Saturday, August 22, 2009

Listening to coyotes with my shotgun

It's almost midnight in Texas right now. The coyotes are out in force. I can hear them howling like mad.
Before we had chickens, I never gave much thought to the coyotes and strangely I don't think the howls have every really bothered the girls as they went to sleep before. After I got the call from Luci last year (while I was out of town) telling me that there are wolves in the yard I have paid more attention.
Now I listen for a while. I know they are close to the house tonight because they usually like to leave their, shall we say, droppings in the road just past the cattle guard. The chickens are quiet tonight, so I know if they start clucking and going nuts the coyotes must be in the yard again.
About a month ago, my parents came to visit and my dad gave me the shotgun that he has had forever. I can remember my dad wrapping this 20 gauge Mossberg up in an old orange and black blanket and tucking it into the trunk of our car along with the thirty year old shells whenever we went camping. Growing up in the suburbs, my brother and I found this to be extremely funny because we couldn't possibly imagine any need for a gun. We also figured that the shells were so old they would explode rather than fire properly.
I ditched the old shells at the police station a few days ago and test-fired the shotgun. I had wanted to shoot it as long as I could remember, knowing that it was stashed in the closet, but really couldn't see any reason to actually do so. Now, sitting up listening to the coyotes, waiting to see if they will come and look to see if any chickens are out of the coop, I have a reason to know that my dad's old shotgun works just fine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Luci's most popular creation - Squash Relish

Tasting somewhere between dill relish and sweet relish with just a hint of squash flavor, this relish has become Luci's most popular creation this year. Our two girls love the relish and everyone Luci has given it to has gone through a jar or two on the first night and asked for more.
Our pattypan squash has been just cranking out squash faster than we can eat them, so this is a great way to use the produce overproduction. Besides putting it on a bun with the typical hot dog or sausage, mostly the relish is eaten with beans and cornbread. Kind-of like a not-hot version of chow-chow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Gourd That Ate the World

I think that my yard and garden may be consumed by the dipper gourd we planted.
We planted two kinds of gourds: bottle neck (hoping to make bird houses) and dipper gourds. The bird house gourds took off at first, producing a maybe seven or eight medium-size gourds. Meanwhile, the dipper gourd slowly crept along, not doing much of anything. Until a few weeks ago.
The bird house gourds have died off and started drying out while the dippers have expanded beyond the confines of the garden. I have been moving them from the garden rows back along the fence for several weeks now, but I hadn't realized that they were creeping outside the fence and had begun to climb the small tree that sits about six feet from the garden. The vines have spread out in all directions and seem to be growing at an alarming rate. This picture I took yesterday and today they are visibly larger. I really don't want to pull them out of the tree. I want to see how much they will entwine into the branches.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hunting season comes to the the garden.

Lately, the signs that hunting season is right around the corner have been popping up all over the place.

We're seeing lots of deer on the roads and even a few in the yard--apparently, deer like their peaches and pears straight off the trees.

The neighbors who have a deer lease that borders our property have been out clearing brush and riding their four-wheelers. I had to ask them to move their stands because they had them right at the corners of the property line, about as close to our house as you could possibly get without actually being on our property. (They were very nice about and said they would move everything before the season opened and were clearing some new spots last time I talked to them.)

My wife's cousin called to ask if he could bow hunt out on our place down by the creek. We said of course, I may rifle hunt in the same spot when bow season is over. I think he has another place he goes for rifle season. This is the first year I will have been home during hunting season and I would like to get a deer or two so we could put up the meat. I don't have any interest in hunting for trophy antlers. I want trophy burgers.

Archery Season is from Sept. 27 through Oct. 31; General Season is Nov. 1 through Jan. 4.

So basically, unless I am gonna bow hunt (which I won't) I will have two months to get ready and could take up to four deer. That would be enough to keep us in meat for most of the year, but I will be lucky as a first-timer to get even one. I'm told that as of November 1, deer get pretty crafty.

I think most people don't learn how to hunt on their own. Usually, you learn from your dad or uncle...So I am on my own, as my dad lives in California and hasn't hunted since he was 11 and lived in Oklahoma.

Before we moved to the country, I had a very different image of hunting in general. I had an image of hunting from the movie The Deer Hunter with Robert Dinero, where you drive out into the woods and wander around trying to be sneaky and quiet until you see something to shoot at, or even possibly following the occasional track or two like Daniel Boone. This is not the case. No stealthy wandering here. Nossir. Apparently, folks around here are smarter than Robert Dinero.

Here are some basic steps for hunting in East Texas.

1) Buy a fifty pound bag of dry corn.
2) Pick a spot. Figure out where you think the deer are close by.
3) Pour out some corn so the deer can come get a snack on the spot you picked.
4) Set up somewhere to sit where you can see aformentioned spot. (Best if they can't see you.)
5) Get a weapon: Rifle, Bow or Musket, depending on the season. I also believe there should be a spear season.
6) Get a License. Very important.
7) Repeat steps 1 & 3 until the season begins.
8) Get up before dawn and wait in your seat.
9) When the deer, who are coming to get the snack you so kindly provided, come into view, take aim.
10) FIRE.

To make this experience even better, set up an automatically timed deer feeder that dumps out corn at a specific time. This is like sending out a deer invitation, telling when the party starts every day. You can even set up a night-vision motion-activated deer-cam, to see if deer are actually eating your corn and what time they show up. I'm not kidding. This is totally legal.

This is not the way I thought people went hunting. However, if you are trying to put up some meat to feed a family, this is more effective.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Straight Cucumbers at last

Now in the middle of the summer our garden is winding down. We should be getting lots of tomatoes, but the heat and the bugs did them in. We planted two kinds of cucumbers long straights and short picklers. The picklers have come to the end. They were the most productive of anything we planted. Between what we ate, what Luci turned inot garlic dill pickles and what got fed to the chickens we had more than we could have asked for by far.
At the same time right next to them the long straight cucumbers that we planted barely eeked out at a couple of squat half green half yellow cucumbers. That is until now. For some reason they have finally started to produce nice long straight cucumbers as the picklers are dying.
We had talked about not planting them again, but maybe they are just coming into thier own now.