Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Most Redneck Thing I’ve Ever Done (or Roadkill Deer is Perfectly Edible)

Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, I’ve done a lot of redneck-y things in my lifetime.  But I think most people would agree that that today’s actions rank at the top.

I planned on writing about chicken changes: my brother said he’d bring a handful of young chickens to me after some Thanksgiving festivities, so last week I quickly boarded together a phase-two-temporary-coop.  There’s plenty to write about in that, and I have pictures, but that was before today.

Today, while getting things situated for the new chickens, I spooked some deer in my woods.  I was randomly going to see if one of the junk-filled sinkholes on our property held a piece that I was in search of, and about 10 yards in front of me a deer bolts across my path.  It was followed by another one fairly quickly.

As the first ran towards the edge of my property, I glanced down the road to make sure there wasn’t going to be an accident – because we live on a busy road, and accidents are fairly common.  (If I’ve not mentioned it before, I watched a girl’s truck slam into the telephone pole in my front yard while I was working at my kitchen table)

There was, indeed, a car coming.

The first deer runs across the road, and I think to myself, “Surely the driver saw the deer and will slow down.  Everyone knows there’s never only one deer that crosses the road.”

The second deer runs across, still with plenty of distance between it and the car.

Again, the thought crosses my mind, “I’ll bet the car will slow down now, after seeing two.”

The car did not slow down.

As I’m sure you’ve already gathered, there was a third deer.  It didn’t look like the car hit their brakes, so I was bracing myself for the bang! that I heard soon after the deer darted through the tree line that hid that spot of the road from my view.

I ran to the road to see if the driver was ok, but I didn’t see anything.  I ran a little closer to where the deer ran out, and I saw her laying on the side of the road, her tail and head still moving, obviously in pain.  I called my brother, who had left my house a few hours prior, with two questions.

  1. Would a .22 bullet be enough to put her out of her misery?  I was still a good distance away, but I could see enough blood to know that there was no chance this girl was pulling through. I couldn’t just let her lay there suffering for an unknown amount of time.  At first he mentioned that my 9mm would probably be more efficient, because there was the chance that the .22 wouldn’t kill her immediately – but we both agreed that it might not be the best thing to see a guy executing a deer with a pistol on the side of the road.  Especially because I’d already seen 4 police cars drive by in the last 10 minutes, and I don’t have my concealed carry permit yet.  Even though I wouldn’t conceal it, a guy walking on the side of the road with a pistol in his hand (even on his own property) might land me in a situation I’d rather not be in.  I ended up not having to use my gun, because by the time I grabbed my rifle and came back, she was dead.  And question number 2…
  2. Is it safe to eat a deer that has been hit by a car?

Don’t judge.

I’d only been deer hunting once this season, and only a couple times in general before that.  Venison tastes great, and here was this big hunk of fresh meat that otherwise would sit on the side of the road for a few days, bloated and rotting.  I mean – I was doing everyone a favor.  Nobody from the county would have to come pick it up, and the driver could sleep at night knowing that the animal they hit didn’t go to waste.  (Well, the driver would never know, because they didn’t stop – but I’m looking for more people I’m doing a favor for)

So, I think from this situation I learned the following lesson:  If at first you don’t succeed at hunting, wait for the animal to fall down dead on the road by your house.

Anyhow, my brother enthusiastically said yes, roadkill deer is perfectly edible.  Sweet!

So, I dragged the body into the woods a little ways, because again – a guy with a knife inside the belly of a deer right beside the road isn’t a situation that everyone would be completely comfortable with.  I got it into a clearing and texted my buddy Lane to see if he wanted to come help because he’s a new deer hunter as well, and he and his wife hopped in his truck.

deer-start

I donned the hunter orange just in case there was anyone illegally hunting on my property and couldn’t tell that the deer was already dead.

I started before Lane got there, though.  And just like last time with the chicken, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  Times 100.  I called my brother again, and put the phone on the ground next to me on speakerphone.  I felt like I was on a tech support call, because I was trying to describe what I could see, and he was trying to explain what I should see, and neither one of us really knew what was going in the deer in front of me.  I think he joked at one point, Have you tried turning it off and on again?

I’m sure the NSA is already tapping my phone (I’ve sent out too many texts about my frustration with the government), so they were probably watching my house before the call was over.  “Wait – which part of the ribs do I stick the knife in?”  “Do I just get a thin layer of skin, or do I cut deeper?”  “Are her lungs supposed to be gray, because there’s this big gray thing on top of her heart.”  And that was before trying to describe cutting around the butt hole.

deer-bald-spot

I call this piece “Bald Spot.” Credit to my lovely wife for capturing the essence of the moment.

