Tag Archive | Mississippi

Alligator Week

And now I will do what no one in the history of blogs has done before – follow up a post about selling t-shirts at a Hanson concert with a post about cooking alligator.  Natural progression right?

Here at the Johnsons, we’ve been experiencing Alligator week, which is kinda like Shark Week but more involved. And I think its been more like 3 weeks.  Mississippi now has an official alligator hunting season.  Its kind of a newish thing, and they give out a limited number of permits to lucky applicants every year.  My husband’s good friend was a lucky recipient of a permit, and so began the preparations for the Great Alligator Hunt of ’13.  First off, the permit allows you to hunt two gators:  one as big as you can find, and one that’s less than 7 feet long.

Here’s an overview of how to catch these reptiles, but anyone who’s seen an episode of Swamp People knows almost as much as me about this subject:

  1. Troll around in a boat from dusk till dawn looking for glowing eyes.
  2. Throw a hook at your chosen alligator and reel him in.  {This part is easier said than done, so I’ve heard}
  3. Once you get him secured, shoot him in the brainstem with a shot gun to sever his spinal cord from his brain.
  4. Figure out how to heft the beast into your boat.

My husband’s group was pretty successful this year.  On approximately Night #3, the team caught a 12′ long beast and decided he was ‘the one’.  And yes, its very much a team sport because these gators weigh many hundreds of pounds.  I don’t have any pictures of the Big One because it all went down in the middle of the night.  So instead, here’s a picture of one recent state record holder (13’6.5″, 471 lbs):

Photo from the Clarion Ledger

Looks like some distortion is kind of ‘sensationalizing’ this gator photo, but hey.  I like sensational stuff.

This guy was only the record holder for a couple of days and its already been de-throned.  Some other big gators were splashed all over the national news, but each only held the state record for a few days.  Nobody really expects this record to last long either.  Big gators abound, apparently.  (That’s probably why we now have a hunting season I suppose.)

So anyway, August’s friend sold the Big One to some real swamp people in Louisiana.  And that brings us to the Little One.

littleoneThe Lil Gator

He was harvested the following week, and because of the hassle factor involved in selling the gators, he came home to the Johnson residence for final arrangements.

The final processing included skinning the alligator in order to use the skin for _____ (I have no idea what.  Gator skin belt buckles? )  The skin is currently being stored in some brine solution in a garbage can in our shop until we procure the appropriate tanning supplies.  I will potentially update you on that adventure when it happens.

And that brings us to the meat.  August harvested about 2-3 lbs of tail meat from the Little One.  There was more but they weren’t really sure if it was “good quality” or “too fatty” and they don’t cover “processing” on Swamp People, so we really just don’t know.  Apparently alligator fat is to be avoided at all costs cause it tastes TERRIBLE.  There was also meat behind the jaws that would’ve been good but hadn’t been properly iced during storage.  Live and learn.

IMG_1811Half of the tail meat.

And what to do with 2 lbs of alligator tail?  Its often fried like chicken nuggets, but I decided that the best course of action would be to consult Mr. Emeril Lagasse, who I thought was Cajun but is apparently Canadian.  Whatever…  So I followed Emeril’s “Stewed Alligator in Creole Sauce” recipe to the letter, not wanting to mess up our precious alligator meat.  The recipe starts with a typical Cajun ‘holy trinity’ (bell peppers, onions, and celery) and finishes with two sticks of butter.

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I actually made a double batch and it turned out pretty good.  Not ‘knock your socks off’ good, but tasty.  The alligator itself tastes like…. Nothing at all.  For a creature that spends its entire life eating dead stuff in murky water, the meat is surprisingly tasteless.  The texture is somewhere between chicken and fish, but not at all bad.  I wouldn’t even class it as “weird”.  Shocking, really.  So if you do find yourself with the opportunity to cook some alligator (I know, fat chance…), well, take the opportunity.  The stuff is seriously not weird, which is SO weird to me, but anyways.

A few tips…

  • The Prep Time estimate of 10 minutes is WAY low.  That is the time it took Emeril’s gaggle of Food Network minions to do all the peeling and chopping.  Plan for more like an hour of prep time.
  • Buy canned whole tomatoes and chop.  I peeled my own (blanched and everything)… not worth the hassle.
  • If I get this opportunity next year, I might season the meat with cajun seasoning and let it ‘marinate’ a bit before cooking.
  • On second thought, next year I may try an etouffee instead.
  • Its a nearly Paleo recipe – just sub the worchester for something else and you’re good to go.
  • And for the rest of you guys who are not in the Deep South and have no access to alligator – you could easily sub chicken.  It’d be a great homemade soup for lunches, etc.

