Nov 2012- don’t forget this feeling

remember

It occurred to me that very soon, I might forget what “this” feels like. The birthing and toddler years of beginning our farm together. Even though I was homesteading for 7 years before all of this, “this” is absolutely SO incredible. We’re literally living the dream, true to our farm’s name. We are both full time farmers! I cannot tell you how I longed for these days, and here we are, in them to the max. It’s a feeling I never want to take for granted.

The first year was HARD, and I documented every single bad thing that happened, if I ever need to refresh my gratitude. We were learning to work together, be together 24/7, handle panic-inducing predator problems, deal with poor production. We could not figure out how to get ahead, but thanks to our Kickstarter supporters, we got the leg up we needed, just in time to make a HUGE difference. Because of all the hardships we experienced in our first year, this year took us by surprise. Wow, did we see such a difference in our learning and skills being applied more smartly, and the much better results with the animals and the garden. But, we still realize now, at the end of the season, we have a long way to go before we are a well oiled machine.

We still have a lot of things to figure out to make a living doing this. Like getting paid. Beginning farmers often fail because of this, but how can you pay yourself when you have to pay the bills first? I don’t want or need much, but we need to have a cushion beginning for “retirement” or major disasters, and gee, it’d be nice to maybe get health insurance too (we’re waiting on the very long list for WI BadgerCare.) Right now we’re not in debt, but we are looking at it as an option, to grow our business more efficiently. We’re getting to that point where we know if we keep using every ounce of energy we’ve got, every strong tendon and back muscle, we might get hurt. And then what happens?

Working more smartly is essential, and we’re working on some ideas in that vein…meaning we might get a small tractor to help with things. Mucking out barns in the spring, with their heavy deep bedding layers, is devastating on the body. Lifting 1,000s of pounds of feed over and over, is hard on the back, hoeing weeds for what feels like years only to see you need to begin on the other side of the garden again, rototilling for days when a simple pass of a cultivator on a tractor would cut that time by 99%. I don’t know- I resist tractors, resist the “easy” way. I like that we are not farming with a tractor, but I would LOVE to have a tractor that would take the chore of mucking out barns off my wrists and back. We could also manage composting of that animal bedding better. I guess a tractor might actually be like a type of health insurance for us. A multi-functional insurance.

Meanwhile one ridiculously awesome thing that is still happening, is that our ducks are laying eggs. Lots of them. This has NEVER happened before in my years of caring for ducks, the egg numbers usually dwindle at the beginning of November. And that means we are doing something very right- they are content, cozy and happy. We are so grateful to those lovely ducks, because whether they were laying eggs or not, we’d still have their feed bill every week. What’s happening is that we are actually able deliver eggs to our accounts, when people want to eat and use eggs the most. So money is not just going out, it is coming in. Weeheew, it’s a miracle! They love their new barn, where we are able to provide them with constant fresh water and deep hay bedding, they love being able to go out all day long, if it isn’t too cold. We figured it out, and that feels really good.

our turkey

Ever year we always do the same thing, and that’s because it ALWAYS works: Low and Slow and Long. You will have the most succulent results, never ever a dried out turkey! You’ll have an easy time arranging the tender, juicy meat in piles ready to snarf down.

It’s essential with this method, to keep the turkey covered. An enamel coated canning pot works great for really big birds (ours was 29 lbs)! Breast side down, rub with salt and pepper, maybe throw some herbs under the wings and some chopped onions and garlic in the cavity. Throw the neck and giblets in to roast as well. Cover with lid or tightly with tin foil. Put in 350 oven for 1.5 hours then reduce heat to 250 and roast slowly for 3-5 (we did 10!) more hours, depending on how large your bird is. Keep covered, when it starts smelling unbearably delicious, pull it out of the oven, check to see that the turkey is done (usually it is falling off the bone tender!), recover and continue on your other meal prep. The turkey will stay hot, covered for at least 2 hours. Wait until you are ready to serve to take it out!

Gravy- Take about 1 1/2 cups flour,whisk in 2 cups turkey drippings in a saucepan. Heat now on medium heat, whisk constantly as it cooks until it begins to thicken. Add in slowly: 2 cups drippings, whisking constantly. Keep adding turkey drippings until desired texture is achieved. Salt and pepper to taste!Don’t think you like leftovers? Simply fill freezer bags with the leftover meat and freeze! Wait until january and you’ll have some delicious turkey sandwiches.

migration

We got sick after Thanksgiving, a super nasty nasty head cold that’s infested our everything. I guess my sister is the cause, but it’s all good. Time for an immune system builder, after not getting sick for a very long time. Leah, you’re like a flu shot! Thanks!

Due to this gross sickness zonking us out, we’ve been inside alot lately. I was curled up by the woodstove, reading this awesome book called Change Comes to Dinner, when I heard a crazy commotion up above. Not upstairs, but outside. I ran out to witness at least 1,000 sandhill cranes flying over our place, heading south. They were flying pretty low in the classic v shape, carrying on with their purr-honk communications as they navigated together. It was quite magical. I couldn’t stop experiencing that beauty to go get the camera, but later a small group came by which I was able to get a picture of. Just awesome.

We have alot of birds around us here. And not just our domesticated ones! A couple weekends before Thanksgiving harvesting, the turkeys were all doing their alert call “peep-click-beep” and I looked up to where they were all looking, and could see nothing. But 40 turkeys all watching the sky is not something to argue with, so I looked closer. Yes, WAY up I could see a black shape, and then I could see it had a white head. They were letting us know that eagles were above, and over the next hour, we must have seen 7 or 8 pairs of bald eagles flying over head, going south like the Sandhills were. I don’t think that eagles migrate? Luckily they were intent on going where they were, and not stopping by our place for a snack.

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