Friday, November 30, 2012

Tick tock

Once again, I can wander into the front yard without being overwhelmed by the noxious smell of goat piss.  It's only been two days since Pan left the homestead (again) and I am already enjoying the one less bastardofagoat goat chore I have to do.

It's not like it took that much time.  Walk over to this pen, dump some fresh hay in the corner, a small scoop of grain and top off the water bucket every few days.  But my daily barn chore burden has been lightened, if even ever so slightly.  And then I think to myself, Myself, if not having to care for this one animal feels so good, how wonderful would it feel if there were NO animals to take care of?

What would I do with all that extra time during the day?  Well, besides blog (which I really should do a lot less of anyhow).  I mean, think of all the possibilities.  I'd say that routine barn chores take up about ninety minutes a day.  That's over ten hours a week, forty-two hours a month or twenty-two days a year that I've spent doing animal chores.  There are a million things that need to be done to the house.  There are a thousand books that I still want to read and hundreds more I want to read to Rhiannon.  There are new garden beds to plan & dig, hoop houses & high tunnels to construct.

But I know exactly what would end up happening with that time.  I'd just fill it with some other "chore" and still be in the same situation I am in now.  The bathroom would still need the closet put in, the floors would still be unfinished, the outdoor kitchen still in the planning stage.  I'd still have Moby Dick sitting in my nightstand with the bookmark on page 24 (where it's been for the past two years).  That afghan that I was supposed to finish for my sister's best friend son (who is now 3 1/2 years old and has a baby sister) would still be rolled up in the closet, half finished.  And all the garlic that I bought and planned on putting in the ground a month ago will have been pilfered to be used in scrambled eggs or an alfredo sauce.

Exactly where am I going with this post?  I don't know.  I guess that I'm always complaining that there is not enough time in the day/week/month/year to do things, but there is plenty of time.  If it is that important, then I will make that time for myself and that project.  Notice I say this as I'm blogging away.  But technically, I really wouldn't be doing much more than sleeping as it's three thirty in the morning anyhow and it's not like I could start hammering away at the floor or dig up sod to make room for a garden bed.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
It's time to whip my slothness (and rear end) into shape.  My idle hands may not exactly be working for Satan, but they sure could be used to do something more constructive with the time I choose to give them.

"Time is a created thing.  To say 'I don't have time' is like saying, 'I don't want to." - Lao Tzu

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Milk anxiety

Both Annette and Nettie have been bred this Fall; we should have kids on February 28th and March 19th.  I wasn't able to procure a Saanen stud for Nettie so I had Pan breed her again.  Which I guess is ok as it's the last set of kids I'll get from him because just ten minutes ago I sold him for two bags of grain.  Seirously, I traded his bastardstinkyass for two fifty pound bags of cracked corn.  And I'm thrilled.

Anyways......I normally give the pregnant does a three month break from milking so it's about time I started drying Annette up and Nettie will follow a few weeks later.  And in anticipation of losing my supply of goat milk, I made a batch of granola.  I start thinking about how much I'm going to miss the fresh milk and then have sudden cravings for anything with milk in it.  Normally, cold weather would make me want to have a hot bowl of oatmeal or grits for breakfast, but I want to get in all the milk-filled breakfasts I can before the girls are dried up.

Speaking of goat pregnancies, when I first got Lily (the Boer doeling) I was afraid that she was pregnant.  Being as she wasn't even six months old, I chose to terminate her potential pregnancy using lutalyse.  If she was early along in her pregnancy, her body would reabsorb the fetus.  If she was farther along, she would go into labor and deliver a premature kid.  And if she wasn't pregnant in the first place, she would just go into heat.  I watched her closely for an entire week and didn't notice any blood, signs of labor, aborted kids or even signs of heat.  So maybe I was lucky and she wasn't even pregnant to begin with.  But I'm glad I gave her the lute anyhow otherwise I'd be going crazy wondering if she was going to kid at such a young age and have problems.  Technically, she could still be pregnant as lute isn't 100% effective, but she doesn't look like she's any bigger in the belly than when I first got her.  Still crossing my fingers though and still trying to catch her in heat so I can start tracking it.

