Monday, November 21, 2011

Enjoying our Second Fall on the Farm

We have really been enjoying our second fall on the homestead but its been busy. We still have a very active fall garden, we have been cutting wood, hunting season has arrived, and I took a part time job as a jailer at the county jail.

There is just something special about the crispness of the fall air, the excitement of the hunting season and the anticipation of the holidays that we enjoy. We change our meals to more stews and soups, Holly makes her various fall dishes that I look forward to each year and when hunting season hits this entire area takes a break for awhile and concentrates on filling the freezer. I thoroughly enjoy the whole aspect of hunting; I like the camaraderie of rural areas during hunting season, I really like to shoot (but we shoot weekly all year long anyway), but most of all I like the fact that the hunting season gives you an excuse to get off your rear and get into the woods. Deer hunting in particular requires you to sit quietly and observe whats around you and if you havent experienced the joy of sitting in a tree stand and watching and listening to the forest happenings I highly recommend it. For us, hunting is an important part of our food production and we have a profound respect for the animals that we harvest.

As for the new job, it doesnt pay much but it will pay for a few extras and its only a couple days a week. Its an old fashioned "grey bar hotel" with dismal cells and like most facilities of that type it strips a persons dignity and is a pretty grim place. Rural areas everywhere often have significant drug problems and endemic poverty but the Midwest and South seems to be leading the charge and regardless of what the actual crimes are, they mostly relate to the persistent poverty of this area and some of the dynamics are truly pitiful. The contrast between the reality of this job and our admittedly privileged life on the farm is actually shocking and for me it has brought things into perspective. For many people a job like that is vital to put food on the table while for me its more of a lark (though I take the job seriously) and any money earned is mostly just to pay for a few toys and something special now and again for the person I adore the most...Holly. Imagine working hard for a whole day and only earning enough money to fill up your gas tank one time. The simple answer is if you dont want to end up in jail dont comit crimes; the reality is a bit more complex.

But how can you not like the fall? We are all avid football fans and have a betting pool each week, we are outdoors most of the time year round but fall temps are moderate here, you cant beat coming in from the cold and feeling the warmth of a wood fire and the smells of a savory stew, and one of the great joys of life has to be getting in to bed in a cool room with a good book and someone you care about cuddling close......and of course the holidays......
We are still harvesting carrots, raddishes, lettuce, chard, herbs, spinach, etc.

Our greenhouse is filled with tomatoes and otherpersonal use crops we could not otherwise grow at this time of year.

Its nice to go our and cut yourself a salad...

We planted these Viburnums for their summer foliage but man the fall colors and the berries that get enjoyed by the birds are even more enjoyable. We try to plant so that each season has color and either habitat or forage for the wildlife we enjoy and we are trying to follow the recommendations of the Missouri Department of Conservation. Missouri has a unique and nationwide leading place in wildlife conservation and we actively pursue ways to improve our land to attract and sustain the wide variety of animals we are lucky to enjoy. 

Holly is often seen with Bandit doing some chore around the farm and her little tractor gets used year round.

While Chrs' and my garden tractors are in the shop for the winter and awaiting the various projects we have planned for them. I anticipate many a winters day happily wrenching on these and working on other projects that have stacked up over the summer. I dont understand how people can be bored....there just isnt enough time in each day for me to be bored.

Its very satisfying to go out and harvest your vegetables for a meal....and they taste so much better than store bought...even carrots.

Judy has been busy making quilts for sale. This is one she put in our spare bedroom to showcase it that she made for a client. I have always had a keen appreciation for the arts and particularly things that are crafted to be both aesthetically pleasing as well as utilitarian. She really does beautiful work in the old way and I would rather have one quilt made by a craftsman than 15 plasma TVs made on an assembly line.

One of the enjoyable aspects of hunting season is all of the rituals that go into it. The careful placing of tree stands, the preparation of food plots, the zeroing in of the hunting rifles. Holly got a new Savage 110 in 30-06 with the Accutrigger and it was almost spot on right out of the box. We zeroed them at a friends farm and it was an enjoyable day.

We zero at 100 yards and Holly is almost as good of a shot with a rifle as I am (and she is a pistol ace)...gotta love a woman sho likes to shoot competetively. I am now trying to get her to lift weights with me....I have no doubt we will soon be competing there too!!

The Savage 110 is a great platform in several calibers (though a little crude finish wise) and I initially was looking at a .243 for her but she used to fire my 300 Win Mag and we both decided that since the 30-06 is such a versitile caliber we would go with that and we are very pleased with that decision. The Bushnell scope on this packaged rifle isnt the best but its certainly functional for the price and is a good all round deer and wild hog rifle. Please note the hearing protection used by Holly and Chris as the spotter. In my early years in the Marine Corps hearing protection wasnt emphasized like it is now and I suffer from severe hearing loss from years of shooting and as a result of an explosion that ruptured an ear drum; I am very careful to preserve whats left of my hearing and the hearing of those around me. The hearing loss sneaks up on you over time...dont take it lightly.

The girls have taken to hanging out in the barn yard now that its colder and they are very vocal when its feeding time.

I wont spoil Chris' story on how he got this deer but he had to work so Holly and I had to gut, skin and butcher this large doe.

It was dark and cold outside so we trussed it up in the old rock garage using a block and tackle from our wire fence stretcher and went to work. The backstraps from this well fed doe were the largest I have seen in quite some time and we got a lot of meat off this animal.

