I am really itching to get started on my garden so I did what all gardeners do-- I looked through the seed catalogs. I even ordered some seeds. They arrived this week. Those little packets represent so much hope. I am going to try some new crops this year. I've got a few different chinese vegetables. See how that works. My boys are home for Christmas break and they made me some more wooden squares for the new beds I'll put in. I know it wasn't that hard, but I really appreciate it. They have been wonderful about building things for me. Last year they built the chicken house.
This was a fun cake to make. My daughter, the artist, helped with making some of the figurines. They are all out of gumpaste. The blanket is fondant and the frosting is whipped cream. The whipped cream frosting makes a more amateur looking cake, but it was delicious. The cake celebrated a baby shower for two sisters, the Crapo girls.
Dressing means soaking the deer hide in a oily solution. I used ivory soap and olive oil. Wringing is getting the excess water out of the hide. It is amazing how much torque you can force on that baby and it doesn't faze it. Softening is pulling (and pulling and pulling) the hide until it is dry. The theory is that if you pull it while it is drying the mucus within the hide's fibers will dry without attaching themselves to the other fibers, hence a much softer hide. Honestly-- it didn't turn out perfectly. I'm not sure what went wrong. About a four/five inch perimeter of the hide is very nice. The interior is too stiff for garment use. I'm not sure if I messed up on the graining or on the softening. It is a bit discouraging. The parts that turned out nice are heavenly.
The next step in the buckskin processing didn't deserve a photo. I rinsed it. I threw some vinegar in the water to neutralize the bucking solution (alkaline) and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed in clean water. Then I let it soak in a mild acid (vinegar) solution for a while. The next step was membraning. It is like graining, except easier to see and not as important. That is what I'm scraping off in the picture. Then I just let it dry. It is really tough, like rawhide. The deer hides are pretty strange looking right now. They dried in whatever position they were laying, in this case on top of some buckets. I'm letting it sit around until I have time for softening.
I'm worried about my chickie girls. It is in the teens and they stay huddled together most of the time. I wouldn't want to live like that. I've been reading and trying to get advice on free-range chickens in cold weather. Seems like half the people say they'll do fine in cold weather and the other half suggest a heating lamp of some sort. I've got a bit of a shelter set up against the house, so they can still be outside, but they seem to prefer crowding against the back door most of the time. It is pretty pathetic. Only got two eggs yesterday.
I've got the deer hides grained. I'm not at all sure I did it correctly. One of the hides I'm pretty sure I got it all, but the other one the grain was really, really hard to find/see/remove. They are rinsing now. Since I don't live near moving water I've got them in a tub in the bathroom and I've been changing the water every few hours. It looks good. I'm never doing this again in the winter. This is SUCH an outside job.
Snow day today. My two girls attending public high school have (literally) been praying for school to be canceled. They are thrilled. Nothing sends joy throughout a household like waking up to the announcement "No school today."
These are pictures of me graining a deer hide. Graining means removing the grain (and the hair and the epidermis). I've been soaking two deer hides in a bucking solution for about a week. I used hydrated lime for the solution. I'm a beginner and I sure am learning a lot. Notice I'm wearing a plastic poncho. That was smart, but it just wasn't enough. It was so cold and wet I eventually moved the entire mess indoors. First thing I've learned-- do buck tanning in nice weather. I'm not positive I'm doing this correctly. I didn't have any luck at all removing the grain on the first hide; I ended up removing the hair and throwing the hide back in the solution to soak for a few more days. On the second hide I figured out graining but there were pink, uncooperative spots. So that one got thrown back in, also. So I guess I'll just be doing this all over again in a few days. The thing the girls noticed was "dang those deer have a lot of hair!" It was laying all heaped up on the ground underneath the scraping beam.
Yesterday was our homeschool Christmas party. I love our homeschool group. I sure miss some of the people who used to be in it. We have about six families right now. Some years we have more, some years less. The best part of homeschooling is the field trips. When my kids start public school in high school they miss the homeschool field trips the most. The women yak; the kids play. Yesterday it was very simple. We shared finger food and we had a gift exchange. There wasn't much to it, but everyone had a wonderful time.
This didn't turn out quite as good as it was in my mind, but it's was ok. I'm still learning. It is a chocolate cake with white frosting and white chocolate "needles" all over. The red ribbon looks like red licorice, but it's not.
This is the first step in turning deer hide into buckskin. It is called fleshing. The word pretty much describes the process-- remove the flesh (and fat) from the "inside" of the hide. It looks truly gory doesn't it? It was pretty interesting once I got going. This is definitely outside work, but when it is 20 degrees outside I wimp out. I did do it in the basement, not the kitchen. Notice I'm wearing Randall's old sweatshirt. I didn't want to nastify my clothes. After I fleshed two hides I put them in the bucking solution. I'm using a solution of hydrated lime, but there are lots of other ways to "buck". I was planning on doing it with fire ashes, but I managed to burn all of our big logs on a breezy day (maybe I should call it Gone With the Wind?), so I had to go buy hydrated lime for bucking. Anyways they are soaking in the bucking solution for the next few days. I love learning how to do new stuff.
678 eggs. That's the count from when they started laying in August up to the end of November. 56 1/2 dozen eggs! Pretty good for a bunch of backyard chickens who spend most of their days entertaining us. They are such fun pets, pets that actually give me something eatable!