Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Welcoming back the Boers

Our Ag teacher friend and her husband drove the Boer doelings back to our place the weekend before last.  They had finished their round of shows and it was time for them to come home.

Even though the Boer kids have been to the big city and were sporting fancy ribbons (don't ask me which, although I know it wasn't First or I'd be bragging), that didn't stop the rest of the herd from picking on them.  There was lots of head butting, rearing up, chasing around and butt sniffing.  Pickles doeling, Dilly, was even severely butted by her own mother when trying to nurse.  I figured that the doeling had been weaned long enough that she wouldn't try to sneak a snack from her mom, but I guess I was wrong.

We did sponsor three Boer kids for the shows, but we only got the two doelings back.  Gimpy (the goat with the messed up back legs) didn't do as well as the gals weight-wise so he's being kept at the school barn to fatten up a little more before we butcher him.  I figure we'll split the carcass with Adrian (the Ag teacher) and her husband for all the livestock related favors they've been doing for us lately.

The Boer doelings weighed in at just under 70 pounds each and they're seven months old.  I'm not exactly sure what I had expected, but I was really thinking they would weigh more by now.  But given that we don't have fancy pants breeding stock, I suppose we got what we paid for.

I'm not sure if I'll be breeding the Boer doelings this year or not.  If so, I'll wait until as late as possible in the breeding season to do so, probably around December.  Herman will have his last shot at the girls this year and then it will be off to the sale barn with him and Studly DoRight will take his place.  Wish I could get rid of Herman sooner as I can smell him as soon as I walk out of the house in the morning.  Not nearly as stinky as our previous Nigerian Dwarf buck, but stinky enough.
Can you smell Fall in the air?  All I smell is buck goat pee.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Poop carpet

It's been a busy weekend.  Or week.  Or whatever the hell it has been for whatever time I've been doing "nothing" around here.  Or maybe it just seemed really busy and hectic because I was sick.  It's hard to concentrate on any chore when your body is creating that much snot.  Really....where does it all come from?!?

Anyways.  Between sneezing and nose-blowing, I managed to do the bare minimum of barn chores last weekend.  Hay was haphazardly pitched to goats.  Chicken feed was flung in the general direction of the chickens.  Paul took care of the mule.  The hog was....wait a second, I didn't do a darned thing with the hog.  Nevermind.

But what eventually caught up with me was the Creepy Meat pen.  I've been meaning to move them to the larger pen, but of course, have been putting it off.  There are thirty-two, not-so-little-anymore, eating and crapping machines in that pen.  And that pen needs to have fresh straw laid down (on top of the poop) twice a day and the entire pen cleaned out every two days or it gets too heavy to move and the smell becomes unbearable.

I had managed to go four days without tossing out the bedding; I just kept adding clean bedding on top of the poopy bedding so they didn't have to sit in their own crap.  Although in all honesty, they do end up sitting in their own crap because thirty seconds after I put fresh bedding down, they're shooting out shit torpedoes.  It will never cease to amaze me how much crap those birds crap out.
Small Creepy Meat Pen, cleaned just now.
There will be a carpet of poop in there before
the end of the day.
The birds have obviously outgrown their enclosure and I put them in the larger pen this afternoon.  Which they soiled immediately.  As soon as I get my useless butt in gear, I'll a clear runway for the chicken tractor and I'll shove them in there and just move the tractor every day to fresh, un-poopy ground.

I took a picture of the Creepy Meats about twenty minutes after I put them in the larger pen.  They had emptied the three feed containers.  One of them was sitting in the container, crapping himself while pecking at what was left of the crumbles.  If you wonder why they are called Creepy Meats (I cannot claim ownership of the name "Creepy Meat", I believe OFG has that honor), just take a look at this picture:
Creepy, no, Nasty Meats.
There is no doubt in my mind that these Cornish Cross cockerels give you the most bang for your buck.  These birds do nothing but eat, sleep (I think) and shit.  And look at them.  Their crops are huge from the amount of feed that they voraciously ingest and their back ends are distended from the massive quantity of food that their intestines have to process.  I took note when they started acting food-crazy; one week.  In just one week, the little fluffy chicks turned into a bunch of insane, food-driven, eating machines.  It was like just one day they came running to the feed dish, like they hadn't been fed for weeks, pushing, shoving & climbing over their pen mates to get to the crumbles.  They're like chicks addicted to crack and haven't had a fix.  This seems all harmless and benign at first, but they will soon be weighing five or six pounds.  And there will be over thirty of those crazed effers crazily flapping their useless wings and trying to beat me down with their oversized, shit-stained, velociraptor-looking feet in order to get to the bucket of feed before their brothers do.

It's like a scene out of Hitchcock's The Birds.  But with really, really fat birds.

