Tuesday, December 30, 2014

So...who's it gonn'a be?

Sandy over at Oklahoma Transient got talking about seeds, then JUGM mentioned a seed exchange, then Sandy mentioned that I had a seed exchange.  Key word being "had".  I totally forgot that I put the "Seed Swap" tab up on my blog header last year (or was it the year before) and I haven't checked the comments on there for like, ever.  So I apologize in advance (ME Masterson, in particular) if you think I was ignoring you.


So.  Who wants to start up a Seed Swap this year?  I've already got the tab up on my blog, and I suppose I should wipe out the old stuff and start anew.  I'd be willing to be the host site for the swap, but that does mean that people might get sucked into reading my insane ranting and raving on the main page before hitting the Seed tab.  Or that I might forget about the Seed Swap entirely.  Or that I might be trampled into the frozen mud by ungrateful goats trying to get into the feed room and never be heard from again and all those seeds looking for homes would be trapped in seedswaplimbo.  But really, if I need to be the one to do it, I will volunteer.

Buuuuuuut....... if there is someone less sloth-like than I, by all means PLEASE (please, please) pipe up and let us know that you want to take the initiative (that I sadly lack lately) and host the 2015 Blogging Buddies Seed Swap.


I wouldn't mind at all.

I'll even send you a chocolate bar if you do.



After the chicken beheading two nights ago, I've been setting the live trap up at night but each night it was empty and still contained the chicken leg.

This morning I went out to chip ice and open the chicken door and almost forgot about the live trap until my flashlight beamed across it and I saw glowing eyes.  Whoo hoo!  Got 'em!

Except it was just OtherKitty (not to be confused with Outside Kitty or Evil Kitty).  Poor thing was scared to death and shaking.  When I came up to the cage, he didn't hiss or spit.  I did my best soothing "kitty-kitty-kitty" while I walked up.  He looked pretty healthy; fluffy & shiny coat, bright eyes, and had plenty meat on his bones.  For a moment I considered bringing it inside the garage and seeing if I could get a vet to check him out and get spayed/neutered, but I didn't want to have the poor thing go through any more trauma than it had just gone through.  And there was also the distant memory of me trying to get BarnKitty out of the trap and into a dog crate and almost having my face torn off by a very feral feline.  So I opted for safety for me and freedom (for now) for him and I opened the trap door.  He just buried himself in the opposite end of the trap so I just kept talking to him (or her, I couldn't tell because s/he was curled up in a ball so tight) and he finally ran out and across the yard.  I'll probably end up trying to coax him back to the porch with some canned cat food as to ease my self-imposed and unwarranted feelings of guilt.  Yes, I'm nuts.

When I came back inside and told Paul I caught OtherKitty, he asked if I thought it had been the one to kill the chicken.  I will readily acknowledge that I have an inherent bias against blaming my cats for just about anything, but I honestly didn't think he was the culprit.  Am I 100% sure?  Of course not.  But I figure he's not starving (did I mention that I've been feeding him?) and that MeowMix is a much easier meal to obtain than a crazed, flapping chicken.

But the chicken leg in the trap had been eaten while he was in there.  But since I don't provide in-flight movies I suppose there wasn't much else he had to do while being confined.  Hmmmm.

Even though we have conibear traps and snares, we've long since discontinued using them.  The conibear traps are great for putting right over groundhog holes and snares are very useful for catching raccoons in your attic (right, Dad??), but they are indiscriminate in their skull-crushing or neck-strangling.  In a survival situation they're the bee's knees, but at this point in time and in our current location, the chance of killing or mortally wounding something we don't want harmed is too great.  Live traps are pretty expensive; the large "Raccoon Model" I used last night will set you back close to fifty bucks, and we have two of them.  But their monetary cost has saved the lives of many animals and I feel better knowing that we aren't killing whatever just so happens to set off the trap.

We also stopped using poison bait for the mice / pack rats.  As much as I like the idea of those rodent bastards keeling over, I do not like the idea of their lifeless bodies being found and consumed by an animal that we don't want to keel over.  And although we haven't had poison bait on the homestead for years (and the neighbors don't use it either), I do have to wonder if Outside Kitty's near death experience and subsequent lifelong kidney problems was caused by eating a poisoned rodent.

So, is there a moral or point to this rambling story?  I guess that I'm just trying to say that if you can afford it, get yourself a live trap.  I'm pretty sure none of my readers actually enjoy killing animals at random and a Hav-a-Hart trap can save the lives of countless numbers of animals.  And if you're really nasty, you can release all those stray cats up at Pioneer Preppy's place.  I hear he's been working on a new building and doesn't have his quota of cats in there yet :)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Chicken CSI

I had it coming.  It was just a matter of time.  I was going to pay for my slothwoman'ness.

Since having Charlie, our GSD (Giant Sloppy Dog) around the homestead, our chicken homicide rate has plummeted to nil.  There hasn't been a chicken murdered here in over a year and I have to attribute that to Charlie.  Not because he's a particularly fierce dog, nor because he's being a great livestock guardian.  He is far from it.  So far, in fact, that he doesn't even go into the goat / chicken area unless coerced into it with us using a hot dog.  But he is a large dog.  He barks like a large dog, he must smell like a large dog and he pees and poops like a large dog.  All things that I suspect would lead a smaller chicken-eating carnivore to stay far, far away from.  If I were a raccoon patrolling the area around a chicken coop and happened to spy the huge steaming pile of crap deposited by the colossal community canine, I would quickly be finding myself some other coop to infiltrate.  One of our new neighbors happened to see one of Charlie's footprints on his place and told someone he thought there was a bear on this property.

Anyways.  Probably since spring, I've been lazy and not locking up the chicken door every night.  It was especially maddening when I'd close the door and then have to go back out because some of the new chickens didn't want to go inside until after dark.  Then the latecomers would congregate at the front of the locked door and squawk; practically an open invitation to become an opossum's midnight snack.  So eventually I just started leaving the door open.  This was also very convenient on the weekends when I didn't get up as early....the chickens just let themselves out.

Two nights ago, I opened the front door to retrieve some wood for the stove and almost pee'd myself when a chicken bolted from the front porch.  Strange.  We used to have a chicken that wanted to roost on the front porch, probably because the coop didn't have lights and the porch did (and bowl of dog food conveniently located close by for snacking), but that chicken has long since been absorbed into the swirling eternity of the universe.  Why did this one suddenly prefer the porch to the coop?  I looked out to the coop, listened for a while, then schlepped my slothful self into the house and back into bed.  Just before falling asleep again, I thought to myself, "What would have scared the chicken out of the coop?" and before the word "opossum" could jump the synapse in my noggin, I was out.

The next morning, PorchChicken was only a distant, fuzzy memory....or was it a dream....and I went out to feed the chickens, who were already out wandering around.  Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that there were two hens nesting in the blue barrels instead of in the coop.  Stupid chickens....can't make up their minds where to lay their eggs.  During one of my mid-afternoon barnyard patrols I opened the coop doors to collect eggs.  And I was surprised to see a buttload of feathers on the coop floor and in the back, a headless barred rock.  Crap.

