FRIDAY FRONTIER: SMILES

K AND DARYL CALVES BARLEY DARTS

This is a photo of Keith and his kid brother, Daryl working with calves.  Some people would say that they were just kids, playing.  Regardless, their muscles and minds were hard at work.  And such experiences also built strong work ethics.

Yesterday, Keith helped his parents load their annual shipment of calves.  Afterwards, Keith realized that he’d been doing it for damn-near, fifty years.  That meant that his parents have been doing it about seventy.

As I watched the cattle truck pull away, I also watched Keith and his parents.  There were no frowns or words of frustration.  Instead, they smiled.  Without words, they celebrated another year of hard work and satisfaction in a job well done.

FRIDAY FRONTIER: HUNTING RAM

TRUCK RAM BARLEY DARTS

 

We went hunting today.  This time, it wasn’t for deer or elk.  Instead, we searched for a replacement Ram for the homestead.  Sadly, our faithful Ram must be retired.  Its final days will be spent out on pasture.  So, after grieving, we sought out viable prospects.  However, it’s been twenty-years since either of us tracked one down.  And naturally, today’s most handsome Bighorns are going to be higher.  Fortunately, we won’t be eating tag soup.  We found a good guide.  We don’t even purchase a license, until we get what we want.  Decisions.  Decisions.

FRIDAY FRONTIER: BLACK FRIDAY

BLACK FRIDAY

We are up early this morning.  Why?  It’s Black Friday and we found the most amazing deals.  So, we’re rushing from one place to another (from storage, to kitchen, to freezer).  We’re fighting over parking spaces (on kitchen counters).  We’re pushing and shoving (packages of meat onto shelves).  We even have knives.  Yes, blood may get spilled, but it’s a risk worth taking.  And, before the end of the day, our treasures will also be wrapped.  Yet, we will have never left home.

Instead of shopping, we will have processed three deer.  Nature’s gifts that we searched everywhere to find.  Nature’s gifts that we waited on for hours, out in the cold and wind.  Nature’s perfect gifts that keep on giving; all year long.  Sacred gifts that nourish families over a lifetime.  There will be venison tenderloins, chops, stew meat, roasts, and ground meat.  And while cranky shoppers wait to be seated at an over-crowded restaurant tonight, we’ll be eating:

Venison Chops

Herbed Red Potatoes

Brussel Sprouts

Homemade Bread

Honey Butter

 

VENISON TENDERLOIN CHOPS 2017 BARLEY DARTS

FRIDAY FRONTIER: PRINCESS PIG

PIG NATASHA 4 2017 BARLEY DARTS

I’m not a newbie, when it comes to raising animals.  After all, I’m almost fifty-three years-old.  And ever since I can remember, my family raised chickens and beef to fill our freezers.  There was even an odd turkey or two.  And back when I was in high school, there was a brief stint of raising a few hogs, too.

Now for the past eight years or so, Shae and I have raised a few hogs.  It’s not a big production by any means.  It’s just a few for the freezer for ourselves and close family.  And we have advanced beyond purchasing a forty-pound, feeder pig and raising it to slaughter weight.  We now have our own sows and boar.  Some of these pigs have been with us for two or three years and they’re just plain, normal pigs.

Anyway, on Tuesday we decided to put all the breeding pigs in one pen.  Then all the feeder pigs went in another pen.  We went from our four summer pens down to our two winter pens.  It easier for winter chores, but it also ensures more warmth for the pigs.  Afterwards, I realized that I let one of our pigs down and I’m disappointed with myself.

Let me back up and explain.  I have done a fair amount of research on pigs.  And we decided for our needs that we wanted Berkshire pigs.  We located a Berk boar last year and purchased him.  Boris was a beautiful black hog with white markings and almost full grown.  Afterwards, I needed to find a Berk gilt or sow.  This spring, I located a litter of Berkshire piglets.  I was thrilled and off we went to pick out our new pig.  We brought her home and named her, Natasha.

Natasha was the prettiest little pig that you’ve ever seen.  And her personality?  Oh my gosh, she could grunt your ear off.  Well, this pretty, little girl ended up getting her own private pen.  And she got extra attention from me.  She got special treats.  I can’t even guess how many bags of marshmallows she ate.  She was so spoiled that Shae dubbed her, Princess Pig.