Holly isnt squeamish over things like this but I have to mention that even Judy helped and didnt shed even one tear!!

We got 4 packages of backstrap medallions (enough to feed all of us for 4 meals), 5 roasts, and a ton of stew meat. I am already savoring pan fried medallions in a red wine reduction with peppercorns and a little rosemary.

Tonight when we were checking the fence line with the ATV this rabbit ran out in front of us and I had to harvest it with the .22 rifle I have had since I was about 8 years old. It was raining, cold and almost dark and the shot was taken by line of sight without using the scope or sights. This rifle is like an old friend and using it is instictive. We love rabbit meat and we are tanning the hide for a neighboring farm wife who makes art projects from the fur. Nothing goes to waste on the animals we harvest.

Cleaning a rabbit is certainly easier than a deer and we enjoy the feeling of having a freezer full of turkeys, quail, dove,  deer, and rabbits. As the food supply worldwide becomes more and more uncertain and as prices continue to climb being able to secure such a ready source of protein is an important skill. Deer and rabbits are over populated in many areas of the country (such as ours) and harvesting them in a sustainable way actually is beneficial to the overall health of the species....and they sure taste good!!

We also have a couple cords of wood cut in the round waiting to be split to add to our previous wood cutting efforts. This area is blessed with abundant wood for the effort of cutting it and you cant beat the exercise.

Rain or shine we have farm chores to do but for the most part they are an enjoyable part of each day. The cattle have learned that in the evening we will be feeding them and they gather by the gate and bellow until we comply with their demands. Maybelle actually will hardly let us through the gate and she has to have a treat of a few range cubes before Holly can get to their feed trough. Rose the farm dog keeps patrol to make sure no cow or horse ever gets through the gate even if we leave it wide open. The herding insticts of these dogs is amazing.

Burning trash is another weekly chore we enjoy. We compost all vegetable matter, and most kitchen debris except meat (our composting operation isnt big enough yet to get hot enough to compost meat) and burn most cardboard and paper. What little we have collected in trash once a week is mostly plastic and glass which isnt readily recyclable in this area due to the low population density and distance to recycling centers. We have no neighbors nearby so burning isnt an issue for us  in that regard and its just part of living in rural Missouri.

We have also found that Holly's 4 wheeler is way more than a toy. It gets used several times per day to feed the animals, haul small things (and sometimes not so small things), we check fence lines with it, we use it to hunt, and the low impact it has on our land is a huge plus for us. Its truly the modern day utilitarian horse and we will soon be getting another one.

And finally, Holly uses the hay we baled a couple months ago from our pasture to feed the cattle and cover her crops during cold weather. The hay in turn will decompose and put vital nutrients into the garden soil or in the case of the cattle feeding on it they produce manure that also places vital nutrients back into the soil. Its all part of a cycle we have come to understand and embrace.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adventures in travel and the NFL

The week before last we got the opportunity to travel to Knoxville Tennessee to attend our oldest son's graduation from Air Force NCO school. It was a great time, beautiful scenery, hardly any traffic other than going through Nashville and when we got to Knoxville, and we got to see our daughter in law Stephanie as well as an old buddy from the Army and OIF days who switched to the Air Force and was going to the same school. We came back to the farm for a day then headed up to Kansas City for a Chiefs game that our son treated us was a fun filled and busy week.
 The school was at an Air National Guard base in Alcoa which is right outside Knoxville. It was mild weather and the base itself was pretty nice but really busy.
 Jay and Stephanie make a great couple, we just are waiting for them to transfer to Oklahoma so they can be closer. Jay prefers his flight suit but I think the military needs to get back to wearing their dress uniforms more often.
 Quite the outfit isnt it?
 We came back to the farm for a day before going to Kansas City for the game. We mostly relaxed from the long drive and caught up on some chores.
 All the kids like the animals. We never really had any when they were little because we moved so much and its one of my biggest regrets.
They came right up to Jay and almost wouldnt let him get the feed into the trough.
 NFL Games are truly events. Here the cheer leaders are welcoming the Kansas City players. When the Dolphins came onto the field they played Flipper.
 We had nose bleed seats but we were at the 35 yard line and had a great view of the game right below the announcer booth. If you ever do get to go to an NFL game bring lots of money, even bottled water was $5.
 This is KC Suzie....I'll just leave it at that without further comment!!
 It was 19 years ago almost to the day that I had promised Jay I would take him to a Chiefs game (we were stationed in Kansas City at the time) and about 2 days after buying tickets I was pulled off independant duty and sent to Somalia. We never did get to a game and so this trip meant a lot to both of us. We shall do it again.

It was military appreciation day and there were several nice tributes including to some severely wounded Soldiers attending the game. It always makes me feel sick when I see so many young people who are missing limbs, severely burned or psychologically affected by their service. The crowd was great to these guys and when they played a tribute that showed the photos of all the fallen from the surrounding area, and that tribute kept scrolling for 10 minutes with picture after picture of young men and women lost in the last ten years it was hard not to be affected.

 And the game was fun to watch even though Kansas City lost to the previously winless Dolphins.
 Luckily, we had a good view of the Jumbo Tron so we didnt miss the closeups of the cheerleaders...I mean football game.

And Holly really, really loves football. She had never been to an NFL game and she had a blast but she kept getting the crowd riled up over a Dolphins fan sitting in front of us. Poor guy!