Monday, October 20, 2014

Cooking Birds

Cooking Birds

   The hard part of eating grouse or any other kind of wild bird out in the wild (other than catching one) is cooking them. You can always do the "I'm starving and need to eat" thing and just roast them over the fire. The problem with that is the lack of fat on them. No matter how careful you are they are going to end up really dry. That's the next best thing to eating them raw (been there, done that) but it's not a meal you'd want to invite friends over for. Of course you can just drop the whole bird on the fire. You don't have to pluck it that way and you get the fat from under the skin. Try hard to stand up wind of the fire if you decide to try this. Another option is to boil them. At least that way, as long as you boil them with the skin on you do get what little fat they have by drinking the broth. Again, it's not the best unless you have some kind of veggies and a little salt to go with them, but, it is filling.

   My favorite way of fixing any bird and especially grouse in using a pit oven. I start by digging a hole at least a foot deep and a couple of feet wide. You can make it bigger or smaller if you want because you can use the same cooking method for every thing from birds and fish to a whole hog. Next I line the bottom of the hole with rocks then build a fire on top of them. You want the rocks to get really hot so the bigger fire you can make the faster you can start cooking. I was always at the mercy of the firewood situation, along the beach where there's lots of firewood is easy, in the middle of the Arizona desert it takes a little longer. While the fire is burning you can gut your birds. If you have a way to boil water you can soak and pluck them just like a chicken, if not, toss them on the fire and burn the feathers off but not cook them. If you are in an area where you can find something to stuff them with they will be even better! I like using cat tail stalks, stinging nettles (either blanch them or toss them in the fire for a few seconds), clover (test the clover first, if it's bitter and biting it's good) dandelion leaves. fern tips and even nuts (walnuts are my favorite). Salt and pepper are great depending on how you do the next step. If you are in a place where you can find them wrap the birds in the biggest leaves you can find. Let the leaves soak in some water so the are nice and wet when you wrap them. Cat tail leaves work great for this. If you can't find any leaves you can always wrap them in mud, this works just fine because the mud will bake along with the birds and peels right off but unless you have a lot of salt and pepper don't put it on with the mud, the mud will soak it all off and you get very little flavor, better to save it till the birds are done.

   When you have the rocks hot let the fire burn down. While their still hot, set a few of the coals aside and spread rest in a layer over the rocks. Next add a layer of dirt over the ashes at least an inch thick. Put the wrapped birds on this layer, in the center of the fire pit and cover with dirt. After you have at least 2 inches of dirt covering the birds add more firewood on top and use the coals to start another fire, it doesn't need to be very big or last long time as all you want to do is warm the dirt.

   Now you can do anything you want for about 3 hours if you covered the birds with leaves and about 4 if you used mud. After that just dig em out, unwrap em and chow down!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Out in the Woods

   A lot of the time when I have been out in the country, woods, desert or forest I haven't had much more than the cloths on my back and a knife. The reason is because I've chosen to go out there like this to challenge myself. That doesn't mean you need to do it this way. Even if your just going for a day hike and you are 100% sure that you will be back to your car way before nightfall, THINK AHEAD!
   You'd be surprised at how many things can go wrong within a mile of your starting point! Can you crawl a mile? Been there, done that and believe me, it ain't as easy as it sounds! The difference between life and death, or at least, being able to walk out of the forest on your own instead of having Search and Rescue come and drag you out is a few simple thoughts.
    ALWAYS think the worst is going to happen! You go for a short nature walk with your grandkids. What happens if you trip and break your leg? Are your grandkids going to be able to find their way back to your starting point, find someone and describe where you're at? Maybe, maybe not. You going to trust your life on that gamble? Make sure someone knows where you're going and what time you expect to be back. It might seem like over kill but make yourself a hiking pack. It doesn't have to be a big one, even a little fanny pack (as dumb as they look) will work. Think about spending the night in the woods, what is the least you think you can get by with. I have a belt pack I take that has a canteen and a belt knife. I always take something to munch on be it a few pieces of jerky or just a couple of candy bars. All ways make sure you have something to start a fire with. I'm lazy a lot of the time and carry a few disposable lighters. I also have a film can that I carry matches in. Take a whistle, it might seem weird but people can hear and home in on the sound of a whistle better than a person yelling. Those little space blankets are real handy. They don't do much to keep you warm unless you can totally roll up in one like a big silver burrito but they do work as a ground cloth and can keep you semi dry if you get caught in the rain. A good size piece od string is always a good thing to have. You can do everything from tying up your space blanket to make a lean-to, too improvising a splint. Don't forget a knife! Even a small pocket knife will cut fire wood, just make sure it's sharp! Dull knifes cut more people than sharp ones because you need less force to use them and they are easier to control.
   Know where you're going! Check a map of the area you want to hike in and formularize yourself with the area. I like to do that and try to carry a compass with me. No matter how turned around I get as long as I have a general idea of the area and a compass I know that if I keep heading in a certain direction I will at least find a road. 
   If you do find yourself lost or even turned around , STOP! Calm down and think. It's not the end of the world and you don't need to running through the woods. If you are for sure lost then the best thing you can do is stay right where you are. Yes your starting point might only be a half mile away but unless you are positive of the direction you will just make things worse if you keep wondering in the wrong direction. I'd much rather suffer the embarrassment of being found a half mile from the camp than put everyone to the trouble of having to do a full on search and rescue. If someone doesn't find you by dark don't panic, make yourself as comfortable as possible, gather some fire wood, build a little fire and relax and enjoy the stars, they will find you! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Direction

