Monday, January 31

whatever makes them happy.....



Our most recent dangerously cold spell has passed and even though there is still snow on the ground and the temps are in the 30's, it is much better than it was. The chickens water has stopped freezing solid overnight and I am not as worried about them as I was. The temps inside the coop didn't get lower than 28 degrees, which is cold, but they are hardy.

Today I went out to visit them, bring them some bread scraps and collect the eggs. And to just check on them in general. Like when you used to go to sleepovers at your friends houses and their Mom would appear every so often, just to 'check.' They have been acting a little sneaky lately and i blame it on the weather keeping them 'cooped up' rather than my overbearing parenting. A few of them have seemed to get the idea that flying out of the indoor enclosure and wandering around the rest of the shed is a fun way to pass an afternoon.

Yesterday I went out and I was greeted by one of the Rhode Island Red hens making her way back to the coop from where we store the bikes for the winter. She was squawking rudely, like it was my fault she had 'gotten out'. I graciously opened the coop door and let her prance back inside, apologizing for my incompetence. I have also found eggs around the shed in strange places which makes me wonder about about numerous smelly presents we will find around spring time. Eggs hidden in rolls of plastic or garden netting. Another little protest or just boredom? Or are they trying to hide them from me.

They have not only been 'flying the coop' to lay eggs but they are also laying in different places inside the confines of their coop to boot. They have decided that their nice warm nest boxes just will not do and they have starting laying in a cramped little space between the wall of the coop and the end of a nest box. This can not be comfortable but whatever makes them happy.....

I put down a fresh layer of straw for them today which they love. they go nuts pecking and scratching around in it looking for something interesting. It is getting pretty thick in there and it is 'sponge-like' to walk on. But it is warm and insulating for them so all the shoveling that will take place this spring will be worth it when I don;t have frostbitten combs and feet on the girls. And I should have lots of good stuff to add to the compost bin.

Happy ladies are my goal and I am still getting about a dozen eggs a day, so I think it is going well.

By the way, do you ever notice how many chicken and chicken coop related 'sayings' there are in society? Flying the coop, cooped up, coming home to roost, not a spring chicken, count your chickens before they hatch, up with the chickens, etc.

Sunday, January 30

Homemade Pizza

When I was little and I would say "Mom, what are we having for dinner?", she would sometimes say "pizza." My immediate thoughts were ones of joyful bliss as I pictured the big flat grease stained box and 2 liters of soda from the local pizza place.



I was a kid. That's what I got joyful over.



Turns out, more often than not, the pizza in question was not made by the high school staff at the shop but by my Mom in our kitchen. Home made pizza. A little kids nightmare.



In my efforts to spare my son some of my devastation, I have tried to make my version of home made pizza as joyful as possible. And i think I have come up with a winner.



I make the dough about a half hour before it's time to put the pizza in the oven. I mix about 1 cup of organic white flour with 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast, 2 tablespoons cooking oil and 1 cup of really hot water. I mix this all together in a frenzy for about 2 minutes until things look like vanilla cake batter. Then I gradually add flour until it is the consistency I want. Not too dry but not sticky.



I leave the dough in the bowl and knead or mix it with my hands (clean hands in case any of you ever come to dinner on pizza night), and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, also clean. Then it goes on top of the pellet stove for about 15 minutes. It gets some height, but it is not a mountain of dough.



I spray a cookie sheet and press out the dough to the four corners. Add our favorite pasta sauce, which we will hopefully can for ourselves next summer, and some shredded, low fat mozzarella cheese. i have yet to try any of the cheese from the organic section but it will go on the shopping list when there is a little extra in the budget.



Bake at 375 for about 15-20 minutes. I like the take it out right fore the cheese starts to get crispy. I hate crispy cheese.



And there you have it. Home made pizza that will, hopefully, not send your kids into a deep depression.