But at least I have some control over them.  And I could probably out run them.  Unless they all ganged up on me at once and I slipped on a slick of shit and fell down in the pen and they pecked me to death and then started to eat me because there wasn't any more crumbles left.  Paul wouldn't know what happened to me; he'd probably figure I was out somewhere doing nothing.  There might be a pile of bones, but they'd be covered with a three inch layer of mostly digested chicken crumbles and if you've ever had a chicken poop on your car, you know that stuff can take the paint right off so I'm sure it wouldn't be long before even my bones were dissolved into the much of the pen floor.

Wow.  Where did that come from?

It's been a long day (night...actually morning again now.  whatever).

The things I'll do to get a chicken dinner.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ribs. That's why.

We still have a good amount of pork in the freezer.  And deer season is just around the corner.  So exactly why did I end up buying another 240 pounds of meat at the fair?  Well, besides the fact that I was unsupervised and had a couple of bucks in my back pocket.

Because each hog has a limited amount of bacon and only two slabs of ribs:
Half slab of yummy porky rib goodness from last year's hog.
Now if the science geeks and the animal husbandry guys can get together to make a hybrid hog that puts out a carcass that yielded only ribs and bacon, I'd be one happy camper.  Although I wonder what the hog would look like.  Wait a second, don't even go there, you'll ruin my happy dream of a BaconRib Hog.

Freezer space is going to be at a premium very, very soon.  That is why I intend on canning everything possible from our deer hunts.  I made shredded BBQ deer, stew chunks & ground venison and canned it last year.  I really like the convenience of having "Heat & Eat Meat" on the pantry shelves especially when I haven't defrosted anything from the freezer.  Open a few cans of beans, tomatoes, seasoning & add the ground venison for an easy homemade chili.  Grab a package of hamburger buns on the way home from work (or make your own), heat up the BBQ venison and you've got yourself a mean sandwich.

I haven't canned anything pig related though, and I might try that this year.  Because even if I do end up canning or jerky'ing all the deer meat we'll still be tight on freezer space after we butcher Yummy in a few weeks.

I might have to defrost the last slab of ribs in order to make more room in the freezer.  I'm sure my daughter won't mind another helping.

Have any of you canned pork?  If so, would you like to share recipes with us?  I'd be grateful for the help and ideas :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Absentee Pig Keepers

I bought a hog at the County Fair last Friday.  It was trailered from the fair to it's new home by our Ag teacher friend and she and her students are caring for it during the week at the barn.  My job was to take care of the hog on the weekends when the kids weren't at school.

So yesterday I packed Grandma and Rhiannon in the car and we all went to check on "Yummy".  Yummy was previously named "Bacon", but the other Grandma said she didn't like that name so Rhiannon re-named him "Yummy".  Probably not exactly what Grandma had in mind, but that's too bad.  You're not supposed to name the animals we're going to eat anyhow.  He's lucky he's got a name.

Anyways, we fed Yummy and gave him an apple core for dessert.  I don't think he's ever seen an apple.  Before we got him he was on "show pig" food and now he's on a basic hog grower feed.  It's not the most cost-effective strategy, but since he's not at our place we can't give him our scraps, extra milk or eggs, nor can we use all the wild forage in the woods to fatten him up.

I filled up his water tube (a 4' tall, 6" wide PVC pipe open at the top, sealed at the bottom with a metal nipple at the base), hosed him off a little and we said goodbye to Yummy and made our way home.

It was a 27.4 mile round-trip drive.  Again, not very cost effective.  This pig is going to cost us more than I thought.

So after talking with the Ag teacher (Adrian), we decided that we would pay one of the kids that also had hogs at the barn to feed Yummy on the weekends.  I would pay the kid $10 each weekend, but not directly in cash.  Adrian smartly decided that instead of giving the kid ten bucks each weekend to blow on soda or whatever it is pre-teens do with a Hamilton, that I would put it towards his show animal for next year's County Fair.  This way he wouldn't have to run around trying to scrape up money (apparently like every 4-H'er does when they want to get a show animal) next Spring.  It probably won't buy an animal outright, but it would be a nice start.

It seems that we may not see Yummy more than a few times before he's put in the freezer.  This isn't exactly how I envisioned our first foray into pig-keeping would turn out, but so far it seems as if it will work.  And I won't have to.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Armadillo Hunter

About a month ago, we noticed a few dead armadillos around the property.  Didn't think much of it as we have a bunch of them around here and didn't really mind as the buggers are constantly digging up the garden and rooting around the fruit trees.

But then we started noticing more.  And a few more.  As the summer wore on, our noses, not our eyes, were what alerted us to additional armadillo bodies.  Either that, or we'd just follow the circling vultures to their picnic of bloated and rotting armadillo flesh.

