Monthly Archives: September 2013

Butchering My First Chicken

I was out in the barn trying to finally build the wall to the feed area so I could let my cold wet animals back in the barn when I went to borrow a tool from my neighbors. While over there they asked me if I wanted a dead chicken.

“Um…how long has it been?”

“About ten minutes.”

“What happened?”

“We killed her. —- shot her. I can’t do it, but —- is heartless.”

“Um…why?”

“She went broody again and was driving all the other chickens crazy.”

Ah, so not disease…just insane. As my neighbor put it “Imagine having to go to the bathroom and everytime you went in there someone else was ALWAYS in the stall next to you. EVERYDAY AT THE SAME TIME. Its freakin’ weird and they don’t want to be next to her.” I would like to add, she probably muttered to herself. The weirdo in the bathroom stall next to you…yeah, you too would probably think twice about laying an egg next to her.

Well, despite being in the middle of another project I won’t say no to free food. Especially not when I was about to go to the store and buy a chicken for soup because I might be fighting a cold (but I’m to busy to stop and figure out if I really am, haha!). So why not give it the old college try and clean a chicken that wasn’t slaughtered correctly in

the first place?

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I always thought she was a pretty one, too bad she was driving all the other girls away from the nesting boxes and screwing up production. So I got a pot of water on the stove, dragged a 70 lb table that I think was originally used for butchery by myself across the back yard under to my back porch where I could work without getting rained on.

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Into the pot she went and 10 minutes later she was plucked

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It all went to hell from there.  Like, suddenly realizing since they just shot her she didn’t get bleed out…so I finally cut her head off just for a few drops on blood. Going broody often means not eating so she had hardly any muscle left. Yet oddly enough her butt was super fatty. So fatty I had a hard time finding her rectum. She was a literal fat-ass. I got to it without puncturing it and carefully started trying to pull out her innards.

But not carefully enough. I ripped a hole in her rectum an poop started falling out. GROSS.

I managed to squeeze most of it on the ground, but I still had a hold in her guts. Aw, screw being careful. I just shoved my hand in and ripped out everything I could possibly find. Then I decided not to bother with gibblets or anything else…so the pigs got the innards.

Cleaned out, great! Not much meat but i needed a stewing chicken, anyway. There were a few feathers left and according to one website “old timers used to take a rolled up newpaper and singe off the remaining hairs.” Well let me tell you.

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That doesn’t work.

The lesson I learned: I can pluck a chicken, but anything else? I fail.

It’s Wet.

Its WET!

(Is it February yet?)

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The sheep are wet.

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The pigs are wet.

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The chicks are looking for a dry place

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The creek is running at a fast pace

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Rosie is looking for something to eat, of course

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And I’ve got lambs hanging out on my back porch

Yes, it might not be winter yet

But you wouldn’t know that because it is freakin’ WET.

Chicks ‘n’ Hogs

I finally got around to getting some chickens. About 2 weeks ago i got some free chicks from a woman who got some chickens as a joke gift and just loved having them around…but she doesn’t like eggs so she just lets her hens go broody and gives the chicks away. These guys are mostly banty crosses.

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Not a great picture, I know, but its what I have right now. I kept them in the tractor for a week before letting them free range for the day. At first they were very afraid of me, but by the time i let them out of their tractor they trusted me enough to follow me around the farm. Its pretty cute to be working and all the sudden have a bunch of tiny chicks come out of the grass. This morning they ate out of my hands….yeah, I make pets out of my animals quick. I am really liking them, though, because they are picking up all the spilled pig feed. Its not that much, but head often get in the way as i pour feed and so its nice someone is picking up every last scrap!

 

Then there is Rosie. I was assuming she was pregnant since she’d been laying around with this silly look on her face for a week or two:

 

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Thats a happy face…but I brought in a boar this weekend to breed Peppercorn and Rosie isn’t as relaxed. A threat to her kingdom! I borrowed this guy from my friend who had Mr.Pig. Notice they look similar? Same sire. I used a boar from my friend since our animals have mixed enough they have the same parasites so I didn’t feel the need to quarantine him for 3 weeks,

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But he is significantly smaller. He is Old Spot x Tamworth…should be an interesting mix with the York added in. We’ll see. I did want a $400 boar…but he was $400, 500 lbs and eats alot more feed than this guy. My friend wasn’t set up for cutting and sorting out a pig, so we basically locked the pigs in a stall, i had the poke and he grabbed the pig by a leg, i got the poke (burlap sack) over his head and we wrestled and hog tied him. Not what expected…..I was very sore the next day. I’m sure he was too: attacked, covered, tied up then dragged and tossed into a cage, then the cage started moving and all the sudden he ends up somewhere with alot of ladies. Whhhaaaa?!

My friends said, “Well…I guess he’ll be coming back with a name.” I was all like,

“naaaww…most the names were bestowed by other people.” Then I got home and started moving him. As soon as I started moving him I started calling him “buddy.” dammnit. I named him in a matter of minutes! So Buddy is visiting for a little bit. He already did the deed with Peppercorn so she should be due to farrow Janurary 20th, i believe. Aw man, Janurary is going to be full of babieS!

