Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Dogwood Trail

       The Dogwood trail is a short trail open to the public on managed timberland a few miles outside of Woodville just off highway 190. I decided to take a break from my waiting for another deer to hike this trail with my wife  and kids. I am hoping this will be the first of many. The Big Thicket as this area is known has many hiking trails and I plan on hiking all of them. 

       This is a good starter trail fairly flat and short, but it looks like it rarely gets visitors. There are a series of bridges many of which are messed up with fallen trees all of which are passable, but wouldn't be adviseable for children under the age of ten. The trail would be at its most scenic not to long after heavy rains as the creeks would have a heavier flow of water. 
      The trails end sooner than we had planned and past this point looks as of there has been some heavy damage if not logging. We considered going past the sign at the end of this small bridge to look for geocaches, but decided it would be to rough for the kids. This was our first  time finding a geocache and the kids seemed to enjoy it. I wish we had brought things to leave. The small geocache had a note and a couple silicone braclets. We took one and left a little change behind. Next time we go hiking we will be prepared and bring our own caches to leave. We have enough stuff we could fill the woods.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Doe number 2

        It is nothing to brag about just another doe to put meat in the box, but that is all that really interests me. There was four or five deer at the corn including one big buck with a decent rack. Not sure if it had the 13 inch spread it needed to be legal because he was gone pretty quick. This deer and another one were doubling back to go the other side when I was able to get a shot at this one. I wouldn't say I enjoy it and I wouldn't say I feel bad about killing a deer. I guess if I am going to eat something that has to die, I should at least be able to do the killing myself. This deer is a little smaller than the last I probably will get a little less meat in the freezer. My goal is a hundred pounds of ground meat, maybe thirty pounds of steak for fajitas or stir fry, and as much jerky as I can make. I kept the skin from this one, rubbed salt all over the inside, rolled the skin up and placed the whole thing inside a garbage bag and into the freezer. I should be able to take it out later, thaw the whole thing and scrap it to process into a useable hide. I do feel that processing the hide is a big part of what I want to learn from this. I really have no interest in having a deer head hanging on the wall, but I hate to see the hide to waste. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Definitely drinkable

     I came across these caps when I was trying to find the simplest way possible to make alcohol. I figured if people in prison make there own booze there had to be simple way to do it. I really didn't want to buy a bunch of equipment, take up a bunch of space and try to master the process of wine making. Especially because I really didn't know if I would ever do it again.  So while searching around I came across these caps and bought a set on Ebay.  The EZ-caps are a two liter soda bottle cap with a hole drilled through the center and a thin piece of foam placed inside the cap with a tiny little slit cut in.  The cap lets the gas from fermentation out, which keeps your bottle from exploding, while also keeping bugs or other things from getting in your wine.

       Every year in the spring and early summer the landscape here is covered with wild dew berries and black berries.  There are only so many that the kids can eat and how many jars of jam could you possibly use in a year.  We do make more jam than we can use in a year because if there is a drought there is not much of a wild berry crop, but even still we have frozen berry juice that we don't need to make into jam. This year was quite wet which also meant a good crop of wild muscadine grapes, fruit from a family member who's trees were loaded with peaches/pears and we get some of the honey from the bee keepers at my wife's grandmothers place. All of which can be turned into alcohol using the EZ-caps.

       The package of six caps and a small medicine bottle full of wine yeast was around sixteen dollars on Ebay. According the Ebay listing I should be able to make around 300 liters of wine. I have a feeling it will be a long time before I make 300 liters of wine, but it will only take a few liters to have been worth the price.  If I went with the cheapest five gallon set up my initial investment would be probably be around three hundred bucks and I would have to commit more of m juice stockpile into making something I am not sure I want to drink. I just don't drink enough to make it worth spending that kind of money on wine making supplies, but I really wanted to be able to do it and this seems to work.

         I started with blackberry juice using 16 oz of juice that I had run the berries through a tomato mill to get rid of the seeds and most of the pulp.  After thawing it out I strained the juice though cloth to get out the rest of the pulp.  The one page instructions said you could use concentrated juice so I figured this pure juice would be enough if I added enough water to fill up the bottle. Then I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar and and 1/8 of a teaspoon of the wine yeast.  I didn't read the  part about letting the sugar dissolve before adding yeast. I did put a regular lid on and give it a health shake and then I re-capped the bottle with the EZ-cap and waited.  After a week I put the bottle in the fridge and then after another week, I tried my creation.