Pickles has gone through several heat cycles already, her first one was when she was only three months old and one just a few days ago.  I don't plan on having her or Lily bred until spring, but I've never had year-round breeders so I want to keep good records for reference.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Help is on the way

If you didn't hear my pathetic cries for help last week, feel free to read them here so I may continue my pitiful electronic tale of woe via the infinite time/space/blog warp.

But I do have some good news.  I've started a little blog for those of us who need a place to whine, complain, cry, scream or just admit to someone out there that we've just finished an entire XL sized Hershey Symphony chocolate bar and the metal button on our jeans have made a permanent impression on our midsection.

This is going to be an "Invite Only" blog though.  Not that I'd purposely keep someone out that needs a helping hand.   But it's my blog and I can do whatever I want.  So there.

And it's just not for us Muffintops.  If you've been there / done that and can lend us some encouragement or exercising / dieting tips, feel fee to come along for the ride.  Unless you're really skinny and can eat an entire box of Girl Scout Cookies and not gain any weight all while saying "I'm soooo fat".  Then I'll let you join, but we'll just make faces at you when you're not looking.

If you are really nuts still think this is a good idea, please email me at carolynrenee at centurytel dot net.  You will then be subjected to a background check and employment verification as well as having to submit your high school SAT scores and provide a note from your mom that you do indeed floss.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unintentional Autopsy

There's been a black hen in our flock that has been pretty mopey for the last six months or more.  I know she wasn't laying for like ever and she was heavy in the abdomen so I figured I had yet another egg-bound hen.  But she'd have her good weeks and her bad days so I didn't put her down, although I probably should have.

The past week she'd been having trouble jumping up into the chicken coop at night so she's been roosting underneath the barn.  I'd pick her up and stuff her in a nesting box for the night because she couldn't keep herself upright on the perches.  Then a few nights ago I couldn't find her so figured she just either hunkered down someplace new or just keeled over.

I found her the next morning in the ditch next to the chicken coop.  Dead.  With her head and leg missing and her abdomen opened up.  Not sure if something killed her or some critter just took advantage of the carcass.  But regardless, I had an opportunity to verify my diagnosis of her being egg-bound and I didn't even have to open her up myself.

I didn't take a picture of it because 1) it was pretty gross 2) my camera batteries were dead and 3) there are plenty of pictures on the internet and you can click here for a picture if you really want to see what the softball-sized mass looks like when pulled out of the hen (just make sure you've already finished eating breakfast).

There have been three (four?) egg-bound hens here now in about two years time and after seeing what her insides looked like, I think I'd be quicker to put one down the next time I suspect a problem.  I know that there are ways you can try to release the egg if you catch the problem right away, and I have done my own exploratory stint with one of them which proved to be more difficult than I had hoped and neither I nor the hen could look each other in the eye afterwards.  But I've also read that some hens are pre-disposed to being egg-bound and that it is a continuing problem.  I don't particularly want to be giving chicken-enemas, soaking chicken behinds in warm water or end up donning rubber gloves again with a bottle of KY Jelly nearby.  And if it's hereditary, I don't need to be hatching any of that hen's eggs anyhow.

The next step would be to look up the possible causes of hens becoming egg-bound and see if there is something I can do to lessen the chances of this happening again.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Blanket for the Berries

There have been several of my blogging buddies that have posted about having to put their strawberry plants to bed for the winter.  This was our first year raising them so I'm a bit behind not only in the learning curve, but the tucking-in of our berries.  Which I only did because everyone else was doing it.

