Don’t Always Depend on the Kindness of Strangers

It didn’t really work out so well for Blanche, anyway.

On my way home from work the other day, my radiator and upper radiator hose had a terrible spat and decided to part ways. So I pulled into a parking lot to wait for cooler heads to prevail*. After sharing it what smelled like a fabulous pancake feast, hose and radiator were ready to be reunited. Their reconciliation will be a short one, alas. A younger, less cracked, suitor is waiting in the wings (also known as the kitchen because where else would you keep a replacement radiator).

But as the making up commenced, things started getting rather hot as making up can sometimes do, so I made my way to the store where sweet, cooling liquids are sold.

Now understand, I’ve just gotten off work. I’m wearing a wool skirt, cute top, and 4-inch heels. I did not take the time to freshen up my lipstick and adjust the girls. The dashing young man behind the counter sold me some pre-mixed anti-freeze, and I headed out to the parking lot to cool the make-up session down. The young man did not follow.

And that’s fine. Sure, I could have batted my eyelashes and feigned helplessness, but I’m not helpless. And even in my business attire, I can pull the cap off of a (now sufficiently cool) radiator and pour in a gallon of pre-mixed anti-freeze.

Can you? There’s no magic to it, but do you know enough about what is going on under the hood of your vehicle that you can solve the problem rather than find yourself stranded, dependent on the kindness of passing strangers? Everything breaks at some point. Sometimes all at the same time. And sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will find yourself stranded. But being prepared means more than carrying your gun. It’s knowing what you depend on and having a plan. I don’t expect you to run out and become a master mechanic, but you should know which fluids go where and what the lights/gauges on your dash mean.  We spend a lot of time talking about self defense, but you are honestly far more likely to need to deal with a bit of automotive trouble. Just a little bit of knowledge saved me from a blown engine and a long walk home. No kind strangers needed.

*I crack myself up sometimes. Which is good, since I may be the only one that thinks that is funny.

It’s A Zoo In My Freezer!

As I’ve mentioned before, there are 2 squirrels in my freezer. They are accompanied by the standard beef, pork, and chicken and also some squid. Until last night, there was a lovely piece of speed goat (prong horn) generously provided by a new friend. Yes, give me game meat, we become friends.  It’s that easy, folks.

So that’s all well and good, but it really not a meal yet.  Sure, I could just pull it out of the freezer and start gnawing on it, but really there are better ways to enjoy it.  Personally, I am pretty fond of having an adult beverage while EvylRobot mans the grill, but not everyone is so lucky as to have a creative cook that will both pour the beverage and prepare the meal.

Last night, for instance, EvylRobot and TeenBot browsed the freezer and pantry (ok, so it’s a box on the kitchen floor right now).  They eyed the pronghorn back-strap and the pre-measured, vacuum-sealed packages of forbidden black rice and hatched a plan.  (Buy the big bag of rice, measure it out, vacuum-seal bags, throw in box on the floor.  I call it unstructured prepping.) By the time they were done, they served up pronghorn medallions on a bed of black rice.  Sorry, no pictures.  Too busy eating.

This weekend is youth deer gun season so hopefully TeenBot will bring home some venison for culinary adventures.  Might have to hit up a specialty food store for inspiration and supplies.  If successful, this will be the first game he has taken, a milestone his mother has not yet reached.  Wish him luck!

We’ve taken on this task of getting closer to our food as a family.  Not only has it changed our perspective on where food really comes from and what goes into it, but it has allowed us new ways to bond and grow as a family.  It’s pretty amazing what you can learn about each other as you sit silently in a blind. Besides, how many moms get to gross out their teenage sons while skinning a squirrel in the kitchen? We’ve had laughter and learning and just time together away from the usual distractions of modern life.  (Although, we do still have the internet in the woods.  We aren’t completely barbaric.) And that next biology lesson is right there in the freezer!

This post is brought to you by FoodSpring. All thoughts and opinions belong to the author.

 

New Hunter Musing

I don’t know if I can really call myself a new hunter yet.  I have my license now. I’m tanning a squirrel hide in the master bathroom (that sentence was nearly the title of this post just to make you look).

