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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Our Dirt

So many people—thank you to all of them!—came way the heck out to Nowheresville, Georgia, on Saturday to help us build a fence for our dogs. Our dogs who, as we were conspiring to keep them contained, spent the whole day playing and lounging in our yard, almost never venturing out of our sight, and who, it turns out, really do come when they're called.

The day before, I unwrapped all the goat meat and put it in a large tub (which fit in our new fridge!), poured a marinade over it.
Goat marinade and mop: For the marinade, I mixed up orange juice, lime juice, cumin, ground cayenne, onion salt, and minced garlic. I splashed a bunch of Worchestershire sauce into the tub for good measure. For the mop, I boiled the marinade that was left in the tub after the meat had been put on the grill, then Miller Lite was added.
At one point I had lime juice all over my hands, so I gave the bug a taste. She squinted, looked puzzled, and then immediately broke into a huge smile. (She was indifferent to the taste of peach juice on my fingers the next morning. Loved smoked chicken wing essence, and the Super says she wanted more and more of the goat juice he let her taste. Also, not surprisingly, a dab of sweet iced tea—decaf—on her pacifier quieted her right down during a fussy spell. In other baby news, she's slept through the night for the last three nights—first time doing this. And she rolled over, back to tummy, for the first time on Saturday.)

That night, Superintendant Chalmers and the bug and I picked up two carsful of fencing material at Lowe's and went out to the house to drop it off and dig a pit for the goat. This is the progress we'd made on the latter task by about eight o'clock:

That chain-link gate in the corner is what we'd put the goat on.

The idea was to dig a pit in which we would build a fire, put a grid with the goat on blocks a foot or so over the fire, and then cover the whole thing with a tarp at ground level. We knew the ground would be hard—Georgia clay—but we didn't know it would be essentially solid rock. I've done a fair amount of digging (and not just in loamy Florida sand), but I've never encountered dirt like this before, so hard and full of granite stones that you couldn't shove the spade in without meeting incredible resistance a quarter-inch in. But we were determined. It started to rain and was getting dark.

The bug was asleep next to the new smoker under a semiprotective
flounce of mosquito netting. Does anybody know how many bug bites
a two-month-old can withstand before sustaining permanent damage?
Because she looks like she has the plague.

We decided to improvise by building up walls around the edges of the hole we'd managed to dig, using, among other things, old motorcycle fenders (I think that's what they are) we found in one of the sheds out back. A lot of thought and effort went into figuring out how to do this.

Up at dawn in Athens, the day of the fence-building party, I made a quick run to Wal-Mart to buy a changing pad for the baby to replace the one the dogs had destroyed while we were digging the pit in Carlton (they were all sold out, so we've been changing the bug on the floor, which is especially onerous when you've been doing light manual labor the last few days). So we load up the car with dogs and head out to the house. I'm afraid I don't have pictures, and my recipes will be inexact because I kind of just threw these things together, but I made up a large peach cobbler (in a beautiful red ceramic three-quart baking dish) and an apple crisp—or maybe it was technically a crumble, slump, or brown Betty . . . I don't have the energy to parse this right now.
Peach cobbler: This is your basic Northern-style cobbler, but large. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put a lot of sliced fresh peaches, some sugar, a squeeze of citrus (I used lime and orange this time), and a couple tablespoons of cornstarch in a large saucepan and cook, stirring, until the peaches are softened and bubbly-hot. Pour the peaches into a 3-quart baking dish and keep hot in the oven. In a medium bowl, combine about 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I like White Lily for this biscuity topping), 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cut in about 5 tablespoons shortening, then stir in 3/4 cup milk. Drop clumps of the dough onto the hot peaches. Bake for about 30 minutes, until browned and bubbly all over.