Saturday, January 29

Kitties Keeping Warm

The cats do their best to keep warm, mostly lounging on the warm bed blankets or by the pellet stove. Fur coats help too.




Prince and Cheese on the trunk by the stove.



Buffin and Cheese in the usual place - curled up together on the bed. They are not happy that I woke them up to take this picture.

Or this one. "Seriously Mom, do I look happy about this?".

Friday, January 28

In For Service

My camera has gone to the shop. I didn't want to go through the hassle of taking it in and having it shopped around the country and then have them say that there is nothing they can do.

But I am not just going to let an expensive piece of equipment just sit around and not work property. And I sure am not in the position to buy a new one. So, using the warranty that I bought with the camera (I'm grateful I was talked into buying the four-year coverage!), I took it to the place of purchase expecting a hassle.

I got none. None what-so-ever. They honored the warranty and my camera is on its way to Connecticut for evaluation. Talk about customer service! They also said that if it was not able to be fixed then I would receive a new camera. Wow.

Wednesday, January 26

Happiness, no Hormones



I have a few regular egg customers that come here to the house to get their weekly supply. Yesterday one of them told me that a friend of hers, who was allergic to just about everything and could not eat a ton of different foods, including eggs, tried one of my eggs.

She had no problems. None. She loved it.

No chemicals, no antibiotics, not strange food. Just chickens, grass, fresh air and kindness.

She said "I can taste the happiness in the eggs you sell us."

I don't know if I have ever received a finer compliment.

book report





Hit By A Farm

Catherine Friend
Rising Moon Farm

Thoroughly enjoyable, even though I learned a little bit more than I wanted about the inner workings of sheep.

"Few people today have a clue where there meat comes from, just accepting that it’s tightly wrapped in cellophane and comes from the grocery store. Few people remember this hard fact: that for them to eat meat, something had to die. But it’s not just that an animals has to die – it’s also how the animal lived. Many people simply don’t connect the poor chicken raised in an airless, sunless building with the chicken on their plate."

So many neat things in this book, a fast read, and I could not put it down. Between
wondering about farming genes, electric fence mishaps, and the anxiety-prone midlife crisis tidbits, there was also plenty of farming, sheep, heavy machinery and hope.

"The only way to avoid chaos is to control everything around you." A control freak myself, I know exactly what she is talking about. Problem is, when you have a farm, control everything means never sleeping and getting injured often.

"I wanted to run screaming from the farm, tell Melissa we must sell it, that we must move to a cramped townhouse in the city and work nine-to-five jobs and battle traffic and crime and long cappuccino lines and have no intimate knowledge of farming, just like normal people." I loved this - normal people. And she is so right - most 'normal' people have no idea what farming is all about - what it takes to bring the food to their plate.

I used to be 'normal'.....

Tuesday, January 25

lights

Our home was built around 1916, with many additions, remodels and renovations before we moved in 6 years ago. We love the house, even with all its quirks and strange corners, but some things needed updating.

Roy is big on electrical and he took care of rewiring many of the plugs and switches and such right after we moved in. However, there were a few he just didn't get to and we kind of forgot about them. This past weekend, he decided to tackle them while I was getting groceries.

The main problem that reminded us to finish up the electrical was that our son, now almost two, can reach the switches and constantly flips them on and off. Not so much of a big deal (he could be into things much worse, right?) except one of the switches doesn't seen to be connected to anything. You can flip it all day long and it doesn't turn anything on, supply power to any plug, etc. But it does smell funny. Like a burning kind of funny. So, this prompted our re-visit to all things electrical and I left Roy to take care of it.

I hate electrical. I also hate plumbing and anything involving a soldering iron.

After taking care of the 'burning switch' (which is a double switch, the top one being for the dining room light), he moved on to the other remaining switch's. These two last ones controlled the 2 lights on the stairs - one set of switches on the bottom of the stairs and another on the top. The top was actually a three switch plate, 2 for the stairs and one for the attic light.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love old things. The more antique and rustic the better. However, when it comes to electrical things, I would rather get the 'made to look old' stuff. I don't want my house to burn down.