PorchChicken immediately popped into my mind and I chastised myself for being such a slothwoman and not checking on the chickens the previous night.  DeadChicken was only missing her head and a small section of her back had been peeled away....but not chewed on.  Could it be that she died in the night and the other chickens just picked at her?  That wouldn't explain the missing head though.  And I don't think a chicken could manage to peel off the skin in such a manner.  Opossum and raccoon kills are pretty much textbook....gnaw off the head, then start eating the bird butt first, moving up into the body cavity consuming all the tasty bits, then if there's time, chewing on the breast meat.  Did an opossum or raccoon manage to pull her off the roost, gnaw off her head and then have to run off with it because of the insane ruckus that was most likely ensuing in there with thirty two other crazed birds?  Well, what might have been thirty-two birds.  I had no idea if another two or twenty chickens had been pulled from the coop.  The only sign of blood in the bedding was where the headless chicken lay.  If chicken carcasses were pulled out of the coop, I would have certainly seen a bunch of bedding in front of the door.  I reexamined the decapitated bird, looking for fur or teeth marks on the neck bones but was not able to determine anything other than the obvious fact that this chicken was missing it's head.  So I cut one of it's legs off, tossed the rest of the carcass in the burn pile, and set the live trap with the severed appendage next to the coop door.  I would have to wait until dark when the chickens started making their way back home to do a count and find out what the overall carnage really was.

Around half past six, I went out to do the chicken-check.  I readied myself for the realization that I'd probably be missing more chickens, but when I opened the coop doors I was taken aback by the emptiness.  There were only thirteen.  I'd be lying if I said that I didn't drop the f-bomb.  Could something have really killed and removed the bodies of more than half my flock?

I went into the goat side of the barn where a rooster and hen usually roost.  They were there.  Along with nine other chickens.  Obviously they remembered the previous night's slaughter and decided to play it safe and roost somewhere else.  I found another set of hens in one of the goat  huts and a rooster and hen in the manger.  Although I was happy to find them, I was not happy about having to move every single one of them from their alternate sleeping spot to the coop.  In the boot-sucking mud, while it was raining, by the way.

After relocating the chickens back to the coop, I did a head count and I came up with either thirty-one or thirty-two chickens.  Just one or two short; one being the headless chicken.  So all in all, it wasn't the massive slaughter that I though it was....or that it could have been.  Needless to say, I'm back to making sure I close up the chicken door at night.

The live trap didn't produce anything last night or the night before.  Hopefully the perpetrator moved on to easier pickins....or ended up like this guy:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Winter Waffles n' Walking

Christmas morning was spent watching Rhiannon open packages and Paul putting together stuff after those packages had been opened.  One of the Lego sets has 721 pieces.  That is not a typo.  I said seven hundred and twenty one pieces.  Another present was a "Crazy Fort", a set of poles and connecting pieces to make various kid-sized structures.  She also got some classical music CD's and a subscription to National Geographic Kids, which she not only loves, but we use as part of our homeschooling work.  Of course, there were also toys from family that were "just" toys....and there's nothing wrong with that.  You should have heard the squeals of joy when she opened Auntie Christine's gift, the "Shark Lifter" (don't ask).  But I have to admit, I'm glad that our family also knows that I appreciate those gifts that make you use your noggin.

While Paul was working on assembling the Ninja Turtle Tower (with no less than six thousand pieces), I went in the kitchen to work on breakfast.  Well, it was more like brunch by the time I had it on the table.  I finally used my "new" waffle iron.  Both Paul & I had inherited a waffle iron / pizzelle maker from our families....and eventually burned them out.  I found this one (a 1970's model), same as the others, on ebay in practically new condition.  And it didn't even cost any more than a crappy new Chinese one from Walmart.

After once again stuffing ourselves silly with waffles (because we weren't quite bloated enough from the rib eye's and kluski - polish potato dumplings - from the night before) I eventually managed to peel my pajamas off, put on jeans, boots & a sweater and we were off for a walk around the homestead.

In the beautiful, sunny, 54 degree weather.  Yes.  Sunny.  And 54 degrees.  On Christmas Day.  It was awesome.

We found mushrooms (no idea what kind) and snail shells (weird, but we have them all over the place in the woods), deer tracks, turkey scratchings, deer rubs, some coyote poop, and some really big unidentified poop.  Oh, and an old deer stand.  Rhiannon had packed snacks consisting of pecans and apples and they were consumed while we rested on a large fallen log.  It was a wonderful sunny day.
Deer rub.
Old Hillbilly deer stand.
Glass 1-Liter Pepsi bottle.  I'm tempted to look up how old the
bottle is and figure out when the last time that stand was used.
And the very next day, we were once again greeted with gray skies and drizzle.  Today as well.  This overcast, soggy weather is really getting old.  Not sure if I'd rather have freezing temps and blue skies or warmer weather and overcast skies.  But since it's still gray & moist outside, we'll just stay inside and put together all those ridiculously tiny Lego pieces, play dragons and Ninjas and watch another Christmas movie or two.

Hope you all had a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Talking Animals

So.  Are you going to be feeding your critters a little something "special" tonight?

It's said that the animals can talk at Midnight on Christmas Eve.  I'm not sure if it's a Christian thing (the animals in the manger and all) or if it's a Pagan thing, or if it's just something a conniving feline came up with in order to get an extra helping of tuna that evening.

We (ok, well I do) give all the critters a snack before bed on Christmas Eve.  Whether it's an extra helping of grain, a carrot or apple, big ol' pork bone, or a can of tuna, I try to remember my furry friends tonight.  I'm also leaving out a can of tuna for the newest furry visitor to our porch.

He's been seen a handful of times, either near the barn, out in the woods behind the house, or even on the porch.  We seem to have another outside cat.  No, not Outside Kitty (aka, Manboob Kitty), but a different one.  Which, if s/he keeps hanging out here, will probably be given another unimaginative name....like AnotherKitty.  Which is better than what Paul has been calling it (Another Freaking Cat, Damn Cat or Get Outt'a Here Cat!).  Amazingly enough, it's not a black cat; it's a gray tabby.  It's not not nearly tame enough or used to us that he'll stick around more than a second or two after we see each other, but the Meow Mix I've been putting on the porch is disappearing every night.

Hopefully it's the new cat and not an opossum or raccoon.  My luck I'd be feeding one of those buggers.

So, back to the yapping pets and livestock.  Do people give the critters a treat as a bribe so that they don't compromise the homestead OPSEC?  Would they tattle on me and call up PETA to tell them that I kick the mean rooster every chance I get?

Now that I think of it, I'm not sure this talking animal thing is really that good of a thing.  I mean, Pickles screams goat obscenities now, can you imagine the words that would come out of her howling screamer at Midnight?  And do I really want Ms. Melman the mule to be telling me about how she has to deal with the constant sexual advances of Nugget?  Herman and Studly (the buck goats) would probably be yelling "Hey Baby!  Wann'a come over here and get you some of THIS?!"  The chickens, I imagine, would just be gossiping like a bunch of little old ladies, complaining about the lack of kitchen scraps lately.  I'm pretty sure that Black Susan would ask that she be given more comfortable sleeping quarters and catnip scented eye pillows, Evil Kitty would demand more canned food, and Outside Kitty would be telling tall tales of his bachelor (i.e. when he still had a set of nuts) days.  Charlie would probably just sleep through Midnight.

Which is probably what I'll be doing.  I guess I'll just have to keep wondering if the critters are actually talking.  Either that, or set up a tape recorder.  Maybe next year.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Say it isn't so!

Look at that picture.  Look at it.
Because that milk is just a fading memory now.
That quart of milk and three eggs were our barnyard harvest from a week ago.

And the milk in that picture is now gone.  Like, no more.  Non existent.  Adios.  Bye-bye.

No more hot chocolates, no more granola cereal for breakfast, no more big ol' glass with cookies.  I can't even squirt enough out of MamaGoat for my morning tea.  We're swimming in a sea of goats, but we don't have a drop of milk to drink.

Well, we don't have a drop of fresh milk to drink, anyhow.  I did put some up in little plastic water bottles so Rhiannon can occasionally have a "treat" of hot coco or cold cereal & milk, but it most definitely won't last until kidding time.  I would have frozen a larger supply, but the space in the freezers are at a premium and after our hog butchering a month ago, I couldn't get a stick of butter in there to save my life.  Seriously.  I couldn't fit four quarters of butter in there, no matter how I tried to shove them in.  Space is slowly becoming available as we eat our way through the bounty in the freezer, but now there's no milk to freeze.

