Saturday, September 9, 2017
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Beagles aren’t known for their gardening skills but they can surely be a big help in planning out a rabbit stew menu. In our citified subdivision I’ve created a garden of sorts with most of it being river rock ,junipers, grapevines, and a few decorations like a rooster weather vane with a small area reserved to plant things you can
eat. This garden patch is exactly sixty four square feet in area, no Allis- Chalmers needed. Along with the usual oregano, basil and sage the hounds and I decided to plan ahead for rabbit stew and grow some eggplant this season. Eggplant is like a lot of things in life, either you like it or you don’t. I rank eggplant on my list of favorites right up there with lima beans.
What we were planting was not ordinary eggplant, this was rabbit stew eggplant and any good Gardener will tell you that preparation is the foundation of having a good one. The Beagles were a big help with this important first step because they sniffed out the mole trails, no sense in planting the vegetables on top of a future mole volcano. After we found the right spots to plant and prepared the soil the eight-foot square looked good enough to be a Beagle sandbox but we moved on.
We planted three eggplants, four basil, a sage and a couple of oregano. All these spices would go into the rabbit stew. The dogs probably weren’t crazy about the basil but they could pick it out while eating their share of the stew.
I added a flower bed edging, watered the plants and called it good. That evening we made a couple of extra rabbit patrols and chased away three of the outlaw rabbits. The next morning we ran off two more of the renegades the size of small kangaroos. The beagles and I had done a lot of work and we decided to take the next day off, not only was that a big mistake but I also must have hit another temporary spell of insanity because when the dogs and I checked on the eggplant it was chewed down to stubs. The culprit was obvious, the derelict rabbits were the only animals in our neighborhood viscous enough to undo our hard work. Further action was needed and we made a trip to the lumber store where we bought some two by two pieces of lumber, heavy duty mesh fencing, a pair of wire pliers, electric staple gun, extension cord, duct tape, staples, leather gloves, sledge hammer, chain saw, a posthole digger and some rawhide treats. I also looked fondly at the display of electric fencing but decided that might be going overboard, I could always come back and get it later.
The rabbit stew was starting to look like it was going to be of the premium gourmet variety and also a reminder why I gave up gardening, the Beagles and I could have been playing tag instead of dripping sweat and sporting hanging tongues. While the Beagles took a nap I dug the holes for the posts that would hold the new fencing and used the chain saw to cut the pieces of lumber to size. Next up was a trip to the store to get three more eggplant and two more basil, the oregano had somehow survived. After chasing off one more renegade rabbit we rebuilt our enclosure and watched our eggplant grow the rest of the summer until harvest time.
The key to preparing eggplant is to peel away some of the outer skins in stripes, some people use a potato peeler to do this in the kitchen but I make sure that I’m wearing my hunting knife while I’m cooking and pull it out of its sheath. Cut the eggplant into about one inch pieces and broil them on a cookie sheet in butter or olive oil for about five minutes, you’ll know it’s done when you stab it with your hunting knife it goes in easily. Add to the rest of the ingredients in the recipe and you will have the best rabbit stew ever. One optional ingredient is to go outside and burn a few sticks of pine and scrape off some of the ashes to add to the stew.
Cost of the plants, replacement plants, parts and tools along with the small electric chain saw for the enclosure was approximately $261.94 but the taste of the stew will be priceless.
Eggplant rabbit stew
3 -4 lbs rabbit
6 potatoes, quartered
8 carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
As much eggplant as you want
3/4 cup beef broth
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil
4 basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
3 sage leaves
This stew is best when eaten on a cold winter’s day with the dogs by your side out on the front porch with the space heater gong full blast.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Growing up as a young boy in the farmland of Michigan I am no stranger to the outdoor world. Many times have I heard the crunch of snow under my boots during the frigid winters or felt sweat stinging my eyes while baling hay beneath the hot August sun. Field corn had to be planted by Memorial Day and should be knee high by July 4th is how the old guys put it. After the corn was put in the silos in October it was also time to Pheasant hunt. A good hunting dog to have along with you was like having a multi tool at your side.It seemed like we always had a dog around, I guess it was ours because we fed it and it stayed with us. When you’re ten years old it really doesn’t matter what kind of dog it is, it’s just comforting to have a companion that doesn’t tell you to mow the lawn or to come in and eat supper. Sandy the Collie was with us for many years and helped me form the beginning of an affectionate bond for dogs for a long time to come.
Years went by and I finally realized that now I was one of the old guys. I had retired from career number one of Retailing. After spending thirty five years of working in different parts of the country I was really looking forward to spending time on my photography. Most of my photography is done on the weekends and with the wife working I had plenty of free time during the week. Taking up drinking and chasing women would not be a good idea and the Gambling places were too far away. It was time to get a dog. Part of my early upbringing had included getting taught that dogs do not belong in the house and it took me while to get used to the idea of having an animal inside. We went ahead and did some research and after much discussion I, or we, decided on a Beagle . They had all the traits that would make life more interesting without things getting out of control. Knowing that Beagles are mainly working dogs I was a little concerned about one having enough space in our house on our 1/3 acre lot in our subdivision, but a few good walks a day should solve that problem. The answer came one morning by way of the local TV channel. The County Animal Shelter was showing abandoned dogs up for adoption and it just happened to feature a hybrid Beagle/ Basset hound with the most handsome and I was sure honest and loving face that I had ever seen on a dog. That was probably the best Television Feature we had seen in a long time.
Bringing a dog into the house also involves a learning curve both for the dog and the owner and Indie was no exception. You learn real quick like where not to leave food set out at.. I swear that even a 13" Beagle can stretch herself out to be at least seven feet long. A few weeks after bringing Indie home my eighty seven year old mother in law came to visit us, nice old lady with a very established routine. The first morning of her stay she performed her usual morning practice of reading her daily Devotions while eating breakfast. I was in the half bath around the corner and next to the dining area working at my sometimes usual routine of shaving.
I heard her setting out her toast with jelly , grapefruit half, a few grapes and coffee. This all is placed a certain way with the coffee in a cup on a saucer, the toast sliced into triangles, the grapes to the upper right and the grapefruit squared off. She must have forgotten to set out her daily reader because she passed by me through the hallway and returned with a book in her hand. The next thing I hear is a loud “You Rascal”. Fortunately I was rinsing the razor at the time and did not have it positioned at my throat. Somehow I sensed what had happened and with a belly chuckle ran around the corner to witness the transgression. Sure enough, no more toast, grapes were gone, the grapefruit had a bite out of it and there was coffee spilled on the table. I couldn’t help but think that these were some good Beagle memories in the making. When you have dogs in the house there is always a learning curve for yourself as well as for visitors. You would think that letting someone in the front door would be a simple task, just open the door and let them in. Right? Wrong. If they come to the front door by way of the front porch there is an immediate problem that needs an answer. Any self respecting Beagle will seize upon the opportunity to burst out the door, bolt across the porch through the open gate and look for the neighborhood rabbits.
By the time a visitor pulls his vehicle into the driveway the dogs are already on high alert, the sound of the gate opening is a sure call to action from one of their other job assignments. Toni’s job is to sit on the top of the Love seat and watch for sidewalk son of a guns and Indie’s job is to make sure the Love seat doesn’t slide out from under her.
After the visitors ring the door bell or knock on the door they are again greeted. This time by me and I’ll shout through the closed door “Shut the gate” and I’ll let you in. An alternative to this would be for them to read the instruction sheet that I’ve posted on the door and come in through the garage. By the second time company visits they are usually trained, and the Beagles, well they’re as much fun as always.