But I haven’t shot a critter yet.  I assisted in the gutting and skinning of said squirrel.  Honestly, she was very nearly my kill.  I had her sighted in perfectly and was applying pressure to the trigger when she moved. Ah well.  Next time.  I have learned that grabbing a handful of still warm squirrel and ripping her flesh from her body does not make me squeamish.  I figure that counts towards my 2012 goal of becoming more intimately acquainted with my food. Also, good to know. I don’t really know what I’ll do with the squirrel pelt once it is tanned, but my husband knows a thing or two about stuff to do with leather, so I’m sure we’ll come up with something.  Really, I wanted to know more about the process.  That’s all a musing of its own.

Sitting in silence on a cold Saturday morning prior to sunrise is a good time to think.  Here I was wearing some Doc Marten work-boots with reinforced toes leaving plenty of room for the much needed toe warmers stuck to my Hello Kitty knee socks.  My boots just happen to be red patent leather.  Yeah, I even have fabulous shoes for tromping through the woods.   But I digress.

I wondered what me 10 years ago would of thought of me on that cold Saturday morning waiting for sunrise and the temp to break the freezing point.  You know, the me that had never shot a gun.  Didn’t own one or really know anything about them.  The animal lover.  Note: I am writing this while flanked by a rescued cat and a rescued dog.  When I was still young enough to go camping* with my parents, I often tried to pet the raccoons that would come up to eat the food we had set out for them.  I would dream about finding a baby as raising it as a pet.

I had the opportunity to feed a deer out of my hand.  It looked at me with its pretty brown eyes while licking the salt from my sweaty hands.  The idea of shooting an animal seemed barbaric.

And yet, there I was Saturday morning watching bait previously placed in an area where we scouted wild pig** activity. Freezing my ass off with a rifle in my lap. With every intention of ending the life of one of God’s creatures.

Funny how maturity and education changes you.  I’ve always been a meat eater.  I knew that animals died for my food.  Even cute, furry ones***. At some point, I realized it was awful hypocritical of me to eat meat and yet take issue with those that hunted. But it was harder for me to get to a point where I thought I could do it.

And then there was the rabbit.  You remember? The one eating my garden. Hey, we worked hard for those nutrients, we had to get them somehow.

Um.  Full stop? Is this coming from the same girl that only a few years prior was trying desperately to save 3 baby rabbits? Feeding them KMR and snuggling them on her belly to keep them warm? The same girl that cried the day we had to bury them because they didn’t survive?

Yep. And you know what? In some ways it feels like an act of worship.

It’s easy to take for granted the bounty God has provided for us when we fight the crowds for meat in cellophane and Styrofoam. For me anyway.  I am not feeling particularly thankful when I have to push past the lady dressed in size manatee spandex leggings (NOT PANTS). And really, must you people walk through the middle of the rows in the parking lot? I’d really rather not run you over, but it’s been a long day, you shouldn’t push it.

But in the bitter cold, out in the elements of raw creation, it’s hard to deny it.  Long before sunrise, a predator better equipped for the night and the woods was curious about us, and yet moved on to other things. That’s a good story, but I’ll leave it to EvylRobot. All I will say is that I’m glad I didn’t have to face it in the dark.

From our little spot in the trees, we watched the world awaken.  The stars faded and finally, the sun filtered in.  Unfortunately, it seems our piggies are not morning piggies, but that’s okay.  We’ve learned something for next time.  Sometimes God deems to bless us by saying no to what we ask for.  Also, we failed to take the time to ask before we started our hunt.

I still love all of God’s creatures.  I’ve realized that hunting them is anything but callous towards them.  Callous is ordering a basket of chicken wings without noting the lives lost for your meal.  In taking the time to study the habits of an animal before setting up in their habitat, you must respect them.  Their lives become very real. You are forced to recognize exactly where the bounty that God provides comes from.  In taking this step, I’ve learned to truly love and respect these creatures.

Even though this hunt did not net us any meat, it was not unsuccessful. The consolation pork shoulder I purchased later at the grocery store had a greater value.  Sure, it came from some pig on a farm living a life of luxury prior to harvest.  But I had just spent the day hoping to meet its wild brethren.  Brethren worthy of researching for weeks on end.  Potentially deadly brethren at that.  That can certainly change your perspective on things.

I don’t have a problem with people that only ever see meat as something from the store or restaurant.  I just think they are missing out.  My goal is about not missing out on the whole picture of our blessings.

