Saturday, October 30, 2021

The By Products of Gardening - Venison Jerky

 The closer you are to your gardening roots, the more you see things in the natural world which you can harvest.  There are leaves to harvest for compost.  Wild apples to harvest.  Rosehips to harvest. Deer to harvest...

We live in the country less than half a mile from the city line.  This situation creates a comfortable haven for whitetail deer.  No one hunts them because the houses are too close. Natural predators like coyotes are discouraged.  Food is plentiful because of all of the nice landscaping.  I grew up in the country, surrounded by dairy farms and we never saw deer.  They were out there.  My grandfather hunted.  They just didn't come up on the porch and peer into the windows.

The deer are bold.  They have no fear of humans.  Almost every night they come through and taste something.  Anything new, like fresh soil, must be examined and tracked up.  They will walk right up our steps and across the deck.  Because, obviously, it would take too much effort to, you know, go around....

So we hunt them. Vigorously.  My husband and I do not hunt personally and we don't particularly care for venison, but we have a friend who hunts with a bow so he can safely shoot here near the house.  He installs and monitors many cameras beforehand and has four tree stands and one raised "cabin" set up. There are plenty of people who will take venison but do not have the patience or skill to go out and get it themselves.  Over the past few years he has made a nice dent in our deer population.  Any meat he does not use himself or give away to friends gets donated to the soup kitchen.

The big 14" McCoy bowl is excellent for mixing meat.
It stays put!  We use it for mixing Swedish Korv (sausage) too.
It is an absolute beast to wash though.

This is our second year for the food dehydrator.  We bought it to deal with the bushels of apples, but this year have decided to try our hand at jerky.  So we finally asked for some venison.  We bought a LEM Jerky Canon which works pretty neat.  We can make slim jims with it too.

It has been fun having the game cameras set up so we can see more of what is coming and going around here when we're not looking.  We see a lot of deer, of course, and also turkey and more rarely a red fox or the fisher cat.  This year I took things a bit further and set up two game cameras around the garden.  That way I would know if and when the racoons and such were casing the joint.  Throughout the year there was surprisingly little activity immediately around the garden.  The deer visited the apple tree a few times until one of them discovered the electric fence.  After she zapped her nose she stayed away from the garden.

There were a few other visitors of note

Kitty Cat

Wascally Wabbit scoping out the strawberries

The one and only raccoon

Wile E. Coyote

The woods cameras set out by our hunter friend yielded a lot more interesting specimens.  

Fisher Cat

Foxy Loxy

Wile E. Coyote in color
And then just last week

Teddy Bear Parade

We know there are bear that come through a few times a year.  Last year there was a nice set of prints across the dahlia bed.  I will sometimes see footprints in the gravel drive or find saplings broken down.  But we don't feed the birds or have garbage cans outdoors so the bear doesn't often come close to the house.  I waited a long time to get them on camera.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Cold Rainy Days - Glögg and Dahlias

What better way to spend a cold, rainy autumn day than sorting spices?  I measured out bulk spices and bagged up enough for this year's Glögg.

We used to wait anxiously every year for the spices to appear in the local Swedish bakeries.  A few years ago my husband decided that we go through enough of them that we should just buy in bulk.  Decades ago, his parents and their friends had worried that some day they wouldn't be able to get the old spice recipe (are worries inheritable?) and sat down and counted out each individual ingredient.  12 cardamon pods, 6 whole allspice berries, 6 whole cloves, a teaspoon of slivered almonds, a quarter cup of raisens, 5 cinnamon sticks, orange peel...  So we had the recipe.

I order enough bulk spices through Amazon to get us through a few years.  I bag them up each year and pop them in the freezer to keep.  The store bought orange peel leaves something to be desired so I buy a bag of oranges to eat and set the peals out to dry.  Free orange peels! This little enterprise drops our per batch price for the spices from fourteen dollars and change down to a little over four bucks a batch.  Now that's what I call economy of scale!

We may be completely saturated with rain.  We may not be able to walk across the lawn without getting a boot stuck.  But they haven't all been gloomy days.  We have not had a hard frost yet, but I've been working through my dahlias lifting the tubers to store.   In the past I have just knocked off the worst of the dirt and plopped them into cardboard boxes of compost or potting mix and stuck them in the basement bulkhead.  This year I am trying to be a little more precise about the process.  After all, I have the time.  I've found a lot of information online about the best way to store the tubers and there are several methods and variations of storing.  My old method is fine.  But in the spring you end up with a stack of collapsed boxes of dirty, mystery tubers and they aren't any fun to unbox and plant.

Even though we've had too much rain and the dahlia bed was wet and sort of muddy, they rinsed off really nicely.  I dug up and processed one variety at a time.  None of them showed any sign of disease.  I hosed them off and each day set them outside to dry for the afternoon.  At the end of the day I bring them in and set them on newspaper over night.

The next day I trim off the hair roots and cut the stem back to the solid part (the rest of the stem is hollow and can hold moisture or debris).  After they have dried for 24 hours they can be handled without scraping them up.  The hair roots cut cleanly and you can write the varieties on them with a marker.  You can let them dry 48 hours or so before you pack them up but after that you will start to notice that they are beginning to shrivel a little and you don't want that.

