Sunday, 22 June 2014

You Know It's Going To Be A Rough Day When...

Children are interesting.

A few weeks ago we went to the spring poultry auction. It was a real sellers market, and prices were crazy so we didn't come home with much - Three polish chicks, a runner drake, a pair of cochins, a few rabbits and my sad, sad looking rooster. They put him up on the auction block, and he'd clearly had a rough go so far in life...Back of his neck all picked out, bloodied up wings...I'm really not sure how he got approved for auction, quite frankly. Anyways, I felt bad for him so for $2 I brought him home.

My sympathies quickly ended when we discovered that he was viciously violating my cochin hen, and eating all her eggs. That was when the Junior Outdoorsman proposed that we chop his head off and eat him, which the Outdoorsman was happy to oblige. She held his feet down while the deed was done, and declared the resulting soup the best soup she ever had. Apparently, the death of this rooster was no big deal.

Then this morning, she came to tell me a bird had flown into our front window and was lying on the walkway. She went and got it and we put it in a hamper in the kitchen, but it quickly became apparent that it had broken its wing and this was not simply a case of recovering from being stunned. The Outdoorsman had just finished a night shift and was sleeping, leaving me the only one to figure out what to do.

I reached the conclusion that the kindest thing to do would be to put it out of its misery immediately and return it to nature to provide a free meal to something else, rather than leave it to suffer any longer. You know it's going to be a rough day when you start off your morning by having to execute a little bird. It hurt my soul.

Anyways, even though I didn't make her watch, the Junior Outdoorsman has found the whole thing deeply traumatic and has spent the morning moping around. Apparently holding a full sized rooster down while your dad chops its head off and it flops around spraying blood anywhere is totally fine (and delicious!) but a little bird quickly exiting the world in a much less icky way is the worst thing that has ever happened.

Sometimes I think I'm going to have huge therapy bills to pay one day.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Interesting Barbecue Additions

Wild TV (the hunting channel) always provokes interesting conversation around our household. One day, we were watching a show where they were hunting squirrels - Which of course got us talking about why one would ever want to hunt a squirrel in the first place, which culminated in me making the statement that if someone cooked me a squirrel, I would try it. I'll try just about anything once.

Of course, never make a statement like that that you aren't prepared to back up, because didn't the Outdoorsman just decide to take me up on that and put one in the freezer for me to try at my leisure. So, yesterday we had some company over and we had the barbecue going anyways, so I thawed it out and threw it on. We throw classy parties like that out here in the sticks.

We forgot the before pictures, but here be the remnants after. A couple of notes - The obvious would be that one squirrel does not have a lot of meat on it. Six adults and one kid sampled it (everyone present EXCEPT the Outdoorsman, because apparently he's not that redneck...Figure that out) and surprisingly reviews were generally favourable. But seriously, if you wanted a meal out of them, you would need like 15 dead squirrels. Taste wise, it was kind of like dark meat chicken, no particularly strong flavour of any kind - It pretty much fits into that "if you put it in front of me I'd eat it but I wouldn't go out of my way to get it" category.

And there we have it. Number 492 on the list of things I never in a million years thought I'd say - I ate a squirrel.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Always Read The Fine Print

Long time, no blog. I'll try to get around to posting some of the fun we've been having over the last year, but in the interim I have a public service announcement.

It's no secret I like eating all sorts of strange things found outside, so with spring...Springing? I was excited to get outside and try some of the daylilies that grow right outside my back door, as I only recently discovered they were edible. According to various sources, the shoots are fabulous raw or sautéed, and the tubers are amongst the best available in one's backyard.

Daylily tubersWell, it turns out these various sources are correct - They are good! Great, in fact. I dug up a little clump, cooked them up and got rave reviews from my daughter, who is my usual partner in crime in these things since the Outdoorsman is not very adventurous in his dining. Plants are what food eats, in his world.

All my references on the subject had a brief mention to proceed with caution because (as with all things) a small percentage of people might have a reaction. So we ate a few, and set the plate aside. A short while later, I began to feel a little funny. Junior outdoorsman felt fine. A little while later I still felt not quite right. Junior outdoorsman still felt fine. A little while later, I had to, shall we say, make a visit. While there, I decided to Google exactly what sort of reaction one might have.