After doing some Hillbilly CSI on a recently departed (and not yet smelling so bad as to make one want to immediately wretch into one's overalls) armadillo carcass, I noticed that there were puncture wounds on either side of it's midsection.  It would have to be a pretty big mouth to get around that body.  And none of the carcasses were eaten (other than by the vultures and that was after the fact); they were just killed and left to rot.  It also seems that the perpertrator isn't killing because it's hungry (because he gets dog food with eggs & milk & meat on top).   It appears we have a Thrill Killer on our hands.  But without photographic evidence of the crime in process, I cannot positively identify the perpertrator, but I have a pretty good idea who it may be......
Don't let that sweet, sad, floppy face fool you.  If you're
an armadillo, you'd better run.
He's lucky that he isn't chasing down any of the livestock.  Not that I think he could actually catch a chicken unless it decided to roost right in between his big, club-like paws.  But apparently armadillos aren't smart enough to move away from him.  Have you ever happened upon an armadillo at night?  I've gone out in the woods at night to check out the strange rustling noises.  Normally when one goes to see what creature is making noise out in the woods, as soon as you get close, whatever it was sprints out of the area.  But not armadillos, and that's why I can usually tell what it is before even seeing it because the dipsticks don't bother to run away, they just keep digging through the leaves, and make quite the rukous while doing so.  I've actually poked a few of them with the tip of the shotgun.  Sometimes they get startled, other times they just trot off a bit and continue their grub hunting.

But it seems that they have not yet adapted to this particular ecosystem and the Giant Sloppy Dog that resides in it may make this particular group of armadillos extinct.  Maybe I can get to the carcassas early enough  that I can start making these things:

Wonder how they would go over as Christmas presents this year?  I bet my Mom would put it on her nightstand.

Or not.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weather Report: Beautiful weekend under County Fair skies

We had a busy and fun filled weekend at the County Fair.  The weather was awesome.  There have been some years when the temps were in the 90's but this time we were blessed with low to mid 70's and partly cloudy to sunny skies.  There was a little bit of mist on the first day we went, but nothing that would have kept us at home.  The mild weather was perfect for the fair-goers, but especially nice for the livestock.

And you know, that's what the County Fair is all about.  The livestock.

I don't remember attending any County Fairs growing up.  Probably because we lived in suburbia and County Fairs were substituted with  Town "Fests", which were basically carnivals, food vendors, live entertainment and fireworks.  I think our town had brought in a petting zoo for some of the Fests, but that was about all you got in terms of animals.  To see honest-to-goodness livestock, one had to travel a couple of hours west to DeKalb County's Fair or go to the Springfield State Fair.

So when we moved out here, I was thrilled to be in an area where the County Fair was really a big deal.  I mean, you hear people talking about next year's Fair even before the current one is over with.  I suppose that's what happens in more rural areas, even nowadays.  I'm glad that we belong to a community that takes pride in their pigs, gets giddy with their goats, coo over their cattle and can literally talk turkey.  And that's just the livestock.  The displays for home canned goodies, homemade pies and other delectables was awe-inspiring.  The craft section was also a sight to behold with all the quilts, although I admit that I saw one too many of those crocheted toilet paper covers that look like southern bells.  I mean, do people actually use those things?!?  Anyhow.  It's nice to know that there are still people, young people at that, who take pride in being able to actually make something with their own two hands.

Rhiannon and I visited our Boer kids that were being shown by the local FFA group and sat through some of the dairy and meat goat judging.  Our goats didn't do bad, but neither did they get Grand Champion or First Place or whatever it's called.  I think we got a second & third place (although there were only five in that group, so that really isn't saying much), but we really weren't in it for the ribbons anyhow.  But come on, who wouldn't be just a little bit proud of a big ol' blue ribbon?  I was hoping to get a better grasp of how the whole show thing worked, but didn't get involved enough with the kids (goat kids or human kids doing the showing) so that was pretty much a bomb.  I'm hoping to get together again soon with our Ag teacher friend and pick her brain about it.  Maybe we'll sponsor goats again next year and I'll let Rhiannon show one as well.
After saying hello to our goats, we did the rest of the livestock circuit; cattle, pigs, rabbits, poultry.  And Rhiannon and Grandma got up close & personal with our newest addition:
The Ag teacher heard it through the grapevine that someone wanted to sell one of their hogs so she introduced pig-seller to potential-pig-buyer, we negotiated a price and I was suddenly the proud owner of a pig.  Just like that.  Really.  Just like that.  Dangerous, being able to just go up to somebody, give them $240 and you got yourself a 240 pound pig.  I didn't have a trailer with me and I didn't have a pig pen set up.  Heck, I didn't even know what to feed this thing.  I mean, I've read (and re-read now that I'm in this particular situation) Ohio Farmgirl's"Pigs" posts, but I still didn't have any idea what we were going to do with this porker.

