Monday, December 31, 2012

On hold for the moment

I made jelly from bottled juice last night.

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It doesn’t look like much but there’s two batches of cherry almond, two batches of apple cinnamon, one batch of blueberry, one batch of blueberry cherry, one batch of mt dew, and two batches of cranberry/blackberry/blueberry jam. Jam/jelly making requires much more hovering, standing and timing than pressure canning and by this point I had managed to give my arm a good steam burn. I was too tired and hurting to clear Caves project the table and line them up pretty. Sorry about that. I had just about enough energy to hop in the shower and wash off the worst of the sticky before falling into bed.

We got into one of the cherry almond jars today and the kids assure me that it goes well in a pb&j. Good to know.

I have a post brewing about a visit to one of our local pawn/gun shops but Cave just mentioned something about a Chinese buffet for dinner and I need to get a move on before the offer is rescinded.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I hope that you and your loved ones had full bellies, laughed until you couldn't breathe, got a little choked up in a good way, enjoyed memories of holidays past and made more happy memories for holidays future.

Cave has been pulling massive hours at work this month to cover gaps in the schedule and an unexpected strike that required his department be manned 24/7, even the parts that normally shut down at night. He’s tried very hard to make time for us but we all feel his absence. Between that, Hag passing and all of the things breaking over the past two months my holiday spirit is running about a week behind. I imagine we’ll have a Happy January celebration when Cave finally gets time off. His vacation was cancelled twice this year and so far this month he’s been called in on all of his days off or has had to cancel them, save for one next week. That day off is on his birthday so I hope he gets to keep that one. He has a check coming in January that will have more than a hundred hours of OT on it. I hope the IRS allows us to keep some of it. Barring that I hope that it doesn’t bump him up enough tax brackets that his check is smaller than normal. It really is a slap in the face when that happens even if we get it most of it back at tax time.

We did get the tree up on Christmas Eve and that really helped lift the spirits. We baked our favorite Christmas cookies, Pecan Puffs, and then had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Chinese take out. We let the kids open one present and then Cave collapsed for some much needed shut-eye while we spent the rest of the night tracking Santa through NORAD (we even managed to get a call through and speak to one of Santa’s Helpers and OH BOY was that exciting!) and playing Just Dance Disney. Watching the three kids line up and flail to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was most amusing.

Yesterday we hung out and had a low key, relaxing day. I fixed a country ham that we purchased on sale early this fall, served with biscuits, corn and mashed potatoes. I wasn’t up for fixing a huge meal with all the trimmings but it was good and the family ate until they were full. We all agreed that the kitchen looks bare without the ham so we’re going to keep our eye out for another sale. We put off opening our presents until after Daddy was home and we’d eaten so I know it was good when all of the kids asked for seconds.

Family isn’t just blood, thankfully, and we had a very close friend as a guest of sorts the past few days. A single mother, she is alone this holiday season. I wish she could be with us in person but we have done our best to include her in all of our festivities and she loved hanging with us virtually. We gave Silly E a kindle, something that he’s been hoping for. Silly E’s exuberance at his kindle tickled her to no end. Tomorrow she’ll be with us while we assemble our gingerbread house. I’m behind this year but we’re getting there.

I was worried that the children would notice the gifts were sparse this year. The biggest gift was the kindle, purchased before we started hemorrhaging money. I shouldn’t have worried, our kids appreciated every gift they were given and the only complaint was that Santa hadn’t brought enough for Mom and Dad’s stockings. Silly E helped me fill the stockings and after he realized that Cave and I had not bought Santa Gifts for ourselves he snuck bags of cookies in when I wasn’t looking. Cave ran to the gas station and bought two candy bars for our stockings before he went to work this morning so we had two gifts from Santa this year.

The highlights of the day, for me, was staying up way too late playing Clue with the kids and the card that my in-laws gave me. It is beautiful, with a wintry Kinkade-esque cottage on the front and lovely sentimental prose about daughters inside, but I teared up when I saw how they’d signed it. Mom and Dad. It had always been R&V, or mil and fil until this year. The card has already been carefully put away and it will have a place of honor in my memory book.

We are well and truly blessed by the people in our lives and the love and light that they bring us. I hope that you are too.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ten Months.

RoxyHag

Cold Steele Gahagan

02/09/2012 – 12/12/2012

 

It started simply. The family spent the day out. Both dogs seemed fine when we got home. The next day one of Hag’s testicles seemed a little swollen, but he was moving fine. Then it was larger and he was walking a bit stiffly. He cooperated when I checked him out but he was in obvious discomfort. I took him to the vet and they did their inspection. No outward signs of injury, the consensus was a testicular torsion so an emergency neuter was performed. It was a Wednesday. He came through the surgery fine. They told us a small abscess had started to develop where the cord was injured so they wanted to put him on antibiotics as a precautionary measure. I took him home and the pain killers kept him wobbly but he was in good spirits. I gave him his antibiotics according to schedule, setting alarms to make sure he got them. The day after the surgery he was a bit tired, but that seemed reasonable. That evening he got up and started drinking water. General anesthesia can be dehydrating. By Saturday morning it was obvious that something was wrong. Even though he was urinating frequently he was retaining a great deal of fluid in his abdomen and was drinking more than a gallon of water per day inside the house and who knows how much from the water dish under the dripping tap in the yard. He hadn’t eaten anything the day before and his urine turned an orangey brown that morning.

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Two people asked me if he was pregnant while we were waiting in the lobby.

I took him to the veterinarian right away. They took one look at him and kept him for the afternoon. They did blood work and hooked him up to their ECG because Dobermans are prone to dilated cardiomyopathy and a distended abdomen is a classic sign that the right side of the heart is effected. His ECG said his heart was strong and healthy, but the blood test showed that his white blood cell count was elevated and his liver enzymes were “messed up six ways to Sunday.” He was having a reaction to the antibiotics and they had fried his liver. He was immediately taken off of the antibiotics and we took him home where he could be more comfortable while he detoxed. They wanted to allow his body time to clear the antibiotics from his system and didn’t want to overtax his liver by adding another to the mixture so we carefully monitored him for signs of infection. I brought him back Monday morning for more blood work. His liver enzymes were still bad and his white cell count was still elevated but 24 hours after he was taken off the antibiotics he started perking up. His appetite returned, although he remembered being hand fed as a baby when he was sick and insisted on being hand fed this time around too. I objected but after a few hours we worked out a compromise. I’d feed him the first few bites and then he’d take over and eat the rest on his own. I’m glad I gave in and coddled him.

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I left my blankets in my chair while I took the bowl to the kitchen and this is what I found upon my return. Hag insisted that the blankets were making a run for it and he valiantly threw himself on them to make sure they didn’t get away.

His blood work continued to stay the same. His white cell count stayed slightly elevated but that was expected because of the liver damage. The veterinarian said that the body generally takes about two weeks to start showing improvement with liver damage, and his belly would probably get bigger before it got better. His incision from the neutering was healing, there was no signs of infection in the area or in his prostate, which they examined every morning for signs of infection, much to his dismay. The last time they checked it he tried to hide himself under my chair when our vet put on his gloves. The poor boy could only stuff his front half under there, leaving his butt up in the air, but it made it easier for the vet and I chuckled at how his strategy backfired. He also decided that every time he went to the vet that he was to be weighed and even when he was at his sickest he would politely walk to the scale and stand on the pad regardless of how many times they tried to redirect him. Silly boy. 

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Tuesday morning, just after he emerged from under my chair, he’s asking ”Why does he keep doing that?”

He wasn’t getting enough calories. The fluid didn’t leave much room for food and he started dropping weight. I switched him from kibble to the venison and pork scraps that I can as dog food. He was more willing to eat it and it had more nutrition with less bulk. Getting an entire quart jar of food into him was an accomplishment but I managed it by feeding him every two hours. Sleep is for sissies. It was enough calories to maintain an adult dog but not enough for a growing boy with a fast metabolism and he continued to get thinner. We discussed trying to drain some of the fluid. They felt it might help him but there was concern that in his weakened state the procedure might be invite more problems, particularly since the x-rays showed that the fluid was diffused and draining it would require an incision. We decided that as long as I could keep him eating and drinking that it would be best to wait and re-evaluate later.

His liver enzymes started to show improvement and they had me start adding eggs and oil to his food to boost the fat and calorie content because they felt his liver could handle it. His white blood cell count looked better too. By the evening of the tenth he was trotting around the yard a bit, playing with Roxy a little, and barking at the raccoons scurrying about in our storm drain while I was slug hunting. Normally I don’t allow the dogs to carry on but it was so good to see him acting more normal that I indulged myself for a moment before quieting him. His belly had decreased a bit, enough to improve his appetite, he ate almost 3/4 of a jar in one sitting on his last night. Over the course of the evening he started getting restless, laying here then there, unable to settle.

Letting the raccoons know who’s the boss. Rawr!

