Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Killing the chickens and processing them for food has gotten easier. Now, when I am sitting there hunched over & plucking away in the cold (3 hours total work that night .. my ass was FROZEN!!) I feel a profoundly deep sense of gratitude to the bird for it's gift of life and food. I feel a deep sense of pride in knowing that we can, very literally, grow and raise food to put on the table ~ that we don't have to rely (always) on supermarkets and others to "do the work" and that the food we grow and raise is healthier and tastier by an easy ten-fold than that which we could buy. A wonderful "fuck the man" feeling! ;)
We also moved Easter & Bunny, our two Ameracaunas, into the tractor with the rest of the remaining gals (LadyBird, Ann Bancroft, and the two "Patti"s). Matt was over helping, and together he and Justin moved the birds one by one into the coop, then moved the empty tractor back against the coop, ready for them to come out in the morning. As you can see in the photo above, it frosted that night ~ I took the photo early Friday morning, so that was the reason for "let's do it now".
The transition has gone well. Easter & Bunny have been picked & pecked on, but that will happen until the new pecking order is well established. In the photo you can see LadyBird, our Buff Orpington, and both of the Patti's, our Partridge Cochins, hanging out in the tractor. They weren't letting Easter or Bunny come outside so we put some feed and water inside to give them a better chance.
Sadness struck yesterday though. The biddies were attacked by either a possum or raccoon. It tore through the chicken wire on the tractor and broke into the coop. The little food & water feeders had been dragged outside, and the dogs' heads couldn't have fit through the opening to the coop, so that is how we know the dogs didn't do this.
Shannon and I went out to collect eggs. We saw Easter, Bunny, and both Patti's laying outside, huddling together ~ honestly I thought they were dead. Gentle nudging proved otherwise, but the holes in the chicken wire, the food and water outside, and the amount of feathers on the ground told me they were far from ok. I looked into the coop and found LadyBird and Ann Bancroft huddling together, alive.
Shannon and Tristan luckily went with my step-dad and mom yesterday, and after checking on the birds Justin came home from work to help. We bought Bactine spray for their wounds ~ it is better than ointment as litter and dirt can get stuck in ointment.
Three birds were injured, very thankfully none were killed. LadyBird was injured on her back. Their skin is so thin it is quite easy to tear through it. We poured hydrogen peroxide over the wound, then sprayed it with the Bactine. Ann Bancroft was bleeding on her belly. I cradled her like a newborn while we did the same treatment. Bunny was the one I feared the worst. When looking at her before Justin got home it looked like a hole was ripped in her neck, and the way she was acting was the worst of them all. But upon bringing her inside (we cleaned and cared for each of them in the bathroom) we found her wounds to be the most minor. She got the same treatment, but I really think she is just the one on the very bottom of our pecking order and is the most passive and scared. Unlike "moving night" when both Easter and Bunny pitched a fit about being moved and carried, Bunny let me carry her into and back out of the house without a sound, as did the other birds.
I locked them all up in the coop, gave them some fresh buttermilk and frozen cherries to entice them to eat and then we headed to Lowe's. My mom was sweet enough to give us the money to buy new materials needed to fix the tractor. We bought a hardware cloth with squares 1/2" thick. Justin put a 2x2 beam across the sides in the middle to help keep the dogs from leaning on the wire and causing it to bend in so much. He was able to get 1/2 of one side as well as one end (where the biggest holes were) done last night before it got too dark to work.
He went out this morning before work and checked on them. They are all still alive and were huddled together. He left them locked up in the coop and I will go out in a bit to make sure they have food and let them out. Most attacks happen at night, and though it can be quite loud our house can be rather sound-proof at times and so we don't know what time it occured. I figure the more into the day we can get, the safer the birds will likely be.
The pharmacist yesterday told me that everything seems to like eating chicken, that they're the lowest on the totem pole and it is amazing they have lasted so long. From reading it seems that is pretty on the mark. And even though I wouldn't go so far as to say we consider these birds part of our family, we do care for them. Panic filled me yesterday until we were able to get all three examined and treated, and worry over their health will fill me until they heal. With everything we have had to go through, both physically and emotionally, just to even get to HAVE these birds, we are MOST certainly NOT ready to just let them be picked off by greedy predators.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Then there is the other end of the spectrum. Yesterday was a big day around here as the rest of our Speckled Sussexes "found a new home," all the remaining birds were moved back to the coop (as was the tractor) since it is getting down to freezing temperatures at night, and the Ameracaunas were added into the existing flock.