I tend to lament on and on (and on....) every year when this happens.  But the fact is we're darned lucky to have fresh milk for nine months of the year.  I've toyed with the idea of having the goats freshen at different times so we can have a year-round supply, but honestly, I'm pretty happy about not having to go out in the freezing cold and milk the girls.  Now that they're dried up, I only have to go out there once a day to feed and water them.  Of course I'm out there more than once a day, but the fact that I don't have to makes me feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

And once kidding season starts in April, we'll be back in milk and I'll be lamenting on and on (and on...) again about how happy I am to have milk.  And lamenting on and on (and on....) about why I had so many stinking goats bred.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice!

Tonight is the longest night of the year.   According to some really anal scientific data I found online, we had fourteen hours, ten minutes and thirty seconds of darkness for our specific geographic location.  Tomorrow we gain almost one second of daylight.  For whatever astrological reason, the sun will be setting later, but the sun will not be rising earlier until a month later on January 21st.  Heck, I don't care as long as ol' Sol is hanging out longer.

Speaking of the sun, it's been severely lacking the past week, not only because the extended length of darkness, but because we've had overcast skies for what seems like forever.  On the few occasions the sun did manage to peek through the clouds, I practically grabbed Rhiannon and pulled her outside or to the window to "look at the SUN!".  I didn't realize how long it had been cloudy until a few days ago when the sun did come out (for like three and a half minutes) and I was like, Whoa!  What the heck is that?!

Of course, even though the sun is coming back, we're just heading into the coldest part of the year.  I've only had to chop ice out of the stock tanks two or three times and the temps at night haven't been lower than the mid to upper 20's.  That hasn't stopped me from keeping the wood stove chocked full of wood though.  

With "sun" on the brain, I've also been itching to get the yearly onslaught of seed catalogs.  Not that I need any more seeds, but it's just so nice to flip through the pages and see green stuff.  Last year's garden (or lack thereof) was a bust.  I'm hoping to get a jump start on things this year, although I probably won't start much indoors.  I've never had much luck with seed-starting and honestly, the only benefit I really get from them is having an early harvest of "special" plants that you can't get at the nurseries around here.  What usually happens is that I'll plant sixty-four cells of one kind of vegetable and then won't get around to planting them, then they get all leggy and do poorly once I do manage to get them in some dirt.  There are plenty of people in the area that grow and sell heirloom starts that I'll probably buy early plants from them.  I've had better luck just sticking seeds in the ground once it the weather starts warming up and my fall gardens have always produced better anyhow.  That is if I can keep the damned chickens out of the area.

Fencing.  That's what I really need to focus on.  I didn't want to go outright hillbilly on it, but I may just pound in some t-posts and put chicken wire around the raised beds.  In my sometimes overactive and overzealous mental plannings, I had envisioned a wattle or picket fence around the beds, but that has yet to come to fruition.  I believe it was about this time last year I talked about doing it.  Yep...still on the To-Do list.

But hey, I've got a second more daylight tomorrow to accomplish some things!  Things like fencing, kidding pens, sheltered hay feeders and goat huts.  And two hundred fifty three other projects.

Guess I'd better get my bum in gear.....daylight's a burn'in.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cat Food Casserole

My Mom watches Rhiannon when I'm working the Farmers Market.  It was a particularly cold day (25 degrees when I got there, brrrrr!!) and I had a major headache on top of it.  When I went to pick Rhiannon up, she didn't want to go home.  Of course.  What grandkid wants to go home from Grandma's house?  Christmas cookies, television, (different) cats and (different) toys to play with.

So I begrudgingly bribed her with a trip to the grocery store (which I had to go to anyhow but because of my headache was going to put it off until the weekend).  Yeah.  What kid wants to go to the grocery store?  Strange, I know.  But she enthusiastically took the bait and we headed back into town.

Rhiannon knew I had a headache because when trying to extricate her from Grandma's house, I whined to her (yeah I'm pathetic, I know, a 40 year old whining to a 6 year old) that Mommy worked all morning and my head really hurt and I just wanted to go home.  So when we got to the store, she said that she would be pushing the buggy and doing the shopping.  Which she did.  And only knocked into someone once (which she immediately said "Excuse me, I'm sorry"....which I was sooo proud of).

We went up & down the aisles (although slowly and somewhat erratically) and she carefully plucked our choices from the shelves and put them in the buggy.  She put all of the items on the check-out conveyor and even counted out the correct amount owed to the cashier (who must have a grandchild of her own given her saintly patience while Rhiannon counted out change).  By now, my headache was fading.  I'm not sure if it was because of the handful of ibuprofen I popped at Mom's house....or because of the love I was being shown from my daughter for taking care of the shopping.

When we got home she helped with barn chores and put away the groceries.  And then she said that she was going to be making supper.  Not wanting to waste an opportunity for her to feel "all grown up", I gave her several (simple) choices for the meal.  Tuna Noodle Casserole was the winner and she went about gathering ingredients and assembling them to be put in the casserole dish.  She grabbed the cans of tuna fish and with a little help, opened them.  And then shockingly said, "Ewww!  CAT FOOD?!?"

Obviously we don't eat tuna fish that often.  

So after telling her that Yes, cat food does come in a similar looking can, and Yes, tuna fish does kind'a smell like cat food, and Yes, I'm certain this is people food and not cat food.....she was finally satisfied that I wasn't playing some cruel joke on her and she finished mixing everything up.  I shoved it in the oven and not an hour later, Paul, Rhiannon and I were at the table eating what we now call "Cat Food Casserole".

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Wood Splitting Party

It was a wonderfully mild weekend so one of our friends came over with his wood splitter and we made quick (well, quicker than hand splitting) work of the pile of logs that he and Paul had worked on about a month earlier.
Dual Splitting Capacity!
Junior Log Splitter in training.
We're still not up to snuff on our winter wood pile, even with what we did this weekend.  I admit, Paul does the majority of the felling, cutting, splitting and stacking.  But in my defense, I have to watch Rhiannon.  But I did make breakfast, run for beers and do some log-chucking.  I even got my sloth of a self on the splitter for a while.

Right now our wood piles are protected from the elements by tarps.  There's a wood shed on the Never Ending To-Do list, but I suppose if we stop to do that project, we won't have any wood to put in the wood shed.  I was thinking of doing another cattle panel hoop house covered with tarps, but they aren't a very good long-term structure.  The ones we made for the round bales have been rendered almost useless because the tarps just get torn & shred to nothing after a year.  The summer sun and the wind just break the tarps down too quickly.  I'm not saying we didn't get our use out of them, but it's definitely not a permanent solution unless you like purchasing tarps every year (and picking up the shredded remains of them all over the homestead).

So we'll (ok, Paul will) continue chipping away at our wood lot and hope that we don't end up having to burn anything that's too green if it's a really nasty winter this year.  Last year we went through everything we had put up.  Granted, we still have the electric heat pump but the electric bill is horrendous enough without turning that money-sucker on.  Maybe I'll get my butt out there and help more so we can get some set back for next year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Happy Bill of Rights Day!

That's it.  No rant.  No preaching.  Just a reminder.  For us and especially our elected "representatives".  

Not that any of them are celebrating, let alone acknowledging or adhering to them.  Wait.  Must stop.  Feel rant coming on.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pondering Pickles

Pickles isn't my favorite goat lately.

Heck, who am I kidding.  Pickles isn't my favorite goat any day.  The constant hollering is just maddening.  The fact that she was only a so-so mother is disappointing.  And apparently now I can't get her bred.