Well, as you may have guessed, Princess Natasha is the pig I have let down.  She was spoiled rotten and could do no wrong.  She had her own little world, all to herself.  And she didn’t have to share anything with other pigs.  Princess Natasha had been placed on a pedestal.  That is until Tuesday, when she was placed with older and wiser pigs.  And a boar.

Princess Natasha’s world has been devastated.  She doesn’t have the real-life skills to fit in with the other pigs, yet.  And she’s confused. The only thing she’s got going for her is her beauty.  She’s just a pretty pig; black with a few white markings.  But, in the pig world, that doesn’t count for much.  If she were all white, I’d even be tempted to change her name to, Snowflake.  But, it’s not her fault that she lacks worldly pigness.  It’s mine.

K PIC 1 BARLEY DARTS

FRIDAY FRONTIER: 2017 ELK HARVEST

What an incredible trip.  My friend, Tim and I began our journey in northern Minnesota, right on the U.S./Canadian border.  Once we reached South Dakota, we picked up Tim’s son, Ben and continued all the way to Colorado.  There we picked up Shae’s son, Rick who flew into Denver to meet us.  With two old duffers and two young bucks, we were all set.

Having two energetic, young men at camp made many of the camp chores much easier.  But, more importantly, Tim and I wanted some of the joys that we have found in the great outdoors passed on to another generation.  And so far, we think Ben and Rick are hooked.

 

ELK 2017 TENTS BARLEY DARTS

 

We set up camp in the Grand Mesa National Forest.  Nestled in the pine trees, at 9500 feet above sea level, our camp was made up of two tents.  We have used this site for several years now.  Many memories have been made here, with more added to the memory bank again this year.

 

ELK 2017 PORCUPINE TREE BARLEY DARTS

 

On the third day of season, I harvested my elk.  That morning, I hiked up to what I’ve dubbed the Porcupine Tree.  I arrived at about 10:00 am.  It was a nice day with sunshine and I sat at base of the tree.  At 1:15pm, I spotted a cow elk.  She was on top of a steep incline above me.  I laid my pack down and used it as a rest for my .338 Winchester.  I estimated the range to be 300 yards.  She was standing broadside.  After I shot, she stumbled into thick timber.

Rick heard the shot and came to join me.  Together, we climbed the incline after her.  It took us about 45 minutes to access the area.  Once there, we found the blood trail, which disappeared after 15 yards.  We continued to follow her and her calf’s tracks in the snow.  They wound around through the dark timber and downhill.  Once we lost the snow cover, we proceeded without tracks.  We continued walking in the general direction she had been headed for 150 yards.  I then spotted her and her calf in a ravine.

ELK KEITH'S COW 2017 BARLEY DARTS

 

After some quick photos, I quartered her and hung the meat in a nearby tree.  By the time we made our way back to the tent, darkness had set in.  After a hearty breakfast the next day, we returned with pack frames and game bags.  I also used a range finder and determined the distance had been 324 yards. After the quarters were boned out, the meat was packed.  Then we carried it 3/4 of a mile back to the tent, where the meat bags were hung to continue cooling.

Since I had filled my tag, I got to relax for the rest of the season.  The others continued to hunt for bull elk, but none presented themselves this year.  However, we did get to watch a bull before season began and another was spotted a mile away from camp.  In total, we saw at least 18 elk on our trip this year.

 

ELK 2017 CROCS BARLEY DARTS

 

After a week and a half, our bodies were exhausted.  Even those with younger bodies experienced the challenges of packing out meat, setting up and breaking down camp, gathering wood, hauling water, and hiking mountains. Yet, everyone was already making plans to return and do it all over again.  There was much chatter about what a great trip this had been.  And I doubt the perfectly cooked pizza in the dutch oven and the fresh elk tenderloins, cooked over hot coals will be forgotten any time soon!

 

ELK 2017 CAMPFIRE BARLEY DARTS

 

FRIDAY FRONTIER: 2017 ELK

ELK KEITH'S COW 2017 BARLEY DARTS

Yes, I got my elk.  We’re still busy unpacking from our trip and deer opener is tomorrow.  Elk camp stories to follow, next Friday.

FRIDAY FRONTIER: HOW I SEE IT

VISTA

Unlike me, this mountain view will never grow old.

K PIC 1 BARLEY DARTS