Sunday, November 17, 2013

To live life one must make sacrifices

Waking up this morning was a rude awakening...I realized much too early, that today was a chore day.  Now don't get me wrong, I like to work, it's honest and humbling, but some chores, while necessary are neither fun, but more of a reminder that to live is to take.  Yes, giving is part of it, but this blog is not about giving, nor recieving, it is simply about taking.

You see, I raise chickens, dual purpose birds.  This is a working homestead, with pets; but the chickens are not pets.  For the past 2 1/2 years, I have raised the chickens and gotten eggs for a good 1 3/4 years, reliably.  But the eggs have slowed off, even in the late summer when we had plenty of light.  Research shows that Chickens give eggs reliably for about 2 years, then they slow down. Natural.  My plan has always been to give my chickens a good life and one bad day.  Today was that day.

I had 3 chickens this morning.  I believe in and practice humane methods of killing the chickens, and processing them myslef.  I need to know that between the time they are taking from their coop, to the time  they die is minimal and the last thing they hear is my soothing hysterics, no load noises.  I try to stress the chickens as little as possible.

Is the prayer I say for their benefit or mine....I try not to think about that.

Is it better for me to be here, doing this; or blindly purchasing chicken from the store?  I wrestle with this constantly.  Yes my conscience could be clear (if I don't think to long about confined chicken breeding practices, or they mechanized way birds are processed,) but I wouldn't know what type of hormones, chemicals, and feed the chickens recieved.  Raising my own is a trust.  I trust myslef to feed them as naturally as I can, let them roam as free as I can, keep their coop clean, make sure they have water and security.  For this I take their eggs, and in the end their life.

My grandparents had no struggles with this.  You farmed, and Harvested the produce, raised livestock and butchered it; all so you could eat and live.  In a nutshell, to live is to take.

Yes I will miss the chickens clucking in the morning, running back and forth in search of who knows what in the grass.  But in March/April, I will start again, with new chicks.  Why?  Because this is a working homestead.  And while I wasn't born on a farm, I am a city kid, who wants more control of my food.  And sometimes, we must do things we are not comfortable with.  But I have a trust.  A trust to treat my animals, pets, family with respect and love.  I try always to do that.  But my livestock are not my family.  They raised to feed my family.

I have come to grips that to live, I must either kill or condone killing in my name.  I will miss the chickens, but I knew when they came into my life, that they were destined to end up on my table.

I can not pass this chore off to someone else.  I know that bringing home the chickens when they are a day old, that one day, I will have to take their life, so that I may live.  It is sobering, Humbling, and opens my eyes to the reality of life.  In this the season for giving thanks, and giving gifts; I give thanks that I have the courage to face my convictions, for the gifts my chickens gave to me and my family.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Still plenty to do indoors

So even though the weather is turning to Winter here.  And working outdoors, though it's necessary isn't as fun as it was a few months ago.  And to be honest, it was baking time again.  We were running out of bread, so I took an afternoon to make up some more.

I figured out that 4 loaves last us about a month.  So I decided to make up two loaves of Basic white bread, and two of Honey, Nut Oatmeal Wheat.  The process is pretty basic, mix up the ingredients, knead 8 minutes or so, and allow to rise for about an hour.  Punch down, divide in half, form into loaves, plop them into a greased loaf pan and allow to rise for about 45 minutes or so.  Heat up ovens, pop them in for 35 - 40 minutes or until Golden Brown and Delicious (GBD hereafter).  Pull from pans, and allow to cool completely.  Slice and eat…repeat: here are some photos:
Basic supplies, Flour, Yeast, Salt, Water, Sugar for the Basic White

Everything mixed up and kneading is about half done, looking to make this fairly elastic.

Proofing in the oven with just the light on for a bit of warmth.

Start of the Honey, Nut Oatmeal Wheat.  Wheat bread flour with Pumpkin seeds and Sunflower seeds

Egg and Yeast…

Oatmeal….1 cup of old fashioned oats, with 2 cups boiling H2O, allow to sit 15 minutes for Oats to soften.

Mixed and kneaded Honey, Nut Oatmeal Wheatbread

1 hour rise time, yep I think she doubled in size!

Honey, Nut, Oatmeal Wheat on the left, Basic white on the Right.  I always butter up the loaf pans for easy de-panning upon baking completion.

Basic White on final 45 minute rise…again in the oven with the light on for minimal warmth.

Honey, Nut, Oatmeal Wheat final 45 minute rise.

Basic white, baked, de-panned, GBD cooling 

Honey, Nut, Oatmeal Wheat, baked, de-panned, GBD and cooling as well

And while the loafs cool, and the ovens are hot, Peanut Butter cookies were baked!  Great with Tea on an Overcast Day!

With the Garden tasks coming to a close, and the weather turning cold and dreary, nothing makes a house smell like home quite like baking bread.  It beats anything you can buy in stores.  Try it sometime.


Friday, October 11, 2013

So another full season comes to a close.  I realize that there has been a ginormant amount of time that has elapsed since my last post, so this one may be a bit lengthy to catch up.

First off, I have found out that working a full 40 work week, keeping up with the homestead, and trying to take care of myself by exercising, and eating right, finding time for my family....well there's only 24 hours in the day and my blogging amongst other things took the hit.

