nature, pheasants, photography, wildlife, Wyoming

Going, going, gone

Rooster on clouds

I had the opportunity to ride along with Outdoor Guy yesterday as he released a truckload of pheasants into the wild.  One by one, the birds flew the coop, so to speak.  Their reactions to being released were varied.  Some hit the open cage door at full speed.  Others peered out, reluctant to enter yet another new environment.  Several hens nonchalantly plopped on the ground and calmly waddled off.  A few had to be pulled out by hand.

Not this rooster.  For him, it was one leap of faith skyward, some serious wing flapping and he was lost to the wilds, on a wing and a sunset.

hunting, livestock, nature, omnivore's paradox, raising animals, wildlife, writing

Alas, poor Yorrick! I knew him, Horatio…

Rooster 2The special hunt in our area is underway.  As I sit and type this, our quiet dirt road is hazy with dust kicked up from the dozens of vehicles that have been traversing it this morning.  They are here for one reason, and one reason only…to hunt pheasants.

Most of the pheasants they pursue grew up 300 yards out my back door.  They were raised to be stocked birds.  They were raised to be released to the wild, to supplement and protect wild bird populations, to provide a hunting opportunity.

Pheasant hunting in this part of the world is sacrosanct.  It is a ritual my own father enjoyed, on these very acres, over thee decades ago.  I’ve answered phone calls from parents, grandparents and even great grandparents who plan to share the hunt with the younger generation.  Hunting brings in much needed money to our local economy.  Hunters come and stay in our motels, buy our gas, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores.  And license fees pay for the salaries of wildlife professionals who live in the area…folks like my husband, the local game warden and habitat and construction personnel.  Our income, in turn, is also spent locally.  We eat and shop and send our daughter to school here, as do my husband’s coworkers.  It’s an important circle, one that helps keep small towns everywhere afloat through some lean times.

On an intellectual level, I understand this, the role these pheasants play in society.  I support this role, or I would never have gone to work for a wildlife agency or married a wildlife industry professional.  As a carnivore, I know that the meat I put in my body comes from another living creature, and it’s life is sacrificed for my own.  Often times, it is a creature that died at my own hands.  I don’t hide behind the anonymity of a grocery store or some delusional notion meat comes only from animals who have lived a long, healthy and happy life and are ready to die so that we can eat them.  The reality of it is just not that pretty.

But today, a part of me feels as gray as the skies above.  Because at my core, I love animals.  I’ve enjoyed watching these birds grow and change and just…be.

Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?

So today, I’m conflicted.  These birds and hunting provide our livelihood, and for that I am grateful.  But I feel complicit in what will ultimately be the inevitable demise of many.

O, from this time forth, my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth…

It’s a moral conflict that I think anyone who raises production animals or hunts feels at least once in their lives.  And probably some animal lovers who eat meat or consume other related byproducts feel it as well. The omnivore’s paradox, if you will.  For me, I feel it each time I’ve taken an animal to market or pulled the trigger.  We spend months, sometimes years, caring for these animals.  We keep livestock fed, clean, dry and healthy.  We conserve land, improve habitat and spend money on law enforcement to keep wildlife populations thriving.  The end result, however, is they wind up dying to provide food for our bodies.

Ay, there’s the rub.

But in that contradiction, I believe, is our humanity.  Contemplation. Compassion. Wonder. Questions. Understanding. An evolved level of consciousness.  Even guilt.

And today, I guess I’m okay with just being human.  No more, no less.  A little sad, but understanding.  Just, human.

Teresa

flowers, nature, photography

Sunday of Summer Flowers

FlowerYesterday when Wyokiddo and I were playing outside, I found these amazing little flowers that just now bloomed.  The flower are just slightly bigger than a quarter.  It reminded me of a cactus flower.  Big beauty in a tiny package.

Friends tell me they are Portulaca grandiflora, commonly called rose moss.  They are related to Portulaca oleracea, a species that is cultivated as an edible delicacy in Europe and Asia.  The rose moss is the flowering species and not so tasty.  And sometimes not so lovingly cultivated.  These plants apparently love high temperatures, well-drained soil and are incredibly drought-hardy.  Well, we’ve got those conditions in spades around here, so maybe I’ll get to see more of them next summer.

They are the last little bit of color before winter sets in, the Sunday to our summer.

Teresa

cookies, food, photography, recipes

Monday Yumminess: Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

If the Zombie apocalypse ever gets started, I’m convinced it will be transmitted through pumpkin spice flavored nonsense during the fall.  It seems like everyone goes a little overboard when the weather cools, throwing pumpkin spice in everything.  Pancakes.  Pies.  Lattes.  Milkshakes.  Pumpkin flavored bacon cupcakes.  Or maybe that was bacon flavored pumpkin cupcakes.  Either way, ick.