A Quick Trip to the Islands

Ever since our beach vacation ended, I’ve been scheming on how to fit another one in before the end of summer.  Alas, Labor Day weekend was looking kind of full.  My husband was otherwise occupied {hunting alligators} all weekend.  No one was headed to the beach.  And yet, I was undeterred.  You know, a lesson I’ve learned over and over is that when you have little kids, there’s never a perfect time to do anything.  Might as well just plod ahead.

We only live 3 hours from a form of beach, albeit not as lovely as Florida, but still a beach.  And so I dreamed up my own little retreat to the coast of Mississippi, just Ransom and I.

The thing about the Mississippi beaches – the water is cloudy and very dark, the sand is trucked in, and there are no waves.  Actually I love the Mississippi coast, it has an atmosphere like none other, but the beach is kinda meh.  This geological condition, as I understand it, is because there is a whole chain of barrier islands that sits just about 10 miles out into the ocean and that’s where the real beach is.  You need your own boat to get to most of the islands, but one of them has a daily ferry service – Ship Island.

mapAnd so, Ransom and I embarked on a very minimalist beach vacation.  I say minimalist because I knew that going off alone with Mr. Crazy Busypants would require special considerations, otherwise there would be no ‘vacation’ in this vacation, for me anyways.  To keep things relaxed, I just put a hold of all non-essentials such as bathing, eating real food, sleeping on schedule, changing clothes… You know, all the stuff that requires endless ‘negotiation’ with a 2 yr old.  Instead, we kinda did whatever we felt like, ate whatever we wanted, and swam a lot.  It was a BLAST.

So here’s what we found on our adventure to Ship Island.

We arrived right at 8, when the office opened for the first departure.  And we were in our seats by 8:25.  Ransom selected a seat by a steering wheel which I assumed was disabled, but then someone came along and asked us to please not touch it.  ?!?  Anyway, he listened to the guy and the boat never went off course.  For style points, Ransom wore this hat and his sunglasses ALL day long.

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The ride takes about 50 minutes, but we were thoroughly entertained talking about the difference between a pirate and a parrot, what the word ‘horizon’ means, etc.  There were lots of seagulls and jellyfish to spot.

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The island starts coming into view about half way there, and I think we were both equally excited.  What’s not to love about an island of any size?

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Ship Island is uninhabited but it has a pretty great set-up for day trippers.  (Camping is prohibited, ps.)  There’s a chair rental service and a pretty decently priced snack bar, especially considering all the food has to be boated out there.  On arrival, you have to walk to the other side of the island to get to the pretty beach, but there’s a board walk.  I bet the walk is 1/4 mile long, so I was glad that I packed only the essentials.  One backpack for each of us, with towels, sunblock, beach toys, snacks, cash, and my phone.  That’s literally all.  I knew I needed to be able to carry everything plus Ransom so there was no room for a cooler, etc.

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Ransom really is growing up and he actually walked the whole way by himself.  We picked out our beach chairs and commenced with the fun.  Ransom was scared of the water due to sharks and jellyfish but we worked through it.  I would’ve loved to take a nice long walk down the beach to explore a bit, but that wasn’t in the cards.  I planned for us to leave on the first ship out at 2pm, but when the time rolled around, Ransom said he wasn’t ready.  And of course I wasn’t ready either.

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We spent the entire day burying each other in the sand, playing with toys, swimming, looking for seashells, and of course no sleeping for anybody.  We ate all the snacks I brought.  And reapplied sunscreen regularly, so no one got sunburned.  I thought there might be one logistical snafu – who could put sunscreen on my back?  A stranger?? Alas, I managed pretty well using Ransom’s spray-on stuff, and got no burns.

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We sampled a lot of the snack bar fare – hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, root beer.  All tasted awesome but probably because I was overdosed on too many Nutty Buddies.

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We easily stayed occupied until about 4 when we started meandering our way back to the ship for the 5pm boat.  Oh yeah, there’s a pretty cool Civil War-era fort on the island that you can explore.  Its perfect for a final activity because its right by the boat dock.

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Ransom crashed in my arms about 30 seconds after the boat left the dock, and slept the whole way back.  What a great day.  Definitely an adventure and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.  If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it – with kids or not.