*Camping as a kid meant my parents rented a cabin a state park.  We were roughing it because we didn’t have cable. 

**In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a friend that had one of those trendy pot-bellied pigs as a pet when we were kids.  It would stick its nasty snotty nose on everything. I hated that thing and wanted to kick it most of the time.  I think this may be the true origin of football.  

***When I mentioned to my mother that the garden rabbit was the first rabbit I’d ever eaten, she told me it was the first time I’d known I was eating rabbit.  Apparently, I’d had it often as a kid, but no one told me.  Explains why the flavor was so familiar and yet I couldn’t place it.  

 

It’s A Special Skill

And I am uniquely qualified.  I have proof.

I managed to injure myself in my CPR/First Aid/AED class. I bruised the back of my right hand doing chest compressions.

Like I said, special skill. I didn’t realize it until after class and the cuff on my jacket brushed my hand.  Hmm, my hand isn’t usually so tender, nor so swollen.

I have now successfully injured* myself in pistol class, shotgun class, and First Aid class. I’ve always wanted to go skydiving, but I should never take a class in it, apparently.

And a side note, telling people that being trained in First Aid is important to you because you regularly take children into the woods with firearms can get you some funny looks. Also, the new dummies are cool.  They have little lights in the shoulder that light up when you are doing it correctly.  If you ever plan to have a heart attack in my presence, do me a favor and please have little green, yellow, and red LEDs installed in your left shoulder.  It’d really help me out.

*not seriously, I save my serious injuries for when I’m doing something completely mundane.  My scars do not come with good stories. Unless you want to spin up some yarn about my epic battle with a garden shelf. Or how my daunting quest was thwarted by a cinder block wall to the forehead (Hey! That one happened in PE class; I think I’m detecting a pattern). Maybe even how that vacuum cleaner totally had the toe-breaking kick coming.

So We Made Pickles

Hopefully.  They are cooling currently.

I should back up.  The summer in Oklahoma was not exactly fantastic for gardens, and yet, my pear tomatoes rocked. And then we got frost. So there were a lot of green pear tomatoes hanging from dead vines.

le sigh

But I hear there are great uses for green tomatoes.  They should make lovely pickles.  Right?

Some garlic and surprisingly pathetic onions (they looked awesome earlier in the year) and some previously smoked ghost peppers should make for something tasty.

On Friday, I hunted down a grocery store employee to tell me where they kept the canning jars because dammit, I’m gonna do this right. Maybe. I’m gonna try anyway.  I sterilized them in the dishwasher.  Google said I could.  I pre-boiled the garlic in some salt and rice vinegar. We prepped the onions and tomatoes and garlic greens (surprisingly tasty) in some brine.

We are ready to go.

FYI-If you put smoked ghost peppers in the bottom of your canning jar, don’t sniff deeply.  Just don’t. We decided that only 2 of the 4 jars should get peppered.

Ooh! Lookie! We’ve got smoked Kosher salt.  We should use that.  It went into one of the mild jars and one of the insanity jars.

Wish us luck on our maiden voyage into canning/pickle making. Nothing exploded, at least there is that. Pics and after action report in two weeks.

Reaping What You Sow

As most of you know, we’ve been trying our hands at a decent sized garden this year.  The folks at Emergency Seed Bank were kind(or possibly, insane*) enough to send me a sample.  I read through the materials and carefully picked out which seeds to plant in my 110 square feet.  I carefully masked my my very non-green thumb and tended them lovingly and faithfully.  We dispatched the rabbit, but not before he chowed down on almost all the beets and spinach.  Thankfully, the radishes survived his noshing.  I’ve poisoned mice for eating my green bean plants and (hopefully) chopped up a mole with a shovel for eating most of my carrots.  And today, in spite of the heat and drought, I have a healthy crop of parsnips, beautiful heads of cabbage forming, romaine that is over two feet tall (actually going to seed!), and nice chunky tomato vines (the pear tomatoes** are producing like crazy).

This has not been through any particular skill on my part.  It has taken hard work and perseverance, but the harvest will be worth it.