I actually like pumpkin.  So much so that I use it year-round.  My favorite pumpkin recipe is a quick and simple one for Pumpkin Cookies.  This is one of my favorite cookie recipes because it can be so gosh darn quick and easy.  It’s so easy, in fact, you will feel like you are cheating.  Three ingredients, mix, cook, ahhhhhhh!

But before fall blows away and pumpkin spice products are replaced by peppermint flavored products and my recipe is so last season, I give to you…

CHEATER CHEATER PUMPKIN EATER COOKIES

    • 2 cups of All-Purpose Flour
    • 3/4 cups of Sugar
    • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon of cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon of ginger
    • 1 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
    • 1 to 2 cups chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberries or nuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
  3. Add pumpkin and mix until combined.
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips, raisins or nuts. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on size of cookies.
  5. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for up to 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Store in an airtight container for best results.

Notes

  • Ready for the Cheater Cheater part?  Swap the first 8 ingredients for a spice cake mix.  Then follow the rest of the directions accordingly.  Yes, that’s right.  A cake mix, pumpkin and chocolate chips are all you need to make amazing cookies.
  • But if you are like me and rarely have a spice cake mix on hand, or just want to control each ingredient, use the traditional method.
  • These are great to make with kids because there are no eggs and very simple measurements.

You’re singing the song now, aren’t you?  🙂

Teresa

Canada geese, nature, photography, wildlife

Common Goose, Extraordinary Species- WPC

WPC - Extraordinary

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “(Extra)ordinary.”

This is a Canada goose.  Branta canadensis.  If you live practically anywhere in the United States or Canada, you’ve seen one of these guys flying overhead or congregating in local ponds.

You might see a bird that poops all over your sidewalks or honks too loudly.  But look beyond the first-world problems and you’ll see an extraordinary species.  Canada geese are well-known for their devotion to a mate and family.  These are incredibly loyal birds, with a strong sense of family.  A mate will place its own life in danger to protect the other mate.  And Canada geese mate for life.  If the mate dies, the surviving mate will go through what you might call a period of “mourning.”  The living goose will isolate itself from their flock for a period of time.  Some will eventually find another mate, but others have been known to remain solitary for the duration of their lives.

Canada geese are also highly protective parents.  Parents will place themselves in danger to protect goslings.

But what astounds me is that when migrating, if a mate or family member becomes hurt or injured and can’t fly, another goose will accompany the ailing individual down the ground and say with it until it recovers or dies.

These majestic birds weren’t always so prolific.  Unrestricted hunting and egg harvesting, bird trade, bird feather trade, and draining wetlands for crop production led to a serious decline of many of the country’s waterfowl in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Canada geese were among those hardest hit.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 helped waterfowl populations rebound.  Among other things, the law made it illegal to harm or injure a goose or damage or move its eggs and nest without a Federal permit.

Other conservation efforts, mainly centered in the Midwestern states, assisted goose recovery efforts.  And it worked.  In 2000, their population was estimated between 4 and 5 million birds in North America.

Their numbers are so strong that now, seeing them is mundane, routine.  But they are a beautiful species with extraordinary personalities and a storied history.

photography, Weekly Photo Challenge, WPC

“…an old dirt road, and I’ll be just fine.” WPC: Happy Place

WPC - Happy Place

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy Place.

“Give me…an old dirt road, and I’ll be just fine.”  Justin Moore, Small Town U.S.A.

Horse pastures.  Hog barns.  Corn fields.  Hunting spots.  Fishing Holes.  Home.  Solitude.  Peace.  Friends. Family.  The best things in my life are at the end of some dirt road.

Teresa

hunting, why I hunt, wildlife, writing

Yes, I hunt. And here is why…

TeresaMilner-notchedearMuleDeer-wildlifeFall has come to our little slice of the universe.  With fall comes the inevitable pumpkin-spiced everything, crisp air and for our family, hunting season.  So also comes the sharing of photos of animals harvested on social media and criticisms from anti-hunters about what a barbaric practice it is.

We are a hunting family.  My husband hunts.  This year, after a 3-year hiatus to raise a kid, I will also be hunting.  I have a freezer that is less than full, a doe tag in my pocket and a yearning to get out there.