All in all, we had a great time.  We spent two nights in a hotel and did a lot of pool swimming too.  By the time we drove back home, I really did feel rested.  If it wasn’t so darn hot still, I think I’d be ready to say goodbye to summer.

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Yard Tour

We’ve had our new place for nearly three months now. I’ve shared various tours of the indoors (here’s one) and I’ll put up more pics as we sort out the interior situation, but progress is slooooow.   So for today, I’ll take you on a tour of the grounds.

We are kind of remotely located now, but we’re really loving it – all members of the family including the dog who couldn’t be happier.  Everything is so peaceful and serene.  We have ivy covered trees, lighting bugs, and the neighbors’ roosters crowing off in the distance.  Here’s a shot of the driveway I took early one morning.  I think the gravel is one of my favorite parts… Its so wholesome.

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This guy used to greet you by the driveway.  I guess he was the previous owner’s ‘scare crow’, but he wasn’t in the garden.  Alas, we pulled him out of the ground last week.  Can you believe it took me 3 months to do it?  So creepy.

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Near the house we have a greenhouse.  Its sitting right in some large ivy-covered oak trees, so I’m not sure how much sun it actually gets.  It should get more in the winter after the leaves fall, but for now we have a 100% shady greenhouse.  The siding & roof could stand to be replaced.

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But I kinda like it.  It has potential I think.  Potential to become a dog house?  Guest room?  Sewing room?  I’m just kidding, but really what am I going to do with a greenhouse.  It has water, electricity, and a propane heater.

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Beyond the greenhouse stands the “Shop”.  Here we keep the lawnmower, tractor, tools, and whatever else that needs a home.  I don’t mind the gray but the maroon accents aren’t really my thing.

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Ransom stores his truck here too.  Shenanigans like this occur in the yard regularly.

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Past the “shop” is the “shed”.  The inside of the shed is still mostly bare, except for the construction of Ransom’s (sssssssh) birthday present.  Just what we need – another outbuilding.  He’s gonna love it though.

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And behind everything, we have a small fish pond.  This is a great place for quick fishing trips, and to get Abby some exercise.  She loves to swim.  The fish are all tiny though, and we think overpopulated.  So, there’s probably some work to be done here in the future as well.

IMG_2864I skipped the garden but there’s nothing too exciting going on in there right now.  Its not even terribly overgrown because we figured out how to get the lawn mower inside the fence.  Hurrah!

Camping Trip

Finally!! Another list item down in the record books.  This past weekend, August and I summoned up the courage to take our wild toddler camping.  I’ve been wanting to do this since last summer, mostly because Ransom has always LOVED to be outside, even as a tiny baby.  Outdoors he is perpetually entertained – Indoors he is often more like a caged beast.

We made the trip as easy as possible by opting for a nearby campground with running water in the bathrooms.  The campground is called Rocky Springs and its part of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is a National-Park-slash-Road-from-Natchez-to-Nashville.  (albeit a road with a 50mph speed limit and no sign of civilization for the entire 400+miles.  Not even a gas station.)

We pitched the tent without much difficulty.  Ransom was the primary stakeholder.  Har har har. He did great.

Dogs are allowed everywhere on the Natchez Trace, so even Abby got to come along for this trip.  She had a blast too.

We had enough time before dark to check out the nearby trails.  The weather was perfect, just a little crisp but not cold, and the late afternoon sun just peaking through the trees.

The trail is a section of the “Old Trace”.  Something about the geology in that area caused the path to erode quickly under all the traffic, so what’s left is a nice sunken trail.

Here’s a shot by August where he attempted to catch Ransom and I glowing.

Abby got to do some agility training.

Monkey-see-monkey-do.

The end of the trail brings you to Rocky Springs, a once flourishing town with a population of 2,616.  Now there’s nothing left but a church, two rusty safes, and two cisterns.

The church is really lovely and was in regular use until just two years ago.  Kinda sad that its now a rental space only, but its still lovely.

Ransom spontaneously hugged and kissed this statue out front, twice.

Dinner was something I cooked at home, just warmed over the fire.  MMmm.  Okay not really but it got the job done.

And that’s the last picture I have but the FUN was just beginning.  My worst camping fears came true – Ransom did NOT sleep well.  We all went down around 8:30.  Then there was a minor screaming fit at 11 or so, and then major playtime from 3AM to 4AM.  Kiddo likes it to be DARK and it was not too dark at all thanks to the aforementioned bathroom and its overzealous lighting. But after that we all slept soundly from 4AM to 8AM.

