Fire Wood and New Things in the Kitchen

Day One of the Preserved Lemon Project

Day One of the Preserved Lemon Project

We left for the farm after breakfast this morning, but earlier than we’ve managed to leave in a while.  We drove up to the cable across the driveway, I twisted the lock to the right combination of letters and it wouldn’t open.  I figured I was being impatient and got back in the car and D. went to try.  With more force than I can muster, he opened the lock, but he also really broke the lock.  For now, the cable is not locked, just secured with a carabiner.

After starting a fire in the wood stove in the shack, and making sure my parents’ buffet warmer could heat our glass container full of enchiladas, left over from last week, we gathered a few tools and took the utility sled down to one of the fallen oak trees.  D. set to work with the chain saw cutting lengths that will fit in the stove.  I loaded the sled and hauled it up the hill, then down and then up another hill to get it where it was going.  On the first load, I figured I could have gotten more wood in the sled, but if I had, I couldn’t have pulled it up hill, especially where all the snow is melted.  After I dumped my load, I looked up and saw a pair of hawks floating and circling past the tree where we were working and I watched them float past the tree line where the hawk nest was last year.  I’m nearly certain they are the same hawks and I sure hope they’re checking out the real estate and that they’ll raise more hawklets there this year.  (I know the term is eyasses, but come on!)

I didn’t try so hard with the next load and the third load was our last.  That wood will see us through for the days we spend there for the rest of the winter.  I’m pretty sure we won’t stay overnight until March.

After lunch we moved on to the orchard and clipped water sprouts from the trees and cut some other branches that cross and rub and some just plain dead wood.  Orchard work was harder going.  Up on the hill, we were in the sun, but exposed to the wind in a way we were not cutting firewood in the valley and the work also isn’t quite as strenuous, so that doesn’t help with the keeping warm either.  We did a fair amount of work on one of the trees and took a break for some hot chocolate when our hands just couldn’t take it anymore.

Then we took a walk.  We missed our walk last week.  Deer and raccoons have been nearly everywhere.  At one point, though, on the crusty snow, I saw a track that I was pretty sure was coyote, so I started tracking it backwards.  Sure enough, it led close to the coyote den where there were lots of tracks and there was a hole in the snow over the den.  There was also a second depression in the snow near the den.  I walked over to it and I noticed blood.  D. was standing a few feet away from me and asked me if it was a raccoon.  Indeed there was a partially eaten raccoon at the bottom of that hole.  Back around deer hunting season, before the snow, I’d noticed a dead raccoon there, but I’d forgotten about it.  I don’t know if it just died there or if the coyotes had killed it and stored it near their den.  I don’t know nearly enough about their behavior.  I do know I shouldn’t walk back that way at night.  This past summer, I walked past the little barn on the hill and up to the next fence line to look at the sky away from the yard light.  I sensed something near me and that something in the dark produced a growl ending in a little bit of a yip.  I said to the dark, “Get away from me!” and saw it run north and its coyote tail illuminated in the moonlight.  So no more walking alone out that way after dark, unless I want to be armed and can make a commitment to being sure of what I might shoot.  It’s just easier not to go there.

All the way toward the back of the land, we found that a few of the small red oak trees, bent over by the heavy snow a few weeks ago had returned to upright with the recent melting.  We found many tracks.  Deer, rabbit, raccoon, coyote.  Seems everyone had been back that way.  At the back, we talked briefly about where to concentrated on buckthorn and multiflora rose and then we walked back into the wind, closed the barn down for the day and packed up for the ride home.

On the civilized front, a few new things have happened in the kitchen.

1)  Venison Liver Pâté  Make this if a deer liver ever falls into your hands.  The liver will go further, and to me at least, this is much more palatable than just frying liver.

2) Sprouting mung beans  We’re just on day two of sprouting and our house isn’t very warm, but this is easy, cheaper and more convenient than buying sprouts if you can plan ahead just a little.

3) Polenta Cake with Lemon and Olive Oil  I made this so that we could eat it with a rhubarb blueberry fruit compote, in order to get a giant blueberry ice chunk out of the freezer.  We’ve also eaten it with cranberry cherry sauce.  I followed the recipe other than using whole milk soured with lemon juice to achieve the acid component instead of the reduced fat butter milk which I would never really buy.

4) Preserved lemons  I can’t wait another 27 days to make some really good Moroccan food.  Look here or here for directions.

As winter goes on, we’ll continue demolition and salvage of the small barn and orchard pruning.  On the home front, we’ll need to concentrate on eating carnival squash, probably at the rate of two squash a week to get it gone before it isn’t any good.  I know I could roast it and freeze it, but then I’d have to store it and by then there might be something better to eat anyway.

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