Tuesday, September 29, 2009


We butchered chickens Saturday. I think we are getting better at it because none of them died prematurely and they only went through 2 bags of feed instead of 3 1/2 this time. I didn't just free feed them this time. Instead, I fed them a coffee can of grain morning and night and moved them to fresh grass twice a day. Their gizzards were full of grass and rocks! They certainly took advantage of the forage, probably more than last time. Of course we didn't cut open any of the gizzards last time to see.

Grandpa wanted the livers, gizzards and hearts so Bryon fried them up for him Sunday night along with a whole chicken. We had mashed potatoes, chicken gravy, carrots and salad from our garden and it was swell. I had originally planned on that meal Saturday night but after 4 hours of butchering, cleaning, cutting and freezing chickens, my back hurt and The Rocking Chair in Conway started looking better and better.

Grace wanted to help so she carried the caught chickens by the feet to slaughter and she wanted to hold the heart. I let her. Once she got to do that she was bored with the whole process and went in search of neat rocks to clean on the cabin deck.

My friend Lynsey let us borrow her homemade plucker and it helped tremendously this time. We beat up the first bird pretty badly by leaving it in too long, but after that we got into a flow and things proceeded pretty smoothly.

All those little rubber "fingers" pluck off the feathers as the bird spins around in the tub. It has a washing machine motor on it. The pluckers are about $1100 new but Lynsey built hers for about $350. I bought a book that shows how to do it, but borrowing Lynsey's is a lot better!

We setup by the little shed this time and that worked better too. Eventually we'll be a fine running machine!

I was thinking I'd like to raise and kill all 25 birds at once next time so we wouldn't have to do this twice a year, but four hours of it was enough to convince me otherwise I think. Euphoric recall may change my mind, but I don't think so.

I may try the Buffs in the spring for comparison to see if they taste any different and how long they take to raise compared to the Cornish Crosses. None of the Crosses got lame or had any problems this time. I butchered them at 39 days which made them all about 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 pounds a piece. Last time I think they were 47 days old. Mom thought I should have butchered them last weekend but I still had a half bag of feed left and ended up with it perfectly on Saturday night.

Let me tell you. Chicken is good! Bryon Googled "southern fried chicken" and made the absolute PERFECT crust on the outside of it and fried it up. I didn't try the gizzards, livers and hearts, but Gary said they were good too and we sent the rest home with him to finish up.

We also had a HUGE harvest of ornamental pumpkins and gourds to share. Gary took a bunch of them to Freda's restaurant so she could use them for decoration, we kept several for ourselves and the rest I took to work to sell for 25 cents each. I didn't think Bryon had even planted them but he remembered throwing a bag of Wal-Mart gourd seeds on the ground in the old pig pen and they just went NUTS! Of course, not a squash bug to be found out there! We had hundreds and maybe even THOUSANDS in our garden.

Damn those squash bugs.

Bryon finally cleaned out all the detrius from the garden except the remaining lettuce, some late carrots that may or may not come to fruition and some lovely marigolds. He hung a HUGE bush of basil in the barn and I collected a few seeds from the lettuce and chocolate peppers. We'll see if anything comes of those in the spring.

He looked at an attached greenhouse on Craigslist, but it's not REALLY what we are looking for. We need to make a trip to the SW Treatment Plant for more compost to top off all the beds and my chicken litter from March seems to have composted nicely into dirt so we'll put that on them also. I do miss the bunnies for their great manure and I'm tired of caring for those dang quail. The layers got picked out to use for training Ruger so now I'm not even getting any eggs from them. I think Bryon is just going to have to have a hunt and we can be done with them AND have a tasty meal.

Grace was so funny on the way to her soccer game Saturday because she said, "Nana is coming up after my game and we are going to butcher chickens. Butcher means kill and eat!" I said, YES IT DOES.

She's such a good little farm girl.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First School Picture

This is Grace's first "official" school picture. They took it the first week of preschool.

