Twenty Dollars Rich

We lead a fairly simple life I think. Trevor works a day-job and I work the farm. He works for a company that treats him well and pays him enough to cover our mortgage, utilities, and food and gas. Even so, some weeks we need to splurge on one thing or another. This week we needed to buy a Girl Scouts uniform which, admittedly, could probably have waited– so we have a measly twenty dollars to our name for the next week. It is no big deal really because we have food in the pantry, the animal feed is stocked up, and all the bills are paid. The twenty bucks could go to gas and that would be okay. Thursday will be here soon enough and we’ve made it through just fine before with the only complaint being that we couldn’t drop ten dollars at the donut shop on a Saturday morning.

Even with holes in our pockets we are living like kings this week!

I have calculated that we have about $1,600 in livestock on the farm. It sounds really crazy until you think about all the animals we have here currently: 7 angora rabbits, 4 dairy goats, 8 chickens, 1 beehive, and 4 turkeys. Really, that is quite the larder in itself! That means that at any given time we most likely have milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, meat, and honey. Um.. yeah, it’s awesome.

Friday afternoon, Trevor called me and asked what we wanted for dinner. I told him he might as well pick up a bag of chicken thighs at the market. He came up with the idea of doing a “test run” on butchering one of the smaller turkey hens. Brilliant! Duh! We have meat sitting right out there in the yard. Why didn’t I think of that! And unlike rabbit, poultry only needs to rest for 24 hours before baking. Sorry supermarket chickens, you’ll have to move aside for some home-raised bird.

Trevor starts work early in the morning and so he also gets home early in the afternoon. By 2:30 we were out at the turkey pen scouting out our weekend meal. We had two Bronze hens, one Bronze tom, and the one White tom that we are saving for our family Thanksgiving meal in November. Trevor picked out what seemed to be the smallest hen (they were pretty close in size) and I zip-tied her feet together. I have a friend who recommended using zip ties to keep their feet together instead of just rope after her own first experience butchering turkeys. Something about it literally running off down the drive without a head.

The turkey hen was surprisingly calm during the capture, zip, and walk over to the “processing station”, but her three friends turned bright red and purple as we walked off with an upside-down turkey. Worry worts.

I reminded Cami that when we started, she may not like it and that I was happy to go inside with her while Trevor worked. She insisted on staying to watch and so I let my little farm girl stay. One quick whack with my awesomely sharp cleaver and the turkey flailed for a few minutes in the big bin we had ready nearby (less mess). Cami was calm and curious even after admitting to a little shock that the turkey flapped so much even without a head. Two things I am always thankful for is the moment I have to say “thank you” to my animal for its sacrifice and that it is always a quick death. Those two things always bring me peace with home-raised meat.

Trevor cleaned up our turkey while I prepared the ice bath and brine. Turkey Lurkey sat in a nice cold ice bath for four hours and then made her way to the refrigerator to “rest” in her sea salt brine for 24-hours. I was sure to weigh her for you all too. Our smallest turkey weighed in at……….

11 pounds!!!

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Our gorgeous first turkey was baked with garden basil, farm onions, butter, and pepper. This photo may be a bit deceiving because the turkey was bigger than my head! Huge! She had to go on the second to last rack setting. By the time Thanksgiving does roll around and it is that white tom’s turn, he will definitely be a bottom rack-er. We also decided to skin the turkey because let’s face it– who likes to pluck poultry?

It turned out to be DELICIOUS! Super moist, perfectly cooked, flaked off the bone, yummy. Trevor wants to raise turkeys year-round now.

So even in the poor house, we still have a turkey feast complete with farm green beans and gravy in the fridge, home baked bread on the counter, and from-scratch cinnamon rolls with hand picked and dried raisins hot from the oven. Twenty dollars rich indeed.

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Farming with the Tao :: cleansing

The Tao Te Ching is a philosophical and often spiritual text of meditative verses. The Tao Te Ching is a book of ancient Chinese wisdom written sometime around 500 B.C.E by the sage, Lao Tzu. The book has endured thousands of years because it has timeless understanding of life. Second only to the Bible, the Tao Te Ching is the most translated book in the world.

In this series, we are going to approach the Tao Te Ching from a farmer’s point of view. Let all of us– backyard farmers, market farmers, chicken raisers, and “wannabe” farmers alike– take on these poetic truths together.

Farming with the Tao series
Cleansing

Early autumn rain cleanses away smeared heat.
A grateful traveler takes in crystal skies and crisp air.
Distant mountains seem more vast and blue,
And the sound of the waterfall grows more loud.

This morning during my chores I was delighted to see dark clouds above. Some days it is a blessing to be without the sun’s rays. You know how when you’re outdoors before it rains and you can smell the moisture? That’s what it is like in Mountain Ranch right now. I can smell the wet air all around and when the clouds do decide to release the rain, the air will have a crispness to it, as if it succeeded.

Autumn days are my favorite. The ravens come by in the cooler air to say hello, harvests and the work they entail are ending, life is beginning to mellow after a busy and hot summer.

The beauty of nature is in it’s cycles. Winter is a time of stillness and reflection. Spring brings renewal of life. Summer has seemingly endless bounty and warmth. Autumn is a time of cleansing and preparation.

We are cleansing ourselves of the heat and fires of summer. Autumn is for taking stock of our harvests in the garden, in the home, and of our family. Fall rains are a chance for us to cleanse our spirits and to give our gardens a last drink before bringing in the harvest.

A change in season is what we all need sometimes to get back into the joy of farming.
Knowing that summer is at an end now and cooler weather is approaching gives me some peace. Freyja can be dried off, goats can be bred, rabbit kits may be on their way, and the impending rain season will allow holes to be dug for spring fruit trees. Life feels better on a cloudy day.