I quickly looked up wintering strawberries on the internet and one place said not to mulch until there were several hard freezes and after the plants went dormant.  Well, my plants were still nice & green, but we've had temps in the lower 30's for a solid week so I figured I may as well do it now before it got pushed all the way down on the get-to-it list.

So, what to mulch with?  Pine needles?  I wish.  We don't have a single pine tree on our property nor any nearby which I might rake up fallen needles from.  Straw?  Sorry, but I'm not paying six bucks a bale for straw.  Wasted hay?  No way!  I used wasted hay in the berry garden one year and I was pulling grass weeds throughout the entire growing season.  Didn't quite think that one through.  

So I look around and used what I have a ton of right now:

Leaves!  Tons and tons of leaves.  I didn't even have to walk more than fifteen feet from the garden to rake up enough to cover the beds.  I probably should have sucked them up with the leaf blower/chipper as to create a finer leaf-mulch but it was getting dark and I was running out of time.

So my first strawberry bed is finally tucked in for the winter.  

And now I've got mulch on the brain.  Since I've got to do something with all these stinking leaves around the house, I think I will I'll have Paul pull the leaf blower/chipper out of the shed so I can put a nice layer of mulched leaves in the gardens.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hillbilly Pat-hay

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  And if you're brave/crazy/brainwashed enough to brave the Black Friday insanity.......well, you're on your own!  :)

We finally finished butchering the Creepy Meats last week and I had twelve chicken livers sitting in the fridge.  Normally I bread and fry those suckers right up for a post-butchering lunch, but this time I wanted to try something different.

I believe it was Ohio Farm Girl who did a post on chicken liver pate` and since I love nothing more than a gout-inducing and artery-clogging snack, I figured I'd try my hand at it.  I looked up several recipes and here's my mish-mosh version of several of them:

1/2 lb. chicken livers
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
4 Tbsp. butter @ room temperature
Salt & Pepper to taste

Put all (except butter) into a small pot and simmer, covered, for about seven minutes.  Remove from heat, keep cover on & let sit another five minutes.  Drain liquid, remove bay leaf & put all into blender or food processor.  Chop it up until sort'a fine, then add the butter, 1 Tbsp. at a time while the blender is on.  Add a crank or two of pepper and a pinch more of salt.   Keep blending until it's nice and smooth.

Scoop all that liver/butter goodness out of the blender/food processor and transfer it into a pate` terrine or ramekin.  Neither of which I have.  So I used an old glass leftover container.  I almost used some hillbilly tupperware (i.e.old sour cream tub), but I figured I'd try to be a little bit fancy.

Anyhow, once you have the pate` in your chosen vessel, stick it in the fridge for at least four hours so it thoroughly chills.  The serve it over little fancy crackers.  Or in my case, plain ol' saltines.

The above recipe only has 4 tablespoons of butter in it.  I've seen recipes that call for as much as a stick & a half of butter for a half-pound of livers.  But since I'm trying to watch my weight (HA! And you wonder why I asked for help.), I thought I'd try with the least amount of butter.

The pate` was very good, but quite strong on the taste buds.  If I made it for company, I think I'd up the butter content to a half-stick (8 Tbsp.) and use only one clove of garlic in order to make it a bit milder on the palate.  I'm not sure how it measures up to "real" pate` as I haven't had any for probably close to ten years.

It was very easy recipe and I'll be making this again.  Maybe as a side dish with fried chicken livers.  But I'll have to wait until all the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten.  Which may be several weeks given the way the fridge is packed to not being able to close the door.  My little pate` dish wouldn't even fit in there now.

Paul's Take
Tastes like liver sausage.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Need some help, please

Ok, I'll admit that the holidays are no time to start a diet.  But I'm desperate.  Things like this have been happening to me lately:

I can't tie my shoes with my jeans on without stopping to gasp for air.
My "fat" jeans are now my "Did somebody put these things in the dryer for an hour or what???" jeans.
The drawers full of fuzzy, fluffy winter sweaters are starting to look like spandex on me.
I wish I had a muffin top.  I've got something akin to a meatloaf top now.
My tightwad self refused to buy clothes in a larger size.  So if I don't trim up some of this excess largeness, I will be wearing Paul's clothes or draping bed linens across my body like a toga.

