Saturday, September 26, 2015

Movin' and Cleanin'

The Creepy Meats and Barred Rocks are two weeks and three days old today.  And the Meats are far surpassing the Barred Rocks in size and stature:

Time to move them to separate pens, not only because the Meaties are taking up a lot of the space, but because they tend to crowd out the other chicks at the feeders.  Rhiannon helped me transfer the Meaties out from the little pen into the larger pen and they'll stay in there for another two weeks or until I get the chicken tractor up to snuff again.  Then I'll give the larger pen a good cleaning and put the Barred Rock pullets in there until they're ready to join the rest of the flock.

In theory, once the Barred Rocks start laying, the Rhode Island Reds, which I am none too fond of lately, will be crated up and put on the sale page.

The Creepy Meats are supposed to be ready in as little as eight weeks, but since we accidentally got males and females I tend to think we'll be keeping on the females for another two weeks or more.  And if we get to the eight week point and the males aren't huge, we'll keep feeding them as well.  Last season I was so fixated on getting the birds in the freezer at exactly eight weeks that we butchered them before they were our ideal size.  A few of them even weighed under four pounds.  That's not going to fly with a family that absolutely love-love-loves roast chicken supper with leftovers for chicken salad sandwiches the next day.

Since I was cleaning out the chicken pens I figured I may as well work on the other areas of the barn.  Lots of dust, chicken feathers, spider webs, spilt grain, mouse turds and mud wasps.  There was flying dirt & empty feed sacks being hurled out the doors.  Goats crowding around the doors in hopes that something GOOD would come flying out.  They did manage to get a few nibbles of leftover grain in the not-quite-empty feed sacks and quite the ruckus was made when a new one was tossed out.
Clover looks on and laughs.
Chop Suey isn't the brightest goat in the pen.
The chicken coop side of the barn still needs cleaning as does the goat loafing area.  There's lots of accumulated wasted hay and goat turds that need to be shoveled out of there and put into the garden beds but it's just so dusty that I'm kind of waiting for a rain to make it not so horrible on my asthma.  Even a dust mask can only do so much.  I'm thinking that it would be a wise move to invest in a  respirator so I put one on my Amazon "to buy" list.

Don't forget; if you haven't already done so, click on this post if you want a chance to win some homemade lard soap :)  You have until Sunday night!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fragrant Fall

I love the clean, crisp scent of fresh pine shavings.  We put the shavings in the pen for the Creepy Meat chicks and their substantially smaller Barred Rock brood-mates.  They are only a week and four days old today so it still smells like the shavings and not chicken poop.  I suspect in just a few weeks that I will be unable to smell the pine over the chicken poop.

If I recall correctly, last year I was cleaning out the pen every other day....and it probably could have used a cleaning EVERY day.  I don't plan on keeping them in the pen as long as I did last time, mainly because of the amount of labor involved in keeping the bedding relatively chicken-crap-free.

Once they're feathered out, I plan on putting the Creepy Meats out in the chain link kennel and then moving them into the fenced garden to pick at any greenery left after all the tomatoes and peppers are finished producing.  The drawback to putting them out in the kennel & garden is the fact that they will be vulnerable to raccoon and opossum attacks.  We've been lucky so far as in Charlie seems to be keeping most of the night time chicken murderers away from the hen house, but something has taken two older hens and three youngsters that refused to go into the coop at night.  I'm not sure if it is worth the risk putting them outside or not.  Nothing is worse than going out in the morning to a pen full of dead chickens.

There's another scent that has taken hold in the back section of the goat yard.  The gawd awful scent of a buck goat.  Herman is STANK-y.  Studly smells, but not nearly as bad.  Apparently he hasn't quite got his goat-mojo on, although Herman does have a few more years experience under his belt.

After being around the buck pen, it was enough to make me break the promise I made to myself not to indulge in ANYthing Pumpkin Spice'ish until the actual Autumnal Equinox.  I caved in and took a shower and used the fancy Pumpkin Spice bar of soap my Mom bought me a few weeks ago in order to erase all olfactory memories of the stanky-ass male goats.

