Thursday, January 13, 2011


After my last post on window strikes and the moral questions surrounding backyard bird feeding, my wife, Sue, sent me this link that I thought I'd share. The American Bird Conservancy has good information on the latest data on bird mortality and suggestions for concerned nature-lovers to make a difference at both the local and national level.

Here's another link with some innovative solutions that may be incorporated into future architecture and growth management.

While I'm at it, I think I'd like to update you on a few of the posts I've written here over the past six months. I know I appreciate when bloggers I read go back and answer some of their own questions. I may as well walk the walk here at "The Bumbling Bushman."

In Surprise: No Deer, I intimated my Buncombe County hunt may have been my last of the season. It was. It seemed whenever I thought I might head back into the woods, other duties would pop up or the weather would turn for the worse. In fact, for much of the final week of the western NC deer season, the temp was far, far below normal, making it easy to be satisfied with my stand-up freezer at its current level. For the record, I ended up with five deer for the 2010 season. It's the second time I've come within one kill of North Carolina's annual bag limit. I feel incredibly lucky to have been so successful and deeply content that Sue and I will have venison to share with friends and family throughout the coming year.

I wrote Decking The Halls in late November to share with you the joys of harvesting our holiday decorations from our property in Cleveland County. I'm happy to report our scraggly Virginia pine made for the best Christmas tree Sue and I have ever had. It stayed green and vibrant through the first week on January, and now it's propped up against the backyard fence to provide shelter for the birds. I will say, however, that we had to deal with an astonishing hatch of small, flighted insects that emerged from our tree at a rate of hundreds per day. Their surprise appearance begs the question; what kinds of pesticides do tree growers apply to keep this from happening at commercial Christmas tree farms and what effects do they have on birds and humans? It also helped answer a conundrum I've had for many years; how do insectivorous birds survive long periods of subfreezing weather? The answer is in the trees all around us.

On making meat stocks, I suggested in Stock Options that you simmer your bones/carcasses for at least three hours to extract the most flavor. I'm now in favor of upping the ante to four hours, five if you've got them. The difference I'm getting with the 4-hour simmer is so superior to that which I was getting at three, I doubt I'll ever make stock now unless I know I have the time to do it right.

Similarly, in Simple Sausage Science, I'm going to adjust my venison to pork fat ratio from 4:2 to 3:2. My batch of breakfast sausage is good, but it doesn't compare to that which is made for and sold by Crooked Creek Farms. I bet they're almost at 1:1, which makes the sausage so flavorful and juicy I just can't resist it. Arteries be damned - you only live once! Incidentally, Crooked Creek is where I buy my uncured fatback for sausage-making. Casey and Meredith McKissick run a great slow-food operation down there in Old Fort, NC and their Berkshire hogs are healthy, happy and taste great.

Back in Black Mountain, the frigid winter seems to have convinced the neighborhood black bear to go into hibernation. After being warned of its presence by well-intentioned neighbors when we moved here last summer, I unwittingly attracted the brute right into the backyard with some peanut butter suet I'd hung for the birds. Bear With Me told the tale of its first visit. Since then, the bear has climbed over our fence three more times to raid bird feeders or seed that's left scattered on the ground after I've taken the feeders in for the night. I think we'd have a better relationship if the bear let us see it instead of coming in the dead of night and causing trouble. Stay tuned this spring for more updates.

After a few false starts, I'm starting to figure out the dove hunting scene at Sandy Mush Gamelands, just north of Asheville. In A Babe In The Woods I admitted my trepidation of starting over when it comes to finding places to hunt. As crazy as it may seem, given all of the other things that are far more important, giving up my happy hunting grounds at the North Carolina coast was one of my biggest concerns when we moved. Of course, good old-fashioned legwork and some helpful tips from the locals are putting me on the right track in these here mountains. After striking out a couple of times, I pieced together a couple of nice dove hunts and ended up with 12 birds for the season. It was enough for a New Year's Eve grilled feast for Sue and I and our great friends, Brian and Jacqui.

Finally, I made good on my desire to attempt a corned wild pig ham for Thanksgiving. Using the technique described in The Versatility of Venison, I cured and cooked a boned-out ham from an 80-pound sow that I shot in Florida last January. After simmering the meat for three hours, I removed it, allowed it to cool and then shellacked it with a maple syrup and mustard glaze and left it in a 300-degree oven for an hour-and-a-half. The result was everything I had hoped for - big, beautiful slabs of cured ham with the sugary, tangy glaze on the outside. I fully intend to do it again.

So now we're all caught up and I feel better. I've got lots of ideas for new topics and I can't wait to experience, research and write them all down to share with you in the coming year. Thanks for reading.

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