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Homestead Happenings: deer, apples and da bubbly

November 2, 2010

I almost didn’t write about this buck deer who slipped through our butchering table this weekend. It was such a quick and quiet production, unlike the elk, I could almost pretend that when we arrived at a Halloween party Sunday afternoon, our hands hadn’t been busy with knives most of the weekend.

Maybe too, there’s my concern of offending people who don’t want to read about the slicing up of beautiful animals. And I understand. Eighteen years ago I was standing in the college cafeteria line pointing to the vegetarian entree and don’t even ask that city girl her opinion on hunters.

Eating is fraught with sadness and regret. There are the magnificent creatures (and the homelier ones) that lose lives due to our carnivorous ways. There are the multitudes of deer shot while grazing soybeans, or the smaller animals who die beneath the plow blades in a potato field. No one who eats is completely free from perpetrating suffering, be they vegans or omnivores.

I love how Dan’s mom (who did not grow up in a hunting community), listened to Dan’s whole deer hunting story, which included words like “skinning” and “carcass” and then said “Well Daniel, hearing that makes me want to get on a plane and eat some of that deer with you.”

So, that said, there are pictures in this post of a deer who lost his life, whose life is becoming ours, and whose deliciousness we praise.


The first thing Dan tells us about his 5-day hunt is how the deer bladder didn’t come out with the usual sweep of the entrails. “It stayed in the abdominal cavity, and not an unpleasant smell to it at all.” Dan says, pleased.

“And I have something for you kids!” And like a magician pulling the next unthinkable from of his sleeve, out comes the deer bladder. Col and Rose, who’ve held wild snakes in their tiny hands without a squeamish twinge, follow Dan to the bathroom, where he fills the empty bladder sac with water and everyone begs to hold it.

After Dan sawed off the antlers, the chickens got to pick at the deer head. I’m telling you, nothing goes to waste around here.

They are also pleased with the aphid-embedded outer cabbage leaves that got tossed their way.

When I was pregnant with Col, I was pretty sure that the whole trick to motherhood was just involving your kids in your life. You know, like if you’re a gardener you just bring your infant into the scorching July sun, give him a turnip to gum while you go about spreading lettuce seeds while sparrows land on your shoulders singing anthems to your motherly wholesomeness.

Of course, it’s more like my friend Steph, mom of a 1 and 3 year old, describes: you sprint out to the garden when your partner gets home, nursing bra still dangling at your waist. You yank ten weeds, step in dog poop, curse, and then get called back inside because no one but you knows where the baby doll’s umbrella is.

And even though no child is quietly finger-knitting on the sidelines, nor waiting until Dan and I finish a hind leg to ask for ten things, there’s a lot of fending for oneself around here.

It’s like an S. E. Hinton novel: beautiful young people with too much time on their hands roaming around looking for something to do. (I can’t wait until Col’s old enough to read The Outsiders, I think). Sometimes the kids collaborate, sending rotten apples through the spokes of Col’s bicycle to make apple cider. Other times they turn on each other and it’s like a family-themed Rumble Fish.

sneaking apples for bicycle cider

Rose reading to Col, AKA baby squirrel in his nest.

On Day 2, we finally put a movie on for the kids. Incidentally it was about the wolves in Yellowstone, which as far as elk predation goes, make rifles look a tool of non-violence.


We’re turning out apple crisps almost daily because they’re delicious, easy and our apples are in danger of getting fed to the bicycle spokes.

Cutting apples for crisp # infinity-billion

Since Rose is in her night-nights, she could be eating this bowl of crisp for dessert or breakfast. Not telling.


Thanks for asking about the writing class. It was cancelled due to “low interest,” which means one person signed up, another called to see if she could sign up but pay in another decade, and one more person I ran into at the coffee shop told me she was ready to sign up, even though the deadline had passed. I’ll try again in the spring.


A boy and his cabbage

How are your ferments going?

