As in, the temperature. Yup, we have dipped below zero in the last week or so. When I arrived at my knitting group last week, we chattered, with teeth chattering, about the temps around town. An interesting thing about the Delta area, the temps can be drastically different within a few miles. It was 12 below when I left my home. There was a 9 degree warm up between my house and the library.
There was a much bigger difference between our cabin and the temps in Fairbanks, as we discovered this past Monday when we rode to the Big City to get a few things. I noticed my feet were feeling a little chilly in my boots, but didn't think much of it until we passed the college, where the digital sign proved that it was -20F.
Let the winter begin.
Meanwhile, back at the Cabin, we have been carrying on, life as usual. And by "usual", I mean as unusual as we always live.
J returned, the triumphant hunter, carrying six dead snowshoe hares. While I DO like to eat the spoils, I am not very fond of the dead animals being washed in my sink. Or listening to their tiny little rabbit bones crunching under the kitchen knives. But J was doing his best to make what tastes like chicken LOOK more like chicken, so he wouldn't have anyone crying over the little dead bunnies. Namely, me. Followed by Beans who only recently saw Bambi and has suddenly come to understand that the meat on her plate used to be a cute fluffy thing.
ANYHOO... once the rabbits looked a little less like rabbits, I cooked one down for a LONG time (hares are not as tender as cottontails), then made J pull the meat from the carcass before mixing it together with a bunch of yummy things into a pot pie.
Here's a recipe:
One dead rabbit. Boil rabbit for 15 minutes, then discard that water and rinse the rabbit well. Return rabbit to pot with enough water to cover.
Add chicken bouillon (2 packets of Herb-Ox is what I used) and boil until it comes off the bone (about an hour, depending on how tough your rabbit is).
After you get the meat off the bones, return it to your stock with 6 cloves of garlic (I keep it whole. When you come across one in your dish, you can mash it up on a biscuit and it makes the best bite of garlic bread ever).
Add some seasoning you like. I use Italian herbs in almost everything I cook.
Add one onion, some carrots, celery, and other vegetables you like in your pot pie.
Cook it down until the veggies are almost soft.
Thicken the broth into a gravy by adding flour to your pot.
Put a pie crust in a deep pie dish. Add your rabbit stew to it. Add another pie crust. Vent your pie crust. It helps if you make your vents into the shape of a little heart, so the poor bunny feels loved.
Bake it at 425F for 30-40 minutes or until the pie crust browns and the gravy starts to bubble through.
Serve in generous slices and talk loudly at the table about everyone's day, so everyone is too engaged to realize that Thumper has been served.
After dinner, realize that eating a rabbit was not so bad, and actually pretty tasty.
In other news, I also learned a new skill. You can add Woodsman to my "Jill-of-All-Trades" title.
The story is hilarious, so be sure you don't snort coffee all over your laptops, folks.
I woke yesterday in a particularly bad mood. Don't ask why. I have no clue myself. I found myself snarling and hissing at everyone in the house. Even Little Nugget. Around lunch time, J had enough of my bad attitude and decided we should bundle the girls up and go outside to do some work. After some snarling and hissing, I agreed. I stood glumly outside, Little Nugget strapped to me in the baby carrier, Beans bundled up like a character in "A Christmas Story", and I pouted at the winter sky. After a few minutes of standing around pouting and realizing that J was not paying me one bit of attention, I decided to get to work. Also, when it's 5 below zero, standing around is really not very fun anyway. I began stacking wood. And filled the wood crib in the house. And stacked more wood. J was busy, whistling to himself and digging snow away from the spot that the next wood pile needed to be stacked.
Well, in 5 below, girls get cold and tired long before the work wears out. I was just starting to work into a good rhythm of stacking when the girls needed to go in to warm up. I'll admit, this part of mommy-hood always disgruntles me a bit. I LIKE to work hard. I LIKE to challenge my body. I can be girly, but I honestly get a kick out of testing myself to see if I can do a "man's work". (My mother, one of the original girl-power hippies, would say there's no such thing as "man's work"- only work.) Good grief, that's why I was a paramedic in a state where the average human weighs about 300 lbs. (And no, they do not send "lifting assistance" to us girls out there!)
ANYHOO... my job was in the house with the kids. I made some hot cocoa and tended fires and babies. When J came in wanting to know what was for lunch, my Girl Power kicked into high gear and I demanded that HE tend food, fires, and babies. I threw on some gloves (not very good ones, in hindsight) and a light jacket (also not a good choice), and went out to the wood pile.
