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
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.
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.
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.
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 Pokey puppy was my absolute favourite book when I was a child. I wanted a speckled puppy my whole entire life. While we were raising the six children there was not a whole lot of room for dogs. In 2008 I suffered a tremendous loss of my brother through suicide. I ached so completely I could not ever imagine how I would be able to continue. On the day after his funeral a friend asked me to take Brandy as she was working full time and had no time for her. I looked at the beautiful dog. Placed her at my feet in the car and came home with her. I honestly was looking for a distraction. I knew she was high energy. I got more distraction than I could have ever imagined. Two weeks after we got home she gave birth to 11 pups. I needed her in my life. I needed her to help me find a little relief in the tremendous sadness I was feeling. I found homes for all the puppies by placing them on our front porch. People would hear of the porch puppies and come and ask if they could have one.
We had Brandy exclusively for the next year. Without my conscious knowledge, I yearned for a companion for Brandy. Around the anniversary of my brothers death. Off to the pound we went and Libby we seen. Crouched into the corner of her pen. She had lived the first two years of her life inside a cage. It was hard to leave her there as they had to spay her before we could take her home. She was a challenge though. The exact distraction I was looking for. I did the same the next year and then the year after that. Sadie and Bently were my last two distractions. I finally caught on what I had been doing. I was trying so hard to fill the very void that was left in my heart. I now have four of the Pokey puppies. My daughter tells me that I need one more to finish the book. Maybe someday but for now I have all the pokey puppies I can handle.