We were finishing up the apples, and I was planning on moving some of the rabbit and chicken out of the freezer, to can up so we'd have room in the freezer to fit a lamb or pig. We also had about five rabbits and thirteen chickens to butcher - I can only do 4-6 at a time before my back hurts so badly that I have to quit, so this is many days worth of work, fit in around hubs day off.

Then my sister shows up at my door, with three five gallon buckets full of grapes (mixed green and Concord), 10 grocery bags of wormy apples, half a bucket of green tomatoes plus a small box of almost red ones, and one bag of nice apples with no worms! She's done this before, we had just finished up the last round. The apples need sorted, and so do the tomatoes. We save out the ones with enough good to be worth processing, throw the rest to the chickens.

I'm finally getting a handle on this, working out what ingredients I need to finish the produce, how many more jars I need of what kind, and how much I can do each day without overdoing. If I overdo, I wake in the night with a terrible nerve headache from inflammation in my neck (damaged bones). Not somewhere I want to push myself.

So I had my day planned out, had applesauce in the crock pot, nearly done, grapes cooking down on the stove, nearly done, the beginnings of dinner in the auto-pressure pot. Bribed my mother to stem some more grapes for me, thought maybe I'd get a second run done (NOPE!!!). I try to pace myself so I don't do further damage to my back (I have compression fractures, some kinds of work cause new ones).

Phone rings. Kevin picks up. I hear, "Oh! Yeah!" pause. "What condition is it in, is it field dressed?". I know what is coming. SOMETHING. Probably big. Back is already hurting, but what do you do? He hangs up, says someone has a deer they don't need. Somewhere between "Wooohoooo!!!", and "Oh Crap the applesauce and grapes still have to be finished and we still don't have dinner!". But I am SOOO thankful. Deer meat that has never had plastic wrapped around it - I still barely react to meats that have been wrapped in plastic, which means EVERY meat I can buy! All the meat that we can get and wrap ourselves is healing for me.

The funny thing is, when the produce came in, I was enthusiastic. I knew just what to do with it. I know the value of it. Even 100 lbs of wormy apples has value, and by the time we sorted we had one heaping produce box full of apples that were all more than half good, and about 10 lbs of green and red tomatoes. And the grapes! About 1 full produce box full to cook down for juice and jam. These Concords taste SOOO good when made into juice.

More than $100 worth of produce, which I will turn into $300 worth of applesauce, apple butter, relish, salsa, juice, jam, and old fashioned pectin (if I can just work out the concentration). I know the value of this. Hubs does not care so much, fruit and veggies are just not his thing. So he is somewhat annoyed at having to haul and sort all this stuff and take out the refuse to the chickens when I'm done with processing. But he washes all the dishes (and I make a lot - I cannot handle the dish soap yet, I'm still too sensitive), so we get through it.

The deer though. This is HIS THING. He loves venison. He loves to hunt, but has not been able to afford it lately, and we have not been able to replace all of our guns since they were stolen. So a deer from someone else's successful hunt is the next best thing, and he is enthusiastic, and ready for this! I, on the other hand, had my day planned out, was already running close to overload, and I now have to kick into overdrive to step up and get this done. Thankfully, it came in after hubs got home from work, and right before his day off, so he does not have to worry about getting to bed on time to get up early for work. Small mercies!

They bring the deer in, skin and head still on (dripping blood on the floor, of course) and my mother says, "I want the antlers!" (she wants to make some horn buttons - I have a little negotiating power now!).

We have NOWHERE to hang the thing, so we have to skin it out and get it into the freezer immediately. It is a decent size, LOTS of fat on it, but shot messily. Only a teeny bit of damage to the tenderloin, so I'm not upset about it. The shot went through the front leg joint just below the shoulder blade though, so we have bone (and bullet fragments) through most of the front quarter. I've not ever seen so much damage from a single shot before, it is really messy.

We managed to get the thing skinned and bundled up into the freezer. I see many days ahead, of canning stew, steaks, roasts, and little chunks of meat to toss into whatever, so I can get the freezer cleaned out (a friend has offered us another lamb in the next few weeks). I have about 5 lbs of bits and pieces in the fridge to turn into burger tomorrow, and we had one intact front leg to share with a family member (We will pay someone else to cut the antlers off for my mother, and that is her negotiated perk for taking up some of my work for the evening.).

In exchange for the antlers, my mother runs my grapes through the food mill (difficult for her also, since she is mostly disabled), and I got the applesauce and grape juice bottled. It is 11:00 at night, I HURT, and I'm tired, but we got 'er done. Feeling particularly grateful because this is an area with only seasonal employment, so we are heading into a hard winter. Food in the freezer and cupboards eases the worry a lot.

It has been a really long time since we have had venison. We used to get it regularly in Wyoming, but not since. We've cut up a large lamb on our diningroom table here, but that is all, so this is only the second time we've had to do that with just hubs and I.

And we still have to butcher rabbits tomorrow. About five buns that have GOT to get into the freezer, plus several chickens if we have the energy to do so.