The Title Image of This Post is Misleading.

The plan for this weekend was to get in an afternoon of muzzle loader hunting at an acquaintance’s out west of Richland Center, Wisconsin, and to begin processing the three deer hanging in our garage.

The hunt was a cold one- Saturday never broke 20F, and when we arrived in the evening, our weather apps told us somewhere in the 7-10F range.  The drive out was lovely- I’d yet to really go into the Driftless Area. The hills there aren’t glacial drumlins like we get in other parts of the state, and it’s definitely a lot more vertical than anything I was used to growing up on the prairies. Unluckily, the windows of the truck are all cruddy, so snapping pictures was tough.

Just as we arrived at our location.

Just as we arrived at our location.

It would be a wash, though. We saw lots of sign headed in. Matt heard some deer crunching, and we both heard a buck snort. But we didn’t see anything. We hurried back to the truck in the last of the cold, fading light, feeling like our hands and feet had been replaced with clumsy wooden blocks.

Friday afternoon, Matt’s buddy and his fiance came over. He’d hung a deer in our garage opening weekend, and we had our two. It was time to start processing. After this point, there are some gory images. Viewer discretion, and all that.

 

Spike, doe, doe.

Spike, doe, doe.

This same buddy came over last year to watch us skin and quarter our deer- he’d been getting his professionally processed before this. So, the fiance and I let the boys get at it. I recorded the whole process.  In order, we skin them, remove the shoulders, the ribs, and then the hindquarters. The DNR advises us to discard the spines due to CWD. The meat went into sanitized coolers. Considering we won’t be breaking above freezing for the week, we can separate muscles at a different date.

Sunday, Matt and I both decided we were burnt out from so much hunting in frigid weather. We opted to get some things done rather than add to the deer pile. We ventured out to the garage in the snow. I scraped the hides and Matt cleaned the skulls to make European style mounts, and skinned the heads to begin his taxidermy practice. While we were out there, the snow piled up. It’s around 5 inches as I write this Sunday evening, and more overnight.

So the garage once again smells like propane and boiling brains. We’ll be getting to packing up the meat within a couple days, and once we pick up a vertical stuffer, we’ll get the sausage done as well. I refuse to relive the last two years with our awful horizontal stuffer. I’ve got a couple new ideas to try in the cured meat department. Like maybe a venison ham.

 

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A Different Kind of Self Tanner.

I’ve been pretty absent from WordPress, as I still haven’t picked up a new laptop cord, and blogging on this tablet sucks. I hope to pick one up in the next couple days, as I’m off work after hitting my monthly hour cap yesterday, but if I forget, I can still put up quick, short posts of what we got done over the weekend. This is one such post, just to keep up the arbitrary schedule I’ve given myself of posting at least each Monday. If I don’t post, I feel guilty. It’s the same mechanism I use to drag my ass to the gym 3 or 4 days a week.

I’ll start with the first thing that happened this weekend. Remember those hides we were self-tanning (tanning ourselves, I suppose)? Well, after having them thump around in the dryer with old tennis shoes, they were still stiff. We left them for, what, two or three months? They still didn’t smell, so they were tanned, just not soft.

Matt ordered a bunch of taxidermy stuff from a distributor about a week ago, and when I got home from the gym Thursday it had arrived. There were a few things in the box, including a panfish mounting kit, but what we needed was the 50 pound sack of sawdust, and a bottle of stuff called Relax-R.

Matt made the water dilution the stuff called for, and once it sat for long enough, the hides loosened up. By quite a bit. Then they were supposed to tumble with the sawdust to dry things up.

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Skins in solution

Well, the motor in that old dryer was fried. So, we did what any normal people would do after a brainstorming session. We purchased a mini cement mixer. Matt located one at a local store, Harbor Freight, which sells all manner of neat stuff. Most of it you assemble at home, so it’s a bit cheaper. We got it home and got right on that.

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It holds 1.25 cubic feet, which ended up being just one hide plus sawdust. We carried it out to the garage to get it going. It ended up plugged into the house because it kept blowing its own fuse. But eventually, it started turning.

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We replaced that cardboard with bungee cords and a garbage bag to keep the dust in. But after going off and on all weekend, the doe hide is soft, supple, and dry, if a bit discolored.