I'm too cheap to join Weight Watchers.  And I doubt they even have a group out here anyhow.  Even if they did, I don't know if I'd be able to get into town often enough.

I don't want to do Atkins or South Beach or anything that entails me not eating "normal" food.  Although I have to admit that Atkins sounds very tempting as I could probably eat nothing but bacon and peanut butter the entire time.

I know what I have to do.  I have to eat less and exercise more.  It's a no-brainer.  But I honestly think I need somebody here with me 24/7 carrying a baseball bat so they can whack me upside the head every time I eat a cookie or slather on half a stick of butter on my toast.
But since Paul probably wouldn't approve of someone walking around our home with a blunt weapon just to make sure I comply with my self-imposed food reduction scheme, I'm going to have to think of something else.

I need some help from someone else who may want to drop a few pounds or get in better shape over the holidays (and beyond).  I can't wait until after the New Year.  I need to start now.  I need someone who I can be accountable to for my weight, my exercising and my baked-goods addiction.  Sorry Christine, you don't count.  I know I could email you a food journal and all that jazz, but honestly, you're just as pathetic as I am when it comes to sweets so we'll just end up eating fun sized snickers together and complaining about it.

So, would anyone like to help / join me?  Pretty please?  With chocolate on top?  (Yes, I'm that pathetic).  I promise I won't blog about our trials and tribulations!!  Just you, me (and maybe you & you & you) and the Feds who read my emails thinking I'm a terrorist.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My First

I think MamaPea and MamaTea may have jinxed me by talking about the apparent blogging apathy that has seemed to spread around the online community lately.  I had to practically force myself to start writing again even though I had at least two rants brewing and several mentionable things have happened around the homestead.

Although in my defense, I have been busy.  We had the entire family (well, my side anyhow) down here for an early Thanksgiving.  Paul's family is coming down in a few days.  Rhiannon has been sick.  Butchered Creepy Meats.  Wrestled with Pan (yes, he's still alive.....for now).  And I shot my first deer.

Yes dear readers, I'm thirty-eight years old and this was my first deer.  I can't recall how many animals I've slaughtered, skinned, plucked, eviscerated, butchered and cooked, but I've never actually shot a deer.  It didn't even occur to me until about a year or so ago.  It just seems like I've always been involved in the deer processing so I didn't give it a second thought.  And honestly, I don't get all crazy excited about hunting anyhow.  The "thrill" of the hunt isn't really all that thrilling to me.  It usually just means having to bundle up to the 'nth degree, sitting on your butt until it's numb or having ticks crawl all over you.  I vividly recall my ex-boyfriend and his brother going duck & goose hunting.  All the calls, specialty (i.e. expensive) clothing, boots, hats, gloves, "dirt" smelling soap, blinds and what seemed like a million decoys.  I think he even had one of those huge goose decoys that you could lay down in.
I don't care how serious a hunter you are, if I saw you in one of those things
I wouldn't be able to keep myself from breaking out in hysterical laughter.
I couldn't get over how much stuff one needed to go hunting.  And just to bring back a swampy-smelling duck or a goose that was tougher than leather.

Anyways, back to me and my deer.  When Paul bought his hunting/fishing license this year, I went ahead and got one too.  Between all the different seasons (archery, muzzle loader, modern gun) we have eight deer tags between us.  Paul got a buck on the first day of muzzle loader season and I figured it was now my turn to put some wild game (other than squirrel) on the table.  Just before dusk, I shot a doe.  And I won't make up some exciting story of how my first deer hunting experience was.  As a matter of fact, here's pretty much how it went......

Paul: Hey honey, you want to shoot a deer?