When we sowed the seeds into our garden, we looked upon our work with pleasure.  That very night, the tree to the east of the garden sowed its own seeds on the damp and fertile ground.  As with the seeds we placed intentionally, they took the opportunity to germinate in the nutrient rich soil.  We have had to work diligently to remove these sprouts once they reach a maturity level that displays their true character.  We’ve plucked them out before they have the opportunity to thrive.  If we didn’t, they would rob our crops of nutrients and crowd out their root systems.  We intend to reap the good food that we have sown, not feed opportunistic, worthless trees (most trees are not worthless, those in my garden are).

I was thinking about the current state of the world while working in the garden last night, as I often do.  It exists as something of a buffer or a preparation for things that may come.  So while I carefully patched up a tomato vine where it was damaged by the storm, I thought about the things we cultivate.  I provide good soil and water in the hopes of a successful harvest.  I defend my garden against threats from the local wildlife.  And I pluck out those things I do not wish to reap from my garden.  During this drought, I’ve ceased to water my lawn.  I tell people that if I can’t eat it, I’m not watering it.  And it shows.

We’ve all watched the seeds of entitlement blossom into violence in London.  In the once Great Britain, they have cultivated the things society needs the least.  Those that draw only from the nutrients and life blood of the community without giving anything in return.  They’ve enabled the weeds to overtake the crops by not plucking them out before they became threats.  Instead they’ve taken root and are working to destroy the source of their own sustenance.

It should come as no surprise.  They provided food, water, and care without expectation of production.  They’ve robbed the individual of the means to do the plucking of the weeds of their community.  No one should be shocked that they’ve become invasive and over-grown.  Once allowed to take root, it is only natural that they would want more.  And why not?  Why not redistribute that which can be taken so easily?

Take note, thoughtful readers.  Similar seeds have been sown around us, and there are those who would rob us of the means to fight back.  We are not immune.  We must be prepared.  Like weeds, they will find the cracks.  They are invasive, and they will spread if we are not diligent.

*Seriously, if I can make this stuff grow, you can too.  I cannot recommend them highly enough.  

**In the interest of full disclosure, the pear tomatoes were purchased as plants from Lowe’s.

Salad!

On Sundays, we generally get together EvylRobot’s family for lunch after church.  Everyone contributes something to the meal and we just hang out and enjoy the family fellowship time.

This Sunday, we brought 2 extra giggly girls, some NerdBeer of AtomicNerds fame (BTW-Stingray, Dad-in-law was impressed and enjoyed the fruits of your labors), and a delicious salad from our garden.

Yes, the very same intimidating garden grown from the seeds so generously provided by Emergency Seed Bank.  Radishes, spinach, and romaine – oh my!  All have thus far survived the inept gardening skills of yours truly.

Okay, not everything survived, I must admit.  The Swiss Chard I was so proud of that started this adventure?

Um…

Well…

I waited too long to transplant it to the garden.  The book said to move it in spring.  I got distracted.  And it got too warm in my back bathroom and dried out.  I will do better with this one next year.  I still have more seeds.

And in case you are wondering how on earth it got that warm in my bathroom.  Well that was another stroke of not quite brilliance on my part.  I saw all these nifty warming trays for starting seeds and thought, “Hey! That looks like a good idea.”  Note to self, Jennifer is not an adept gardener and should stick to the instructions in the book rather than get creative.  I killed my first batch of jalepenos and green peppers by cooking the seedlings.  Oops!

But hey, that’s all that I’ve killed.  All the seeds that were sent to me have sprouted and most survived the invasion of the bunny as well.  Only 2 beets seem to have evaded the bunny, but still, there is food growing my backyard!  Plants that I haven’t killed.  Really, this is exciting.

There are beets, romaine lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions, parsnips, green beans, peas, spinach, and green peppers actively growing in my backyard.  And those are just the seeds provided by Emergency Seed Bank.  In addition to that, we’ve got 5 habanero plants that we purchased at the hardware store along with 5 heirloom pear tomatoes.  There are also several tomato plants started from FarmFam seeds.

Things I’ve learned so far:

1. It is good to have things planted in nice neat carefully spaced rows rather than haphazardly in a given section.

2. If the tree at the edge of the yard happens to drop seeds into the garden, you will be pulling trees out of the garden all summer.