The buckskin is in there now. I’m glad we were able to rescue these things from our amateur tanning attempts.

A Slow Weekend Around These Parts.

There isn’t too much to report from this weekend. With the winter storm (are they really still winter storms at this point?) all last week, rain forecast for the entire weekend, a work function for Matt Saturday and a meeting for me on Sunday, we didn’t have any hard and fast plans. Imagine our surprise when it rained neither day. We got some stuff done around the house, though.

Do not mind your blogger's ghostly claws.

Do not mind your blogger’s ghostly claws.

Remember the huge ice chunk in the front of the boat? Saturday, while Matt was at his work function, I stepped outside to bail more water so it wouldn’t rot out the wooden bottom. I noticed the ice hunk had shrunken. So I poked it with a shovel. It moved, so I grabbed onto that there life vest and gave it a tug. It slid most of the way out. It was frozen around an extension cord running to the front bowfishing lights, but I figured at least this way the sun would hit it. Matt later broke it apart in his typical Hulk-Smash fashion, and now the ice is all out of the boat. He also loosened all of the lug nuts on the trailer tires, and he’ll be picking up tires at some point today or tomorrow. So, by next weekend, we should finally have a functioning boat trailer again. The lakes finally opened up this past week, so it will be good to get out and motor around, or bowfish.

Remember the dryer I mentioned? Whenever we first picked it up, it was missing its cord. We picked up a cord and a box to plug it into, but our garage was not wired for the electrical load of a dryer. So, fast forward to this weekend: we have heavier gauge romex, and we’re re-wiring our garage. Years ago, before I showed up, Matt had finished the garage to be his mancave (we can’t get our cars back to it anyway). The small crawl space up in the rafters above the ceiling is storage. However, yours truly is the one who always gets stuck going up there, whether to haul down holiday decorations, or in this case, to crawl through mouse poop, the desiccated remains of a squirrel, dead wasp bodies, and falling-down fiberglass insulation.

I had to go in there.

I had to go in there.

I pulled the wire up through the ceiling drywall, spliced it together with another length of romex (the first roll we bought was short by 10 feet), and crawled down to the peak of the roof to poke it through a hole in the outer wall to be run to the circuit box. We plugged in the heavy duty breaker, wired it in, and then flipped the switch. No fire, no explosions, no fatal electrocutions, plus the dryer ran. The heating element on it was broken, so it just tumbled the hides around in there with an old pair of Matt’s tennis shoes to beat them up. They’re still going.

We did make a quick attempt to fish, since most of the waterways here have dropped a bit after being near flood stage all last week. It was bank fishing from a spot where we always see lots of trucks parked. We didn’t catch anything. The current was up, the water still quite murky, and it was very windy. It didn’t help that the spot was incredibly littered. Fishing litter, yes, but also just garbage from the road. It was sad.

SAMSUNG

 

This also happened to be the the lower end of a marsh that we fish for catfish and use for duck hunting. Like I said, no fish to be caught, but I did see this little guy.

Crappie fry

Crappie fry

 

 

How a Tent Camping Girl Acquired and Renovated a 1966 Indian Trail Camper

All last week, Matt was planning on spending the entire weekend sleeping and doing nothing. I’m pretty sure he imagined it would be a nice, recuperative 48 hours, after two weeks of long days and little sleep, and a lot of stress.Saturday during the day we kind of puttered around the house. We tried working with the deer hides.

Working my stiff, greasy doe hide

Working my stiff, greasy doe hide

We made some headway, but Matt wants to try to buy an old dryer to tumble them in, because they are extremely stiff. Saturday night we attended a work function for Matt’s office. Sunday we couch potato-ed it up.

Only, Matt overestimated his ability to handle inaction. Twenty minutes after we got up late on Sunday morning, Matt was telling me he was bored. While he ate breakfast. Asking me to brainstorm for something to do. Well, last week and the week before, he went on a Gander Spree and also bought a new shotgun. So shopping at the outdoors stores was out.  So, we didn’t do a ton this weekend, except to begin plotting a trip for midsummer before his promotion takes effect. We want to trek down to Texas for gator gar bowfishing, and hog hunting, stopping to visit some of my family in Missouri on the way.