I realized how much I missed the simple act of writing out my thoughts, sharing pictures, ideas, success' and failures.  I missed the community.  So I am now going to take the time to blog again.  I can't hope for a daily blog, but like my foray into the world of CrossFit, I will take it slow.  Two to Three times a week, and will try to work up from there.

So, as we head into Fall, the Harvest is over, and I can report it was a busy Harvest season:
Herbs - We were able to dry enough Oregano, Basil, Sage, and Thyme for the next year's use.  We got some Chives, Parsley, and Stevia drying enough probably for the winter, but no further.  Fresh Chives, Parsley, Tarragon, Marjoram and Sage are being used now, and will be allowed to grow for the next year.  Borage, Cilantro, and Cumin going to Seed, and will be used for further growth next spring.  The Lavender was harvested for oil, and the mint needless to say was more than we needed.  Lemon Balm is ready for harvest, and will be used for sore muscles.

Salsa - well production this year was prodigious! We had Tomatoes, Peppers (Jalepeno, Serrano, and Red Chili),  and Shallots and Onions.  Not pictured are the Cucumbers.  In all, we made 30+  Pints of Salsa more than enough for the family throughout the upcoming year!)  I credit this to the wonderful Summer we had here on the Coast.  We had a long string of 80+ degree days with mellow nights.

Pumpkins - We got 10 - 12 good sized Small Sugar Pumpkins and were able to roast and puree and freeze for soups, and yes pies throughout the year.  I even tried my hand at Pumpkin Butter.  After much research, I found that now it is not recommended for canning.  Though I know that my Grandma and her friends all Canned Pumpkin and Apple Butter safely, and so gave it a try.  I Shan't share how I did it, as I don't want to run afoul of the law...but needless to say I made sure everything was heavily sanitized, and made sure my products were of the highest quality and clean.  We have been eating the first jar (4 oz) and it came out wonderful. The other 3 have been in the Canning Cupboard, so far no explosions, we will see when we open those.

Swiss Chard and Kale - This has been fantastic as a cut and come again, and we have been using it as sides, soups, stews so far and it looks like it is holding up well.  I have read that it will hold up through the first frost when it will go super sweet, looking forward for that.

 Berries - Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries Oh My!  Prolific harvest this year, and still pulling Raspberries even at this late date!

Of course these little gems didn't last much after the photo...but boy were they Yummy! In the end we froze up Strawberries, and Blueberries for throughout the year, The Raspberries, being a Favorite, don't make it into the house.

As for the Chickens: 
 The girls: From Left Twinkie (Buff Orpington), MeToo (Golden Laced Wyandotte) and Diva (Wellsummer) Interesting note, Diva has stopped giving eggs, grown spurs, and has tried to crow a few times.  I thought I was going nuts, but my brother had the same thing happen with one of his hens.  Found out this isn't that rare.
 The girls really like a new addition to the coop this year, a screen door.  With the temperatures this summer climbing towards the 90's opening the door kept the coop cooler and helped them through it.
 Looks like the thrown together coop I made a few years back is still holding up well.
New addition this year number two, a watering system.  The girls took to the nipples right away, only had to show them once or twice, and the bucket holds enough water that I only have to fill it weekly, and they don't spill anymore!  It was pretty simple, and I re-used old PVC pipe from other projects!

As for the chickens, I know this isn't something everyone does, but this is a working homestead.  And while I name my chickens, they are livestock, not pets.  Soon, they will have a bad 5 minutes to end their wonderful 2 1/2 years of life.  I don't do this lightly.  I took on this project so that my daughter would know where her food came from.  And that meat doesn't come naturally covered in plastic wrap on a styrofoam tray.  She Took part in the first butchering of our rooster a year ago, and has learned more about our food system than any other "City or Suburban" Girl I know.  She has decided now to major in Nutrition and is studying in the University!  Success!

I plan to clean the coop thouroughly when the butchering is done, and next March when new chicks are available, I will get 6 chickens and start the process again.

As for the bunnies, that is my Wife and Daughter's project.  

My daughter is cutting the nails on our male Holland Lop Snowball.  We have a female Sunshine (not pictured) and my daughter is planning to mate them.  Next project is a new hutch to acomodate 4 cages, two for the existing bunnies, and two for the babies (have to separate boys from girls as they will breed like rabbits don't you know.

So, still left to do...harvest potatoes, butter nut squash, last of the tomatoes, spinach, kale, chard, raspberries, oh and play with the new greenhouse:

 Built this potting bench from discarded Pallets!
 Red Chili's this is the last of the season.
 Serrano's; Mason Bee's pollinated, then I dug them up and transplanted into pots, and moved them into the greenhouse, I now have 10 or so Serrano's growing nicely!
 Stevia, it's been chopped and put in the greenhouse to overwinter.  The rest is drying in the garage to powder and use this winter.
 Orange Bell pepers, don't think they'll go orange, but I like them green as well.
 Jalepeno's doing very well.
Basil, these were smaller in the garden, wouldn't have had a chance with the weather turning but seem to be thriving in the greenhouse!

Well, that's just about it for the wrap-up from the homestead.  I will try to update a couple of times a week throughout the winter, as I have more projects on tap that I hope to get accomplished prior to Spring.

It feels good to be back...