We decide the old gut pile and now the new one is too much to leave laying in the edge of the yard for more bears to come around for. They don’t hibernate until later in the winter and are always looking for more food to keep their weight up. We break the old pile loose from the snow onto a tarp and pull the new pile on, with it. The two of us drag the tarp out along the roadway as far as we can make it, on past the graves of the men. At least it won’t be so close to the house and my animals.
I go back and bring out a few small traps and a few large snares. It is not trapping season yet and pelts won’t be prime, but we may not have the chance for getting furs later in the winter or as easily. I set the small traps on obvious small game trails close but not too close to the bait. I do not want to catch the ravens and jays that will come feed. I go farther out and make some snare sets even farther out on possible trails toward the bait. Then I place sticks to make open areas less desirable for predators to walk on to get to the bait, leaving my snared trails as the best routes. I don’t think we will have a game warden showing up to cite me for trapping out of season.
Noah wants to learn about skinning and preparing hides, so we work on the grizzly and the black bear hides all evening. Since the grizzly has been salted a while, it is easier to work on, fleshing it nicely down. We comment on how human the hands and feet look, skinned out and decide to help the antisocial signs around the place by tacking the skinned parts to the signs. It will give the jays something to pick at during lean times ahead.
Early the next morning, we go check my traps. We have a marten and a fox close to the pile, the snares are still empty. We take them home after I reset the traps. The fur looks better than I thought it would, so I am careful on the skinning and stretching them to tan and use for clothing, later. They dry very fast, so I cut the skulls open and smear the brains over the flesh side of the hides and work it in to help soften the hides.
Late afternoon, we check the traps and snares again, but nothing during the day. The following morning, we find 2 wolves in the snares and those will add a good fur supply for garments, later. I carefully remove any sign they were caught and reset the snares, also. It looks as though they were alone, so no other wolves saw them caught.
We take them home and skin them out, that evening. I save the skulls to open later for the brains as these hides will take longer to dry. Once they are dry, I lightly sand the surface before adding the brains. This removes the membrane that makes it hard to tan a hide at home.
We continue checking the traps twice a day and manage to catch a couple more marten and another fox, then I pull the traps and only leave the snares. I don’t want to kill all the animals in the area. I will trap farther out and in other directions later in the winter when fur is more prime. These are all in very good shape though, so they are getting prime very early this year from the weather.
The hams and bacon are done and we sample to see how it is. I like this one a bit better for bacon, the hams are about the same. Maybe I am just getting more practice and better at making it.
The fellow with the snow machine comes over to check on us and brings 2 caribou on his sled. He said he was out setting up his trap line when he came across the small herd from the White Mountains near here. He shot 3 young bulls as that would not harm the small herd any. He kept one and was bringing one for us and the others to share.
I gave him a large ham and a side of bacon since he did not get any of the last one. He was surprised that I cured and smoked meats. I told him I would make sausage from some of the caribou if he wanted to come back in a few days for some. It would take about 2 weeks. He offered to go back for part of his caribou to use also, for a larger share. I told him if he had brown sugar and black pepper I would make all he wanted as I had plenty of salt and could share the salt.
We started skinning and by the time we were done skinning, he was back with most of his caribou. He helped finish cutting them up and then we cleaned out some of the intestine to make sausage casings out of. We squeezed then clean then poured water down them. We soaked them in salt water and then rinsed yet again, turning them inside out. The next soak was even
stronger salt water to leave then in until ready to use. We cut out the backstraps for steaks, and made some nice roasts from parts of the hams. The rest was mostly cut to grind up for sausage and burger.
I have a large, heavy duty meat grinder and with 2 guys helping, we deboned and ground a lot of meat that afternoon. The man’s name was Al and he was delighted to learn how to make sausage. I let him look through my notes and cookbook and he picked out a couple of sausages he really liked.
The Swedish Sausage sounded good to us all, and we had plenty of potatoes and onions to try it with, so we decided on that one. Then a basic recipe with only black pepper as seasonings besides some brown sugar and salt. It is nice in a lot of recipes. Then we decide to make some pepperoni, also. Pizza sounds very good.
We divide up the meat and weigh it out into piles required for the recipes. We tripled most of the recipes to make sure everyone had some of the finished product. The rest we packaged as plain burger to divvy up for each household.
