Sunday, January 28, 2007

Freedom Fighting Squirrel Hunter - Homesteading My Way

Throughout our married life, people often comment that Bernie and I lead a very eclectic life. I'll be the first to admit that our interests, beliefs and passions cover a very broad spectrum, but I've always felt that the interest in, and often confusion about, the way we live is really based on stereotypes to which others cling. I see no contradiction in fighting for freedom and liberty, holding a professional career, riding motorcycles, and homesteading all at the same time.

We spent Friday at the Capitol in Richmond. We had two bikers' rights bills (HB2585 and HB3077) scheduled for a committee hearing at 9:00AM, so we left our house in town at 5:15AM so we could get there a little early and meet with a few delegates about them before the meeting started. I also planned to meet with Delegate Lohr concerning his amendment to the NAIS bill that was introduced here in Virginia, but could not catch him in his office. After checking his office 3 times before the committee hearing and 2 times after, the legislative aide finally suggested I make an appointment. Since I will be there tomorrow to attend the Senate committee hearing for another bill (SB909), I made an appointment for 11:00AM. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

I promised to talk about the squirrel hunting planned for this weekend, and I am going to do that in the next paragraph. But as we leave the subject of Freedom Fighting, let me leave this quote with you:

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

Winston Churchill

As I mentioned last week, Eddie planned to take me squirrel hunting on Saturday. I hunted squirrels in my youth and although I'm pretty sure I never killed one, I do remember spending time with my cousins Mark and Emory in the woods tracking down squirrel. I certainly remember cleaning and cooking them, but the details completely escape me. So it's been quite a while, to say the least, and a refresher course seemed wise, if not necessary. Bernie knows how to hunt squirrel, but being a smart man who knows how to keep peace in his marriage, he refused to be the one to teach me. So the job fell upon Eddie's shoulders. Eddie loves to hunt, so he seemed eager to be the teacher. Ok, he may have only been "willing" to teach me, but I prefer to think he was, at the very least, not dreading it.

So on Thursday night Eddie announced to me that we would be leaving to go squirrel hunting "at the crack of dawn" on Saturday morning. I didn't say anything to him, but later I commented to Bernie "You know, I see squirrel out and running around all day long. Why the heck do we have to go out at the crack of dawn on Saturday?" Bernie looked at me like I just beamed down from Mars and said "What? It's the hunter's way! If you're going to be a hunter, you have to get up early . Hunters hunt early. That's what hunters do. They get up early and they hunt." He actually said this like it made all the sense in the world. Whatever.

So I got my butt up early, dawned my Carhartt gear and blaze orange stocking cap, grabbed the shotgun and went outside to meet Eddie on one of the coldest mornings we've had this winter. We took off through the woods, Eddie leading the way. He stopped under a squirrel nest and whispered "I think I saw a tail flicker." So we stood perfectly still for about 10 minutes attempting to stare the squirrel out of the nest. Nothing happened. Finally Eddie motioned his head off to the left and we stealthily made our way to another area that looked promising. We had only gone a few yards when we heard the distinctive sound of a squirrel scurrying down a tree. Without even turning around Eddie said "He left that nest." In a matter of seconds Eddie has whirled around and BAM - fired a shot at the squirrel as it leaped from the base of the tree. BAM - the second shot stopped the squirrel dead. Literally. Wow - I was impressed. I began to question my squirrel hunting agility. We walked over to the squirrel and Eddie picked it up so we could examine our kill. She wasn't big, but she was fat. We high fived each other. I held my jacket pocket open and Eddie slid her in.

We spent another 5 hours out hunting for squirrels, but didn't see hide nor hair of another one. So we decided to go in for some lunch. Eddie informed me he thought my blaze orange cap was alerting the squirrels, so I took it off. Bernie informed us he had gone out squirrel hunting for about an hour and 1/2 and he had heard several, but never gotten a good shot at one. Eddie and I asked him where he was, and then decided we would try that area after lunch. We gobbled down a sandwich and headed back out.