Cave let him out when he got up Wednesday morning but when the dogs were called back in Roxy was the only one that came. Cave walked around the yard with a flashlight, searching for Hag. Silly E and I got dressed and took up our flashlights too. Silly E finally found him curled up under a large bush in the front yard. My son went in after him and Hag followed him out. I noticed he had a slight wheeze, so I made the mental note to mention it to the vet at our morning visit. We loaded him up into the car and headed off to school. I checked on him at 7 just before I pulled out of the parking lot. He was laying down in the back seat, not something he was wont to do, but his breathing appeared normal and he lifted his head and wagged his nubby at me when I said his name. We headed to the veterinarian. He moved a little and for a brief second he scratched the back of my seat like he was stretching, then he settled and was quiet. Roxy tried to jump into the front seat but I ordered her back, they aren’t allowed to move around when the car is in motion and she knows better. We arrived at the vets office at 7:12 am and Hag was not breathing, his heart was not beating, he was gone.

I confirmed that he had no vital signs. He really was gone. I took a moment to call Cave and then had a good cry while I stood there patting him and thanking him. I truly believe that he kept himself alive until the kid was gone. Had we been at home it would have been different, he would have passed in our arms with his ears full of loving words and his coat wet with our tears, but in the parking lot at school…thank you, my sweet boy. When the vet unlocked their doors I gathered myself together and went to let them know what had happened. They brought Hag’s body in on a stretcher and took him to the back. The vet took some blood and ran a last set of blood work, and then ran it again to double check, his white blood cell count had nearly tripled since the previous morning. They asked permission to perform a necropsy, which I gave, and then Cave walked in. He had left work to come take care of me.

That afternoon and we went in to hear the results of the necropsy, and the other vet in the practice called this morning with more details. It did give us some answers. He heart was healthy, he did have liver damage, however the fluid in his abdomen had become infected and became peritonitis. In comparing his last set of x-rays against what they saw during the necropsy and with the drastic and sudden change in his WBC it leads them to believe that the bacteria was a very fast moving one. The sudden overload on his system caused him to develop acute disseminated intravascular coagulation. Basically his blood started forming tiny clots that began blocking every capillary and clogging his organs. Once that started there was very little that could have been done for him, even if he had been in the vets office when it happened. They weren’t even sure that they had enough supplies on hand to treat an acute case of DIC in a dog of his size because of the sheer volume of blood products that such a case can require, and even then the percentage of acute cases that they can pull through it are low. I have read about DIC in humans and even a slow moving case for us is critical and not easy to treat.

The necropsy also provided another insight into his health. They found numerous tiny nodules all over inside his abdomen. Under the microscope they turned out to be pre-cancerous. The nodules were not there when he had his intussusception surgery earlier this year. We will never know for sure how quickly he would have developed cancer, but the speed with which they appeared is an indication that it would likely have been sooner than later, and if his immune system was already compromised by it than it’s likely that’s why he had such an immediate and sever reaction to the antibiotic, it may even be why he reacted to it at all, and it’s also likely that is why the bacteria moved so quickly through his system. He was simply overwhelmed. It was, we have been assured, painless other than the discomfort he felt from his distended belly.

We called his breeder to let him know what happened and to give him the results of the necropsy. Hag had been bred from European lines with an eye for performance and protection so he was taller and more robust than modern American show lines, but his conformation turned heads and his temperament, intelligence and trainability were top notch. He was a stellar individual, but was just average for this particular litter. There were three or four who had already been reserved by several experienced people who compete in Schutzhund when we chose him, and the breeder had offers from latecomers to buy him out from under us. So far none of his siblings have had so much as a broken claw, so hopefully they have escaped the cloud that Hag was born under.

My sweet boy. You are loved.

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You are missed.

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Every day.

HagBellyNoP

Monday, November 26, 2012

Canning the Night Away

I hope that y’all had a great Thanksgiving with plenty of good food and not too much family.

Shortly I will be carving up some carrots and onions and tipping them into my pressure canner, along with some bay leaves, peppercorns, and a turkey carcass. I’ll slide it onto the stove and set it to boil, then pop the weight on and listen to it dance for half an hour or so. I’ll set it to cool and wait for the lock to drop, then I’ll strain the stock and ladle it into jars, scrub the canner and set it on the burner to heat up again, this time the weight will be dancing to process the stock. This will be it’s third load today, it’s already sang to me while making a first batch of stock and I’m waiting for it to air up before taking out the 9 pints of turkey it just finished processing for me. This was harvested from a turkey that I roasted today, a 22 pounder, and there could have been more but we had some for supper and I didn’t feel that I needed to pick the bones for the last pint on it. Between what we have from this tom and frozen from the 24 pounder from Thanksgiving they gave enough. The dogs will enjoy the meaty leftovers once the stock is done and I pick out the onions and bones. The carrots they can shove aside themselves, and they will. They’ve already enjoyed the skin off of the backs. They get a few tidbits of everything on the day but their true Thanksgiving comes with the processing.

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They insist that I can’t can without them pasted to my side. I probably can’t anymore lol

After the stock is made I think I’ll have two more loads, possibly three, to process. My canner is working hard today. I have 5 hours before I have to drive Silly E to school, I hope I make it or it will be a long morning. The timer is beckoning, telling me it’s time to set the jars on the table. I didn’t see too many signs of siphoning, what little bit of fat and color in the water could easily be from the outside of the jars. Tom is in the canner now, along with his drippings and the other ingredients. The jars sealed while I was coaxing him into the pot, I counted four pings and then heard what I thought was a jar breaking. Upon careful inspection it appears that five of them decided to seal at once. Well then.

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Future meals!

I hear the heat pump kick on, it means the temperature in the house dropped to 65. Thankfully I remembered to turn the ceiling fan off, hot jars and a cold breeze don’t mix well. My bones are old enough to start complaining now that the temperature has fallen and the canner has filled the house with clammy humidity. I don my scarf, thankful that everyone else is asleep. I’m sure I’m a sight in my sweat pants, acid green tee, and my raspberry and sparkly gold scarf. This time of year, this time of night, it’s difficult to get warm without a blanket. The heating bill will be more easily managed. That’s what is important.

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Who knows, maybe the “cold slob” look will catch on.

The weight starts it’s tuneless jig and I start timing. I wish Cave was still up. He doesn’t know how to can but he’s been around enough while I can that he recognizes how things are supposed to be and he can run a timer like nobody’s business. Canning is, until my young children are older, mostly solitary but I do appreciate his company if not his companionable silence and he appreciates the efforts of my labor. I’m his canning rock star. The in-laws benefitted from my canner this year too, taking home a jar of monkey butter and some watermelon rind pickles that Monster Girl helped make. I’m thinking about taking the kids up to visit for Christmas. Cave has to work so I probably won’t, but if I do I’ve been informed that I’ll be cooking the holiday meal up there. MIL told me I’m too good at it. I have a country ham hanging for Christmas dinner but I think she would expect, and provide, a turkey. 

MILKids

MIL and the Monsters.

My brain skitters off to think about what Feinstein might propose. I have little faith that the system will oppose a new gun ban and it worries me. I’ve heard rumors and seen potential lists but the only sources I’ve been able to track down don’t seem to be the most reliable. Fear mongerers my father would have called them. The ones who predict nothing but bad and if their predictions don’t bear fruit they’re too busy blustering over the next potential problem to notice. If their predictions come true we might be left with half a dozen of the weapons we’ve been working so hard and so long to collect. The idea of them melting my Garand is nauseating. Would my gun toting, welfare hating, conservative Democrat father have been a Republican by now? He’d be in his mid-80’s and people get more conservative as they age…No, he had far too much stick it to the man going on to go full red. A Libertarian most likely.

FILFN

My very red FIL took a stroll through our guns while he was here. He was grinning ear to ear.

The timer goes off, and I move the canner to the other side of the stove. Just need to wait for the lock to drop and let it air up a bit and then I can start straining the stock. Hag stretches his way into the kitchen, nose twitching at the canner. I was pleased with how he handled our company this weekend, our first visitors since we got him. He only wanted to eat them a little bit. They’re used to protective dogs and weren’t bothered by him. I kept him on the leash the first day they were here and put him in the bedroom whenever he got to staring too much. He’s a smart boy and learned quickly, it only took two trips to the bedroom and one rather stern lesson outside during a smoke break to convince him to keep it in check. Not too shabby for a big puppy who isn’t used to visitors.

He’s been sniffing after our Roxy a lot lately and then tackling her and gnawing on her with an air of “I don’t know what you’re supposed to do but you aren’t doing it.” It reminds me of a teenaged boy, picking on you until you’re ready to spit or cry and then trying to get to second base in the next heartbeat. He’s got a long wait, considering she was spayed two years before he was born. We’re thinking as long as Hag doesn’t get a case of testosterone poisoning we’ll let him keep his pertinent bits for a while longer. With things potentially headed south we’d like to be able to control at least half of the genetics of our future alarm system. I briefly thought about talking to Cave about seeing if we can find a female puppy next spring but I think three very active dogs underfoot in our rather crowded house would be a bit much.

The lock drops and I take off the weight to let the canner air for it’s ten minutes. The scent of the rich golden stock draws both of the dogs into the kitchen. Between the two birds I have 18 pint jars, 6 pint and a half jars, and a dozen half pints. Three loads for sure, possibly a fourth. 33 pints total. Slightly over 4 gallons. Thank you boys. We will be appreciating your gifts for months to come.

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He tastes a lot better than he looks.

