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March Madness

March 29, 2010

So, you’re dying to know how the roadkill deer butchering went? Or maybe you’re slightly nauseated like my friend Steph who came by Saturday, and politely declined when Dan offered up a blood-spangled leg bone for her dogs.

I so respect the vegetarians who commented on my previous post, or even the ambivalent carnivores for whom roadkill will never be a part of their culinary lexicon. I totally understand. If it weren’t for Dan taking on hunting, or knowing what to do with the roadkill that gets deposited at our doorstep like a plate of cookies, I’d probably be an ambivalent carnivore too, quibbling with my conscience over the lifeless cuts of meat at our local butcher.

But, I must say, my conscience was bowled over by the pure gustatory pleasure of the grilled deer backstrap we ate for lunch. The backstraps are found on either side of the spine and due to their passive role in locomoting an animal, are as tender as butter beans. Or as Dan kept saying all weekend: spoon meat.

A balanced meal: spoon meat, red cabbage sauerkraut, avocado, 4 sneaky garbanzos and the family weakness: white rice.

The kids went feral over the grilled meat. Rose begged for more while her mouth was still stuffed with partially-chewed brown threads and Col sang “the deer is here! The deer is here!”

We had various cuts marinating in the fridge all weekend, and rather than bother with lots of packaging work, we just kept drawing from the fridge as I imagined a 19th century prairie family would have from their salted ham hocks hanging in the cellar. Or like a wolf family on an elk kill.

The butchering was fit in around the edges of family life and the kids were neither particularly interested in nor offended by the ruby red hind legs they shuttled in the house for me to whittle at. While I worked those gorgeous hind legs, Rose was embroiled, yet again, in squabbles with a friend over play food. Meanwhile, Col was twanging my nerdy heartstrings by studying his rock collection, musing “this one looks like fossil. I think it’s a fossil of a dandelion!”

boy with rocks and shells

Col hit the five year old-boy-jackpot last week when he found a cadre of cool rocks deposited outside the gem and mineral club. It’s funny to watch your child’s passions bloom brilliantly and then wither like a morning glory bloom at sunset. Just last year Col was besotted with trains. I have this picture in my mind of him at 4 years, earnestly hefting this 400-page, coffee table-style, train book down our library stairs. And then just a few months ago, like an ambassador of goodwill, Col offered his set of train tracks to our 2 ½ year old friend Emmett, who is at the height of his own train-mania.

The deer ribcage, a bone-white barrel painted slippery red with clinging flesh, went into the chicken coop for a few hours, before being returned with the rest of the meat scraps to the woods. As I’ve mentioned before, chickens are not vegetarians. If given the chance to free-range, they will hunt down insects, and boy were they glad to be included in the deer-a-palooza. That carcass must seem to them now like some beautiful dream, although when Dan schlepped it out, they milled around him in that slightly confused, chicken-y way, as if shrugging “easy come, easy go.”

The rest of the weekend was spent outdoors in an devotional interpretive dance to spring warmth. “Warm” is a relative term and Rose may be able to sneak outside in a red velvet dress, but snow boots are still regulation issue.

As the snow melts our yard suddenly seems colossally huge. On Sunday we were all out in the yard, doing our own thing, except Rose who was thankfully, napping (allowing the rest of us to do our own thing).

Here’s Dan pruning our small fruit orchard.

And industrious Col, creating work for himself by shuttling snow to drier spots.

I planted peas, dug weeds, returned the soil to the garden beds that the chickens had kicked out, turned compost and just wandered around jacket-less and happily dazed.

Sunday night we had dear friends over for dinner, all of whom are part of the roadkill tribe.

(except sweet Iris, 3, who is part of the cheddar bunny tribe).

All in all, a perfect March weekend.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2010 9:27 am

    Oh geez, I totally missed the roadkill thing. I appreciate people that do what your family is doing…However, I could not. Thanks for not wasting and knowing what to do with it. If I was a pioneer on the prairie, I would definitely need to learn from your wealth of information. xo Kyndale

  2. March 29, 2010 9:28 am

    Swooning over here! Just so you know, if I ever find myself in Durango, I’ll be stopping in for lunch. :) And now I’m craving red cabbage!