This is what awaited us behind the panel on the upstairs switch:





Late 1930's, early 1940's, I think (?) Porcelain? Probably good for another 100 years (?) gasp.
We replaced them, but I kept one, just in case.

Monday, January 24



On cold days like this, it is best to stay indoors, make sure the stove has plenty of pellets and break my rules about television. A warm blanket doesn't hurt either. The little guy and I curl up and settle in for a few exciting episodes of Curious George. What will that curious little money get into today, I wonder.

The ladies seem to be weathering the cold alright - no obvious signs of frostbite or distress, although the coop temperature read 23 degrees when I checked them this morning. Not bad considering that the outdoor temperature was a balmy -6 degrees. Their water was frozen solid so I made sure they had fresh, a little bit luke warm, and some kitchen scraps to keep them happy. I am still getting about a dozen eggs a day, so I think it is working. I am not even opening the coop door today and they don't seem to care.

I spent last night watching installments of Band of Brothers, which included Part 6, Bastogne. I thought about that today as my fingers started the freeze to the metal clasp on Snow's line and to the enamelware bowl I put the chickens kitchen treats in. Considering that this mornings temperatures were -6 degrees, I have nothing to complain about in that one source says that during the course of the battles at Bastogne temperatures plummeted to minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit.

How those men survived at all is beyond me and I can only say, thank you.



The Nikon D-80 Dilemma



My camera is showing the tell-tale signs of old age. Sluggish, slow to focus, and tired. It seems to have fallen into a heap of lethargic wallowing.

It has been giving me trouble lately - error messages, not focusing properly and very slow to actually take a picture. We hit our high point at the butterfly garden this past Saturday. Butterflies, being the slow patient creatures that they are, simply waited for my camera to focus and take the picture before flying off to another flower. Then I stopped dreaming, chased the little guy around and tried to keep him from falling into the turtle pond, and cursed the camera.

Just about every photo I took turned out blurry even though the auto focus insisted that it was right on. I ended up with messy butterflies and distorted flowers.



What disturbs me the most is that this is an expensive and high quality camera. It has been used all over New York State, Nevada, Utah, Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany, which might suggest too much banging around and possible damage. But I was not juggling it or sending it bouncing down a hilly sidewalk like my small Sony Cybershot in Inverness Scotland (it still works great by the way).

I am not sure where I am going to go with this other than sit down during a quiet afternoon (yeah right) and go through the manual.

But all it might need is a new lens and good cleaning.

Sometime during our life, isn't that what we all need?

-6 morning


Friday, January 21

Success!



Just look at those rolls. They actually look like rolls! If someone saw them, they would say, "Hey, those are rolls!"

I have finally managed to make something rise and bake it with an outcome resembling something edible.

I followed the recipe and directions to the letter - Honey Wheat Rolls. They tasted good, especially right out of the oven. and although I am concerned about the fact they are as heavy as a brick, I am not losing any sleep over it.

They are thick and dense and heavy, but they taste like honey and wheat and they look like rolls so, again, not losing sleep. But if anyone has tips as to how to make them light and fluffy I am all ears. Maybe let them rise a little more?

So, I can now say:
homesteading in the middle of the prairie (in winter) + bag of flour (and honey)+ bread pan (or cookie sheet) = me NOT starving! (but probably REALLY sick of honey wheat rolls come spring).

Here is the recipe I used just in case i have inspired anyone out there:

4 c. whole wheat flour
4 c. white flour
2 pkgs. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. milk
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. honey
2 lg. eggs at room temp.

In large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of each flour, yeast, sugar, baking soda and 2 teaspoons salt; mix well.
In small saucepan, heat milk, butter, honey and 1/4 cup water until butter melts and mix is 120-130 degrees. With mixer at low speed, pour milk mix and eggs into flour mix. Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl. Stir in the remaining flours. Knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Place dough into greased bowl, turning once. Cover and let rise until double.

