‘Farm & Garden’ Category

Raising Backyard Chickens: Eggs!

Posted on September 23rd, 2012 by Tonia No Comments

Our layers laid their first eggs! They’re so small, they fit side by side in the palm of my hand. We’re going to need about 8 more before we can make an omelet….But we’re so proud of our girls!! Nice work, ladies.

Raising Backyard Chickens: Butchering

Posted on August 5th, 2012 by Tonia 7 Comments

Jen and Trevor bravely offered to help us butcher our 10 remaining meat chickens. They have some experience with this from their time working on a farm in Washington, and we were really grateful to have their skills on hand that day.

Mike did the honors of cutting off the heads, J&T helped pluck, gut and quarter, and I rinsed and packaged them for the freezer. We averaged 15 minutes per bird from beheading to freezer.

Things went smoothly thanks to all the helping hands and our friends’ knowledge. But right around the 8th bird, Mike started feeling depressed. Watching that many little lights go out in rapid succession gets to a person.

I was secretly relieved to see him feeling that way. If he had been totally cheerful and fine about the whole experience, I would have been a little creeped out!

Yes, they were “just gross meat chickens” as most farmers refer to them. They sit all day long in their own poo. Even if you give them the space to roam around, which we did, they prefer to just squat by the feeder and shovel grain down their gullets. They have one purpose in life: to eat as much as possible. They were at their full-grown size in six weeks flat {by comparison, our egg chickens are only about 3/4 grown, and they were born at the same time as the meat birds.}

But all things considered, it was still hard to kill them all in one go like that. It felt a little like a factory assembly line, and I didn’t like that. I much prefer the one-off approach where we could take the time to thank the bird for its life and really process what was happening.

We have a freezer full of breasts, drummies, wings, livers and thighs. We have jars upon jars of chicken stock. We’ll be enjoying this bounty all winter long in the form of stews, soups, enchiladas, pasties and more.

The whole process of raising our own meat so far has been both easier and harder than I expected. At times, I’ve been surprised at my own ability to shut off my emotions towards the animals. I’m sure this is an automatic response in my brain designed to protect me from identifying too much with the very animals I’ll be eating shortly. I’m both ashamed by it and grateful for it. Being such an intense animal lover, I would surely crumple into a sobbing pile of self-hatred and empathetic suffering if not for my brain’s protective mechanism.

Other times, I can’t help but picture what it feels like to be that animal- confused, scared, and most likely in pain even though we take the most humane route when we kill them and they die very fast. The understanding of it clenches my heart. We’re the reason for that pain and for its life ending. They trusted us, looked forward to seeing us every day when we fed and watered them, and now we’re killing them.

I feel all of this deeply, and still I do think that raising your own meat is a good way to go about eating meat. I feel so much more grateful for meat. I appreciate it in a completely new way, on a whole other level, in a deeper part of me, than before. And I rest easy at night knowing that our animals lived great lives up until their very last moments. You can’t say that for most of the meat in the grocery store.

Raising Backyard Pigs: Thy Name is Mud

Posted on July 13th, 2012 by Tonia 5 Comments

Let me tell you something- this little lady {and by “little” I mean 200+ lbs} looooooves mud. When it’s hot out: lays in a cool mud hole. When it’s rainy out: runs around happily because yay more mud! When the bugs are bothering her: rolls entire body in a thick, protective coating of mud. Mud mud mud mud mud!

You think that looks like a $#!^-hole? Well it’s actually a therapeutic spa bath, so you’re wrong. See the relaxed smile on her face? That’s the kind of peaceful contentedness we strive for here with all our animals. Who knew keeping this one so happy would be easy as….mud?

Raising Backyard Turkeys: All Grown Up

Posted on July 12th, 2012 by Tonia 6 Comments

Remember when they were this big?

Well now they’re this big:

I can’t even believe it. They’re HUGE.

Christmas {white, female} is the more affectionate of the two. She comes running over to me and has a special trilling noise she makes when I pet her. She’ll still let me hold her just like when she was little- she’s as tame as can be.

Thanksgiving {brown, male} is definitely her protector. He attacks anything {precocious little wiener dogs, for example} that seems threatening, and he’s gorgeous and impressive with his feathers puffed and tail splayed. He’s not afraid of anything. But he still lets us pet him and he doesn’t care about us petting and holding his woman, although he does examine us with his intense and thoughtful eyes. They both do this, actually. We’re always under the scrutiny of their incredible vision. I really wonder what kind of thoughts turkeys have as they stare us down.

I never thought I would bond like this with a couple of turkeys. I wish for my own sake that they hadn’t imprinted on me when they were young. I now laugh coldly at my idea to name them after the holidays they’ll be served at, meant to save me from getting too attached. Ha. They could have been named White Meat and Dark Meat for all that matters– I still love those stupid turkeys.