Spring has arrived swimming up the creek behind our property. Sand Bass meet once a year for a week long mating party, hundreds of them. We make sure we crash the party and invite them to our house for a big fish fry.
Southern gal that I am, they have to be fried with homemade tartar sauce, fried potatoes, corn bread and a dollop of pickled green tomatoes on the side. The pickled green tomatoes were canned from the end of last year’s abundant tomato harvest.
I have to get busy cutting up fish filets but thought I would include a couple of recipes:
The last few weeks have been a blur of canning and freezing as the end of the garden season comes to an end. Besides the usual diced and whole tomatoes, salsa, tomato and spaghetti sauce, I’ve tried ketchup and tomato preserves. The tomato preserves are surprisingly delicious. Another new experiment this year was Jalapeno Jelly. The mixture of spicy and sweet has proved to be addictive. Okra was a big producer this year so we’ve froze it both battered and plain. Okra is a wonderful addition to soups. My mother always made okra cooked in tomatoes, bacon and onions which is quite yummy so I’ve canned okra and tomatoes. However, my brother and I are the only ones who like it this way. It has to be battered and fried for everyone else!
The night before last we were warned of a possible hard frost. It was all hands on deck to try and save as much as possible of the last of the tomatoes, both green and red, and a mountain of Banana, Hungarian, Bell and Jalapeno peppers. The harvest filled a deep wheelbarrow. We were happy to split it up and share with relatives and neighbors.
To get out of the house and the kitchen, I took a little trail ride with John to see his latest tiny cabin on stilts (hunting stand). Bow season for deer hunting has started and it soon will be muzzleloader or primitive arms season. This is a very big deal in our family as I’ve talked about before in https://osageprairie.wordpress.com/2016/11/18/man-week-has-arrived-a-k-a-thanksgiving/. This is not just sport but food for our family. John never harvests anything that is not food.
John designed his cabin to avoid climbing and hunting from a tree stand which can be quite dangerous. Now he has a comfortable place to sit with a propane heater when it’s cold, drink his coffee and even fall asleep without falling out of a tree. He invited me to climb up and inspect. He even has carpet on the floor! The pictures at the top right was my view out of the windows. Very peaceful with only the sound of birds. All summer with the hustle and bustle of family life and a big household I’ve been dreaming of a quiet place to get away where I could be alone with God and pray.
When I met my husband I soon learned that Thanksgiving doesn’t revolve around the turkey, but the deer. It’s rifle season week in Oklahoma. Before we bought our home, we would make the trip to his sister’s home in the country so he could deer hunt. I was very happy when we bought our home in the country so I could have our Thanksgiving dinner at home.
For many years now, I have called the beginning of deer season, “Man Week”. This was due to the invasion of men at our home. Man Week has now become Man Season as duck hunting has become a popular past time as well. Deer season has 3 phases: bow, primitive arms and rifle. John does not bow hunt but we do have friends arriving who do.
A tradition on the first day of rifle season, which is tomorrow, is that John will get up way before day break and cook breakfast and have coffee ready for the men who will be hunting. This year man week will include our granddaughter who took her first deer last year and is very excited to go out again.
I am a little tired (exhausted) by the time Thanksgiving is over, but it’s a wonderful feeling to have a family and friends tradition that all look forward to coming back for the next year.
What traditions does your family enjoy around the holidays?
Last week and through yesterday the weather reports were indicating that we had a very high chance of experiencing severe weather, including large hail and tornadoes. It’s April, nothing unusual for Oklahoma. A few weeks back, I had cleaned our cellar. Tornado Season Has Arrived! My son and his family of 5 would be joining us since they don’t have a storm cellar. So I rearranged the cellar the day before to make sure there would be plenty of room for everyone along with our 2 dogs. I decided to order pizza so we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning since predictions were indicating the storm could arrive around 5:00pm.
Earlier in the day I went to my BSF bible study thinking everything would be under control when I came back home. Best laid plans. While I was gone, John was cleaning out a drainage ditch so that the heavy rain expected would flow through. It began to thunder which caused some turkeys to begin gobbling. Any loud noise will cause them to announce their location. If I hear thunder, I automatically think “lightening, I’m done, in the house!” But, the sound of turkeys and it’s turkey season, mean’s go get the gun for John!
When I came home, the proud hunter had a turkey that probably weighed about 25 pounds! John knows I do not clean fish or any wild game, just cook. So he dressed and plucked. Then it was my turn. I’m only thinking about how am I going to cut up this turkey, find room to hold it until I can decide what to do with him and in enough time to get to the cellar! I cut him up like you would a chicken and put the pieces in a large stock pot. Fortunately, John’s small ice box in his shop was available to keep it refrigerated until the next day.
My plan is to make turkey jerky with one of the breasts, crock pot the legs and one of the thighs for turkey pot pie and I’m going to try canning the other breast and thigh. Wild turkey is much leaner than ones you would buy at the grocery store. Turkey jerky is very good and I’m expecting the crock pot and pressure canning will produce a tender meat. I love chicken that’s been pressure canned. It actually improves the flavor.
