The purpose of this post is to provide a brief update on the status of my winter garden. Planning for the garden occurred immediately after harvesting the summer garden. Cold tolerant plants such as kale, cabbage, collard greens, turnip greens, cauliflower, broccoli and spinach were chosen. After spreading lime and fertilizer, tilling the soil, sowing a few seeds and setting a few slips the garden was almost complete.
In years past we’ve had warmer weather through October so I figured I’d try to extend the growing season. As such, I rolled the dice and planted zucchini, yellow and winter squash. Heck I even threw in another round of cucumbers.
All plants seemed to thrive in their new home, all except one. For some reason the spinach didn’t seem to make much progress. Nevertheless, I kept chopping rouge weeds while dad kept the crop plants watered each morning. Before long, we were able to wean the plants off the water.
Around the end of September the squash plants had really taken off. They were standing tall and sporting broad shoulders and stocky fruit capped with yellow buds. Another week or so and the fruits would be ready to pick. It was looking like we might just be able to pull this off. And then October rolled in.
Somewhere around the second week of October a hard frost hit. All summer weather plants were decimated. The stems were limp with a mushy filling. There was no saving the plants. The only thing to do was chop the roots and carry the limp bodies to the compost pile.
Even though we lost the late season summer plants the winter plants were thriving. In fact, it looked like they embraced the cold snap. With October over the plants began their march into November. November would be the month to harden them. As the temperature oscillated between mid 60s and low 20s the plants adjusted. The cabbage and cauliflower plants have put on heads and turnip greens are anchored by turnips. The cellular composition of kale, collards, spinach and turnip greens has changed in such a way that a more tender product is the result. Always one to pay attention to quality control dad and I have picked and cooked several sample batches of greens. They are much more flavorful and tender than the summer greens we planted. We really enjoyed them. Judging from the hoof prints and missing collard green tops we weren’t the only ones.
With the corn and soy beans harvested, the whitetail deer has been faced with making adjustments. Most are eating corn and soy beans left behind from the combiners but the competition from doves, crows and black birds have almost exhausted the supply. Their diets have now shifted to acorns and anything they can browse. The search for a new source of food has driven them to not only check out the garden but to also take a few samples. Each day more and more tracks are visible and more crops are abducted through the night. With the increased presence of deer activity, dad and I have increased our harvest frequency. This will ensure we’re able to get our fair share before the deer wipe us out.
Overall, I’m impressed with the progress of the garden. There is nothing like eating fresh, garden grown, produce through the winter months. Hopefully she makes it through the colder months ahead.
With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, sometimes you just want to take it nice and slow. As such, after an unfruitful hunt this morning, my brother and I headed back to my house to fire up the smoker. With rain in the forecast tomorrow, it was imperative that I cook a pork shoulder I picked up yesterday as soon as possible. Never the one to waste a good bed of coals I also threw on a slab of spare ribs prepared St. Louis style.
With all ingredients accounted for, the first item on the agenda was to wash both cuts of meat well and coat with a layer of mustard. Contrary to popular belief, the mustard does not impart any flavor throughout the cooking process. Instead, it acts as a binding agent that allows my top secret dry rub to adhere. Ok, my dry rub recipe used to be top secret but Dean cracked the code, or so he thinks. While throwing together the rub, Dean inconspicuously snapped a few photos and annotated the amalgamation of ingredients.
With the rub complete and each cut of meat washed and coated with a layer of mustard, it was time to marry the two. With the marriage complete and the smoker reaching temperature, it was time to baptize the couple by fire.
The butt was placed on the rack just above the water pan while the spare ribs were placed on the top rack. After placing the meat on the smoker the temperature dropped by 25 degrees or so. Given the history I have with the smoker I knew she would rebound once the temperature of the meat increased. In the meantime, Dean and I chatted as I raked leaves from the backyard.
After an hour or so of conversation, a prior engagement resulted in Dean heading out, which left me flying solo. Well not really, I still had Sheba. Ultimately, I stayed outside until the temperature of the smoker was stable at 245 degrees. Afterwards, I went inside, hit the couch and took a much needed power nap. My body reminded me that it was not routine to wake up at 3:30 in the morning. When I awoke, I found my legs draped across hers with her slowly caressing my feet. Talk about a lucky man.
After a quick time check I realized that 4 hours had passed. It was time for the ribs to come off. I’m not sure if you caught it or not but the only thing that went on the ribs was a dry rub and smoke. No basting, no sauce, nothing. Personally, I prefer to keep things simple while cooking. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for the added flair but this was not the time. The intent was low and slow and when you cook low and slow you don’t need the extras. The melody of meat, spices and smoke will stand on their own.
