Category Archives: Foraging

Chinese Water Deer for the Freezer

I know… its really cute, but it was dead when we found it. I am the sort of person who hates wasting things, especially life.

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So, if you were reading this blog a few years ago you might remember this. When Becs and I found a Muntjac deer on the side of the road in Leicestershire, and took it home and butchered it for the freezer. Well, what do you know, if it didn’t happen again in Suffolk! This time though it was a Chinese Water deer. These are really interesting little deer, they escaped from Woburn safari part  in the 1930s and now live wild in that part of the country.

So here is how the story goes;  we were driving back from a day at the seaside when we noticed a large light coloured item of road kill, Becky decided to double back, and I jumped out and wrapped it quickly in the blanket and put it in the back of the car. When we reached a safe place to stop, I unwrapped it and checked it out. It was dead, but very recently, with no signs of rigor mortise. I hadn’t really looked at its face at this point and had just assumed it was a Muntjac due to its size, but when I turned its head round, I saw that it was something else.  The really sad thing is that these beautiful deer have faces like little teddy bears, so we felt like big meanies, even though we didn’t hit it. Thankfully this wasn’t a full grown male, because they look like this ,had I turned its head round and saw that, I think I might have thought that we had picked up some kind of vampire wallaby or similar.

Anyway, skip to a day later, and I have spent the last four hours butchering it into usable portions of venison. It has weighed out about 4.5 kgs of prime cuts and mince, and then another 1kg of meat and bones for slow cooking. Even by conservative estimates this amount of venison is worth about £50 – 70. This time of year is very bad for deers, as they are so obsessed with mating that they keep running into cars. The moral of this story is keep your eyes pealed, don’t be squeamish and learn to butcher.  We will report more once we have cooked some.

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Habitat pile swap

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The local council had cut down a load of trees a few weeks back on the recreation ground and obviously been distracted by something before they had chance to clear up. On hearing that residents had complained to the local wildspaces group (in error…) we offered to do some clearing up and make a habitat pile, in exchange for some logs for our wood burner. A couple of hours effort resulted in a bit of a tidier area, this palace and a much healthier looking woodpile for next winter. Everybody’s happy.


Sloe Gin

Today I have made sloe gin. 450g of Sloes. 225g of caster sugar and 1litre of Gin. Gin is one of my favourite alchols, so I am hopeful for this little experiment. For anyone who wants to try it, just shove all these ingredient in a glass jar or bottle, shake occassionally and leave for 2 months. I am going to taste after 1 month to see if I can use it for Christmas presents.

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My Day

I’ve had a lovely day today. Went to dog club this morning, my grandad and great aunt came over for lunch and chat (great to see them, hope I’m as ace as them in my late 80’s) then we went to pick up a dead deer I had spotted on the roadside on the way back from dog club. And this is where it gets a bit weird I suppose…

Anyway, I mentioned to z that I had spotted it and we thought we’d just go back and check it out, having checked legalities obviously, and what signs to look for. I pulled up on the verge and z got out to have a look, looking a bit shifty to be honest. To cut a long story short, it looked like it had primarily hit by a car in the head and it had happened pretty recently. Rigour was only just setting in, which probably meant it had happened this morning. The grass underneath it was hardly flattened and there was no sign of attack by crows or anything.

We took it home (the joys of a Volvo estate) and sneaked it across the footpath in a sheet and over to the polytunnel. Z butchered it and we could see no signs of anything dodgy, it was a young healthy muntjac deer. We decided it was best to avoid the gut cavity and butchered the legs, shoulder, saddle and neck off, with a few other bits for mincing. So from this:

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We got 5.5kg of venison:

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RESULT! We had burgers tonight which were scrummy, hopefully the rest will be too.


Homebrewing

So I’ve just found on the Guardian website a new blog by our favourite mushroom man, John Wright. No mushrooms (yet) on this blog though (although we do have some shittake mushrooms now sprouting from a mushroom log my mum and dad gave us about 2 years ago which is ace, clearly a bit of neglect has done it good!), it’s all about homebrewing, mainly from forage.

This is the first post http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/may/18/homebrew-from-the-hedgerow?commentpage=1#comment-10813650

Not sure about this, might give it a go anyway.

 and this is the second http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/may/25/how-to-make-rhubarb-wine

which I’m hoping we will have time to try this weekend. And of course the elderflower is starting to appear now so a couple of warm days and we’ll be able to get out and get some cordial started.


Foraging in the family

My mum just sent me this great little clip of my Nan and Grandad on holiday in the forties. Looks like foraging has always been in my family. or maybe it was in everyones, we’ve just forgotten how to do it.


Wood burner

This week we have been attempting to use less heating by using our burner more. At the weekend I followed up a lead and picked up a trailer load of pallets. After spending a rather butch hour or so with a circular saw, I had 6 bags of fire wood. This has kept us in fire wood for the week. Pallets do burn quickly but are usually pretty dry and don’t make fumes, as I had feared. So with a bit of effort and recycling, we have turned a waste product into free(ish..petrol costs) heat, result.