We picked all our cabbages this weekend, because deer and sauerkraut are a lovely combination.

Someone gave knives to the children,

And we filled our crock with salted cabbage and caraway seeds.

Thirty minutes later it had reduced by half and was all a-juicing.

We also harvested beets, carrots and kale (rasta ferment?).

Which are now bubbling away on the kitchen counter.


These ferments are cheering me up with their roiling applause every time I crack a lid, but I otherwise I’m biting my nails over this election. The numbers are rolling in as I write this.

Hoping your local elections are full of more good news than bad, because that seems like the best outcome at this point.



37 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 11:19 pm

    ahhh rach, this is one of my top 5 fav’s!!!

  2. November 2, 2010 11:53 pm

    I feel like every time I comment, I say the same thing, I love you and your family! Sorry for being redundant, but it’s true! Thanks for continuing to inspire me to be more connected to my food, and my land! I have some fermenting planned for the future, but for now, i can’t even see the kitchen counter, I’ve got so many dirty dishes!

  3. November 2, 2010 11:54 pm

    And, as an aside, i would love to see you try fermenting some of those apples!?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 3, 2010 10:33 am

      Ami – I have a batch of fermented apple vinegar doing it’s thing on my bedroom floor. The jury is still out, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

  4. November 3, 2010 12:27 am

    Your description of motherhood is so true! I see other peoples’ blogs, and their kids look so perfect, but that’s rarely how it is around here. Thanks for the chuckles!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 3, 2010 10:33 am

      Perfection is SO overrated.

  5. espressoerin permalink
    November 3, 2010 12:54 am

    The outsiders… *sigh*
    and teach a writing class in seattle…. I’ll be there ;-)
    and… the pictures of your kids in this post are truly delightful (as are the words, naturally)

  6. November 3, 2010 1:08 am

    Another vote for deer. (Since it’s election day.) As a vegetarian-turned-hunter myself, that’s *one* side of my multi-faceted understanding for eating beautiful, wild animals. Just as you are what you eat, you support what you eat. And if you eat deer and elk (versus, say, CAFO beef) you are throwing your vote for deer and elk. A vote for their habitat, their survival, their future.

    Nice post! Love the nursing bra dangling at your waist while you run out to the garden…vividly true!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 3, 2010 10:37 am

      Thank you Clove, That is exactly true. Hunters should be the most vocal conservationists. And incidentally, drilling on and developing wild habitat is NOT a vote in favor of game (or any) animals.

  7. November 3, 2010 4:36 am

    At my table sits an animal rights-inspired vegetarian daughter and a just-returned-from-the-hunt where he got his first buck son. We are more than practicing tolerance at my home and it makes the conversation … lively.

    I am taken by the way you talk about what is devoured. It is with such reverence. I am finding my way through this life. Some of what guides me is thinking about what goes into my mouth. These kids are helping me.

    Reading your words helps me synthesize their two varied viewpoints. They both have such respect for the earth and, in their own ways practice that. It helps me to have you talk freely and openly about the knife. I’m finding my way and I’m swallowing your words as I walk. Thank you Rachel.

    Please, offer me some writing class options too! Something on-line in the spring maybe???

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 3, 2010 10:39 am

      Congratulations to your son Rebecca, and your daughter for her convictions. Thanks for your interest in an online writing class. At this point I don’t think I could spend anymore time at the computer.

  8. November 3, 2010 6:52 am

    Your kids are adorable… there’s a lot of finding for themselves over here as well, and the creativity that comes from that is always astounding!

  9. November 3, 2010 6:57 am

    Hmmm…I was thinking more along the lines of Little House on the Prairie than The Outsiders. No one’s in traction over there are they? Or did I miss something? And, oh sh*t I brought a cabbage home, stuck it in my new root cellar room in the basement, and completely forgot about it and all things fermented (other than Woodchuck cider) in the busy-ness of Halloween. Better go see if anything’s salvagable.

