How do we eat them?

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How do we eat them?

It’s a very common question we get from almost everyone who comes out to our farm. It is usually asked in a hushed tone and hesitantly but its one we do not mind answering. I think it is important to tell people that it was a process. Often the first one is the hardest to eat.

I am not a huge protein fan but I know with each meal that we eat, my children look to me before they brave the first bite. They very quickly forget what they are eating and move into discussion of taste instead.image

I have learned through the years that its best to process the animals and eat them on different days. I find that its easier when we do things like chunk them into roasts, make hamburger or debone them into fillets.

I find the more we work through the process, the easier it is.

I do know that four years ago my family ate very very little meat. I had watched Food Inc and was very much affected me. I pretty much went cold turkey from purchasing meat from the grocery store. My children for years asked me to buy meat and on a rare occasion I would. I always felt guilty when I did and I am very glad I do not have to wrestle with those feelings anymore. I think that people are going to head back into this direction, growing their own food. I do want people to understand that it is a process though

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the Nightmare Part of Living the dream

I’ve been blogging for a bit now and realized that I have been always mentioning the positive things about the lifestyle. Although there is a lot of postive things that happen on our little farm there is also  a lot of sacrifice, disappointment and hard decisions.

I mention this as my young daughter and I were joking about it yesterday about the financial aspects of the lifestyle. How every single penny we have seems to go towards feed, the farm, the cost of maintaining it, dog food, cat food, the list…really is endless. Perhaps living in a modern home, with modern conveniences, makes it that much difficult and expensive. I say this because we do live in a modern home with modern conveniences. We have a huge mortgage payment and a huge property tax bill.

imageOften… I wonder if it would be smarter to more country setting just to lower those costs. Then…I think of all the effort we put into the property already. The three years of garden prepping, the three years of fence building, the three years of trying to convince customers to find us on our back road and think to myself that I do not want to start over again.

As we hear on the weather report that winter is going to keep going and going and going.. it makes me realize realistically the money I wanted to spend on new seeds will probably go into the oil barrel. I understand better how much it costs now to run our little operation but it really does not help when there is next to nothing on your return for your efforts. I really had to start looking at the cost of our feed as being savings on our grocery bill and the cost of starting my plants in my house would save me from having to buy them for double the cost in the Spring.

So.. we sacrifice..we go without. There is a saying in our home that cheese is for rich people. But by making some sacrifices and doing things like building stands out of recycled lumber, we are making it happen. I may get frustrated that I can’t find 60 cents in my purse for a pack of gum but I’ve learned to go without. Ive learned that it is much more important to know where our food came from. It became much more important that the animals we eat are treated well. It is a lot of hard work, sacrifice and disappointment but it is worth it,  We may not have as much variety in our garden because we had to put oil in the barrel, but we will have a garden.

Suzy, Zoro and Flappy bird

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This is Suzy. Her companions are Zoro and Flappy Bird.

I will be the first to admit that they are still around as Flappy bird was the constant companion of Suzy last summer, until puberty hit. There is something about Suzy that makes her very likeable and because of that we decided to keep her, flappy and a mate also got to stick around to see if we can hatch out some baby ducklings in the Spring time.

Flappy and Zoro had hit it off right from the very beginning and I think that is why Suzy got close to us humans. It was sad over time though to see the other two ducks off as a happy couple and Suzy off by oneself. It is still that way but I think things are changing. My husband happily announced on valentines day that We may see ducklings from Suzy yet. This is quite exciting to us as farmers as we were trying to figure out how to separate the eggs so we were not trying to hatch out unfertilized ones. Does not sound like much of an issue anymore and now we face a bigger challenge of how to get Suzy to stop eating her eggs.

Late last fall she and Flappy had begun to lay eggs but we have unsuccessfully been able to retrieve them at all. Although they are free range ducks, we may have to pen them up for at least a couple of weeks so we can try to get their eggs.

If any one has any suggestions on how to to get the ducks to stop eating their eggs, I would appreciate the advice. Spring is just around the corner and I cannot wait to update this blog with pictures of our success.

Igoos, Tee Pees, Straw bales and Coops

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We are Christmas tree, Chickens, Ducks, Pigs, Rabbits, Turkey and vegetable farmers. Part of our challenge since we started this life style was to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we physically can. I often look out on our little farm and see the art pieces that are starting to form. One being our tee pees for the chickens, turkeys and rabbits. I left out the ducks because they moved into the straw bale structureimageimageimage

at the beginning of the year and do not use the tee pees.

This was the first year we built the structure as a tee pee. We had built a chicken shelter as an igloo and it worked out perfectly. The snow and recycled tree structures provided a very adequate shelter. As you can see from the picture next to the igloo the hens are healthy and feathered very nicely. This is the main reason we went back to this system for this winter. Drafts and Wind are the chickens worst enemy,so as long as you build a structure that protects them from these, they fair better in the winter than they do in the coop.