It didn't take long of me abusing the poor axe and maul before J came outside to "help".
In his defense, the poor guy only wanted to show me the proper way to split firewood. The way that doesn't destroy an axe and maul, and the way that doesn't injure his wife. And also, the way to actually split the wood instead of just splintering it all to heck.
This is where I should mention that I DON'T LIKE HELP. Especially if I am already in a pretty surly mood. The more J "helped", the more I noticed that I had inherited my mother's involuntary lip twitch... the dreaded lip twitch that always said, "Wow, kid. You really pushed too far this time." When my mom was madder than a wet hornet, her upper lip would twitch. And that's when I knew it was time to cease and desist. And get my hind quarters ready.
J finally stopped trying to help. I'm not sure if it was the enraged lip twitch that clued him in, or the fact that I was no longer facing the woodpile but the axe, but staring directly at him.
I stayed out at the woodpile hacking our precious firewood into bits until my hands-in the not very good gloves-started to hurt. I went in, defeated, and hands burning from the searing cold. J innocently asked how many logs I split.
Darn that lip twitch. I didn't have to say a word.
He simply said, "Oh. Well, cut yourself some slack. You've never split wood before. I'll teach you another time."
Oh. Poor guy. That was the wrong thing to say to a Girl-Power Chick who was just defeated by a "man-job".
As soon as I could feel my fingers, I dug out some better gloves. I laced up my heavy duty winter boots, and I donned a much more efficient jacket. Little Nugget stared at me with curiosity and giggled. Beans asked, "Mommy? Play snow? Yeah?"
"No baby. Mommy's not playing in the snow right now. You stay here with daddy."
I ignored J's questions... "Where are you going? Are you taking the car? When will you be back?"
As I shut the door, I hollered back (and excuse my language here folks...), "I'm NOT going to let some stupid piece of wood kick my ass."
I went outside, took a deep breath of very cold air (that hurts, by the way!), and gave that woodpile everything I had. Every ounce of my bad mood, every drop of surliness I could muster up, and every lip twitch I had. There was a little cussing at that wood pile. I'm pretty sure I told several pieces of wood that one way or another, I was going to split it, even if it was splintered into kindling before I landed a "good one" on it.
It took a few tries. And eventually, I did get the hang of it. Especially after I sheepishly looked around to be sure J didn't see me taking his advice on how to hold and swing the maul, and tried it his way. (Um, he was right. The first one I hit with his method split into two perfect pieces.)
After about an hour in the cold, and thinking about things, I suddenly realized I wasn't mad anymore. And while I wasn't frozen to the bone, I was getting a little chilly. And as my anger was whittled away in the woodpile, I started to notice the blister on my leg where my hastily tucked pant leg had been chaffing between my boot. I took a look around and noticed that I had hacked up about 1/4 cord, and thought..."That'll do, Moose Nugget, That'll do."
Panting, I leaned against the house. On the one hand, I was wishing I had the energy to finish the rest of the woodpile (another 1/4 cord, maybe a tad more), just so I could go in the house with a "See, Girlz Rock" attitude. Then, I realized that I just didn't have enough energy left in me to go back in saying "Nyah, Nyah, Nah, Nyah, Nyah". Nope. I had left getting up on the wrong side of the bed out in the stack of wood. It sure was gonna feel good to throw one of MY pieces of split wood into to the stove to warm up by.
By the time I stopped panting, but before the dull ache in my hands and back that every new woodman feels could set in, I tromped in the house, glasses fogging up as the warm air hit them and said, "Hey you! Man! Go look at the wood pile!"
I was pretty proud. And I can say that I would definitely chop wood again. If I had to.
For the record, my hands still ache. But gosh, that fire sure was cozy last night.
Plenty on the to-do list this week. The holidays are coming up, and those of you who have been reading for a while know that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. This week will be full of preparations... there's cranberries to boil into sauce, there's pumpkins to cook down for pies. There's potatoes to mash, Green Stuff to make, and lots of other goodies. There's also the guest list to attend to. It's a Moose Nugget tradition to invite folks that would otherwise be spending the holiday alone. I just can't bring myself to ignore someone who would otherwise have to spend Thanksgiving eating Chow Hall Turkey.
If you are a reader, give some consideration to your own guest list. Whether you are hosting or you are a guest in someone else's traditions, see if there might be room for one more chair at your table, and invite someone who needs to feel like they are a part of a family for the day.
Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails