Sunday, February 26, 2006

Culinary Success

Last night we made coq au vin with one of the roosters. It was a lovely, winter dish. Our dinner guest, Craig, thought there should have been snow to accompany it. I served it with new potatoes, green beans we had canned from the garden and fresh sourdough bread (remind me to write about the "beast", that is the starter I created, sometime). The company was fine, the food was excellent (if I might say so) and a great time was had by all. I meant to post a picture of the finished dish, but I got so caught up in my role as hostess, that I forgot to take the picture. You'll just have to trust me that it was as lovely as it was tastey.

I'm thinking of making a doro wat with the other rooster. I love and miss Ethiopian food. Whatever I decide to do, it is going to be worthy of the bird.

Today it was sunny, but very chilly. Big Daddy and I did manage to plant the cherry trees - two pie, one sweet; and the fig tree. They arrived earlier in the week and I heeled them into the mulch mountain that just seems to never diminish. We moved a young pine that was in the way of the new orchard. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it lives, as its roots were a little sparse for the top growth. Now I'm just waiting on the apple trees to arrive. The tomato seeds arrived yesterday, so today we set up the starter flats. Big Daddy is taking them to work and will put them in one of the greenhouses tomorrow. I can't believe I've not started tomatoes from seed before. Wait, I did in Africa, but there I could just seed them directly in the ground. No luck doing that here, I'm afraid. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for them as well.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's Quieter On Little Creek Farm

I'm writing about the actual slaughtering of the chickens. It will be graphic, and I apologize to those who may be offended. If you think you may be, skip this entry.

I got up this morning, had a cup of coffee and went to the chicken house. I had been steeling myself for this moment since Wednesday. There was no snow in the forecast, no rain, no sleet. Today was the day. This morning, cloudy and still, was the morning. I caught the Barred Rock rooster first. It was easy. I put him in the dog crate on the back porch. Then I went back to catch the Dominique rooster. He was more difficult. He had a premonition perhaps, or maybe he was just a lot less tame. I trapped him in the chicken house and went in after him. He had flown to a roost, then straight at me hitting me with a claw below my right eye. "I deserve that", I thought.

Once both roosters were caught I went inside for more coffee. I gathered everything I needed - bucket, work gloves, rope, twine, filet knife (very sharp), a tub for feathers, and my courage. I set water on the stove to warm and went back outside.

I took the Dominique first. I had strung a rope between two trees near the creek. I trussled up the legs and tied the rooster upside down to the rope. Quickly, before I could lose what nerve I had mustered, I slit his throat. I looked down and realized I had forgotten to place the bucket underneath to catch the blood. There wasn't as much blood as I thought there would be. I went back and got the bucket. When I returned the rooster was still. I then noticed the blood on my gloves. I filled the bucket with water from the creek and flushed the blood off the leaf-littered ground. I didn't want the dogs wallowing in it. There was still blood on the tree trunk. I left it.

Next came the plucking. I moved the water off the stove and outside. I dunked the bird in the water and loosened the feathers. I began pulling the feathers. They came out easily. Big Daddy came out and helped finish the plucking and I went to get the second bird. I went through the motions again. I had hit mechanical mode. Big Daddy did the gutting. That part was easy for him. I think we've drawn the line on our labor roles.

It wasn't easy , nor was it as difficult as I had anticipated. I had been calling it the "deed" for a while - not quite able to say "slaughter". A life is not to be taken lightly and I said a little prayer for each bird. I have more respect for my chickens. Before they just laid eggs for my family. Now they have given their lives so I may eat. Not everyone is comfortable with that. I can't get all mystical about it - my role, their role. My thoughts are this - if I am going to raise a livestock animal, and I am going to eat meat, then I must be willing to do the "deed" myself.

I've also learned a lesson. If the birds are destined for the table, I can't get close. While the two roosters had no names, I knew them intimately. I knew their habits. I will undoubtedly have more roosters with the hatching and the next shipment. I think the key is to do the slaughter early, before I know them so well (and they are more tender). I like to know where my food comes from. I know exactly where the chicken, now chilling in my fridge, came from. I know what it ate. I know that it was healthy. I know that it got to run, chase bugs, eat my black-eyed peas before I could harvest them, flap it's wings and crow. If chickens can be happy, these birds were happy.

