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

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

Lettuce Begin…..

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”- Audrey Hepburn

Our garden at Farnash Creek Ranch (FCR) has started to produce and we have began harvesting several of our meals. We love this time of year when you can go out to the garden and pick your dinner. The spring garden is in full swing. We have a total of four garden patches this year so we can beef up our rotational gardening program. Garden #1 is planted in peas and beans primarily to replace the nitrogen depleted by last years crop. Garden #2 is coming along nicely but not producing, yet. Garden #3 is where the action is happening right now and the one I will highlight  today. Garden #4 is still in progress but I better hurry up and get my stuff in the ground because it is getting late.

First, I would like to give a little props to that fall spinach plant that produced for us all winter even through a few pretty good frosts. It was still growing when I was planting for the spring. For a new gardener wanting to try out a few plants – spinach is easy to grow and is very versatile. We eat it raw in salads and also cook it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It grows well in containers and keeps growing after it is picked. I would suggests when planting in pots to use good quality potting soil such as miracle grow potting mix. I bought the cheap stuff one year and it turned into rock soil in the pots. Secondly, speaking from experience, there is a big different between potting mix and garden mix but the bags look exactly the same. Make sure it is potting mix.

The spring garden has really took off well after much planning and cultivating. Garden #3 has lettuce, cabbage, kale, yellow squash, cucumbers, few interspersed onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. The garden is flagged by dill and marigolds in an attempt to ward off pests.  The first thing produced was a ton of lettuce. Literally, one ton! Ok, almost a ton. This year we really concentrated on companion planting and staggered planting to keep a steady harvest and minimize pests. The lettuce loves it. I have had zero damage (knock on wood) to my lettuce from pests. I planted marigolds at the ends of the rows which I think was very beneficial or maybe our pests haven’t found them yet. Shhhhhh……. We planted butter lettuce and romaine lettuce. The butter lettuce was from seeds started in the ground and it is loving our alkaline soil! I think it is the softest most palpable lettuce I have ever put in my mouth! The romaine lettuce I started in pots and it is growing but slowly- I think my pot selection may have been too small. Luckily, we will be eating butter lettuce until the cows come home. Well really longer than that since the cows are home actually. Note, if you have not invested in a salad spinner please do so. The little device allows me to keep lettuce up to 2 weeks.

lettuce

Lettuce move on to another lettuce like plant. The Kale! The Kale has been the beauty of the garden! It is so vibrant and colorful with burst of deep green and purples. We have a little Dinosaur Kale and a ton of Red Russian Kale. This plant is also very versatile, healthy and has multiple uses. We eat it raw or cooked. This week I experimented with Kale Chips! They were delicious. This is a good healthy snack for us late night snackers! Even my son liked them. Maybe he is turning over a new leaf (he he he) since he has a brand new baby boy. May I introduce, our newest grandbaby at FCR. Holden Harrison:

Holden

Now, back to Kale. This too is an easy plant for beginners. We planted in the ground this year from seeds and they have done really well. They grow fast and are low maintenance. I have also planted some in pots and they have done really well. Although, this year the plants in the ground seem to be doing better. I have had problems in the past with not having enough to last us throughout the season. However, this year I may have over planted. So, tell me if I can send you some Kale! Also, the salad spinner works well for this too or a lettuce keeper.

LET’S GET TURNIP! These turnip greens are out of control and I love it! I have thinned them twice and was able to have a huge harvest just from thinning. The leaves were young and tender which tasted amazing. The turnips were small and I haven’t decided yet if I will roast them separately (found a delicious recipe on pinterest) or add them in with the greens. I froze the turnip part for now until I can decide. Just a side note, the turnip leaves or greens will have prickly points on the leaves so I don’t eat them raw but once they are cooked they go away and you never even knew they were there. I could eat greens at every meal. My only problems is that you can’t eat greens without cornbread and I probably shouldn’t have so much cornbread in my life. One pan won’t hurt, right?

 

We also enjoyed a great cream of broccoli & cauliflower soup & modified shepherds pie from the garden harvest! Finally, I will close with this wonderful cocktail made with fresh mint from the garden. I call it a “Barbara Bush” in honor of the recent passing of FLOTUS # 41.