As it turns out, apparently daylily can act as a mild laxative in some people. I beg to differ. Mild is the understatement of the century. They should sell this stuff in a pharmacy, from behind the counter. Junior outdoorsman continues to swear she is fine and is annoyed with me asking, so perhaps I am indeed the minority - But consider it a reminder about the importance of bring fully informed before eating anything unfamiliar.

And on that note...I have to go. Immediately. Tell my parents I love them.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Close Encounters of the Skunk Kind

It has recently been brought to my attention that I am a terrible blogger (i.e. I frequently get wrapped up in life outside the computer, forget I have a blog, and don't post on it). On the bright side, this means people actually read this and miss me!

So, what to tell you about, what to tell you about...

Ah, here's one!

So, as you know, we have chickens. And ducks and goats and so on and so forth. We got even more birds at the spring auction, but apparently I failed to document that adventure. It lacked the excitement of last fall anyhow. Anyways, one day we noticed the hens had suspiciously stopped laying. And then the next day, we noticed that a duck was missing. And then the next day, another duck. And then my adorable fluffy silkie named Elvis. And then Elvis' wife. Here they are by the way:
White silkie chicken pair
Aren't they adorable? I'm apparently not destined to own silkies. 
At this point, we were at a loss as to what was going on - There was no visible way in or out of the coop, and we had no idea where they were going. Clearly, our chickens were being abducted by aliens.

At least, that's how it appeared until we went over the coop again and a spot of blood led us to a hole dug under a section of old coop, leading to a tunnel that contained the dismembered remains of our feathered friends. In case you are curious as to how we could have missed this, our chicken shed has been built and dismantled and rebuilt on the fly multiple times to accommodate our impromptu bird purchases, which has led to some bizarre architectural elements that allow for a hole to remain invisible to the untrained eye. 

We blocked up the hole, but it remained a mystery what exactly had been sneaking in. That is, until the next day, when we spotted him - A skunk. The Outdoorsman set out to get rid of him, but alas, he escaped. Still not convinced he was the culprit, we looked up skunks and their chicken eating habits. Turns out, they will steal eggs (the hens didn't stop laying after all) and "occasionally" attack a chicken. Well, turns out, it's not occasionally - This skunk had an appetite. And not a cheap one either...He ate the most expensive birds we had. We set live traps, and hoped for the best.

So the next day we are all packed up and ready to go to soccer practice when the Outdoorsman spied a little puff of black and white fur lurking by the shed. He elected to stay behind while I took our daughter to practice in order to try and ensure he could take down the skunk before he got to any more of our birds.

No sooner than I had arrived at practice and sat down did I receive a text indicating that the deed was done. Followed in rapid succession by "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY I HIT IT IN THE STINK SACK!" Turns out the Outdoorsman did not change the choke on his shotgun, and the shot pattern was a little wider than he intended - A head shot became a bit of an everywhere shot.

Returning home about an hour later we were within about 3 kms of our house when that unmistakable odour started wafting into the car. Surely, I thought, this must a separate instance of roadkill nearby - There is no way this is coming from my house.

Oh, how I wish I was wrong.

Never in my entire life have I ever smelled something so foul. And worse yet, ALL the windows in my house were open when that stink bomb went off, so there was no where to escape. We lit every scented candle we had, let loose three cans of air freshener - Nothing helped. It smelled like skunk co-mingled with flowers, vanilla, fresh linen, tropical breeze and every other scent we had on hand - In short, AWFUL.

Disturbingly, when we had originally pulled in the driveway the scent had been intertwined with what smelled like hot dogs. It was enough to make you a little bit hungry, despite the other, more powerful smell. Sadly, around here I know to never cave to the desire to say that something smells good until you know the source. Seeing a bonfire going and putting two and two together, I bit my tongue - The hot dog smell was burning skunk carcass. Ick.

But I digress. The scent dissipated from the house within 24 hours or so, but the chicken shed required a hazmat suit to enter for about two weeks. Sometimes when I go in there I still get a faint whiff.

