What happens when a suburban girl marries a country boy? Craziness, that's what. I have a husband (A.), two sons (Cubby and Charlie), and a MiL. We all live in a very big, very old house we call Blackrock. On our six acres in upstate New York, we have three dogs, a cat, and a fluctuating number of sheep. Welcome to the insanity of Blackrock.
The other morning both Cubby and Charlie unfortunately stumbled downstairs at 5:45 a.m. I myself had just come downstairs and none of us were at our most chipper. Cubby, as is his habit, immediately requested breakfast. I couldn't face turning on the stove and cooking eggs yet, so I spread some peanut butter on rice cakes for them, poured them some milk, and braced myself on the counter to blearily drink my coffee.
Cubby ran to the table, took a look at my breakfast offering, and said, "That's not breakfast. It's not breakfast unless you cook something."
You heard it from the little emperor first: Unless it's a hot breakfast, it's no breakfast at all.* * I must admit that I agree and a breakfast of a banana and peanut butter or cold cereal or something is not the way I prefer to start my day. But at least I cook my OWN breakfast instead of demanding labor from others first thing in the morning, CUBBY.
I am now less than one month from my December 20 due date. I haven't washed the diapers, cleaned and set up the baby's room, or purchased any nursing apparel yet, but I do have two and a half gallons of venison chili in the freezer.
And the world's worst photo to prove it.
Yesterday at 10 a.m., A. retrieved the doe from the barn and got to work. He skinned, cut up, boned, chopped, and browned the entire deer (minus the backstraps and tenderloin, which we panfried for dinner). Then he chopped three pounds of onions and two entire heads of garlic. He dumped in several large cans of tomatoes, I added a large amount of chili powder, cumin, and epazote, and by 7 p.m., we had an enormous pot of chili.
So if you've ever wondered, one doe equals 2.5 gallons of chili. I'm sure that calculation will come in handy for you one day.
A. also made a couple of gallons of stock from the bones. I still have to find room in the freezer for that. And enough jar lids.
Then I need to wash diapers, clean the baby's room, and buy nursing apparel. But at least I have the chili. Priorities.
Because the dogs are wandering around in their deer-offal-stuffed drunken states from the prizes they drag home from the woods and A. is announcing things like this first thing in the morning when he steps outside to get firewood:
"I feel I should warn you there is a lung on the doorstep."
A couple of weeks ago, I finally read Radical Homemakers, by Shannon Hayes. It came out about five years ago, and I have no idea why I never heard of it, because if ever there were a book that I should read, that one was it. The subtitle is "Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture."
Apparently, I'm a radical homemaker. Who knew?
Not radical in the 80's awesome sense (although that too, OBVIOUSLY), but radical in the sense of changing the world. Except it never occurred to me that disgust with consumerism and making my own sauerkraut had any larger purpose. And if I must be honest, that's not why I do things like make my own sauerkraut. Really, I'm just greedy and homemade tastes better.
This book is awesome because it's a book full of instructions for lots of different projects, like making your own soap. Or mustard. Or beer. Or whatever*. This is the reason I currently have a large bunch of sage suspended over the woodstove, drying so I can powder it and mix it with baking soda to brush my teeth. It will no doubt taste disgusting, but sage is apparently good for, in their words, "troubled gums," which I sometimes have, so I figured it can't hurt to try.
Sound weird to you? Then you probably shouldn't read these books. But I think you should. They might make you more radical. In a good way. * Some of it's way too out there even for me--I don't think I'm going to be composting our, ahem, "humanure" anytime soon--but I appreciate their willingness to share it all.
Saturday was the first day of rifle season for deer. In other words, the pressure was on for A. to get his deer. I don't know why he feels this pressure, but he does. The family must have meat, after all. *
He got up at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning to drive 45 minutes to public lands up in the hills. Up, where it is colder. A lot colder. It was about 15 degrees, with a snow cover. He stayed out for about three hours and didn't see a single deer, returning shame-faced (and freezing) to answer in the negative when the children asked if he got anything.
After several hours of jittering around, he decided to go back out around 3 p.m. This time he just walked up back onto our neighbor's property and camped out in the gully. He returned around 5 p.m. dragging a very fat doe.
This is pretty much what he did last year, so I think he's getting the idea that if shooting a deer is the objective, there is very little reason to get up in the dark and cold and drive anywhere. Obviously the hunting is better half a mile from our house.
Charlie in particular was excited about this deer, shouting "Hooray, Daddy!" and subjecting the deer to a minute examination. I like to think I encourage scientific curiosity, but it was still pretty gross to see him poking at eyeballs and pulling on the tongue.
Also gross is how surprisingly long a deer's tongue is. Ew.
So the first deer of the season is now hanging in the barn aging, to be butchered this weekend. Due to my not-very-functional hands at the moment, I will not be participating in the butchering this year. I suggested to A. that he just cut the whole thing up into stew meat and turn it all into a gigantic batch of chili to be frozen.
Is this not how most people go about preparing freezer meals for after the baby is born?
A. has two more tags, meaning he can still take one more doe and a buck. So we could end up with the world's largest supply of chili in our freezer. Works for me. * Joke. We still have quite a bit of our half cow in the freezer, so I think anemia will be held at bay for awhile yet.
What's that? The calendar says it's still fall? Yeah, well, tell the calendar to take a look out my window and shut up. Snow has been falling since about 9 a.m. It didn't start sticking until about an hour ago, though.
Before it started to stick, I loaded the children up in the van to go out to the local orchard to pick up A.'s buckets of apple cider. In the past, we've pressed our own cider that A. has subsequently turned into many gallons of hard cider. But there were no excess apples this year, so A. decided to just buy the sweet cider. He made me promise that I wouldn't lift the five-gallon buckets into the van myself*, lest I damage myself or the other human currently residing in my body. So I had the lady at the orchard carry the buckets to the van for me.
I also bought two ten-pound bags of apples. Cubby carried one. Charlie carried the other. I carried nothing.
Put 'em to work young, I say.
Tonight is the St. Martin's Day celebration at Cubby's preschool. I once again volunteered to bring meat--we eat a lot of meat, so I figured I might as well supply it--and once again, I happened to choose a roast that was all tied up with string. A beef roast this time, which I browned, stuck in a Dutch oven with onions, and left in the oven all day.
Way easier than baking something or peeling potatoes or whatever.
Around 4 p.m., I pulled the meat apart in lieu of slicing, since it had been in the oven so long it was falling apart anyway, doused it in storebought barbecue sauce and dumped it all back into the Dutch oven.
My name is Kristin, and I am a lazy potluck contributor.
But at least I managed to get the string off this time. I'm sure that will be appreciated. * I didn't mention the fact that Charlie, who I must still lift and carry regularly, weighs a lot more than five gallons of cider. I'm okay with being weak if I can get away with it.