We got a nice layer of snow on Thursday! The bedroom in the morning was unusually bright with the reflective light. Beautiful white fluff covered the whole farm, including the hoophouse. It was mild out, clean and lovely. I’m SO ready for this time of year. This has been a killer of a year. I’m wanting to settle into low key time and I have been waiting for this. Every day that comes that is “nice out” means I feel like I must be outdoors doing some work. But what I really want is to be hunkered down inside. I’m working on a book, want to go through the numbers and work on next year’s plans. Each sunny, unusually nice day means I need to take advantage of the loveliness, not be indoors. Especially because night comes at 4:30pm nowadays. It’s a weird time of readjustment, for a weird couple of months to come. Then in March, everything reverses and we’re back to outdoors all the time. See why I am looking forward to some indoor time?
The snow all left by the next day though. Oh well. Enjoying some beautiful weather, doing some sketches, food processing, fall garden mulching, and some writing. We’ve been working a few times for a friend who has a commercial kitchen in her home, and going down to her place to help and earn a little cash has been really fun. We work hard for her and have stimulating farm-based conversations the entire time.
Having a farming mentor is a great place to start with farming, and is essential as you get going in your own endeavor. Finding such a person isn’t easy, but when you find a like-minded sort of person who IS farming, win them over and hang on to them with all your might! Angelica is like my big sister, she’s always been behind me, and has totally embraced Andrew, as he and I began farming together. Coming to her business to work for her, with her, is a major blessing for us. She’s a feisty one, not for the faint of heart. Full of very strong convictions and opinions, she’s inspiring and re-invigorating. Our conversations are straight to the point, somewhat vulgar, and there is lots of laughing. Birds of a feather……….it feels good.
One day we discussed vegetables grown in overly rich soil. She’s got some opinions and experience with this. Simply put, she thinks vegetables forced to work on their growth just TASTE better. It’s like they have more integrity. We experienced delicious results in the same manner this year, purely out of frugal-ness and not wanting to import compost/manure to our farm. Our green beans were fantastically flavorful, due do having to work to bring their nutrients from the soil. We did not have semi-loads of organic manure to spread over the beds, but they were delicious despite this! What Angelica saw was overly organically fertilized veggies she bought were BIG, but they had no substance or flavor character. Something to chew on.
Lately I’ve been a major crab and very frustrated with myself because of my attitude. I think PMS, caffeine and then tyrptophan, in the form of roasted turkey legs brought it all to a head one day. Andrew suggested going on a walk together, and we briskly walked down the road in the sun. Getting away from the farm and clearing my head, I told him how sorry I was to be such a emotional handful. He’s exceptionally patient and intuitive in his dealings with me, which I greatly appreciate. As we walked, I thought the whole situation through. I’m frustrated primarily because of money. Worry about money. Why is it that we’re working our butts off, and not bringing in enough to get through the winter? All of a sudden I realized that my goal for next year is “More of Less.” No more crazy making attempts to try everything. Focus on what we do well, and what is profitable for our farming endeavor. If we focus on these specialties, then all the rest is for our own self sufficiency and enjoyment, I think I would be more relaxed. I want to focus on our CSA, our ducks and goats. Already I am seeing improvement with the goats with some more individualized attention since the madness of the season has ended. I need to do more of this. We already take very good care of the ducks, but budgeting time to spend managing their environment better and allotting time to focus on selling their eggs, doing demos and improving every aspect of our duck situation, will feel productive and good. No more crazy-making for 2012!
I made a ketchup with green tomatoes and apple pulp. It’s pretty good. I love canning and filling the pantry. Food processing means I get to practice my favorite thing ever, which is food hoarding. Having shelves full of of the bounty of our farm, for our winter use also equals lowered expenses. In our business plan, we’d entered a modest $120/month for our personal food expenses. There is no way we are even close to that, maybe more like $25/month. We basically buy raw ingredients we can’t grow or make our selves. Flour, coffee, salt, sugar….just like the pioneers. There are a few splurges here and there, olive oil, walnuts, or maybe a bag of potato chips. We’re rich……in delicious farm food.
