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This year’s deer

On Halloween, Eric’s birthday, we took off work and headed up to a Block Management Area where we had a reservation. Block Management is hunting access to private land orchestrated by the State. It’s a wonderful program. Anyhow, we had almost two sections of land, with a big butte in the middle all to ourselves. We started at the northwest corner of the area and skirted all the way around the butte to the southeast side, seeing absolutely no sign. I figure there would be no deer for us today. I was okay with that. It was a beautiful day and I was so happy to be out hunting and feeling good.

Finally, we started seeing a little bit of sign. We got on a ridge with Eric working one side and me working the other. Eric signaled that he had seen 2 does bedded down on a little flat area on the side of the ridge. We decided that since I’m 6 months pregnant and won’t be wanting to put an incredible amount of work into hunting, I’d take the shot if one was presented. So we snuck out to a spur off the ridge where I had a good gun rest and a good view. Turned out I could see 2 does and 2 bucks. The bucks were standing and I decided I wanted the 4-pointer. Spindly rack, but a big, healthy buck. He was standing facing me and then bedded down that way, so I didn’t have a good shot at him. One of the does was bedded down quartered away from me. I knew she would be an OK shot. The other buck (slightly smaller, but still good-sized) was standing broadside to me, but he was licking his side obsessively. He just wouldn’t quit. Where his head was, if I’d have shot him in the heart-lung zone, I’d have blasted him through the head as well. What’s the point in taking the buck when you’re just going to ruin the mount? I also remembered that I’m a meat hunter and should take what tastes best.

So I decided on the doe, settled in on her, and shot. She never got up, just died where she lay, so the rest of the deer didn’t really know what happened! Turns out there were several does in the area and they all decided it was prudent to leave, as did the smaller buck. The big buck, however, just stood there. So I told Eric that if he wanted the buck, take it! Since he’s really after elk this year, he was only going to shoot if he had a perfect shot. He crawled over to my gun rest and set up. The buck stood there and waited for him, broadside, so we ended up with a buck and doe!

After we dressed them out, I let Eric drag them to the nearest road while I walked back to get the truck. Of course, I took an ill-advised “shortcut” and ended up making the whole thing over a mile longer than it had to be. It was waaaay too much hiking for me at this point in my pregnancy, 6+ miles over rugged terrain for the whole day. I felt about 80 for a few days afterwards! But it’s worth it. We got a lot of meat!

It was amazing how different the experience of shooting a deer was this year. Last year, the decision to shoot was fraught with ambivalence and followed by so much sorrow, regret, and then elation all mixed up with a healthy dose of adrenaline. This year, I knew I was going to shoot one of those deer, that decision was made once I saw them. Following the shot, I still felt a little sad and deeply grateful to the deer and to the land, but I was mostly happy to have so much good meat and a wonderful day in the woods with my husband.

Home Sweet Home

So I finally have material for this blog! The bad news is that I barely have the time to write about it! For example, today I headed to work at 7:30, got home at 6, worked in the garden till 8, made and ate dinner. Now it’s 9:10 and I feel thoroughly ready for bed.

This place, our new home, is almost paradise to me. We sit on the north end of our big valley and no matter which way I turn, my eyes meet mountains on the horizon. The views are wide open and this time of year, with everything so intensely green, they are nothing short of breathtaking. Our neighbors are all a respectable distance away. If I cut my finger and cuss, I don’t have to feel embarrassed that someone may have heard me. But they are there to wave at and talk to and get to know. One neighbor plowed up a garden plot for me and he will show us how to run our hand irrigation lines when our alfalfa field needs it next! How’s that for a good neighbor?!

The only reason I say “almost paradise” is the mosquitoes that were harassing me today. I suppose they will be gone by the end of the month or sometime next month, though.

This weekend, we worked all day long both days, building fences, preparing the garden, planning and laying out the garden and beginning to plant. EZ was all around handyman working on his mile-long list of chores. We had fun, but the days were long and exhausting.

In contrast, this afternoon, the work seemed easy. We only had a few hours available, after all. I was able to get in a row of various Brassicas I had started and planted another row of squash. The real excitement, however, is that EZ started to get our drip irrigation going. I am so excited about this drip irrigation for the garden! When he laid out a few rows of line and started up the system, I was jumping for joy watching the water drip out along its way. After a couple of days of trying to haul a hose around my 1300 sq. ft of garden, I realize what a time and sanity saver this will be. Plus, it’s drip irrigation! How cool is that?

Well, I am happy and tired and ready to float off to sleep, savoring the deliciousness of this life we have chosen and worked for, but are so very blessed to have.

My view says ‘hi':

Stanny-luv

This is Stanley:

It’s a unflattering picture of him, but this is how we usually see him: barreling full-speed to God only knows what. He’s a German Shorthaired Pointer. He’s one hell of a hunter. He’s one hell of whiner. I’ve never met a dog with more spunk or attitude. He’s loud, brash, smart as a whip, fast, enthusiastic, demanding, head-strong, persistent, cunning and did I mention loud? He’s also a cuddle-bug, empathetic, sweet, genuine and goofy. He’s a love-or-hate kind of dog and I stand firmly on the love (yet sometimes want to strangle) side.

After work today, I took him and his big bro, Barry, out to some BLM land outside of town for a good romp. He tore around as illustrated above, occasionally stopping to point at some bird smell or something. When we got back home, I caught him licking furiously at his paw. I called him upstairs to the bathroom, pulled out some tweezers and had him lay down. I sat down on the floor and he handed over his paw in a way that most dogs would be a little hesitant about. He’s been through much worse–such as a leg and face full of porcupine quills–on several occasions. He had 3 big cactus spines in his paw. I pulled each of them out and inspected his paw for more.