Eddie decided we should split up - he pointed to and area for me to check out and he took off in another direction. I very quietly walked for a while and decided to sit on a fallen tree and to see if I could hear anything. I was there only a few minutes and I heard leaves rustling. I looked over and there was a big fat squirrel, literally hauling tail as fast as he could. I got the rifle shouldered and got a bead just ahead of the direction the squirrel was running and BAM - I shot the foot of the fallen tree just as the squirrel reached it there in safety. DARNIT! That was the only shot I got off all day long. I never did see another squirrel. As I was sitting there cursing that squirrel I heard a loud BAM. Eddie got him.

We stayed out until it was almost dark and never saw another. We called it a day and Eddie showed me how to skin and clean squirrel. He did one, and then I did one. It was actually not difficult at all. We had a feast of fried squirrel, rice and gravy, potatoes and carrots, green beans, and rolls. It was really a great meal - and I'm certain I enjoyed it the most. Even though I didn't get a kill, I did participate in the hunt and after spending the entire day out there, the squirrel could not have tasted better!

Next weekend I'm going to do a little squirrel hunting on my own. I'm not sure why there weren't too many out on Saturday, because it warmed up nicely during the day. I'll try again next Saturday and see what happens. But I'm not starting at the crack of dawn!

The bees are doing great - Bernie reports that they were buzzing around as it warmed up a bit on Saturday. I'm really starting to look forward to that honey in the early fall!

Bee free!


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Prison Wine and Grass Roots Activism

I rarely make two posts in one day, but I forgot to tell y'all a couple of things and I read somewhere that in order to have a successful blog, you shouldn't make long posts. I have a tendency to do that, so I decided that rather than add to the previous post and make it longer, I would just create another.

I told y'all about the Albatross Prison Wine I made and promised an update when I started another batch. Well, I started another batch on January 9th using concord grapes. It's bubbling as we speak - and it's really smelling like alcohol already! I'll let y'all know how it turns out in a few weeks.

I mentioned before that Bernie and I are grass roots activists. I didn't post last weekend because we spent Saturday - Monday in Richmond, at our capitol, for Lobby Day. Bernie actually took vacation and sayed a few extra days. If you've never participated in Lobby Day, I strongly encourage you to do so in the future. While I would hope you let your legislators know what's important to you through out the year, meeting with them on Lobby Day is an excellent opportunity to let them know about legislation that is important to you. If you live in Virginia, you can view the mass amount of legislation that will be considered this year on the Legislative Information System. The shear volumn is staggering. You can search for specific legislation on the Bills and Resolutions page. Get involved! As they say, the only time your rights are protected is when the legislature is not in session.

Bee Free,

And me without a camera.....

Well, it is finally winter here in Shenandoah Valley. Don't get me wrong - I am certainly not complaining about all the 60 and 70 degree days we've had lately, but it did feel very odd to be in the middle of January and not complaining about the cold yet. A person eventually gets used to the cycles of life, and winter is a cycle of my life which I accept, but am not fond.

We woke up this morning to snow on our homestead. It was beautiful and I am certain I would have really enjoyed it if we didn't have to pack up to get back to town and prepare for the work week. And to make matters worse, I forgot my camera this weekend! I never forget my camera for heaven's sake, but sure enough, I did this weekend. So I don't have proof of how beautiful it was as we looked out the window of our little home in the woods and watched a white blanket of serenity fall on the trees and cover the ground.

The homestead is about 40 miles from our home in town. The trip back today took us about an hour and 45 minutes. The roads were really treacherous, and we must have seen at least a dozen vehicles that had spun off the road, crashed into each other, or (in one case) flipped upside down in a ditch. We didn’t stop because there were several people around each incident and two more weren’t going to help anything. While I admit my first thought in each case was "Well good grief – that person must have been doing something really stupid to end up in that predicament", I really shouldn’t talk. It has happened to me. Just once and many years ago. It was very scary. Not just because I ended up going down a ravine (my husband will tell you it was not a ravine and it was just a little hill – just ignore him), but because it convinced me that my car was possessed. And I had to stay in that possessed car while I waited for my husband to come rescue me. Very scary indeed. I mean the car had just driven us right into a ditch completely against my will or my direction. We were headed across a little bridge covered in snow and the car just took off. Nothing I did would slow it down, let alone stop it. The car had a mind of it’s own and I'm certain it was trying to kill me. The roads were pretty horrible that night too and I had to wait for quite a while before Bernie could make it to me. I bet lots of people rode by, saw my car, and thought “Well good grief – that person must have been doing something really stupid to end up in that predicament". Evil people. They had no clue what it’s like to be trapped in a possessed car that had just propelled itself down a ravine.