She went into heat two times in September but I didn't have her bred then because I did not want February kids.  But since then, I haven't been able to catch her in heat again.  Even if I can't catch the does in heat, I can usually tell because the bucks go all batshitcrazy when someone cycles in.

So now I'm starting to worry.  Why hasn't Pickles gone back into heat?  Goats are supposed to be in season for several months, so why did she only show in September?  Is she just a crappy goat?  Is she somehow doing this to piss me off?  Is the Universe giving me a hint and should I just eat her sorry ass?

What other reason, besides already being bred, would there be for her not to come into heat again?  Could this be an Immaculate Caprine Conception?

The bucks are separated from the does by a cattle panel fence and no one has managed to get out, so I ruled "Accidental Escapee" out.  Do I have a "Ninja Buck Goat"?  Could one of them have gotten out and then somehow managed to get back in their pen?  Doubtful, not only because I'm sure there would have been some obvious damage to the panels, but once the buck had access to the does there's no way in hell he'd voluntarily go back in his pen.

At this moment we only have the two Boer bucks on the homestead, but last month we had Deuce Bigalow, the Nigerian Dwarf rent-a-buck here as well.  Could one of the bucks have managed to get his dinkey-do into such a position that the doe could have backed up to the fence and been bred that way?  I'm sure stranger things have happened, but I've run countless scenarios in my head on how it could have occurred and it just doesn't seem physically possible.

So now I'm undecided as what to do with Pickles.  It's getting pretty late for breeding.  I don't think I want kids born in the middle of May when there are a bunch of flies and parasites.  But then I don't want to wait another year.  She's not a pet; she's supposed to be cranking out yummy meat to fill our freezer.  I can make her go into heat by giving her a shot of Lutalyse, but then if she was somehow pregnant, that shot would terminate the pregnancy....which could have already been three months along.  I wish there was an EPT goat pregnancy test available, but it looks like if I want a positive answer I'm going to have to do a blood draw and send it in to a lab.  It only costs $6.50 plus the shipping of the vial of blood, so I may just do that in the next few days.  Besides, it would be a good learning experience as I've never drawn blood before.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fat Cats and Fugly Chickens

Outside Kitty has been doing an awful lot of lounging around the wood stove lately.  It amazes me how the cats don't combust from the intense heat.  Although I think Manboob Kitty (i.e. Outside Kitty) may just start rendering with all the fat underneath that pelt.  He's always been a large cat, but since being neutered and coming inside, the pounds have slowly packed on.
This picture was not photoshopped.
That really is the size of Manboob, I mean, Outside Kitty.
Although he says it was taken at a bad angle so it only looks like he's enormous.
It probably doesn't help that I've been limiting his outside activities to basically nil since his emergency vet visit.  I wonder if they have a "Sweating to the Oldies" DVD for felines?

Not all of the animals (and older humans) are overweight here on the homestead.  Although the goats have hay bellies, they aren't carrying much fat on their bodies.  And surprisingly enough, Charlie is pretty sleek for a dog that seems to be in a perpetual dozing-coma.  Our chickens are also fit and trim.  Or at least I think they are.  Is there such a thing as a fat chicken?  Do they get cankles?  Muffin tops?  Beer bellies?  I don't know.  But I do know that a few of them could use a little extra fat to keep them warm because they are in the middle of molting and look like they've been plucked.  What reason did nature have to make chickens molt during the coldest time of the year?  I'm almost tempted to crochet some chicken sweaters for the poor buggers.

So not only are the molting chickens freezing their butts off from lack of insulating feathers, but they are being cursed by me for not laying and being mocked by every other animal.  Even Clover the wonky-eyed goat makes fun of them.  Molting chickens are one of  the ug-lee-ist things I've ever seen on a farm (A goat's penis being the most horrendous. You're welcome.).  If a non-farmish person were to come to our place and see one of these birds, I'm sure they'd call the ASPCA the nanosecond they left the place and got cell service.

The only upside to all this is that in a few more weeks they'll be sporting new, shiny feathers and it will be akin to the ugly duckling maturing into the beautiful swan.  Well, maybe not that pretty.  But it'll sure be an improvement from this:
Did it look like your chicken has been run over by a Mac truck
tossed into the washing machine on "heavy load" and
chucked out the window of a moving train?
Does anyone else have any "ohmygawd what IS that thing" ugly chickens this time of year or Large-and-in-Charge felines lounging around the fireplace?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Merry Christmas...everyone else can piss off.

Rant coming in 3, 2, 1.......

We live in a predominately Christian area.  It's the Bible Belt, so that's no big surprise.

What I am surprised at (shit, who am I kidding, I no longer have faith in humanity) is the bigotry and intolerance that is spewing out of people's mouths during what should be a joyful and festive time of year.

Joyful because people are celebrating the birth of Christ.  Joyful because people are celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  Joyful because people are celebrating the return of the sun.

Heck, lets just all celebrate that we're alive!  What better time to do that than in the dead of winter.  Shove a tree in the corner of the living room and put some shiny dangly things on the branches for the cats to bat at, eat and puke up later on the tree skirt that your mother made you fifteen years ago.
Christmas Cat Vomit in 3, 2, 1......
Dig out that cat themed Nativity that your sister gave you.
My Natavity.  Baby Kitty Jesus.
Blasphemous?  Maybe, but that's what I got.
Eat some Matzoh balls and light the candles on that cool looking candle holder thingy.
Don't have one of these, but heck, they're cool looking.
Go outside and light some candles on the eve of the longest night of the year and yell for the sun to return.
I'll scream for the sun to come back.....but in an area much
farther south in latitude.
Or, if you really, really like to celebrate, check out this list of  reasons to celebrate in the month of December and just go with it!  Yesterday was National Brownie Day, and I totally missed it.  But I can make it up today since it's National Pastry Day.

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Solstice!  Happy Holidays!  Grand Oatmeal Muffin Day!  And to everyone who genuinely wishes me a Happy Anything, I will gladly reply with a warm smile and a sincere "Thank you!"  I'm not offended that you went out of your way to wish me a good day....regardless if I'm a practicing Catholic, Halakhic Jew, Norse Goddess worshiper, or one of those Flying Spaghetti Monster converts.
Strange.  Why yes.  Yes it is.
But who am I to judge?
I don't give a rat's behind what you do or how you celebrate so long as it makes you happy...and does not harm nor trample on the rights of others.

Oh.  Wait a second.  I can't celebrate my beliefs AND trample someone else's rights into the ground at the same time?  Well then.

It seems that some of the people in my town cannot play well together.  Well, at least not with people who do not believe exactly as they believe.

Last year, our "I'm the mostest, bestest Christian" County Judge decided that he would not allow a "Happy Winter Solstice" banner to be placed on the courthouse lawn.  Which would be fine with me as I believe that a government property is not the appropriate venue for ANY type of religious statement or endorsement.  Except that he allows a Nativity scene to be placed there.....and even goes around beating his chest that nobody is going to make him take it down.  I would think that someone who holds a position in public office should have some comprehension of the laws governing our country.  But apparently he missed class the day The First Amendment was being discussed.

So because of his A) Apparent stupidity, B) Blatant disregard for The Bill of Rights or C) His pompous attitude of self-righteousness, the Judge did nothing to address this problem last year.  And now, a year later, we're back to the same pissing match over the holiday display at the courthouse.

A display which still only allows a Christian theme.  Oh, and Santa Claus.  Apparently having a life sized plastic figure of an old fat man and a magical flying caribou is ok, but a sign that says "Happy Solstice" is just too repugnant for him and the other bigoted Christians.  (Note I say bigoted, not all Christians....don't get your panties all in a bunch.)  So now, because of either A, B or C (see previous paragraph) the County Judge is asking - no - begging for a lawsuit.  One that will come out of the pockets of the local taxpayers.

