Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Doe Food

It's been a month since I butchered the roadkill doe! It may have taken an entire day, but thanks to what I learned from some friends a few years ago, it was a relatively easy process. The most time-consuming part, it turns out, was grinding the meat — and since all we have is an old universal hand grinder, that step certainly took a while. By the end of the day, our freezer was packed: one shelf occupied by the blueberries, huckleberries, and raspberries picked over the summer, the second shelf occupied by roadkill venison.

The following day I took the carcass down from where it hung, then tied it at the base of a tree trunk, facing the riverbank. It didn't take long for the neighborhood wildlife to find it.

Shortly after I processed the deer, the temperature plummeted, and that's one reason I haven't updated until now. December, as a whole, has been ridiculously, uncharacteristically cold. For over a week, temperatures didn't climb higher than 0°F, and the Chocolay River froze — something that usually doesn't happen until late January or early February. (Another cold front has since moved in: this morning, it was -8°F when I woke up, and the river had frozen over once again.)

Extreme cold is rarely welcomed by animals, especially those that must eat meat to survive. I was very pleased, then, when I saw many fox tracks leading to and from the deer carcass. Over the last month, I have seen chickadees and nuthatches pecking away at the remaining meat; I've seen a domestic dog tearing at it more than once; I've seen a red squirrel perched upon the carcass. It's being enjoyed by a multitude of animals, especially the foxes, and that makes me very happy.

My parents traveled to Marquette for the holidays, and on Christmas Day my dad and I collaborated to make venison stew. It was the first time I'd eaten the meat from the deer that I had processed myself.

The resulting dish (venison with potatoes, onions, green beans, crimini mushrooms, parsnips, and rutabaga) was very good. The taste was far less "gamey" than the venison I'd been gifted by a co-worker, tasting much more like beef (or at least, how I remember the taste of beef). It was also very lean and tender.

Earlier today I braved the extreme cold and went out to check on the deer carcass. The snow around it was trampled by the feet of many animals, and a rather delightful surprise left behind were the wing-marks of small birds:

In the coming weeks and months, many more beings will be fed by this doe.