By the way, Mooney, the Silver Spangled Hamburg, received a stay of execution. I will have more hens by the spring, so two roosters won't be so bad. Monkey loves the "Hamburgler" and he's kind of funny. Besides, Hamburgs are a really light breed and what we'd get wouldn't be worth the effort. I'm a sentimental pragmatist.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Little Bit of Fresh Air and Exercise

The weather seems to be seesawing back and forth - one day it's snow, the next it's sunshine. Today was a sunshine kind of day. I prepared two rows for planting spinach, kale, bok choi and maybe a few radishes. Soon the lettuce can go in. After two rows I was sweating. I need to get back in garden-shape. If all the twittering birds are any indication, spring is slowly coming this way. Soon, I will have muscles and a little sun-color on my cheeks. That is to say, I will have muscles where they belong, like in my arms, not on my cheeks... jeez.

While cleaning up the two rows I found a few shallots that were lost and forgotten last year. I've now got a bunch of little shallots to replant. I also have a jumbo-size rootstock of rhubarb that's destined for a garden in Georgia.

I've got 18 eggs waiting in my garage for the incubator. We are filling it up on Thursday. Hopefully, I'll have a few more to add, then in 21 days, if all goes well, there will be chicks. More chicks mean more eggs! Kookookachoo.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


August 2005

I am posting this picture because there are a couple of inches of snow on the garden and I've spent all day planning for spring. My seeds are arriving and I'm cataloguing and dreaming and planning and dreaming and plotting and... did I mention I hate February? A twelve foot sunflower is just what I need to get my mind out of snow, sleet, rain, snow mode.

I'm also dreaming of little chicks, ducklings, goslings and turkey pullets that will arrive at the end of March. I'm visualizing the perfect little barnyard that Big Daddy will be building soon and the fence around the garden. And I'm dreaming of a vacation that is in its development stage. Am I fool to take a four year old to another continent? And can I leave my garden for two weeks???? You'll have to stay posted to see where it might be.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Many Thngs

This week has been full of plotting and planning. The incubator arrived yesterday. We are planning on setting it up at Monkey's school next Thursday. Twenty-one days later, if all goes right, we'll have some little mutt chicks to ooh and ahh over. I ordered more chicks yesterday. Some chicken loving friends and I put together an order. I ordered the Barnyard Combo for us. Big Daddy will be building a whole fenced in area for the new arrivals. There will be seven turkeys, seven ducks and two geese. The only problem is that we don't get to choose what we get. I hope they aren't all males, although with the turkeys I don't care to much. I'm so excited for the geese! Maybe they can put the uppity chickens in their place. Five Speckled Sussex, one Rhode Island Red, four Auracana and three Black Minorcas will be joining the uppity chickens. I had to use an enormous amount of restraint. I want one of everything.

Yesterday and Today the weather has been rather spring-like. And surprise! they are forecasting storms and a "wintery mix" for tomorrow. I spent most of yesterday outside and I just want to keep going outside today. I'm feeling the need for spring!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Damage I Can Do... my checkbook. I took a hearty chunk of the tax refund and ordered seeds, trees, and such to my heart's content. Here we go with the vegetable and herb list:

All Blue Potato
Centennial Sweet Potato
Craquante d'Avignon Lettuce
Piedmont Corn Salad
Rembrandt Spinach
Red Russian Kale
Pak Choi
Hooker's Sweet Corn
Relleno Chile
Giant Marconi Sweet Pepper
Amish Paste Tomato
Kentucky Beefsteak Tomato
Cherokee Purple Tomato
Flame (Hillbilly) Tomato
Gold Medal Tomato
Miss Pickler Hybrid Pickling Cucumber
Burpless Hybrid Pickler Cucumber
Green Arrow Pea
Maestro Pea
Jade Bush Bean
Roma II Bush Bean
Golden Wax Bush Bean
Trionfo Violetta Bean
Jacob's Cattle Bean
Cosmic Purple Carrot
Amarillo Carrot
Kaliedoscope Carrot Mix
Haricot Rouge du Burkino Faso Cowpea
Kirby's Whippoorwill Cowpea
China Rose Radish
German Giant Radish
Ruby Queen Beet
Scarlet Supreme Beet
Goblin Eggs Gourd
Bushel Basket Gourd
Sorrel de Belleville