And to make things even worse, there is something of a "reverse logic" movement going on.  There is a growing number of Christians who are claiming that they are being persecuted, being denied their freedoms, their rights, that their way of life is being attacked ("their" being the operative word here).  Uhm.  Let's look at this again. The original request for another religious banner (i.e. not Christian) was denied.  The original request did NOT say anything about removing the current displays.  The quorum court unanimously voted to again deny any other religious display so the creche is still the only religious display on the courthouse lawn.

Someone, please tell me how the Christians in our town are being persecuted, being stripped of their freedoms, being denied their rights?   You can't walk fifteen feet without running into someone who is (or claims to be) a Christian. You can't turn a corner without seeing a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Mormon or Lutheran church.  Every weekend there is some sort of church bazaar or fundraiser or bible study group.  And that's not necessarily a bad thing.  But I just cannot comprehend this fabricated "War Against Christians" rally. It's like I'm living in Bizarro Land.

So.  Can we look again at exactly who is being denied their rights?  Who is being persecuted?  It certainly isn't anyone of the Christian persuasion in our area.  I've made my opinion made known on social media.  And I suspect that my inability to contain my outrage at the hypocritical rants from some of them will result in the dissolution of our relationships.  Which is sad.  Because even though I do not, can not sit silent when this is happening in my town, I know that they are generally good people and will miss their friendship.  I just wish that they could see that they are not the only good people and the only people with religious rights.

Rant over.

Now I'm going to see what kind of flaky, buttery goodie I can whip up to celebrate National Pastry Day.

Have a wonderful day!  Everyone.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho

....it's off to work I go.
Yes.  I'm going to work tomorrow.  Like in a "real" job.  Like in getting paid.

The gods of finances must have heard my silent screaming when I received the bill from Outside Kitty's vetting.  Just last week I received a call from the produce guy that I used to help at the local farmers market.  He needed some help for the month of December and wondered if I was available.  Heck yes, I'd make myself available......Show me the Money!!

So for two days a week, I'll be helping Mr. Clarence man his booth at the "big" city's farmers market.  I've already worked one day and I have to say that I'm getting soft....the temperature didn't get above 45 degrees and even with my Cuddl Duds, wool sweater, canvas pants, thick socks and boots, I was a little chilled near the end.  But I figured if the old man could tough it out, so could I.  But in my defense, he did go in the truck to warm up a few times.  I didn't because I didn't want to seem like a big sissy and I would have felt terrible if I were in the warm truck while he was outside.

Technically the market is officially closed for the season, but he and two other vendors still stick it out for the holiday month.  It obviously isn't as busy as the summer months, but there were enough customers to make it worth opening up and paying for help (me).  And as I'm typing this, I've got several loaves of bread in the oven to sell tomorrow.  Figured since I'm going to be there I might as well make a couple extra bucks selling my own stuff.

Oh, Outside Kitty is doing well.  He's even feeling good enough that he keeps trying to sneak outside, which I won't let him do.  At least not for a while.  In the mean time, he'll have to just suck it up and try to enjoy his convalescing while soaking up the warmth next to the wood stove.  Thank you for all your good kitty vibes, I know it helped....both of us :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bent out of shape

I haven't posted for a while.  There was the whole Thanksgiving thing (nice), the family thing (very nice).  And the Almost Dead Cat thing (not so nice).

So not only did I not have time, nor feel particularly peppy enough to write a post, but when I did come back to my blog I had what I thought was going to be the last post about Outside Kitty staring at me in the face.  Not because I wasn't going to write about him anymore, but because I wasn't certain he was going to be with us anymore.

So here's the not-short version of my crappy weekend/week.....
Outside Kitty wasn't acting quite normal on Thursday or Friday.  And in hindsight, I do remember him being very, very clingy and wanting to sit & snuggle with me every time I sat down.  Saturday morning he was just sitting on the couch.  When we returned home from an afternoon away, he was still in the same position & he wasn't making eye contact and didn't want to be picked up.  He felt hot so I took his temperature.  It was 104.9.  Normal temp for a cat is between 100.5 and 102.5, so I shit a brick and called every vet in the area to see if anyone could get him in (Thanksgiving weekend & all, it wasn't easy).  I got him into a vet about 20 miles away around 5 pm.

After doing blood work, they determined that he had acute kidney failure, likely caused by some sort of toxin and he needed to be put on an IV immediately for fluids and medications.  We're still unsure what kind of toxin it was that caused his trauma.  It could have been a myriad of things, either man made or natural and it could have been ingested up to a week ago.  The vet didn't give him really good odds, but I figured I had to let her try.  I mentally prepared myself to have to put him down.  And I did a lousy job of preparing.  I was a wreck.  Couldn't eat, couldn't sleep.  How could a stinking feral cat that has only been with us for two years make me feel so completely crappy?

Anyways.  He made it through the night, but the vet still said that things didn't look very good.  They continued the IV through the next day and I went to visit him.  I know it sounds horrible, but it was kind of funny seeing him brought in with the IV hooked up to his paw and the vet tech wheeling the IV rack in just like at a "real" hospital.  I could almost see him in one of those blue/green paper napkin robes they give you in the hospital.

He wasn't as lethargic as he was when I first brought him in the day before, but he didn't look great.  We sat in the room together for about an hour and then I left him with the vet, wondering if I'd see him again.  He made it through another night at the vet and I got a call this morning that they did another round of blood work on him and said that his kidney levels were still too high, but that he needed to be off the fluids for a while.  I went to visit him later this afternoon and he seemed perkier than before.  The vet said that he should go home with me.  I was happily surprised as I had once again prepared (poorly) at letting him go.

So Outside Kitty is home now.  He has to eat some sort of special cat food (i.e. expensive) and I have to keep a close eye on how much he drinks & pees and hopefully notice if he's not feeling well.  There's not much else that can be done, but at least he's at home and surrounded by family.

Outside Kitty, relaxing in his favorite spot.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ungrateful Human

Today I opened the front door to get another log to toss on the fire.  Staring at me was Outside Kitty, wanting inside.  Which isn't necessarily out of the ordinary.  But luckily I hesitated before opening the storm door because he had a huge freaking chipmunk in his maw.  When I didn't immediately open the door for him, he looked anxious and was kind'a pacing in place (like when a kid has to pee).  I tried to shoo him away from the door so I could go out but he was very insistent that he come inside with his prize (which was still very much alive, btw).  I finally squeezed my rotund self through the door while blocking his entrance inside and sat down on a bench on the porch.

Outside Kitty immediately came up to me, still doing the "pacing" thing.  So I finally grabbed the chipmunk from the tail and held it up, wondering what the hell I was going to do with a live rodent that would probably try to bite my face off if it had the chance.  Before I was able to contemplate any additional solutions to the rodent-in-hand, the chipmunk's tail hair gave way, he fell, bounced once and then zoomed across the deck with the not-so-light footed cat right after him.

Rhiannon came out to see what all the commotion was about and got to see Outside Kitty hunting his prey.  Which is actually pretty remarkable given the weight which he has put on since being neutered and gaining access to the indoors and the neverending bowl of Meow Mix.

After a few minutes, Outside Kitty (a.k.a. Manboob Kitty) cornered his quarry and made the catch. And presented it to me once more.

By the expression on his face I'm sure he was thinking, "You idiot.  I caught it another time for you, now don't lose it again".  Since it wasn't dead (or at least wasn't when I had it), I took it from him and flung it over the porch railing.  I know, it's just a rodent.  But I don't think we have a serious chipmunk problem at our place so I figured I'd set the little bugger free.

