Whew! What a day. I need to share some background first, though.
The boys went deer hunting last Saturday but didn’t even see any. (They should have been with me—I could have hit one on the road if I’d tried.) Still, they didn’t return empty-handed. My uncle gave them a small doe he got the day before so they’d at least get the experience of butchering their own deer. I must say it’s quite a larger task than doing rabbits.
So today my father-in-law came over with the meat grinder, and the guys set to work on the carcass, which had been hanging in the shed. A make-shift table was erected in the garage, and the butchering began.
I had just bundled up Elisabeth and sent her out to play in the snow with Joseph and Hannah, while I busied myself with bread-baking and laundry.
Then I got a call from the lady who was buying our breeder rabbits—she had just pulled into the driveway and was so sorry she had forgotten to call en route. Ack! She was now here—in the middle of everything, and we weren’t ready for her.
I put Hannah in charge of the younger ones, and my father-in-law was left to debone meat by himself (thanks, Bob!) while the rest of us trekked back to the rabbitry and hauled snow-covered hutches and rabbits down to the driveway. Water and feed bowls needed cleaned, and the rabbits had to be boxed up separately (and hopefully not escape in the process) and be secure enough for an hour road trip. The snow continued to fall while we worked to figure out how to make three enormous hutches fit in one SUV. (There is no way, by the way. It required two trips.)
So now we’re without our trusty breeder rabbits—Jesse, the friendly buck; Cinnamon the good-tempered doe; and her equally sweet sister Cider, the bun who never missed an opportunity to escape from her hutch if the latch was left undone. We had a lot of fun adventures with these three over the past year and a half, and we still have nine of their offspring, at least for another month.
We decided to simplify our winter—well, Caleb’s winter, to be specific. (Nathan manages the chickens and Caleb handles the rabbits.) It’s a lot of work caring for small animals in five different cages, with water bowls constantly freezing up and all. We may keep two of the young does overwinter then barter one for a buck in the spring; or, we may just put them all in the freezer next month and be done with rabbits for a while.
So once we got the rabbits on their way to their new home, we tackled the deer again, getting a good bit of ground meat and stew meat as well as the tenderloin, which I hear is fantastic. I used some of the ground meat tonight for pasta with meat sauce, which we all like well.
I should also mention another dish I made recently, one that was completely new to me, and one I’d never dreamed of making—until recently, that is. Squirrel. Yes, really and truly. Years ago, the chances of me cooking (and eating) squirrel were about as great as the chances of David skinning a deer. My, have we progressed or what?
Two weekends ago, David, Nathan and Caleb went small game hunting with my uncle, and they traipsed around for hours and hours, really hoping to get something. Many thanks to my uncle, because I’ll bet beating the briars to scare up game for hours on end isn’t nearly as fun as it was 40 years ago. My men came home with thorny scratches covering them, but they also returned with a squirrel and a dove. Hunting success!
We have learned a lot from raising and butchering our own meat, but hunting one’s own meat adds a new perspective. Our food is so easily acquired that we can’t help but take it for granted. But just think back to the day where a successful hunt meant a full stomach and an unsuccessful one meant hunger. We can’t even imagine it very well, can we?
Anyway, with Nathan’s squirrel and Caleb’s dove, plus a small rabbit from the freezer, we had a feast of game one night last week. The squirrel was delicious. (It still seems odd to hear myself say this. Is it just as odd for you to hear me say it??) I think in eating a squirrel it makes a difference that it was because our own son put meat on the table–a proud mama moment. But truly, if you can get past the squirrelly connotations of eating an actual squirrel, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t enjoy a meal of it. Tastes kind of like chicken.
Speaking of which, our hens are really laying now. We’re getting a dozen or so eggs a day—some great big ones and some cute little banty and pullet eggs, in white, cream, and all shades of brown. We love having chickens.
Okay, you’ve been sufficiently updated on our animal situations. Our day involved other complications and interruptions I won’t bother you with, and I hope tomorrow is comparatively boring.