I can count on a solid hour from screwing the lid on the pressure canner to putting the jars on the counter, maybe a bit more, so I won’t finish before the kids go to school. I can probably process two loads before I have to leave. I haul out my change jar and eyeball the level. It hasn’t risen appreciably. No second canner in the near future then. It’s okay, my stove doesn’t much care for canning and a second one might send it into fits. Gas would be ideal but Cave objects.

Hag convinces me that it’s time to go out. It’s hovering right around freezing, and he hesitates in the door before plunging into the yard. I think I will waste $0.50 and warm the car up before heading for school. Cave’s alarm goes off and he staggers down the hall, mostly asleep. I tell him the temperature, asking if he wants a ride to work rather than ride the cycle. He hesitates. He’s weighing two trips for his comfort against the need to stretch the gas to the first. He sighs and says no. I decide that I won’t warm up the car after all. He gets dressed and then promptly knocks a glass of water all over his snowmobiling suit. It’s decided that he can’t ride in freezing weather with wet clothing and must have a ride, necessitating a quick waking of the teenager who manages to pull himself together and get out the door an hour earlier than he’s used to. While he’s getting dressed Cave steps out to the car and starts it warming up, I think he may have read this over my shoulder. Thanks Sweetheart.

I ask Cave to drive since I’m usually too slow when he’s in a rush. We roll up to his work 15 minutes early, which is 15 minutes late in his opinion. He’s been truly late to work twice in the 12 years that I’ve known him. We play musical seats and SE and I are off to school. The doors are open on time today. It was a rough start but it seems we’re on a roll. I head for home, hoping I can get there and say goodbye to the monsters, boy and girl, before they head off to their day. I pull in just as they’re headed down the sidewalk, they help me get the dogs inside and give me kisses and wave as they walk down the road to the bus stop.

I lift the full canner onto the burner and twist the knob to high. I tantalize myself with thoughts of chucking the rest into the fridge and dealing with it later, but I won’t, just one more load after this one. Perseverance or cussedness, I’m not sure which.

The weight has danced the final load to completion, now it’s time for the lock to drop, Crossing my fingers, I go to check. No joy, it’s still firmly locked and hissing. The house is warming in the sun, the thermostat says 69 degrees, so the canner takes it’s time cooling. Ten more minutes on the timer. Still no love, I hear it hissing from the other room. I’m tempted to bounce the tongs on the lock and let the pressure escape or to run water over the canner to lower the temperature and make the lock drop, but those could make the jars siphon the stock out and I don’t want to risk ruining my hard work and wasting the gift from the toms. It’s best to be patient.

I wake up two hours later, disoriented and confused with a sense of urgency from something forgotten. I take a moment to clear some of the fuzziness and remember the stock. It’s okay, the lock has dropped, the jars are still hot to the touch in the canner. I take them out, they’ve sealed and everything looks and smells fine. Back to bed I go.

I oversleep my alarms and have to scramble to get Silly E from his club meeting and Cave from work. This mornings journey took an hour, unwinding it takes three with the rush hour. We get home with barely enough time to get the kids fed and chores done before bedtime. Spaghetti it is. Eat quickly, load the dishwasher, brush your teeth, good night sweetheart. Even SE is tired and goes to bed early. The house falls silent, Cave is in the kitchen brooding over his computer and I am tucked into bed. The jars take up a third of the kitchen table, waiting, not quite done yet. In the morning I will check their seals, wash them with hot soapy water, dry, label, and find a place for them. Then, finally, the job will be done.

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The toms sure gave the canner a workout, it ran pretty much constantly for almost 9 hours.

Good Night!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Evils of Thanksgiving Dinner

I shared this in the comments over at Jacked Up Glock Mom’s blog Tales From the Clothesline so I thought I’d share it here too.

It’s the link to a Google Document that is my Thanksgiving menu for this year, complete with in-document links to most of the recipes. This year I went smaller and rather more traditional than usual, budget constraints insisted. I hope you don’t think them plain or boring, because they won’t be. Recipes are a set of guidelines in my opinion and part of the fun for me is shaking them up, for example a bit of smoked maple salt found it’s way into the Chex Mix. That’s not in the recipe but it should be. Also, if the recipe calls for something in a can you can be sure that I’m probably using something I canned or otherwise preserved at home, and if it seems like it could use a dose of molasses it probably has it but I didn’t include it in the recipe because of a relative who insists they don’t like molasses as they’re inhaling gingerbread cookies that have almost a cup of molasses in them.

Some of the recipes are a bit cobbled together, when I originally made the document it was just for Cave and I, and I know what I’m going to do so I didn’t think it necessary to make them any more user friendly. The turkey recipe is the most mish-mashed, I believe, but it’s pretty straight forward, brine it for a day in ingredients similar to the cure, cure it for a day, then cook it. I cut back on the salt in the brine by however much I use in the cure. Apple cider is figuring heavily into it this year, both in the brine and in the basting. Sometimes I even layer bacon under the skin and across the breast, but that’s more for the spread I put out on Super Bowl Sunday than something I do for Thanksgiving.

I will warn you that while the turkey is very good it doesn’t have the flavor profile of a traditional roast turkey. The first time I served it for Thanksgiving one of the matriarchs refused to eat it and went so far as to apologize to everyone at the table for my “weird sugar” turkey. Thankfully most were too busy eating my food to notice, but I heard it. While I was in the kitchen wiping my tears and fanning my face I decided to take Thanksgiving and make it my own. So I did. That particular relative was a dark meat and turkey neck fanatic so I would make extra legs and the neck “plain roasted” just for them…in the same pan with the turkey, the only thing I left off was the cure. They raved about it and never caught on.

I still made the jello things for them, dumped a can of pumpkin pie filling into a store bought crust, used their favorite brown n serve rolls, canned cranberry jelly, and made ambrosia salad and that apple mayo waldorf stuff, but everything was served right next to the dishes I thought sounded interesting and wanted to make. Noses were turned up at the wild rice and mushroom pilaf (that one was a bomb, I agree), apple juice instead of orange in the cranberry relish, delicious little meatballs that a friends mom taught me how to make using grape jelly, and was that tossed salad? The only lettuce allowed was in a wilted salad with bacon grease and vinegar. We did agree about the orange salad, it is a staple at every big dinner in my extended family. We stockpile the ingredients for it, Dream Whip has the shelf life of forever.

By the time the biggest critics passed on everyone else was used to seeing my “weird” dishes and were eager to see what I came up with each year. As I matured as a cook, and perhaps as a person, I realized that many of the dishes were traditional because that’s what was most abundant during that season, and that others were considered a special treat or an attempt at sparking interest in a diet that was less diverse than what modern food preservation and importation practices provide now. There was also some pride at showing off cooking skills that weren’t practical during the every day grind. That’s still no reason to do such heinous things to poor, innocent food. (check out Gel-Cooking, my family matriarchs had that book and about wore it out. The Klingon scalp is particularly horrifying.)

I think this is something that everyone has had to struggle with in some way, the passing of the torch to the next generation and the criticism from the old guard at the changes to something that they worked hard at and felt that they had perfected. If they’re particularly critical and unbending, as mine were, it really sucks for the new generation. Hang in there though. Making changes to family traditions without too many bruised feelings is a balancing act but with perseverance new traditions can be added. The younger generations can be your ally in this. My kids haven’t ever known a Thanksgiving dinner without orange salad, love my weird sugar turkey and openly celebrate when they see the crockpot of meatballs simmering away. If I didn’t make them their special dishes they would be sad, and the matriarchs couldn’t stand to see a child disappointed at Thanksgiving.

My new family traditions are still evolving too, and probably always will. I have made changes for Cave’s family, his dad is a vegetarian and since he refuses to allow me to make him his own entrĂ©e I’ve added some of my mother-in-laws recipes that I know he likes. His mom isn’t a big fan of pumpkin pie, although she likes mine, so I add something for her in case she isn’t feeling it this season. This year it’s the apple dumplings that were posted today at Chickens in the Road. I’m using ground venison in the meatballs, I wasn’t going to pay almost $10 for two pounds of ground beef. MIL is looking forward to some good venison, but that’s something that would have the matriarchs rolling out of their graves and down the hill. I guess they never read up on the diet of the natives and the interlopers. 

My family is scattered across the world now. As the anchors passed away their people stopped coming home and were absorbed into other families or created their own traditions. My sister and I have each become matriarchs in our own right and while we get along well together in the kitchen it’s not practical for our families to travel half way across the country. It’s quieter, and easier, now that I am able to cook whatever strikes my fancy. Still, I’d be happy to dump a can of vegetable medly into lime jello and be the galley slave to the matriarchs hostessing efforts, eyes practically rolling out of my head while they kept wrinkling their noses and saying “I SUPPOSE it’s okay…”, if it meant I could see the family together again.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Routine

Tuesday night was pretty uneventful but Wednesday morning was a humdinger. Tuesday we had dinner and Cave tucked the kids in at their usual time, then he went to bed because he had an early shift. Silly E played around on the internet for a while and went to bed around ten. I worked for a bit but it was a slow night so I logged off when he went to bed and started puttering around the kitchen, canned a batch of monkey butter and cooked up a mess of pork to can a batch of sweet and sour pork. I was listening to the election coverage and watching a movie. I got the pork cooled and shredded, finished the movie, frowned at fox news and hoped their election predictions weren’t accurate, for a while I thought Ohio was going to pull through for us. Unfortunately it was false hope. I got disgusted with the election and decided to run the movie back up to the redbox kiosk because the one I use is awkwardly located and in a very high traffic area that makes it a pain in the neck to get to and I’d probably forget about it and rack up the late fees if I left it for later. Besides, it’s not unusual for me to run errands in the middle of the night, and it was only 0030, not that late. I went through my getting ready to go routine. I gathered my cell phone, keys, movies, LC9, and put them on the table. The dogs perked up their ears and watched me gather, while I changed into jeans and sat down to put my shoes on they did a slow stretch off of the couch and by the time I put on my scarf and coat they were dancing at their posts by the door.