I probably should have been more appreciative to Outside Kitty.  He brought me a gift, which I "lost" two times, yet he still continued to fetch it for me.  He was obviously perplexed at my continuing confusion as to what to do with the gift.  I mean, I did think about taking it from him and then hiding it so he didn't see me wantonly discard his present.  Or should I have personally dealt the final death snap to the rodent's neck with my own teeth, placed it on a plate and sat down with Outside Kitty on the porch to eat the thing?

I don't know.  But the chipmunk has not returned.  Either it has wisely high-tailed it's behind to another part of the woods or it has managed to shove itself between the rocks on the side of the house where it slowly died from internal bleeding and we will soon "find" it by the offending smell.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fall 2104 Cornish Meat Bird Costs

I bought thirty Cornish Cross cockerels from Estes Hatchery up in Missouri.  Figured I'd give a local hatchery a try.  They arrived just days after I ordered them and they even threw in two extra chicks.

We butchered the birds ten weeks after we got them.  They ate six hundred and fifty pounds of feed.  Unfortunately I didn't have much milk to spare so they ate the commercial 16% crumbles almost exclusively.

We froze the birds whole.  Our family enjoys roast chicken best and if I really wanted a cut-up chicken I figured I could do it after it was defrosted and go from there.  There's wasted freezer space by freezing them whole, but we'll live with that.  A few years ago I canned some of the chicken to save on freezer space.  The canned breast chunks were fine, but the canned bone-in thighs and legs were pretty much icky.  Not icky tasting, but icky looking.  And you had to pick the meat off and it was pretty much like shredded mushy chicken.  So no more canning chicken unless it's just breast meat.

Even though we let the birds go for ten weeks (as opposed to the standard eight weeks), they weren't as large as I had hoped.  I'm still striving to get a six or seven pound dressed bird again.  We only got those weights when we had lots of pork scraps (from the local pork roast at the fire department) and since the pork roast doesn't happen anymore, we're going to have to find another source of free protein to supplement their feed with.  The commercial feed costs are just getting too high at twenty-four cents a pound.  Yeah, that doesn't sound like much until you figure that I went through six hundred and fifty pounds of it this time.

And some of the birds just didn't thrive.  There were two birds that were just tiny; one weighing in at a mere 2 lbs. 9 oz. and the other at 2 lbs. 10 oz., and they weren't even the hens.  The largest bird weighed in at 5 lbs. 5 oz.  Those were dressed (butchered and ready to go in the oven) weights.  I didn't take live weights.
Big difference.  But why?
I wish I knew.  They were both cockerels.
This post has been "in progress" for over a week now.  I thought I had everything in order, but it seems I have misplaced the worksheet that had the total weights of the birds.  All I remember though, and this is what counts, is that our cost came to $1.99 per pound for a whole chicken (minus the insides, neck & livers).

There is absolutely no way we could compete with grocery store prices.  There are times when you can get a ten pound bag of frozen chicken leg quarters for sixty-nine cents a pound.  The boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Walmart is consistently $1.99 a pound.  And I think you can occasionally get a "Smart Chicken" whole fryer for $1.69 a pound.

So, unlike the Pork (which we did save money on vs. grocery store prices), we did not save a single dime by growing out our own meat birds.  We lost money.

Now, I know that there's a non-monetary value to knowing where our chicken supper comes from.  I know that Rhiannon is learning exactly how food gets to her plate.  And that's worth something.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chicken Guilt

I ordered thirty cockerel Cornish Cross chickens from Estes Hatchery at the end of August.  They ere nice enough to send thirty-two of them.  Six of the thirty-two ended up being hens, but I suppose that isn't too bad of a mistake, especially since the two free-bies could have been counted as two of the females.  The females grow slower and generally don't get as large as the cockerels and that's why the females cost less.

The birds spent all but the last two weeks of their lives in the barn.  And I admit, I suffered from Chicken Guilt.  I didn't plan on keeping them indoors for so long and it's not something I feel particularly good about either.  It's not like I was running a huge CAFO, but I sure felt as if they were missing out on something.  When I went to clean out their bedding (twice a day, mind you), they seemed grateful for the clean, fluffy straw....even happy.  After they finished their zombie mob attack on the crumbles, they would waddle around and look for a place to settle down (near the feed dish) and some of them would even preen what feathers they were able to reach on their rotund little bodies.  A hand full of them even tried "flying" (to try and tackle me when I brought feed in, but still).

I'd become oblivious to the fact that these Creepy Meats are actually living, feeling creatures.  Yes, I know they are livestock and that they are destined for freezer camp after only a few months of life.  Yes they stink, poop everywhere and act like food crazed fat chickens on meth, but I had forgotten that they were alive.  So I got my butt in gear and put them outside in the garden area.
Happier chickens.  Well, that's what I'm telling myself.
I figured that it was the most secure place and since I had already ripped out the peppers and strawberries and the tomatoes were just about finished for the year that the birds would do just fine.  I was hoping that they would actually eat the tomatoes (and save me a little bit on the feed bill), but they had no idea what to do with them.  The tomatoes and their greenery were totally destroyed, however not by the chickens eating it, but by being trampled and smooshed into the ground.  I knew I should have picked all those green tomatoes and made sweet tomato/onion relish (slaps head).  Ugh.  And since I wasn't putting down and taking up bedding, they were fertilizing the garden.  And doing so extra heavily around the feed and water dishes.  There is now a chicken-crap-hard-pan layer in those areas.  I doubt even the undead could bust their way through the earth under that sheet of shit.

Anyways, the chickens were out in the garden for two weeks.  They sunned themselves, they pecked at stuff (and at each other), some "ran" around (usually when being picked on), some even took dust baths.  It wasn't all fun and games though.  There was one jerk of a rooster that constantly harassed the other birds.  I knew I should have wrung his neck earlier because within a week, "some" chicken had pecked two other chickens to death.  When I first saw the dead chicken, I immediately though "raccoon" or "opossum", but the only trauma evident on the carcass was the bloodied head and neck.  Nothing ripped or shredded, nothing eaten.  So we missed out on two chicken suppers because I didn't butcher him.

Well, technically I did butcher him along with the rest of his chicken compadres.  We had a weekend with cool temps so Paul and I got them in the freezer, and none too soon because were down to just three chickens in the freezer from last year.

So, was it worth it?  That's the million dollar question all homesteaders and farmers are constantly asking themselves.  I'll have the monetary answer in the next post.  In the mean time, I'm going to heat up a cup of homemade chicken broth for Rhiannon and I.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pricing out the Pig

It seems like the pork posts will never end.  And they wouldn't if I waited until all our sausage was mixed up and our hams were fully cured, but I need to get some finality in the pork butchering day. Here are the totals from our hog butchering weekend (two weekends ago):

Loin: 15 lbs.
Tenderloin: 2 lbs.
Roasts:  36 lbs.
Ham: 13 lbs.
Ribs: 11 lbs.
Ground: 51 lbs.
Liver: 7 lbs.
Lard: 6 lbs.
Jowl: 4 lbs.
Bacon: 32 lbs.

For a Grant Total of 170 pound of pork goodness!  I didn't even include the 20 or so pounds of meaty bones for soup stock or the countless treats and future suppers for the Giant Sloppy Dog.

But I also have to admit that we did waste more than I would have liked to.  I didn't save the hocks to smoke (but Charlie was a very happy, hock-chewing dog).  I didn't clean out the intestines to make our own sausage casings.  The head never made it to "head cheese".  And I didn't even tan the hide to make footballs.  Instead we decided to pay tribute to the Pork God by placing the odds & ends and other remnants on a wooden altar and set it ablaze so the smoke from the burnt offerings would rise into the heavens to appease the Pork God.  In other words, we tossed the guts & stuff into a huge burn pile and lit it.

