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.,
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.
My husband is a young man of 46. He has had grey hair the entire time I have known him. He recently decided to let it grow and grow and grow. A sharp contrast to the clean shaved face and head he sported last year. My husband loves his animals. There are some who try to bond with us and there are some we try to bond with regardless of their protests. We have a flemmish giant nest at the moment. They color is Chinchillia grey. We have been trying to get this color dominant on our farm as it was the original color of our first buck. The other day he was playing with the bunny as we were trying to get a picture of it and he placed it beside his head. He said, “I think he likes me, he’s got the same color hair” We laughed and enjoyed the moment of joy that the bunnies bring us. There are more and more moments of just joy in our lives.
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.
It all seems like a good idea. The farm to provide us with meat and veggies.. We put in our gardens, we started our seeds, we now have rabbits and turkeys and ducks and chickens. Our farm has turned into a full time job, rather quickly. All of a sudden we realize how on earth are we going to have the time to do everything and pay the bills. So our farm had to multi task as our rest and play in our work, rest, play, repeat..family words to live by.
We no longer have a whole lot of time for Facebook, or cleaning our house, or go to bed by 9:00, or watching Netflix. However, we are realizing that as long as we all pitch in, everything seems to get done. Our farm work double tasks as our relaxing time as well. Playing with the turkeys and rabbits is entertaining and fun. We had to picnic on the front deck the other day because the table was covered in transplants. We had the worse rainstorm I have ever witnessed an hour later and I had to rescue my plants. Our kids were forced to go outside to round up the ducks and the turkeys. Their stories were so much more memorable than the kids from school who talked about watching the storm out the windows.
Last night as I was walking across our backyard I seen a stray baby bunny about the size of an egg. It was close to my sons four wheeler which has a tarp draped over it. I bent down and wondered how on earth this hairless, egg size baby bunny got ther. It seemed looked after, it was plump and robust. I got my husband to move the straggler to a nest of like size baby bunnies. I was still wondering how this bunny got to this place.
A few weeks ago we had a pen of rabbits break free. We had retrieved most but some of them are still running free. I checked under the tarp and found a stray nest. Actually two stray nests. The mamas were not to be found so we put the cover back down and left them alone. Entertainment does not cost us a penny. Although my son will not be able to use his four wheeler for awhile.
I look forward to the day of our u-pick vegetable garden dream. When we can farm ALL day and pay our bills THAT way.. I love love love this lifestyle. Work, rest, play, repeat..