In the wake of the uproar, if you’ll pardon the pun, over the killing of a high-profile lion in Africa, I’ve been hesitant to talk much about hunting.  The rancor and ire that event raised raged across traditional and social media for weeks.  Quite frankly, I didn’t want to invite that kind of  hostility into my life.  But I also don’t want to hide the fact that I am a hunter.  I’m not ashamed of it.  Actually, I’m proud of the fact that I am a hunter.  I’m proud that I’m married to a hunter.  I will raise my daughter to be a hunter.

Yes, I hunt.  And here is why…

I hunt primarily because I love wildlife.   Hunting is critical to successful wildlife management.  That might sound like a counter intuitive statement, but it’s true.  Hunting helps maintain population levels compatible with modern human activity, land use and available habitat.  And we hunters pay for the bulk of wildlife management and conservation through license fees and taxes on sporting equipment.  My hunting dollars go directly to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to pay for research, wildlife reintroductions, wildlife law enforcement and habitat improvement.  The fees I pay for a deer license help more than just deer.  They pay for studies on bats, songbirds and fish and for conservation education.  Almost without exception, state wildlife agencies like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department are funded through license dollars and taxes on sporting equipment, and those come from consumptive users.  Everyone in our state gets to enjoy our wildlife resource because people like me are willing to pay for the privilege of hunting and fishing.

But hunting is also much, much more personal.  I hunt to provide a nutritious, organic meal for my family.  I hunt only what I plan to eat.  I love looking in our freezer after a successful hunting season and knowing that meat will sustain our bodies for another season.  I can serve my daughter elk or venison or grouse and know it is as natural and pure as you can get these days.  And wild game is delicious.  Mouth-watering, circus-in-your-mouth good.

I hunt because the very nature of hunting brings the responsibility of being a meat-eater front and center. I become connected to the circle of life, to the food that I put in my body.  When I’m hunting, I’m staring my food source in the eye.  I can’t hide behind cellophane wrapping like when I purchase meat in the grocery store.  It’s not just a cheeseburger.  It is a flesh-and-blood creature that I am killing. I am aware that I am taking a life to sustain my own.  I feel that sacrifice deep in my soul as I pull the trigger, as I process the deer’s body.  I am reverent.  I am grateful.

And I hunt because I enjoy it.  I enjoy getting out of my own head and into that of the quarry we stalk.  I like the companionship of my husband and getting to watch him participate in an activity at which he excels.  I relish in the heightened sense of being that hunting provides – the greater awakening of all my senses as we walk in the woods or across the prairie.  Hearing leaves crunch underfoot, seeing my own breath in the morning air, and smelling the musky scent of antelope lingering on the wind.  I take pride in having the skill needed to legally and ethically harvest an animal.  I like knowing I can feed myself and my family when needed.  For me, the entire experience is visceral.  Seminal.  Spiritual.  Hunting helps me remember and celebrate the fact that humans are part and parcel of the natural world.  Some try to deny that.  Our family embraces it.

I think John Madson, the father of one of my own conservation heroes Chris Madson, said it best…

“I do not hunt for the joy of  killing but for the joy of living and the inexpressible pleasure of mingling my life, however briefly, with that of a wild creature that I respect, admire and value.”  John Madson.

Teresa

caffeine, humor, writing

Caffeine BuzzzzzZZZZZ

When I was in high school and in college I drank coffee.  Lots of it.  Who didn’t drink coffee in college?  And then when I went into the real world I gave it up.  I distinctly remember sitting at a Wendy’s drive-in in Loveland, Colorado when I made the decision that I was done.  I realized that it gave me headaches and that I just didn’t feel good when I drank it.  Keep in mind that I made this decision while I was sitting in a drive thru.  Yes, it’s hypocritical.  I acknowledge that.  And that was the end of that.  I still drank decaffeinated beverages, but I was through with the stout, holds a spoon upright coffee that sustained my college existence.  The delightful citrusy goodness of Mountain Dew, gone.  The thick, sugar sweet, sweet tea of my childhood, gone.  I said goodbye to it all.  I even abstained from full octane in graduate school.  Granted, I was drinking other things at the time, but trust me, there was no caffeine involved.

I don’t allow our son to have caffeine.  My husband, has, on occasion given him caffeine, but that’s usually been because he hasn’t read labels.  And then he pays for it dearly when the kid is running around like a crazy person and I leave the house and he’s left to deal with the consequences of his choices.  Enough said about that, I think you get my point.

So I haven’t had full octane caffeine for . . . um, let’s see . . . 16 years.  Until today and that was a mistake I don’t want to make again.