I had gone out earlier in the day to look for eggs, and there were none. We're usually getting about one a day, but some days there aren't any at all. Justin noticed there was one later though when he was messing around out there. He took it out and set it one of the potted plants that we have on the deck.
When I went inside with the processed chickens I had forgotten all about the egg. Matt, Justin's brother, had come over to help Justin and brought it to me. I asked him if it was dirty or not, and he told me he didn't know what I meant or was really talking about. So, I looked at it, saw it was perfectly clean and told him to just please put in the fridge.
Later that evening, after Matt had left, and as Justin and I were basically getting ready for bed I went into the fridge for something. There, sitting by itself on a shelf alongside jars of condiments was that silly egg. Justin and I each got a good laugh out of this, as the egg carton is fairly visible in the fridge and even the kids know to put eggs into the egg carton!
It just goes to show you how we can live so close (as my mother and Matt each live less than a mile from us) and yet so vastly in different worlds. It is wonderful to see my children be confused by the notion that eggs can come from stores. Tristan (who turned 2 in August) often has to be told if something is bread as the only bread we really have here is bread I bake, made of whole wheat. He just doesn't recognize bleached white bread products bought from stores. This always tickles me too. It is wonderful to see how quickly things can be turned around, how we're always just one generation away from an entirely new way of thinking and of looking at things. Now that is amazing!
Monday, October 20, 2008
I could write about the moving of the new biddies (our Ameracaunas) into the larger tractor. This we did Saturday night, with Justin and his brother Matt lifting the tractor and me sliding the Ameracaunas (cage & all) into the tractor, while also trying to pull Jomo back OUT of the tractor. I am quite certain that his only motivation for continually running into the raised up tractor was to insure that none of the older birds (who were mostly asleep) ran out. That or he was trying for a freshest of fresh snack of spilled chicken feed and chicken poop.
But, no, what is going through my head right now is Ana Pascal. She is a character from the movie Stranger than Fiction, and I love her. I love her character and why she is who she is. I love the relationship she develops with Harold Crick. Here is a link to a beautiful moment in the film: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1291950080/ch0008721 -- Harold is trying to give her flowers ... but rather than just give her a bouquet of flowers, he brings her a box of flours, as she is a baker. Ana has this wonderful line in the movie, explaining why she left Harvard Law School: "I just figured that if I was going to make the world a better place, I would do it with cookies." (pardon any misquoting there .. I think that quote is dead-on accurate, but am not able to verify at this precise moment).
I love that sentiment. I love baking, I love the thought of baking. The true comfort in it. When I crave chocolate it is not a candy bar that I crave but something freshly baked and still warm. Until I worked in a bakery I never knew the utter decadence of a pile of warm, yellow cake tops. We trimmed the tops off for a flat work surface, and would pile them up in huge piles: a pile of chocolate, one of yellow, one of marble, one of white almond, and on special days, one of red velvet. Warm cake, no icing, just the warmth from the oven in that moist texture .. I gained several pounds working there but when I look back they are some of the pounds I was happiest to gain and some of my favorite pounds ever.
I love being in the kitchen when the air is cool. I love the feel of natural materials (which my kitchen needs more of) surrounding me: brick flooring and old brick walls, antique wooden working surfaces. And then there is the delight of the way that modern, utilitarian stainless steel blends in so well.
If you haven't seen the movie, I would highly recommend it. It is a wonderful story, perhaps that is what makes it such a delight. It is well acted, the characters are believable, the plot line isn't too mushy, though there are so many scenes I can't get through without the inevitable shedding of tears. But I love the narration that takes place, for it is truly like a good book, and being read to in such a captivating manner is something that is getting rarer and rarer these days.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
First, a recycled whiskey barrel from http://www.kentuckybarrels.com/RainBarrels.html - here is a photo: I'm loving this one for several reasons: 1st - it is recycled! Wine & Whiskey barrels can only be used for so long before there is the need to find new homes for them. We have two already (not rain barrels), one that we in our kitchen as a chopping block and one we have in our front room with a pretty little lamp on top! :P So, back to why I like this - where we live there are a lot of wineries and we're not very far from the Moonshine Capital of the World ~ so it feels like supporting heritage, if that makes any sense. Plus, it has a wonderful cottage style to it and is made of natural materials. They do need some maintenance to keep them looking nice, especially with the rings, because they can begin to slip off if/when the wood dries out.
