Oh DEER!

Hunting season is upon us and we have been preparing FCR for hunters! We are looking forward to having our family here for this coming hunting season. I am also out of deer meat in the freezer and I have been craving fresh deep fried back-strap with mashed potatoes and gravy! YUM! (Not on my diet!)

We have been filling deer feeders with corn and antler max since the summer and we are looking for a good harvest this year.

 

We have also been adding some new stands this year. We have three new stands this year and two old ones from previous years. One we have had on our original place and an old one on the new property that we will slowly turn into Chasity’s She Shed for hunting! Because that stand has the best view and they biggest deer on the game camera! LOL. Popi and Baby Seydi have been checking the cameras pretty intently!

game camera photo

This is the new “Big Pond” stand when it was still under construction! It is just up this year! It’s going to be a cozy little hunting spot for someone!

Big pond stand

This is the beginnings of the “Creek Stand” that is now also completed! It is just past the “Willie Nelson Pond.” You know the one you have to get back on the road to get to! Right now we are calling it “1982 Willie Nelson” because the pond is over flowing after all this rain! This summer it was “1990 Willie Nelson” cause it was all dried up and broke!

creek stand

I can’t STAND it when he does dangerous stuff… or worse, makes me do it!

The mesquite stand below was the least dangerous to construct and it turned out great! Can’t wait to see it in use!

mesquite stand

All the hard work seems to be paying off, though. We caught this nice buck on the game camera!

bigbuck2

Hunting and fishing have always been a part of our lives. I remember learning to fish on Lake Murvaul in East Texas at my grandpa’s lake house. My job was to climb the catalpa “catawba” worm tree and throw the larvae down to my grandpa so we could use it as bait. The catawba worm (certomia catalpae) is actually a yellow and black looking caterpillar that turns into a brown looking moth called a hawk moth and the fish love it! Here is a little info on the catawba worm if you like:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratomia_catalpae Although, I am not sure what they are talking about pulling the head off and turning them inside out. We just put them on the hook and BAM!

My husband and I both hopefully have instilled a love of hunting and fishing in our children. I was speaking with one of my step daughters this summer and I asked her if she actually liked hunting. She said “I liked spending time with my dad, he would always make me coffee when we would go.” I then asked my own daughter if she liked hunting with her dad she said “yes, we would eat snack cakes in the deer stand.” LOL. Ok, our kids love their coffee and snacks!

I remember the excitement in the kids’ faces when they would get something! There were so many great memories with the kids.

rabbit

Hunter with his first rabbit. He was so excited! I think he killed it with a bb gun? All I remember was I had to pretend I knew how to cook rabbit because you have to eat it, right?! This was before we had internet at home and you just had to “hop” to it or call someone who knew!

Abby's first deer

Abby’s first deer was a little button buck when she was 10 years old. She had been hunting for a few years before she ever killed one. She was so excited! Now she had to help clean the deer.

Now, she had some “skin” in the game!

Tori fished all day with worms to catch this giant!

tori fishing

We do all these things to be able to get the big buck or big fish but really it isn’t about the size of the deer or fish or whatever, it is about the memories made with family and friends. It is about spending time together with your mom or dad or grandpa or uncle or aunt or whoever. I am so grateful for all the memories we have made! I look forward to making many more memories for years to come. With the recent loss of my grandfather, I hope that one day ALL our children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews will all look back at their time with us and remember the memories we have made both at the ranch and away from the ranch! I want them to remember what they learned from us and what they enjoyed with us.

Prickly – Pearly Making It!

The late summer and good rains have brought a plenitude of Prickly Pear Tunas here at FCR!

PP bush

I have been trying to find as many uses as possible for this beautiful sweet fruit here on the ranch. You have to be quick though before the other animals get to them. I think the deer have been hitting it pretty hard.

eaten PP

I have had several faux pas with this little stickers! I picked them carefully with tongs the first time but still got a few stickers. My second time around I used gloves and tongs and this seemed to work a lot better. Be prepared, though, you will still get a few little stickers or glochids in your skin. They are easily removed however and are only a temporary “thorn in your side.”