I’m pretty sure it took me well over an hour to simply field dress the thing, so Lane got there in plenty of time to help.  We had both been around cleaning and butchering deer before, so we both had the general concept – but that’s much different than actually knowing how to do it.  So we flailed together, with my redneck tech support on the line.

We finally got her hung up in my car port (I’m sure that was my wife’s first choice for location), after first using a rope that sagged so much that her neck was laying on the ground.  I really should get a GoPro, because I just can’t explain how hilarious it probably was to watch us.

deer-hanging

We opted to have a column in our way because, well – we just didn’t think that far ahead.

The next few hours were spent cutting while on the phone with various people, watching YouTube videos, and trying to remember details of the last time we’d seen a deer butchered.  It definitely wasn’t the prettiest butchering job ever seen, but it resulted in a fridge full of meat, so I suppose that’s all we could ask for.

deer-lane

High fives!  Er…  Hooves.

I probably should have taken pictures of the meat after it was cut, but I didn’t.  Just imagine that you walked into a butcher shop, but the normal butcher was out sick, and his son (who wants to be a poet) is filling in.  It will definitely still cook, but looks like somebody tried to murder it.  It’s sitting in the fridge right now, and over the next few days I’ll cut it up a little further to freeze it.  For now, though, leaving it in the fridge for a while will apparently help it not to taste too “gamey.”  Because we’re extremely picky about our roadkill.

Doesn’t Everyone Gather Acorns?

To make up for the lack of off-grid-iness over the last couple of months, I crammed a few random things in over the last week or so.

To start off, I’d been looking into acorn flour lately…  So, one day when I was planning on going outside to do who knows what, I got distracted by all of the wonderful acorns on the ground.  I thought I’d pick up a handful or so, and make that a ritual each time I went outside, but I got a little obsessive.  I filled all my pockets, and then got a bag  and went back to it because I just couldn’t stop.  I mean – there were so many of them!

Around that time, some friends of ours (who left a jacket at our house) stopped by.

Mitch: Hey David!  What are you doing?

David: Oh, you know…  Just picking up acorns.

Mitch: ….Oh yeah…  Yeah, I know all about it…  I just love gathering acorns…

(There was a lot of sarcasm in there, in case you didn’t pick up on it through my typing)

I finally realized that I was a borderline psychopath, so I stopped with a healthy amount.

acorns

Later on that night, I started splitting them.  I’m extremely glad I didn’t spend any more time gathering these nuts, because almost all of them looked like this:

acorn-dirt

It looks like my worm friend there – and all of his worm friends – got to the acorns before I did.  Instead of finding a nut inside, I found dirt and usually the culprit.  I cut every single shell open, and I had less than a handful that were decent.  And a lot of those were questionable.

acorn-nuts

I realized I was probably going to do a ton of work for about a cup of acorn flour, so I decided this might be a project better suited for next year.  When I start hearing them hit my roof as I’m attempting to fall asleep next Autumn, I’ll know it’s time for the harvest.  Then I’ll be a psychopath again.

Later that week, my buddy Andy and I went to visit his friend Todd’s farm.  Andy had been talking to me for a while about it, telling me of all the cool stuff that Todd has going on, and we finally carved out some time to make the trek down.  Andy didn’t know exactly where Todd lived, so we simply followed the map announced on Andy’s phone.

Big mistake.

We left the paved road, and then left the gravel road, to what seemed to be a driveway, or perhaps better called a trail.  Thing is, we drove on this thing for at least two miles.  His little Mazda 3 did not like the gigantic water-filled pot holes whose gaps were bridged by old doors.  Yes – someone had taken interior doors to fill in these holes – but the years of driving over them pretty much just made them random splintered pieces of tire-death.  We also passed a sign that said “Stop – Gun Range in Use.”  The sign was not actually up – it was laying on the ground beside the road.  At that point, Andy really started wondering if we were in the wrong spot.  I said “Hey – we’re surely almost at something – we might as well keep going down this road.”  Because – as we have already determined – I’m a psychopath.

Well, the road abruptly came to a steep hill, and he wasn’t excited to see if his car could make it back up said hill – especially if it wasn’t the right farm.  Luckily, there was a bunch of Amish dudes building a house at the bottom of the hill, so I walked down to inquire.

Nope – not the right farm.  But at least it was the amish, and not a live gun range.

After we got back on the road (backtracking the splintery trail), we got ahold of Todd who updated our destination.  Funny enough, Todd’s house is literally right off the pavement.  No off-roading needed.

The first thing I noticed was that his chickens were just about everywhere.  I asked him if he was afraid of predators, and he said his dogs keep them at bay.  (reason #432 why dogs are better than cats)  The second thing I noticed was there were children just about everywhere as well.  I think they have 11 kids, and there were a few friends in tow.  Yowza!

