Category Archives: Dutch Oven Cooking

February on the Farm

NOTE:  This post contains images of animals that were hunted, killed, and consumed.  Viewer Take Note…

As I said in the previous post, I took the Farm Manager position at Halve Ewe Herd in South Carolina.  It was an unexpected change of plans, but we have learned to roll with those in the past couple of years.  This farm, at around 1,000 acres, quickly turned into a vast area to explore and experience for our whole family.  The swamp seemed to be calling to all of us, the peaceful sound of birds and other wildlife at the edge of the swamp is very relaxing.  Here are a few pictures from another spring that feeds the swamp.  These pictures were taken very early one morning, the fog hanging over the swamp gave it an erie cold feel.  I tried to imagine soldiers during the Civil War filling their canteens in these springs, as well as the workers that built the railroad just out of view in the mid 1800’s.

After working in the gardens for a few days, we came to realize one of the reasons our crops were not growing very well happened to be a very healthy population of wild rabbits.  A ride on the Kubota just after dusk revealed the massive herd we were dealing with.  I decided to build a rabbit trap using some of the materials we recovered from the old tenant house we demolished.  This trap worked pretty good, but we never managed to catch a rabbit in it.  My old 12 gauge shotgun was a much more effective tool, and Thomas the chef made some great rabbit dishes.  We also found a great spot looking out over the swamp from the railroad tracks to watch the sunset.

A few days into the month, we had our 2nd ice storm.  This storm came with much more ice and damage than the first, our power was out for almost a week.  Our summer in Oregon without electricity brought out the Dutch Oven skills, so we ate in style despite the power shortage.  The ice was beautiful, but very destructive.  The Live Oak and Magnolia trees, that keep their leaves all winter, were hit very hard.

The previous included the beginning stages of the rabbit chalet I started to build from wood salvaged from the house demolition.  Here are the girls painting the roof (covered by tin that was removed from the house) and doing a good job of it.

The wild rabbits mentioned earlier put me in hunting mode, here are the first two I managed to bag.  I also utilized the “on farm” bird dog, and scored a couple woodcocks (not on the same day).  These critters were utilized to the best of my ability, the rabbits were made into rabbit salad (think chicken salad) by Chef Thomas.  He made an awesome dish with the woodcocks too.  The skins of the rabbits were saved to be tanned at a later date, and the feathers from the birds were saved to be used by the girls in craft and jewelry making.  The cuts of meat I managed to use from the birds were the breasts (dark meat), livers, hearts, and leg quarters.

The farm prides itself on impacting the environment in a positive way.  The land is home to a huge variety of wildlife, and they are nurtured by the intentional planting of wildlife feed plots.  The feed plots are providing food for deer, turkey, rabbits, squirrel, various birds, and wild hogs.  In turn, the property is peppered by various tree stands that are used by hunters both living on the property and family friends.  The deer sausage that filled the freezer at the farm house was a great perk for working there.  The girls helped me replace some bad boards on the ladder of this tree stand, they had to be the first to check it out.

Halve Ewe Herd - Feb 2014

Come back to check out what we managed to get into during the month of March on the farm…

Leaving Yellowstone

We enjoyed our short time in Yellowstone National park, but we had to get to North Dakota for the Sugar Beet Harvest.  As we were leaving Mammoth Hot Springs Campground, on the North side of the park, we had some visitors to see us off.  The Elk were in the peak of mating season, so they were wandering through the campground all the time.  There were big signs telling folks to not hang clothes on lines outside their RV’s because they would get tangled in the male Elk antlers.  When this occurred, they would have to find the elk that was tangled (usually looking for the one with blue jeans hanging from his antlers was an easy to determine which one did it) they would then have to stun it with a dart and remove the tangled mess.

As we drove through the park, we wished we had more time to explore the area.  The expansive views were breathtaking, and the clouds were just enough to add some depth to the scene.  Thor just knew he should be able to run out and chase the Bison and other wildlife.  His traveling days were usually spend with his ears and jaws flapping in the breeze.

We drove out the South entrance to Yellowstone, and made our way to the Grand Tetons.  The cloud cover and rain made it impossible to see any of the scenery in the Tetons, so we just stopped for a snack in the gift shop and headed on toward South Dakota.  Our drive across Wyoming was beautiful, but for some reason we neglected to take any pictures.  Our goal was a campground with a view of the Crazy Horse mountain…

Oregon Campfire Cooking

Our summer in Oregon came with many first time experiences. Although cooking over a fire was by no means new to us, 3 meals a day being prepared this way for 3 months was a new adventure for sure. Our host site, at Tollgate Campground, had a stone fireplace that was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The “Dutch Oven Side” needed only one small modification to work for our needs. I placed our tripod across the opening to provide a place to hang our ovens.

The campground had a virtually unlimited supply (for our use since the general public isn’t allowed to cut anything) of dead western cedar logs.  Coming from the Carolina Mountains, I am used to burning hardwoods, which generate a bed of coals that are perfect for cooking.  Learning how to cook on the cedar took some trial and error for sure.  It burns hot, but extremely fast, and does not provide any long lasting coals.  It is by far the easiest wood I have ever split by hand, splitting an 8″ diameter chunk of firewood with a hatchet is a crazy notion when dealing with hardwoods.

The “Grill” side of the fireplace was originally set up with a thick steel plate covering the fire.  The smoke would travel under the plate to the chimney creating a draft so you could cook directly on the plate or heat up skillets, coffee pots, etc…  The steel plates had been stolen for scrap over the past few years, so I modified it using the fire grate from the grill on the front of the bus.  Piling rocks around the grate created a little draft to keep the fire going, it was a constant battle feeding small pieces to keep it going yet not getting it so hot it would burn your meal.

Pan fried trout that had been caught at Trillium Lake that day, homemade egg rolls, and fried rice were some of the amazing meals we prepared.  The fried rice was requested by the girls several times each week, we even made shrimp sauce to go on top.  To make the fried rice, we would make the rice in the Dutch Oven on the other side of the fireplace.  Using frozen mixed veggies and fresh mushrooms, we would sauté them in butter for a few minutes before adding the cooked rice.  Topping it off with soy sauce, we had a great meal in less than half an hour total.

We made steamed veggies in the Dutch Ovens almost every day, the brussels sprouts were always a favorite.  As far as other meals go, we made a wide variety.  Red Curry Chicken (turned out really good, but crazy spicy so I got to eat it all), Pork Ribs, Single Pot Potato Salad (we cooked the eggs and taters at the same time), Roasted Chicken Thighs, and Dutch Oven Popcorn were just a few of the dishes we fell in love with.  We sat around the campfire many nights and had anyone that happened to stop at our site over for the popcorn.

The whole family participated in cutting, splitting, and preparing the wood for the fireplace.  I even caught Chas lighting the fire early one morning to boil water for coffee.