His beautiful feathers will be used for a display that will include red cedar. This will be a gift for my sweet daughter-in-law who loves these displays along with the European deer mounts John makes.
So all turned out well. We did make a trip to the cellar. Some high winds passed over with only one broken branch of my crepe myrtle bush and a lot of turkey to eat!
In order to finish our porch, which was 13.5 ‘ by 40’, we would need a way to saw the logs. We began our search for a saw mill. We attended a local farm show to see some of the saw mill vendors that were demonstrating. It was very interesting and very expensive. A few inquiries and we soon had different brochures from various manufacturers.
I started browsing some of the woodworking forums and the EZ Boardwalk Jr. Portable Sawmill was discussed as a well built and affordable alternative. The company is owned and operated by Mennonites, who are known for their hard work ethic and quality products. The company is located in Missouri. The owner often make trips South to assist with storm cleanups and often makes deliveries on the way for a small fee.
After investigating other saw mills, we settled on the EZ Boardwalk Jr. The price was lower and the quality superior to anything else we saw. We were able to coordinate a delivery of the mill off a nearby Interstate. My husband had never operated a mill in his life, but he is very mechanically inclined. With a short learning curve he was ready to begin sawing logs. He found a planer and some other wood working tools for a small price at a local estate sale.
During this same time period, we found a reputable local builder who was able to correct the problems we had with our porch, framing it in, installing windows and a door. Our dreams of a sun room were beginning to materialize. We insulated it ourselves, installed sheetrock and plywood. My husband and a friend ,an electrician, installed the electrical wiring. I ordered the lights online, found the flooring from a nearby business and painted the ceiling. In three months he:
sawed the logs
cut and planed the boards
applied Helmsman Spar Urethane,let it dry, sanded each board and start the process again three times. This produced a beautiful shine for the final finish.
Measured and cut each board. Unfortunately the porch was not square although the window openings were corrected.
Made window frames, floor molding and quarter round molding.
Installed plywood for subflooring.
My husband is a hunter so his “trophys” are now hanging up and look quite appropriate with the Eastern Red Cedar. Before you get upset about the displayed deer and turkey feathers, we eat everything that is hunted. For one year we had no other meat but deer. Deer is very lean and a healthy red meat. Our ancestors survived off the land by hunting and fishing and we carry on that tradition.
Later we found an electric fireplace at an outlet store. The fireplace was in working order but the cabinet was missing pieces. That is why we got such a good buy for it. John built a corner cabinet that would also hold a television and DVD player. John found a used pool table and our family room was complete. This makes a wonderful play room for our 4 grandchildren that are ages 8, 6, 3 and 1. They are really what this is all about!
Opened up the last jar of canned pinto beans that we grew in last year’s garden. It was an experiment to grow pintos, navy, and lima beans. I planted a row of each about 20 feet long. I found out it takes alot of planting to get a substantial amount of beans but it was fun watching them grow. I ended up with enough pintos to can 3 quarts which hardly seems worth the effort. But, it’s nice to say that we are eating what we grew ourselves.
Along with the beans we had a mess of crappie (pronounced croppie) caught by my husband in a creek behind our home. This is a wonderful white meat fish found in lakes, ponds and creeks here in Oklahoma. Even those that don’t care for fish usually love the mild flaver. Along with a fresh salad, it was a wonderful dinner. There is an art to fried fish to make it crisp and light brown on the outside and nice and flaky on the inside. On the side, tartar sauce with my special receipe
crappie caught yesterday
my last jar of pintos
For nice crisp fish:
The batter is half white flour and half cornmeal. Fish is filleted. Use about a half inch or inch of vegetable or canola oil in a cast iron skillet. Heat up the skillet first for a few minutes and add the oil. I just rinse my fish in water and dredge in the flour/cornmeal mixture. No seasoning is added yet. Make sure the oil is sizzling before adding fish. Let it cook a few minutes until lightly browned and turn. The pieces are pretty small so the cooking is fast! I remove the fish to a platter and then (the secret ingredient) sprinkle with Lowry’s Seasoning salt. Cover with a towel to keep warm and cook another batch.
For the best tartar sauce:
Start with Miracle Whip salad dressing, about a cup. Add about an 1/8th cup of chopped white onion and an equal amount of chopped dill pickles. Finally, sprinkle with Lowry’s and mix together. Deliciously simple!
We know it’s Spring when the crappie are biting and the daffodils appear!
Busy day today. I drive two hours to attend my weekly bible study with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) every Tuesday. In the future I will blog about BSF because it is so worth the time spent.
I wanted to share a video of my husband spending a moment with a beautiful red cardinal. Bet you have never seen anything like it! I never have and glad I was able to catch it with my phone. Winter is still technically here but we are seeing signs of an early Spring; warmer weather, blue birds making nests and neighbors planting gardens against better judgement. Our last Spring freeze is considered around April 15th.