Speaking of smelly stuff, I have some GOOD smelly stuff for my blogging buddies.  That is, if I still have any bloggers following me.  I've been a bad blogger as of late and haven't been reading yours or keeping up with mine.  So in an attempt to buy your loyalty back, I'm going to do a giveaway for some of the soaps Paul and I made a while back.

These soaps were made from all that pork fat we finally processed into lard a few months ago.  Normally I make our soaps using vegetable oils, but since we have lard coming out of our ears, I thought it would be a good idea to try using lard for the soap.  Well, and because I'm cheap.  The lard was "free"; the vegetable oils I'd have to buy.  We made the soap the first week of July, so they are ready to use.  We've been using them for weeks now and haven't burned our faces off, so don't worry, they're plenty cured!  I will say that the all-lard soap turned out much harder than the vegetable based soaps and they do not lather nearly as much.  I think I'll add some coconut oil in the next batch.

Anyways, these lard-based soaps are scented with sandalwood, lilac, orange and almond fragrance oils (as opposed to essential oils), so they're not ALL natural, but hey, it's free soap, right?!

So if you're still reading my blog and wanting some homemade lard soap, just leave a comment here.

And here's the "Fine Print" for the contest:

Contest open to U.S. Residents only.

One entry per person, UNLESS you say something nice about cats.  Then you get two.  Entries.  Not cats.

Winning name(s) will be chosen by a scientifically credible procedure to ensure a purely random winner or winners (i.e. I put all your names on little scraps of paper, throw them in a kitchen bowl and have Rhiannon close her eyes and pick one out).

Contest ends on 9/27/15 at Midnight, or sometime around then.  Because it's my blog and I can do whatever I want.
Cat(s) not included.
Good luck & smell ya later!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Zombie Fish

Last year - or was it the year before - we finally put in a stock tank for the ever-increasing number of goats we have to provide water for.  It stayed relatively clean for a while and when the water level got low, I scrubbed it out & refilled it.  But the Sub-Tropical weather we had recently had been making the chore of cleaning it out more difficult.  Not to mention the fact that there have been mosquito larva and some sort of other weird swimmy bugs frequenting the tank.  Instead of trying to scoop out the larva / swimmy bugs / algae or dump the entire contents of the tank out, I thought I'd try something I've heard from other livestock owners that wouldn't cause me quite so much trouble.

Rhiannon has a fish tank in her bedroom.  We bought it, along with five tiny feeder goldfish about 2 1/2 years ago.  And since then the tank-to-fish ratio has shrunk.  The fish have grown into something one might actually consider filleting and frying up in a pan.  After consulting with Rhiannon about her feelings for the goldfish, we decided that we'd put two of the larger fish into the stock tank.

I topped off the tank with some fresh water and we unceremoniously dumped the fish into the tank and watched them swim around in their new home.  The goats came up to see what we were doing, not so much interested in the bright orange creatures now inhabiting their watering hole, but fixated on the simple fact that we were carrying a bucket.  Because in the mind of a goat, buckets can mean only one thing; grain.  They were disappointed.  

Come actual goat feeding time later in the day, we checked on the status of the fish.  I'd say "fishes" but as you all know, "fish" is the plural of "fish".  Except there was no "plural" to speak of.  It was just "fish" in ONE fish.  How the hell did I lose a fish in just two hours?  Of course, the different scenarios flooded my brain.

Did a heron find our newly-stocked buffet so quickly?  Would a raccoon be out at this time of the day?  Could our bird-brained chickens actually figure out how to catch one?  Did the goats slurp one up???  I looked around to see if there was a dead goat on the ground, asphyxiated by a pet fish stuck in her esophagus.  I was trying to think of anything else that could have caused a fish to be missing, but the bawling from the all-still-living herd of "We're STARVING to death" goats did not allow for much more quiet contemplation.  So Rhiannon and I clipped and fed everyone and then that's when I heard Rhiannon say "I found Bulgie!" (he has a bulging eye, hence the name).  Apparently he was in the grass about three feet from the stock tank and managed to get out of the tank - either by his own volition or "assisted" by some other animal....we'll never know.