Ok, second choice. This one I found thanks to the wonderful site Groovy Green and their latest post: http://www.groovygreen.com/groove/?p=3419 & the rain barrel they got from Garden Supermart: http://www.gardensupermart.com/store/rain-barrels.php
Beautiful terra cotta look to it, but it IS made of plastic. Cool thing: there is a spot on top for planting plants. It is truly beautiful, but I'm not so sure it fits in with the style here. Plus, apparently this one might need to be brought in during the winter to prevent the plastic from freezing.
So what do you think? I realize this is just a personal choice when it boils down to it, but I am curious to hear what you have to say. Do you have rain barrels? How important do you consider the need for rain barrels? How many rain barrels do you see where you live?
Around here, not many. Isn't that a shame? Wouldn't it be nice to see government buildings with rain barrels outside, dripper hoses attatched to them, gently watering all those beautiful plants on dry summer days? All these homes with glorious plantings and landscaping, using collected rain water to give those thirsty plants a drink? And, to finish up with my grumble about Lowe's & Home Depot designed yards ~ where are the rain barrels there??
Why are my two glorious choices limited to two?? Shouldn't this be a booming market, with choices abounding? If green-washing really is so abundant and rampant, where are the rain barrels?
PS ~ I did have a glorious moment the other day, where it was drizzling and I was able to fill up the chickens' waterer with water that was coming out of the down-spout. I didn't mind getting wet, standing there in the rain, instead I felt envious of the tasty and beautiful water they were about to drink. If you're going to drink bottled water, how glorious would it be to drink it from a bottled that had been filled with captured rain water?
Friday, October 17, 2008
Yes, I feel like my neighbors need to get over themselves and their outrage that we choose to garden, have chickens, grow tall flowers, and not spray toxic weed-killer everywhere. But, I need to get over my indignity at them for their hiring a complete lawn-care team who attacks a barely 1/2 acre lot with 4 grown men and many loud obnoxious machines. That's their right, just as we have our rights. And most importantly should be the fact that we have the right to disagree without being disagreeable.
So, I'm left feeling the need to express some gratitude. Here are things I'm grateful for, in no particular order:
1) My wonderful kids who keep me on my toes at all times, but who already know about composting (who thought I would utter the phrase "NO, you CAN'T compost your cereal for the chickens, you need to eat it!!"), and who burst into tears if they find out the miss a trip to take the recycling.
2) My husband who allows me to be home with the kids, the dogs, the guinea pigs, the chickens, the fish, and who does a good job of keeping me grounded. If it weren't for him I would've already tried to concoct a complete rainwater harvesting system without giving it the true time and thought it desperately needs to make it work.
3) My chickens. The ones who we've bred for meat and who have provided us with a beyond-healthy meal that truly spoke to my soul. The ones who are beginning to lay eggs and delight us each day with a trip to the tractor. With our two new Ameraucanas who will lay blue and green eggs for us in the next month or so.
4) To Joel Salatin and Nina Planck for being sources of inspiration and information. For being the light in dark times, the encouragement needed to continue on when all odds seem against us. They don't know how much them mean to me, and they should.
5) To the folks who work with the City and who have to deal with small-minded complaints from sweet VL (and other neighbors?) who really ought to live somewhere where there is a nice, strict Homeowner's Association.
6) To Debby & Larry Bright who we get our pasture-raised, big "O" word meat from, who have been an endless source of patience and understanding. They helped us know how to fill out a butcher form and they've shown we're more than just a check to them, they're here for us in tough times.
7) To my family and friends who don't always understand me and our reasons, but who are willing to listen and maybe learn, and if not, at least politely humor me.
8) To my acupuncturist at Dancing Crane in Salem who has given me a life almost completely free of migraines. Who was the first to truly listen to my body and treat me according to that. To his wonderful father who always brings a smile to my face.
9) To the so many other wonderful bloggers online (Jenna Woginrich from Cold Antler Farm, the Dervaes Family in Pasadena) who inspire me to do more and try more.
10) To the wonderful vendors at the Salem Farmer's Market whose ranks I can't wait to join, and whose patience I always appreciate when I inquire about their growing methods. These are truly wonderful people.
I could continue this list, and in many ways I ought to. Life is wonderful. It is through hard times and hard lessons that we learn the true merit of a person. It is ok to get down in the dumps from time to time, but it is the ability to pick ourselves back up by the bootstraps, to take stock and look around and realize how blessed we truly are that matters most.