Punch down and shape dough into rolls. Place on greased sheet and cover and let rise again until double.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil for last 10 minutes if rolls brown too quickly

Tuesday, January 18

Bread: The Saga Continues

As you can see, this attempt at bread making did not turn out any better than previous attempts. Although it did resemble a ball of dough more than my last attempt, that is all it amounted to - a ball of dough.



This photo was taken after the dough had been, supposedly, rising for about 5 hours. It only gained about an inch in diameter.

So once again:
homesteading in the middle of the prairie + bag of flour + bread pan = me starving.

Country Bounty



In the January 2011 issue of Lucky Magazine there was a fashion article entitled "the bounty of a country weekend."

I know you are not asking yourself, after that statement, 'why in heck is she reading Lucky Magazine?'

True, it is not my usual reading preference but I am part of what amounts to a magazine hot potato group. My Aunt gets a ton of magazines and various titles get passed from her to Grandma, to Mom and then to me. Granted, not all of the ones I get are ones I read. I am not a fan of Soap Opera Digest or Glamour, (and Grandma doesn't care much for Lucky), but I will flip through them for fun before they make their final trip to the library magazine exchange.

My usual flipping is done through issues of Country Living and Martha Stewart looking for ideas. But today's flipping brought me to the 'country weekend' and I was happy to find something with the word country in it on the pages of Lucky Magazine. It even had a background of shrubbery!

Not much country about it though, except runway looks remotely inspired by the farm. VERY remotely. Or, by people who run in fields in billowing white dresses, it seems.

I know, I know, it is a fashion magazine but I just found some of the pictures funny - one shows a girl in knee-high socks and designer denim shorts which are being held up by old-man suspenders. Her shirt is untucked, like she has just come from a long afternoon of farm labor. Another girl is pictured outside of what appears to be a beautiful cottage. And what does she emerge from this cottage wearing to attack the day of muck and tilling? A full black lace dress, combat boots and a plaid jacket. I don't know about you but I always wear black lace in the garden.

The caption on the shrubbery reads: "There's freedom in letting go. Mix prints with prints. Throw in crazy fabrics. Add some wild color. Layer pieces that have nothing to do with each other: It's eclectic, whimsical - and totally liberating."

First, is that what 'fashion' people think of people who live in the country? Are we eclectic, whimsical people who dress oddly and mix prints? Probably not, but it's just a thought.

Here is my caption:

"There's freedom in letting go of designer labels. Mix muck boots with an old sweatshirt. Throw in some broken-in gardening gloves. Add in a dirty International tractor ball cap. Layer printed t-shirts that say Delany's Rooster Farm with last years beat-up flannel. It's comfortable, you can till and plant in it - and it's totally liberating." (and chickens don't care if you match).

Even though I don't care for the word 'liberating' (too feminist for me), it just seems to fit.

Monday, January 17

Finding this in my mailbox helped get me through this day of frigid temperatures.

It is 6 degrees here at 7 am - so crisp that it is like breathing ice when you venture out. The chickens water was frozen solid this morning. They didn't seem to mind since they were just keeping warm and waiting for their daily bread scraps treat. Snowy was even a little hesitant to go out this morning which is saying something since she usually loves to spend long periods of time lounging in the great, cold outdoors. But today she quickly did her business and is now curled up on her kitchen dog bed.

Today seems like a good day to bake bread. the house will smell great and I get to suck a little extra heat up from turning on the oven. The plan is to make a loaf of wheat and some honey wheat rolls. I hope it goes better than last weeks attempt:



Yeah, that should have been a loaf of warm white bread. It didn't rise and the whole thing collapsed in on itself which resulted in a big pile of mush. It didn't even get to the oven.

For some reason, I have horrible luck with bread. If I were homesteading in the middle of the prairie with a bag of flour and a bread pan, I would starve. But I am determined to mix, knead, punch, and knead some more, until I get something that resembles a loaf and that is mildly eatable. I keep you posted.