 

The color of the fruit ranges from a soft pink to a deep purple color. There seems to be many different varieties here on the ranch. The color doesn’t seem to much affect the flavor. I have made my husband taste about 1000 or more and the sweetness is about the same in the soft pink ones (even better at times) and the deep purple. The thing that does seem to affect sweetness is the tenderness of the fruit, which is hard to tell with tongs but if your tongs break the skin of the fruit then it is usually really sweet. I am pretty good at squeezing them with my fingers now and not getting prickled to death. The sweetest ones are about the tenderness of a ripe plum when you squish it between your fingers.

PP angle

PP bucket

The first batch I made, I burned all the thorns off over an open flame burner. This was very cumbersome doing them one at a time. Prickly Pear is found all over Texas and into Mexico. I was talking with a friend who grew up in Mexico and she kinda laughed at me when I told her I was burning the glochids off each fruit. She said you only have to rub them on the ground and they will come right off. Voila, it worked! The only problem was when I rolled them on the ground with my boot gently, as my husband pointed out, I had cow manure all over my boots. He ate it anyway, BTW!  I found the second batch worked best if I just gently rubbed each fruit with a thick old towel. Still time consuming, but worked better than an open flame for me. Note: put the towel away so your husband doesn’t use it to wipe his hands off later! Uh oh, sorry!

The first batch I made with the skin on just cutting the ends off. They are full of tiny stone like seeds and the meat or mesocarp part of the fruit is relatively small so I thought peeling them would be futile.

PP inside

However, after my first batch of jelly I found out that it was really slimy. Doesn’t really matter that much with jelly because it just makes it come out a little more syrupy than usual. It was still usable for toast and such. It also had an amazing flavor and beautiful golden color when finished.

PP jelly

The second batch I was planning to juice and save for making jelly, syrup or margaritas at a later date. I did not want to have slimy juice, so I decided I would take the seeds out because I thought the slimy consistency was coming from the gel around the seeds inside, similar to tomatoes. While I was doing a little internet research on a way to easily remove seeds, I found a blog post from 2011 by The Pink Cowgirl: http://thepinkcowgirl.blogspot.com/2011/06/prickly-pear-juice.html. In the article she explained the sliminess was coming from the skins, not the seeds. Damn it! I have to peel all these tunas! I got a little overzealous and picked two five-gallon buckets and now I had to peel them all!! It turns out the handy-dandy potato peeler did the job pretty easily.

The next batch of juice was perfect with no slime at all. The juice was relatively easy to make:

  1. Pick fruit
  2. Rub off glochids
  3. Wash
  4. Cut off ends & peel with potato peeler
  5. Quarter fruit
  6. Place in non-reactive pot with small amount of water
  7. Bring to boil
  8. High simmer for about 5 minutes
  9. Mash with potato masher
  10. Strain through cheese cloth after cooled

SIDE BAR: My ex-mother-in-law used to give me vague cooking instructions like this when I was young and newly married. “Chasity- Gravy is just some flour, water and grease.” No measurements or time frames at all given. That is exactly what it tasted like too……. FLOUR……. WATER…….. GREASE! However, this juice is really easy and can be tweaked to meet your needs.

Then you will get this beautiful red juice to use for jelly, drinking juice, cocktails, syrup or any other type of fruit flavoring you need. It has a taste that is similar to a strawberry/watermelon/honeydew melon mix.

PP juice

I like to make treats for the holidays that are homemade so the jelly is a good gift because I think people rarely get homemade items anymore. I hope my family, friends and co-workers enjoy it! If not, I hope they lie and say they did!

I used my juice that day to make an excellent prickly pear margarita. I figured I was owed it after all that hard work. It was delicious and super easy! I just placed the following ingredients into a shaker with ice and poured over a salt-rimmed glass:

  1. 2 oz. gold tequila (ok, 3 oz!)
  2. 0.5 oz. prickly pear juice
  3. 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  4. 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  5. Garnish with lime wedge

PP margarita

Despite all the work involved I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the prickly pears on the ranch. Prickly Pear, I love you too!

PP heart

Pony Up!

Get on back on your horse! That is a lot easier said than done. Anyone that has ever fallen off a horse or been buck off (like me! just kidding I probably fell) knows how difficult that is to do.