Me:  Hugh?  (I think I was at the computer and not really listening to him)

Paul: The deer are going through.  (Just before dark they go through our back yard to where the larger oaks/acorns are in the woods)

Me: Uh, sure.

I got up, grabbed the rifle off the gun rack, opened the back door, sighted one in and shot it.  No camouflage clothing, no dirt-smelling soaps.  I think I had a Chicago Bears sweatshirt and sweatpants on.  I apologize to those that think hunting should be more of a challenge.  But I just want good, healthy meat in my pantry and freezer.  I'm not one to wait for that monster buck.  I could care less if it had twenty points.  Actually, I think I'd be more apt to let a 20-pointer live just because.  Trophies don't really do it for me.  I personally think it would be more of a challenge to get some really good photographs of wildlife than it would be to put a bullet through their internal organs.  If it makes you feel any better, both Paul and I did go out and do some "real" hunting a few weeks ago.  And saw nothing.  Actually, we saw squirrels and blue jays and it was nice to be out in the woods early enough to see and hear the wilderness waking up.  But we didn't see any deer.  And we were back in the house within two hours.  Because my butt was numb.

Anyhow.  After I shot the doe, she naturally bolted into the woods, but didn't make it far.  Paul asked me if I wanted to go after her or if I wanted him to.  Heck.  Since he offered who was I to say no?

I told Paul to take Moonshine out with him just in case he needed help tracking the doe and then I asked Joe (my BIL) to go out after both of them since he was here anyhow.  I made a good shot and she didn't run far.  The boys claim that while they were dragging the deer up out of the woods they looked back and moonshine was on top of the deer, riding it like a surfboard!  I would have paid good money to have seen that!  But seeing as she's a fifty pound sack of flabby beagle, they put an end to her free ride it in order to lighten the load.

They strung up the carcass in the garage and I got to work on butchering and they got to work on a buzz.
First Blood, part One.
(This one's for you, Donna)
It was in the thirties that night so after cutting out the tenderloins and back straps, I let the rest of it hang.  We all (except for Christine, of course) had tenderloin medallions sauteed in butter with garlic and onions that night.

The next morning I finished cutting everything up, put the ribs and shoulders in the oven to slow cook, ground up meat for us, ground up meat for the critters, then canned the ground and stew meat.  I got five quarts of stew meat and one quart of ground processed.  I've never canned ground meat so I'm anxious to find out how it tastes.  My goal was to can almost everything from this deer.  The shoulders were picked apart and I'm now in the process of looking up a recipe to see if I'm able to can the pulled meat together with a BBQ sauce for a really quick meal.  The back straps are still in the fridge and if we don't finish them in the next few days I'll chunk them up and can them as well.

So that's my first deer hunting story.  Not very exciting, hugh?  Well, except for Moonshine hanging ten off the carcass of a deer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chilly Dogs

This morning I have a dog walking job.  But in order to drive over to my canine charges, I had to bring out the big guns:

Yes, that's an ice scraper.  And yes, I'm still in my PJ's and sitting as close to the wood stove as my laptop will allow.

Paul was kind enough to grab me a scraper on his way out the door for work this morning.  Otherwise I'd be pulling out the ol' credit card and using that to scrape off the car windows.  Don't tell me you've never done that.

When we first moved here, I had visions of never needing an ice scraper or snow shovel or one of those long, telescoping snow brushes that we required to get the snow off the big trucks.  My Mom actually threw her snow shovel out when she moved down here.

She had to go buy a new one.