I started loading my pockets, LC9 in the front right jeans pocket and went to put everything else in it’s assigned spot but the movie and cell phone wouldn’t fit because I had my gloves stuffed in my coat pockets, so I opened the door, let the dogs out, and followed them into the yard with one hand full and fiddling with my gloves with my other. Distracted and unprepared. Roxy followed me down the sidewalk to the car and hopped straight in, as is her routine. Hag, as is his routine, took off, gave the lawn a quick sprinkle, trotted over to the gate and had a look around. By the time he gets to the gate I usually have the car door open so I call him once or twice and he comes running over and takes a flying leap inside. This time he didn’t.

He stood at the gate, looking down the street to our neighbors house. I called him again, but he ignored me and continued to watch. Our cedar tree was in the way so I couldn’t see what he was looking at but I could hear an engine running and doors slamming. I paid attention but didn’t think much of it, the couple who lives there is young and comes and goes at all hours, and I’ve seen them drive three or four different vehicles in the months they’ve lived here. I saw two flashes through the tree and heard two pops then someone cursed. I swiveled and looked harder but didn’t see anything. Since Halloween we’ve had some problems with kids dumping boxes of those popper things in the road in front of people’s driveways, I figured the kids had seeded the neighbors this time but I did keep tabs on it with a corner of my brain.

Irritated because he was ignoring me I snapped HAG! but he continued watching. I heard doors slam again, then tires squealed and a big shiny white extended cab truck pulling a dinky little trailer ran up on the stop sign next to our driveway, slammed on the brakes so hard the trailer they were pulling bucked and rocked back hard enough I thought it was going to come off the hitch, and the dark colored SUV behind them that had jammed on the gas to follow them almost rear ended them. The SUV hit reverse and flew back 10 or 15 feet. Then the SUV flashed their lights on and off and backed up further, I figured they saw me and were trying to warn their friends, whom I was pretty sure didn’t see me since my car was between us. Then the passenger in the white truck jumped out and stood by the truck door. I watched and tried to process what I was seeing. Two trucks, squealing tires, stupid driving, firecrackers…it looked like idiot teenagers involved in horseplay to me. Hag put up his hackles at the kid who jumped out of the truck and started a soft growling, thankfully he didn’t bark or otherwise draw his attention.

Something the guy was holding popped and flashed once, and the SUV backed up another few feet, and I thought cap gun? Some sort of “real action” airsoft type thing? Paintballs? I thought it must be a toy because that was far too quiet to be a real gun and there was no brass pinging nor did I hear a bullet hitting anything, no puffs of dirt and I didn’t smell cordite, all things I’m used to sensing when I fire a gun. Hag didn’t even react and he was only ten feet or so from the shooter and has never heard gun fire before. The SUV revved its engine again and surged forward a foot or two and jammed to a stop and revved the engine again. The driver of the truck yelled GO GO GO and the shooter pop/flashed again and then ran North down one side of our property line (with Hag pacing him, growling and snarling when he got too close to the fence) while the truck floored it West down the block and hung a right out of our neighborhood without bothering to slow down for the turn. The SUV hesitated for a minute, long enough for Hag to come back from the back yard and stand with me staring at them, and then they too squealed out of there. I still don’t think he saw us. I told Hag up and he made his flying leap into the car, I closed the door, dumped the movie on the passenger side seat, stepped back and called 911.

I reported shots fired but told the lady that I felt it was just kids being idiots and I was only reporting it because I didn’t like such things going on in our neighborhood. Even though it was the middle of the night we still have a lot of pedestrian traffic and it wasn’t safe. I declined to give my full name but I did give her my number because she said the officer might want to call me back rather than make a trip out. This is not unusual, the jurisdiction in our neighborhood is not clear (we’re in the county, the people next door are in the city, the neighbors behind us are county, Miss E across the street is city and so is her neighbor, and we all live on state maintained roads, you get the idea) so unless it’s an emergency they call state troopers to respond and unless their presence is required they prefer to call since it can be two or more hours before they get here. Very helpful, and the criminals are beginning to catch on, but I digress. I proceeded to open the gate and left to return my movie, grumbling about morons. I was turning into the shopping complex with the kiosk when my phone started ringing so I pulled over and answered it. It was a deputy sheriff, who asked me to tell him what happened in detail. I told him everything, answered his questions and when we were done he told me that I had witnessed a thief shooting at a neighbor while he was following them because they stole his trailer. Well. That got my attention. I started shaking, and I nervously eyed every truck that I passed on the way home. Fortunately none of them were white extended cabs. Hag still had his hackles up at that point and I don’t think my sudden case of the jitters helped, he didn’t start to relax until we were back safely in my recliner.

Turns out what the cop told me wasn’t quite accurate, here’s the news blurb: http://www.live5news.com/story/20033890/thieves-shoot-at-man-trying-to-get-neighbors-trailer-back Yes this outs where I live. I’m not quite ready to invite y’all over to dinner, but I’m okay with sharing this much. After all, Every day is a Great day in South Carolina. Maybe if Gov Haley forces enough people to keep telling me that I’ll forget my tax information was stolen and start believing it.

Cave and I did an after action report tonight with my FIL joining us via speakerphone. The consensus was that I handled the situation correctly. I was wearing black, in the shadows with the car between the shooter and I, and 20 or so feet to the side so I had some concealment from him. I thought about moving to the front of the car but decided they’d probably notice me moving so I stayed put. Even though my (incorrect) assessment said it was shenanigans I still didn’t want to draw their attention. I was already concerned that the guy in the SUV had seen me and was going to create some sort of problem so the last thing I wanted was the attention of the kid with the pea shooter too.

Initially I was highly annoyed by the whole incident, after I found out it was real I was scared and shaky, and then pissed off. Oddly relieved that it hadn’t started in my neighborhood, and ticked off at myself because I saw so many things that I could have done differently. At first I said things that I did wrong, but I have been told that I came out alive so I did everything right and nothing wrong, but they asked me to come up with a list of things that I could have done differently that might have helped me be better prepared. There are many things I could have done differently, but the major points are:

  • don’t leave the house with my hands full. We have all done it at some point, but in the short time since this happened I’ve been working on stopping and making sure my gun hand, at the very least, is empty before I open the door. I do this when I’m out but I didn’t expect to step out of my home and into a shots fired situation. I’m not a purse kind of girl but I’ve started carrying enough crap with me that I’ve been looking for a purse for a few weeks because I wind up with something in my hand more often than I like. I haven’t found one that I really liked and up until now I hadn’t wanted to settle but I’m getting *something* this weekend and will make it work until I find what I want.
  • pay attention to what the dog is saying rather than just get irritated because he isn’t obeying; he was in condition yellow from the get go and went to orange almost immediately after, and then red as he paced the shooter and made sure he didn’t jump our fence. He was doing exactly the job we got him for and if I’d paid closer attention to what he was paying attention to I’d have had 30 seconds more warning that all was not copacetic.
  • move my gun to a more accessible pocket now that it’s winter coat time. My coat is new to me this year and while it’s broken in thanks to the previous owner the leather is heavier and stiffer and it’s about half an inch longer than what I’m used to. I got it a week ago and I didn’t take the time to try drawing with it on. I have since. I need to spend more time practicing and possibly alter the pocket lining.
  • If you haven’t noticed it really bothers me that I didn’t recognize the shots as gunfire. We figure that it must have been a small caliber revolver but even still I thought I should have been able to recognize it. I realized that while I have extensive experience shooting in a range, I have very little experience being around gunfire in a real situation. A real situation here would be outside, without ear protection, and in low/no light levels. I don’t know that I’ll be able to find a place that allows low light shooting but I’m going to be spending some time hanging out in the parking lot at the outdoor range without my ears on so I can get a better idea of what guns really sound like when you’re not the one firing them. I can hear it when my bullets hit a solid target through my ear protection and since they were aiming at an SUV I figured I would hear them hit it, which one of their shots by the stop sign did. I didn’t expect Hollywood ricochet sounds, but I didn’t hear anything at all. My FIL said he’s never heard the bullets hitting when he has been shot (officially it’s been three times) or under fire (he declined to tell me how many times that’s happened), so now I know that’s not something to expect either.  
  • I’m going to start carrying my XD9 more often. I bought and use the LC9 for pocket carry, and it works well for that. I fire it regularly and it is reliable but the XD is my favorite and the gun that I’m most comfortable with, plus I want my security blanket 15 round mags.
  • I’m going to be investing in a laser with a grip switch for the XD, or something similar that doesn’t require more action on my part other than gripping the gun and firing. While I do practice more with the sights than the laser, the LC9’s laser has spoiled me for fast target acquisition. Unfortunately it has to be turned on with a switch that is about 1/8th of an inch past the tip of my fully extended trigger finger. This hasn’t been a problem during practice but I think had I chosen to fire it would have given me problems and that’s not optimal. It was suggested that I practice using my off hand to turn it on while acquiring the target but I want something that I don’t have to think about and I’d really prefer not to have my fingers that close to the muzzle when I’m defending myself.
  • I’m going to take an active shooter course at B.E.L.T. training. Since I’ve already told you that I live in South Carolina, I figured it’s time to introduce you to my excellent and supportive instructors. It’s past time to continue my training. I’ve been putting it off because money has been very tight but this showed me that I’ve put it off too long. Cave has worked with us on shooter response but his training is military and geared more toward tactical evaluation and aggression which isn’t always appropriate in civilian situations. It’ll be a few months until I have the money but I’ll get there. 
  • We don’t have OC laws in SC and while I support it for those who want to I’ve never really felt that I would want to OC. I don’t want the attention and I don’t want to be a gun ambassador when I’m just trying to grocery shop, but I’m going to start advocating for OC laws in SC. Sometimes it’s just more prudent.

