Preparing for harvest, fall and winter at our little farm in northern MN. It has officially begun, the leaves are turning, the air has a bite to it (though on Tuesday it was 87 degrees) and my horses are getting the fuzzy look of teddy bears. My husband has been preparing for this time of year since spring, clearing out and planting food plots, finding the perfect places for his deer stands and putting out game cameras. He is happier right now then he is at any other time of the year!
In preparation for deer hunting season I tackled our freezers last Saturday in a bit of “spring” cleaning: taking stock of what we have, figuring out what I need to do different etc. With the wonderful gift of a vacuum sealer from a family member my only purchase now is more bags for it. I buy them HERE in bulk and for $17 it is plenty for all of the meat Joe will be bringing in. It comes in two 50 foot rolls so I need to cut it up and seal one end to make it into a “bag” first, which is a rather time consuming chore that I am determined to get done BEFORE we need them this year.
We’ve had two refrigerators this entire time, one in our kitchen and what we call our “beer ‘fridge” down in the basement. Both are side-by-side’s with a narrow freezer on the left. The one in the basement I haven’t been utilizing at all and gazing down into the black hole that is our giant six foot long chest freezer it dawned on me that it was time to reorganize everything.
We have been the recipient of vegetables gifted to us already from a family member that goes to a local auction every Tuesday night (and a friend who always has way too much from their own gardens) so I’ve already begun prepping and freezing produce which led me to the black hole that is our chest freezer which led me to the realization that the little freezer attached to the refrigerator in our basement was empty… So, after a few trips, our chest freezer now has nothing but fish and meat in it and our refrigerator/freezer in the basement is now keeping all of our frozen produce and I feel like I have some kind of control over the situation. (And some vague idea of what we have.)
Freeing up all that space in our chest freezer also made me feel a heck of a lot better about the upcoming deer season. We ended up with four 20 pound bags of ice leftover from our wedding two years ago and they’re doing the job of covering the bottom of our chest freezer and creating a divider about 1/3rd of the way from one side. It helps the freezer use less power and it also gives us a big jump on keeping it all frozen in the event of a power outage. Of course all that ice takes up some room but, so far, it hasn’t been a problem.
Our tomatoes are beginning to turn so I tackled the tomatoes still left over from last year. (Yes, I’m guilty of freezing whole tomatoes and then forgetting about them for an entire year.) So I dumped them in hot water, pulled the skins off of them and cut the stems out before freezing them again. They’re now ready for use and I’m mentally preparing for the huge amount I’ll be freezing in just a couple of weeks. We have five bags still to use from last year and, this year, I’m vowing to get even better at making sure to use the OLDEST food first.
Of course once deer season hits we always give ourselves the treat of fresh (never frozen) deer steaks for a couple of meals but the majority of it is going to go to a specific spot in our freezer until we finish last year’s deer meat first. (I found a package of deer stew meat leftover from 2014 and my heart broke a little, I can’t believe I missed it!!) Learning from last year Joe and I actually aren’t as partial to roasts as I thought we were so I’ll be grinding more roasts up into burger this year namely all of the shoulders. Stew meat is always the tough one to get rid of us for us as its too gnarly to grind into hamburger and it requires HOURS of hard core cooking before its edible but I refuse to throw anything away that is usable.
I’ll be saving deer fat this year as we go in preparation for making tallow. *crosses fingers* I hope it will replace the cooking oil I buy and I’m also going to try my hand at making soap and bird suet. Wish me luck on all of that! I had also said last year that I was determined to save the ribs for making stock and stew out of this year so I’ll need to get some new blades for my reciprocating saw just for that.
Joe and I attempted something yesterday that I have never done before. We made pickles! No, we didn’t can anything (I’ve yet to take the dive into the canning world), but we did make refrigerator pickles. This recipe of Jalapeno Garlic Dill Pickles from The Creekside Cook was the one I decided on because my husband isn’t fond of sweet pickles and this recipe called for no sugar at all. It also called for jalapenos that we happened to have a few fresh from a friend who had more then they could use out of their own garden. In a couple of weeks I’ll let you know how they turn out! Unfortunately the only fresh dill in town cost a fortune so I will definitely be growing it next year!!
One recipe I started making for us this year of deer meat has been philly cheese steaks. I cook a roast all day with peppers and onions, shred it, stuff it into hoagie rolls, cover it with provolone and then bake them until the cheese is melted. Oh. My. Goodness. Another recipe Joe and I discovered is using bacon fat to cook popcorn in a pot on the stove. Half a cup of popcorn, two tablespoons bacon fat and two tablespoons of butter all cooked up together and then salted like crazy. It is absolutely divine and thank goodness we can’t afford bacon very often to get the drippings or we’d be eating it every night.
I am so close to having all of my outside projects complete for the blog. I’m hoping this weekend I can finally finish the last project for our deck and get all of the pictures taken for it. That will be a load off and free up any future “free” time to focus on things we want to get done on the house before winter. I still want to get siding done on my little tack shack and we have another shed that could really use some new shingles before this winter. Not to mention, we still need to put up more wood before either of us will feel like we can relax!
How are you doing with your fall and winter preparations?