Anyways, it seems as if Fall is already in it's final days and Winter is just creeping up on us.  Sunday night I had to cover my remaining tomato plants and the peas, carrots & beets because it was supposed to get in the lower 30's at night.  Which it apparently did as when I went into the yard Monday morning, the plastic had blown off the tomato bed and they were hit with a freeze.   Not really bad enough to kill them all, but enough to make me realize that it's probably time to give up on them.  So I picked the remaining five or so pounds of green tomatoes and brought them in to ripen up.    And I may as well leave the covers on the other raised bed as the next four nights are supposed to be just below freezing and daytime highs only in the upper 50's.  I can't say that I miss this Summer's intense weather, but I'm not really looking forward to winter.  I absolutely hate chipping ice out of the animal water buckets.  Not only that, but the little diva goats won't drink really cold water so I bring out fresh, warm water to them if it's cold outside.  Not that I blame them; I'm sitting here sipping hot Vanilla Chai tea and warming my backside by way of a wood stove.

So I guess it's really time to finish pulling the spent plants / weeds out of the garden.  Even though it seems so barren and dead in winter, the beds do look promising when they are all cleaned and tidied up.  Because I can already envision my plant starts out there.  I can't even believe I'm already talking about seedlings.  Somebody slap some sense into me.  I wonder if Tiny Gardener is having the seed-shakes yet.

Although the summer garden is but a memory, I will still be doing some gardening this winter.  I have yet to plant my garlic (yeah, yeah, I know I'm late) and I'm really going to try to keep the small hoop houses on the raised beds in the front yard planted with lettuce or some other edible greenery that can tolerate our (hopefully) mild winter.

Well, off to walk to pooches.  I have a feeling I'm going to have to carry Cheddar in my jacket.  Lucky for me, she only weighs maybe five pounds.  Oh.  The dog's name is Cheddar.  I don't normally carry cheese products in my coat.  


Friday, November 9, 2012

Why'd the Turkey get screwed?

No, it's not a parody of the "Chicken crossing the road" joke, but an actual question.  It seems that for the past several years the general marketing trend has been to go straight from Halloween to Christmas.  The only real reason I can think of for the stores to give turkey day the big one-fingered salute is that they don't make nearly as much money on Thanksgiving as they do on Christmas.

I like Thanksgiving just as much as Christmas and it saddens me that most everyone is in such a rush to brush off the tryptophan-filled family gathering in order to plow headfirst into the holy grail of the holiday seasons.

I mean, do we really need to be bombarded with not-so-subtle reminders of the gifts we "have" to buy for our family and friends two months ahead of time?  Not that I'm an advocate of rushing around on December 24th trying to pick that special something for that special someone.  Ever been to a mall a few days before Christmas?  A frekking driving, parking, pushing and shoving nightmare.  And nobody seems particularly happy about having to do all that last minute shopping.  It's more like, "Oh crap, I need to get my co-worker - the one whom I don't care for much anyhow - something for the office Christmas party".  

Not only are we buying gifts for people we don't much care for but how many people just end up tossing the first hot cocoa n' mug set or cheap spa gift basket we see into the buggy in order to fulfill the $20 limit on the Secret Santa or family grab bag.  What happened to real gift giving?  Things that may not necessarily cost a lot of money, but come from your imagination and from your heart.  Not that I'm totally knocking gifts that cost a substantial amount of cash, because technically you labored to make that cash, but did you put some time and thought into that gift?

So what got me on this rant?  Besides the Christmas decorations in the stores?  Well, I got a Cabela's Christmas catalog a few days ago.  If you're a regular reader of my blog, you're probably aware of the fact that I'm a cheap skate in regards to damn near everything a lot of things.  And in order to survive on one income, we have to be.  But even if I had, say, an extra $100K a year disposable income, I still don't think I could justify buying something like this for a holiday dinner or a gift:
Twelve 8-ounce fillets for $349.99.
(That's a quantity discount price, btw)
Fifty-eight bucks a pound for a beef fillet?  And I bet it isn't even one of those Japanese beeves that get the massage special before they get a bullet in the cranium.  So, where did that hunk o' beef come from?  How long ago was it butchered?  Was it pumped with hormones & antibiotics, fed ground up parts of other downed bovines?  If you really want to give someone a special hunk of meat, how about supporting your local organically and humanely raised beef, chicken, pork chops or ham?  If you're in the Illinois area, check out South Pork Ranch (here's their blog, and website, although email Donna for up-to-date prices).
$62.99 for a 5-lb. fruitcake.  You'd have to be a frekking
fruitcake if you even considered buying this.
Does anyone actually eat fruitcake nowadays?  It's bad enough if you're the recipient of a five dollar fruitcake that you'll just end up using as a door stop or giving to the chickens, but a sixty dollar fruitcake?   Although if you're a fan of fruitcake, instead of spending sixty-plus bucks on a fruitcake processed "somewhere" why don't you use that money to buy the ingredients (and a bottle or two of wine) and invite a few friends or family members over and have a fruitcake making party?  I bet that the memories from that event will last longer than the overpriced store bought hunk of dried and candied fruit bits.