Luckily for me, we were able to have it hauled to the Ag teacher's barn where "Bacon" will reside until the first cold weekend when we will haul it here and put that two hundred plus hunk o' meat into the freezer.  The Ag teacher (and most likely her student underlings) will take care of Bacon during the school week and I'll take care of him on the weekend.  Sweet deal, if you asked me.  We didn't have to make a last-second, half-assed pig pen and I only have to deal with the animal twice a week.  Of course, we intend on paying back the kindness with porky-goodness conveniently packaged in white butcher paper.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

She who cannot be left alone

My husband could give me a credit card and drop me off at Macy's for the afternoon without batting an eye.  Because he knows that I would'nt spend a flat dime.

But do you know what happens when you let your wife go to the County Fair with a couple of greenbacks in her back pocket?
That's what he gets for not coming with.

Details to follow.  Because even I still don't know exactly what the details are.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

She Who Cannot Make Cheese

Warning:  This post was originally started at 10:24 Thursday morning after having yet another batch of goat milk mozzarella turn out unsuccessfully.  To say that I was upset would be a severe understatement and any and all attempts to censor my obvious frustration have been ignored in order to provide you with the most honest and truthful account of what transpired that morning.  Pictures have been added (as well as this "Warning") after the initial writing, but none of the f-bombs have been omitted nor have I bothered editing it to provide a more fluid blog post.  So if you're a big stinking puss-puss and are easily offended by the occasional (well, a bit more frequent than occasional) f-bombs, come back tomorrow when I will have hopefully calmed down and will post pictures of our time at the County Fair.
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Why am I unable to consistently make a batch of mozzarella (or yogurt, now that I think about it)? It's not like I haven't tried.  And tried.  And then tried some more.  My mozzarella successes are sporadic at best.  Did my ancestors from long ago commit some heinous crime against the pagan gods and they and their future progeny were from then on forever cursed as not to be able to successfully make any type of processed dairy product?  I don't know why I even bother anymore.  It's like I either totally forget the clusterfuck that happened the last time I tried to make cheese (or yogurt) or I'm too stinking stubborn and think that this is going to be the time I make a good batch?

So, back to how it all began:  After I milked the goats this morning, I noticed that there was a backlog of milk.  There were six half-gallon jars of milk in the fridge and I was running out of room and running out of jars.  It's was still early, barn chores were done, Rhiannon was playing downstairs and it was raining so there wasn't anything I could really do outdoors.  Great day to make a few batches of Mozzarella, I thought to myself.  What a fucking moron I am.

So I grabbed four jars of milk and brought out two of my large pots and gathered the other necessary cheese making supplies; citric acid, rennet, spoons, measuring cups, measuring spoons, cheesecloth and colander.  Even though the utensils were already cleaned, I washed them up again and laid everything out on paper towels on the the just-cleaned-again counter top.

I followed the recipe that I thought was my new "favorite" and which I had successfully made two, maybe three batches of 30-Minute Mozzarella (30MM).

Oh, and since I'm pissed and ranting, you know what I think about  those 30MM recipes?  There's no fucking way it takes just thirty minutes to make this mozzarella.  Even on the best of days.  Somewhere on those "30 Minute Mozzarella" websites there must be hidden text in super-micro-fine-print that says this:

This 30-Minute Mozzarella will take thirty minutes only if the following procedures are adhered to:

You must have all items already set out and cleaned for you.
You must have all children, pets, or other distractions at either at grandma's house, immobilized or otherwise neutralized.
The Moon must be in the waxing phase and Venus must be in retrograde.
You must have someone else clean up the mess because there sure shit isn't any way you're going to get this all done if you include set-up and clean-up time.
It's Tuesday.

Apparently I am doing something terribly wrong.  What other excuse is there that I cannot, for the life of me, consistently make mozzarella cheese?  There could be some bearded ISIS wackjob with a machete held up to my throat and he could say "Make Mozzarella or DIE, infidel!  Yaah-yahh-Waa-Waa-Waa, Allah is great!" and I couldn't do it.  My severed and bloody head would be rolling on the kitchen floor and the cats would be jumping on it or chewing on my severed esophagus.

I have no other explanation.

Do I have maggots crawling around in my kitchen compost bucket?  Do I have cat turds on my counter top? Do I have rotting food sitting on my stove?  No to all three.  Although I do believe that there's still some partially dried cat vomit in the basement because I heard one of the furry shits yacking last night but never found the evidence.

But to disclose the not-so-clean aspects of our home farm: I do have cats in the house (cat hair occasionally seen floating around).  We do live on a farm (poopy shoes).  I do have a 5-year old child (sticky fingers everywhere).  And we do occasionally go out in public so may be inadvertently carrying some sort of bad bacteria on our clothes (summer flu anyone?).

But.......Have I cleaned the counter tops & cheese-making equipment with soap & hot water and even bleach?  Yes.  Have I done just about everything I possibly can to make this an environment safe and clean for making cheese?  I think so.  But I still can't get this fucking cheese to become "Cheese"!!  What the hell do I have to do?  Do I have to set my kitchen up like that scene from E.T. and buy a damned autoclave for sterilizing everything in my kitchen?