*Tao Te Ching translations by Ming-Dao Deng. Unsightly opinions by Sarah.

Status: Burnout

Can you tell I’ve been feeling burned out lately? I haven’t blogged in a week! That’s practically unhealthy. I am usually one of those people who needs ten different projects going at once to feel happily busy. But the last couple weeks have felt heavy. Not burdensome, not hectic, not overbooked. Just heavy, that’s the only word I can come up with. I think I need a whole 24 hours away from the farm so that I can come back with renewed zeal.

This morning I awoke at my usual seven o’clock to roll out of bed and start morning chores, but instead of getting out of bed, I decided to go back to sleep. I just flipped onto my stomach, pulled the covers over my head so the light coming in the windows wouldn’t disturb me, and slept until nine. In that moment I didn’t really care that all the animals were still closed up. I just wanted to sleep in for once.

Of course, once I did wander outdoors with feed buckets in hand, everyone from fur to feathers was a little pissed off with me. Turns out the chickens and goats didn’t want to sleep in today.

I may be married and have someone to help out around the farm… theoretically, but that’s not really how it works on a day-to-day basis. Trevor is sweet enough to empty the rabbit dropping pans for me and occasionally close up the chicken coop at night, but otherwise I’m on my own. I make the rounds every morning and feed all the animals, let them out of their coops and sheds and into their pens. I milk the goat, do the bare minimum of house chores, work with Cami on her lessons, cook lunch and dinner from scratch, and then close all the animals back up into their respective houses and shacks. It’s kind of a lot. There’s no doubt that I pull my weight around here.

It isn’t just the animals, or the chores. I absolutely love my life and wouldn’t dream of changing it. But once you factor in slowly, slowly fixing up the house, clearing the garage, occasional foster care, starting a Girl Scouts troop, and teaching a ceramics class every two weeks, life tends to get heavy. And to top it all off, as I sit here typing, I can hear my cuckoo clock making funny sounds like it needs a new battery.

I can usually handle it all with ease, but let’s face it, I need a day-long vacation once in awhile. No complaints here… just looking to carve a day out of the calendar for myself.

The Death of a Hive

Okay, not the complete death of a hive. Just some. Trevor inspected Hive #2 the other night to assess how much they would need to be fed this winter. When he opened the hive it was obvious that the hive had swarmed and left because of a wax moth infestation. We killed all of the larvae and moths we could find.

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This was the hive that was poorly insulated to begin with, so we aren’t entirely surprised that something snuck in. Hive #2 was actually due to be replaced this spring because of some encroaching mold, but we just didn’t get around to it before the move and before the bees started building comb for the year.

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Hive #1 was moth free, however. So that’s the good news. Now we really have no choice but to buy or build a new hive. This time around we will be a little wiser and use a hive with thick walls and a fitting top and lid. Trevor wants to split Hive #1 in the spring and then purchase a new starter nuc with a queen to replace Hive #2. He was blabbering about some sort of Cornelian hybrid… Maybe he will leave a comment saying exactly what he is looking for.

Long story short, the farm is down to one hive to overwinter. Hopefully we will have it together enough to be up to three hives in the spring. Fingers crossed, breath held.

Random Thoughts On A Random September Day

This week I celebrated my 28th birthday. I am still (just barely) on the sunny side of thirty. I’d like to say that I have matured some over the years, but I think I may have maturity confused with cynicism and a slowly darkening sense of humor. In my ripe, old age I have come to a few conclusions:

- If you can wake up in the morning and no one is dead, you’re doin’ pretty well.

- Don’t farm in flip flops. Just don’t. You end up with smashed or a severe lack of toe nails which in turn, makes it much harder to wear cute nail polish, and thus, flip flops. Also, do not apply nail polish to your creepy toe to cover up the fact that you lost a toe nail… it hurts.

- When crap doesn’t go your way it is perfectly acceptable to sulk behind a good book and something chocolatey.

- When crap does go your way, it is perfectly normal to do an exaggerated Super Woman stance and/or give yourself a hearty high-five.

- Ain’t nobody knows nothin’. There is no such thing as an expert, there are no gurus, and no one really knows what’s going on. We all just have to figure out this crazy existance on our own no matter how much help or advice is offered.

- When in doubt, use your hillbilly voice.

- If still feeling doubtful, buy another goat.

- Animals such as rabbits, goats, and pigs, can be both adorable and delicious.

- Nothing replaces homegrown food, laughter with good people, or family.

Ugh, Mondays… I mean Thursdays.

One of my Speckled Sussex hens went missing last night. I suspect foul play… or is that fowl? Oh, I couldn’t help myself. We are pretty sure that the hawk we spotted a couple times in the last few weeks finally got her. Since that first attack by the red-tailed hawk, she has been “marked for death”. Have you ever heard that term in book or movies? Maybe I have just been reading too many murder mysteries lately. I always thought it was a little over-dramatic, but turns out it’s totally a real thing. If you don’t believe me, go find my chicken.

Joking aside, I really didn’t need to be down a chicken right now. Not that they are laying or anything useful at the moment– lazy, molting creatures. On the bright side: the hen to go missing was one from the breed that laid the smallest, least fantasticly colored eggs. So there’s that. I just can’t get my panties in a bunch over this one. The farm still has eight more hens, the rooster, and a dozen other animals to worry about. I’m just glad I didn’t have to dispose of a body. Although if did, I’m sure one of you would help me “dispose” of a “body”. Ah, again, sorry, I’ve been reading too many murder mysteries.