        Not the greatest thing I have ever had to drink in my life which probably has more to do with me than the EZ-caps, but far better then some of the booze I have consumed. I would guess I will get better at the process and hopefully find a recipe I like enough that every year I can put up a couple bottles.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The murder becomes the meat

Turning the animal into something we use is the majority of the work in deer hunting. After the deer sat cooled down for a few days we took the meat off the bone and ground up around thirty pounds of meat. This didn't include the backstrap which we will eat as Fajitas and most of one back leg which I trimmed up and will be turned into jerky. We did buy beef fat to mix with the ground meat because the venison is too lean for hamburgers or meatloaf. Last year I tried cooking legs whole, or medival style as I call it, but I couldn't find a way to make it good, the meat is too lean. I am sure that back when people ate a lot less meat it would be the best thing ever, but it ended up being wasted at our house. 
This leg came out pretty well and had little waste, the other front leg had a fragment of the bullet in it and the best part of it was ruined. Trimming the meat from the bone takes practice and I won't try to explain since I know there must be people better than me with youtube videos. What you will need are a couple knifes, one flexible like a fillet knife or boning knife and one butcher knife with those you need a sharpening stone and a grinder. The grinder we bought last year was sixty bucks on Amazon and has no problem grinding up a the deer or pig meat. Just make sure to buy the one with all metal parts. I had to buy freezer paper,   Freezer tape and cling wrap for ten bucks  and my wife pickup ten dollars worth of beef fat, adding another twenty to our total expense for deer season. Hopefully I can get three more deer, the limit is four in our county. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Wagon Load of Doe

        Monday morning I got my first doe of the year. This is only the fifth deer I have killed total.  I got one a couple years ago and three last year. For much of the time we have lived in the country I was out of town working during deer season, which in this county goes from November first until January forth.  I don't exactly relish the process of hunting and the butchering can be down right disgusting, but while living here I want to experience all of what living  in the country has to offer. Besides if I was to go to the store and the a good quality ground beef the price would be around five dollars a pound, ground venison at a meat market in Houston would be around twelve dollars a pound. I should get at least thirty pounds of ground venison, plus the back straps, and some which will be used for jerky. Right now my total investment is three bags of corn $21 dollars, a hunting licsence $25 dollars, one bag of apple attractant $5, and three rifle shells (two to check the scope and one  to shoot the deer) $3.  So for fifty four dollars I will be able to put up around 150 dollars worth of meat.  I will give a more accurate accounting when I have cut and ground the meat.

            Most people out here ride around on four wheelers and use them to haul the deer around, but if you take into account the cost of the four wheeler your better off buying your meat.  Besides we have seen to many people tragically injured in accidents, so personally it's not worth it for me.  I will stick to pulling the deer out of the woods using the radio flyer  wagon my kids stopped playing with that has become my all around the house work horse. This was by far the largest doe I have shot and without the wagon I would not have been able to get it out of the woods by myself. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Opening Day

       I decided to start my new blog on opening day of deer season this year for two reasons. One this is first time I am excited for deer season to be here and second being able to sit in a hunting blind   creating a blog on my phone is a perfect example of how new technology is redefining rural life.  

        When I first moved to the country I definitely had different ideas about hunting. One I always thought you simple took your rifle or bow out into the country  and walked until you found something to shoot out. In some parts of the country you are not allowed to bait animals for hunting and that is how hunting works, but here you are allowed to bait and wait. Basically you put out food for the animals until they get used to coming for a meal and then one day when they come you shoot them. This seems incredibly easily and while I admit it is not that difficult, the work comes in the form of patience and the process of butchery. The patience I could live without, but the butchering I find interesting, simply because I know it is a process so many ancestors repeated over and over. The first time I had my hands covered in that gritty warm blood I puked about fifty times, cut a little, like a little, but now that I have done a few I can appreciate the practice it takes to do it well. I do in some way feel connected to the past when I take a deer from being an animal to being food for the family. I find the same connection I find in gardening. 
      Even fifty year or sixty years ago living in the area out away from the small city would be pretty isolating, sitting in a hunting blind one had little to be wait, maybe read or share the experience with a family member. Now through a relatively  cheap smart phone I have access to the rest of the world. I can learn French with Doulingo, study just using my something like the Khan academy. I could even set up a lap top use the hotspot from my phone to take open course ware from MIT, sell on ebay or etsy, there really isn't much that couldn't be accomplished through this way. I don't know if could have taken the isolation of rural life a hundred years ago, but now I see this a way more and more Americans will probably choose to live.