We helped him start some ferments, and had some awesome fresh-from-the-farm cuisine, and just talked about life, God, and everything in between.  Kind of the way I imagine a conversation with a true farmer should go, rather than the distracted dialogue inserted between glances at a phone screen.

The next day, I was planning on doing a little work outside (cutting logs), and I realized – Hey!  I’m better than a dog, right?  I could keep those mangy predators away while I’m outside beside the chickens!

Thus instituted the inaugural free-ranging Saturday.

free-range

It was hilarious, actually…  The first time in their lives they are given actual freedom, and they pretty much stayed where the chicken tractor had been circling for the last few months.  Specifically, where the ground was down to just dirt and covered with their poop…  Anything familiar, I suppose.

And apparently I’m familiar, too, because anytime I came nearby, they’d all circle around me.  At the time, my wife laughed and cutely said they were following their farmer.  Now I’m wondering if they were simply plotting to take me down.  When I sat down on a stump and sharpened my chainsaw blade, I’ll bet they decided to rethink their plans.

They even followed me to places that contained nothing for them to peck at…

concrete-chickens

I suppose the cats are following me because I’m their farmer, too. Just kidding. Holly won’t let me eat them.

I didn’t get too far into my wood cutting for two reasons:

  1. Turns out I’m not very good at sharpening a chainsaw.  I’ll give it another go, but I’ll probably just take them to my dad so he can refresh my memory on how to do it.  It would still cut, but not as easily as it should.
  2. Someone stopped by to look at the Blazer sitting at the end of my driveway.

That was a pleasant unexpected visit, because I’d just put the Blazer by the road on Thursday evening, and I’d fielded a couple of calls from guys on Friday that said they might stop by Saturday afternoon.  It wasn’t noon yet, but this guy bought it right on the spot.  It makes me excited that I had so much immediate interest, because that means when I put a sign in my front yard that says “Fresh Eggs,” it will be seen.  It also makes me think think I should have priced it higher!  (Only halfway kidding)

With the money from the Blazer, I’m hoping to buy a beat-up diesel truck.  Beat up, because I want something cheap that I don’t worry about getting scratched to pieces driving through my woods.  Diesel, because I want to try my hand at alternative fuels.

Well, sure, I guess diesel is alternative, but I’m talking about making biodiesel from cooking oils.  (If any of my readers have a restaurant and need to get rid of a bunch of used oil, I’d be happy to take it off your hands.  Or – if you don’t have a restaurant, but you fry food for 11+ kids, you probably have plenty of oil.)

Also, at some point earlier in the week I checked on the bees, who have been fairly silent.  I knew they wouldn’t be out and about when it got cold, but I expected to hear them generating heat in their hives.  I got nervous because I couldn’t hear a sound.  Luckily, when it was warmish, I opened them up to find them balled together just like they’re supposed to be.  One hive had bees up in the top super, though none of the comb was drawn out.  The other hive had no bees and no comb drawn in the top super, so I removed it.  I figure they’d prefer to save on their heating bill this winter by not warming a huge empty space.  (For anyone wondering – and I’m sure you all are – there was still a frame or two of undrawn comb in the remaining top box, so they shouldn’t feel claustrophobic)

Also also – apparently my subscribe button wasn’t working there for a bit – so if you tried to subscribe but didn’t get this in your inbox, please try again.  Chalk up another reason why I’m not a fan of wordpress.

chicken-dinner

Farm to Table (and one less alarm clock)

I’ve been talking about it for months, but I finally had a chicken killing party.

The party was lightly attended, though – just me and the roo. It was hard to get the interested individuals rallied on a day when we were all free, so I figured I’d butcher the first one alone.

But I’m glad I did, because it took me almost two hours…

In preparation, I realized a week or so before that I actually needed tools to do the job. I found a kitchen knife (that I thought was sharp), and bought a small propane burner at a yard sale.  This is really just my temporary solution – my true self-sustained off-grid plan is to just use wood, but for the time being this will make it easy.

propane-grill

I tied some simple slip knots and threw the thin rope over a branch, so that tiny tree is now dubbed the Killing Tree.  I took a picture, but it’s not great – you can’t tell the rope from the twigs around it – so you’ll have to use your imagination.  It’s far less menacing than you think.

After I got the pot of water over a propane fire, I grabbed the lucky chicken – the one that has been crowing for three hours around sunrise and three hours around sunset.  Can’t say that it was an emotional moment.

Once you flip them upside down, they’re surprisingly calm.  I’m sure there’s some science behind it, but I just assume it’s because all of the blood rushes to their heads and…  I guess that is relaxing?  If you flipped me upside and started walking towards sharp objects, I’d thrash as much as humanly possible.

Not much, man - just hanging out. What are you up to?

Not much, man – just hanging out. What are you up to?

Unfortunately, the knife I used to “dispatch” my little friend was not nearly as sharp as I thought, so it took me more than one try.

