Saturday, August 25, 2012

around the farm

Squashes are all doing well this year.

The peppers are too, and are loving the wood chip mulch, which we steadily collect - two bins at a time loaded in the back of our car - each time we pass by the nice old man's tree business. Slowly, I'm applying more covering to the rest of the garden area in anticipation of next year. 

Harvesting calendula.

Thinning carrots.

Finally! Tomatoes are ripening.

Our baby fruits, strawberries and the first apples, picked and swiftly gobbled up.


Planting in the cold frame - lettuce, mustard greens (which keep getting eaten by something - no matter where I plant them!), michilini cabbage, carrots, peas, and daikon radishes. 

The two spared freedom rangers turned pre-layers. (The very plump, darker one on the left you may recognize from here).

Sweet old papa goat. 

Signs of Autumn.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

teriyaki salmon

Salmon is a rare treat around here, usually reserved for special occasions and when family comes to visit, but when we do have it, this is hands-down our family's favorite way to eat it. Even those who don't like fish and think all fish is too fishy-tasting cannot resist this. The measurements for the marinade needn't be precise - it's more about the ratios and if you prefer a sweeter marinade or a saltier one. I typically buy a large, whole filet of wild Alaskan salmon and cut it into roughly equal pieces. Marinate them for an hour before cooking. You can grill the fish, or pan fry it in a little peanut oil, which is our preferred method.

For the marinade:
Equal parts organic soy sauce and water
Sugar (to taste)
Sesame oil (a little goes a long way - for a large filet, use a Tablespoon or so)
Lots of minced garlic
Grated fresh ginger (about half as much as the garlic)

I serve it family-style (like pretty much everything else around here). We enjoy it with rice and wedges of lemon or lime. Yum!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

the nitty gritty of it all (part two)

Backing up a bit from my last post, I wanted to catalog some events and share some things we may do differently the next time we raise meat birds.

We housed the birds in the large, grassy, and enclosed outdoor run attached to the barn where the laying hens reside. Occasionally, I supervised some free-ranging time in the field, but for the most part they stayed in this setup, with various additional make-shift shelters like dog crates for shade and weather protection. Although they were always on grass, with plenty of bugs to eat as well, I would say the majority of their diet came from the grain we provided. Next time, we'd like to build a Salatin-style pen, and rotate the birds through pasture, allowing them access to new grass each day.    
There was a major setback a few weeks prior to the first butchering day, when we lost 8 of the biggest males to the elements. We had a hard rain and biting wind just before dusk, and the chickens got wet. Then the temperatures dipped down that night, and we realized after some research that those big boys had a difficult time keeping their body temperature up. That loss was quite a blow to us, especially since it was preventable on our part, had we just brought the flock into the garage (no electricity in the barns), and put them near the heat lamp. Big lesson learned. After this, we built a hay bale structure with a couple plywood planks as a roof, and rigged a light bulb to 3 small solar panels. This way, they had a light on all night, which allowed the birds to be active, eat, and keep their temperature better regulated. After this improvement, we suffered no additional losses, and the birds really seemed to love it. 

It looks very manger-like, don't you think?

The injured chick and fighting rooster pair were spared butchering, and have pretty much become feral chickens who run around with the goats all day. We're entertaining the possibility that they could perhaps be a breeding pair (Even if not, they are currently entertaining us, so we like having them around). There was one other bird who seemed to develop a temporary leg problem in which he couldn't stand up fully. I brought him into the garage brooder, and after a few days with his own food and water, the problem resolved itself. He was a very laid-back and large fella, and actually ended up being the first one we harvested.     

scalding pot
butchering station (yes, that is a lopped off traffic cone hanging from a ladder)

With the loss of 5 laying hens to the fox (two originally and three more of late), we also decided to integrate 2 of the pullets from the meat bird flock with our laying flock. I'd like to see if they might be good dual-purpose birds, and am interested to find out if they will come into lay since they are now eating layer feed and essentially free-ranging. It might work better for us to have a true dual-purpose flock, rather than trying to harvest so many broilers at once. Logistically-speaking, it's only possible for us to butcher a few chickens at a time without extra help - baby only naps for so long, even when carried on my back, and as first-timers, we are horribly inefficient! The 14 chickens we did end up butchering were spread out over the course of a couple weeks. I'm not sure if all-at-once or one-once-in-awhile is better. What I do know, however, is that this experience has educated, tested, and enlightened me in ways I never imagined. And this is just the beginning. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

the nitty gritty of it all (part one)

Because some may be curious, and also for my own record, I wanted to share a few of the more nitty-gritty details about raising the meat birds and our first chicken harvest.

While I'm far from experienced enough at this point to offer a comprehensive tutorial of the process start to finish, I would like to share some Internet resources we found very helpful. Our process was a less-refined amalgamation of these. (Please note that the following details and videos may be disturbing to some).

:: Respectful chicken harvesting, both video one (first seen here) and video two are enlightening and made the whole process seem very doable. Plus, I find this lady just all around marvelous. 

:: Joel Salatin's evisceration video, which is great to watch a few times to see how the pros do it.

:: This website has incredibly thorough information that was excellent for studying beforehand and referencing throughout the process as needed. 

As to our experience, I don't think I've ever really witnessed the true meaning of the term lifeblood until this event. I was was incredibly grateful that the first chicken we harvested went peacefully (he actually just seemed to fall asleep, which may have something to do with the fact that he laid upside-down for at least 5 minutes while we were making our final preparations), and while I won't pretend they all went this gently, having this as the initial standard certainly gave us strength to carry through to the rest. The other thing that carried us through was, as I mentioned before, my brother-in-law's help with the first few. Simply beginning is the hardest part, made easier when there is someone with experience around for support. Especially someone who walks around barefoot the whole time. And tells us to stop watching videos and just pull the guts out already. And reminds me that my grass is cleaner than any factory. Yes, everyone needs someone like this the first time around. Honestly, though, the process wasn't nearly as traumatic as I imagined it would be, and although I don't foresee it getting any easier from an emotional standpoint, I do feel okay with it. Which is to say that we didn't eat chicken for dinner that first night, but have been reverently enjoying it since. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Hello, friends! Does time get away from you during this busy season, too? Sometimes it feels the weeks just mesh together, and time marches along to its own drum. So much has been happening here, and I'm planing to be back in this space throughout the week to catch up with you. Hope you are all well and busy, too. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

{this moment}

Joining Soulemama for: "{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

get the glow

You know that "glow" everyone's trying to get?

It's called sweat - skip the cosmetics and be a farmer! ;)
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