My favorite though, by far, has to be the forty dollar fruit pies.  Nine inch, not-deep-dish fruit pies, at that.  But maybe I'm being unfair.  Maybe those pies and fruitcakes and frozen cuts of beef are simply the most delicious things to ever come across my pallet, down my throat, through my intestines and out of my........well, you get the idea.  And I guess it's all relative.  If I busted my behind working 60+ hours a week at a six-figure job, I suppose I wouldn't have time to make a pie or fruitcake or whatever and could justify an expense like that.

But since we're a single-income family and I'm a SAHM who is busy scraping animal crap off my boots, collecting eggs or lopping heads off roosters instead of working for a paycheck I'll just have to deal with not being able to give my friends gifts of such high caliber.  The gifts I do give this holiday season will be from the heart, be it homemade or purchased.

And I won't be putting up any Christmas decorations, listening to jingle-bell music nor doing any holiday shopping until after the leftover turkey sandwiches have been consumed.  Sorry Christine!

*I'm not trying to pick on Cabela's.  They are plenty of crazy-insane catalogs out there and honestly, we do occasionally buy things from Cabela's, albeit from their "Bargain Cave".  If you haven't seen their close-outs in the Bargain Cave, go check it out!  There are usually really, really good deals in there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


For most gardeners, the busy canning season is all but a blurry memory.  And as our gardens haven't produced anything more than a snack, nibble or a few side dishes, I had plenty of time on my hands when everyone else was messing with bands and lids and trying to limit the number of times steam from the canner caused second-degree burns on their bodies.

But my willy-nilly free time is now up.  It's canning time.  It's shutting up and putting up time.  While I only managed to can a few quarts of deer meat, I was determined to get some of our Cornish meat birds in jars rather than in the freezer.  Sunday afternoon I spent several hours dispatching, skinning, eviscerating and cutting up six of the creepy meats.  Then yesterday, Paul and I butchered another five birds, although they retained their skin and will be put in the freezer (Paul is a die-hard roasted chicken fan, not that I blame him, who doesn't like crispy chicken skin?)

Six chickens turned out to be a nice number for canning as I had two full pressure canner batches.  Out of six skinned chickens, I got 2 quarts of chicken breasts, 2 quarts of chicken legs, 2 quarts of chicken thighs, 7 quarts of chicken stock, plenty of snackies for the cats / dog and a large lunch for me consisting of fried chicken livers and a cup of chicken broth.  I also sent Mom home with a leg quarter, half-dozen chicken wings and three breasts and there are another six wings marinating in the fridge for a tasty appetizer for us tomorrow night.

Normally every single piece of the chicken gets used, with the exception of the offal of course.  I just haven't come up with a good Chicken Head Soup recipe yet.  But this year I got lazy (well, sleepy actually) and didn't make the chicken soup/bone slurry and just tossed the leftover contents from the soup pot into the compost heap.  But compost is still good.

