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.
|The Beagles at their job assignments|