After pulling the ribs off I made another time check. Based on my calculations I should have another four hours or so left before pulling off the pork shoulder. I recon I’ll post another entry to summarize. On second thought I won’t. Instead I’ll just let this photo summarize it for me.
So, if you’re looking for a change from the fast paced world we live in today, remember you can always take it nice and slow. Your significant other, relatives, pets and friends will appreciate it. I know mine did.
On January 3, 2013 I took my first duck ever. After spending a short time on family property I connected on a fast flying Wood Duck. After the shot I was faced with the dilemma of partaking of the quarry or having it mounted. Ordinarily my rule of thumb is if you kill it you eat it, unless it’s a coyote. In this isolated instance, I decided to have it mounted.
After 10 long months of waiting, I’m the proud owner of a beautiful Wood Duck mount. With whitetail season just starting, I’m finding myself planning for duck season.
Friday evening, while on my home from a hunt on family property, I noticed a vehicle in the left lane flash its headlights from high to low beams. As rounded a curve I observed two deer running full speed towards my truck. I could have swerved in the left lane and hit the oncoming vehicle, swerve left and hit the ditch or lock the brakes and hope for the best. I opted for the latter. As the tires grabbed the asphalt and the anti-lock brake system engaged one of the deer darted across the street out of harm’s way. The other, unfortunately, kept moving full speed ahead. With the truck coming to a halt the deer initiated full contact. I slowed down to process things before moving eventually on.
When I arrived home I assessed the damage to my truck. Thankfully, no visible damage was noted. I threw my gear into the garage and headed in for the night. As I lay in bed I replayed the order of events over and over. There was nothing that I could have really done differently. With my thoughts collected and my mind clear I was able to get some rest.
Saturday morning my brother and I hunted our father’s property. We entered the woods around 0610 or so. After sitting for 2 ½ hour and not seeing any deer we moved to our uncle’s property. On our way in the woods we jumped 5 deer. Needless to say we didn’t see anything else for the next couple of hours. As such, we headed out but noted the 0845 time.
Last Saturday, 26 Oct, we went to the same property. The temperature was 28 degrees. Trust me, we were dressed appropriately. Dean sat in the same tree he sat in the week before. I opted to sit in another location further back from where I sat. However, once I reached the spot I wasn’t certain if it was on my uncle’s property so I backtracked and sat ~ 85 yards or so from Dean. After getting settled into the hunt, a hawk flew through the area and lit the woods on fire. Squirrels and chipmunks sounded the alarm. The woods were filled with barking squirrels for five minutes or so and barking chipmunks for 15 minutes or so. I swear I wanted to stand up and yell at the top of my lungs “SHUT UP ALREADY the hawk is long gone”. Read More of First Deer of The Season
With Thursday’s hunt out of the way it was time to prepare for a hunt on Friday morning. Ray and I were planning to hunt a farm he has a lease on and all night long I found myself recalling reports of him being covered in deer. During his initial outing he indicated he saw 30 deer or more. I had a strong feeling that Friday’s hunt would not disappoint.
The hunt started with us meeting up and heading to the farm. A dense blanket of fog enveloped our vehicles as we headed out. Along the way, the red color of Ray’s vehicle taillights illuminated the void. Realizing something was up I slowed down also. A slight glance to the right revealed two deer. Later, Ray informed me they were six point and spike bucks. Cautiously we continued.
As we pulled into the driveway of the property we rounded a bend and the vehicles came to a stop. A backdrop of darkness, only broken by the dome lights of our vehicles, embraced us. A few minutes of preparation were in order before we made our way through one of the three pasture gates.
Conversation was light and our steps fast. The knee high and dew covered vegetation covered our lower extremities. As we navigated through the active pasture the bottom of our boots were infused with smells that were surely familiar to the transitory deer if you get my drift. Eventually we reached the 13’ River’s Edge stand. Within a few minutes I was settled in and awaiting first light.
As the sun started to rise, the secrets of darkness were revealed. Loud chirping of birds filled the air and like clockwork, squirrels made their way from the treetops to clock in. As for me, I found myself sitting 13 feet or so off the ground in a pine and cedar thicket facing a fencerow with an adjacent wooded lot. The dense blanket of fog softened the edges of everything seen, in an eerie way it felt ethereal. After an hour or so of stand time it became apparent that the spot would produce. Read More of Alabama 2013-14 Whitetail Opening Weekend Recap (Friday)