Mom and Dad:
It has been a long time since I swam over to the Island, leaving you guys in the past. I meant to write to you sooner, but I’m a deer, so it’s been tough for me to find the time or the means to get a message to you. I met a Canada goose last fall who promised to pass along this message in his travels, but I never saw him again and am not sure he ever found you. I hope you are all right. I know food was getting scarce on the mainland and those coyotes were making themselves very comfortable in your parts. I hope you have remained strong and healthy.
It has been two years now, and I want you both to know that I am well. The swim over was exhausting and cold, but I made it to dry land on what is known as the north shore of Martha’s Vineyard. I crawled onto the shore, spotted a large patch of woods and spent a few days in the safety of the brush regaining my strength. I now live in a great big beautiful area known as Seven Gates Farm. I have to tell you it is absolutely perfect here. The forests are vast, the ponds and streams are clean and the fields are huge. It is heavenly and I wish you had the strength to come live here, but understand that in your old age the trip across the Atlantic would probably do you in, as it has done in so many others.
The best part of life here on the Island is that there are so many others here as well. In Seven Gates alone there are small herds of deer everywhere and for the most part they are all friendly and welcoming, except for the occasional old buck that feels threatened by my youth and vigor. But I feel no need to challenge his calls to battle, usually with a snort and a stamp of his foot, and have thus far shied away from action. Those old bucks also mark their territory well, so I have learned to steer clear of their turf.
I also wanted you to know that I met someone. A blue-eyed doe with the most beautiful spots and the softest coat. We had twins last year and they moved on to another part of the Island known as Peaked Hill. I heard from them recently through a mourning dove that tracked me down to let me know they are alive and well and the views are spectacular from where they make their home. They love watching both the sunrise and the sunset from high atop the hill, though they miss us dearly (no pun intended) and hope to come and visit soon.
There is so much food for us here and warm nooks and crannies for us to take cover in. It is an ideal place to live and I could not be happier or healthier. Almost every week I meet a new deer bringing me stories of a healthy family and an idyllic lifestyle. I spend most days eating my fill of forage from pastures, acorns from fallen oaks (they are so sweet and delicious in the fall). My mate has been telling me lately that I have gotten a bit chubby; I insist that I am just preparing for the winter. I hope you would still recognize me. I also love to hunt and peck around the gardens the humans plant near their homes. Have you ever had kale? It is amazing! What about carrot tops or beet greens? Oh, my word. Those humans are on to something there. They build little fences to protect their cultivated land, but with a bit of studying and a brave and literal leap of faith I have found most fences are easy to hop. Getting too close to humans can be a bit dangerous, so I usually wait until that point of the day when it is neither night nor day, just before the sun rises, when most of them are slumbering away.
This issue of the humans is why I am writing to you. It is that time of year again when they put on their orange vests and camouflage, then head out into our woods to come looking for us. Some of the more patient ones climb trees and sit in them all day and wait while others walk through our woods, sometimes alone and sometimes in great numbers, steering us to their friends. The woods are filled with the smell of humans and the clamoring of their firearms. It is a scary time of year, Mom, and I wanted to write to you in case you never hear from me again. I know these woods well and I know the humans’ tactics by now, but they are persistent. In the last few days I have seen the splatters of blood, heard the gunshots and yesterday I came upon a deer dead in the brush who escaped the hunters but died soon after from blood loss, peacefully curled up in her favorite hiding place.
I plan to make it through another season. I plan to stretch my legs again and look forward to another spring with all those blossoms to nourish me. I love it here in my new home. And though the nights are longer, giving me ample time to rest and lay low, the days are filled with the pop of gunpowder and other scampering deer desperately retreating from those hunting them. It is not a time of peace. And if for whatever reason I don’t make it through this season, I want to thank you for raising me right and caring for me the way you did. I can still taste your milk and feel your warmth. I love you.
Always, your son.
1 1/2 pounds venison stew meat, cut into one-inch cubes
1 large onion, cut into large chunks
3 carrots, washed and cut into one-inch rounds
4 celery stems, cut into one-inch pieces
6 cloves of garlic, smashed under your knife
16 ounces canned tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 cups pearl barley
Salt and pepper
In a large skillet, brown the venison over medium high heat with a light layer of olive oil coating the bottom of the pan. Season the venison with salt and pepper and when browned well on all sides set aside. Deglaze the pan with the canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add all the ingredients to a large, heavy dutch oven with a lid or an electric slow cooker. Season well with salt and pepper and taste the broth to ensure it is to your liking. Cook for two hours in a 325-degree oven or until the venison is so tender it is almost crumbling. I think the stew gets better, so make at least one day in advance.
Venison Loin with Fried Rosemary
Half lobes of boneless venison loin, three per person, pounded as flat as possible between two sheets of parchment paper
1 cup canola oil
Salt and pepper
Two tablespoons fresh rosemary, stripped from its stalk
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat with all the canola oil in it until it just begins to smoke. Add the rosemary and fry for about 10 seconds until it is crispy and remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Season with salt. In the same oil, pan fry the venison in small batches. They will cook very quickly, especially if the oil is quite hot, so work quickly and make sure the rest of the meal is ready once you begin, because this dish does not get better with age.
Each piece of venison needs between 20 and 30 seconds to cook to medium rare. Sprinkle the fried rosemary over the top of the venison and serve over mashed potatoes, allowing the juice to make its way into the potatoes. Serve immediately after cooking.