Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Harvest



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.

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