In Canada we have the aid of snow to help build the shelter. Once the snow comes, naturally it builds all around the structure. This provides extra warmth and makes them draft proof. We stuff hay into the shelter for the bedding which then gets packed into the ground. We generally do not have to do a whole lot of maintenance to keep the shelter fresh.

Our animal pens, tee pees, igloos etc all are built where our next year garden is going to be. All winter the animals have been providing the soil with some much needed soil conversion. WE have clay, unworkable soil which we are slowly turning into organic gardens,with them help of our critters.,

The Odd Couple

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Einstein was our very first farm animal. I seen this funky rooster on the Internet and decided if we were going to have chickens, then we may as well have funky chickens. We drove an hour and a half to retrieve him and his two hens. Chicken life was a lot of fun when there was only the three of them. it amazed me how they would go back to the same stick every night and roost. Once they has settled in for the night we could go up to them, pat them, handle them. Our meat chickens arrived a few months later and then they still would go back to the same place to roost every single night. The following summer we had lost one of the funky hens in the Spring and unfortunately lost the last one a month later. It was sad as they had just started to lay their teeny tiny eggs and we were hoping that their natural instinct would kick in and we could breed some of our own. Endless searches later we have still not found some more hens for poor Einstein and the other Roosters on the property will not allow him to have their hens.

Suzy arrived at our farm as a day old. I was petrified of birds and had very little to do with the ducks other than watch them play and grow and have fun on the yard. Suzy is a Muskovey duck and her flock was scheduled to be culled the Thanksgiving weekend. Prior to the cull, I was having second thoughts about the ducks. They had begun to follow me around and beg for ripe tomatoes. Suzy in particular had gotten very smart and had begun to tap on the patio door for fresh bread and water. We had a predator attack just before the weekend and fortunately for Suzy she was spared. Her and two others, a male and a female. The other two ducks decided to pair up immediately after the attack. There was a definitive mating pair and Suzy was alone.

Einstein had taken to calling and calling and calling for his hens. Fortunately his cock a doodle doo was not painful to the ears, it was just sad to watch him look for his beloved hens. I am not 100 percent sure when exactly it was that I noticed that Einstein and Suzy had located each other but I did notice one day that he did not cock a doodle doo for endless hours. I started to notice that whenever I seen one, then the other was not too far behind. I called them the odd couple but for some reason they found comfort in each others company. It went on like that for the rest of the summer and into the winter.

Winter brought some new challenges as EInstein had moved into the coop last winter and continues to retreat there every night. We moved Suzy into the garage as the other pair is still not accepting. It will be interesting to see if this unlikely pair reunite this Spring. Although we are still hoping to find Einstein some hens and I am pretty sure we will look for a mate for Suzy as well.

Biggie and Little Pig

image I really have a problem with naming the animals that we are ultimately going to eat. My husband insists on naming them so that we can tell them apart. We welcomed two new additions to our homestead this winter. Two Tamsworth/Berkshire crossed piglets. We gave them the name Big pig and Little pig.

We couldn’t have acquired them on a colder day and although they were used to the cold, we moved them into our garage until the temperature gets a little warmer. Our ducks have decided that the nice little pen that we made for the pigs is a great place to hang out as well and have also moved in. Needless to say there is no room in my garage for my car.

We decided to get this type of piglet so they will turn our soil in the Springtime. This breed is suppose to be good for rooting and with our clay like soil we decided we can use all the help we can get. It will be interesting to see how they mesh with our other farm yard animals.

Since I last updated we have decided to take 4 turkeys, 3 ducks and 50 chickens through the winter. They live amongst the 50plus rabbits that we have and thus far have been doing quite well. It surprises me that they really do better in the winter compared to the summer. I think I will take some pictures and do a follow up on our tee pee style shelters. We really are hoping for breeding to take place with our turkeys and ducks.

Been spending a lot of the days planning for Spring. My son is hoping to start his own adventure in farming by raising some meat chickens. We are hoping to turn our huge pens into productive gardens. Every day I still shake my head and wonder what it is that we are doing. Why we are choosing to put so much added stress in our lives. But glad that we are almost through winter and my freezer is still full and my pantry is as well.

It’s now the middle of February and we are gradually getting the pigs ready for their transition back into the outdoos. The sun is peaking its head out finally so I do feel Spring is just around the corner. I will be busy later making pots to start my Spring garden. I must admit that although I do like having all the transplants in the Spring, I hate having all the transplants in my house until the Spring.

Turkey Talk

Let’s talk about my new passion.. turkey..

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This was our first year raising turkeys.