I want to think that this is an isolated incident. Unfortunately the police blotter tells me that it probably won’t be. Not including this incident, in the last 6 weeks we’ve had 5 shootings/shots fired incidents in the mile and a half of road between our neighborhood and the shopping plaza where I rented the movie, a double homicide that was not gun related and a few knife crimes too. I pray that this isn’t going to become the new routine.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Change, Change, Change Again

Yesterday I did my duty and took Monster Girl shopping. After trying on a good 20 or so pairs we were able to find one that fit. The perils of shopping at Goodwill, sometimes you have to shift through a ton of not quite right to find the one that fits. We went to the big box store and acquired socks, drawers and her first foundation garments, which she found both embarrassing and thrilling. We went to the Chinese buffet for lunch, and then home to start the laundry and get ready for the good stuff.

Aside: Monster Girl was teasing her big brother about how fast she was growing up and how soon she will be dating and he said nope, you won’t be dating. She sassed “Why not?” at him and he replied “because if you had a date that would mean my aim was off.” Well then.

We arrived home to find that Cave had done the dump run so I gave my buddy a call to ask if we could borrow his back road. Unfortunately there’s a couple of wild sows in heat there and a boar chasing after them who is not at all afraid of people. They’ve found a few spring piglets and one of their wether goats that got in his way and suffered for it. They’ve asked that we wait until they get the chance to get him out of there and let the hormones die down so no roller coaster roads or puddle splashing for us anytime soon. Instead we’re cleaning out the office to see if we can find more room for our food storage. We took advantage of the Hurricane Sandy related sale to pick up five or six more cases of gallons of water so Cave’s playing tetris with the stores again. I don’t mind, it’s helpful to get in there and move things around, check on the condition and shake the dust off. We’re also trying to sort through and get the non-food items moved upstairs to the attic. I want to put some of the water up there too but Cave is concerned that it may not be able to support the weight. Unfortunately we’re running out of room, the sheds outside are full, we don’t have a garage or a basement and a solution needs to be found. I’m starting to seriously think the water might survive just fine under the house.

So, what do you do with your stores when you’re limited to keeping them in your living space?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Change of Plans

Cave treated us to doughnuts this morning, and as I finished my second and was eyeing a third Monster Girl piped up with “We need to go get dressed now and get busy.” My own words, reflecting back at me. I went off into the bedroom and started the ritual, the whole time trying to remember what I had planned for today. Seeds….it’s going to rain later and I like planting just before a rain, I feel as though the seeds are happier and it sets the tone for their lives. I reappeared a minute or so later, and started going through my seed envelopes. My daughter emerged from her room ten minutes later dressed and brushing her hair and squealed “Mommy! You aren’t going dressed like THAT are you?!?” I looked down at my tank top and cut offs, feet bare and with seeds in hand, all ready to go stick some in the ground, and looked back at her, in her newest pair of jeans and a cutest glittery t-shirt, hair shiny and under control for once. Oh. I forgot. I’d promised to take her shopping. *sigh* so I trudged back to the bedroom and started digging through the closet for something appropriate. Would have helped if I’d remembered last night and done some of my own laundry.

I tease her, offering to drive us in our latest acquisition, an elderly truck (‘86 f150 4x2 1/2 ton 4 speed with the sturdy and enduring 300 inline six) that is still wearing it’s inches thick coating of farm with a dusting of bark and sawdust from hauling wood last week. It’s not a Dodge, but I think it’ll do. I can see her hesitate briefly, weighing the fun of riding in the truck against her more princessly duties. She has not yet had the opportunity to ride in it as it was so newly acquired that it only got it’s plates yesterday. The draw is mighty, but she decides no, it’s ugly and dirty and loud and not the way a proper little girl should be chauffeured to her shopping. We’re looking for two pairs of jeans, socks, some drawers and lunch. I don’t anticipate it will take that long so I think once we’re home we’ll shed the duds, climb back into those oh so comfy cut-offs, and take a cruise to the local dump with some recycling in the back of the beast. She’ll get a kick out of that too, especially since I happen to know of a backwoods gravel road that gets a few scant inches of runoff when it rains, nothing that the truck can’t easily handle on a bad day but just enough that a girl might catch a few drops of it as we splash through with the window open, and the road rolls enough that she should have a few giggles shaken out of her as she jiggles this way and that. If she asks I’ll even see if we can’t park for a bit and dabble our toes off the tailgate.

The shopping is necessary, and I do it gladly if not enthusiastically, but I’m really looking forward to the afterwards.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bounties abound

I promised a post on seasoning cast iron within the week of my last posting and here’s my next post, two weeks later, and it isn’t even about cast iron. *sigh* I decided that I wanted to wait and make the post with more new to me vintage pans, and I have two Favorite Piqua Ware skillets set aside just for the project. It’s unlikely that I’ll get to it until Monday at the earliest but I’ll do my best.
As you might imagine by all the game I’ve posted about processing, our freezers are quite full.
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Believe it or not this makes me happy. The pile of meat on the shelf below it lifted the shelf when the door was closed and it popped out of it’s slot. The rack of ribs resting on the loose shelf was the culprit. Nothing was damaged although my feet took a beating from the meat avalanche when I opened the door. Since this was taken I’ve processed that buck and another hog.
While I had the most recent hog sitting on ice and milk in my coolers Lowe’s put their canning supplies on sale and I was able to visit three of my local stores and clean them out.
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I scored some six hundred jars, 998 lids (the kids insisted on putting two lids I already had into the picture to make it an even thousand lol) a band tightening tool that I love was on sale for 1/3 the average price online so I bought several spares, and some mixes, pectin and other odds and ends that they had on sale, all for a minimum of 50% off. Having all of this stowed away in my attic is a huge relief to me. I was down to my last 5 empty jars!
The next morning I got busy with the hog and I canned pulled pork, cubed pork, made ribs for dinner and then sliced up one of the hams for jerky at Cave’s request. I don’t like the idea of hog jerky. All the jerky that we make is essentially raw meat soaked in a salty solution and then dehydrated, but for some reason the idea of pork jerky really bothered me so I did something that I don’t always do. I followed the guidelines. After it was dehydrated I put it in the oven at 200 f for an hour or so like the USDA suggests doing with all home made jerkies and I’m more comfortable with the idea of eating it now. I really can’t place a finger on what bothers me so much about the idea of pork jerky. I was really reluctant to taste it, but it tastes just like any other jerky, to be honest.
Since then I’ve been cleaning out the freezer and canning. It’s a good thing too, because a local grocery store had 8oz tubes of breakfast sausage on sale for $0.50 per tube this week, so we bought 40 or so pounds. I spent the day yesterday browning and canning sausage. I managed to get 14.5 pounds put away before I pooped out. I double stacked the canner, 7 wide mouth pints on the bottom and 1 wide mouth pint and 10 regular half pints on the top. It probably was a bit much as the tops of the jars were just a hair under the edge of the pot, when I put the lid on the canner I had to gently shake it to get the cover lock vent situated between the jars, and I had to do the same thing to get it to drop after it had cooled off. I can’t recommend that you stack your canner that full, but it worked for me and I’ll probably do it again.