Friday, January 14

Going a little heavy on the bird seed, arn't we?

Wednesday, January 12

Kitty

A beautiful orange long-haired cat has taken up residence in the upper part of the old barn. I am going to say it is a "he" even though I really have no idea. He just looks so regal and dignified.

I do not know where he came from - he showed up a few weeks ago in the yard and between our neighbors barns and ours, he has been seen hunting for mice and keeping his distance from people.

Definitely an older cat, I am afraid that he might have belonged to an elderly person who passed away and the relatives did not know what to do with the cat. Of course, they decided to dump him in the "country" since all us country folks are big softy's when it comes to stay cats and we would take him in. Either that our the fact that a lot of people think that anything can survive in the country with the free food just there for the taking.

I have gotten to observe him from the kitchen window as he makes his morning rounds of the property. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get a good picture of him for a variety of strange reasons involving broken cameras and crying babies.

This is the one I got of him the other day as he rounded the side of the barn and disappeared under the lilac bush.



I am calling him "kitty" for now since I don't want to get attached and then have him disappear one day. Well, who am I kidding, i am already attached to him. Even though this winter has be especially mild with little snow, it still dips into the chill teens some nights and I worry that he will not be warm enough. I made him a bed in a large cardboard box from a few old afghans and I have been feeding him a bowl of dry food every night in addition to feeding the chickens.

He seems to be very shy, or un-trusting of people, and I really can not blame him if he was just dumped off here.

The least I can do is to provide him with a little comfort as his life is changing.

Tuesday, January 11

Being Prepared: Kitchen



I just want to say right now that I not advocating hoarding of any kind. I think that is a dangerous, expensive, slippery slope that I do not want to fall down. I have first hand experience in seeing what hoarding is like. My husband and I were in charge of cleaning out a relatives house after a long period of limbo - a house full of stuff with no one living there. Depression-era mentality mixed with dimensia and probably loneliness is something I do wish on anyone. In this case, it caused hoarding and obsessive saving of every little thing.



Although there is something to be said for saving things for future use and having what you need on hand, there is a thing as too much. For example, the above mentioned home was full of aluminum canned goods so old that the bottoms had rusted out and the food long since gone. There were suitcases stored under beds with brand new clothes packed inside, just in case there was a disaster of some kind, all destroyed by mold and time. Every available space, not matter how small, was packed to the limits with stuff. Just stuff. The desire to buy and to store away had reached an unhealthy level.



And I don't want to reach that level. Ever.



But I do believe in being prepared.



And I have started cleaning out, stocking up and evaluating. Step 1: kitchen.



I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards and took stock of what I have, what I need and what I can get rid of. I have plenty of canned goods, I need sugar and I can get rid of some of the nick-knacks that I seem to accumulate without knowing.



I operate under the rule that we should have enough food in the house to keep us in three-meal-a-day status for one month. I place a great deal of trust in rice, dried beans, flour for bread making, and the necessary staples to prepare a basic meal. This also includes having enough pet food for Snowy and the cats, as well as feed for the chickens.



Again, I am not advocating hoarding, but I do think it is wise to have a small stash of food that will keep well just in case. Some people say to buy items such as dried beans and peas in bulk and store them in air-tight containers. This sounds like a good idea to me, but I know that they will not last forever. I don't want someone coming into my home many, many years from now and finding the remains of bean and pea food storage gone bad. I only get as much as I know that I will use in the time it will take to run the course of its shelf life.



I also made sure I have plenty of good pots and pans and the basics of cooking supplies, including a small propane cook stove if the power goes out. If we had a wood burning stove we could cook on that but since the pellet stove does not produce enough radiant heat, we can not cook on it.



A portable generator will keep the fridge going, but in the winter the front porch and a pile of snow will mostly do the trick.