Barbara Bush

It is muddled lemon juice and mint with one part Blanton’s Bourbon and one part gingerale. I know I shouldn’t mix that Bourbon with anything but i was living on the edge!

-Chas

Did you cite that recipe?

Do you cite recipes in MLA or APA? I mean it is part science and part art? Really? citing recipes? C’mon isn’t that the reason we write down recipes is to share them?

I have so many recipes that I would love to share. However, honestly I only have like three things that I make from memory or my own creation. This include chicken & dumplings, tomato gravy & biscuit, and Thanksgiving dressing.  I am sure there are other things I make from memory but part of the fun of cooking for me is making something new every time. I rarely make the same dish twice. Therefore, sharing a recipe would mean plagiarizing someones else ‘s recipe. I want to give credit where credit is due. If you crafted an Italian Manicotti from your memory or own creation that is impressive and I think you need a big WOW!

Plagiarizing recipes is a big issue these days with social media and the internet. Please see the article in Plagiarism Today (https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2015/03/24/recipes-copyright-and-plagiarism/) where they discuss Anne Thorton loosing her cooking show contract because of accusations of Recipe Plagiarism. This is really scary, as Mrs. Thorton says, because there are only so many ways to make a certain dish. According to the United States copyright guidelines (https://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html) you can list the ingredients without a problem but the issue comes with the execution. The problem is there are only so many ways to prepare a dish. For example, if you have a recipe for any type of baked chicken, typically you will bake it at about 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes depending on oven, thickness of chicken, and how juicy you like it. If you bake the chicken for less time or less temperature, it will be underdone and not fit. So, the fundamentals of most recipes will be the same. Which means plagiarizing a recipe is very easy and you can do it without even knowing.

For me, I get the majority of my recipes from Pinterest. I like using Pinterest for recipes because I can just search the ingredients I already have in the cupboard. I think it helps to have a basic working knowledge of cooking and the chemistry of ingredients to know what substitutions you can successfully use. However, we are in the information age and you can google anything. I like to make recipes that I have never made and ones where I can use stuff from my garden. It makes me feel all authentic and shit ( I mean stuff) ! I feel like I am feeding my family with love when I make something grown from my own hands and really it just tastes so much freaking better.

This week we had several tasty things! I am having nuts for dinner and this post is making me hungry but here it goes!

First, I made Baby Seydi some Granny Grub! This is a semi-original recipe. My grandmother would make this for me. Things just taste better when your grandma makes them. It is basically a fried egg (over-medium) over some cheese grits with crumbled bacon or sausage! If you are lucky enough to eat it outside that is the best way! Baby Seydi loved it!

breakfast

Next, I had a lot of spinach that needed to be cooked and I had a hankerin’ for chicken so I found this delicious recipe on Pinterest called (wait it does have an official name- I will name it) Chicken Yo Self Spinach. It’s actually a chicken, spinach, sun dried tomato and bacon dish. I had to modify this dish because I burnt the bacon – BAD! Timers are for babies or people without burnt bacon! I also used freshly shredded monterey cheese with jalepenos instead of sliced. My mother-in-law, Pat, always told me to use freshly shredded cheese because it was better and she was right! It was delicious! Here is the best picture I could get. We also had a side of parmesan zucchini! Which was scrumptious even though I shredded a little skin off my thumb into the parmesan (Just a little extra protein- right?) Just kidding!

SmotheredChicken (2)chickenmeal (2)

Over the weekend I also made a couple of Korean and Thai dishes that were not only mouth watering but healthy. The mandoline is also a very dangerous tool – use the guard! One of the dishes was a cabbage / beef stir fry. It was made with grass fed beef from the ranch! It was a steer we named “Rug” because we knew we wanted to keep his hide! I also had to modify this recipe because I ran out of Soy Sauce so I used Teriyaki sauce! I also used some fresh ginger I grew last year. Ginger is easy to grow and harvest just be patient ( I tried to throw it out like 47 times but my husband kept making me wait). I have several roots I froze last year and don’t foresee running out any time in the next couple of years! It freezes well! We had a side of Thai cucumber salad with this dish. It made for a light fresh meal for a warm spring afternoon!

cabbagestirfry and cucumbers

I tried to give credit where credit was due! The best part of cooking is watching the people you love enjoy it!

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