  10. Kathy permalink
    November 3, 2010 7:45 am

    I agree with Rebecca’s request: “Please, offer me some writing class options too! Something on-line in the spring maybe???”
    Sometimes it is important for older women (like me) to to learn seated at the feet of a younger woman. Think on this. I would very readily enter your “classroom” on the hill.

  11. November 3, 2010 9:04 am

    Can I sneak over to your house and collect a few jars of fermented cabbage?! Yum!

  12. Michelle permalink
    November 3, 2010 9:57 am

    Great post!

    You’ve inspired me to start fermenting (or to at least seriously think about starting)!

  13. November 3, 2010 11:11 am

    Yanno, I think it’s particularly difficult for folks to come to terms with hunting when they view “nature” as…well, nature. As in, something Other–out there, different, separate from us. We’ve turned the natural world into yet another commodity to consume (go get yer expensive camping gear and bug spray, chilluns! We’re going on vacation, OUTSIDE!). When in reality, it’s just a part of us and we a part of it. It’s not possible to intimately understand the web o’ life when so detached from it.

    Factory farming, grocery stores, endless concrete…oy. It’s not hard to see how we got so detached and how easily one could transfer the concept of a “pet” onto all animals or personify all living creatures. Lawd knows there are many paths on this one journey, but I do love to see that your kids are growing up so close to the land and with parents so respectful of the Earth. It gives me hope for the future!

  14. Melissa Neta permalink
    November 3, 2010 1:43 pm

    I also think you should travel around to teach–a weekend in a fun city here and there (like SF or Berkeley, hint hint). You would have takers, I’m sure!

    Love Rose stealing the apples . . .and the way they play together.

    The dangling nursing bra is too funny (and here I am pumping at my desk again–good thing I share an office with a bunch of progressive women!) and thank god California got some decent results!

  15. barb permalink
    November 3, 2010 4:04 pm

    i think Rose was having a late-night snack, sometime after her teeth were brushed. Along the lines of “I can’t sleep, can I have some water” but in your house it’s “can i have some apple crisp”

    all the better for sleeping….

  16. November 3, 2010 8:15 pm

    Despite the fact that I was a 12-year vegetarian (no more, thanks to pregnancy #2), I appreciate so much your details on the animals. Your family has such a reverence for what you’re eating (meat and otherwise) that even the squeamish could learn a lot.

    And I’m SO sad about your writing class! I’d have joined in. Maybe you can fly out and do a guest lectureship in Montreal ;).

  17. jean permalink
    November 3, 2010 11:00 pm

    You hunt to feed your family. You don’t hunt just to say you’ve managed to kill an animal. I love reading your posts concerning your elk. I’d never seen an elk’s heart before. So keeping posting and showing photos. It’s your life and I find it so interesting.

  18. November 4, 2010 7:22 am

    Loved how you summed up being a carnivore. I feel exactly the same. And it’s nice to be able to say, you know, life is life. Just because it’s a fluffy mammal or feathered bird it doesn’t get extra points. I had never thought about the lives lost in the process that are not even eaten.

    Where on earth did you get such a cool crock? Do your kids eat sauerkraut? I’ve got cabbages growing big and strong on the patio!

    Still hoping for an online writing class!! {hint – hint} I know, I know. It would be a ton more work….. but only the first time, and then you could offer it again and again……..

    Also, apple crisp made by mamas like you (and me) is surely a wholesome breakfast. Side of yogurt anyone?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 4, 2010 4:29 pm

      I got that crock at my local hardware store. It probably fits almost 6 heads of cabbages. Rose likes sauerkraut a lot, Col likes it a teensy bit.

  19. November 4, 2010 11:03 am

    Loved reading about your children learning to be resourceful – I worry at times that we do too much of that, leaving them with too much time to come up with something to do on their own – sometimes I will observe them spending time doing something I simply cannot understand how it would be productive and then I will observe again later and find them engaged in an incredibly creative endeavor – I think it works.