Humans have been making cheese for thousands of fucking years using the intestines from newborn, just-slaughtered calves, and I'm pretty sure they didn't have any bottles of 409 sitting around.  They even made different varieties of cheeses, without stainless steel pots and utensils, digital thermometers or even fancy-pants, scientifically formulated bacteria cultures.  I could be in a Cheese-Showdown with a Neanderthal and the ancient brute who knows nothing about modern hygiene (or modern plumbing) would make a better fucking cheese than me.  I'd have all the modern gizmos and he'd have a dead opossum, dunk it up and down in his goat skin bag filled with week old milk, then let it sit out in the sun and he'd get a smooth, creamy Gorgonzola while I sit there with a handful of white crap indistinguishable from E.coli laden vanilla ice cream cat vomit.

But I regress........All I wanted to do was make a couple of batches of homemade mozzarella to put on our pizza tonight.  And two hours - two fucking hours - later, I end up with a barely edible ricotta'ish cheese that I will more than likely hurl at the chickens in a fit of rage after I taste it again.

I followed the recipe to a T.  I waited for the curd to set.  Which it kind of did.  And that's when my blood pressure started to rise, because I knew that it was all downhill from there.  I let the curd sit for a half hour (even though it's only "supposed" to take ten minutes.....my ass ten minutes) and it still wasn't as firm as it should be, but I went ahead with the next step.  And downhill we continued, every minute that went by my tolerance for anything cheese or milk or dairy related plummeted.  I was swearing at the pot of "curds", I was swearing at the cats, I was swearing at the dishrag.

But, stubborn ol' me still tried to save this cheese-abortion.  I strained the non-curd mess through the cheesecloth, trying to save some - any - of the "curds".  After a solid fifteen minutes of screwing around with that, I put the mass into the microwave to heat it up again, hoping it would firm up so I could stretch it.  No such luck.  All I did was manage to give myself third-degree fucking burns from manhandling the blob of nuclear hot pseudocheese.  So I put it through the cheesecloth again and drained more whey out of it.  And when I say "drained" I mean I squeezed the shit out of it until little streams of molten hot cheese crap shot out of a tiny hole in the cloth.

So basically I now had a bunch of dry & grainy ricotta cheese.  If I had wanted fucking ricotta cheese, I would have made fucking ricotta cheese.  And it wouldn't have taken this fucking long either!  I would have simply stuck the milk in a pot, heated it on the stove, poured a glug of vinegar in the pot, stirred it & put a lid on it to cool on the counter top.  And then, hours later, I would have calmly taken the pot of whey/ricotta, poured it  through cheesecloth, hung it and been done with it.  No swearing.  No throwing of spoons.  No babying the milk temperature, no messing around with rennet or citric acid.

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I wish I could say that there was a happy ending to this all.  I really do.  But there isn't.  There just isn't.

We had Chinese for supper tonight.

And there wasn't an ounce of fucking cheese in it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

And she let out a horrified "Gasp!"

Ever read a part in book that says, "...and she let out a gasp and clutched her chest" or, "....she gasped at the dreadful scene".

I don't think I've ever (or at least in recent memory) *gasped*, at least not like they show in the movies or write in books.  You know, that authentic kind, where something really does take you by complete surprise and fills you with horror, and you let out that unique sound caused by the sudden sucking-in of air, and maybe even clutch your chest or your eyes instantly grow wide from taking in the gasp-inducing scene.

But this weekend, I gasped.  A honest-to-goodness gasp.  Because while I was yanking 100' of hose behind me to fill stock tanks in the goat / chicken pen, I saw this:
Now, if you weren't familiar with our farm and the recent daily rituals involved with working with our livestock,  you would probably say to yourself, "Oh, the door to the pen is open.  I should probably shut that when I get a chance."  But the scene before my eyes filled me with horror.  Because behind that supposed-to-be-closed door were our thirty-two, week-old Cornish cross chicks.

I didn't freak because I thought that the chicks could have jumped out; there's a 2x6 board across the bottom of the doorway so the chicks would have to really, really try to jump out of the pen.  And then I'd probably find them somewhere close by or more than likely, right on the other side of the pen, peeping away, trying to get back inside the pen to be with their brothers and the pan filled with chick feed.

What I was afraid of was this:

The goats are the biggest bunch of feed gluttons I've even encountered (including myself).  And they will do anything, ANYthing to get their maws on grain, or in this case, chick feed.  Every single one of them have this incredible, insatiable appetite for chicken feed, which is, by the way, very bad for them.  So I have to keep all feed, especially chicken feed, safely locked away from the marauding caprine horde.

Long ago, Nettie figured how to open every latch that barred her from gaining access to whatever munchies lay beyond said secured door.  I've watched her bump and nudge and jiggle and bang and mouth one of those latches for ten minutes until it finally shook loose.  So every door has a lock of some sort.  Including the pen that contains thirty-two future chicken dinners.  It appears that I latched, but failed to lock the pen last time I was in there.

