Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unexpected Gifts Part 2

As I said, we were given a roadkill deer last two nights ago.  Yesterday, while boiling sap and working on the bowl, we dressed the deer.  I have harvested many rabbits and found that the deer was not much different, just bigger.  The big difference is after your got it quartered. 

During the process, Mr. Field and Stream, who has dressed deer before, commented that I was much quicker than his first and that he didn't know how I could stand the smell.  The smell was not really any different than that I remember from the rabbits.  And, I've had lots of practice on rabbits.  Mr. Field and Stream's experience ends with field dressing, so the roles were reversed and I instructed him on removing the hide properly for tanning and quartering the deer.  I learned this with Game Processing: Field To Freezer.

I am no expert butcher.  It took a really long time to cut all of the meat into steaks, roasts, and stew meat.  I also made a bit of hamburger, but it did not come out very nice.  At the end, I felt like I was hit by a truck ... it was an exhausting 8 hour manarthon session between the deer and the sap.  We are guessing though that we now have an extra month of meat in the freezer and I now have another hide to tan.  Maybe, I'll only make this one into rawhide.  Unfortunately, the deer was hit in the head and the skull was crushed ... I was not able to save the brain.  Regardless, the journey to my moose hide boots, my MooseBoots journey, continues.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Unexpected Gifts

My MooseBoots journey certainly takes some interesting turns.  I look forward to the weekends ... like most of us, I have to work during the week to pay bills.  During these stretches, it is easy to get bogged down with the minutia of mundane, ordinary things.  I do the best I can.  This weekend was going to be about sugaring and continuing the bowl.  We don't really have much sap right now.  The weather has been crazy.  I has been above freezing for almost a week straight now.  So, the sap is not flowing.  It should correct within the next few days according to the forecasters.

Last night, as I was laying down with Precious, I heard my cellphone ring.  It was Momma Daughter.  She and Mr. Field and Stream were driving last night and saw a car had hit a deer.  They stopped.  She didn't expect they were going to take it, but ... I got a phone call. 

Of course, I want a roadkill deer!  Why would we let it go to waste?  I hate seeing things squandered.  Tonight, we will dress it out.  In preparation, I reviewed Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival.  It is amazing, even in the face of doubt and uncertainty, how similar it is to dress and clean most mammals ... large or small.  I will certainly make my best effort to use every part of her ...  what an honor to receive such a gift.  I have picked up other roadkill animals and am always on the lookout for them.  Last summer, I picked up this squirrel.  He tanned very nicely.  I am thinking that he would make a beautiful pouch.  As a side note, I would not recommend eating the roadkill animals unless you know exactly how fresh they are.

The interesting part is the cosmic synchronicity.  I was just discussing with a previous co-worker hide tanning.  He indicated that he could supply "more hides than I know what to do with" and probably some brains for tanning in the fall during deer season.  While they will not directly meet the MooseBoots goal of making moccasin boots from moose hide, they present another opportunity and materials to hone lost skills and re-connect to the natural world of which we are all part.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sugaring - Part 2

Today, we tapped five more maple trees.  The sap is not at full flow yet, but we have been rewarded with 16 gallons of sap for our efforts.  Today, we started boiling it down.  Last year, I purchased a pan 20"x22" for boiling sap.  Until then, we boiled sap in whatever we had ... never ideal.  We started with a fire pit built from recycled bricks ... again not ideal.  This year, we have improved the set-up a bit.

I have been anxiously awaiting sugaring this weekend.  I looked forward to building the fire, gathering the sap, the smell of the smoke, being outside near the fire (for hours), etc.  I had only planned to fill the pan once (11 gallons) and boil all the way to syrup, which requires a transfer to the stove indoors when we get close.  I anticipated a whopping 1 quart of syrup for the effort.  We ended up with almost a quart and a half.


Mr. Field and Stream showed up to help.  He always seems interested when I am doing stuff outside ... my outdoor activities intrigue him as most are not necessarily hunting or fishing based.  He helped a bit last year and has obviously been waiting to come back this year.  He helped gather standing dead wood for the fire and tending it.  While we had time, I took the opportunity to show him how to make a bowl using a coal.  The bowl will end up being a serving bowl for salad or something ... it is going to be 10" in diameter and 10" deep or so.  It is going to take a while, but I hope also to try to rock boil some sap in this large applewood bowl.

If you are interested in sugaring, I recommend Backyard Sugarin': A Complete How-To Guide, Third Edition.  If you are interested in coal burning bowls, I recommend, again, Tom Brown's Field Guide to Living with the Earth.  These contain all of the information you need for sugaring or making bowls using coal burning.

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Visit

This morning, I could not sleep.  So, I got up and puttered around the silent house.  I had a slight headache.  I tried to check out the news, but couldn't focus.  So, I thought I might try a shamanic journey and check in with my spiritual helpers and teachers.  As I gathered everyone, the dog jumped in my lap ... I guess that was not in the cards.

