duck confit with the wild ducks we shoot.

The cookie party is a GREAT idea! I NEED to bake cookies this time of year, I think it's connected to the gene that makes me decorate clementines with cloves. Enjoy your creative endeavors.

Michael Greenberg said...

My favorite hunting/cooking/etc. blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook (Holly's partner...small world?). It's hard not feel jealous of the seemingly endless Californian bounty, but he's a great writer, thinker, and---so far as I can tell---hunter. Thanks for the other two links!

As for target practice, I agree: more can't hurt! I went to an Appleseed in Manheim, PA and found that my shooting improved dramatically. They focus on rifles, though, so you'll need a 22. You should be forewarned: there's a nonpartisan agenda concerning Revolutionary War history that I found politically ambiguous. But they're all so friendly and un-pushy; I had a great time.

teekaroo said...

For some reason I'm on Johnny's list twice, but I get one catalog early and the other late. I need to get that figured out as well.
I love the cooking party idea. Great way to get all the Christmas cookies made and have a great time. My cookie party this year will consist of me, a five year old and a four year old, with a baby pulling on my pants.
I'm also working on re-purposing an old sweater. Thanks for that link. I wanted to make some mittens for my kids, but I hadn't looked for a pattern yet. I hope to make some warm slippers for my baby too.
I'd better get busy!

Wendy said...

I find that I backslide occasionally, too. In our highly disposable culture, it's just too easy to fall back into those old habits and our first response to a "need" is to think about what we can buy to fill it. Every time I come up with a home-made-with-free-stuff-laying-around-the-house alternative to something I was considering buying I pat myself on the back. Your target is awesome - pat yourself on the back ;).

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny to get those jolts of realization about how far you've come? I usually get them when I go to someone else's house, or when new people come to my house. I only have been moving one step at a time, but after 3-4 years, I find myself waaaaay over here in left field.

Luckily, all you good people are here, too. :)

And WOW - sounds like you had a great harvest this year!I'll have to paw through your harvest tally notes in more detail.

meemsnyc said...

Luckily, I don't get too many seed catalogs. So far I've only received one in the mail. Good luck with target practice.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

There is, as we speak, a pad of those paper targets in the trunk of my car. I felt a little silly, too, given that any old piece of paper will do, but then I discovered their great merit. If you're not a great shot (sigh ...), it helps a lot if your target is big. At the range, if you put the target on the 50-yard board and you miss the paper altogether, you can't see where your shot went because the board is already riddled with holes.

I look forward to the day when my shooting is good enough that I can use up my junk mail that way.

dmarie said...

I'm with Wendy, a definite cause for "pat yourself on the back."

Hazel said...

There must be something American about the cookie baking gene- I have the mince pie gene. Must be the British variation.

Good luck with the mittens. I bought a lovely stripey wool sweater from a charity (Goodwill) shop and felted it. I made a cherry stone pillow for my mum from the body and wrist warmers for me from the sleeves. The cats got catnip mice from the scraps!
I haven't looked at the link yet, but I made mittens from an old school fleece jacket for my children (kind of one size fits all for playing in the snow!) I made the body into a bag for DD2's PE kit, and used the cuffs of the sleeves as the wrists of the mittens. They're not quite right round the thumb, but they'll do for playing.

Kate said...

I'm responding late, so my apologies to all.

The Mom, it's nice that you can order individual cuts that way. Love the image of strawberry fields plus cows.

Tovar, your blog is well worth a mention. I'm more than a few steps behind you, trust me. But thanks for the kind thoughts.

esp, you're welcome. Good luck with the craft project.

Jennifer, trust me, there are times when the pull of the couch is strong enough and the chill outside profound enough to justify a thorough lounge. Enjoy your Christmas goose.

Micheal, yup, Hank's blog has been on my blog roll for a while. I think of his as more of a cooking than a hunting blog, though I know he does hunt. Thanks for the referral to Appleseed. I'll check it out.

teekaroo, sounds like you're going to be busy yourself!

Wendy, it's funny, isn't it? I find it a little disturbing that for as much intention as I have, and as much practice as I've put in to live a less consumptive and dependent life, I still can't help but fall back into that way of thinking sometimes. At least I was saved by my habit of not jumping in the car to run a single errand. I was vaguely thinking I'd pick up targets the next time I happened to be in that area. That gave me the time required to come to my senses.

Emily, yeah left field. I talked to my brother and he mentioned his credit card debt. I couldn't believe it, but I just had to bite my tongue. A lecture from his older sister would have been worse than useless. I'll soon have a harvest synopsis for the year on my About Me page. Look there for details in a bit if you're interested.

meemsnyc, thanks.

Tamar, I'm not shooting from all that far away, so the little dot on an envelope should suffice. At 50 yards, I'd need a big target too, I'm sure.

dmarie, thanks.

Hazel, if only we could breed an Anglo-American superbeing that would carry both traits! Then we'd get cookies AND mince pie. How awesome would that be? I'm told my great-grandmother made mince pies. She was Irish, but apparently didn't pass the gene down to later generations. And I know this is hackneyed at this point, but I'd love to see some posts and pictures of those hand-crafted items. I girl can dream, can't she?

Hoosierbuck said...

Enjoy your blog. I have some experience hunting and teaching hunter education for the Indiana DNR- would be very willing to help out where I can. If you have questions or would like to see more sites hunting related, drop me a line!

Kate said...

Hoosierbuck, sorry for the tidy reply to your kind remarks. I'm not sure how much help I can get from those who offer it over the internet, but if I ever have a hunting question I need an answer to, I'll post it on my blog and remember to ask you and Tovar.

seejanemom said...

I admire your spunk, girl! As the only daughter of a hunter, I was MINDFULLY shooting tasty meat at twelve.

I too have the peak oil, full time homesteader job title these days for my family of four. When I don't KNOW, I dig until I do. SOmetimes that leads me to Harvey U's doorstep in Virginia (lucky me to count him aa friend!)

My "consumerist" friends form my old lifestyle teach me so much too, and one of the foodie gals suggested a cookbook you may well already own>>> THE RIVER COTTAGE COOKBOOK by a quirky Englishman named HUGH FEARNLY-WHITTINGSTALL. He is a mindful carnivore, as it would seem we both are, and will take you from breeding to butchering to table. PIgs, rabbits...all of it.

LOVE your blog. I have a bit more land to turn (50+) acres, but your efforts are no less heroic! I have learned quite a bit and it seems we are on roughly the the same path for very similar reasons.

Good show!

Agent_Orange said...

When I was a kid, we'd build boxes like that one, and with an old strip of carpet, a few layers of burlap, or any tough cloth, put an arch along the back of the box behind your paper. If you use BB's, you can collect them along the bottom of your box and usually re-use them. The arch should go from the top front about 1/2 way to the back bottom.