It is important to cut out any damaged or rotted tubers because you don't want them continuing to rot in storage and spoiling the whole batch.  You can divide the clumps at this point but I am going to wait until spring.  Some of them separated out on their own for me which was nice.  But the rest will have to be cut up and that will be easier in the spring when their growth eyes start.

I ordered a twenty pound bag of coarse vermiculite from Farmtek. This will keep them clean and should maintain the right amount of moisture without being "damp".

I still have some of them in boxes, but I picked up a couple of these plastic milk crates and now I want more!  They have handles on all four sides, are light weight, and won't crush when I stack them.  I had shopping bags the right size and they packed up really nice and tidy.

They need to be kept cool but unfrozen.  They can stay in the garden shed for now but will have to come in to the basement bulkhead for the winter where they will have the right amount of humidity and will not freeze.

Tomorrow's cold rainy day project is venison jerky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Harvesting Leaves

 Leaf season has begun!  And it could last until Christmas.  Seriously.  It will snow in November/December but we will get a thaw and then we will get back out there and work on the oak leaves knocked down by the winter weather.  And then next March we will have one last round of cleanup.  But right now its not a huge chore.  The lightweight Poplar, Maple and London Plane leaves are the first to come down.  This used to be Ash leaf season but all of our many ash trees have died and most have been removed.

Cleanup phases in slowly with the battery powered blower, spending twenty minutes blowing a few leaves out of the landscape onto the lawn to be mulched by the lawn mower and it will end with twice a week sessions with the neighbor and three abreast gas powered back pack blowers blowing knee deep, thick, leathery red oak leaves back towards the woods whichever direction the prevailing winds will allow that day, then getting the lawnmower out and mulching them into the woods.

Shredded leaves keep the cabbage patch tidy and weed free.
I have a good use for shredded leaves and I consider this a resource to be harvested.   I use the leaves as mulch for my raised beds and containers and find they make a big difference in weed suppression and moisture retention.  

Not only does mulch keep the soil cool and moist it
prevents rain water from splashing up onto plants.
These early, light and easily shredded species are the ones I want.  I string out the extension cord and get out the old Craftsman leaf sucker/blower. 

I can get about eight blower bags into a large leaf bag if I take the time to compact it a little.  My husband watched this process and suggested I run the leaves through the shredder a few more times.  That way they will be smaller pieces and less likely to blow around in the garden when I spread them as mulch next year.  I'd been thinking about trying that....

Eight blower bags of Maple leaves compacted and ready to tie up.

Another four blower bags of London Plane leaves.
It sure would be nice to get it all into one bag.
Four bags become two bags
Two bags become one bag
The first full garbage bag gets run through twice more and 
now all twelve are stored in one garbage bag!

There are plenty more where these came from.  The Maple tree by the firepit and three London Plane trees have just started turning and dropping.  I know there are a few other ways to do this.  Some people use the lawn mower to round them up and them put them in the compost pile.  Some people put them in a barrel and use a string trimmer to chop them.  

I like the leaf sucker.  For one thing with the amount of leaves pictured in the first photo, it only takes about two to three minutes to fill a blower bag.  Honestly the only real hassle is getting the extension cord strung out and then wrapped back up.  The actual chopping is really fun.  And then if I just dump the bags into the big wheelbarrow to accumulate the processing and bagging doesn't take much time either.  Then I have bags of nice dry leaves to work with next summer.

I stack the bags in the compost area until spring and then as needed dump them back out into the wheel barrow to fluff out a bit before filling a TubTrug with them to neatly apply them to a bed or container.

Last year sixteen blower bags got me through the season.  When I cleared a bed to plant a cover crop I used the shredder to pick up all of the leaves and move them to another bed for reuse.  I hope to get one or two more garbage bags stored then I will have a wealth of leaf mulch.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Looking Ahead to Spring - Tulips

I love tulips, but those of us who have heavy deer pressure have to be careful because tulips are a whitetail's absolute favorite snack.  Sometimes I plant them right up against the house or in containers, but I don't think I've ever actually planted them in my raised beds.  When I did my layout and planting dates for next year I realized that I have a couple of beds that I won't need to plant until July 1st.  Well that would be a perfect spot for tulips!  I can enjoy them in the garden and I won't feel as bad about cutting them and bringing them into the house as I do when they are in the landscape.

I ordered myself a Power Planter Bulb & Bedding Plant Auger (3"x7") and over the past few days I've planted seventy bulbs in this bed.  The auger makes short work of it and will also be useful for planting annual transplants.  I have about two and a half feet of empty space at the end for some spring planted bulbs like anemones or ranunculus.

These are the varieties I chose

Charming Beauty

Gudoshnik Double Late Mix

Parrot King

I haven't made a final decision on the spring planted bulbs, 
but these are the ones that I will likely choose from

De Caen Midnight Mix

Ranunculus Super Green Mix


Monday, October 11, 2021

The Last of the Late Beans

I was going to pull these plants last week after I picked beans because I thought I had gotten all of the beans and there isn't enough time left in the season for these to rest, bloom again and produce a second crop.

Evidently I was wrong about having picked all of the beans.
These plants have to come out sometime to make more growing room for the late cabbage.
So out they came.

Much more room!

These are Violaceo de Verona cabbage and they are beginning to make nice heads.