Bottom line is that I want to be prepared and I want to have the hard knowledge that I will be able to care for myself and my family if the days comes when I need to. And even though I recently read World Made By Hand, I am not anticipating the meltdown of society. Blizzards and ice storms are something we deal with in New York and that is what I am talking about being prepared for - a week without access to the grocery store.



Something to consider doing: Don't go to the grocery store for one full week. (make sure you have essentials in the house beforehand). See what you run out of. What you wish you had. See what you can do without.



Necessity will show you what you need to keep a good supply of. There is no sense in having a cupboard full of refried beans if no one in your family likes them. (we are just talking a week or two here, we are not starving).



What substitutes could you make if you had to? Honey instead of sugar?



Not everyones idea of fun, I know, but it will get you thinking.

Storms and Happy Ladies

Another storm is heading our way and it has become second nature to button up and take it as it comes. The snow shovels are out and ready by the back door, the pantry is stocked, and the pellet stove is also stocked and roaring away, keeping the house warm against the 17 chilly degrees outside. This is winter in New York State and I am used to it. Some days I curse it as I slip and fall in the driveway and freeze my fingers taking Snowy out for her abthroom breaks. And other days I watch the snow come down and curl up on the couch under an afghan with the little guy and read a book or two. Mostly about trains or colors or farm animals these days, but at least there are plenty of pictures.

I have made sure that the ladies are well provided for - they have plenty of luke-warm water in their fonts so it will not freeze overnight and they have corn mixed in with their regular feed of crumbles. I like that this gives them a little something more to work away at and that it will fatten them up to help insulate them against the cold. I went out to the coop tonight with a treat of bread scraps and wishes of "goodnight and stay warm!"

They seem to be happier since we removed the four roosters and a calm contentment has settled once again over my flock of happy ladies. The thermometer I put in the coop has not dipped below 30 degrees even though it feels much colder in there to me. So far, so good as I was worried about my first winter with chickens in my care. And despite a rocky start, we are now going strong and looking forward to spring.

I am still getting over a dozen eggs per day and although some are showing signs of molting, I am optimistic that my flock is a happy one.

Monday, January 10

An American Hero



Dick Winters, a decorated Army officer whose World War II service was recounted in the best-selling book and HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers," died January 2, 2001 at age 92.

I have always held Richard Winters from the Band of Brothers series and books in high regard since I first heard about him and his men. His strength, intelligence and humility were qualities that I greatly admired. Somehow I just thought he would live forever. He was larger than life to me even though he was so well grounded and humble about his accomplishments.

I am sad today, not just for Major Winters and his family, but because we as a society are losing our Greatest Generation. I know that phrase gets used a lot and I know that their generation had its problems just like every other generation, but there was just something special about that time for me.


As my son grows up I want to present him with examples of bravery, honor and integrity. Major Winters will be one of those men.

I think, from what I have read, that Dick Winters was not out to become a great man. He was a man who was put into situations which required extraordinary action. He rose to that requirement and I think that is what made him a great man.

After landing behind enemy lines in Normandy on D-Day, he fought hard and lead his men and made it through. "That night, I took time to thank God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. And if, somehow, I managed to get home again, I promised God and myself that I would find a quiet piece of land someplace and spend the rest of my life in peace."

Regardless of all of humankind's vast differences, isn't that what we all want? A life of quiet and peace?

We have lost a great man - a leader, a hero, a modest and humble individual who's actions have so much to teach our generation and future ones.

An American Hero

Richard Winters Obituary

Saturday, January 8

Book Report



World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler

An interesting apocalyptic book where "The future sure isn't what it used to be." Ever seen those movies about when the power goes out, the Internet is gone and people live in roaming gangs looking for potatoes and the like? Ever notice how they always have nice warm winter coats, military boots and guns with plenty of ammo? If the world has gone off track, where do they get these things and you can only use a bullet once. This book shows it in more of a realistic light.

