Bluffton Packet

Tanner: In the fall, we live like a squirrel and love it

Four deer on a sandbar at Stoney Creek get ready to swim across on low tide to the land side of the creek.
Four deer on a sandbar at Stoney Creek get ready to swim across on low tide to the land side of the creek. Special to The Bluffton Packet

About this time every year as the fall season arrives, my mind metamorphoses a feeling of transforming me into one part pioneer and one part squirrel.

In Indian summer -- during months of October and November -- after cooler temperatures set in and leaves start to fall, there is a short season of fair weather and warm days, once a busy time for pioneer families in earlier days of gathering corn, bringing in the vegetables, butchering hogs, piling wood and repairing cabins before months of cold, freezing weather set in.

Squirrels, much like pioneers, having a "built-in" instinct, sense cold weather is on the horizon and therefore busy themselves gathering and burying nuts and acorns for hard times ahead when their other food source of mushrooms diminish.

So, for me, it's an inherited trait that comes from seeing my grandparents and parents, as well as many other country folk, prepare and store away food for the winter. Having grown up participating in all of these activities, the usual title of "chief cook and bottle washer" gets an addition of "butcher, baker and candlestick maker" this time of year.

The fall season ushers in deer season, shrimp-baiting season, oyster season and prolific catches of speckled trout, red fish and other varieties seemingly all at the same time which makes for a busy time in a bustling kitchen where the bounty is prepared.

Having a freezer or two is a must in homes of the outdoorsman who loves to hunt and fish. Being raised on venison and anything edible out of the river, things haven't "changed-a-lick" in my kitchen, from helping to dress and process the venison brought in to preparing the seafood for the freezer, which supplements the table and makes for a shorter and less expensive grocery list year-round.

There's a lot of work involved for the one obtaining the food source as well as the one preparing it for a meal, but, in the long run, it's comforting and worth it to see the larder full and the smiling, satisfied faces sitting around the table after dining on fare provided by mother nature, all preservative free.

Tender venison steaks smothered in gravy, with venison gravy is the best tasting gravy in the world, with shrimp gravy holding a close second. It could only be topped by a table of fresh caught and boiled shrimp or crabs, a steamer of oysters poured out on the table or a serving of fried fish complimenting a plate of hot buttery grits for supper.

Now, this is some good eating and what is called "living-off-the-land," an act that can be achieved in our little nook of the Lowcountry -- God's country, the "only-best-est" place to live, a place that allows a person to live like a pioneer while acting like a squirrel, but all the while enjoying it.

Contributor Jean Tanner is a lifetime rural resident of the Bluffton area and can be reached at jstmeema@hargray.com.

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