Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mega Tom and Micro Jake

My dad and mom came up for turkey season this month. We had a great visit and my dad had wonderful hunting success! I had success too, but on a MUCH smaller scale.

Our area has a high turkey population. High enough for Idaho Fish and Game to issue depredation permits for out particular game unit. All during the winter the turkeys hang around our chickens stealing their food but when their mating season begins in early spring the jakes and toms disband from the mixed group and cruise around the forest looking for hens.

The tom that my dad got weighed 23 pounds and had a beard that was almost 10 inches long. When he was dressed out he hit 18 pounds on the scale. We did not know the significance of his weight until my husband checked it out on the computer. This was a big turkey that could of ranked high in the Idaho records if we had him officially weighed before preparing him for the table.

I cooked him the same way I do a domesticated bird and he came out wonderfully moist and tender. The only thing that I would say was "tough" were the drumsticks but those legs had to carry a lot of weight probably a mile or so each day so we will forgive the big guy for that. I cook all turkeys covered until the last 30 minutes to brown the skin. The internal temperature reached 170F. A few years back we shot a couple of jakes that cooked up beautifully and suspected that the older toms would not be nearly as tender but this big tom did not disappoint!
Now my little turkey was the polar opposite of my dad's mega tom! When I shot my jake he tumbled into a nearby spring and got himself soaked so he wasn't a very pretty picture when my husband photographed him. He was in a group with 3 other jakes and he had the longest beard (4 inches) in the group so I thought he would be of decent size. Boy, was I wrong! I easily picked him up with one arm he was so little. I didn't weigh him before I cleaned him because he was so wet and dirty I didn't want to put him on my scale. When he was all dressed out he only weighed 9 1/2 pounds.

He's going to make a great eating bird to be sure. Almost all of the bird shot was concentrated on his head and he had only two body shots: one in the neck and one in his back between his wings. Because of his youth he was extremely easy to pick, too. He's in the freezer right now while I decide if I want to bake him or put him in the Bradley smoker.

I purchased a second turkey tag that I can start using beginning May 1st. Maybe I'll have another hunting story to share soon. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Planting Fruit Trees...At Last!

Boy does time go by fast! We have owned our place in Northern Idaho for 12 years now and have never planted a fruit tree. Oh, we've talked about it many times but just never acted upon it. It just seemed kind of daunting to try to figure out what and where to plant. Also, we haven't had the greatest of luck on the few trees that we tried planting here due to the depredations of mice, gophers and deer.
Our home came with three fruit trees: a greenish/yellow apple of some sort that we thought might be a Granny Smith, a tiny plum tree that makes tiny plums and an apricot tree that bloomed so early that it generally got its blossoms froze off. The apple tree usually makes enough fruit some seasons to make a few pies and a batch apple butter.This year, with the encouragement of my brother-in-law Doug, we decided that none of us were getting any younger and it was silly to keep putting off planting fruit trees. Most fruit trees will take at least 2 years to be mature enough to produce any fruit so that even delays the wait for your reward even longer.
We ordered four trees from Stark Brothers: a Honeycrisp semi-dwarf apple tree, a Jonathon dwarf apple tree, an Intrepid standard peach tree and a Harglow standard apricot tree. Honeycrisp is our favorite apple and the Jonathon is a baking apple that blossoms at the same time so they can pollenate each other.
The apricot and peach trees were both described as late blooming varieties which will hopefully work well here. We are at USDA Zone 6 so our winters are not that cold compared to most northern states. But the springs here take a long time to get rolling. It is normal to experience frosty nights here well into the first week of June. I don't dare put our tomato plants in the garden until June.
The sight we picked for our "orchard" was the backyard. It slopes downhill towards the west and to the east is our house which we hope will help divert cold air around it as it travels downhill. The slope continues past the border of the backyard so there is no risk of cold air pooling there either.
Since these trees were bare root we soaked them in water for about 4 hours before planting. Each hole was dug about 2 feet wide and a 1 1/2 feet deep. We mixed the soil from each hole with Eco Organic Compost (1 part compost to 2 parts soil) and 6 TBS of Vigoro Timed-Release All-Purpose Plant Food which feeds up to 6 months. I never use non-organic fertilizers on my vegetables or raspberries but we made the exception this time because we wanted a time-released product to help get these trees well-established. The fertilizer will surely be gone by the time these trees produce fruit...I hope!
To address all of our predation problems we put a layer of defenses (or should I say fences!) around each tree. Before we back filled the the holes, we surrounded them with 2 foot wide hardware cloth to hopefully prevent an attack from the gophers. Then we cut the tops and bottoms off of 2 liter Coke bottles and wrapped the remaining part of the bottle around the base of each tree to deter mice from chewing on the trees at their base. To keep the deer and Greg's geese from nibbling the trees we placed a cylinder of welded 5 foot wire farm fence around each tree. These were stabllized by T post, too.
I'll keep everyone posted on how these trees do. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they make it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What All the Well-dressed Chickens are Wearing.

From the first batch of chicks that we hatched, Emma has picked out her favorite. It's a little blonde pullet that she has named "Cooner" because she has a beard like an Ameracuna chicken. Actually she is a cross between a Buff Orpington rooster and an Easter Egger hen.
Emma has been bringing Cooner into the house and dressing her up and the chicken seems to tolerate it, too. At first I started to worry if the bird was maybe sick or something and I told Emma to stop bringing her in but after a few days I noticed nothing wrong with her. She's just a laid back chicken!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Want More Room in Your Freezer? Bake a Pie!!

Well, it's attempting to be Spring here. This is when I look in the freezer and say to myself "We have got to use up some of these things up!" We grow a lot of strawberries and raspberries and there were still about 3 gallons of 2008 raspberries in our freezer. So, I decided to bake myself a raspberry pie.

I took a rhubarb pie recipe that I just love and switched the filling on it to one of raspberries. One reason I like this recipe is that it is a little lower on the fat being a one-crust pie. Also, it uses a no-roll pie crust where canola oil is used instead of shortening. But believe me this is no Weight Watchers recipe by any stretch! Here's what you'll need:

Crusty Raspberry Pie

No-Roll Pie Crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup canola oil(or other vegetable oil)
2 Tbs milk

4 cups raspberries (fresh or defrosted frozen berries)
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbs Clear Jell or 1/3 cup flour
2 Tbs chilled butter cut into pieces

1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
1/4 sugar
1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350F.

To make the crust, mix flour with salt and sugar then pour in oil and milk. You can mix it with well with a fork or put it in a food processor and give it a few pulses until it is crumbly in texture.

Transfer the mixture to a deep-dish pie pan and press with your fingers to spread it over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and Clear Jel (or flour) together. Add the berries and gently toss to cover with the sugar mixture. Pour this into the prepared pie crust. Dot with the butter pieces.To make the topping, mix the butter, sugar and flour with a pastry blender until crumbly or place it in the food processor and give it a few pulses until crumbly. Sprinkle over the berry mixture.
Place your pie in the oven and bake for one hour or until the filling is bubbling and the topping is browned. It's great topped with ice cream or whipped cream. Enjoy!