How do you take a shower? Get your news? Provide anesthesia during a surgery? Get clothes?

More realistic, slightly disturbing, interesting ideas. Not to promote hoarding but the main character has a good point when he says "I saved absolutely everything."
When you can't get anything new, that is just about the only way to have what you need.

"It's a world made by hand, now, one stone at a time, one board at a time, one hope at a time, one soul at a time."

Thursday, January 6

Winter Walk



The little guy and I went for a winter walk the other day when there was a break in the cold and snow. It was actually about 50 degrees out and we headed to North Ponds Park for an energy release.

Being my first winter with a toddler, I did not anticipate the amount of energy that builds up without the yard and garden to explore. He is bouncing off the walls here despite my best efforts of entertainment, library trips and visits to Grandmas. So walking and running and stumbling around the park was just what he needed. By the end of a good solid hour of this, I was carrying him back to the car.

How many more months of winter are there?
Look at the size of this egg! I feel so bad for the lady who had that one!



Wednesday, January 5

Rosy Morning

A strange sky this early morning. With the cloudy skies, the slight snowfall and the somewhat hazy atmosphere, the sun cast a rosy red tint to everything. Like looking through actual rose colored glasses.





Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.
A red sunrise reflects the dust particles of a system that has just passed from the west. This indicates that a storm system may be moving to the east. If the morning sky is a deep fiery red, it means a high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain is on its way.

Resolutions 2011

None.

Yep. I said None.

I am done with resolutions.

We do the best we can with what we have and we are happy with it.

Self sufficiency, self reliance, environmentally conscious. We strive for these things every day, along with happiness, fulfillment and enjoyment of life.

Don't get me wrong, I love electricity, episodes of NCIS, my laptop and the occasional coke from the vending machine ($1.25!!!!!)

With our "lite" homesteading efforts, we are mixing the old with the new and making our own definition. And that brings a lot to our plate. I don't want to add more to my to-do list in the form of goals I feel I have to meet or my world will implode.

Tuesday, January 4

...and I couldn't even pluck!!!!

Anyone remember the movie Office Space? One of my all-time favorites and I could not help but think about it the other day. More specifically, the line - "I can't believe what a bunch of nerds we are. We're looking up "money laundering" in a dictionary."

I thought of this as I was scanning the table of contents in The Encyclopedia of Country Living, looking for the 'chicken butchering' section.

I can't believe what an uneducated, non-self-sufficient nerd I am. I am looking up how to process a chicken in The Encyclopedia of Country Living.


We have decided that the roosters have to go and we are going to be the ones to do it. They are our responsibility. But we needed help.


Roy had done his fair share of butchering and processing in his teens at his Grandparents cattle farm. So much so, that he was once rumored to mutter, after being served yet another dinner of steak, "Can't we just have hot dogs?". But he was rusty, having not butchered in many years.



My Dad has more recent experience in that he processes his deer yearly and he has put many pheasants in the freezer though the years. So with metal cone in hand, he and my Mom came over and went to work.



Mom = child care (22 months is just a little too young to pluck)

Me = Water boiler, assistant rooster catcher and supply runner

Roy = Rooster catcher, processing assistant

Dad = Head processor and person who knows what he is doing



Dad borrowed a metal cone from a friend and he hung it out behind the shed. Roy and I caught the first rooster, I gave him a little pat on the head to say goodbye, and Roy took him to the cone. Dad cut the throat and drained the blood and this was pretty much what we did the next three times. Four roosters all together. All the same, except for the last one. The hens knew something was up. But instead of ganging up and shoving him out the coop door, they started protecting him. He was in the corner of the coop between a bale of straw and a nest box. There was 6 hens literally sitting around him, circling the wagons. Another was curled up under him and another was standing guard on top of the straw bale. There is nothing else I can say about this except people can say and believe anything they want, but I believe that animals are smart, have feelings, and unique personalities.