I am a bit disappointed in the size of the chickens though.  There was one that was just barely two and a half pounds (whole, dressed).  The first year we raised Cornish, we had several five-pounders.  Then there was one year that they were large, but very, very fatty.  So the next year I didn't feed them nearly as much and the amount of fat they were carrying was significantly reduced.  But this year, there wasn't a scrap of fat on any of them.  Usually there is some fat on their bottoms, but I was pressed to find more than a little blob, if any.  I don't know if I was "starving" them (in my defense, they always act like they are starving) or if I should have been giving them feed with additional protein or if it was just the hatchery chicks or what.  The first year I ordered from Murry McMurry hatchery.  The following years I ordered them from the farm store and they get them from a hatchery up in Missouri.  So now I have to decide where the next batch is going to come from and if I'm going to just shovel feed into their pens 24/7 or use a higher protein feed.  Or maybe even buy some from each hatchery and tag them and see if there is a difference in chick quality.  Which would be a pretty interesting project anyhow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NSO, Chicken Review & Snipped

There's actually not much to review in my latest No Spend Month.  October was officially a bomb.

Between vehicle and homestead equipment expenses, weak-willed trips past the take-out pizza joint,  kid clothing and Halloween candy, it ended up being a pretty spendy No Spend October.  I even gave up tallying the cash outlays after the second week.

So I failed, and pretty miserably at that.  But you know what?  There's always next month.  Or the next, next month.  January sounds like a good time to try again.  There's no way I can even pretend to not spend money during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.  Not that I'll be looking to bust the bank or anything, but let's be realistic.  Although I could possibly kill a wild turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, those French's Fried Onions required for the obligatory Green Bean Casserole just ain't gonn'a pop up in my garden.  And last time I checked, my non-existent mushroom log was still pretty much non-existent and we have to have homemade cream of mushroom soup with Christmas dinner.  A grocery-shopping I will go.

On the livestock front......most of the Creepy Meats are still with us.  But we were down by two before I even started butchering on Sunday.  The first one drowned a few weeks ago because of my stupidity and I went to feed the birds a last week and found another one of them dead.  Not picked at, not decapitated by a hungry opossum, just dead.  I have to get the remaining seventeen birds butchered ASAP.  They are over nine weeks old now, they won't be getting much bigger and I'm sick of spending ten bucks for each fifty pound bag of feed....that they go through in about five days.

I also found one of my homegrown chicks laying by the corner of the barn.  Dead.  And I guess it happened just before I went in the goat / chicken pen as it was still warm and very flexible.  No peck marks, no feathers missing.  Just dead.  That same evening while I was milking, Rhiannon came up to me with a chick in her hands.  As they are usually very spry and mobile, I was surprised that Rhiannon actually caught one.  But when she gave it to me, it was in no mood to flap or run away, it just looked really, really tired.  I put it in a small pen with food and water.  Then next day, it was dead.  Of course, the two deceased homegrown chicks were hens; I'm going to end up with a dozen stinking roosters.  I hope that there's not some chicken pandemic going on in our barnyard.  I don't even know how to treat them as I'm don't know why they are keeling over.  If anymore of them die, I may do an autopsy in an attempt to see what the problem is.

On a happier note, guess who showed up on Sunday afternoon?

Wallace came back for a visit!  Well, most of him anyhow.  What do I mean by "most" of him?  He had been relieved of his, uhm, manly package and was sporting a new collar with a rabies tag on it!  I'm so glad that he's fixed now.  I was going to bite the bullet and take him to the vet the next time he stayed for a visit, but he hadn't been around for a while.  His fur also seemed a little softer.  The neighbor about a half-mile up the road mentioned occasionally seeing him and feeding him, so I'll have to inquire if it was he that took him to the vet or if his "owner" finally realized that it's irresponsible to let your dog wander without an ID and ultra-irresponsible to let your intact dog wander the county.

Wallace only stayed for a few hours, following me for evening barn chores, running around with Rhiannon and chewing on one of the numerous bones in the yard.  I was happy to see him, and even happier to see less of a particular part of him.