So now we know the amount of meat, lets look at the amount of money:

Yummy the Pig: $240
Feed: $90
Pig-Sitting: $50
Total: $380

So even if I just divided the price of the pig into the total poundage of meat, we're at $2.24 per pound.  Not bad, not bad at all.  But since I'm occasionally a bit anal, I went to the local supermarket and got prices (some on sale, some not) on the various cuts of pork.  You know, just to figure out how much we would have paid had we bought all that meat at the store....and so I could remind myself that it is, in fact, worth all the work.  That "Grocery Store" number was $587.....a two hundred dollar savings!

I'm a happy bacon-eat'n, pork chop-grill'n, ham-snacking gal.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Making Bacon, Part 2

Well, this isn't the most informative post on how to make bacon.  But there are pictures, so that counts as eye candy at least, right?

The bacons cured in the refrigerator for nine days.  On day ten they were taken out of their zippy bags and soaked for several hours to remove excess cure and salt, then patted dry and left out on the porch (it was cccccccooold outside) until the next day.  Paul smoked them for several hours at a low temperature, around 150 degrees, not so much to "cook" them, but to impart a hickory taste to them.

We put them back out on the porch (it was still ccccooold outside, even during the day) to cool off and firm up for slicing.

I must say, we're pretty spoiled.  Having that meat slicer is awesome when it comes to home meat processing (thanks again, Dad).  But if we didn't have it, I'd probably just cut the bacons into 2 pound chunks (come on, what family eats just one pound of bacon?!) and freeze it like that.  Then when we wanted bacon, I'd just slice it as needed.

Then came the real test......the taste test!

It was good, but not exactly what I was expecting.  I used Morton's tender quick and added maple syrup, so I knew it was going to be a sweeter bacon, but I suppose I was hoping for a more "bacon'y" taste.  And there wasn't really that much fat in a lot of the slabs so there wasn't much in the way of drippings to save (you DO save your bacon drippings, right?!).  Not only wasn't there a lot of drippings, but the maple syrup flavoring was too powerful for what I would normally use the drippings for.

Don't get me wrong.  This bacon is delicious.  But it's not your typical Oscar Meyer package of bacon.  I think I'd call it a "custom flavor".  Which, technically, it is.  Maple flavored and hickory smoked, to be exact.

What I should have done (slaps self in the forehead) was made two or three different bacon rubs.  Then we would have been able to modify our recipe easier.  As it stands now, we have thirty two pounds (minus much taste testing and snacking last night) of this new Hickory Maple bacon and probably fifteen pounds of the "normal" smoked bacon left from the last hog.

Variety (albeit somewhat limited) is the (bacon cure) spice of life, right?

Friday, November 14, 2014


I put an ad in the local FB page for Herman, our stinky, horned, jerk buck Boer goat.  He's bred the mothers and their daughters and it's time to introduce some new DNA in the herd.

About a week and a half ago, I got a message from someone that wanted him and didn't even want to finagle with the price.  I told them that they could come pick him up on Sunday and I did a little jig.  Then, come Saturday morning, I noticed that Herman was limping.  Shit.  I mean, really, Herman?!  The day before you're set to get shipped out of here you mess up your leg?  The Universe hates me.

So I called the lady who wanted him and told her.  I didn't see any obvious trauma, scrapes, cuts or something that would give away why he was limping so I figured the big dufus just got it caught in the fence during his 24/7 running of the fence line to oogle the girls.  I told her that I wouldn't feel comfortable selling him until he was back to normal and we agreed that I'd call her back when he wasn't limping any more.  By Tuesday he was back to running the fence line without any signs of limping, gimping or being out of step so I called the lady and she said that they'd come by Friday (today) afternoon to pick him up.

Well, this morning I got a FB message.  That they won't be coming today.  Or tomorrow.  Or the next week.  They are just going to wait until spring to get their buck.  The Universe most definitely hates me.

I mean, I was so ready to get rid of his stinky ass.  I even wrote a poem celebrating his departure to use as today's blog post.  But alas, it will stay in my Blogger "Draft" section now.  I'd take him to the "local" goat / sheep sale, but it looks like slaughter bucks are only getting $80 - $90 and at that price it's not worth the diesel fuel and time / bother to do it.  So I may just put out another ad asking $80 or $90 for him just to get him out of here.  It's just such a pain in the rear to take care of a separate animal in the winter.  More water to haul (and farther away), more ice to chip, more hay to pitch, more grain to feed.  And if it weren't for the fact that I have serious concerns about the stink-factor, I'd say we'd butcher him and put him in the freezer.  Has anyone ever butchered a buck before?  Will all that sink permeate into the meat or is it just icky when you have to skin him?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Making Bacon (and Ham, and Sausage)

For the past four or five years, we've had our hog made into the usual, familiar cuts.  Two of those cuts, the ham steaks and pork chops, have bones in them.  But since we didn't have use of an electric saw (i.e. fancy, much nicer, and much faster than a hack saw), going boneless seemed like the easiest way to get all that yummy pork in the freezer.

Although I did say that this was our first pig-solo-gig, we did have some help.  Aaron (who's done more than his fair share of hog butchering) came over to help us with the massive amounts of meat sitting on that cutting table.  Paul and I would have been able to go it alone, but I really wanted Aaron's bacon expertise when slicing apart the Holy Grail of the porker.  And it definitely helped speed things along.

The loins were cut out in two huge, long pieces. They were then cut into more manageable hunks, perfect for roasting or cutting into boneless pork chops.  The tenderloins were cut out whole and wrapped up separately.  The ribs were cut out, trimmed and rolled up and jammed into the freezer.  One of the back legs (ham) was made into roasts and the front legs were ground up along with any other miscellaneous hunks of meat and fat.

One of the other things the butcher would do for us was cure and smoke our hams.  Since we were the butchers this time around, we were going to have to do this step ourselves.  I deboned the second back leg and made it into two smaller hams.  And last, but not least, the belly (bacon) was cut and trimmed.  Oooo....bacon in the mak'n.
Isn't that. just. beautiful. 
But that "bacon" wasn't really bacon yet.  It was just two long flaps of fat and meat, fat and meat.  In order for that hunk of belly meat to become bacon, it needs to be cured.  Same with the hams.  I was a bit anxious about doing our own curing.  It seems like it should be complicated, but it's really darned simple. We bought Morton's Tender Quick for the bacons and Morton's Sugar Cure for the ham.

I sliced the thirty-two pounds of soon-to-be-bacons into eight pieces (perfect for 1-gallon zippy bags).   The Tender Quick curing salts are based upon weight so my chosen recipe called for two cups of Tender Quick, two cups of brown sugar (I just used white sugar and added some molasses) and two cups of maple syrup.  When I started to mix it all up in the tub, I was a little worried.  All that sticky maple syrup caused the cure and sugar to turn into a big, sticky, gloppy blob of a thing.  So it wasn't as simple as just rubbing dry ingredients into the bacon.  I kind'a just smooshed the glob of goo into the slabs of meat and it eventually started to "melt" from the warmth of my hands as I worked it in.  I didn't put any maple syrup on the Sugar Cure for the hams, so they were much easier to work with.

The zippy bags of soon-to-be-bacon are in a spare fridge and get turned every day.  They'll be in there for an entire week and then I'll stick them in the smoker.  The hams will take a little while longer.  They were rubbed down with the Sugar Cure.  A week later, they were rubbed down again.  And in another week, the final rub and another week's wait.  Then finally, after three weeks, the hams will be soaked for a half hour or so and I'll toss them into the smoker.  That's the plan anyhow.  I sureshit hope it turns out.  Can you imagine how pissed disappointed I'd be if they ended up rotting or tasting horrid or if the electricity goes out or if a bear breaks into the fridge and eats everything or if a SWAT team come crashing through our windows and confiscates our homegrown meat in some botched up meth lab bust or, or, or.....

