Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Taste Test

Okay.. Here is the scoop thus far. The broiler weighed 4 lb. 4 oz., the ranger 2 lb. 14 oz. They were the same age. It will take 2 more weeks to finish out the rangers.
We invited my parents over to taste with us and the grand conclusion was that... da dummm..
It tastes like chicken. Sorry folks but there was not a huge difference in the flavor. I really thought the ranger would have more flavor being that it seemed to have a bit more fat, but not so. We will process the last 24 in two weeks. I don't think the rangers eat at the rate the broilers do, but will know for sure at that point. It may all still weigh out at the end.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Butchering Day

Last night we did most of the setting up. The gas burners were brought out for heating water, the plucker was pulled from the barn and the cutting station was readied. The chickens were only allowed water yesterday. It makes for easier and cleaner butchering. It looks like we will only be doing the Cornish rock crosses.Unfortunately, the freedom rangers are about two weeks out from a decent size. This means we will be doing this again soon , which was not my intention, but a lesson learned.
Daylight found us catching the birds and heating the water. At 6:55 the first bird was killed and the process began. Somehow I inherited the job of killing and plucking. It is a mystery as to why I got this job, but for years I have done it! Doug does the cutting and if we do whole birds, the gutting. I usually kill about five or six at a time. They are allowed to bleed out, then dipped into 165* 'ish water mixed with a bit of dish detergent. The water temp is very important. If too cold they won't pluck easily, too hot scalds the skin and breast meat. I keep two pots of water going and change to clean water every few birds. I then rinse with a hose and they are handed off to my husband. Once he has several to work on, I change gloves, rinse the pieces he sets aside and pack on ice in a large cooler. The cooler has a layer of ice about 8-10 inches deep on the bottom. Most birds are cut up by first cutting off the leg quarters and the boneless breast cuts, he clips the wings off and lastly reaches in and pulls out the livers. What is left is a carcass with nothing on it. These will be buried. Since we don't have freezer space for 60 something whole birds, this seems to work well. We do a few whole birds to smoke on the grill but most are cut up. As he catches up, we start the process over again. Today we actually had an extra hand that did the rinsing step and that was a huge help. We finished at 9:30. It took 2 1/2 hours to process 35 chickens. Once done, we pack ice on top of the birds and tilt the cooler so that it can drain. They will remain like this for 2 days. On Monday I will rinse once again, vacuum pack and freeze.
I did stalk out the largest freedom ranger and we processed him whole along with a whole Cornish rock. I will weigh them tomorrow and we will have a taste test. Stay tuned for the final analysis!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Great Escape

It has always been said, be careful what you wish for...

It has been so very dry the last few weeks and we have been praying for rain. Things are dry, parched and beginning to wither. Or should I say were...

Last night the rains came. It started around dark. Thunder, lighting and torrents of rain. The satellite went dead for hours. I was reading and at 11:00 or so it was still raining in sheets. I knew the daylight would not bring pretty pictures.
I awoke to find the pond had overrun it's banks and was up to the top of the dock. The pool had run over as well. Deep gullies snaked their way through the gravel drives. Water had run in the barn and chicken house. Ugh..
I went about my daily chores and errands. When I started the evening rounds I noticed sheep and goats were on the wrong side of the fence. It seems that a river of water had run down the hill and totally washed out several sections of fence. I had sheep, goats and a wayward milk cow scattered as far as the seven seas on county property behind the barn. The fence was covered in so much mud and debris that I knew I could never get it up and fixed without the help of a tractor so I went about gathering up critters with thoughts of locking them all in the barn for the night. Several hours later after tromping through the poison ivy and tripping over a crabby snapping turtle that was laying eggs (more than once, I might say!) all were safely locked in the barn. Or so I thought...
It seems that the latch on the back of the barn can be and was wiggled loose during the night and I once again had a bunch of escapees. I had to head off to work so I called my husband in hopes he could get home and get started before I got home from work. We finished the repairs this evening, but not before having togather up the multitudes once again. I am sure the county would not be very happy, but the honeysuckle and poison ivy are not near as rampant as before and the goats have gained an extra pound or two!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More Hay Days..