So remember kids: Don't shoot a skunk in the stink sack, and if you must, shut your windows first.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Introducing...The Goats! Plus, Our Goat Medical Scare

You may recall that for the longest time, I have really wanted goats. Well, it seems I forgot to mention - We got them. Two in fact. You'll see three pictured below, but the little gray one in the background we promptly traded away after we got him because he's the black one's baby, and we didn't want him growing up and trying to breed with mommy. Apparently goats don't care, but I do.
Backyard pygmy goats

Front and center there is Gilbert the goat (this is a bad picture, he's really adorable!), and the black one in the background is Molly. Their names came about because I named the wee one Gilbert, and after I did so the Outdoorsman inquired as to how I thought our friend Molly Gilbert would feel about that. I hadn't made the connection, but when the female came along the obvious answer was to name her Molly so they would match. For the record, she's fine with it - I might even say thrilled.

So far they haven't showed any musical talent like the goats I posted about, but it seems they are significantly more of a handful than I intended. One day a few weeks ago Gilbert the goat started acting a little funny, and wobbling around a bit. We attributed it to the crazy heat we had that day, but he just got worse the next day.

By the time we found a vet that would actually see a goat (75 kms away) he had deteriorated to the point where he couldn't stand on his own and had clearly gone blind. Having done a lot of reading while I was seeking a vet, we figured out he more than likely had goat polio, which is a thiamine deficiency that can come about from just about anything that could throw off digestion - Changes in weather, feed, ate something that didn't agree with him, etc. It causes brain damage, and the only way to solve it is to get some vitamin B1 injected in them immediately, or they're pretty well doomed to die.

And so, for two hours at the vet the very nice lady (who admittedly doesn't see goats often/ever) tried giving him ultrasounds and running all sorts of other unnecessary tests...Until she finally realized we knew that we were talking about and came around to our point of few that he really just needed vitamins, badly. She handed us a pile full of needles and sent us on our way with instructions to inject him around the clock.

I don't like needles. At all. But I can now say I have officially administered all kinds of subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, which we can also add to the list of things I never in my life thought I'd be doing. We can also throw in feeding a goat with a turkey baster every hour and mopping up his waste approximately 20 minutes later. Yeah. Ever had a sick goat on your kitchen floor? I have!

See, "they" (and by "they" I mean the internet") would have you believe that goats will perk back up within a few hours of beginning treatment and that was supposed to be a very temporary arrangement. I can safely say that's not exactly the case. Gilbert got his eyesight back within an hour or two of his first dose, and I thought he was well on his way to perking back up. But then next day he was pretty much the same - No movement, convulsions, not eating on his own, just a sad state. The next night he picked his head up a little, but he still couldn't stand. We really thought we were going to have to put him down; however, it was a Friday before the long weekend, and even though it would be three more days before we could arrange for that we weren't ready to give up just yet.

I guess he must have heard us discussing it on the phone with the vet, because that afternoon we finally started seeing progress. We had him out on the lawn while we cleaned up the pee inside for the 400th time, and he got up on his back legs with his face and front legs still planted on the ground and did a little three step scoot and fell down again. But then a few minutes later he got up completely and made it a few more steps before collapsing. And then next try a few more. And then soon enough he was making it so far he was running off into the bush and we had to put him back out in the goat pen so he wouldn't get lost in the woods. By the next day, he was pretty much back to normal! Miracle goat recovery!

So there we have it. I have goats. AND I can now add diagnosing goat illnesses and administering veterinary medicines to my resume - Though I'm not sure how handy that will be in the accounting world.

Disclaimer: That still doesn't make me a vet, nor should any of this constitute veterinary advice. For the love of god, if your goat is falling down, see a vet.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Don't You Hate It When Your Husband Leaves Severed Heads On Your Lawn?

Remember when I talked about taxidermy soup and the ridiculous home taxidermy project the Outdoorsman undertook at my behest?

Well, it seems I find traces of my husband's crazy in all kinds of places. I was undergoing the monumental task of sorting and cataloguing a decade's worth of digital photos, and I came across this lovely photo that reminded me of something. (GROSS WARNING!)

(EDIT: Image removed because it doesn't comply with the violence and gore policy of certain programs to which I am subscribed. Turns out they don't think I should have had to deal with this either)

It seems I forgot a key detail of that story - As you may recall, he had left for a multi-day hunting trip and left me with the project of tending to his garbage can full of stinky bear hide. What I forgot is that at the same time he accidentally left the meaty skull of said bear laying next to our porch in the yard.

At the time we didn't live in the country like we do now, so we had neighbours. Lots of them. In very close, "reach out and touch your neighbour's house" type proximity. To be honest, I didn't notice he left it there for the first day or two, I just thought the dog was showing an unusual interest in the area because of a squirrel or something.

