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.
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
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 structure
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.,
Einstein & Suzy
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.
It 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…
I have to admit I am a bit of a lazy gardener. When I was little one of the things I hated most in the world was having to pick rocks and weeds out of our garden. When we first started to keep rabbits we used to go out every night and pick greens for them. It was a treat and one that they would look forward to every night. We were able to handpick the greens quite successfully every night in about 15 minutes. The critters were happy and we enjoyed spending time with them.
Our broccoli and pea garden this year was last years tomatoe garden. We have a thing for heritage tomatoes and unique tomatoes so the re-seed of our gardens happends naturally. I am a HUGE fan of surprise plants. Often our gardens will re-seed because of our inability to harvest everything on time, and our compost will end up in the garden. That usually means that cantalope, squash and seeded vegetables will randomly come up. I love it when that happens. I let the random tomatoe plants grow. I can sometimes make rows by selectively picking the plants that have decided to sprout into the garden. Often I can work around the other plants easily. By the end of the garden season I will have a whole new garden which will be a complete surprise.
All of the extra plants that I pull out becomes an instant treat for our rabbits. It really is sustainable living with very little effort.
The tomatoe plants are growling freely amongst the broccoli and peas.
We are having a wet summer. It means that our garden is growing very quickly. We are already into harvesting peas, spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard and radishes. Each day we are eating directly from our garden and each day I am able to preserve some for the winter. I am already a fan of the grocery bill reduction. I am a fan of the less amount of trips we have to take to the grocery store because “there is nothing to eat in the house.” We are looking forward to more peas though. Perhaps in a few weeks I will be singing a different tune when I am having to shell the peas for the winter. I am thrilled by the amount of food we have been able to harvest with such little effort on our part. I thank each and every one of our rabbits for making this organic farm a possibility.
On the very last day of school my “farm boy” son was taken to the skatepark. We had a skateboard. They had been to the skatepark before. They were a lot younger then and since we moved to the county, there are many more exciting things to do. Like ride his four wheel bike and bicycle.
Pre-teen fearlessness was not his friend as he stood on the top of the skate ramp. The skate board slipped out from under his feet and down he went. Unfortunately my son now has to spend the summer on crutches. I have lost my farmhand for the summer. It pains me to have my young son in such pain and agony as he gets used to his new reality for the summer. We have found that the animals who have comforted us so much over the years are still providing the comfort where desired. The first night home we allowed the dogs to come up and sleep in the living room. They obligingly lay at his side to keep him company. We are grateful to every single one of our animals. More so as each day passes.
The other day a friend of ours was visiting. We walked him around our yard and showed him all the different projects we have on the go. We have a huge tomatoe patch, three different types of peas, broccoli and cauliflower, giant pumpkins and a few others. We have many transplants to go into the ground. He asked what they were and my husband said that they were watermelons. He looked oddly at us and said, “Why would you go through all the trouble of growing your own watermelon when you can go to the store and buy them for $4.00?”
My husbands answer was “Don’t tomatoes that you grow taste a whole lot better that the ones you can buy in the grocery store!” He agreed and they continued on the tour.
My answer would have been a little different. My quest to grow my own watermelon is to put seeds back into watermelon. Some of my fondest memories as a child was getting a huge piece of watermelon. Having a contest as to who’s piece had the most seeds. To see who could spit the seeds the furthest. I think it became a quest when my children asked “There are seeds in watermelon?” I now have a mission. My kids will know that there were seeds in watermelon. That apples that taste the best are the ones with the brown spots. That a tomatoe can be red, yellow, pink and almost every shade of red on the color wheel. I am starting a u-pick so other kids will know as well. I am not sure when I realized how important it was to grow different strands of food. How our selection is so limited when its comes to food in the store. How tomatoe sandwiches just do not taste the same anymore. Everyday we are working, every day we are saying..our Yardin is soooo much more than a garden.
The ducks have officially moved outside. They live with the little rabbits now and are loving the companionship and fresh greens that they are getting daily. We have a little splash pad in the pen so they can be ducks.
We are Christmas tree farmers so we used one of our stands that display the Christmas trees on our lot as a roost for the turkeys. They immediately caught on what to do. This picture was taken on the second night that they stayed outside. I wish I would have gotten a picture on the first night as they were all in a row and facing the same way. The turkeys are really growing on me. Their pen is located right beside my driveway and they run the length of the driveway as we are driving out. It really is funny to watch.
We are eating quite a bit from our garden and farm right now. Last night I calculated and found that our entire meal may have cost us $2.00. I did purchase a $0.77 cucumber as they are not in season right now and the rest went towards the cost of the ingredients. My kids are complaining less about eating a salad.
Rhubarb crisp..devilled eggs and rabbit chef salad.