I'll let you know in a few more days.  With pictures, of course.  Probably of me eating all that bacon.

Oh!  I've found a new beauty secret!  All that time I spent cutting that porker up made my hands soooooo very, very soft.  Granted, it was almost impossible to get that water-impervious layer of lard scrubbed off of my hands after butchering, but once it was off they were softer than a baby's butt.  Then, two days later, I treated my hands to a sugar / salt / maple syrup scrub.  The callouses on my hands had just about disappeared.  So not only did I now have soft and smooth hands, but they smelled like BACON!!

I'm now working on my new home-based business; LardLucious.  Hand creams, sugar scrubs, and lotions made from lard!  Bacon scented, of course.  I wonder if I should put a disclaimer on the containers saying that the products should not be used if you'll be in close proximity to hungry people / animals?  I'd hate to have to deal with a lawsuit involving the LardLucious wearer and the neighbor's German Shepherd.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Where'd ya go?

It's not like I've been gone for a long time.  I'm pretty sure there have been other, longer instances where I've been missing from the blogosphere.  But I'm telling ya, I want to blog.  I want to read your blogs.

But I've been either hip-wading in pig innards, rubbing salt/sugar cures into hunks of meat, de-feathering poultry or having my hand up the backside of said chicken.  

Lately, my life has been nothing but meat.  And guts.  And sharp knives.

Oh, and goat sex.  Because apparently I wasn't disgustingly horrible enough to look at with dried blood all over me and chunks of lard stuck in my ponytail, I was disgustingly smelly from playing goat pimp.

But I'll have lots to blog about when this motherload of meat is finally put in the freezer.  I'll reveal my newly-found secret for soft, supple hands.  I'll let you know why I won't be heard from next April.  I'll tell you how I got the homestead to be less stinky.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll have a silly giveaway.

See ya soon!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bringing home the Yummy (Bacon)

This weekend was the first that we were expecting cooler temps in the daytime and freezing (or close to it) overnight.  Normally this would only mean that I may have to chip ice out of stock tanks and light the wood stove at night, but this weekend it was going to mean much, much more.

More sausage, more pork chops & more bacon to be exact.

Paul, Rhiannon and I went to the school barn to pick up Yummy on Saturday.  Well, not so much "Pick up" as "Try to convince him to get into the back of the trailer with the prospect of getting a huge bucket full of slop".  Which wasn't as easy as I had hoped.  It took us close to a half-hour to finally get his plump butt in there.  But after that it was an uneventful drive home.
What's in the trailer, Ma?

Although we've helped butcher hogs before, this was our first solo-gig.  Yummy never left the trailer; at least not alive.  A well placed .22 round to the brain ended his life here on earth and began his new existence as sustenance for our family.  We bled him out (a deep cut just behind the jaw, into the jugular) and hoisted him up using the tractor.  I finally got to use my birthday present from last year (thanks, sees-ter!!):
284 pounds of porky goodness
This weight was "on the hoof", although bled out.
While the pig was hoisted up, Paul gutted it.  Choice organs were saved for us (liver, mainly) and Charlie got just about everything else but the intestines and stomach.  He's in doggie heaven on butchering days.  After the insides were outside, Paul cut the head from the carcass, we hosed it off and had to get it off the tractor boom.

Since we didn't have a stout tree limb to hang the hog from, we stole an idea from Ohio Farm Girl and made a Pig Cradle to skin him.  We would have continued using the tractor to hang it from, but we don't have a safety "lock" to keep the front end loader secured in case of a hydraulic hose / valve / cylinder fail.  It wouldn't be a pretty sight if there were some sort of tractor mechanical failure.
Pig on a Cradle
Once the carcass was on the cradle, we went to skinning it.  Which wasn't as easy as it sounds.  Depending on factors that we have yet to fully understand, one may be able to just start peeling the skin off like any other animal.  Or not.  We ended up having to flesh (i.e. making small cuts using a very sharp knife) out more than half the pig.  It doesn't look very pretty either.  But since the main reason for skinning / fleshing out the pig was to save the fat for lard, pretty didn't really matter.

After the pig was relieved of it's skin, we hosed it off some more and used the tractor to haul cradle and carcass into the garage and onto the nice, stainless steel table that my Dad gave me last year.(Interesting gifts I get from my family, hugh?  Game scale, SS table.  I think it's great!!)  There it sat, overnight, to chill in the 35 degree darkness.

And "Thh, thhh, thhhthhh, That's all folks!

No, that's not really all there is.  To be continued.  I gott'a get back in the kitchen to mix up some breakfast sausage, rub some hams and cure me some bacons!!

Friday, October 31, 2014


Last weekend while I was sitting at the garage sale, contemplating exactly why I bothered to have a garage sale and counting the three quarters that I made that day, I saw a familiar pick up truck pull into the drive.  Aaron & Adrian had come, not to buy toddler clothing or 80's dishes, but to bring Deuce Bigalow, their Nigerian Dwarf buck, over to our place.  Since I couldn't convince them to take all the garage sale stuff off my hands, I sent them and the goat down the road to our place where Paul would help them unload his stinky ass.

Deuce will be breeding MamaGoat and maybe Annette this year.  Even though Pyewacket (Annette's doeling and her eventual replacement) is big enough to be bred, I'm going to hold off until next year.  The goat population is getting a bit out of hand and I'm going to have to admit that Paul is right; we have too many milk goats for what milk we do drink.  And although we do trade milk for hay, I can't use that as an excuse to keep the extra milkers going.  Feed costs are getting too expensive.

So Deuce and Studly are pen-mates.  As was expected, they butted heads and rammed each other for half the day until both of them were exhausted.  Now the only head butting occurs when one of the ladies come over to take a look-see or when the grain dishes come out.  Typical animals.  Wait a second, my husband is kind'a like that when we go out....except he doesn't get as excited with me as he does a cheeseburger.  Not that I blame him.  I'd shove right past Tom Selleck for a big, juicy cheeseburger with grilled onions and all the fixings.

Wait a second, where was I going with this?

Oh, the buck goats.  Studly will only get one of the Boer gals this year and Herman will breed the rest of the Boers because as soon as I'm sure he's successful, I'm putting his stankyass up for sale.  From next year on, Studly DoRight will be our resident stud.  He'll be able to breed all of our current does as well as their doelings the following year.  At that point, we should have enough does in the herd that we can stop building the herd and start eating the herd.

I didn't want to have any more early births like last year so I've put off breeding until just recently.  Dilly was bred a few days ago and Penny (the Boer/Nubian cross) was bred last week, both by Herman.  But we're not going to be able to count on Penny's kids because I finally sold her!  She went to her new home earlier this morning.  Whoo hoo!  One less mouth to feed.

Oh wait, we added Deuce to the heard; that's one more mouth to feed.

I guess I'll just call it even then.  Sigh.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why wasn't I informed about this?!

Bruce Jenner is seen wearing nail polish.  House of Cards actress dies.

Why are THESE things popping up in my "News" section (who is Jenner and what is House of Cards anyhow??) but there's not a single mention of it being NATIONAL CAT DAY ?!?

Had I known earlier and I would have made catnip cookies or something.

So here's a toast to all you cat lovers out there (and all you closet cat lovers) and your feline companions; those who have left pawprints on our hearts, those that have moved on to their next kitty adventure, and to those bundles of fur still with us, shedding hair onto our supper plates and purring their way into our lives.

And trust me, you've GOT to watch THIS cat commercial.  I've watched it fifteen times already and it just doesn't get old.

Have a Meow-meow-meow evening!