Livin’ the Dream

The rain fell hard and cold last night. Autumn is here whispering of winter to come. The lambs were left out in the could, so they spent the night tap dancing at my back door under the cover jostling for the stop at the top of the stairs. I kept my ear open all night should anything go array.

Indeed, I heard a small thump and creak and pulled myself out of my warm sheets and pile of house pets down the hall to the mudroom. I turned on the light and a little black and white sheepy head greeted me  poking out from behind the door. I could have had an interesting night if I hadn’t investigated. Wet sheep on the couch…possibly Blaze would have shown them the way to my bedroom and we all could have cuddled on the bed. Most likely it would have resulted in me and the dog chasing 3 wet little sheep back and forth around the house.

I greeted her, pushed her little head back into the cold and wet, closed the door and made sure it latched this time.

Soon I was back asleep nestled between a sighing dog and purring cat.

Filming on Set on the Farm

I know someone who knew someone who was looking for someone with a farm for a music video shoot. Hey, guess who has a farm? Me! So that is how I got Blitzen Trapper to shoot a video at my place. The single is called “Shine On” off their latest album VII.

Things got started at 7 am bringing in the crew and getting the extras on the set. The animals were rather confused with all the action. The young pigs curious, the old one hesitant and suspicious, the lambs not caring, the ewes questioning and the ram attentive. I fed the pigs extra early as people were entering the gates the the pasture and Rosie took a little encouragement toward the feed bowl as she wanted to know what was going on…though not much.

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The crew started creating the set right there on the scene

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The extras were called over to start shooting their scenes and I was offered a spot. I had to wear snowy white and…well, that’s just not a color in my wardrobe. I found something that worked and we all took our place and started to cheer like an excited crowd. YEEEAAAH!! WOOO!! *CLAP CLAP CLAP*

With all the screaming and yelling Rosie came running over to see what was the matter and if there was a problem. I exited scene before we had a hog bowl through the crowd of extras. “No no Rosie! It’s alright!” I had to calm her down as she was *very* concerned and was willing to kill whatever it was that was causing us to scream in such a way. So much for wearing white.

Most animals do not scream and yell for joy, but rather only in distress. The first few times we shot the scene she would finally settle down and rest only to hear the yelling, jump up and run over “What?! What?! Whats going on?!!” Finally she just got annoyed and laid down to watch. I’m sure there are a few shots with her running around in the background….possibly with me right next to her trying to keep her from blasting through the extras.  Once the scene was completed and the extras moved away she took her favorite spot and watched our silly human shenanigans for a while.

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Of most grave concern to Rosie was the apparent worm hole being formed.

She finally got bored and went off into the woods for the day. I was half expecting her to knock over the scene by being curious and deciding to scratch on it, so I personally was grateful that she and her brood ambled off.

Quite a few amusing sequences

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The fury

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The fearless director kept filming through the 90 degree heat (which for Oregonians is like 1000 degree heat!) without stopping.

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I’m afraid I may have bothered him a bit by being over hospitable and concerned about what I was able to offer. “Is the light okay? Is this going to work? Do I need to make the sun move, or should I call in some cloud cover? Because I’m magic like that! ZOMIGODLIKEMEBECAUSEICANTNOTBELIKEDANDSOCIALANXIETYMIXEDWITHSOUTHERNHOSPITALITYSTANDARDSANDANDANDHUMNINUMNINUMNUM” Yeeeeaahhhhh….Sorry director dude, I wouldn’t have hovered so much if it wasn’t my place!

Anyway By mid-afternoon the set was completed. The lambs were finally let into the pasture and they came to check things out.

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The set looked pretty fantabulous. When they were shooting the dog kept walking through the set. I kept asking if they wanted me to lock up my dog, but they all thought the stray half-starved looking dog was a hilarious touch. How many scenes did she ruin?! Certainly her antics kept people entertained. “Is your dog eating bees?” Yes. Yes she is.

<top secret photo was here>

The one scene involved people dancing and boy did we try to get some farm animals involved. They were cool until all the humans started waving their hands everywhere in the air…then they were like, “The heck…?” And they’d run off with Blaze giving us all the stink eye. No amount of grain can shaking could convince them otherwise. I almost got them in a few times then the scene would cut…ah well. Go figure: don’t want them in, they come in, do want them in and they don’t come. I gave up and just got in on it. I shall be the amazing disappearing audience member! I’m there one minute, then gone, then back, but in a different place! Make up your own story: important call? Smoke breaks because 2 minutes is too long to go without a cigarette? Over active bladder? A very quick alien abduction? Time travel? Chasing pigs?<– (least believable)

The shoot finally wrapped up around 7. 7 to 7, twelve hours of shooting. Everyone was tired, though I not so secretly hoped to jam because I never get to jam with anyone but the local town schizophrenic (its true). Alas, I had to leave to deal with farm business just as everything was winding down. I didn’t even get to say “Tata! Bonvoyage! Sayonara! Good luck on your tour!” then break a bottle of champagne on something. How rude of me! Or get a photo with the guys and crew.  Oh well. At least pickles were had.

