harvesting, chevre, and the hoophouse fertility

7/24 harvesting

Holy shit. Today went perfectly. Weather perfectly overcast and a bit cooler, and everyone on time. We have the best customers EVER. Peaceful existences until the peaceful ends for the chickens.

We’d been up early to do chores and set up our “mise en place”, as it were, for the harvesting set up. Beheading stump with sharpened cleaver, then the scalder (a turkey fryer bought on craigslist), the plucking table, then the evisceration station. Everyone came at 8:30, some delicious blueberry coffeecake made with duck eggs was brought, and we got down to business.

As each bird was unknowingly collected and brought to the stump, I cooed my chickie poo poo tone to them to keep them calm. Andrew is very swift with the cleaver and immediately we got a rhythm going. Each of the 7 people fell into what they did and liked best. It was impressive to be a part of, and I was so proud of everyone. Kept checking in to make sure everyone was comfortable with how it was going. We oohed-and-awwed over the gorgeous plump chickens transforming from bird to meat as the feathers were plucked and wiped off. Scalding at 160 degrees for barely 30 seconds works so well. Our birds at 8 weeks old weighed an average of 8 lbs each. Amazing.

Some of our seasoned pro customers are going to try raising their own meat chickens next year and they really wanted to know they could do all the steps involved. They mastered scalding, plucking & eviscerating. Then they wanted to be a part of the death and the actual harvesting. He did the beheading, and she the holding of the bird- after the head comes off, there is considerable force coming from the electricity in the body, in the form of the wings flapping like mad. My hands took a beating from all the flapping. I was glad to see she could hang in there this step- it is really a fierce moment.

This type of day, ultimately, is what we’re all about; sharing skills and getting more people to raise their own meat, if they can. If nothing else, this harvesting day brings them closer to seeing it was an animal who gave it’s life to be meat which they’ll eat. And it helps us get it done too….on our own this would have taken a LONG time. But with our customers we were finished in 4 hours.

Also important to note- we have developed a clientele who LOVES organs and offal. This excites me beyond belief, except it means we don’t get to keep these as “farmers perks” anymore. One gal took even the heads to make stock! The feet were all divvied up, and the gizzards, hearts, livers. So proper to use it all. Our dogs were kind of bummed about the heads though- they love them.

After everybody took off, we moved the piglets to fresh turf for digging. Seeded the spot they had been on with clover, oats and buckwheat. Andrew worked on the walk-in cooler somemore, while I cleaned up, strained feta and started a batch of chevre for shares coming up on Tuesday.

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3 thoughts on “harvesting, chevre, and the hoophouse fertility

  1. Busy, busy days. I’m impressed with the cooperative efforts on chicken processing day. We process our layers, but not our broilers, which are taken off farm for processing. I laughed at your picture of that day – it could have been taken here, I think we have the exact same tablecloth for the job.

    I’m taking heart from your late planting of the cukes – I forgot to seed any and the local stores are not selling cuke starts, so I’m going to give it a try.

    Dishes – the “rule” here is that whoever cooked doesn’t do dishes – baking being the exception (if you bake, you clean up what you used). This works well with 4 of us, as except in unusual circumstances (someone away, sickness, etc), no one gets stuck with dishes twice in a row. I actually don’t mind dishes that much – I enjoy the process of restoring order to chaos, and I am highly motivated by the clean counter at the end of the night. No one else in the family feels this need for a clean counter at the end of the night, so this is why it eventually became part of the rule. Dishes have to be done before Mama goes to bed. Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy….

    My layers are due for the freezer some time in the next week or two, and I can’t wait. I am so tired of these pesky marauding escape artist egg eating birds. My neighbor (age 86) comes over for the morning and wields pruning loppers very efficiently, we both skin (we skip scalding/plucking this way, and these are not good roasters anyway) the birds, and I eviscerate (his eyesight isn’t great). He gets half for his dog food, I get half for my soups. It’s a great partnership.

    1. That sounds like a great trade for help with the chickens! Do you mostly stew the older layers then, make stock? Have you gotten into pressure canning? Hear ya on the dishes, what an orderly house you run!

      1. Hmm…I may have given a false impression. Orderly? I won’t show my kids this one, they would snort with laughter.
        Yes, mostly soup or stew. I would like to try pressure canner, but it’s a case of first get your pressure canner. Nope, I freeze them. Actually on rare organized/orderly occasions 🙂 I cook them up, take the meat off and put meat in one container, stock in the other and freeze them like that. I love finding these containers of stock all ready to go on rushed nights.

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