Barbie Healthcare

Grace loves playing with her Barbies and wants a pretend Barbie house for her upcoming birthday. Until then, she's been pretty creative. One evening she asked us to come and look at her Barbie Hospital...

Apparently, even Barbie doesn't get a private room anymore.

Bird Hunter

Bryon, Grace and the neigborhood guys have been hitting the dove hunting hard. Grace has been their retriever. She loves it.

Bryon cooked some of them up last weekend and they were GREAT!


We got the Costume Express catalog and right there were several Scooby Doo costumes. Go figure. Grace wanted to be Daphne for halloween so I ordered the costume for her and it came last week. She could hardly wait to try it on. She flitted around the house in her wig and outfit all evening.

She looks pretty adorable in it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

We stayed home this weekend and putzed around the farm. Bryon went Dove hunting with his Dad, the Huggler Men and our neighbors and cleaned and stripped the back deck. I made homemade meatballs (about 40 of them) and froze them for future dinners and homemade chocolate syrup for Grace's chocolate milk and hot cocoa.

The deck looks GREAT and Bryon is going to stain it and seal it a cedar red maybe next weekend.

I got lots of those little piddly things I'd had on my to do list for a long time done and marked off my list. It was a good weekend. Now I just need about 51 more of them.

The last bag of frozen meatballs I bought I told Bryon that was the last one because the list of ingredients on that bag was LONG and complicated. The recipe I found online was not and they turned out GREAT and were easy to make. I used two pounds of the grass fed beef from Real Food Farms in Norwood and I plan to make stroganoff sometime after this coming week.

Here is the meatball recipe and the link to where I found it. She has lots of recipes to use the meatballs in and I plan to try several of them.


(this makes a lot -- at least four dozen, depending on size)

* 12-ounces tomato sauce
* 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
* 4 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
* 1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
* 1 teaspoons salt, optional
* 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
* 1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
* 4 pounds ground beef

In a large mixing bowl, combine first eight ingredients. Add ground beef and mix well. Shape into meatballs (use a small cookie scoop if available) and place on boiler pan so grease can drain while cooking. Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Divide into meal-sized portions. To prevent from freezing into a solid meatball-mass, freeze individually on cookie sheets and then place in freezer bags. Label and freeze.

To serve meatballs, thaw completely and reheat with your choice of sauces.

I made a half batch and it made about 40 meatballs. The Link is http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf115251.tip.html you'll have to scroll down for the other recipes.

The homemade chocolate syrup was thanks to Rachel at Small Notebook, a blog I love to read. Her link is http://smallnotebook.org/2009/07/10/homemade-chocolate-syrup/ if you are interested and here is the recipe:

Amy Dacyczyn’s The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cocoa and the water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the salt and the vanilla. Let cool. Pour into a sterile glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for several months. Yields two cups.

I made the biggest mess EVER making it though. I left it for a minute to walk around the corner and it boiled ALL OVER MY ceramic stove top and then proceeded to BURN into the top. I worked about three hours scraping if off with a flat razor. It's still not all off. The good news is the syrup was and is GREAT and lasts several months in the refrigerator in a glass jar. Eat your heart out Hershey syrup. I used Hershey cocoa but at least there isn't any corn syrup in it. Of course, two cups of sugar is probably only negligibly better. Oh well. It's yum.

The broilers got to see the light of day for the first time today and feel the grass under their little chicken feet. They were pretty happy. This will be there first night outside. They are 20 days old. Three more weeks before butcher day.

Bryon altered the chicken tractor for me so I won't have to crawl halfway in the thing and risk spoiling my clothes and getting my eyes pecked out by crazed birds.

I'm pretty happy about that.

I also wandered out to check out the rogue ornamental gourds. We did not plant these. They are squash gone wild and of course the squash bugs don't even seem to know they exist.

Bryon, Grace and Gary are out with the dove hunting gang again this evening. Grace is the dove retriever. Bryon made a big old pot of deer stew which is simmering on the stove and the buzzer just went off on my homemade dinner rolls.

Life is good.