When I was done, he got up and I expected him to scamper out of the room and go play. Instead, he put his head down and pushed the top of it against my chest. I scratched his neck a bit and then he rubbed his head under my chin, slinked against me and plopped down in my lap–all 70 pounds of him. He looked up at me with a face of pure love. This dog, who can be so incredibly challenging sometimes, just slayed me at that moment. It’s times like this that make me such a sucker for this dog.

Sound advice

Through his job, EZ has the privilege of working with and getting to know many ranchers and farmers all over the state. There is one in particular, who runs sheep, with whom he has made friends. Last week, EZ went to do some field work at his place and as they worked, the rancher gave him advice regarding our new ventures. I thought it was all great advice, so I wanted to pass it along.

You have plenty of time. You’re young; you have our whole lives in front of you to attain our goals. You don’t have do it all at once. If you overwhelm ourselves from the start, you run the risk of burning ourselves out. So only add a thing at a time. Once you can handle that easily, think about adding the next thing.

Be 100% ready for the animals before you get them. You should have VERY good fences already built, good quarters for the animals established, and have your research done before you bring anything home.

Start with chickens. See if we really like caring for animals before we dive in.

Don’t get goats. They’re a pain in the ass, he says. I sense a bias here, but what do I know?

Don’t get exotic breeds of sheep. Get Rambouillet or Targhee. He says that these breeds have better flocking instincts and thus try to escape less, tend to be docile, and do well in Western Climates. I had been wanting to get an endangered breed to help protect genetic diversity, but perhaps we should start with easy breeds first, at least.

Don’t overfeed your sheep. He said that that’s the primary reason sheep get sick. He said sheep are very hardy animals if they are fed appropriately.

Don’t rush. You’re young. You have lots of time. Did he already say that?

Gethsemane

Let me preface this entry by saying that I don’t even know if I believe in God anymore; I certainly am not a fixture at any church.  But when I find myself weathering a particularly rough point in my life, I always think of Gethsemane and Jesus’ plight there. Jesus prayed, all alone at Gethsemane, his friends asleep, to be relieved of the pain and death that God had already decided for him. He prayed against the inevitable.

This is where I find Jesus at his most human. We all pray at Gethsemane. We all pray that God or some higher power, or just to the air in front of our faces that they will relieve the inevitable suffering that we have to endure simply as part of being human. We all sit in our darkness alone and plead that the fates be changed. The only difference being that I think few of us mere mortals would say “only as You will it” with true honesty as Jesus did.

There is a song that I think expresses this rather poignantly. It is called “Jesus was an only Son” by Bruce Springsteen. This is part of it:

In the garden at Gethsemane
He prayed for the life he’d never live,
He beseeched his Heavenly Father to remove
The cup of death from his lips

Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you’ll never find in another’s face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached

Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands
Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared.”

This story of Jesus pleading to reverse his fate is such a comfort in my own minor tragedies that still bring me to the garden, pleading. Because, unlike His own time in the garden, I know that I am not alone.

I experimented this morning with making some pancakes I can eat. Here’s what I tried:

1.5 cups Barley Flour
0.5 cup Potato Flour
0.25 cup Tapioca Flour
3 tbsp Arrowroot Flour
2 tbsp oil
Water until it was a decent consistency

Oh man, it was BAD. I have never had anything like it. The inside of these would just NOT cook. At first, I thought I must have just had the heat way too high, but nope. I turned it down enough that they took 15 minutes to still not cook all the way through. It was bizarre. They tasted very, very potato-y, but I’m not sure what type of flour it was that caused the consistency problem. I would suspect the tapioca flour, but it seems like a common part of many commercial wheat free flour mixes. It was awful.

Once I made wheat-free “tortillas” that were much more like pancakes than this. The mix was barley flour and oat flour (which I was out of today). It was more of a “whole-wheat” taste. I’m going to keep trying to get something passable.

Now how did we choke these horrible, potato-y, doughy beasts down? Fruit sauces. Mmmm. I make a habit of freezing fruit in the summer for use in crisps. This morning I made a Huckleberry sauce with the last of my Huckleberries and a Blueberry-Cherry sauce. I just put the fruit in a pan with a little water and a pinch of sugar for the huckleberries and simmer them down to a good consistency. Mmmmm. Drown these gawd-awful things in enough of those sauces and it’s actually darn tasty! Yay for fruit!

The last two days cleared 70 degrees. The day before that was over 60. Today, we won’t even get close to 40! I’m a huge fan of winter and am always sad to see it go, but sometimes spring gets a little ridiculous!

Our buyers did their inspection of our house this weekend and it looks like they’re really going to buy it from us! I guess this is really going to happen. What a relief…

Our latest idea for what we might do with our property, as far a small business venture, is hops. The price of hops is way up right now (to the point that our favorite brewery had to jack up the price of their beer by a quarter a pint). But even when it isn’t, it seems like a decent money-maker for the amount of work involved. We bought rhizomes for 5 different breeds of hops recently. We’ll start those this year and see how they do, which breeds do best, and whether we like it. Maybe someday we’ll ramp up to an acre or more of hops for local breweries or home-brewers. We’ve even been reading up on what it takes to get organic certification.

That’s one of the things I love about this place we’re buying. The options are pretty much only limited to what we have the time, skill and inclination to do. How lucky are we?

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