To quote Monty Python "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" .....
Thank you all who help me remember that! I don't normally sign my blogs here, but truly, with complete understanding of the meaning of the term:
(aka - Mama Taney)
We were blessed with cosmos that grew over 6' tall this year, and as tends to happen in the fall, they're now beginning to die. I've been trying to let them go as long as possible to collect the seeds before pulling them from the ground. Now, when I say our cosmos grew 6' tall, please note I'm only talking about a couple plants - not the entire front of our house!
First off, we don't want to be a nuisance, and we do try to keep a nice-looking house and yard. But, I have to appreciate the irony of this being a problem. It is fall. Currently the entire Farmer's Market, along with many store-fronts and houses, are bedecked with things like tied-up bundles of dried cornstalks, gourds and pumpkins scattered about, bales of straw, and rustic items such as old wheelbarrows brimming full with baskets of colorful mums. Ahh, the look of autumn! Heaven forbid though there be a house in the "CITY" (as our neighbor likes to say, hissing the "c" sound out) that has these things because they actually GREW there!! *GASP* The HORRORS!!!! EEEK!!! To grow these things yourself, or to actually use them ... well that most certainly is worth a call to the City!!
I've realized that the best thing to do though might be to realize what my neighbor is missing or in need of in her own sad and angry life: granny panties. I think the kindest thing for us to do would be to go out and by her some big ole pairs of granny panties because obviously the panties she currently owns are staying wadded up in a bunch far too often and making her miserable. (WE LOVE YOU VL!!)
That and I'm guessing I ought to bake some nice brownies or something like that for the folks down at the City Zoning Office. This surely won't be the last time they're called out for our "trashy" ways of living (her words, not mine!).
I think I might've lost the camera itself in the weeds, and there might've been a grizzly out there too, not sure - just know it sure is deadly and menacing! haha -- Ok, just got the photos uploaded, so IF YOU DARE TO LOOK, here are the shots of our disgusting, property-value-reducing, trashy lawn and house:
The above one was taken from across the street. The one below you can clearly see the dead cosmos plant, the weeds along the fence, and if you look carefully a grizzly bear (or was it a badger?).
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
We're in a time of economic recession, where everyone around the world is reeling from the effects and feeling the strains, but we're also in a "green boom." Normally I would be one of the first to cheer this Green Boom, and I truly am thrilled to no end about it. But, I'm also kinda disgusted.
I just read a line about a couple building their dream home, how it is self-sufficient, they practice permaculture, how their "property is officially recognized as a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and listed as part of the National Registry of Backyard Wildlife Habitats", they use passive solar energy, and so on. The title of this article was: Create a Self-Sufficient Green Dream.
I was ready to devour the article, with it's gorgeous photography, and learn all I could in order to apply it to our lives and home. Then I got to this line (talking about the architect and designing the house itself): [he] let the property’s sloping topography guide him in designing a three-bedroom, 2,700-square-foot structure tucked into the site’s south-facing slope. HELLO?? A 2,700-square-foot house for ONE COUPLE!?!?!?!? Don't you think you could've minimized your footprint by building a SMALLER HOUSE!?!?
I am so sick of trying these companies trying to sell me a clean, green conscience! It is great to buy recycled products, but it is also great to make use of what you already have. Yes, CFL lightbulbs are fantastic, but no, I am NOT going to go around my house and throw away all the incandescent bulbs that haven't burnt out yet just to replace them with CFLs!! We replace them as they burn out, as we have an actual NEED for them! Yes, bamboo cutting boards and recycled glass plates, bowls, and glasses are wonderful - but until we actually have a NEED to replace what we already have, I'm not going to just go out and spend money that we don't have and things we don't actually need! And, even when I do need to replace something, I like going to antique malls (our town happens to have an abundance, but you can substitute a Goodwill Store, yard sale, or whatever is prominent in your town here) to see if I can find something that fits my needs as well as my desires. Do I want to use less plastic containers, yes .... so let's see if I can find some vintage pyrex/glass dishes that someone would like to sell. Benefits? Hmm - 1) I save $ as I am not spending $60+ on a new, hip, green container; 2) I am supporting my local economy if I buy it locally, or if I use something like ebay then I am supporting someone else trying to make a living, not some big business hopping on a trend; 3) I am giving life back to something that otherwise would be trash; 4) I am not just accumulating more new crap when there is perfectly good stuff already out there. I'm guessing you see the point here.