The open door wasn't the biggest problem and the goats getting into the limited amount of chick crumbles wasn't that big of a deal either.  The problem would be the pushing and shoving and stomping and general ruckus that would ensue when the goats realized that there was a pan of chick feed up for grabs and would no doubt mean disaster for the tiny chicks.  So when I saw that open door (see picture #1), I dropped the hose and ran (yes, I actually ran) towards the chick pen, screaming obscenities all the way.

I found Chop Suey and Penny in the pen.  The feed pan was, of course, licked clean.  It practically sparkled.  I screamed at the goats in the pen and they (wisely) practically jumped over me to get out of the pen and as far away from my size 9 shoe as possible.  In the seconds between me seeing the open door and the moment I got into the barn, I had horrible visions of $80 and two weeks worth of work pummeled into the straw bedding, white feathers stained blood red mingled with pinkish chunks of chick flesh. But to my utter amazement and relief, not a single chick was dead.  The only casualty seems to be a chick with a sore leg.  I don't know how the chicks managed to avoid being beat into a fleshy pulp by sixteen or more pointy goat feet, but they did.

Remember that authentic *Gasp* I let out?

Well, it was followed by a bona fide **Whew!***.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Shake n' Bake Bunny

I know I used the above picture already, but I just LOVE it!  Isn't it grand having a sister that does desktop publishing for a living?

So, I made our first domestic rabbit for supper a few days ago.  Not being confident enough to even fry a chicken, I didn't want to screw up our first rabbit.  I thought about tossing it into the pressure cooker and having shredded rabbit and gravy or rabbit tacos (Kelly had my mouth watering when she said that was what she had for supper) or rabbit pot pie, but I really wanted to taste a somewhat unadulterated rabbit.  You know.  To find out if it really did taste like, well, chicken.

So I figured the easiest and most fool-proof way to cook up that sucker would be to do a "Shake 'n Bake".  But it wasn't like I could just toss the entire carcass into the the bag, so I had to cut it up.  Which I've never done before.  Enter the internet.  There were about thirteen thousand posts on cutting up a rabbit so I just clicked on the easiest looking one.  And basically, it's just like cutting up a chicken.  The only thing I changed was that instead of just cutting through the backbone, I de-boned it as not to have any more bones in supper than necessary.

I tossed a bunch of seasonings and a small glug of oil in a bag with a bunch of bread crumbs and proceeded with the "Shake" from my supper To-Do list.  I stuck the coated pieces on a greased baking sheet in the oven at 325 degrees for an hour.  The back legs definitely needed the entire hour (maybe even an hour & fifteen), but the rest could have done just as well at just under an hour of cooking.
Looks and tastes pretty much like, well, chicken. 
It tasted fine, although the front legs were a bit chewy.  Paul said he could take it or leave it.  Rhiannon had the back (i.e. meatiest) pieces and ate it without even flinching.  So all in all, it was a pretty good supper, but I think I'll pressure cook the remaining two rabbits and make rabbit & dumplings or rabbit pot pie.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Butchering Bunnies

By now, you all know what's coming when that ^ is the first picture you see; butchering pics.  Normally I would have gone with a Cat themed so-cute-you-wanna-puke picture, but I saw the bunnies and thought it more fitting.  In a sick and twisted kind'a way.

If you read my last post, you already know that we were the recipients of four New Zealand meat rabbits.  I didn't have cages set up, I didn't have feed for them, food bowls or water bowls set up for them.  Because they were not going to be staying for supper.  They were going to be supper.

Never having to dispatch a rabbit up-close and personally (they are usually dead via lead projectiles when I pick them up), we asked the man who we got the rabbits from how he did it.  He said a quick, sharp blow to the back of the head did them in instantly.  So we figured if he did it hundreds of times like that, we could do the same.  Although I did question if it was more humane to be cracked in the back of the head with a nightstick than getting a .22 in the skull.

Paul grabbed a rabbit out of the cage and held it up by it's back legs.  It kicked for a bit but once it settled down he took the nightstick and gave it a firm crack right between the head and the shoulders.  The rabbit was dead instantly.  There was a little bit of twitching, but no more than I would have expected had use used a firearm.  And this was obviously much safer.

Skinning & butchering rabbits is a cakewalk compared to just about any other animal and this is the main reason we even contemplate raising them for the freezer.

Once the rabbit was dead, Paul held it over the gut bucket (i.e. 5-gallon bucket) to catch the blood.  There was more than I had anticipated given we didn't slit it's throat to drain it, although subsequent rabbits' throats were slit because there was a little blood in the carcass of the first one.  After the blood stopped, he put it on the cutting board and started the skinning.