I stayed in the coop because I could not watch. Yes, you read correctly. Big bad do-it-yourself homesteader could not kill her own roosters. Couldn't even watch. Couldn't even pluck!!!!

WHY?

Why couldn't I?

I have been eating white meat my whole life. I know that the pre-cut pieces I buy at the store were once living, breathing animals. Granted, we only buy hormone and antibiotic free organic meats, but it is still meat.

I buy it, I cook it and I serve it to my family.

So why couldn't I deal with the source of our food?

For all intents and purposes, this was going to be the best chicken we could have. We knew exactly what they were eating, how they were cared for and how they were killed. This was what I wanted - to know my food source and to be 100% sure about every aspect of it.

But i couldn't watch, I couldn't participate in the process and I wasn't sure I would be able to cook and serve the meat. I was even feeling very uneasy about making the decision in the first place. Couldn't i have built another pen? A larger pen to give everyone more room? Gotten more hens to even out the numbers? I felt guilty. I felt like a murderer. These were my animals, under my care. How could I do this to them? What was their crime?

I felt like a willing executioner for the rest of the day, even though I wasn't even the one who 'flipped the switch', so to speak. Hell, I wasn't even working at the power plant that supplied the proverbial electric for that switch.

Homesteaders should be able to deal with the rigors and stresses of killing dinner. In every year up until the invention of the supermarket, I am guessing, they did. Is it part of the configuration of modern homesteading that we do as much as we can for ourselves - gardening, sewing, home repair, milk and egg production, etc., and then use local services for the rest?

The word "modern" seems to give everything a whole new meaning. I am happy being a "modern" homesteader but I am still bothered by this inability to participate in the processing of my roosters. Is part of being a "modern" homesteader the unconscious incorporation of today's ideals into that homesteading effort?

Does the fact that I treat my cats like people and that my neighbor puts little sweaters on her dog influence how we feel about slaughtering our own poultry?

Do this also mean that we have the willingness to take care of our livestock as just that - livestock and not feathered pets? And along those lines, have we also lost the knowledge to do so? If the 'stuff' hits the fan some day, will we all be nerds looking up self-sufficiency skills in The Encyclopedia of Country Living?

Sunday, January 2

Confirmation



We have confirmation of 4 Rhode Island Red roosters in our coop of 18 hens.

Even a beginner like me can tell that this is not good.

The hens are showing signs of wear and tare. And being in the coop on most days since it has been so cold here is only making things worse. Bickering and fighting has broken out. Feathers are flying.

We are "processing" the roosters shortly.

Mitten/Orange Mentality

I have been knitting like crazy here for the past few months, making Christmas socks and socks for me. Yes, I am obsessed with knitting socks. Since I figures out how I can not stop - knit 2, purl 2, eye of partridge, turn that heel!



So much so that my right thumb and index finger are chapped and cracked. Ouch!



Oh, the pains of homesteading.....



The people I gave socks to all loved them but i can not help but wonder about the general mentality of receiving home made gifts. When i was a kid, getting a home made gift was kind of like getting cheated out of a real gift. There was disappointment there. Now I know better, or course, and home made gifts are the best kind. But are we too entrenched in store bought that we can't go back to having home made mean more?

I always think about the episode of Little House where they are celebrating Christmas in their little sod house and the girls got mittens that Ma made. I thought to myself, "That is so cool and it would be so much fun to celebrate Christmas like that." But a small part of me kind of felt sorry for them. Maybe that is not the right way to say it. In fact, i am really not sure how to put it into words. I think that I, as well as most people, take for granted that we can go to the store and buy numerous, expensive Christmas gifts. Reading Christmas stories from the early 1900's tells us that getting an orange in your stocking was the biggest treat ever. When I heard those stories as a kid, I just couldn't understand why.

Are we too far gone? Can we get that mitten/orange mentality back? Will our children, or our generation for that matter, be able to look at home made gifts in the way they should be? Or will there always be that little feeling of disappointment?