I’m glad we did it, but maybe we’ll wait till next year before we try again.  Ransom had a great time as we knew he would.  We are still talking about the big woods, and the campfire, and the tent, etc etc.

Foto Friday – Episode 31

So there, I am 30 and Bethany has a mere four days. Wahoo!

Today’s photo is from about the last semi-major event that both of us participated in growing up – Something that will now and ever more be affectionately referred to as the Mississippi Virgin Auction 2000.

Read More…

Summer Camp

We have made it safely to Mississippi. I can’t say I’ve made that much progress on the mental processing front. The fact that we are here permanently hasn’t sunk in at all. Instead, I feel just like we’re at summer camp. But you know what, that’s not such a bad thing, is it?
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Our days look like this: sleep a little late, go for a jog, swim in the lake, ride 4-wheeler around the yard, play with dog, rinse, repeat.
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I am working 5 hours a day. Meanwhile our earthly possessions remain packed on the porch. The Internet is not yet hooked up. The pantry situation is improving but still needs work. It’s hard to remember which bills are due when.

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In summary, adult-level function is at a minimum level over here. 30×30 list is no exception and the only bad part about that is… The deadline is still approaching at the same rate.

The Mystery Revealed

Bethany alluded to my busy week and its true, busiest week month ever. The reason?  The Johnsons are moving – selling our house and leaving Colorado.  Tomorrow.  We’ll pull into Mississippi on Friday.  This has been secretly in the works since mid-May and its been quite the roller-coaster of emotions and decisions.  We elected not to tell almost anyone until the last possible second for a few reasons… First, the sale of the house seemed on the verge of collapsing quite a few times.  More importantly, we hate saying goodbye and we wanted to avoid it as much as possible.  But alas, we sign the house contract in 2.5 hours and that will be that.

 

I have so many posts to write, such as “how to sell your house to crazy people” and “loading your uhaul truck on the hottest weekend in Colorado history”.  And I will, once we get to the other side.  For now, I’m still somewhat in a state of mild shock and unable to fully process all that is going on.   No worries, I have a 21-hour drive in my near future and that will provide ample time for processing and mental blog writing.

By the way, this was my secret unnamed #28 – Move to Mississippi.

Oh Colorado, we will miss you for some many reasons, such as:

  1. Our church family. Our church here EBBC has literally been our Colorado family.
  2. Ransom’s nanny. She has been with us since he was 5 months old and she’s a perfect fit for our family. We will miss her.
  3. The low humidity. How lovely it is to be able to blowdry and straighten my hair in half an hour. This will not happen in Mississippi.
  4. Not having air conditioning. Windows open, cool breeze blowing on a summer night, Colorado heaven.
  5. Close proximity to a major metro area. Sorry Jackson, its just not the same.
  6. My office. I love my job (and I’m keeping it) but I’ll sure miss the atmosphere and my co workers.
  7. Living 3 minutes from Lowes, Target, and the grocery store. Mississippi is so much more spread out.
  8. Super helpful postal workers. When you go to the PO here, a nice man will tell you all your options and which are faster and which are cheaper, etc etc. That, uhm, is not quite how it works in Mississippi.
  9. Curb side recycling. Maybe they have that in Mississippi by now, who knows.
  10. The view. Always nice to look at mountains while driving in to work.
  11. Public transit. Sure gonna miss my bus pass.
  12. Our house. It was our first child, particularly the kitchen. I promise to post some of the ‘for sale’ pictures.
  13. All the lovely seasons. I know, maybe I love the weather here a little too much. The snow is generally awesome though. And spring. And fall. And most of summer.
  14. Meeting up with random old friends who are visiting the Denver area. Or are stuck at the Denver airport.
  15. Direct flights.  Not really possible from anywhere in Mississippi.

And things I won’t miss

  1. Feeling like our family is stuck in limbo. This move has been just over the horizon for too long. I’m relieved that its finally happening.
  2. Spending all our vacation time traveling to Mississippi.
  3. The food. Sorry coloradoans, but there’s a reason Mississippi is the fattest state.
  4. The lack of water.  Yes this goes hand in hand with the humidity, I know.  But I’m still ready to not feel guilty for letting my kid play in the faucet.

So, I need to get back to packing the truck. In the midst of all this I’ve also rounded out my list by deciding that #29 must be “Take a Sabbath rest”. Inspired by that last book I read, I have realized that this is what I need more than anything else right now. Wowzers we are tired. Almost done though!

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