The ducklings are all moved into the hoophouse now, in 4×8 brooder boxes. One end has a heat lamp, and we cover the entire thing at night to hold in the warmth. Their feathers are coming in, the baby fuzz slowly getting covered up. I could have ducklings all the time, they are just so wonderfully vivacious.
Wind swirls from the wrong direction. Gathering oak and apple branches, I begin the fire in the grill’s bottom, aiming to nurture a bed of coals for bbq chicken dinner.
Starting from scratch, we ordered baby broiler chickens in March. They arrived at our co-op feed store in April, and lived in our one and only spare bedroom, brooding in their warm sanctuary as tiny ones until they were big and strong enough to move outdoors. These little bundles of fluff were hunks from the get go. There was no shyness, no embarrassment on their part. They were here to eat, and they loved us if we brought them food. Growing faster than the eye could comprehend, within two weeks it was time for phase two: moving out.
Their enormous droppings loading up their brooder boxes at a rapid pace, and seeing that they needed alot more space all of a sudden, it was time for the chickies to go outside. Even with fresh bedding, poultry poop develops an ammonia aroma very quickly. Not ideal for our tiny house. After their 2nd or 3rd night moved out, there was some weasel or raccoon predation in the side shed of the goat barn where we had set them up. We’d never seen any evidence of either predator and freaked out. We hastily moved the babies out of there, prematurely into their chicken tractor. Decorated with heat lamps, tarps, and lots of hay to snuggle in, the chicken babies looked like they were surviving an apocalypse. We even camped next to them the first two nights, shotgun and flashlight ready to kill the predator. But it never returned to kill our chicken babies, thank god.
The next 6 weeks went by very quickly, and our babies turned into full-on CHICKENS. The Jumbo Cornish Cross is a freakishly fast growing bird. Jimmy John’s fast. It’s startling. They were delightful in their ambitious eating, and adorable in their lounging around between eating sessions. Our chickens had it made, and showed their happiness in cat-nap poses, one leg stretched out as they relaxed in the sun, closed their eyes, absorbed their organic feed’s nutrients and grew, grew, grew. I loved them so, and felt so proud of our little birds. I called them the bubster chickie-poo-poos.
Harvesting animals you adore is hard. Harvesting any life is serious, and it’s harder when you really love their being-ness. I loved watching their gluttony, their ambition to eat as much as possible. I loved knowing they were going to fufill the role they came to earth to play. They would be food, after living a wonderful life. Our customers were all lined up for harvesting day, and we prepared the slaughtering area.
Each bird was swiftly beheaded, and the energy inside them is always astounding to behold. We moved through the whole group of birds, working together to accomplish the various tasks involved with chicken butchering day- scalding, plucking, eviscerating, cleaning and chilling. It was a magnificent day of food production coming to it’s highlight. We’d spent the past 8 weeks getting ready to this, and here we were, sending off our customers with glorious meat from gorgeous, wonderful birds.
Today we brought one of our chickens out of the freezer for the bbq dinner. Massive, pink, rotund. I can’t help but remember the chickens in their life with us, to see this beautiful meat come out of our freezer. As I butchered up the whole bird into parts, Andrew made a marinade of garlic, water, salt, pepper, marjoram, oregano, balsamic and liquid aminos. We had some beer waiting for the right time to begin the fire, letting the chicken marinate.
The moonless night made for a frustrating darkness when our motion sensor light kept turning off. I collected chunks of oak bark for the grill in the intermittent light. After the fire was started, I sat on my haunches next to it, sipping beer from a can, trying to decide when I could put the chicken on. I’m new to cooking meat, learning as I go. Knowing the grill couldn’t be too hot or in full flames is all I knew. Waiting, the light on the porch turned off. One of the goats yelled out to let me know she wanted it to be milking time. I sat watching the embers glowing like volcanic activity.