Rhiannon put him back in the tank....where he dropped to the a dead fish.  We waited a minute, then I told her to scoop him back out and throw him to the chickens.  Which were totally uninterested in.  So we went back to goat feeding chores and when everyone was unclipped, I went back to fish carcass to throw it into the compost heap.  I picked it up and was about to fling it over into the garden when it's gills moved.  Shit!  This thing had been out of the water twice now, the first time for nobody knows how long and the second time for about five minutes.  So I shove it back in the water & "swim" it back & forth to get some oxygen through it's gills.  It didn't seem like there was much progress, but it was progress.  So for about ten minutes I swam that stupid goldfish in the stock tank and it eventually flipped it's fins & tail a little, then eventually swam out of my hand under it's own power.  

It's been four days since the Resurrection of Bulgie and I'm happy to say that he's still alive and clearing the tank of algae and bugs.  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

They're Heeeeeeerrrrre!

Finally.  After waiting on the edge of my not-so-comfortable computer chair and refreshing the USPS Tracking screen every thirty-five seconds, the chicks have arrived!

Granted, it took two days for them to travel the 117 miles from the hatchery to my local post office.  Last year they got here in less than 24 hours after being shoved into their little cardboard box, but for whatever reason, this year the chicks traveled from one post office to another then to another....then to our post office.....for a total of just over 600 miles.  And you wonder why the post office is going broke.  But what do I know about the logistics of sending millions of pieces of mail cross-country.  Nothing.  But still.  I'm just glad that they didn't end up going all the way to LaGuardia before getting to their final destination.

Since I've swapped roles with Paul (me now being the nine-to-fiver and he being the farm grunt), he and Rhiannon picked up the chicks at the post office.  This is the first time I have not been there for the chick-picking-up.  I actually felt a bit left out.  But the feeling went away when I got home and all the chicks were alive and already in their pen, peeping and pecking and pooping as baby chicks are wont to do.  Rhiannon is, at this exact moment, out there playing Momma to her "chickies".  I can attest to the hardiness of the chicks as she picks them up and puts them down and pets them and kisses them no fewer than a hundred times.

I ordered twenty-five Cornish Cross Creepy Meats, ten Barred Rocks and ten Black Sex Links.  I swore I ordered all MALE Creepy Meats, but the invoice said unsexed.  Which is disappointing, regardless of who made the mistake (probably me) because the males do get much larger.  And we do love a big o'l roasting bird.  I guess we'll just keep the females around longer until they're more Yummy-Sized.

The temperatures, of course, have dropped since the chicks arrived and we're having to run two heat lamps in the pen.   Last night we got down to 60 degrees, but tonight we're dipping down to 48 degrees.  I may have to put them in the garage.

Although it may be a bit cool for the chicks, the humans and goat are really enjoying this Fall'ish weather.  It's nice not to sweat yourself out of a t-shirt three times a day.  And having a hot cup of tea doesn't seem so strange now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Laboring Day

So.  Did you all enjoy your "Day off"?  You know.  Labor Day.  When (some) people don't have to go to work.  When (some) people go to the lake and picnics or just sit home and laze about all day.