So, we sat quietly ... one dog in my lap (beagles!) and the other on the floor at my feet.  We were all just dosing and sitting quietly.  I became aware of something.  I opened my eyes in the early morning light and saw ...

This is not a mouse.  It is a Shrew.  Now, the dogs were oblivious.  So, what message does he have for me?  What wisdom can he share?  That remains to be seen.  I watched him for a few minutes ... clearly he was looking for a way out.  He crept behind the recycling basket, under a piece of paper the girls had left on the floor, to the door.  Then, he crept back silently.  All the while, the dogs snoozed.  Then, he moved toward the kitchen and under a bookshelf through a crack not more than 3/8" tall.

I got up at that point and the Chow decided she smelled something and investigated the trail to the door.  My friend was safely hidden under the bookshelf.  A short while later, he scurried, dogs still pretty oblivious, into the kitchen and under the stove. 

I am working on developing my awareness, whether in the woods or at home.  The things I see and experience during these time amaze me.  I have had a chipmunk walk across my boot in the woods while hunting.  I have had red squirrels climb down trees withing inches of me.  Now, the shrew visited within two feet with no hesitation.  Farewell, friend.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


It's Spring!  I feel it in my bones.  I have been watching the critters come alive, the snow and stream melt, and tree maple trees start to bud.  All week, I have eagerly awaited Sunday ... it is time to tap the maple trees.

Last year, we put in eight taps.  Our usage rate was very high in early Spring and Summer.  At this point, we have less than a half-pint left from last year.  We are going to change our processing methodology this year, too.  Last year, I stored up 100 gallons of sap before processing ... do you know how long it takes to boil down that much sap?!  I spent a few weekends (20 hours per) boiling in the backyard over a fire.  As a result, I lost some of the sap, which I offered back to the trees with my thanks and gratitude.  This year, we are going to try to boil smaller batches every night.

The day has finally arrived.  I woke up and reviewed Backyard Sugaring.  I've asked the neighbors for permission to tap some of their trees again, even though we probably have enough maples on our property to support our miniscule ten taps.  I have five more buckets, spouts, and lids on order from The Maple Guys.  Maybe, we'll expand again next year.  Of course, then I may need to think about an evaporator like this. 

Imagine my surprise, when I finish tapping the first hole, when nothing starts dripping.  Self doubt and panic set in.  Could my intuition be wrong?  Then, I am only putting in two for now as indicators.

A while later, I walk by and hear the tell tale drip, drip, drip.  I check the weather, and low and behold, and find it is just now above freezing!  You may or may not know that the sap only flows during hours when the temperature is above freezing.  My intuition is right on!  I guess part of re-leaning lost wisdom is also learning to trust your intuition.  Something, which I admit, I normally do not have a problem doing!  We will be putting the rest in this afternoon.  I am sure there will be more to follow on this sugaring season.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, we bottled our latest batch of beer.  We use these for beer.  Being newbies and bearing mind that this is only our second batch of beer, we used a kit - German Hefeweissen.  Now, we were supposed to wait three weeks after bottling to drink it, but Tuesday was the Son-In-Laws birthday so we cracked one open.  Ooooh, that's nice.

Of course, a week before bottling the beer, we bottled our cider.  We use these for cider.This was a new recipe, our third.  The first attempt, a few years ago, was made in a milk bottle using no extra ingredients ... no yeast, no sugar, just juiced apples that had fallen to the ground from the neighbor's tree.  This first batch was delicious but weak.  Subsequent batches have used more "traditional" processes ... store bought yeast, sugar to boost the alcohol content, etc.  The second batch ended up at 14% alcohol through a mistake on my part and the third was 10%, as planned.  Now ... we don't drink much but this stuff doesn't last long because we do tend to share.
If you are interested on making cider, this book has a ton of information although I tend to tweak the recipes.

Maybe in the future, we will lean on a bit more experience and ask our friends from Fleecenik Farm to assist with our first batch of beer without a kit.  Of course, we'll need to ask ... hint, hint.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bone Head

I'm not sure that I am referring to me or the dog.  You see ....

I started working on a bone scraper a while back.  It was made from a bone that we had left over from some pork chops.  It had a slender handle and a scraping surface a little bigger than my thumb.  It was turning out pretty nice, but I hadn't had a chance to test it on the moose hide that is stretched on the rack in the back yard.  I was anxious to try it when the weather turned warmer.

I have a pile of rocks and stuff near the woodstove.  My little primitive tools of the future stash.  Well, apparently the dog wanted a bit of a snack.  We noticed him chewing on a bone.  It turns out that it was my scraper.

He looks guilty to me.  I'll bet he ate that bit of sinew I saved from the deer legs too!