Of course, being in direct line of sight of one of the neighbour's windows, I'm sure they noticed sooner than I. If they hadn't, they probably began to take note as the flies set in - At least, that's when I noticed. Frankly I'm surprised the neighbours didn't call the police when they spotted it - From the angle of their house it looked vaguely human. Trying to avoid an incident I was of course obliged to handle it myself in the Outdoorsman's absence.

And so, in the fashion that is the true spirit of this blog, I found myself outside with a shovel and a trashbag trying to lift this thing into the bag and dispose of it without actually having to touch it.

Of course, one would think once it was in the garbage bag that would be the end of it - Nay nay. A quick call up to the hunt camp informed me that I was then supposed to take it downstairs, empty part of my deep freezer of "normal food" in order to make room for this thing. Because APPARENTLY when the Outdoorsman returned he intended to put it in a pot on my stove and boil the meat off to preserve the skull.

Which to his credit, he did - Though probably not in the time frame in which I would have preferred to return my freezer to its intended food storage purpose.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Adventures in Foraging

It's a known fact that last fall I developed an interest in eating weird stuff from outside - It all started because I wanted to know if a particular kind of berry we had growing along our trail was edible, and I ended up buying some books on edible wild plants. Turns out, there's all sorts of fun stuff you can eat! Of course, the book didn't have the berry in it, so I'm still stumped on that point - But a fun new hobby came out of it.

Last fall, we tried milkweed shoots - Not really the season for them, but as it turns out because the Outdoorsman mowed some of them down with the lawnmower, we got a few little ones springing back up out of season. Pretty tasty! We also managed to squeeze in cattail laterals (pretty good!) and sumac tea (awful!) before the snow hit, but that was about it.

So with spring came the chance to try all sorts of other things out of the book. My daughter is my partner in adventure, and she's generally willing to go out and try some weird things with me. I'm constantly amazed in her faith that I am not going to poison her.

Fiddlehead fernsFirst up was the search for ostrich fern fiddlehead - We looked high and low and came up with nothing. In a bit of a slight against the whole "finding things in nature" premise, I gave up and went to Canadian Tire and bought myself the plants so I could have my own source next year. But then wouldn't you know it, the Outdoorsman went out and found me some. Sort of. Turns out they aren't ostrich ferns, but they are edible. I guess. I mean, you can eat them and all, but they're not that great. Maybe next year we'll find real fiddleheads in time! That, or I'll just get them at the grocery store.

Milkweed shoots
After that disappointment it was back to the old standby, milkweed. These things are DELICIOUS. It's like asparagus, but it's not stringy and it doesn't make your pee smell funny. Amazing. Seriously. Go find some. Boil/steam them. Eat them. Love them. But of course, make sure you actually know what you're picking first.
Dandelion "noodles"Next we figured we'd try dandelion, given that it's easy to spot and pretty prolific across our lawn. Having tried the leaves in salad, we already ruled that one out as being worthwhile. But the book suggested some people boil the stems and make noodle-type things out of them with a little salt, and we figured we would give it a go. Apparently, those some people are crazy - It's still gross.
Dandelion crowns
 So we also tried digging out the crowns - Slightly better, but still gross.

Preparing dandelions for wineThe next best suggestion the book had for dandelions was wine. THIS I could get on board with. At least I thought so. I figured that since it takes so long, why start small - I was going to do a full 5 gallon carboy worth. Clearly I had no real understanding of just how much 15 quarts of dandelion petals is. About 12 hours of petal picking later I was about ready to give that idea up, but we persevered.

Dandelion wine mustOf course, it only got better when we had everything prepped and poured boiling water over the petals to soak - It smelled FOUL. Like, decomposing mushroom kind of foul.  I was not encouraged.

Fortunately after their obligatory 48 hour soak, I strained them off and added some sugar and fruit, and the result was a lemony syrup with a certain je ne c'est quoi (except I do, it's dandelion). I can see the potential - But I guess we'll find out in about a year whether this experiment was a success or not.

Now, you might consider all of this kind of crazy - But let's be honest. When the zombie apocalypse comes, you all know whose door you will be knocking on. Between the Outdoorsman and his penchant for killing animals, and my ability to find you some edible vegetation, we kind of have dining in a post-apocalyptic world covered off. ;)