Rabbit skin is very, very thin.  If one were so inclined, I bet you could skin it without using a knife by just tearing a hole in the hide and ripping it off.  But we opted for using a knife.  Paul pulled the skin on the middle of the back and made a slice through the fur/skin.  Normally when we skin an animal, we'll cut through the hide up through the belly, but rabbits have very little muscle in this area and it would be very easy to cut right through the belly and into the stomach / intestine.  You don't want to cut into the guts and chance contaminating the meat.  So by cutting the back, we totally avoid any mishaps.
Slit made in the middle of the rabbit's back.
After the slice was made in the back skin, each of us grabbed a side and we both pulled, Paul towards the head and me towards the back feet.  When the hide got to the back feet, Paul used a pair of kitchen shears to cut the back feet off.
Grab a hold & pull both ways.
Hind legs coming off.
On the other end, when the hide got to the front legs, you just poke your finger or thumb through the armpit and peel away the skin.  Then you continue pulling the hide up to the skull.  Once we got to the skull, we used the shears to sever the neck and that was it!  The only fur left on the rabbit was the tail.

Is it just me, or does this remind you of Lady Gaga on stage?
I didn't get any pictures of the gutting, but it basically goes like any other disembowelment.  Make a slice through the abdomen muscle (Carefully!  It's very, very thin.) up to the rib cage, being very careful not to cut into the stomach or intestines.  Then cut through the ribs (we used kitchen shears) and shove your hand up in there and pull everything out, down towards the back legs.  Don't keep yanking though, because you need to make a cut around the tail and anus to release the intestine/colon/anus from the animal without spilling any of the contents (i.e. pee & poop) and contaminating the meat.

Once all the insides were outside, we cut the gall bladder from the liver and saved that (the liver, not the gall bladder) and the heart.  Liver for me, heart, kidneys, lungs for Charlie.  Gave the carcass a good hose-down and put it into a bucket filled with ice water.

After Paul finished the second rabbit, he asked if I wanted to kill one.  Well, I really didn't want to (not because I'm squeamish, but because I'm just generally lazy), but figured I should know how to do it.  I grabbed myself a rabbit from the cage and it almost kicked out of my hand.  It was deceptively strong and I almost lost it.  Charlie was disappointed that I held on as I'm sure he would have had a grand time chasing it down and munching on it.  After it stopped kicking, I firmly held the the nightstick in my right hand, held the rabbit in my left, raised the stick.....and totally missed the rabbit and cracked my lower shin.  Yes, I heard an audible "crack".

But you would all be so very proud of me as I didn't utter a single swear word.  Paul did say that I had a very pained look on my face.  As I would expect as when I handed the rabbit and stick over to Paul and ran my hand over the already black & blue area where stick met my shin, I felt a large divot where there was no longer any muscle, but an area of mashed tissue and possibly chipped bone.  Lesson learned?  Hold the rabbit up with your arm extended straight out, as in this picture:
Do NOT hold the rabbit close to one's leg, like this:
Paul says that the follow-through is also important.  Even if you have your arm extended, you may whack the rabbit, but if you continue the down stroke in a curve, you'll end up cracking the rabbit and your leg.  The remaining two rabbits were dispatched by Paul and butchered up.  While we were finishing with the last rabbit, one of Paul's fishing buddies pulled up to pick up his cooler.  This was the same cooler that was filled with Crappie a few days earlier.  And since he gave us his share of the Crappie, we gave him a dressed rabbit in return.  Pretty nice trade for both parties involved, if I do say so myself.

I weighed the four rabbits before I packaged them up.  Two weighed in at 2 lbs. 14 oz, one was 2 lbs. 12 oz and the last was 2 lbs. 10 oz..  In hindsight, I should have measured live weights so I had an idea what the live / butcher weight ratio was.  Oh well, maybe next time.

But I suppose that's the Big Question now.....will there be a next time?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Horse, I mean Goat, I mean, Rabbit Trading

I did some livestock trading this past weekend.  I have goats.  Too many goats.  I had Penny (the Boer/Nubian cross doe) in the local FB sale page a few months ago, but nobody was interested.  I put her back up for sale and figured I should list one of Annette's doelings for the heck of it.  I really didn't want to sell either of them, but honestly, I need to sell somebody.  They are going through grain like it's nobody's business and winter's coming up and our hay is slowly but surely dwindling.  Less mouths to feed equals less feed to buy.  Duh.

Well, within an hour, I had somebody inquire about her (dangit, I knew I should have asked for more).  Her being the doeling, not Penny.....of course. And less than 24 hours later, she was in the back of his pick up truck and I had some Federal Reserve Notes in my back pocket and a cage containing these buggers:
Charlie the GSD seems all too interested in the rabbits.
The man who bought Annette's doeling asked if I wanted to trade for poultry or rabbits so I agreed to four six-month old New Zealand rabbits.  Not for breeding, not for pets, but for immediate insertion into our freezer.  I've plugged about half a dozen wild cottontails here over the years, butchered 'em and cooked 'em, but we've never eaten a farm raised rabbit so this seemed like a nice opportunity to do so.