I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I’m not saying much of the theme…or even sharing some of the pictures since…duh, surprise. But you get a few shots and a bit of the animal side.

So there you go: exclusive behind the scenes shots from Blitzen Trappers newest music video. You can pre-order the album from iTunes of Amazon, or wait until September 30th. They will also be touring the US of A from Mid-September to November. Check them out: great sound, cool guys.

(psssst: am I “cool” yet?)

Sheep Breeding

I guess I was wrong: Ash had not been bred yet. As of this morning she has been. I am assuming she will take which will mean an January 30th birthing date. Dates are not exact with sheep since they seem to have some control over their birth.  There is a 5 day window sheep can lamb. In my experience they tend to lamb when they feel its safest thus Ash waiting until she could escape Rosie the pig (predator) and lambing in the woods within an hour of letting her out of the barn. Polly seemed to wait, too, until I got home from work. She was having contractions when I left, but didn’t really get going until I was back 10 hours later. The first flock of sheep did the same: they seemed to lamb only on days my ex had off from work as if they had some day planner that included weather and shepherds availability. Of course, this is my limited experience with small flocks.

I have been in a bit of a conundrum: I’ve been trying to dry the girls off which means restricting their feed.  But I also want to encourage multiple births…which means fattening them up with a little extra grain everyday. So what have I chosen to do? Well…keep them on pasture, give a tiny bit of grain but not enough to encourages milk production and cross my fingers I get twins.  I thought by drying them off now I could focus their energy on breeding, but I don’t think thats a great idea. Next year I think I will continue to milk and feed heavily while breeding. Cows can do it, no reason why it wouldn’t work on sheep. Then again, cows only need to make 1 calf and sheep…well we want 2-3 out of them.

The mating ritual in sheep is fairly gentle. Before ewes come into heat the ram will approach the ewe, smell/taste the air (flehmen), lick his lips (like a perv!) and try to mount. She she is not in heat the ewe just walks away, if she is interested she will turn to face the ram and give consent. Yeah, sheep give consent. After the act they will often nuzzle each other. Foreplay, consent AND cuddling?! Yes…….I’m going to let you all choose your punchline for that setup before i say something that gets me in trouble.

Sometimes he will chase after and this can lead to amusing Benny Hill like scenes across the barn-yard. This happens more towards actual estrus or if ewe leaves the pasture then comes back. Even more rarely will he headbutt the ewes. It doesn’t do anything other than make the ewes try to avoid the ram, but sexual frustration, yo! He just can’t help himself! Or something.

Speaking of sexual frustration rams start getting ready months before mating. It starts with fighting with other rams to create a pecking order. Then they get with the ewes and wait.

and wait.

uuuuuggg……

It was not uncommon to see the ram hitting his head against a tree repeatedly for minutes (hours?) on end, just keeping in shape in case someone comes along to challenge him and his ewes. He knocked down a few old fence posts shortly before Polly came into heat. Nor is it uncommon for me to greet the animals when I get home and find the ram with bark or other crushed material on his face. Khoresh seemed calm and happy after having servicing Ash for a whole day…but I swear the next morning he woke up thinking “ANOTHER YEAR! I HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER YEAR! RAAAAAAA!!!!!” and then proceeded to knock over an 8 inch wood post. Battering ram indeed.

So now we just wait for the lambs to breed. Mooney is hitting “puberty” I flipped him over to trim his hooves this weekend and saw he was getting “hair down there”

Well, he already had hair down there, but it was soft, fluffy curly stuff. Now that is slicking out and being replaced by shorter, coarser hair. Thank goodness, not something I’d want to have to shear!

There we go: more than you ever wanted to know about the sex lives of sheep!

Fermenting

I’m trying my hand again at saurkraut. I did it in a crock the first time and it had no signs of mold…but did have a little bit of a musty flavor. No vinegar, just lactofermentation ie. natural bacteria thriving in a salty brine. I never refrigerated it and it lasted on the counter a few months. If finally bit the dust after my mother cooked some up and somehow introduced some mold spores. or something. Next time I opened up the crock it was all pink mold and white fluffy stuff. 😦

So I am trying again this time packing the cabbage tighter than before. I also added a tablespoon of brine from my lactofermented pickles hoping to share the bacteria a little.

Now my pickles turned out pretty good. Could be crispier, but not bad. They’ve sat out on the counter for a few weeks now and fully fermented. Now they are full of probiotics. Yesterday when I opened the crock a layer of yeast had formed on top complete with giant bubbles. The taste was tart, strong and the pickle floating on top had an almost alcoholic scent (the yeast), Time to finally refrigerate.  I moved them into a smaller crock so i could use the big one for the saurkraut. Tommorrow I am going to put the leftover brine thats full of probiotics in the animals water. The pigs will probably love it. I’m guessing the sheep will turn up their noses.

So my kitchen is full of fermentation. I’d like to try kimchi next…then we’ll see were we go next. at least with cabbage products i can make them year round since the store always carries it.

 

boooooring post. sorry.