For those of you that have been worrying yourselves about our little bees, they are definitely snuggled up in their hives right now. I am a little concerned myself, and really hope they are keeping warm. I actually had someone at work ask me if we have to bring the bees inside when it’s cold. That made me laugh.

We’re heading back out to the homestead next weekend. Eddie promised to come out and take me squirrel hunting. I’m pretty happy about that. We call Eddie “The Great White Hunter” and I’m pretty sure we’ll score some supper while we’re out. I’ll let y’all know how that goes.

Bee Free,


Monday, January 08, 2007

Homesteading is more interesting with Prison Wine!

I suppose you can homestead without having made "prison wine", but you'd be missing out on some old-timey fun! I read about making homemade wine the old fashioned way on the homesteadingtoday website. This just sounded like too much fun to pass up, so I gave it a shot at making some apple wine.

I have fond memories of Boonesfarm Apple Wine from my younger days, so I decided to use green apples for my first experience. This stuff is so easy to make, I almost hate to share the recipe. But since it's been made public knowlege by Jersey_Girl on the homesteading today website, I'll go ahead and share it.

You will need a one gallon container. I used a one gallon glass jar that was home to some dill pickles at one time. Here's the recipe:

6 apples
6 cups of sugar
water (not clorinated - use distilled or spring water if you're on tap water with clorine)

Wash the apples and then cut them into quarters and remove the seeds.
Put the cut up apples in the container.
Add 6 cups of sugar.
Top with water.
Stir until the sugar is disolved.
Put the lid on the container.

Stir daily for about a month, or until it's not bubbling after sitting. It may bubble when stirred, but you want to make sure it's not still fermenting when you bottle it, so just look at it before stirring and make sure it's not bubbling. If it's not, you are ready to bottle it!

Remove the apples and strain the liquid through cheese cloth or a clean t-shirt. I strained mine about 3 times to remove as much of the pulp and sediment as possible. Once that's done, pour it into old wine bottles or mason jars and ta-da! You have apple wine!

I was very curious about the alcohol content, and since I happen to have a hydrometer, I checked it out. It weighed in at 18% alcohol. Not bad!

I have to tell you, Bernie was very skeptical about this experiment. We named the wine "Albatross Apple Wine", because I had to take it every where we went for over a month so I could stir it daily. So this jug of fermentation tagged along every weekend we went to the homestead and even traveled with us through Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and back for the week we spent in Georgia for Christmas. I've posted the question about having to stir it daily on the homesteading today website - I'll let y'all know if I find out why it's necessary. My only guess is that it keeps the fruit on top from rotting, but I'm not sure about that.

(UPDATED - OK, I asked my new friends on the homesteading today website about stirring the wine daily, and I got a couple of responses. Here is what Suitcase_Sally says (and she makes REAL wine, so I think she knows) "This is to suspend the yeast, relieve some CO2, and to make sure that the "cap" (fruit and yeast) are punched down to keep it wet." So there you have it. Stir that brew!)

At any rate, after I bottled the Albatross Apple Wine, Bernie came into the kitchen to check it out. He seemed mildly interested and hugely skeptical. He suspicously looked at my gorgeous bottles of wine and asked "Why are they so cloudy". I responded that it's prison wine for heaven's sake and I don't have the filtration system needed to make them crystal clear. I poured a small amount in a glass and said "Try it". He put the glass to his nose and his eyes got big. "It smells like wine!" he exclaimed. He took a small sip and said "It really tastes like wine! And it's not all that sweet."

So there is my rave review. I consider the Albatross Apple Wine a smashing success. I will be toting it down to Richmond for our Motorcycle Lobby Day meetings next weekend, and trying it out on unsuspecting victims. I'll let y'all know the reactions.

This week I plan to start some Grape Wine and as soon as strawberries and peaches come back into season, I'll be mixing up a batch of those. If you're on my Christmas list, you may be blessed with a bottle of this stuff next year. Bernie has even expressed interest in making some of it with the honey we plan to get from this bees in the late summer. I'll have to see if I can read up on that.

So there you have it - the homesteading experience made more pleasant through the use of prison wine. Who said homesteading can't be fun ;-)

Bee Free,