Sunday, January 13, 2013
OK, maybe it isn’t really a ranch, but it's 100 acres of property we own in the country near Rocksprings, Texas. It’s our “get away” place that we have really worked hard on these past 10 years. We built a large cabin over a 2 year period (with a lot of help from friends), and we go here to enjoy the wildlife. When we first bought the property, we only saw one deer in a whole year. Because of our hard work, we now see “trophy” whitetail deer, elk, aoudad sheep, axis deer, sika deer, Rio Grande turkeys, Russian boars, and too many feral hogs.
I’ll blog sometime in the future on our specific game management efforts, but this posting is in response to some of you who asked what we do at the ranch. First of all, here is the cabin we built:
Here is the view from our cabin:
Here is a rock fireplace (for a wood burning stove) that we built one summer with rock found on our property. The stove is now in place, but I wanted to show the rockwork without the stove hiding some of our work.
The inside of the cabin is now finished, but I’m still rocking in below the cabin (it’s built on a slope). Here is the work so far…
Most of our work this time of year is clearing brush to get rid of some of the non-native juniper trees (we call them cedar). Many of the animals like it a little more open, and the cedars also take up too much water and stint the growth of our oaks and pinion pine trees. Here I am working on clearing some of the brush:
Here are two sets of “before and after” pictures to show the difference our efforts make:
I also fill wildlife feeders – to give the animals something to eat in periods of drought. I have 5 different feeders – 3 on timers and 2 that feed whenever the animals want it. Without this, we would lose many animals every year.
My wife and I also spent 2 years building a dam by hand. This picture was taken while work was still in progress. Even though we’ve finished it now with nice flat rocks mortared on top, there hasn’t been much water because of the severe drought.
I could show you so much more, but let me leave you with one last photo. Nothing like sitting on the porch and enjoying this sunrise!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Several of you commented on my activity feed about canning jalapeños and smoking sausage. Preserving foods for later consumption has always been a hobby of mine. It's both a way to keep food from spoiling and also a way to try the food in a different way.
When I have a garden, I always have too many tomatoes, too much okra, and a lot of extra peppers. The solution is canning. I make homemade tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and even salsa. I also make pickled okra and pickled peppers. Pictured below are some of the pickled jalapeños I made yesterday. I added a few of my habanero peppers, and also a little sliced carrots and onion for flavor.
The smoked sausage takes a LOT longer to make. I grind up some wild hog and venison. I also grind some beef fat to make the sausage a little tastier (the other meat has no fat and would be too dry). After adding the spices and mixing it well (using a little Shiner Bock to make it easier), I stuff the mixture into natural casings. I then smoke the meat for 12-18 hours, starting at about 110 degrees and gradually moving up to 160 degrees. If you do it too fast, all the fat melts and the sausage will be too dry. I actually don't apply the smoke until the meat has an internal temperature of 125 degrees - it adheres to the meat better once the casings have dried out a little. I continue the process until the sausage has an internal temperature of 152 degrees (safe to eat without cooking). I then take the sausage out, spray cold water on it (to keep it from shrinking), and then let it hang for an hour. Finally, I put it in the refrigerator overnight to firm it up just right. It then looks like this:
Why do I like doing all of this? Maybe it is my obsession with food (ha!). But I also just enjoy making something unique that I've done myself. It tastes great and they make excellent gifts, especially this time of year. I just have to make sure I give a lot of that sausage away so I don't eat too much myself!
Friday, November 23, 2012
I've been feeling a little "down" after eating too much during Thanksgiving yesterday, but I got an "eye opener" this morning that helped get me back on track.
I don't normally take part in the "Black Friday" shopping, but I was awake at 3:00 AM this morning, so I decided to wait in line for an hour for a smoker I really wanted. I got the smoker (normally $329 - a limited few on sale for $179), and I also picked up 4 pairs of jeans at $9.99 each. Since the place was "crazy" with people, I decided to buy 2 of each size (38" waist and 36" waist) instead of waiting forever to try them on. I was wearing a 42" waist when I started this journey, so I figured a 38" is about right for now, and I can wear the 36" ones after I lose a little more weight. Guess what - the 36" ones fit just right! That certainly cheered up my day. I can still wear the other 2 with a belt, so I'm not going to return them. It just made me feel so good to see the progress I've made, and I'm determined not to go backwards!
While I still need to work on my choices concerning food, I'm going in the right direcion. We all "slip up" now and then, but if we just keep working at it, we can achieve anything we want to!
Saturday, November 17, 2012
We just finished week 6 of the 8-week 5% Fall Challenge. Although I never had the most weight lost for any single week, today I achieved that 5% goal and dropped 10.5 lbs during the challenge.
This accomplishment was really due to two things: consistency and commitment. I exercised hard and, for the most part, I kept my calories within my calorie range. I didn't always succeed on the calories, but looking back, I probably needed the extra calories a few times with all of the fitness activities I was doing. I also was determined to succeed - not just for myself, but also for the Teddy Bear team overall. There were many days when I really didn't feel like a lot of exercise, but I pushed myself anyway (sometimes after dark) to make sure I didn't let the team down. Perhaps my military background helped in the challenge - when you see that other team members are struggling for various reasons, you know you have to step it up meet the team objectives.
We still have two weeks to go in the challenge, and I don't plan on letting up (well maybe a little on Thanksgiving...). I hope everyone is successful in their journey to a healthier lifestyle. You can make it a reality if just commit yourself to success. I saw a great quote recently on SparkPeople:
"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." (Kenneth Blanchard)
Good luck to all of you!
Saturday, November 10, 2012
As the 5% Fall Challenge makes a "virtual" trip to the Grand Canyon, I remember back to a hike I made in March of 1984 with my 10-year old son. It was a trip I'll never forget.
We were to hike down the South Kaibab trail, walk along the river, and hike back up the Bright Angel trail (15.8 miles total distance). This is a hike not recommended in a single day, but I was confident my son and I could do it with no problem.
We started out early in the morning at a comfortable temperature of 56 degrees. By the time we reached the river (almost 5,000' change in elevation), it was 82 degrees. As a former Boy Scout, I was prepared for anything that could possibly arise (or so I thought). Relaxing at the bottom with my feet in the water, I slipped on a jagged rock when I tried to stand up - leaving about a 3" cut on the bottom of my foot. No problem, I cleaned the wound, put "mole skin" around it, and covered the cut with gauze and tape.
Then we started the hike up... My sore foot made the hike very difficult and my son was actually having to wait on me in places. All of a sudden, the weather took a turn for the worse - the temperature dropped and it started to rain. No problem, I pulled out the rainjackets I brought. Then it began to hail and we had to "scrunch" under a rock ledge to keep from getting pummelled too badly. As the temperature dropped some more, the hail turned to ice and snow, and we continued our hike out. I, obviously, didn't see the weather forecast - a critical mistake on such a long hike. I had become drenched from all the wet weather, and was getting chilled as the temperature dropped below freezing. To make matters worse, I was still hiking slow from my foot injury. By the time we finally reached the top (just before dark), it was 22 degrees, and I am certain I had hypothermia - it took several hours to get warmed up - even sitting in the car with the heater on. But I felt good!
Why did I feel good? Because we had done it! Despite everything that could possibly go wrong, we still finished the hike! I learned some very valuable lessons that day. First you need to be better prepared for any difficult undertaking. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Second, it taught me a great lesson about handling challenges in life overall. Never give up when life gets tough - you may have setbacks along the way, but you can reach your goals if you just keep going. The trip may seem slow at times, but if you get there, who cares!
Good luck to all of you in your journey to a healthier lifestyle!
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