Yesterday yielded another 297 bales. That puts us at 587 so far, with one field yet to go. Hopefully we will get a fall cutting and one cut from the millet before allowing the goats to forage it. However, that all depends on how much rain we get this summer. My dear sweet father in law and son got a head start for us and we were able to start loading around 3:00.The temperature could not have been better yesterday and I never even broke a sweat. Not so for Friday I am afraid as the temperatures are going to be around 90.
Wouldn't you know that I would be the one to pick up the only 2 bales that had snakes baled up in them! Yikes! Being the only female on the crew brought lots of laughs on that one!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hay Days

The last few days have been long and busy. Friday's hay count was 290 bales. The second field went down on Saturday and will come up today. We think that will net around 300 as well. That will leave one field to go and we hope to mow it later this week if the weather holds. It is delightfully cool today, a welcome change to the normal hot, hot days of picking up and getting the hay stacked in the barn loft!

The orchard fence is finally completed as well and the meat birds were put out to range. They are growing well and we hope to butcher by the end of the month. Here they are enjoying the shade and a pan full of milk!

The rangers are as big as the broilers but definitely not as heavy. I have found that they do wander further from the food dish in search of other things to eat but for the price difference I may just stay with the broilers. I guess the "taste test" will be the final decision maker.

I am off the finish morning chores before the raking and baling begins...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's Strawberry Season!

This week the strawberries started to ripen and for a few short weeks we will be enjoying the bounty.The little country store where I work part time, planted berries last fall and the plants are full of the beautiful red gems! They also opted not to spray which makes it even better since strawberries are considered one of the "dirty dozen" and can be loaded with pesticides. Today I started with a batch of jam and will make several more over the next couple of weeks. I always make a lot of jam as it seems to be a favorite and I give it as gifts around the holidays. (Never to early to think about Christmas!)I will also be making syrup and freezing whole berries to use during the winter in smoothies and ice cream.

We also mowed the first of three fields of hay today. Looks like we will be mowing around 16 acres this year. We will have made it through the winter with 6 bales to spare! Tomorrow my son will get out of school early to tedder. The teachers just shake their heads when we call to have him come home early these couple of weeks for "hay season". ( He is a straight a student, so they really don't mind ;o) Friday we will bale and if the weather hold the other two fields will go down next week.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not A Normal Monday

Most Mondays I just sort of ooze into my day and coming week. It is the only day I am truly "off". No baking, working or husband to tell me how much needs to be done (as if I don't know!)I usually have an extra cup of coffee and make out my to-do lists for the week. Not so today. I awoke to hear the weather man saying it we had about an hour before the rain set in. I quickly fixed breakfast and packed lunch for my son, grabbed a cup of coffee and gulped it down on the way to the garden. I had to get 30 shares of spinach picked before the rain for the local CSA. Ever notice how weathermen are kinda like politicians? They tend to lie. I did not quit finish before the sky opened up. I got what I hoped to be enough and headed to the house to bag and it and get it in the refrigerator. I was a few bags short, so out into the rain again to pick the balance.
CSA order taken care of, I did a few things in the house hoping to find a window in the rain so I could head to the barn and get some feeding done. Shortly after lunch that opportunity arose so I hurried out to get chores done. I was almost finished when it began to sprinkle again. I was headed to the house when I noticed the calf slated for butcher later this summer was out in the backyard. It seems my oldest son did not latch the gate tight this morning when he returned one of the horses he took riding this weekend. This is going to be fun I grumbled. She is strictly grass fed and has no clue what a grain bucket is. And so the chase began. Twice through the garden, twice through the blueberry patch where she stopped and ate on my bushes and 3 times around the house where she also ate flowers. About 30 minutes into the merry chase I called to see if my husband was anywhere near. No such luck. Finally, after a 45 minute workout I got her fanny back into the pasture. Soaking wet and very ticked I stomped to the house where I changed clothes (again) and promptly put in a call to the slaughter house. The next time she gets out of something, it will be the freezer.