I don’t have a specific horse per se but I have one I usually ride “Sugar” because she is old and slow like me! Don’t get me wrong she has some spirit in her and can do the work but she like to be leisure. She is a good horse but she has her moments and quirks like any horse or person I guess. For example, do not tie her to anything because she will break loose. If you just drape the reins over a pole without tying she will not move. I can relate to that {don’t tell me I can’t go somewhere but I am usually content to just stay where I am}.

Well, about a month or so ago I got “bucked off” for the first time. We were going up a embankment and she was trying to run to catch up with another horse and I was pulling her back and she hopped and took off and I lost my balance and fell. I lived– barely! I got back on her right then and rode home without any problems but since then I have been hesitant to ride her. I have been riding another horse because now I trust him more — well in the round pen I trust him. I like riding her and miss it but just could not pull the trigger to ride her out on the ranch.

But, yesterday Farnash Creek Ranch expanded by nearly 1000 additional acres and I was dying to ride the new extension of property. Land just looks different from the back of a horse- ya know! So, I debated all night about which horse I would ride. Rodie who rides like a dream but is quick and touching to an inexperienced rider, Cody who rides good but is young and unpredictable, Cisco who is young, big and fast (just kidding I was never considering him) or try my luck on Sugar again. Before bed I decided it would be Rodie but this morning I woke up and decided I needed to try my luck again with Sugar!

I woke up later than expected so the heat had already set in at 8:30 am. We saddled the horses and a few morning snacks and water.DSCN7145

My husband was encouraging and had more faith in me than I did. He rode her briefly in the round pen to warm her up. Then we were off to explore the new place. We are able to enter the property from the back of the existing ranch property so the horses were comfortable and calm out to the back gate. She was walking slow and leisurely trying to get off the trail but following commands well. Then we hit the new property and she was like a new horse. Her ears were pointed forward looking for everything and anything. She had more pep in her step not quite a trot but a fast walking. She was energized and happy. I was still a little nervous but was enjoying her enthusiasm. My husband calmly talked me through her mannerisms and helped calm us both.  We both enjoyed the new property, thoroughly! She had good tall grass and big ponds to drink from and I had beautiful views and cool breezes. It was amazing!

DSCN7149

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However, on the way back to the barn she was trying to get a little barn sour. She tried to take off on me a couple of times.  My heart was beating fast and I was tense. I was trying so hard to be relaxed! I keep trying to tell myself all the things to do. Be calm, pull to your hip not your head, don’t squeeze with your legs, don’t lean forward, etc. But nothing was working. My husband was in the front and I was trying to not let him see me look like an idiot. LOL.

DSCN7150

Finally, I just stopped and turned her around and made her stand still. I tried to show her who was boss. I’m not sure she bought it but she did walk slowly back to the barn and I felt better about riding her!

When we got back to the barn I did tie her to the trailer which she broke loose from! Ugh. Then she just stood there not tied while I washed her off! Women! I felt more confident about the ride and look forward to moving past the fall. I believe in life we have to face things head on even when we don’t want to and the same is true about getting back on your horse. Don’t miss out on something amazing because of the fear of falling.

-Chas

Hot Damn! I can!

Well the garden is in full swing! We are collecting the fruits of our labor! We have more stuff than we can eat! So, it is time to start canning it up!

I really feel like canning is a lost art and skill! I feel a little nervous every time I do it because I am hoping no one dies from eating this if I don’t follow the step exactly! I am about three years into this and everyone is still living so that is a good sign! This week I worked on canning peppers! My husband likes it hot! Hotter than hot actually.

Last years peppers:

Me: Bryon are they too hot?

Bryon: NO!

(( I look over and he is sweating with hiccups ))

Me: Bryon? Really?

Bryon: What? they aren’t too hot. I just need to remember to use less of them next time!

My son-in-law also likes it hot too! So, I made a batch for him as well! I also threw in some banana peppers for my oldest daughter.

My advice on canning……. 1. Do it! Its a great skill to have! The food taste great fresh and it is so beautiful going into the cans! 2.Research it, we don’t want people getting sick! 3. Be careful and don’t always trust those pinterest recipes for this type of stuff.

 

-Chas

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