Category Archives: Camp Cooking

Rabbit Stew and Snow

I have been listening to folks complain about the cold and snow all across the country since November.  I thought I could bring a little smile to everyone, whether you are tired of the cold or not.  February brought some new additions to our critter clan, which led to some photo opportunities as usual.  One of our rabbits had 5 kits (baby rabbits) and the girls have been having a blast taking care of them.  At first, the momma didn’t seem to be feeding them enough to please Lydia, so her 11 year old Veterinarian instincts kicked in.  The girls held the momma and let each of the babies nurse at least 2 times each day.  After their eyes opened, they had enough spunk to chase her down so they were less concerned.  It is amazing how fast they go from pink hairless and helpless to fuzzy and hoppish.

After I had the bright idea of sticking the little hoppers in the bowl, I had a mission to complete after they opened their eyes.  My sense of humor kicked in and I had to get a different shot with them in the bowl with a few added props.  Behold, the Rabbit Stew Starter Kit, complete with Scholl Bus rabbits and a Wholly Bowlly bowl.  The bowl is one I didn’t like how it turned out, so we had been keeping loose change in it.  I felt I needed to throw that disclaimer in there so somebody wouldn’t get upset because their bowl was previously peed in (true story, we had a leaky hopper)…

I had to go to the North Carolina Mountains to help my dad as he recovered from back surgery.  Thankfully everything went great with that, so I had time to enjoy the scenery with the winter wonderland.  The weather was bitter cold the night I arrived in Boone, a balmy -3 degrees with high winds.  I tried to get up to dads shop to park because I didn’t think I could get up the steep driveway to the house.  I couldn’t get to the shop without going to a local country store to put chains on my truck.

The next day I had to go get some groceries and other supplies, so I had a plan.  I bought heavy groceries (including a #20 turkey) and piled them behind the axle in the bed of the truck.  This extra weight, combined with my chains, allowed me to get up the driveway to the house.  Mountain ingenuity at its finest…

I also had the job of trying to help dad learn how to cook something healthy so he could quit eating boxed meals and pizza.  I roasted the turkey, sliced and bagged it for the freezer.  The bones were turned into broth, also divided and frozen.  Now he has some supplies to use in his stir fry (that I also helped him learn how to cook) with real veggies and mushrooms.

The last snow that fell during my stay in the mountains came in a fluffy variety.  It was not super cold when this snow arrived, so it had a little more weight to it.  I walked across the road early the morning after the snow to see if I could beat my 91 year old grandpa to the shoveling task for his sidewalk.  I barely made it before he came out to start shoveling, but I managed to squeak by.  He had to come out and measure how much had fallen over night with his trusty ruler that was most likely older than me.

As I cleared their steps and sidewalks, I took the time to enjoy the snow and listen to the creek and waterfall trickling just below their house.  Their split rail fences and rhododendron were very picturesque.  Grandma decided to surprise dad and I with a homemade blueberry pie later that day.

I am glad I have been around long enough to realize how important these little daily events are.  Daily frustrations can get you down, but if you step back long enough to look at a few snow flakes and listen to a creek trickle, your perspective can improve.  Hopefully my grandma (and her grin when she revealed a piece of the pie was missing because she had to be sure it was “Fit To Eat”) can give you something to smile about this winter.

Baby Bunnies and Snake Skins in July

NOTE:  This post contains a few graphic images near the end, viewer beware…

The produce on the farm began overflowing in the fields.  Our table at the farmers markets looked full, and a CSA was started to help with some of the extra.  Ten families in the Charleston area were delivered 10# boxes of produce every 2 weeks.  The boxes were filled with fresh farm goodies, and everyone loved the variety.  The wooden bowls, goblets, and dollhouse plates I turned on my lathe made a great addition to the display, and I managed to sell a few of them too.  Chas made her crocheted doll blankets, bags, hats, jar holders, and gloves which also added some variety and color to our booth.  Baked Delicata Squash with brown sugar, pecans, and yogurt also managed to be photogenic.  Lilah named the 10# squash Timmy, and they loved wrapping it up in Chas’ doll blankets she crocheted and getting market goers to guess the weight.