Anyhow, since we didn’t do much of anything outdoorsy (we barely left the house), it gives me a chance to tell a story from last year.

1966 Baby.

1966 Baby. That’s pine tar on the top.

Last year, we took our first bowfishing trip after reading all about it and purchasing all the gear for it. We decided to go big for our inaugural trip, and go down to my home area for the asian carp on the Illinois River. It was early August, hot and dry. We were in the midst of the drought, and we took our little tent with us, not thinking much of the weather. Our first night passed just fine. We set up camp in the afternoon, went off to acquire our fishing licenses for Illinois at the local Farm and Fleet, and then set about finding a boat launch. We bowfished until the wee hours, and were moderately successful. We slept that night, woke up, had breakfast, and went out the next day in the heat.

There was basically no action during the day. The Illinois is muddy enough water that you can’t see more than 3 inches into it. The only carp jumping were doing so in the wakes of the barges on the far side of the river, and we aren’t stupid enough to go play in the shipping lanes. So, we pulled the boat up onto a shady bank to play in the water with the dogs. We lounged, picked at rocks and driftwood, poked at fish carcasses, the usual.

Well, I’d been away from the prairies long enough to forget how fast summer storms roll up. Plus, we’d barely had any rain all summer. I spotted dark clouds in the distance, and warned Matt we should head in. We packed up the boat, headed to the launch, and loaded everything up in a hurry. We crossed the bridge in Utica, and made it through that little town before big, fat drops started to hit the windshield of the truck. We had neglected to check the weather, and thus also neglected to put the rain fly on the tent. Matt laid on the gas. As we parked the truck near our walk-in tent site, the skies opened up.

The campground we chose required us to put our boat in a different parking area than the one near our site. Matt rushed off to unhitch the boat, while I ran like hell to get the fly on the tent to salvage our bedding, and then attempt to pack up anything else. This was a nasty storm. Sky-turning-yellow storm, with high winds. Within seconds, I was soaked to the skin.

Putting the rain fly on the tent was apparently a two person job. And even if it wasn’t originally, it was in that wind. So, I secured it as best I could. By then, Matt came running up to tell me the tornado sirens were going off, so we ran back to the truck to sit out the storm with the dogs.

It rained for over an hour. We dozed in the truck in our wet clothes. When it let up, we went to check on our things. The tent was still there, but the rain fly had been blown loose. Both of our sleeping bags were dripping wet. My backpack of clothes was soaked through. Matt’s was miraculously dry. Most of our food was wet. The firewood was wet. The power at the campground was out. The dryers provided in the main building were useless. We wrung out our things as best we could. We slept in damp sleeping bags on wet foam pads. We began to mutter to each other “Damn tent…” “…Camper.” “Yeah, camper.” When we went out bowfishing that night, we were hugely successful, though.

When we got back to Madison, Matt immediately began to scour Craigslist for campers. He found one pretty quickly, north of where he was from. It was $200. He had his dad go look at it for him, and pick it up for us. Then he trekked up north one evening to bring it back down. It… needed a little help.

Orange floral curtains- check. Scratchy orange upholstery- check. Mold- Double check.

Orange floral curtains- check. Scratchy orange upholstery- check. Mold- Double check.

campertablebefore

I took out all of the upholstered surfaces, bleached the floor and counters, rubbed lemon Murphy’s Oil Soap into all of the panelling. I covered my nose and mouth and knocked out all of the moldy panelling in the front. Then, I measured and I went to the fabric store. I resolved to pick sufficiently kitschy fabric for this old bird of a camper. And I began to sew.

The cushion covering fabric is tastefully plaid.

The cushion covering fabric is tastefully plaid.

I sewed and sewed. It took a little over two days of sewing, and then stuffing the aired-out foam cushions into their new clothes, and hanging the curtains. And the fabric store was just short enough fabric. I still need to buy enough to cover two more cushions. Matt also needs to put new panelling up when I took out the molded stuff. Eventually, I hope to either paint the exterior of it, or find a way to really shine it up.

There are postcard likenesses of moose, bear, and ducks on the curtains. She's from the Northwoods.

There are postcard likenesses of moose, bear, and ducks on the curtains. She’s from the Northwoods.