Not ten minutes after the dust settled from the pickup & doeling leaving our place, we had this set up and ready to go:

I'll let you in on how our bunny-butchering afternoon went in another post.  So if your stomach isn't up for pictures of white, fluffy things being bludgeoned to death and missing their skin, make a mental note to skip that post.  But I do promise to include supper pictures, which should make up for the butchering pics.

Or just make it worse.  Hmmmmm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Filling the Freezer with Fish

Paul and a couple of his buddies went overnight fishing this past weekend.  He came home from work, shoveled supper down his maw, and headed out to the lake before it got too dark.  Rhiannon and I leisurely finished our meal, visited with my sister and her husband and went home for the night.

While Rhiannon and I were soundly snoozing the darkness away, Paul and his boating cohorts were busy catching their limits and filling the cooler.  Around 5 am, I heard the sound of tires crunching on the gravel driveway and Paul pulled in.  I think I managed to open a still sleep encrusted eyelid and asked if he brought any fish home.  He grumbled something incoherent (either that or I was already asleep again) and fell into bed.

Later that morning, after barn chores and feeding the human offspring, I looked around for the cooler of fish.  Finally found it in the trunk of the car, opened it and "Ta-Da"!  A wonderful, beautiful, cooler full of crappie!
Cooler full o' Crappie!  
We normally don't eat fish here unless it's fresh from the local lakes or river, so to say a cooler full of fish made me happy would be an understatement.  Rhiannon, of course, had to see the fish, touch the fish, play with the fish, make the fish "talk", and poke at their eyeballs.  But come on, what kid doesn't want to poke at a dead fish eyeball?  Ok.  So it's just me and my kid.  Oh, and am I the only one, or does everyone else looke at the word "Crappie" and say in their head "Crap-E" before they can say "Crop-E"?  Ok.  So it's just me.

Paul was up by now (no thanks to Rhiannon and I clomping around the house, trying to be quiet) and he got ready to start filleting the fish.  I would have helped, but my sister was in so I had to spend some quality time with her before she left. 

After we got home from visiting, I found a bucket filled with ice water and fillets in the sink.  I packaged them up and stuck them in the freezer.  There was just over six pounds of fillets!  So once again, Paul was left to catch the fish, clean up the fish, and provide for his family.  

I love fish my husband!

Paul's Take
She always says, "You kill it, I'll clean it & cook it".  But it's funny how there always seems to be something else that interferes with the cleaning part and she's nowhere to be found.  I could have used some help filleting all those fish, but Nooooooo, she has to go somewhere and leaves me with the mess.  She'd better cook them up good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm milking in the rain, just milking in the rain

.....what a glorious feeling not to hear grass crunching again.

The sound of thunder woke me up (but didn't get me up) around 4 this morning.  Oh, what a delightful sound.  And the rain pelting against the windows was a wonderful lullaby.  The storm didn't last very long, but the rain kept up at a steady pace and it is still, and will continue raining for much of the day today if the radar is to be believed.

We soooo needed this rain.  I've given up on the tomatoes & peppers in the garden and my minuscule Fall Garden (which is really only a small hill of beans and five mounds of globe zucchini) was almost done in by the lack of rainfall and intense heat.  The grass in our yard probably won't be able to totally bounce back, it will just become wet and sodden dead brown grass.  We've had several casualties from the heat & lack of rain.  There are two small oak trees in the goat pen that have totally dried up (although it could be from whatever fungus is attacking the older oaks) and two of my blueberry bushes are now just krispy sticks, even with me having watered them throughout the heatwave.

I think I'm just going to have to give up on growing blueberries.  We've had different varieties over the course of four years now (maybe even five) and only one year did I get a dozen berries out of it.  I think the Ozark summer heat is just too much for them.  But then I wonder how the berry farm in town manages to keep theirs alive?  I just know I'm sick of spending fifteen bucks every time one dies, nursing the stick for two years and then have it turn into a dead stick.  Maybe once we get our Permaculture Garden going I'll stick some blueberry bushes in the partial shade of one of the mulberry or apple trees.  Oh!  And speaking of the future Permaculture Garden, lookie what we have for it:
Dirt!  Glorious dirt!  Well, dirt with some rocks, but I'll take it.
Paul managed to have some "dirt" and fill hauled over to our place last week.  The stuff that is mostly crunched up asphalt we'll put on our driveway and the stuff that was mostly dirt he dumped into the Permaculture Garden area.  I'm going to have to screen through it if I want to put it in raised beds, otherwise Paul is going to just distribute it throughout the area.  Unfortunately this area, as are most areas around here, is on a slope so I think we're going to have to make some berms every so often or rig up some sort of terrace system using large logs or all that dirt he just brought in will end up in the river.

The to-do list never ends, does it?