Silly humans.  You know that rarely happens.  Even if you're not "working", you're probably cooking a feast or packing a picnic or doing something or other requiring laborious tasks so you can enjoy that "Day Off".  Seems we got it all backwards, hugh?
Well, we were up with the rest of you on Labor Day.  Paul was brush hogging the entire "long weekend", and Rhiannon and I busied ourselves with school work, barn chores and house chores.  But at least we were able to stick around the homestead.
Don, the FFA Boer goat we brought back home, is doing much better now.  He's still really skinny, but his bottle jaw is gone, his eyes are much clearer and he seems to be more active.  We had him in a quarantine pen but finally moved him back in with the rest of the herd a few days ago.  Of course, he's getting butted and pushed around, but he's holding his own and learning who to avoid and who he can snuggle up to.  Rhiannon has been loving on him something extra, but it does make me kind'a sad.  Rhiannon knows that he's a butcher animal, and I remind her of that on an almost daily basis, but why, why, WHY are the nicest goats the ones we're going to eat?!?  Is it just the Universe punishing me for being a carnivore?  Oh, you're going to kill that goat??  Well then, let's make sure he's the cutest / nicest one then so you feel like complete shit when you put a bullet in his head.  Oh, and this goat over here, the one you've spent countless hours with, trying to get her to be tame & gentle so you can milk her?  Let's give her a total piss-on-you attitude.
Rhiannon says she loves her goats, but she also
says that she really, REALLY loves BBQ goat ribs.
We also cleaned out the smaller pen this weekend and got it ready.  Ready for what, you ask?  For CHICKS, of course!  I placed an order (late, imagine that) for some Creepy Meats and some replacement layers.  A year & a half ago I bought 20 (or so) Rhode Island Reds to replace our dwindling layer flock and I haven't been very happy with them.  They are noticeably smaller than my Barred Rocks as are their eggs.  And the fact that one, or more, of them are eating eggs is ticking me off.  So in my order of chicks, I got ten more Barred Rocks and ten Black Australorps, two of my favorites & IMO, best of the brown egg layers.

The chicks should be here any day now and even after ten years of chicken-raising, I still get excited when they arrive.  Eight weeks from now when I'm cleaning out chicken crap every single day, the tune will change, but until then I will enjoy the little shitting machines balls of fluff.  And post picture after picture of cute chick antics.

Friday, September 4, 2015

There is a Time & Place for Everything

Dear Fall Freaks and Northern Nutjobs,

It is the fourth day of September.  I know you are all excited about kicking Summer's bikini clad butt out the door and dragging Fall in by it's auburn hair, but it is not yet time for Pumpkin Spice.

Don't get me wrong. I love Pumpkins.  I love spices.  I love Pumpkin Spice.  I love Fall and the weather changing and the beautiful fall colors and fall smells.

But if I'm still eating watermelon & drinking sweet tea and sweating my ass off in the 90+ degree heat, the last thing I want is to be inundated with is Pumpkin Spice EVERYTHING.

So, please.  Can we at least wait until the Autumnal Equinox until we stock the store shelves and plaster the interwebs with everything from Pumpkin & Cream Flavored coffees to Pumpkin Spice hemorrhoidal creams?


Swampass In Arkansas

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Homemade Liver'ish Sausage'ish Braunschweiger'ish Stuff

Not sure why they call liver sausage, liver SAUSAGE.  To me, sausage is ground meat & fat & spices that you form into a patty and fry up in the cast iron skillet with eggs in the morning, or stuffed into the cleaned intestines of the animal you just used to make that sausage.

I'm not exactly sure where I acquired my taste for liver.  Maybe in a past life I was a successful bison hunter and got to sink my teeth into the fresh, still hot liver as my prize for making the killing shot.  Maybe my body is severely lacking in B-12 thusly causing my cravings.  Or maybe I'm just itching to get a bout of gout.  Regardless of the real reasons, I really do love livers.

As Ohio Farmgirl knows well, one of the benefits of raising your own Creepy Meats is the feast you have before you feast on a roast or fried chicken.  After a hard day of butchering chickens, you are left with a bowl (or six) of fresh chicken livers.  Batter & fry those puppies up and you've got yourself a well-deserved reward after all that back-breaking work of chicken plucking & eviscerating.  Or, if you're feeling fancy, you can make a pate out of those livers.  But, but....Pate is made from GOOSE liver, you say?  Well, sure it is.  But that's not going to stop me from making it from the livers I have sitting in a bowl of ice water on my counter top.

We've recently begun butchering our own hogs here on the homestead.  And like any animal (well, except for a sea cucumber or something), you're going to get yourself liver along with all that other meat.  Do you know how big the liver is of a 320 pound hog?  Me neither.  But it's a shitton bigger than a chicken liver I tell ya.  The first hog liver we cut up for Charlie.  And it pained me to see the Giant Sloppy Dog (GSD) get to eat it and not me.  So the second one I sliced up, battered and fried and served for supper.  Unfortunately it seems that I am the only liver-lover here.  Rhiannon will eat it with the bribe of ice cream for dessert.  Paul will choke it down and then remind me how he does not like liver.

