A Great Christmas With Some “Deer” Friends

A gift from Sis… It’s greatly appreciated!  Right below the sign are shelf brackets that keep.fishing poles out of kitties’ reach!


Hi and welcome to the blog.  I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas!  I never got to camp but it was still a great few days.  After two very busy days leading up to the holiday, it was nice to sip some tea and rest at the home base… and then sleep late the next morning.



Definitely a truism!




Christmas was spent resting and then I gathered with the mayor’s family.  They had purchased some awesome and well chosen gifts.  One of the favorites was a blue sign…something that worked out very well!  The little boat, a birthday present from last year when I worked at Transamerica, was hung up a month ago to hide Jenny’s claw damage on the wall.  The sign went perfectly with it… further adding to the fishing theme.


Tasty stuff – sweet, tangy, and salty


Our Christmas dinner followed the gift exchange.  The dish I brought was something popular in the 1990s – a refrigerated sauerkraut salad.  It’s simple:  Two 32 ounce jars of drained kraut and 2 cups of chopped veggies: equal amounts of onion, bell peppers, and celery.  The dressing is about a 1+1/2 cups of sugar mixed with 1/3 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of white wine vinegar.  In a sauce pan (or in the microwave) you just heat the oil, vinegar, and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Add to the veggies (taste and adjust vinegar and sugar) and refrigerate overnight.


Gift exchange

There was plenty of food, beverages (note to self – next time I’ll go a little easier on the “Dad’s Apple Pie” liquor), and fun.  A sign of getting older, the most enjoyable thing was watching the kids open their presents… However….


Gifts are enjoyable for kids of any age!


I was delighted with the things received:  a tackle box, the blue fishing sign, a variety of hot sauces (woo hoo!), a woodsy pattern fleece throw, and gift cards for gas and groceries.  Every item had applicability to camping.  Everyone enjoyed him or her self…


Bacon wrapped deer backstraps… The finest cut of deer meat!



So what about the “deer” friends?  Mayor Dale’s sons love to hunt and fish.  One of them gave me two pieces of backstrap.  Deer backstraps are loin muscles that run along the upper back between the front and back legs.  I’d never cooked them before.  In fact, venison had never really tripped my trigger.. until now!


Grilled and cut into medallions. Sharing with Duke was not an option. Rather, he shared some with Daddy.


The backstraps were about 10 inches long, four inches wide, and an inch or so thick.  Based on advice from friends, I followed my gut on cooking these things.  Each was rolled in brown sugar and rib rub, the seasoning massaged into the fibers, wrapped in thick cut bacon… and then grilled to 140 degrees.  The venison was the best I’d ever eaten and Duke ate it like it was his last meal.

Christmas had turned out much different than planned.  I still had time to pray, reflect, and give thanks for the many blessings.  Though I’d missed out on 59 degree camping weather (the warmest Christmas in 65 years), there will be other days.  Happiness and health made the time very special…


Toys not included… This cat bed measures a whopping 24 inches across!  Note how it dwarfs that full sized pizza turntable to the left!


At the moment Sis is visiting.  Here is what I crocheted for her over a week of evenings – a very large cat bed (2 pounds of yarn, 6000+ stitches) for the neighborhood kitties she takes care of.  The plan is to make another, smaller bed for the local cat rescue as well as other crocheted items for feline friends in need.

That’s it for now!  Take care and thanks for visiting today.  Before long it will be the new year.  I hope everyone has a great rest of 2019 and enjoys the remainder of the holiday season with dear (or deer) friends!

Be safe!  Live long and prosper!   (Dad’s Apple Pie drink to follow!)

Bradford and Jenny and Mister Duke
Jones County, Iowa


Dad’s Apple Pie Camping Drink

1 gallon apple cider
1 gallon apple juice
6 cinnamon sticks
2 cups white sugar (or to taste)
1t apple pie spice
1 bottle (a “fifth”) of 190 proof Everclear grain alcohol

In a large pot bring the first five ingredients to a boil until the sugar is dissolved.
Cool and remove the cinnamon sticks.  Add the booze.  Seal in jars, store in the
fridge, and take camping!


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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

4 Responses to A Great Christmas With Some “Deer” Friends

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Looks like you had a fantastic Christmas! Love the little boat shelf and the signs are great. The deer meat looks really tasty.

    Hope your New Year will bring many camping and fishing trips.
    weather here is crazy we are into the 20’s at night and 40’s for the days but they say we will warm up soon. Don’t mind the cold just happy it stopped raining.

    ps: easy on the sugar Brad

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! I hear you about that cold. It’s getting very cold here. It triggers headaches. I guess winter is going to take over. Sis is visiting and we’re having a blast…and we’re keeping the sugars down. She loved the cat bed. It was a terrific Christmas. Have a happy 2020!! Take care!

  2. my_vantasy says:

    Sounds like you had a great Christmas. Me, too! As I scrolled down your post, looking at the pictures before I read the words, I recognized sauerkraut salad. I make that every summer for camping trips! I didn’t realize it a well known dish. I don’t like sauerkraut, but the sugar and vegetables turn it into something delicious. Enjoy your time with your sister and Happy New Year!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! Glad to hear you had a great Christmas! Yes, there is something magical about that sauerkraut salad. They offer it at one or more of the German restaurants at the Amana Colonies about 20 miles SW of Cedar Rapids. It’s been a wonderful visit with Sis. We had multiple meals together and did a lot of shopping and hanging out. I’m not sure when the next camping will happen – I’ve got a pulmonary test coming up on the 7th. Never a dull moment. Take care and hug The Little Dog for me. 🙂 VT