Apple crisp or whatever: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Toss 6 cored and sliced apples (I like a combination of sweet crisp apples like Gala or Winesap and tart Granny Smiths for baked apple desserts such as this) with some citrus juice, some sugar, a few tablespoons of flour, and lots of cinnamon; put in an 8- or 9-inch baking dish or pan. In a medium bowl, use your fingertips to combine about 1/4 cup softened butter, about 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and lots of cinnamon. (Again, these are very approximate; just keep adding stuff till it feels like a crumbly mixture that can be easily pressed into clumps that hold together.) Put the nut topping all over the apples, squeezing handfuls of it together to form irregular clumps. Bake for about 30 minutes, until browned and bubbling.
The Super got the goat-pit fire going with some charcoal and hickory, and let the chain-link gate burn on its own for a while just in case there were any toxins on it. When the fire died down he put the meat on and covered the whole thing with a tarp. The tarp was somewhat too close to the heat source, though, and it started to burn and melt. Speaking of toxins.

This would not have happened, I think, if we'd managed a deeper pit.

So we took the tarp off for a while.

Completists may notice that there's a piece missing.
Extra points if you can identify all the parts.

The Super put one especially meaty hunk of goat on the actual smoker, along with his famous chicken wings in the style of the Slick Pig, Murphreesboro, Tennessee. I won't give away the details of the award-winning (not really, not yet) chicken-wings recipe, but it goes something like this:
Smoked chicken wings: Marinate chicken wings in some combination of soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce, and molasses overnight. Smoke long (hours and hours—I'd say at least 6) and low (150° to 175°F), using hickory chunks with charcoal in the first hour or so, then just charcoal, until the meat shrinks back from the ends of the bones.
The Super prefers that the wings be cut into two pieces, tips cut off,
but we didn't bother with that this time.

When we had all the fires going and the iced tea chilling in the fridge, we took a break and had a couple beers. It was ten a.m. Since nobody had shown up yet, we donned work gloves and started pulling out and chopping down the weeds and overgrowth around where the fence would be. I carefully left two blackberry bushes. We ate the four ripe berries we found on them. I also left a lot of the English ivy so I could come back and dig it up later, possibly to plant at the base of the new fence to make it look more, um, verdant.

Here you can kind of see the granite posts we'll use for
some of the fenceline; the rest will be steel posts.

We also started attaching the welded-wire fencing to the existing stone posts using lengths of fourteen-gauge wire. I neglected to take pictures of the fence-building project itself, but you can see some of it on Courtney's blog. One of the Super's coworkers, David, showed up with really good wirecutters and this brilliant Tool for pounding the steel posts into the ground: imagine a tube with one end capped and handles on each side; you slide the tube over the post and bang it down on the top of the post; the tube shape helps guide it so there's no chance you'll miss the post altogether as there is when you're using just a sledgehammer. Probably one fifth of the fence got built yesterday, but David loaned us the Tool to use until we finish the fence ourselves.

Three knitters in addition to Courtney—Alison, Jenny, and Anne Marie—showed up bearing cookies, strawberry wine from Georgia's own Fox vineyards, and a vanilla infusion that smells absolutely lovely. They were all quite helpful, and Anne Marie in particular seemed to know a thing or two about fencing. Jane from UGA Press came with her husband, Bob; they were kind enough to bring a homemade pound cake, lots of beer, and iced green tea—Jane also gave me a vintage Weave-It set (more on that, I'm sure, when I've had a chance to try it out)! Andrew from the press came with more beer, as did Jon even though (in my understanding) he couldn't do manual labor because it was the day before Pentacost (I may very well have this information wrong). Ben, despite being busy planning a two-week canoe trip down the Oconee, arrived in the evening with two geneticists.

Cooper and Wagner had the time of their lives, and were very well behaved. The NeighborDog spent most of the day with us, which we didn't mind at all until he made off with a goat leg.

Right: back to the goat. It smoked and grilled slowly for about, oh, ten hours? Nice rosy smoke ring. The outer bits were flavorful and extremely chewy—some might even say dry. The inner meat was chewy and less flavorful, and there was still a fair amount of connective tissue that hadn't broken down. I'm guessing that if we'd wrapped the goat in something to keep the moisture in (banana leaves, maguey leaves, rinsed and wrung-out burlap sack?) it would've been better; also the fact that we weren't able to cover the pit very well certainly contributed to the drying-out. The Super plans to make up a sauce, tomato-based probably, to mix into the leftover pulled meat, of which there's a lot, but not as much as you'd expect.


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Anonymous said...

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