  3. Ami permalink
    March 29, 2010 10:51 am

    Thanks! Love it!

  4. Steph permalink
    March 29, 2010 2:57 pm

    In my defense….. it was much more than a leg bone, it was a LEG! There was at *least* one joint in the “bone” that was offered. (:
    (Hard to read voice inflection in text- I’m trying to make a little joke here)

    For someone who can’t even approach butchering, I sure love the meat! …..and, what IS it about white rice? That stuff is a guilty indulgence at our house sometimes, too.

  5. March 29, 2010 3:44 pm

    count me as one of the vegetarian legions… but if people are going to eat meat… might as well really do the work for it. And might as well use an already dead animal. I’m impressed.

    You can also count me as one of the cool rock club members. I love collecting rocks. Pure joy.

  6. abozza permalink
    March 29, 2010 4:31 pm

    The rock collection tugs on my nerdy heartstrings, as well! Thanks for sharing your pictures…we were so ready for Spring around here that we have decided to ignore the fact that it’s still 30 every day. If it isn’t raining or snowing, we’re out!

  7. March 29, 2010 9:06 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful weekend celebrating with Mother Nature. Can you teach us the interpretive spring warmth dance, perhaps in an upcoming post? Also, can I join Iris’s cheddar bunny tribe? =>

  8. Jen permalink
    March 29, 2010 9:46 pm

    White rice with BUTTER. Yum.

  9. March 30, 2010 11:37 am

    Now that’s sustainable (and frugal) dining. I’m sure all my carniverous boys would be all over it (and since my vegetarian hands don’t mind stuffing thinks up a chicken carcassass’s cavern, I would probably be the one whittling the leg bone, too). Just a word of warning…geology mania preceded military mania in my oldest boy.

  10. March 30, 2010 1:48 pm

    My family used to butcher deer when I was growing up. Now, I want venison chili!

  11. March 30, 2010 4:26 pm

    I think that that is AWESOME. A great life lesson for your children. I wish we had the ability (and know-how) to feed our family that way.

    And venison = YUM

  12. March 30, 2010 5:19 pm

    i could read your writing forever.



  13. March 30, 2010 8:16 pm

    Loved both of these posts….. I totally agree with the connection and reality of food. We need to eat and therefor should know where and what about it. Huge Kudos Mama. My husband took up bow hunting in Wisconsin a few years back and though we only got one hunting season, and one deer before we left the area, that connection to our meat eating family was incredibly intimate. Real. You know what I mean. We eat vegetarian meals about 50% of the time, but when we do eat meat, we want to know it was happy before it made it to our plate. And being an Alaskan Girl (still consider that place home) I was not at all shocked by the road kill….. the fish & game hands out such things and also illegal kills to people who need the meat, so as not to waste. And one moose can feed an awful lot of hungry people scraping by in the winter. Anyway… totally rambling at this point… sorry…. but I loved your honesty and AUTHENTICITY in the last two posts :)

  14. March 31, 2010 8:27 am

    Oh, I am so glad to hear that we aren’t the only family that has had roadkill for dinner! When we totaled our minivan last summer by hitting a deer, getting to take the venison home to the freezer was the silver lining. In fact, other than telling my parents, (Only because Dad brought the pick-up truck to get the deer home, I think my mother was a little disturbed by this revelation.) this is the first time I’ve admitted this. Guess the secret is out now!

  15. March 31, 2010 4:15 pm

    Always told my hunter friends, “I’ll eat bambi as long as he/she comes dressed, packaged and ready for cooking, and in no way resembles the living creature.” Same for duck, quail, rattlesnake, etc…

    In my younger days in Texas (lot’s of hunters there), I worked with a lot of guys whose wives told them they could only hunt if they found someone to take the meat as their freezers were still full from last year. This was a boon for a single mom; I even got a fresh Thanksgiving turkey every year.

    Vegetarian? Except for bacon, I was a vegetarian for a few years in Atlanta.

  16. April 1, 2010 7:36 pm

    What a heck of a time! (And I love the cheddar bunny tribe, too.)


  1. March Madness 6512 and Growing

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