Swipe.  Uh-oh.  Swipe-swipe-swipe.  Aw crap, I’m sorry bud.  Swipe-swipe-swipe-swipe-swipe-swipe.

He was a good sport, though, and didn’t mind at all what I was doing to him.  Come to think of it it, he was the most calm he’s ever been, because for the last couple of months he was either squawking at me or maintaining his spot in the pecking order by bullying the other chickens.

After a brief wing-flap near the end of his experience, I removed the head (I threw it in the woods and the cats soon thought I’d thrown a treat specifically for them) and dunked the body into the not-quite-hot-enough water in the not-quite-tall-enough pot.  I didn’t have a thermometer to know what the actual temperature was, so I was just hoping it was around the optimal 145-150° range.  I knew I didn’t want it to be boiling, but also didn’t want to stick my fingers in to see if it was scalding.

As I tried to dunk the body while holding the legs, pretty much the entire lower half was still dry.  I straightened up the legs and tried to force it under water, overflowing probably a gallon of water, with some luck.  I bobbed him like a bag of tea for about ten seconds.  What is supposed to happen, when you dunk a chicken in the hot water, is that the feathers practically fall off.  You pretty much just pet the feathers off.  What happened for me, though, was a lot of tugging and ripping.

At the time, I assumed that was going to be the longest part for me, because it was incredibly tedious to rip a handful of feathers out and then try to pluck out the individual quills that were only sticking out by about an inch after the rest of the attached feather came off in my hands.  I’d dip it in the water again, hoping the next go-round would be easier.  It never was.

I also had to flip it over and try to hold it’s neck to dunk the legs, which was awkward.  And in looking back, I think the “hot” water did so little that I probably would’ve been better off not to have worried about it at all.  Oh well.  As the great Canadian poet, Alanis Morissette, said, “You live, you learn.”

After that, I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  So I did what any homesteader would do – I pulled out my phone and searched on YouTube.  Play a video for 10 seconds, press pause, then try to make the same cut on the carcass.  Second guess cut, because that didn’t look like the same thing that happened for the guy  on the phone.  Rewind the video, watch the same 10 seconds again, realize what I did wrong, but also realize it was too late to fix it.

My wife came out to take some pictures at this point, because it finally "looked like a chicken" to her.

My wife came out to take some pictures at this point, because it finally “looked like a chicken” to her.

I committed the cardinal sin…  I accidentally cut open the intestine while trying to pull the innards out, so after attempting to empty them out on the ground, the rest of the time was spent trying to avoid getting the contents in contact with anything that I was planning on eating.  Due to having to watch YouTube ever 60 seconds, and avoiding getting poop everywhere, I was incredibly slow to say the least.

After a while, though, I was successful.  The guts were out, the poop was gone, and my wife said it would be ok if I finished in the kitchen (because I don’t yet have a surface outside to butcher them on).  At that point, it was much easier.

As I cut each piece – still watching YouTube videos – I decided to remove the skin completely, because there were still tiny quills throughout, and also tiny hairs all over it.  Most people I’ve seen use a small torch to burn the hairs off, but that won’t help with the quills!

chicken-meat

I should have taken a better picture of the meat right after I butchered it, but I forgot until after I’d already let the chicken soak in salt water for a day.  As such, it’s not arranged well whatsoever…  I think that’s part of the back on top (which technically shouldn’t even be a ‘cut’), and it’s pretty much just a meat pile.

That next day, I decided I needed to know how my chicken farming was really going.  I mean – I’d raised this thing from an egg, so I was going to be devastated if it didn’t taste at least, well, edible.  I pulled the legs out of the meat pile, and lightly fried them and warmed up some leftovers as sides – fried apples from my dad’s trees, and couscous with zucchini also from my dad’s garden (the zucchini – not the couscous).

fried-chicken

The finished product is at the top of this post

The first couple of bites were amazing.  It tasted like chicken!

The third or fourth bites on each leg, though, let me know that I didn’t cook them long enough…  It was just a bit too juicy and pink near the bone, so I had to throw them in the microwave to feel safe enough to eat the rest.  Perhaps I ruined it by doing so, but it still tasted great!

A few days later, my wife cooked the rest of him for some enchiladas that we shared with some friends, though unfortunately we had to add a store-bought breast to have enough meat.  If I hadn’t eaten the legs, we probably would’ve had enough for the recipe – but I wouldn’t change it!

The other chickens have not crowed since.

This all actually happened a couple of weeks ago, and not much else has happened over the last couple of months or so that has pertained to getting off the grid… I went hunting once and even though I saw three deer I didn’t take a shot (though I now wish I had), went “deepish” sea fishing with my brothers in law (we were just off the coast – no keepers), and talked about homesteading a lot – but most of my time was spent working. (I’ve got a new gig – more on that later!)