 

The farm was alive with wild mushrooms popping up all over the place.  We have a few resident wild edible experts at our disposal here, NEVER eat mushrooms that have not been identified by an expert!  The first two images are a Reishi mushroom, these have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries.  The basket has Chanterelle and Bolete mushrooms, the Boletes were sliced and sautéed in butter and were AWESOME.

We had some interesting storms blow through, but the low hanging clouds and rainbow with this one were cool   It was a very hot day, but when the clouds were directly overhead the temp had to drop 20 degrees.  As soon as the clouds blew over, the temp popped back up again.  I also had to smoke a beef brisket using some pecan wood, it was required by my hungry belly.  It turned out to be the best one I have ever made.  Pecan wood is now hands down my favorite wood to smoke with.

The bunnies were happily making new bunnies, and they started to hatch in July.  The girls were very happy to help take care of their tiny little fuzzy friends.

 

The snakes came out in force in July, the few chicken eggs we had available were disappearing before we could collect them.  I found this rat snake and decided to keep the skin and meat for future use.  The skin was nice, and hopefully will make some interesting crafts sometime down the road.  The meat is going to be involved in a snake fry in the future as well.  While I was busy happily skinning my critter, the neighbor drove up and said there was a dead rattlesnake in the road.  I hopped on the RTV and went to pick it up.  I didn’t want to let that skin go to waste either.  I thought about eating it directly off the road since I knew it was killed within the previous 2 hours (It wasn’t there when some of the farm crew went to lunch).  The 90 degree day on the asphalt cooked it perfectly, the meat smelled awesome and was steaming as I was skinning it.  I didn’t take a bite, but we did save the bones to use in craft making in the future.  The corn snake is a copperhead mimmic, the coloring on the skin was amazing.  I wouldn’t have killed that one, but it was run over by the tractor, so that skin went in the freezer too.

 

I began attending one of the many local weekly auctions, and noticed this posted by the office.  It really fits my life perfectly, so I thought I would share it.  I had to use my quick mechanical wit to come up with a way to shut down one of the John Deere tractors.  Diesel engines don’t simply shut down by cutting an electrical connection like a gasoline engine.  The shut-down solenoid fried itself for some reason, so the tractor started but there was no way to shut it down without getting a little creative.  This actually applies to large diesel engines, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this on one of those since you are most likely to be injured in the process.


April – The Arrival of Tiny Bacon

The rabbit condo I built a few posts back is fully occupied in April.  We learn before the end of the month why rabbit wire is thicker than chicken wire.  We used chicken wire to build a perimeter fence around their condo so we could move them around the gardens and allow them to “graze”.  The rabbits managed to chew holes in the wire and escape into the gardens.  We usually manage to catch them and put them back in the pen, but a few of them were “Caught” by the resident bird dog on the farm, and a few of them were caught by my 12 gauge.  We were raising meat rabbits anyway, some of them chose their own day to jump in the crock pot.  We also happened to have a huge bloom of wisteria around the farm this month.  The waves of perfume in the air that float past as you are working on the farm were amazing.

We also had a few spring animals showing up during the month of April.  A good sized turtle showed up one day when we were riding around on the Kubota RTV.  We also were visited by a screech owl one cool rainy day, it sat under the shed roof to keep dry for a few minutes and Thomas managed to see it.

We had our first asparagus shoots popping up out of the ground.  I also discovered a sustainable method for topping the curly mustard plants to keep them from flowering.  A few carrots managed to grow, they are an heirloom variety that are super sweet but don’t get very large.  Some spring sweet onions were harvested, and Laini made a great model for the curly mustard.  Smoothies made with garlic, mustard greens, and kale are good at waking you up, and keeping you moving… rapidly to the bathroom.

Some friends stopped by to work on the farm with us for a while, and they brought the tiny bacon with them.  These little piggies were cute, but I couldn’t help wondering what they would look like on the grill.  I managed to find out what miniature bacon would do if it were introduced to eggs, it friggin eats them… Watch the video, you will be amazed.  I had to include the breakfast picture for a little clarity, unless there was an amazing spider involved I would probably eat them, but they rode away when our friends left.