I went to a new hair salon today and while I was waiting, a stylist offered me some coffee.  I asked if she had anything decaffeinated.  She said she did and she went to brew me a decaffeinated K-cup.  While she was back in the back she remarked that she also had a caramel cappuccino if I’d rather have that.  I told her no that it had caffeine and that I would just take the plan decaffeinated coffee she offered earlier.  She brought out a steaming cup and it was great.  When I got back home several hours later (I’ve got hair horses envy) I remarked to my husband that I thought the stylist had given me regular coffee instead of decaff.  He said I was acting nuttier than usual and I told him that I felt like I was on speed.  Again, I have no life experience in that area so perhaps that is an inaccurate comparison.

However, given the fact that I’m writing this at three o’clock in the morning when I’m usually fast asleep by 8:30 is a pretty good indication that the stylist did indeed give me the full octane.

I’m disappointed on many levels.  For one, I worked hard for my caffeine sobriety!  Secondly, if I’m going to be awake all night there are a lot of ways I’d like to spend my time.  I could be watching a great movie.  I could be on a private jet with Matthew McConahey.  Or on a private island with George Clooney.   Or Wilson Bethel. Third, if I’m going to be awake all night, there should at least be someone else awake to keep me company.  You can reference back to Matthew or George if you’d like.  But is that happening?  No!  The hunting dog was passed out on the couch by 8.  The husband by 9.  But he wasn’t passed out, he was just sleeping.  It’s the dog that has the drinking problem in our family. The kid went to bed at 9:30.  At 11:30 I went outside in the rain and found the cat and brought her back into the house.  She hung out with me for a little bit, but then she too gave up on me and went to sleep somewhere.

I hate caffeine for what it’s doing to me right now.  It’s making me bonkers.  I don’t know how the rest of you people function like this. I mean, seriously how do you do it?  This is probably why Martha Stewart comes up with crazy projects because she’s jazzed up all the time.  If I felt this way all the time perhaps I would have a clean house.  Or be organized.  Or be super fit.  Or be President.

But I don’t want those things.  I just want the comfort of my warm bed.  I want to be lulled to sleep with the sounds of snoring zzzzzzZZZZZ.

Here it comes . . yes, there it is, a yawn.  Bring the wagon ‘round when I wake up.  I’m stepping back on it again.  But this time I don’t plan on falling off.

Joey

chili, food, recipes, wild game

Monday Yumminess: Game Warden Approved Elk Chili

Elk ChiliI love spicy foods.  Outdoor Guy does not.  So in the interest of marital bliss, I’ve learned to tone down how much spice and heat I add to recipes.  If Daddy ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy after all!  One of the recipes he got me hooked on was this version of a not-so-spicy chili.  It is now the only variety of chili I make for our family, because it has great flavor without a lot of heat.  I’ve included the official ingredients in the notes so that if you’ve got someone that likes to live on the spicy side, you can accommodate them as well.

Usually a pot of chili will last our family 3 or 4 meals.  This one barely fed us twice, thanks in large part to the hungry game warden that dined with us last week.  Hunting seasons are starting to open up around here.  And that means lots of cold food and meals from a can for our friend Warden Rob.  Rob is a game warden, or wildlife resource officer.  His job is to enforce Wyoming’s hunting, fishing and wildlife protection laws.  Knowing I’d have plenty of chili to go around, we invited the warden to dinner.  Wyokiddo enjoyed regaling Warden Rob with stories of her preschool.  And I think he appreciated a warm meal.  He ate two heaping bowls, so I’m taking that as acceptance. 🙂

So I present to you, the perfect kickoff to fall…

Game Warden Approved Elk Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground elk meat (use any ground meat, including beef, but elk is our favorite!)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans tomato sauce (10 1/2 oz. each)
  • 2 cans Italian style stewed tomatoes (15 1/2 oz. each)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained (15 1/2 oz.)
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dry oregano
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions

Brown elk, onion, and garlic in skillet.  Add other ingredients, cover, and simmer on low for an hour or more.  Or add all ingredients and cook on low in a slow cooker for 4-6 hours.  Serve with corn bread.  Serves 4-6.

Notes

  • Feel free to substitute any ground meat for the elk in this recipe.  I’ve made it with beef, a beef/Italian sausage combo, venison and antelope.  But elk is by far our favorite.
  • I’ve made this in a slow cooker and on the stove.  I’ve found letting it hang out in a slow cooker is the more delicious way to go!
  • I skip the saltine crackers and provide Frito corn chips as an add-in instead, along with sour cream, cheddar cheese and extra onions.
  • The original recipe was called Rocky Mountain Elk Firehouse Chili, and was the 1989 Arizona State Fair Blue Ribbon Winner.  To add the spice back in, add the following in addition to the ingredients listed above:
    • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced
    • 2 fresh yellow hot peppers, diced
    • 2 additional tsp. of red chili powder