Tag Archive | homesteading

Roadkill Tetrazzini

 

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There’s one stretch of road, on the way up the canyon to town, where wild turkeys often cross. They feed in the field below, and roost in trees uphill. In spring we watch the males’ magnificent displays as we cruise slowly by. Those of us who live here are pretty careful driving that stretch, though some of us have joked for years about hitting one for Thanksgiving dinner.

Yesterday, driving home from errands, feathers still flew as I approached the body; must have been a vehicle one or two in front of me that hit her. The bird, still warm, was missing her head. I put her in the back seat and drove home, thinking Do I really want to do this? But at least this way, I had the choice to butcher her, or throw her off the canyon for lions if I decided not to try.

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I tied her feet to a juniper limb in the driveway, and pulled some skin off to assess the damage. One side was pretty thoroughly smashed, but the other side looked good.

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After removing the tail, wings, and separating the body from the hanging legs, I texted this picture to David, my go-to hunter, captioned What now? He lives for turkey season. I knew it would get his attention. I had a lot of questions.

I wondered, for example, if it would ruin the meat if I got some of the green guts on it. And what tool would cut off the feet? And how to begin cutting up the body. Also, if I got turkey offal or blood into the splits in my fingertips, would I get sick and die? By the time he called me, I had the body rinsing in the sink. David talked me through the rest of the process.

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He explained about bloodshot meat: The breast on the hit side was deep red, shot through with blood that would make its flavor too strong for me, but, he said, I’ll bet you have two dogs that would love to eat that! Indeed I do.

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I filleted the breasts and the tenderloin off the ribcage, and put the carcass into the dutch oven full of water to make stock for the dogs. The two pieces on the left were damaged in the collision and deep red throughout. 

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I chopped up the bloodshot breast and loin and threw them in the skillet with some olive oil, then wrapped the good meat in freezer paper. 

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Cooked, it looked pretty good! I tried a tiny crisp piece, and it wasn’t bad… but it was strong and different, and by then I’d had enough of dead turkey for the day.

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While the dog food sizzled and the stock came to a boil, I went back outside to deal with the legs. First, as David told me where to bend the leg, I cut off the shattered thigh with the knife, then used my Felco garden pruners to cut both legs off the feet.

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After rinsing the legs clean in cold water I wrapped them, too, and popped it all in the deep freeze. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the meat, but knew I didn’t feel like eating it right then. Then, outside to sort the carnage.

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I suspected that a young naturalist friend might want the feet,  good wing and remaining feathers, so once I’d wrapped the guts and bloody feathers up in the newspaper that had caught the drips, I poured about an inch of kosher salt in a brown paper bag, and stood up all the parts, weeping ends down in the salt, to preserve them til I could get the whole deal to her aunt’s deep freeze. Such beautiful feathers! And the little curled feather ruffs that became of the skin that pulled off so easily. Who knew?

My neighbor with the milk cows gave me some kefir grains the other day. I gave up making kefir last spring because it just kept getting ahead of me; I couldn’t use it up fast enough to justify the cost of the milk I ended up wasting. This morning I transferred the grains for the first time. The kefir rollercoaster begins again! She said, I use it for everything I’d use yogurt or sour cream for. And I thought, aha! Turkey tetrazzini! A childhood comfort food with a wild twist. When my houseguests arrive this weekend, guess what we’ll have for dinner?

Maybe. We’ll see what they think of the idea of roadkill tetrazzini. Either way, I’ve practiced my homesteading skills, proven to myself I can be resourceful in a way I’ve resisted in the past (I have a friend who routinely eats roadkill, and I have balked when it’s been offered), and made use of an otherwise wasted life. And the dogs are loving their treats. Mother forgive us for our speed, I pray every time I pass a dead animal in the road. We don’t need to move so fast.

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The black cat survived his third Halloween. He is so precious! In for the night, awaiting dinner.

Food, Despair and Gratitude

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For me, taking pictures of food is a prayer of gratitude. A few weeks ago I traded Ruth some kefir grains and a jar of milk for some sourdough starter and four cups of flour. This is what I got! I need a ready supply of bread for the winter so I can eat all that jam I’ve been making while the world unravels.

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Peach jam on warm bread. I’m not a big fan of sourdough, but this starter and recipe doesn’t actually taste sour; it couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

 

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Or more convenient. The next loaf didn’t do so well, a little flat, but still the perfect vehicle for plum jam and rose hip jelly. 

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I’m on my third loaf, roughly one a week, and still have fresh tomatoes in late October. I savor each sandwich as I deplete the tomato basket, down to the last few ripening from green I picked before the first freeze.

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Grilled white cheddar and garden tomato on one of the few cold days we’ve had so far this fall. Uncanny how warm it’s been: This is no brief return of mild weather as we usually get before Thanksgiving, after some serious cold and snow has already come; this is still-summer weather broken by a few cold snaps. It’s been the longest, mildest autumn I can remember. Looks like we may be winning the climate change lottery here in western Colorado.

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Basil and tomato open-face on toast. I brought in one pot of basil for winter, one each of mint, oregano, and rosemary.

Why, though? Why this obsession with fresh food and homemade jelly and bread? Because I can, here; because we have this great good fortune to live in a hospitable clime where many good things grow in abundance, and water, air and land are wholesome; because we have the luxury to tend and appreciate beauty and bounty in our gardens. Because we are lucky to live here. As the world seems to harshen and disintegrate around us, I savor more intensely quotidian joys in the moment.

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Maybe the best apple pie I’ve made all season, from the Fujis that grew on the little tree by the gate, with brown sugar and spices and butter crust, topped with Cynthia’s homemade cinnamon ice cream.

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All that homesteading the past few months, freezing and canning… whew! Reaping the rewards with a peachtini by the pond in October: peach-infused gin and peach brandy, garnished with frozen peaches.

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Life as Art. Every little thing.

I’ve been meditating a lot on gratitude recently. My whole life I’ve had so much to be thankful for! Yet there’s always been, below that awareness, this undercurrent of despair. When I was a child I dreamed of how it is now in the world: greed seems to prevail, and our fragile planet is always at stake in some urgent battle. Solastalgia has had me in its grip since I was nine years old.

Dwelling in this remarkable valley for more than a third of my life, I finally begin to shed the anxiety that has plagued me since childhood. Gratitude and compassion have been wrestling with guilt and despair inside me for half a century; most of these days gratitude wins. It helps to live in this community that values nature, eats responsibly, and celebrates our interconnection with the earth.

Now this peaceful valley stands at a precipice: the Bureau of Land Management gets to decide the 20-year game plan for the public lands that surround us, and it wants to open 95% of them to lease for fracking and other extractive industry. Anyone can submit comments to the BLM by November 1, opposing oil and gas leasing in the North Fork Valley.

We are just one front among many in the larger fight to save the planet from fossil fuel gluttony. We will do what we can and what we must to save our small island of life from the encroaching tentacles of corporate greed. It’s an uphill battle, but we have everything to lose.