While I package, the guys peel potatoes and onions for the Swedish Sausage. We have the counters and table divided up for each flavor sausage and we each start making. Then we rinse the casings yet again and turn them right side out. We stuff the mildest sausage first. The end of the casing is tied twice, very firmly into 2 knots. If one gives way, the other should hold. Ever so many inches we twist the sausage roll to make links. Only so much casing will push onto the tube from the grinder at one time, so we make several loops of each flavor sausage. We try to make each flavor
into different length sausages. They do have slightly and not so slight difference in colors, but better safe than sorry.
I build up a bigger fire in the smokehouse and we hang the finished sausage loops from racks I have hanging in there. The double knots at the ends have to be carefully handled so nothing comes undone. Once they start drying, they will stay tied much better.
It is getting a bit late, so I fix us some dinner and Al joins us. Chicken fried caribou steaks with cream gravy and mashed potatoes, fresh salad and rolls. Al pats his tummy after dinner and laughs, saying he has ate better and talked more today, than he has in years. I offer him the little cabin for the night, if he don’t have to get home and he can take some of the meat over to Rose, Kara, Will and Shari, tomorrow, if he likes. Noah is still using his camper so the cabin is empty. He decides that would be nice, so goes on over and starts a fire in the heater in the cabin. He comes back and we all visit a while. Then I check the smokehouse one last time for the night and add wood. The weather is a little warmer, so I am trying to speed the smoking up by running it night and day. The black bear is done so I will send some over with Al tomorrow for the rest.
I fix breakfast the next morning and Al offers to take us over to visit, with his snow machine. We will have to scrunch up tight to fit, but following the roadway, it should be okay. Then I go dig out an old sled I have had for a while, and we get to travel in style, instead. We pack the meat and I stand on the sled runners, Noah rides behind Al and the meat is packed
in the sled.
It has been so long since I rode on the runners I figure they will lose me somewhere along the way. But somehow, we make it over in one piece. Everyone was not expecting anyone to drop in, and some that didn’t know us, were not sure they should be welcoming us. The sight of all that meat helped tip the scales in our favor. When we got down to Kara’s house, she was very happy to see us.
Shari had been having some pains and was down at Rose’s place. They were keeping an eye on her to make sure she was okay. We unloaded the share we brought for Kara and she was happy to have meat to feed the group she was cooking for. She sent some homemade candy she had made home with us. We then went on down to see the rest.
Rose let us in and Shari was feeling better. These were the Braxton Hicks pains she had read about, but still had scared her. Will put their share of meat in the covered back on their little 6 wheeler ATV to keep the ravens and jays out. Rose put hers on her entry porch to freeze up. She gave us some jars of canned diced chicken to vary our diets with and a couple of jars of it for Al, also. She also loaned me some books on goats.
She says she has never raised goats either, although they had goats, just not tame ones. The ones they had were not milk goats, just roamed the hills around their place keeping the brush down. They did raise any that were orphaned and had a hard time keeping them in any pen or fence. Al is looking fidgety, maybe overload of people around so we say our goodbyes and head for home.
This has been so nice, getting to visit and sharing what we have. Rose has a frozen turkey in her old freezer on the porch, that she will prepare at Thanksgiving as a surprise for everyone and probably the last one ever available in our area and we are invited. She thinks maybe it would be good for us all to try to be together once in a while and celebrate the fact that we are alive. The snow keeps up, not a lot at any one time, just steady off and on. It is accumulating but slowly. So we keep shoveling and clearing larger areas of the yard.
Before the ground freezes too much, I dig out some gravel to keep in the chicken house for them. I know they need it for digestion in their gizzards. I guess I will be keeping all of them over the winter and I think I have enough feed for that. I will let all the hens set that want to, in the spring and raise as many as possible to share with everyone wanting to have some chickens. Eventually I will manage to have enough we can have a chicken dinner. But at present, I think fresh eggs will be the best part.
My pullets are starting to lay now and I am getting a few eggs every day. I am saving them back and will share when we go to Rose’s for Thanksgiving. Most Bush households are used to buying the 5 dozen egg packs when they grocery shop and most households keep a can or 2 of the powdered eggs on the pantry shelves for the in between shopping trip times. However, powdered eggs just are not a good choice for deviled eggs. By Thanksgiving time, most folks will be dipping into powdered eggs for any eggs used.