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Hog Jerky gets the Hag seal of approval. Here he is asking nicely for a piece. He’s 25 1/4 inches at the shoulder, 75+ pounds and just turned 8 months old. He’s still in the gawky stage and that tells me that he’s got a bit more growing to do before he starts filling out. The breeder says typically his dogs stop growing up and start growing out around 18 months, if Hag runs true to that timeline he’s going to be a lot bigger than either of us expected, especially after the months of setback he suffered as a small puppy.
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I used Lowe’s pick up at the store online ordering system to make sure that they weren’t sold out of jars when I got there, and while I was picking up the order at the second store our gunsmith called and let me know that my IJ M-1 Carbine clone was ready to be picked up. I zipped on over there and decided to snap a picture of gratuitous prepper gun porn for posterity before I packed it away. That’s the birch stock that I finished for it. The gunsmith complimented me on it again, and I did do a nice job even if I say so myself. I’m thinking I’m going to strip and refinish the walnut stock on my 10/22 soon, along with the stock on my Mossberg 151, and possible the one on my mosin. I’m conflicted about the mosin, on the one hand I want to keep it the way it is, on the other hand I can scratch the lacquer off with my fingernails and it’s not doing much to protect the wood anymore. I thought about thinning out the lacquer that’s there to cover the scratches but there are some bare spots that are large enough that I believe the resulting coat would be too thin to protect. I don’t think I’d use stripper on the mosin, just lightly sand with fine grit paper until it’s cleaned off and then put on several layers of a hand rubbed oil finish. I prefer oil finishes, especially in the hot and humid climate where we live. In my experience oil expands and contracts with the wood and doesn’t discolor like other finishes do.
Since it will be months before it’s at the top of the list I have plenty of time to ponder and research, but I’m open to opinions and suggestions.
Hope y’all are hanging in and prepared to weather the interesting times coming up.

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edited because my stock is made from birch and not beech. Sheesh, I should know better than to blog when I'm tired.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A day of rest

Since I last posted life has been busy. The my back aches, my feet hurt and my head is going to go ‘splodey kind of busy. I originally had a joke about my husband’s work exploding here but Cave’s work really did explode today, (literally, a tank blew it’s top) but it’s under control and he’s fine, although the kids are bummed that he won’t be home in time for dinner. He’s bummed that he was attending to duties elsewhere so was locked down there and unable to respond. *eyeroll* Boys.

As an example, yesterday we assembly lined 18 more buckets of food into our storage. AP flour, bread flour, beans, rice, and sugar are mylar sealed with o2 removers. I turned a couple of pounds of pumpkin into 18 jars of canned squashy goodness, and I’ve also been seasoning some new to me cast iron, I’m fixing to finish that up today. And so I have. I’m still waiting on the new powerhead for my dehydrator or I’d have a load of buck turning into jerky too.

This morning I woke up to find the lady preppers on my facebook abuzz about how the price of groceries is expected to about double in October. It’s worrisome, but not unexpected what with the poor harvest. What’s more disconcerting to me is that I’ve recently discovered some rather large holes in our storage supplies. See, my husband handles procuring the supplies, I just tell him what we need to keep on hand. Unfortunately he has approached it from a non-cooks perspective, so while I’ve been listing powdered milk, shortening and other basic ingredients he looked upon those as “luxuries” during an emergency and has been buying things that he understands, like dry soup and just add water types of things. His mindset has been adjusted and he now has a core list of things to buy before anything else until we’re caught up. I hope we can get caught up in time.

So, I’m going to go chew some things over, watch Jeremiah Johnson, and fry up some lunch in my newly seasoned Piqua Ware no. 5. I’ve already had four pancakes through it and they’re skating around nicely in it. I’m hoping to make up a post about seasoning cast iron later this week, possibly today if the kids cooperate.

Talk to you later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A contest to enter

I like to win things, and I’m sure that you do too, so head on over to Modern Day Redneck and leave a comment. You just might win a new Zombie T-shirt.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What would you have done?

Right now I’m elbows deep in the final processing of this gorgeous guy:

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He still had grass in his mouth. My friend thinks he’s an old buck because he says his teeth are missing. I’m not so sure, he’s not really familiar with deer and their dentition so I think he was looking at the gap that doesn’t have teeth. By the time I thought to check I was unable to get his jaw open so we’re going to have to wait until after the insects have had their way with the skull.

The meat has been aging under ice in my coolers for a few days and finally felt ready tonight. I’ve already cut the backstraps into steaks and I saved some of the neck for soup but he was about not very tender so the majority is being sliced for jerky. It’s taking a bit of doing but I’m almost done. I just have the right fore and rib cage left to process. The dogs are so stuffed full of trim that they can barely stay awake long enough to lift their heads. Oh, and I’m not taking the fact that he’s tough as an indication of age, I’ve found even young bucks get chewy once they get a good case of testosterone poisoning.

While my hands have been busy my mind has been wandering. I’ve never drawn my weapon in self defense, but I’ve been reviewing some things that happened fairly recently that were uncomfortable. Since scenario review is something a lot of people like to do, I thought I’d share. Opinions and suggestions are welcome. 

Situation 1:

Last spring we were at the local BigBox Vision Center buying new glasses for Monster Girl. She’s a beautiful 10 year old child and the technician was complimenting her on how pretty her eyes were, then it was her hair (it’s long, she’s never had her hair cut) and then he kept asking her to turn around so he could see the butterflies embroidered on her back pockets (he did this at least three times) and telling her how cute they were and how pretty she was, did she wear make-up etc. I saw red flags flying all over throughout the conversation. One of them being that when he was doing the store spiel he was using a normal tone of voice but when he was complimenting her or asking her to turn he was using a very quiet voice. I assumed so it wouldn’t be picked up by the surveillance. Another was that he waited until I appeared distracted with my other children or my phone before he said anything, not realizing that I was texting the things he was saying to my husband and that as a mother I can pay attention to several things at once. When I didn’t give him any indication that I’d heard, he started saying more and more things to her.

Unfortunately it was closing time and he had already sent the other technician home before we started the process otherwise I would have asked someone else to take over. When it came time for me to give him our personal information I handed him my concealed permit and told him he could copy the information off of that. He looked at it, then back at me, and said “Oh…you have a gun?” I replied “several, and I carry them 24/7.” I also made sure to hold my elbow in such a way as to allow my XD to clunk against the chair when I leaned back, and I did not remove my eyes from him for the rest of the time we were there. He processed the transaction, handed everything back, said they should be here in 7-10 business days, they’ll call when they’re in, and got up and left without looking at me or my daughter again. He was in such a hurry that he made several mistakes and they had to refigure the bill when the glasses came in.

I would like to point out that I didn’t say anything directly because he hadn’t done anything that couldn’t be played off as a misunderstanding, nor did I feel that he had done anything prosecutable. I got the feeling that everything he said and did was carefully managed with that in mind. I believe that my message was received loud and clear though. I also didn’t want to scare or upset my daughter. Later I asked her what she thought about him and she said she thought he was weird because he liked the embroidery, but she didn’t seem to have picked up on the creepy vibe. We had a discussion about inappropriate attention and she was able to pick out some of the red flags when she thought about it. She’s starting to pay attention because when we were at a different store a few weeks back she whispered “Mom, that man is looking at you” and I looked and caught some guy reading my t-shirt.

I spoke to the manager of the vision center about creepy guy the next day, who told me that he was from a different store and was just filling in while someone was on vacation but she made some phone calls and he was taken off of her schedule. I don’t know if further action was taken.

Situation 2:

I babysit twin girls that live in my neighborhood. One day the girls were in their room playing and I was walking into the kitchen when I saw a car I did not recognize with a driver whom I did not know pulling into their driveway. I went outside immediately and stood, hands on hips, right in front of the driver side door so he couldn’t open it. He had the wrong house and I sent him on his way with a nope, no one here by that name, no I don’t know where that house is, it’s time to go now. Not even ten minutes later I got a call from the mother I was sitting for, he was looking for a mutual friend of ours (we all know her by her middle name and I didn’t recognize the name he was using for her) and she called the mom to let her know how funny he thought it was that I wouldn’t let him out and how afraid I was of him. He assumed that I was afraid because he is a large, muscular guy full of tattoos. I did get a warm fuzzy feeling when I heard that the lady he was looking for told him that it was highly doubtful that I was afraid and he was smart to have stayed in the car because “She doesn’t play around.” Considering she’s a deputy sheriff in the next county over I take that as a compliment.

I’ve procrastinated enough, back to the task of filleting the silverskin off and slicing the jerky. *sigh*

Monday, September 10, 2012

Can we export them to Canada?

I found this on whotalking, a website that searches for key phrases being used in social media, mostly twitter and facebook, while I was helping out a local to me blog. I found it quite disgusting.Excuses

I took the liberty of looking the poster and his wife up on facebook. They don’t appear to be criminals, drug users or dealers, nor do they seem to be scamming the system but the fact that they turned down section 8 housing indicates to me that they are on the dole.They also appear to focus almost exclusively on entertainment and feeling bad because they don’t have enough money. His profile picture is of a collection of more than a dozen nerf guns, several of which I’ve seen in the store for $40 or more. He has broadcast for a ride to work half an hour before he’s supposed to be there, appealed to facebook for someone to cover his shift because he had an upset stomach, and he has passed on to his facebook friends that he’s both looking for a rental in the $500-$550 range and that he and his family are looking for a roommate to pay $550 in rent.

I don’t think he’s working to better himself or his situation, unless spending money you don’t have to feather your nest with toys, games, and other things that you can’t afford and don’t need while depending on a roommate or parents to pay your bills is the new bettering yourself. They’re in their thirties yet they’re acting like teenagers and thinking like parasites. Get over the lifestyle you think you’re entitled to have, sell your stuff instead of storing it, get a moped for cheap work transportation, move into housing that fits your income, and work your ass off to get you and your family out of there. Don’t ask your parents, roommate, friends or fellow taxpayers to subsidize your needs so you can focus on your wants, and every single thing he listed is a want. Get your priorities straightened out. Listen to the grown ups trying to tell you what to do instead of telling them to shut up and take care of you. Set aside your childish attitudes and be the man your family needs you to be.