The weather is supposed to warm up this week, and be in the 50s by the weekend. Not only am I thrilled to death, but we hope to get the camper finished. I’m going to spend the week sewing. And maybe if the ground softens up, we can start on the boat trailer. I’ll be making a post about that tomorrow.

Play Outdoors Had a SausageFest

This weekend we finally got all of the venison processed. I am well aware that this was basically a two week long project. Matt had most of Saturday off. So, after waiting in a Starbucks for him to wrap up a couple things in the office, we made the rounds to the outdoors stores and our local awesome PawnAmerica (a totally non-shady pawn shop), where we sometimes find gems in the form of nice, cheap powertools, fishing poles, and electronics. My next camera will probably come from there. Technically, there could be another Dispatch from his toybox, but honestly, I’d be doing one of those every two weeks if I recorded every single one. We each got a fly rod this weekend, though, and he picked up some more lures, and a heavy-duty rod to complement the other two or three we have so we can troll for muskie, and also catch giant catfish more easily. Onward to the meat of the story.

This is what 25lbs of summer sausage looks like.

This is what 25lbs of summer sausage looks like.

Matt and I took on the herculean task of meat grinding, stuffing, and curing on Saturday afternoon. I only got a couple pictures, as, again, my hands were too grody to really handle a camera. We were at it from about 4pm until after 1am. Luckily, we purchased a dedicated electric meat grinder for this season, since an errant bit of silverskin murdered my Kitchenaid with the meat grinder attachment last year.

The Kitchenaid is dead. Long Live the Kitchenaid.

The Kitchenaid is dead. Long Live the Kitchenaid.

So, after much grinding and stuffing with possibly the worst-designed sausage stuffer in all the world, we were finished late Saturday night. Before cooking any of it, we had 25 pounds of summer sausage, as pictured, 15 pounds of snack sticks, and 15 pounds of jerky meat before dehydrating it. I also had an upsetting amount of dishes to wash.

Snack sticks and the meat grinder.

Snack sticks and the meat grinder.

We turned the oven to about 200 degrees, loaded most of the summer sausage into it, and let it go overnight. We took those out in the morning, swapped in the last two summer sausages, and some of the snack sticks, and just rinsed and repeated this cycle. It’s still in progress as I type. Last night before bed we put the jerky in the dehydrators, and it was done this morning when I got up.

More jerky than you can shake a stick at.

More jerky than you can shake a stick at.

Even with all the scrap we had to grind up, we still didn’t end up making any into breakfast sausage or bratwursts. It all was cured into dry sausage and jerky. So, I have quite a bit of hog casings that I need to figure out how to store. Any recommendations are welcome.

Wanting to wrap up this deer processing once and for all, we also oiled the hides yesterday afternoon. We took them down from the line and rubbed a lot of canola oil into them. They soaked it right up, but are still quite stiff. I think we let them dry a bit too much, and hopefully it can be corrected.

Taking the buckskin down.

Taking the buckskin down.

With the oil on them and a heater pointed at them.

With the oil on them and a heater pointed at them.

We were hoping that we’d have a mild week with enough sunny days to melt off some of the snow so we could work on getting the old tires off the boat trailer. There’s still a lot of ice on the lakes (and snow on the ground!), but there are thin ice caution signs popping up everywhere, and it gives me hope for spring time and open water.

From being backed into the water as often as the trailer probably was (we bought it used), they’re rusted on tighter than anything, as well as possibly being cross-threaded. As I said before, that’s a post in it’s own right. The one tire is completely chewed up around the rim. Like, COPS-police chased, torn up tire. The other went flat over winter. However, it’s snowing right now, and the forecast has us right below the freezing mark for most of the week. Ever the optimist, though, I plan to pick up a lot of WD-40 to soak them with. If that doesn’t pan out, I can possibly pick up fabric to complete the camper.

Oh, and if you need summer sausage, you know the girl to ask. We have more than we could eat and expect our blood pressure to remain reasonable.

 

The array of dishes did get washed, and yes, by hand. That dishwasher doesn't work. A lot of stuff in this house is out of order.

The array of dishes did get washed, and yes, by hand. That dishwasher doesn’t work. A lot of stuff in this house is out of order.