If you have the money and want to spend it all on everything new & green, well then good for you. But, for the rest of us, those who are really feeling the pinch lately, those who are trying to figure out how to afford true necessities, there are other ways.
Being green is good. Going green is great. But using what you have, making-do, not buying into the fad (no matter how much we happen to love the fad) is even better.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
We make our own butter from the cream we skim off of our raw milk. I've blogged about this before, with pictures showing the quality difference. If you can't make your own, I recommend getting some of this. Here is the description from Organic Valley's website (http://www.organicvalley.coop/): Organic Valley’s Pasture Butter is a limited edition, rich, delicious, nutritional powerhouse made from the milk of organic cows eating the nutrient dense pasture that grows during May through September. Milk from summer pasture produces butter unusually high in nutritional benefits. Pasture Butter contains elevated levels of beneficial fatty acids - CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids in an optimal ratio. In production we add a lactic acid culture to the milk to ripen the cream and bring out the natural sweetness of the butter. Upon reaching perfection in the culture tanks, the cream is churned in small batches. Pasture Butter is churned longer than other butters, lowering the moisture content, and increasing the fat content to 84% butterfat.
Remember, this type of fat is GOOD for you!! Not all fat is bad!
Also from Organic Valley, we were shocked to find this at the new, local Nature's Outlet store: raw milk cheese!!! My heart skipped a beat, sung with joy, and it was all I could do to contain myself from doing the happy-dance right there in the store!
They have several different varieties of Raw Milk Cheese, and if you've never had it before you need to get your butt out there, cuz you are missing out!!! They also have a wonderful FAQ section, and here I'll quote their answer to the question "What are the health benefits of Raw Milk Cheese?" ~ Consuming organic dairy products is an excellent way to minimize risk of exposure to antibiotics, or synthetic hormones and pesticides while obtaining a healthy dose of nutrients. Cheese is a natural food providing a dense source of nutrients. It is a good source of calcium and protein. Calcium is essential for growing and maintaining strength and density of bones and teeth, and preventing osteoporosis. It supports normal cardiovascular, thyroid, and muscular function. Research suggests dietary intake of calcium between 1,000 and 1,500 mg daily makes cells less likely to store fat and more likely to burn fat when calorie intake is reduced. Research has shown milk from pasture-fed cows to be higher in nutritional value and antioxidant levels compared to milk from non-pastured cows. Beyond the personal health benefits of eating organic cheese, sustainable organic production methods promote the health of all life on earth, now and for the future.
From us here at the Blue Nymph in good ole Salem, VA here's a big "HAZAHH" to the folks, farmers, and farming families at Organic Valley!!
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Our garden was a bust this year. We were busy with other things (chickens, ponds, patios) and didn't have the time/desire to devote to it. Plus, we realized that our gardening styles have changed. Justin used to find zen in going out and pulling weeds for a couple of hours, but now no longer likes it. I love the planning and planting, but hate the weeds as well.
Our compromise? We're going to try Ruth Stout's method of deep mulching with straw and compost. Rather than tilling up the Earth which disrupts all the life in the soil, creates noise pollution, creates pollution from running a gas-powered tiller, causes Justin stress (from having to go rent the tiller, get it home, till the garden, and get it back before they charge us more), and sends me running for the hills (hoping I don't get a migraine from the noise) - we're trying a quiet, peaceful process that builds soil quality, helps keep down weeds, and will help retain soil moisture during summer's dry spells.
I have to say, so far I am loving it. We let the chickens "till" up areas that we're already done for us for a while, which they loved. Now we're filling in with straw. I've found it is a Zen Moment for me, spreading out the straw. I pick apart the bales and shake the straw loose, watching it fall in golden clumps to the ground. I love seeing the older straw, matted down and gray. Soon, when we stock up on hay bales and have a good long afternoon to devote to it, we will spread the compost from the bin down, and then cover it with the straw (help keep the dogs uninterested).
And now I'd like to toast a "cheers" to everyone for a hard summer's work, and to toast to that wonderful "Ahhh" moment.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
This is a close-up of the crocus. It was one my great-grandmother planted, one her mother most likely bred, so it is with a special heart-tugging tenderness that this is the first flower that Shannon spontaneously picked for me on his own, while out in the yard playing.
I oohed-and-ahhed over the flower, and Shannon deserved every bit of the adoration he got. We talked about the color and then we talked about what type of flower it was. I will forever love this flower, and I hope to never forget this moment.