   Sometimes I tend to just get tired. I'm getting old, a lot older than I ever expected to be and I get tired of hurting all the time! Between the back, the leg and the breathing sometimes it almost feels like it's more than it's worth! I think the thing I get the most tired of is not being able to do what I want to do!
   I didn't get to go hunting this year because I just flat out can't walk the distance I need to in the woods. I have hunted since I was around 10 years old and to have to admit that I can't do it anymore really hurts!
   I really hate this being retired thing! Maybe if I had worked at a job all my working life and was looking forward to being able to quit that would be different but I had to retire because I've screwed my body up so much that I can't work. My "can do" just won't keep up with my "want to" anymore.
   Anyway, enough of my whining, Here's my new plan.  I have really gotten into cooking in the last few years, which means I watch a lot of the cooking shows on TV. One I have been watching is The Great Food Truck Race and I got to thinking that I kind of like food trucks. There's a couple of Mexican trucks around that I think make better food than any of the restaurants around here.
   Here's my plan. I'm going to go around and sample all the food trucks I can find and report back on how they do. The first thing I'm going to be looking for is taste then presentation then customer service. Be warned, I am not a chief and my palate is not the greatest in the world but I do Know what I like so my judging will limited to that! Plus, I can only judge food trucks in the NW, I'm thinking Wa. and Oregon.
   This at least gives me something to do and I hope it might give folks an idea of where they might want to stop and get a bite. Sooooo, if you live in the NW and have tried a food truck let me know, good or bad, I'll check them out and see if I agree with you!   

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Pond

The Pond


   We came up with the idea  of having some kind of a pond to help attract birds years ago. We have a spot out by the trees where we hang the bird feeders that we thought would work so we started digging. The first ne we had was only about 5 feet long by 4 feet wide and about 2 feet deep. We just lined the bottom with plastic and filled it full of water. We added a fountain, some water plants and even a few fish. It was such a great place to sit in the evening and listen to the water flowing as we relaxed and watched the birds.

   The first problem we had with that one was the little weenie dog we had at the time would not keep her butt out of the pond! I'm pretty sure the reason she kept jumping in was because she could see the fish and kept trying to catch them. I was sure she had accomplished that when my fish started disappearing! I never could catch her at it though and I never found any sign that she was eating them but I was sure she was the culprit. Then one day I was sitting on the front porch and notices a huge blob in the tree right above the pond. It was high enough in the tree that with it being later in the evening and starting to get dark I couldn't tell what it was until it moved. I couldn't believe that I was seeing a Great Blue Heron sitting in a pine tree! It hopped from one limb to another until it was on the lowest limb then fluttered down to land on the edge of the pond. I was in shock and didn't even think about scaring it away so I just set there and watched the damn thing eat two of my fish. I had to apologize to the stubby legged dog! Over the next few days that bird ate every one of our fish!

   I guess the dog just liked being in the water but that still cause our next problem. She didn't have any trouble jumping in the pond but it was the getting out that killed use. She ripped the plastic to pieces with her back legs while trying to climb out and unfortunately the ground around here is not like the ground down home, it will not hold water! All the water drained out through the tears and that was the end of that pond. We still wanted one though and a few years ago we started in again. We owe thanks to lots of people for helping with this one Son Justin was the first one to hop in the existing hole and start cleaning it out and digging it deeper. The bad thing with that is that he was only able to do it one summer and between the back and the lungs I just wasn't able to continue. It had to sit for a couple of years because we couldn't afford to hire anyone to carry on. I'd go out and dig at it a little every time I got to feeling well enough but I could only do a few shovelfuls before I had to stop and at that rate it was going to take years to get it done. Next up I made a deal with a neighbor to finish the digging. He worked hard and did good but he ran out of gas half way through the job so we were stuck again.

   Finally Dorris and I decided we wanted it bad enough to finish it ourselves no matter how long it took! I started working on it during the day 15 minutes of digging and cleaning then back in the house for a breathing treatment. Kind of the same way I did the deck out back. Dorris helped when she got home in the evenings and slowly we gained on it.

   Same as last time, it's nothing fancy, just a hole lined with plastic but it is larger and deeper than the first one and we don't have any water crazy dogs to tear it up this time.


   We added some astro-turf to hide the black plastic and make it easier for the birds to get down to the water to drink. The rocks around the edge are ones from the yard (got more rocks than dirt). They cover and hold down the edges of the plastic and astro-turf plus the dogs can stand on them while drinking and they will help keep them from falling in.

   Added a filter with the fountain because we do want to add some fish and plants.

   Yes that is a birdbath. It is a nice one and we like the way it looks. It also helps aureate the water.

   The last water feature. Dorris saw this when we buying the filter and liked it.
We're going to let it sit for a few days while we decide if we want to keep it and if we do I will hide the water line going to it.

   We still got some clean up to around the pond. We need to bring our covered swing around front. Add some water plants, snails and fish. Not sure what to do with the spaces around the pond. Thinking of adding some top soil and seeing if I can get some grass to grow back under the trees. Anyway, this is our pond and I'm looking forward to sitting by it in the evening again!