I really fear for the future of our country.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Because Chemotherapy SUCKS

and worrying about the bills just makes it worse, so please go here and help Flier and his wife help their friend Bob. It’s the right thing to do.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

How I butcher a Wild Hog

Or, hog butchering 101 by a dummy.

This post has pictures that you may find disturbing, upsetting, gross etc. Please don’t look if you are sensitive to dead animals and butchering.

As stated in my previous post the pictures were taken with a cell phone encased in a ziplock bag, often one handed while holding the hog in place with the other, in the poor lighting of my kitchen, and they’re of embarrassingly poor quality. I’ll get over it. As bad as they are I’m posting them anyway because when I was trying to figure this stuff out I had a difficult time finding anything helpful about butchering wild hogs. They all had set ups that I didn’t, equipment I didn’t, or they just showed pictures/video with few explanations, if any. I make no claims to being any sort of an expert at this but I wanted to write about it because the economy has been so unstable the past few years and there are predictions that it may get worse soon. Wild hogs are readily available over much of the southern US and while they’re dangerous they’re not difficult to hunt so they’re a very viable food source. I wasn’t able to get the whole process down and will try to make sure I get how I break down the animal next time, but this will get the animal cleaned and skinned using equipment that you already have or can make easily, and you can probably figure how to get it into cookable sized pieces if you think at it.

 

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The star of our show. Here he is in his muddy, ear tattered glory, all 230+ pounds of him. He was shot through the right shoulder by a man named George using a .280 rifle, he ate a patch of wild garlic and then came in and was starting on the deer corn when George got him. George called my friend, who called me, and we went and picked him up around 10pm. This pig is quite a bit larger than what we normally get, I think he wasn’t kept and mounted because of his torn up ears, although he did take his tail.

 

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My tools. The meat cleaver is used to cut through the spine; the kitchen knife that I’m auditioning to replace my beloved Buck, it was tried and quickly discarded; another knife I’m using in place of the Buck, this one was much better than the other; and one of my skinning knives. I prefer the big belly on this style for skinning and I have another smaller one that I use for tighter areas. You may notice that I papered the table. It’s a good idea to protect the surface and it eases clean up considerably.

Not shown are a gambrel and a spot outside to hang it from, a saw, knife sharpener and gloves. I live in the suburbs and perform most of the game butchering inside. We hang them outside for bleeding and to wash them but the neighbors do not appreciate it if we do the butchering where they have to see, smell, and listen to their dogs bark about it. It’s inconvenient for us to do it this way, it takes longer and certainly makes for more work cleaning up, but at the same time it’s climate controlled, bug free and it’s better than not having the free meat. 

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Here he is again, freshly bathed and on the table. Handsome devil, isn’t he? I had Cave and SE pause while putting him on the table so I could get this one. They weren’t amused. Apparently he was too large for where we hang the gambrel and they weren’t able to get him as clean as we normally do, nor were they able to bleed him what with him resting on the ground from the shoulders down and all.

 

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The panorama. His head is on the right, legs and gambrel are on the left, although none of that is in frame. Our table is 6 feet 2 inches long, the hog stretched out from his rear hooves to the tip of his snout at 6 feet 11 inches and about 5 feet from tail to snout tip. Sounds big, doesn’t he? Until you realize that he is about 4 years old and weighs 230 and market hogs generally check in around 250 pounds when they’re six months old. I’ve seen commercial boars that weigh in at close to a thousand pounds, and I’ve heard that wild boars can reach that size too. I hope I never run into one.

 

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Well. This is a boar (male) hog, you can see the end of his penis sheath with it’s longer hair tuft at his midline on the right of the picture, but there appears to be something missing. More accurately, two somethings. Rest assured, they’re there. This guy is a cryptochrid, meaning his testicles didn’t descend into his scrotum when he was a youngster. See the two lighter spots on the inside of his thighs? That’s where they are. The lease my friend hunts produces a fairly high percentage of cryptochrids, although this is the oldest boar that I’ve seen so far and the only one I’ve seen like this. Normally their testicles are inside the tubes buried in their abdominal cavity and the body heat makes them sterile, this boar had his testicles descend they just never made it into the scrotum skin. Perhaps removing him will help the population shed the mutation.

I’m showing you his boy bits for more than the interesting anomaly, it’s where we start the whole shebang.

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I make a little cut about an inch in front of the opening of the penis sheath and start from there, cutting back along each side all the way down to were the testicles are supposed to be. I haven’t yet cut that far back in this picture. In this you can see the original cut, then some muscle tissue where the penis and sheath were attached, and if you notice the trench in the center that’s where the urethra was. The urethra pulls free for the most part but there are some attachments to it, be careful when you cut them. There are muscles at the bladder end that hold the urine in, but they aren’t always functioning at this point and it would be an unhappy surprise to nick the urethra and find out that they’re not working. I’ve done it and then had to finish butchering surrounded by the stench of boar pee. It was very unpleasant and it was all I could smell for days.

Because of this boars special condition I wasn’t able to handle disassembling him as I normally would so I didn’t take pictures of it. Normally I cut the skin back to the scrotum, which hangs under the anus, and then cut around the anus leaving the penis, scrotum and anus all dangling until I’m ready to pull them through the pelvis and out with the rest of the guts. BTW the urethra runs from the bladder out through the opening in the pelvis where the anus is, then wraps under the hog and along under the belly so while you have to be careful about cutting into it, it does need to be cut loose all the way back. It does about the same thing in men too. Even though I’ve made an extensive study of the anatomy of the human male, both in anatomy class and during extracurricular activities, for some reason until I butchered my first male animal I’d never really caught on to that fact that they’re structured in the same way because in animals it’s attached to the belly. Learn something new…

Anyway, when I’ve got him cut back to the pelvis and have cut carefully around the anus I then take the time to remove any feces that are in the canal and then zip tie things closed. Most people that I’ve seen do it this way don’t bother to remove the feces but I do this to eliminate bulk and make it easier to pull everything through the pelvis. I’ve seen people pull enthusiastically and pop everything open and contaminate the meat. I figure better safe and grossed out than sorry, grossed out and half your hog lost. Sometimes I’ll crack the pelvis open along the pubic symphysis (the joint in the front of the pelvis) and then not have to worry about everything fitting back through the pelvic opening but I wasn’t able to do that with this hog because of his size and anatomical anomaly. I’ll try and get pictures of the whole process with the next hog we get.

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On to bigger things. Here’s I’ve slit through the skin and fat of the belly in preparation to opening the abdominal cavities. I do this in two steps because it’s so thick that it’s difficult for me to cut through it cleanly otherwise without risking puncturing the intestines. In a previous post about butchering hogs I mentioned that I don’t recommend trying to pull the skin off like you can on deer and other animals, and I took this picture to try to illustrate why. The belly skin is about the thinnest skin on the hog, and you can see the skin layer and fat layer here, the skin is more grey/white and the fat layer is pinker. See the hair follicles and how deeply rooted they are? Some of them are even into the fat layer? There’s actually a super thin layer of skin surrounding each follicle, but it tears easily and I’ve found that if you pull the skin off the deeper rooted hairs stay in place and then you’re trying to pluck wet, slippery greasy hairs off of a wet slippery greasy carcass. Not Fun.

 

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This is how I open the abdominal cavity. You can see where I slit the skin and fat, then I use the tip of my knife and gently cut at it until the cavity is breached. I make it large enough to get my index and middle fingers in then insert the knife between them and use them to guide the knife so I don’t cut the insides. I’ve already cut across most of the abdominal cavity and was close to the diaphragm here when I stopped to take the picture. I carry the cut up as far as I can past the diaphragm and into the breastbone.

 

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While I was farting around reaching for the camera and putting the knife back into place I managed to nick the liver. In this case it was fine, and I pulled the edges apart so you could see it, but the liver is resting on the stomach (the striped object) and the loops of the small intestine are right there too, to the left of the band of fat. Stomach contents aren’t as bad to rinse out, but intestinal contents are gross and more difficult to get the meat clean if it’s contaminated, particularly the large intestine and it’s load of feces. Thankfully I didn’t contaminate this guy because I wouldn’t have been able to get him to the shower to scrub him out by myself and working with assistants that are half asleep isn’t optimal.

I wasn’t able to photograph the gut removal because I only have two hands and both of them were busy. What I do is breach the diaphragm (you’ll know when you reach it, it’s like a wall on top of the liver and stomach) and then either hold the intestines out of the way and cut along the abdominal wall to cut it free, or I use my hands and tear it free. I usually tear as much of it as I can because if I’m going to cut myself it’s usually at this point when I’m working blind that it happens. After I get through the diaphragm I feel around for the heart, pull that free if possible, then feel around inside for a tube with rings or ridges. That’s the esophagus and you need to cut or tear that out too. Once the esophagus is no longer attached you can then pull the pluck (the collective term for the guts) out in one block. There are some attachments that will need cutting, like the rest of the diaphragm, but you’ll probably see where those are as the guts will be hanging from them. I typically find another one about 1/3 to 1/4 of the way up from the pelvis. So you know what to expect, a good rule of thumb is that the guts will weigh about 1/4 to 1/3 of the live weight so for this hog about 60-80 pounds. 