I just liked the taste of turkey and wanted something other than rabbit and chicken so we decided to add some turkeys to our little sustainable farm. I have to admit when we first embarked on this journey I was not 100 percent sure how I would feel raising the animals and then culling them for the freezer. I guess by starting our journey with cute little rabbits, it made everything else fall comfortably into place. Turkeys and ducks seemed like the logical next move for our one acre sustainable farm.

We bought the turkeys as three week olds. They cost us $12 a piece and were a cross between a wild turkey and a tame turkey. My husband was sure we were going to lose some so we ordered 10. The supplier must have thought we were going to lose some as well because they sent us a couple of extra. All 12 survived and turned into Hundreds of pounds of meat. In five months we were able to fill our freezer with more turkey than an average family eats.

I think the thing that surprised me the most is the diversified meat of the turkey.

Before we grew our own, I would buy the odd supermarket turkey and try to get creatative with it. I would make hotsandwiches, cold sandwiches, pasta and soup. A supermarket turkey with the right Planning could give us about 5 meals.

We had our first homegrown turkey at Thanksgiving. I remember it was a fair size. I think he was about 27 pounds. I was shocked about how easily I was able to bring the turkey in from the outside and place him into the oven. We had possibly the best tasting turkey dinner in our lives and I sat there looking at all the meat that was left over. I cannot remember exactly how many meals we were able to get off him but I think it was about 12.

We culled a turkey the other day. We had the full intention of just cutting him up into parts but my husband carefully dressed him. Had he been actually able to fit into the oven we probably would have kept him to roast. However at 40lbs, he had no chance of fitting in the oven.

We are just settling into winter and have decided to take some of our turkeys into the winter with us. Our hopes being that the two hens and the two toms will successfully breed and make our farm a little more sustainable with regards to our animals.

I have to say I really enjoyed raising the turkeys, aside from the huge amounts of feed they would ingest each and every day. They interacted with us enough to entertain us but kept a certain amount of distance as well. My husband could handle them but for the most part they had a you can look but you cant touch policy. They were friendly enough to co-exist with but kept enough distance we didn’t make pets out of them. I am beginning to find that a very important factor in the “raise our own food” adventure that we are on.

Yard to Yardin

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I cannot believe the soil conversion that is happening in my yard with the help of my animals. We earlier in the Spring, made pens for the rabbits, turkeys, ducks and chickens where we wanted our future gardens to be. This garden was our first one and only had baby bunnies living in it for about a month and a half. There were about fifty of them and most of them we sold or ate over the summer. We planted our tomatoe and bean patch in late May and it is doing phenomenal. My husband was turning soil over in our turkey pen and it is crazy the soil that has formed near the watering station. The earthworms are the size of little snakes and the ground is a deep, dark topsoil. I have been gardening for years, with compost, imageimageimageimage

So little time to blog..when there is so much to do…

imageIt is funny that I started my blog at the very moment that I

decided to increase the animals on the farm. Little did I know how much time they would occupy. It is not the time that it takes to care for them..but the time that I enjoy them. The small moments like the one captured by the pumpkins. Such beautiful happy ducks. I find that I cannot wait to finish supper so that I can rush out and watch them take their bath in the pool before they look to me to put them back in the pen for the night. How smart they were when the night that the coyotes were howling that they broke into my tomatoe patch to hide. I am going to miss the ducks and the turkeys. There time on this earth was well spent. They got to eat, relax, play and rest.

They like many of our animals are meant to be raised for food. We had to really work through the process. We had to come to terms with the reality that they all would face at the end of the summer. We made their time here though as happy and comfortable as we could. We had a big butcher day last Sunday. I am not really sure why we chose Sunday..but we did. Each Sunday marked off in our calendar as a day we process our meat. I am not sure why it has made the process easier but it has. We have a plan and we are sticking with it. Following through on the decisions to raise our own food, process our own food and enjoy the bounty of of journey. 

I really wish I had been able to capture more moments on film and video. This journey that we are on is enlightening. One we never consciously chose when we picked our home out. (Otherwise I am sure a barn would have been on the list of must haves.) Our journey with the ducks is coming to an end..next up…image

2:00 minute Fresh Herbs..ready for winter storage.

imageI was a herbalist in a past life. I am not sure exactly why I think that, but I do know I have always been lured to herbs mystical qualities. As a little child I would take a plastic pail with the shovel still attached and walk around for hour collecting little pieces of leaf. I remember it had to be a certain kind. I have no recollection of what it was that I w collecting but it remained my passion to this day. I have every book available for identifying plants. I have been seed collecting since I grew my first plant.  I only learned in the last year that you can dry your collected goodies in the microwave, I used to bundle them all together and hang them to dry. I have to ad it they would get dusty before I got around to storing it. Even then the stalks were a pain to pick out. I learned this technique from an educator and I have it a try the other day. I could not believe how easy it was and how little stalk was left in the mix.image