And then there's the flowers:
English Lavender
African Marigold
Cottage Red Marigold
State Fair Mix Zinnia
Cut and Come Again Zinnia
Single Hollyhocks
Supermane Sunflower
Tigers Eye Mix Sunflowers
Lemon Queen Sunflower
Teddy Bear Sunflower
Mammoth Russian Sunflower ... yeah, I have a thing for sunflowers.
King Theodore Nasturtiums
Jewel Peach Melba Nasturtium

And we must not forget the start of our orchard who will join the Fuji and mystery apple planted before we bought the place:
Starkrimson Sweet Cherry (semi-dwarf)
2 North Star Pie Cherries (dwarf)
Brown Turkey Fig
Sheepnose/Black Gilliflower Apple (semi-dwarf)
Mutsu Apple (semi-dwarf)
Calville Blanc d'Hiver Apple (semi-dwarf)

My apologies to those with no interest in plants. I went crazy! I did order what I had planned and not a packet more (like there would seriously be room for more). This list is not everything that will end up in the garden. I have to go through the seeds I saved from last year and I picked up last fall. It has snowed all day, but I am excited for spring now.

Also today I signed up for the Organic Growers School . I'm going to go with my friend, Kelley. I'm planning on taking classes on Dairy Goats (it's my dream, cheese and all), Soil Ecology, Pastured Poultry and Value Added Oppurtunities for the Small Farmer (that's selling your jams, pickles, canned things, etc.).

Blame it all on CABIN FEVER. I haven't even gone to collect eggs yet. Don't worry. This is North Carolina. The snow will be gone tomorrow...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Snow Falling On Scarecrow

Snow, rain, sleet, then snow again. Ah, February...

Friday, February 10, 2006

We Haven't Had a Photo of a Chicken in a While...

Rufus is hanging outside my office window letting the world know who it's daddy is. He is the king and don't you forget it. He is celebrating because he is the chosen one. The other roosters are on the way to becoming coq au vin. Tomorrow is the scheduled day of execution, so to speak. The roosters are enjoying their last bright, sunny day. They spend a lot of time throwing mulch into the yard, harassing the hens and fighting. Tomorrow they may be locked up all day as the weather forecasts are dire and as usual, overexaggerated. We'll just have to wait and see how much snow we actually get. The roosters may get a reprieve for a day, but it definitely has to happen this weekend.

I ordered an incubator today. It should be here next week (keep your fingers crossed). Then we will set it up in Monkey's classroom with a bunch of eggs and hope some hatch. My luck, they'll all be roosters...

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Snow Day

No school for Monkey today. She's busy destroying the living room and building an elaborate castle worthy of her habitation. I'm busy organizing and purging my office. I have several projects I planned on taking to the printer this morning, but we are snowbound for awhile. The temperature is supposed to climb to a reasonable spot (the South has made me so soft...), so maybe later today we'll venture out.

I'm waiting for replies from several friends before I place my chicken order. I'm looking at the practical egg layers. The orders for my eggs are far exceeding the supply at this point. Which is good, but I don't want my little stable of regular buyers looking elsewhere. As I have mentioned before, Big Daddy wants turkeys and ducks. Ugh. I'm going to order a barnyard combo and get two geese, seven ducks and seven turkeys. I don't get to choose the varieties. My luck they will all be boys. But as this is a grand experiment, we'll just see how it goes. I figure that I learned about chickens, so now I can learn about other fowl.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Wisdom of the Very Young

This is one of Monkey's favorite characters. She calls him Curious George Bush. Why? I do not know. I will just say that Monkey has an astute political mind for a 3 year old.

So Much for Resolutions

I must say in my defense that I have tried to post in the last couple of days and everytime I try, Blogger won't let me see my blog. Bad Blogger, Bad.
I've been very busy with various deadlines. I think I've been working too much. My body is in shock. I've had too much time away from working and then suddenly that's all I'm doing. I keep telling myself that work is good.
Work is good.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Title of the Blog is "A Room With A View"...

I detest February. It is a month of waiting and Winter's dullness is at it's fullest. The shortest month always seems like the longest. However, February did start out beautifully. Cold, but beautiful.