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Being a good neighbor

With all my winter preparation work completed, this week I discovered the best way to fill the family larder for the upcoming Covid shut-in, social distancing, quarantining winter. How? Just be a good neighbor.

For years when my neighbor’s sons were small and inexperienced outdoors kids, and I still had enuf energy to teach outdoor skills while participating myself, I enjoyed them as the sons I never had. I took them fishing. I took them hunting. I helped them find places to hunt and fish. I helped them learn to fillet fish and process freshly harvested deer. I put miles and miles on my pickup truck. I shared numerous piles of venison with their family. In short, I wuz a happy mentor for those two lads.

Together we’ve harvested numerous deer, including some nice bucks, some lunker bass and catfish, squirrels, wild turkey, doves, quail, ducks and geese. They have waterfowl blinds on my pond.

Well, as the years passed, the time-table reversed on me. I knew it wuz coming. They’re grown now. One’s married. Now I no longer have the energy to hunt anything that requires walking and my fishing becomes more limited each year. I sold my bird dog and all my bird hunting equipment last year. I now focus solely on fishing, gardening, and my chicken flock, (with occasional golf outings) as my “fun” outdoors activities.

The boys — just as I wanted — became more and more independent of me for their outdoors activities. They’ve acquired a bounty of outdoor equipment — camo clothing, rifles, shotguns, archery equipment, trail cameras, tree stands, pop-up tent blinds, lay-out blinds, an assortment of duck, goose, turkey and dove decoys. I even used my tractor to help them build a safety-first, 200-yard firearm shooting range on their dad’s acreage. They store their “stuff” in one of my sheds.

They now help me plant my wildlife food plots and I plant one on their acreage. When they fish with me, they serve as my stand-by “rescue squad” just in case I take a pond-side header and get into a physical bind. Someday, it’ll happen.

This past two weeks, each young man harvested a nice 10-point buck during the archery deer season. So, imagine how much I appreciated that they gave me a full-length loin from each of their deer.

I decided this year to make some high-quality venison jerky from those two loins. Here’s how I do it: I spend a good deal of time stripping each loin of all fat and connective tissue. After chunking each loin into six parts, I soak the venison in water for 48 hours — changing the water several times to wash out all the blood. That helps improve the taste of venison from bucks.

I printed out a couple of venison jerky recipes from the internet and prepared two different marinades. The main ingredients were: Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, liquid smoke, apple cider, vinegar, a liberal slosh of bourbon, a touch of honey, and a touch of Tobasco sauce.

I added these spices: Lowery seasoning, onion powder, garlic salt, a touch of chili pepper, a touch of Cayenne pepper, black pepper, lemon pepper, and Accent seasoning.

The second batch of marinade was the same except that I added a cup of blueberries into it and blended it up real fine.

Before I sliced the loins into thin jerky strips, I froze them for an hour so the outside of the meat got firm. After slicing, I marinaded both batches of venison slices overnight in the refrigerator, using zip lock bags.

Next day, I put aluminum foil on the bottom of three cake sheets, laid out the jerky strips on metal cake cooling racks and put them on the cake sheets. I set the oven for 170 degrees and, voila, four hours later I shut the oven off, let it cool down and took out both batches of fine, tasty venison jerky. Both recipes tasted fine, but I think I liked the blueberry recipe the best.

In any case, it wuz a nice payoff for being a good neighbor — venison jerky without the hunting.

***

Had a couple of out-of-state friends stop by recently. The first wuz my Iowa pheasant hunting buddy, ol’ Pegan Raye, who stopped for three days with his “winter bus home” before heading on to Apache Junction, Ariz.

We spent those three days fishing and caught nothing large, but more than an ice chest full of filleting-size bass and crappie. Pegan took most of the fillets with him to Arizona to share with his Canadian and Minnesota “snowbird” friends, who he says insist upon pooh-poohing any possibility of quality fishing in drab old Kansas.

***

The second visitor wuz my Colorado carpenter buddy, ol’ Sawyer Bord, who wuz visiting his local cousins and building a “She Shed” for the wife of one of his cousins. The “She Shed” is supposed to match the cousin’s “Man Cave” for comfort and conveniences.

Sawyer and I didn’t do one danged thing but share our favorite beverage in my garage and swap lies and yarns about our similar childhoods. The good thing about lies and yarns is they require no filleting — although they are spiced up.

***

After surviving the onslaught of political ads and donation solicitations during the recent election, and dodging Covid every day, I’ve got the following words of wisdom for the week: “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet, the youngest you’ll ever be. So, enjoy every day to the fullest extent possible.” Have a good ‘un.


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