community, chicken harvesting

7/22 crazy day

Chicken harvesting, fishing attempt, lobster party, yogurt making, piglet hose-down, raspberry picking, feta making.

We harvested 10 chickens this morning with one of our customers. It went very smoothly, and she was a pro in no time. I think we are pretty good teachers, we help show how normal folks do things. Scalding and plucking a chicken? No biggie- just watch and learn and then you do it. Talking with her was great too- she’s exactly the type of person we are farming for. Totally conscious of meat animals and the difference it makes for everything when they are raised and harvested humanely. When she was all packed up, I went to check on the piglets. Hosed them down good, which previously they resisted, but now they love it. Those crazy little squealers!

I began yogurt making after cleaning up.Yogurt starts with scalding goatmilk, then letting it cool down to around 133 degrees. At that point, you innoculate it with fresh cultures and incubate it in 133 degree water in a cooler. Pretty simple, but I just never get around to doing it for some reason. Goat yogurt is stupendously delicious though, and so healthful.

For some reason we suddenly decided to go try fishing at a local creek for just an hour while the milk cooled down. It was hot and buggy, but we were ecstatic to see Andrew’s bobber go down. The same tiny little baby bass was wrangled up in the air three times. We moved on to a new spot on the creek. No luck, but at least we tried. I love that Andrew is so spontaneous and recepetive to my spontaneity.

We excitedly headed home, he did chores and I finished the yogurt. We got back in the car——we were invited to a Lobster Bake! I have never had lobster before, and the mysterious allure of it is very intriguing. Our friend was throwing a small dinner party and she invited us! Imagine the decadence, a lobster party! We pulled up at her place, which is just a few minutes from ours, and recognized a few people we’d been getting to know around here. And also she had gone ALL OUT in making the cutest outdoor setup imaginable. Vintage tablecloths, adorable glasses and unique place settings. She raises rabbits, chickens, vegetables all in a small town back yard. It’s no wonder we get along! I brought some goat feta I made, and the raspberries I picked. We got some cocktails and mingled. A party! We were at a party for the first time in a long time. The weather was very nice, we were on the shade side of the house too. Met some locals who we’d heard stories about and were looking forward to talking to, and some total strangers we just hit it off with! This gal knows how to get a good group together. Alot of people had heard about our farm and what we were doing, which was very flattering.

The reason I tell about going to a lobster party isn’t about the food, it is about community. Moving somewhere new, it can be hard to find a foothold to get to know folks, especially if you are a discerning person of liberal nature. We found this group here because of the Transition Town Initiative that was started a while back. It’s built a foundation for likeminded people to get to know each other and really have a community in the region. We’re really lucky to have plopped ourselves down into such an awesome scene. The Transition Town Movement is about building a resilliant community for dealing with the difficult times coming in the future.

7/23 flop

Oh crap- we have a 70% chance of thunderstorms and it is chicken harvesting day! We emailed everyone to say we have to change to the next day, Andrew went to go work on rehab for our tiller, and as finished chores and fed the chickens (who’d been not fed the day before to clean out their systems) some customers pulled up. Frantically I explained it’s gonna storm, and we cancelled but they had left very early and hadn’t gotten the notice. They had driven an hour to get to the farm, so we decided let’s just process your turkeys today, since I was not comfortable trying to harvest chickens without Andrew.These two were splitting a meat share, and one of the ladies said she’d be able to return tomorrow for the chicken day. Wheew!

After our weasel attack on the little chickens a month before, we were short two chickens for each of our chicken shares. Despite having quite a few extra birds, we had too many mortalities. We were substituting one turkey for two chickens per share. This was ok with everyone, but financially hard on us. We didn’t stipulate that if there were chicken losses, we’d all bear the brunt of the loss- as in a vegetable CSA. Besides, we’d feel bad not giving them something for the money they paid. Maybe this is not farmer-smart, but it is people smart and good for business, and how we’d like to be treated.

The wind picked up, the clouds started moving all crazy and as we harvested the first two birds the sprinkles came. We brought the turkeys to the pavillion after they died, for plucking in the pavillion. Not quite out of the driving rain, but sheltered none the less. Then it got cold out, I run in and grab some jackets for them- we were not prepared for this wild weather. From 95 to 55? Crazy. Another customer comes, she came from 2 hours away. Helps pluck the turkeys with us as we decide what to do for her- it’s pouring, maybe she can wait a bit and we then can process her turkey, but we can take care of her chickens tomorrow and get them to her when I go to town on Tuesday. She brought a cooler and lots of ice for the chickens, so I put that in our chest freezer until tomorrow.

We completed the first two turkeys, and those gals hit the road to get out of the storm. The third customer and I chatted and donned our rain jackets, touring the farm. It was her first time out, and she was so excited to see and meet all the animals who provide for her CSA share products. It was fun, and like the day before, I was so elated to meet another like-minded person who happened to sign up for our farm share and is now one of our lovely customers. Someone who greatly appreciates life, living, learning and good farming practices. I have to say that Facebook has been so great for our farm! You wouldn’t believe it, but it is true. All the transparency, the sharing, the videos and pictures and updates—-very fun and engaging. When this customer came up she said she felt like she already knew me because of that web-interface. Nothing to laugh at.

The weather calms, we begin her turkey’s day—-after plucking the bird and preparing to eviscerate, the water isn’t running. Ack the power’s out! More waiting, then the sun comes out, as if this storm never happened. Just weird. Power came back, and we finish up the process. She learned all about eviscerating, all the different organs and how to get them out cleanly, while preserving the edible ones from contamination. These turkeys are beautiful inside and out, so healthy and clean and they make me very proud as a farmer. We did a good job raising them, even if they are the lean summer birds. It is weird to see a turkey without much fat, but that’s what all the running around does- they burn it off before it gets to build up as fat. Just like exercise fanatics.

After she left at 2, I had a kale/Roxy bacon/duck egg/aoili sandwich and started checking on everybody. Aside from the wet ground, everyone made it fine. The baby turkeys were ready for food of course. Andrew returned & I told him how the crazy day had gone. We talked about duck fencing options again. Maybe rotational paddocks inside the fence? It’s hard because we really don’t want to keep the ducks where they are for the long term- we have to wait to decide where our official barn will go first.

We also talked about the enlargement of the goat paddock system- so many projects. I am tired of tethering the goats, and would rather have a separate paddock for mommas during their separation from babies prior to milking. If I bottle feed the kids next spring, they can be grazing with their mommas but not nurse from them since I’d be the momma. Then we’d actually have two paddocks to rotate the herd to and fro. Much more ideal.

For dinner I made basmati rice cooked with turkey broth, dried morels and dried basil. It smells heavenly as it steams.

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