  20. November 4, 2010 11:20 am

    My, what big cabbages you have!! This is such an awesome post. I can’t believe you had a lack of interest! Was this for an e-course? Because I will sign up for that in two shakes of a dead deer’s head.

  21. November 4, 2010 11:21 am

    Also, I want to see that wolf program-can you provide a link? Thank you!

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 4, 2010 4:25 pm


      It’s called Wolves: a legend returns to Yellowstone. We got in from Netflix in the documentary genre.

      also: osha still percolating, coming soon :)

  22. Diane H permalink
    November 4, 2010 10:21 pm

    I remember hearing an interview on NPR one time about a foodie who took a moment and gave thanks to the life that gave themself up for the present meal. I was so moved by that simple ritual and forgot about it until reading this post. One can give thanks at so many levels for the bounty at meals. Thanks for reminding me!

  23. November 4, 2010 10:38 pm

    The image of little deer cut down by blades in a potato field is gnarly. Point well made. I think you should write about what makes sense to you, there are too many sensibilities to take care of. If folks are offended by a bloody deer carcass, too bad for them, this is your life and catching a glimpse of it is why they come to this particular blog.

    As for writing class i hope you don’t take it too personally. Maybe its tired but I blame the economy. I know too many folks all set to teach a class and then find it cancelled due to lack of interest.

    Cabbage, yum. Chickens, woah daddy they are serious omnivores. Don’t they eat eggs if you toss them in with some compost?

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      November 5, 2010 11:12 am

      As for chickens eating eggs, once Rosie was gathering eggs and dropped one in the coop and the chickens ran over and gobbled it up quick. My friend Sharon, who saw the whole thing, said, “that’s some serious non-attachment.”

  24. November 5, 2010 7:47 am

    I always enjoy your hunting/game-eating stories. It makes my breakfast of cereal rather paltry and me rather hungry for a real meal as I devour each word you wrote.

    I’m just now catching up on my blog reading so talking about the elections is so yesterday, but I do have to say that I’m pretty disappointed. And the only way to cheer me up is with some venison sausage (*hint hint*).

  25. November 5, 2010 3:25 pm

    When I am questioning my meat consumption, I always return to how as a predator, we humans have so much more capacity for compassionate/ethical/quick killing. Unfortunately, most ignore that, either passively or otherwise.

    My kids have been watching “Life” and “Planet Earth” DVDs a bit lately, seeing prey animals get taken down is pretty damn gruesome, far moreso than a shot with the rifle or bow from an arrow.

  26. November 6, 2010 5:36 pm

    Girl there is never a dull momnet in your house huh??!!! Love the post (as usual your writing just amazes me!)


  27. November 12, 2010 12:05 am

    Heya, clicked through Dan’s post here and am surprised I didn’t comment…thought I had because I love this post. Your family, thoughtfulness and wit. The description of wholesome, sparrow-laden earth mama and the reality had me nodding my head. It really is all about involving them but it doesn’t have much to do with my agenda.

  28. December 3, 2010 1:48 pm

    Hi, I came over from the babble list and have been having a bit of a click around. I live in Tasmania, a small island state of Australia. I like your blog but I am so absent minded that I will probably lose this link and forget to come back. I clicked over to this post from your apple cider vinegar one. I find that apple cider vinegar is wonderful medicinally. At the first sign of a sore throat I make a hot vinegar and honey drink and it goes away. A large spoon of honey and enough A/C vinegar to make it tart :)

    I had been down the path of self sufficiency when my children were small and money was non-existent and your blog reminds me a bit of myself twenty years ago.

    Now my daughter is raising ducks for her table and building her own organic vegetable garden.

    The only difference with my family to yours is that we eat wallabies (small Kangaroo) not elk.

    cheers Kim :)


  1. Daddy Dan on Deer Camp « 6512 and growing
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