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It’s December…

It’s December… How did that happen? Where did this year go? My life just started to calm down a tiny bit, and then Scott shot a deer on the last day of gun hunting. Now I have to push through one more week of food preservation. (To be fair, we could have taken the deer in for processing, but I didn’t want to spend the money.) Advent started a few days ago, our tree is up, the house is sparsely decorated at the moment, and it’s going to be a busy month.

Sunday was an exciting day. We woke up to a thick blanket of snow like I’ve never seen before. It wasn’t that we got a ton of snow, but the way the snow clung to EVERYTHING. I wish I had gotten a picture of it, but even the branches of the weeping willow trees by our house were completely coated in snow. And it was seriously heavy packing snow, too. We told the kids they’d be able to play outside after church. During gun hunting season, we don’t let them play outside just to be safe (even though they’d probably be just fine if they stayed near the house), so they had been stuck inside all week and were feeling cooped up.

Scott wanted to take a walk with me on our trails, and we decided that as long as we were dressed appropriately (wearing the required blaze orange of gun hunting season), it’d be fine. Most of the hunters in our area had packed up by Sunday morning anyway. I told Scott he should at least bring the rifle along.

We got set to walk and started taking the path around the pie field. I was looking at the ice on the pond and we were quietly chatting for a bit. We stopped talking and I was just about to ask him if he wanted to stay quiet the rest of the walk when I spotted a buck standing in the cattails under a tree. I nudged Scott, and he got ready to aim as quickly as possible. I stepped back, covered my ears and watched.

The deer was under the tree that is on the far left of this picture. I can’t actually see it in this photo, but this was taken just shortly before I spotted it. I stopped her to get a picture of the frozen pond and the white sticks that are the maple trees in the background.

I think we were both shocked that he shot it. I mean, he’s a good shot, but it all happened so quickly, from the deer bolting to the shots fired. We had to track the deer for a little ways, but not far at all. It was a beautiful buck. A 9-point rack, tall and dark…

Scott did the gutting right away, and I helped him hold everything open while he worked. My father-in-law arrived not long after to help bring the deer back to the house. We hung it up and they worked on skinning it. My father-in-law offered to bring it in for processing before Scott skinned it, but being the stubborn woman that I am, I said “No.” Scott would quarter it, and I’d do the rest of the butchering.

The kids were insanely proud of their dad for getting food for the family. My father-in-law (pictured) was almost as excited as Scott and I were by this catch.

We let the meat cool and Monday evening, we quartered it and cut off the backstraps and tenderloins. Everything went in a cooler with ice and stayed outside since the temps have been below freezing. We’ve talked in the past about learning to tan a hide or making a pelt, and I talked Scott into letting me learn how to do it this year. He saved the fur, and Monday and Tuesday I scraped it clean while I had time. Being the newbie that I am, I had quite a learning curve. Plus I didn’t have all of the right tools, so I was just doing my best with what I have. HOPEFULLY, I got it cleaned properly. I salted the hide and it’s now resting until I have more time to deal with it.

Yesterday, I worked on cutting up some of the meat. I cut up the straps into some steaks and stew meat, and I saved the tenderloins whole. So far, I put 9.5 lbs. in the freezer. I also deboned one of the hind quarters, but I didn’t get further than that. It’s been two years since we last butchered venison, so I’m a little rusty. That, and I was juggling butchering with taking care of the baby, canning tomato sauce, and scrapping the hide.

Why was I canning tomato sauce? Wouldn’t there have been some better time to do that? Like before hunting season? Um, yeah. There was a better time for that. But I’d been busy and hadn’t been able to get to it, and suddenly I was out of freezer space and needing a place to be able to put a bunch of meat. So I cleared two shelves of one freezer of frozen tomatoes and I put them in our bathtub. Because that’s where most people store their tomatoes, right? 😉

A tub full of tomatoes. This is about half of what was in the freezer. I’ll save the rest for doing sauce next month when I have more time.

Like I said, ideally, I would have done this a week or two ago, or anytime before this, but I didn’t, so I really didn’t have a choice. I stuck the tomatoes in the tub to thaw out… the water could drain into the tub and not make a mess of my floors. But metal tubs get cold when you place frozen things in them, so I filled the tub with enough hot water to cover the bags of tomatoes. I don’t know exactly how long it took for them to thaw out, but it went pretty quickly after I put the hot water in.

From there, I drained the water from the tub once the tomatoes were mushy, then drained the liquid from the bags of tomatoes. (Freezing and then draining tomatoes saves a ton of cooking time.) After that, I stuck them in the Nesco and let them cook down until I was satisfied with the consistency. I’ll try to get a post up about the full process soon, because it is a major time saver!

The tomatoes might have filled the entire bottom of the tub while frozen, but after thawing and draining, they just fit into the sink (it’s a big sink, but still…).

So the start of Advent has been full of excitement, and it probably gives you a glimpse into why I haven’t written anything in months. We have been extremely busy! There’s hopefully a post coming on all of that really soon, but I really have no idea when I’ll get the time to write again.

This little munchkin is a big part of why I haven’t been writing. If I’m not homeschooling or cleaning or working on homestead projects, I’m nursing, tickling, loving, and playing with this baby! He’s a handful these days!

Do any of you go deer hunting? Did you get anything this year?

Love~Danielle

P.S. If you’d have told me 15 years ago that someday I’d be butchering my own meat, scraping a hide, helping my husband gut a deer (or chickens for that matter), or even canning my own food, I would have probably laughed at you. Instead, I’m laughing at myself for the things that I used to be uncomfortable with and the changes I have made in my life.

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