3.  Rabbits like spinach, radish greens, and beets.  Also, garden fed rabbits are tasty.  That’s right self-righteous vegetarians, cute fuzzy animals died for your salad too. (Links go to pictures that some may find disturbing)  Who knew that meat would come from a vegetable garden?

4. Stepping stones would be helpful in wider sections of the garden.  Although, stretching out to get the weed 3 feet from the edge is a great ab workout.

5. Holy smokes!  I like peas!  I’ve never liked peas.  They’ve always been nasty, slimy things that the mean lady at daycare forced me to eat.  But from my garden they are sweet, crisp, and delicious. Also, I’m ridiculously entertained and wonder what a certain princess would think of the peas growing up the headboard of the flower bed.

Whimsical Flower Bed

6. Seeds should be started in something deeper than Weber drip trays.

7. Soaker hoses rock.

8.  I am totally impressed with Emergency Seed Bank and highly recommend them to anyone interested in starting down the gardening adventure.

The Emergency Seed Bank provided one seed bank for me to plant and write about here.  All gardening ineptitude is my own.  They tried to give me instructions.  And yet, they’ve grown in spite of me.  All information provided here is from my own personal experience.  They provided seeds for me to write about but my endorsement of their product is my own.

An Inspiration

Us?  Really?

Those of you following on Twitter already know the abbreviated story from last night.  But here’s a longer version.

The assault sedan burns some oil.  Not a big deal, but we’ve got to keep close tabs on it.  Since we would be driving right by the local AutoZone while we were out to deliver a holster to a local customer, we stopped to pick up some more and top it up.  Just a quick in and out stop.

Hubby ran in to grab the oil while the WeeBot and I waited in the car.  Haphazardly pulled up into the spaces to our right was a beat up minivan with a flat tire.  A distraught man addressed me and asked if we were in a big hurry.  I told him that we were not and he asked if we had a jack.

We do, of course.  In fact, there are enough supplies in the back of that little sedan to terrify a certain anti that Weerd was just talking about yesterday.  But the fact of the matter is, the jack for a Nissan Sentra is not exactly well suited to jacking up a Ford Windstar.  But since the AutoZone didn’t have a loaner, it was better than nothing.  So I dug the jack out from under the extra water and the blanket in the trunk.

We crawled on the ground looking for a jack point on the front of the van, but alas, there was none to be found.  But we did find a sturdy enough support that would do the job.  It wasn’t exactly accessible, but such is life.  Hubby came out of the store and topped up the oil and offered his assistance in removing the lug nuts.  During this ordeal, we learned that the guy had just picked up the van to use as a work vehicle.  He didn’t realize when he bought it that it did not have the jack, but thankfully it did have a serviceable spare.

And then the limo pulled up.

It’s not every day you see a stretch limo at AutoZone.  Apparently, he needed a headlamp.  The suited chauffeur watched us helping the guy for a bit.  I explained that we were trying to make the jack from our Sentra work with his van.  The chauffeur cocked his head and headed to the trunk of the limo.  Sure enough, out came a much larger and more appropriate jack.

We chatted and soon got the guy’s van road worthy again.  At one point, the chauffeur had shed his wool suit jacket and was right there on his knees helping to jack up the van.  We talked about what we were up to and what plans we’d adjusted.  The chauffeur was headed to the airport to pick some people up, but their flight wouldn’t be in for a little while longer.  We told them that we were out delivering leather goods.  That always raises some eyebrows so explanations were made and business cards distributed.  The guy was just stunned that the 3 of us would interrupt our plans to help a complete stranger.  He thanked us profusely before we headed on our way.

But what really struck me was what the chauffeur said to me as we were shaking hands and leaving, “You guys are an inspiration.”

An inspiration huh?  How different is that from Mulligan changing our tire when we went to visit Christina?  And Ambulance Driver following us all the way back to OKC from her north Texas home? (Okay, mostly followed us.  We were still faster even on the emergency spare.  But he tried anyway.  And called to make sure we were fine.)

What Joan and her ilk fail to understand is that we don’t live in fear of our fellow man.  We just want to be prepared for whatever situation presents itself.  I’m sure she’d love to publish a headline stating that an armed man and woman entered the local AutoZone, but she can’t grasp that the only thing we did there is take care of our own business and help a stranger.  And that this is normal, every day behavior for us.  Too bad though.  At least to that chauffeur, we’re an inspiration.