The last pork liver was sliced up and shoved in the back of the freezer earlier this year and was recently brought out on accident by my husband thinking it was some sort of roast.  We need to be more diligent when labeling frozen packages.  Anyways, he called me at work and asked me if he could give it to the GSD.  I squealed "No!", and even though he said he wouldn't, I dreaded coming home to see the dog's food dish heaped up with the liver.  So I made a compromise; the GSD could get half of the liver and I would get the other half.

When thinking about how I was going to prepare the liver for myself (as it was already made known to me that Paul was NOT going to be eating liver with me) I though that I could try to make liver sausage.  I love that stuff.  Well, I love it enough to buy it once in a while and have a sandwich, but not really knowing how or what went into that little plastic wrapped tube of "liver sausage" it doesn't make it to our refrigerator more than every few years.  So I started looking up liver sausage recipes online.  Almost every single one of them required the majority of the ingredients to be pork meat, not so much liver.  And I'm sure it would be yummy, but I was hoping to get something akin to the wonderful chicken liver pate I made before.  So I did what I normally do.  I winged it.

Basically I took my Hillbilly Pat-Hay recipe and substituted the pork liver for the chicken livers.  And used six times as much of everything.  I told you a hog liver is a shitton bigger than a chicken liver...and I didn't even use half of the liver from the hog.

So.  How did I do it?  Well, here's the recipe I used:

3 lbs. pork liver, sliced & soaked (and soaked & drained & soaked & drained & soaked....)
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp. rubbed sage
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. marjoram
2 bay leaves (mine were old so that's why I used two)
4+ cups water
2 sticks butter at room temperature

Bring all (except butter) to a boil for 10 minutes, skimming the foamy stuff off.  Drain and pick out bay leaves.  Put small amounts into your food processor or blender and small chunks of butter & blend away until smooth.  Keep putting the liver/onions/garlic and butter into the processor until it's all smooth.

I don't have a food processor so I used the blender.  I'd have to say that having a food processor would have made it easier and probably made the paste a lot smoother, but I got what I got and that's what I used.

If you're a proper cook, you'd put the paste into a ramekin, but I don't have one.  So I put it into glass dishes (because, again, I don't have ramekins. I got old, rectangular glass dishes with lids.  Deal with it.) and shoved it in the refrigerator.  And then I had to wait because you're supposed to let it cool in for like six hours.  So I watied it out.  For like four hours.  Ok, ok.  I waited two hours.  It was still torture.

I opened the smaller dish and slathered the livergoodness over a cracker. And it was good. Was it $80 a pound foie gras good?  Well, seeing as I've never had "real" pate, I couldn't tell you.

What I can tell you is that it wasn't nearly as smooth as the chicken liver pate, but in all honesty, I wasn't aiming for that, but a Braunschweiger'ish / Liver sauage'ish recipe.  So in that regards, I think it went well.  I was thinking about actually following the recipes for liver sausage, the ones that call for actual chunks of meat, but since Paul doesn't like liver sausage anyhow it would be a waste of pork chops; I think this is the best way to use the livers from now on.  We don't get much lunch meat here unless we slice it up ourselves, so it will be a nice addition to the Homemade Sandwich Fixin's.

Even Rhiannon had some on a cracker and ate it without making faces...and then asked for another "cat food cracker".  Which is a truthfully accurate description.  I'm certain she tells her friends that her family eats Catfood Casserole and smears cat food on crackers for snacks.  The file the DCFS has on us must be pretty thick at this point.

So.  Is this liver sausage?
And this braunschweiger?
Goose liver pate? Chicken liver pate?  Raccoon liver pate???
Cat food?  Makes you wonder now, doesn't it???
I'm going to freeze a chunk of it and see how it defrosts.  If it defrosts well, I'll definitely make this again.  The Giant Sloppy Dog will just have to lick his chops and watch me eat all that hog liver by myself.