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Here I am slicing the skin up the inside of the rear leg. You can see the knife in my hand (awkwardly held for the camera, I do NOT cut like this but I had to brace the leg up with my body to get the picture) and hopefully see that I inserted it under the skin and am slicing from the inside out. This is important. If you cut from the skin side in you will slice the hair and get it all over your meat, you’ll slice into the muscles too and in general make your job more difficult. I had to teach this to my husband and it only took him three deer to see the benefits of cutting from the inside. It does take a little more time when you’re on bony parts like the legs, but when that’s compared to the time spent washing and then picking the hairs off, well, let’s just say he learned.

 

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Here I’m working on one of the front legs. I’ve cut the skin and have skinned it back part way down the leg and am preparing to remove the lower leg and hoof. I’m bending the joint back and it looks like I’ve found a good place to start cutting through the joint, but I really haven’t.

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It’s getting close to midnight now so this guy’s been gone for at least two hours, and is getting less cooperative. If I wrench back on the joint you can see that the bend in the picture above is actually the bottom of the joint, and where you want to cut is the top of the joint, or the part of the joint closest to the body. I don’t suppose that it’s a really big deal, but I find the top of the joint is easier to separate and it makes the legs a little shorter which I prefer when I’m breaking it down later on.

 

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See? It popped open. It’s still not finished though, but this step makes the next one easier.

 

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Lay the joint so that it’s on the edge of the surface you’re working on, place your weak hand on the leg to stabilize it and then use your strong hand and body weight to dislocate that sucker. Like humans, most joints on an animal are hinge joints, that means they only work in two directions. Ball joints that have more rotation like the hips are more delicate and easier to cut through, and four legged mammals don’t have shoulder joints like we do, their forelegs usually aren’t attached and can be cut free. Anyway, with hinge joints if you lay them out and apply force in a direction they AREN’T supposed to move in, they come apart without too much work which is why it’s fairly easy to cripple someone with a sideways blow to the knee. If it’s hard to convince the joint to disarticulate you may need to take your knife and probe around in the cut to make sure you opened the joint capsule and sever the supporting ligaments and tendons over it. Once it does come loose you will probably have to cut the tendon inside the joint that connects the two bones, but it’s a sight easier doing it this way than it is probing around and prying it apart. That’s also how I broke the tip on my Buck knife. *sniffle* BTW this is a rear leg, I forgot to take a picture of this until I was on the last one. Oops!

 

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Okay, now skinning the beast. I generally skin the legs back on both sides first, since I have to do it to remove the hooves might as well just skin it back to the belly cut as it only takes a minute or two more. Here you can see why I don’t skin too close to the skin. See the rows of black dots? Those are the hair follicles as seen from the inside of the skin, and see the single black dot above the rows? That’s where I cut through a deeper hair follicle, and that will result in little prickly bits that aren’t good eats. I did this on purpose to show you what it looks like, but if I start seeing the black dots I know I’m cutting too close. You will see them in areas where there isn’t as much fat such as the legs, but in general try to avoid them elsewhere.

After I have the legs skinned I start working on the side from the legs in until I can get a grip on the skin of the belly, then I switch to longer strokes across the length of the side. I find it easier to cut the tissues with a bit of tension on it, particularly with hogs because of their shields. I’ll get to that in a minute.

 

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I’ve skinned out the legs and propped him up with a brick on each side and am now skinning along his sides. I do each side separately, and I leave the head and skin attached and just cut it further down as I need to. I find it stays cleaner this way. I took this picture to show you something interesting that hogs have. See his shield? No?

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How about now? To the right of the valley is his shoulder with the entry wound, to the left of the valley is his shield, a layer of super thick skin, fat and tissue. It’s so thick that it’s holding his skin up.

 

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Maybe this is the better shot, please excuse my giant arm, the camera added a few pounds to it. I’ve skinned him down to his spine on this side and the shield is still supporting his skin.

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On the other shoulder you can see the exit wound, although in this case the bullet didn’t actually exit, it was trapped between the meat of his shoulder and his shield. You can see it, it’s the circle below the blood clots and bruising, in a ridge of fat where my knife ran into it and I had to pull the knife out and cut it out of the shield.

 

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Here it is. Sorry for the fold of plastic in the picture, but I don’t think the camera would have survived the process without the plastic baggie.

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Here he is, all skinned out. I skin one side, then roll it back on to the side I just skinned and skin out the other side, cutting the skin free from the neck and along any points I missed on the spine. Usually at this point if I have help I transfer the animal from the counter I normally work on to the table, if not I tuck the skin under it’s back, raw side touching the meat, then clean the work surface as best I can and flop it over and yank the skin out, then clean the other side of the work surface. This hog was too big for me to do that on my own, so I continued to break it down on the raw side of the skin. If you don’t have a helper and you didn’t wash the animal or you’re working on a surface outside it’s probably a good idea to keep on this way anyway, the meat will stay cleaner.

If you look at the skin you can see some thin sheets of meat on it, buried under the fat. Those are twitch muscles that the pig uses to move the skin. They do a lot of work so they’re tough and have thick muscle fibers. You can skin those off and grind them or use them for things like jerky, but I don’t bother with them because they’re so thin and the fat covering them is full of hair follicles and shield tissue.

And now I had to plug the cell phone in. What I wasn’t able to capture was breaking the hog down into primals (two rear legs, two front legs, the rib cage and the spine/pelvis section) removing the head, pulling out the loins for chops, rinsing the parts in the sink or packing it into the coolers with ice and milk. I’ll have to try and get that for you with the next hog.

I like to soak my hogs in milk to help remove any rankness and blood. I don’t do anything fancy, I have two large coolers, I put the loins and legs in one, the ribs, spine and pelvis in another, put ice on top and then pour in a gallon of whole milk. I soak sows and young pigs for 24 hours, boars I typically go for 36 or 48, depending on how ripe they still are when I open the cooler to add ice. We were particularly poor this time so I split a gallon between the coolers and let him go for 48 hours. If the meat still has a rank odor when I take it out of the soak I’ll make sure to mark it on the package and I’ll marinate it for 24 hours before I use it too. Since this hog was too big to hang properly I’ll probably wind up doing that even though the smell was mostly gone after he was in the milk.

I did get a picture of the edge of the shield as it tapers off into the belly skin. This is why I don’t save hog skins to turn into leather, you have to scrape all of this off down to the skin and then scrape all of the fat out of the skin or the leather will turn rancid. The one time I did try was with a small young sow that had a very thin shield and even then it was still producing fat and grease even I scraped at it for days then soaked it in lye water, plus when the skin is cold the shield wants to return to it’s original hog shape and will fight you about laying flat. Nothing like getting lye water flung across your face because the skin popped up on you while you were trying to rinse it for more scraping. Professionals use power equipment to carve the fat off of the hides, which I don’t have, or in the case of third world countries they put it in vats with things like urine, manure and lime and let the fat rot off, which I won’t do. It’s rare that I give up on learning how to do something but that was one time I was happy to bury it and walk away.

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I embiggened it to life sized on my monitor. On the left hand side from the edge of the skin to the dark pink fat layer is about an inch and a half, and this is just the edge of the shield. Where it was along the back of the neck was close to three inches thick. You can see the grey line of the skin, the dark spots of deep hair follicles, the white layer of fat and whatever else the shield tissue is made of and the knife mark where I had to cut twice to get through it, and then the light pink “hard” fat layer. Hard fat is what you’re used to seeing on cuts of meat that you buy at the store. The dark pink layer is what I call jello fat, it’s looser and jiggles. There’s also a bunch of clearish slimy mucous-like stuff that you’ll find, the same thing deer have. I have no idea what exactly it is but I’m pretty sure it acts to lubricate the tissues. Along the right, just under the dark pink fat you can see a layer of twitch muscle, that would be on the belly of the animal and is the start of what we call bacon.

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Here I am processing one of the rear legs. The jello fat has been removed and I’m cutting away the hard fat. You can see on the lower end of the meat where I had to cut it away while removing the testicles. At this point I had just taken my cell phone off the charger and had my daughter all set up to take pictures when the camera died again. I fussed about it and my husband rather timidly said “oh, um, my charger died so I’ve been swapping the batteries. Gotta go to work now Bye!” Yeah, thanks honey! I’m sure it was nice to have a perpetually charged phone.

I’ve looked around online and found some reliable sources that suggest an average meat yield for a hog is 48% of the live weight. They’re talking about commercial hogs and I think wild hogs tend to yield a tad less, in the 40% range. They have a higher bone to meat ratio, plus their bones are denser. We got about 90 pounds of usable meat out of his estimated 230 pounds so 40-48% sounds about right. He should last us a good long time, I plan on canning pulled pork from this one, but we won’t be eating him for a while yet. I need to wait a bit before I can stomach eating an animal I’ve butchered. I’m sure if push comes to shove I’ll be able to get over that but since we still have food and refrigeration and grocery stores he’ll just have to wait.

Okay, I’ve edited and fleshed it out or trimmed as needed, and now I’m off to go fix supper. Venison steaks, chocolate pudding pie, bread and whatever else I see fit to serve. Hope you had a good weekend.