Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat?

I guess Mother Nature didn't think the treat was good enough so we awoke to this Halloween trick. (P.S. -This reminds me that I need to change the date on my camera. Today is the 31st.)
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Chicken Murderers

Jim is the tall guy in the center.
My husband Jim and 5 other people from our NH Small and Beginning Farmers group processed 50 broiler chickens for the family that had the farm fire last week (click here for that story), coming from as far as 3 hours away. They fondly referred to themselves as "The Chicken Murderers". Since there was no water or electricity at the burned out farm, the chickens were taken to a nearby farm and processed there. 

There are several mobile processing units throughout NH which consist of all the necessary slaughter equipment, cones/scalder/plucker etc., in a small trailer. Members of the group can rent it for a nominal fee, but my guess is that this time was a freebie. The one for that area arrived about 9:30 AM. The stars of the show, the chickens, arrived in a horse trailer around 10. It took a little bit to get the initial equipment set up and water starting to heat. At this time of year, COLD well water requires a LOT longer to heat. While the water heated, the equipment was set up to everyone's liking for the day and everyone visited. There were some great discussions on LGDs (livestock guardian dogs), farm processes, and products. Finally, at 2:30 everything was ready to begin the "dirty deed".

Chicken drying/packaging rack.
Things went very smoothly. Everyone picked out the tasks where they felt comfortable, learning from each other and picking up various "tricks of the trade" in chicken processing. One person brought along his neat chicken drying rack. This is very simple to make - a 2x6 board as long as you need it, sufficient number of short sections (a foot or so) of PVC pipe fastened vertically to the sides and there you go! Bags slip easily over the chickens for packaging. You can bet we'll be making one!

The dispatching/scalding/plucking steps went so smoothly that the eviscerators couldn't keep up. Luckily there were sufficient chill tanks and the weather was cool. By 5:00 the processing was done and clean up began. By 6:00 the equipment was clean, repacked in the trailer and everyone left for their long drives home. Very productive day indeed - 50 chickens were all packed in ice and awaiting pickup by the owner.

Every day we hear in the media about the horrible things happening in the world, but most people are just good folk. Farmers and homesteaders are some of the most helping, caring and compassionate folks I know, always willing to help a neighbor in need. I'm proud to be numbered among them.

BTW, if anyone would like to donate to help this family, just follow this link. Even if you aren't close enough to donate needed items, you can always send a paypal donation to their email address (listed at the link).
Photos courtesy of Lisa Richards
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Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Thankful for Small Things

I had bought 3 new Saanen does and was due to pick them up the end of October. For some unknown reason I had an unexpected day off last Tuesday so I called the lady I was buying them from Monday afternoon and asked if I could pick them up the next day. We made the arrangements for her to expect me between noon and 1:00. I drove down there with a friend and no one was there. We waited, and waited, went out to lunch, then waited some more. Given that it's a 7 hour round trip we decided that waiting was more practical than coming home without them and having to go back at the end of October as originally planned. After all, we figured they'd have to be home sometime to do the evening milking.

About 3:45 they showed up in a big van with all their kids they'd picked up from school. The lady forgot I was coming! In her defense, they had a new foster child arrive a bit unexpectedly Monday night so I'm sure things were crazy trying to get the new kid registered in school etc. Anyway, we get the goats and leave, arriving home way past dark. I'm glad my friend was with me because I get very sleepy when I drive, especially when the sun starts to go down.

Now here's the part where I'm really thankful and reminded that God is mindful of even the small things in our lives. Yesterday the farm where I got the goats had a fire that leveled their barn and damaged the house. (Click here for the full story.) Most of the goats, all of their sheep and chickens died. My goats, since they're young and not milking yet, were in a part of the barn that they definitely wouldn't have survived. This morning I gave those 3 new does a big hug and some extra grain as I'm reminded that God was mindful of them as well.

Please join me in prayers of comfort and support for the family that lost their home and business. And take a look at your life and tell me what you're most thankful for, even the small things.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Nice Ride!

It's a beautiful, sunny day here in northern NH. One of those breezy fall days when you can smell the apples that have dropped on the ground, feel the crisp coolness creeping into the air and bask in the warmth of the autumn sun. A great day for a buggy ride. Talon thought so too. Until.....

We were out about a mile and passing a dairy farm. One of the cows had escaped her pasture and was wandering about in the middle of the road. Talon screeched to a halt, ears and eyes on the road monster up ahead that was surely going to sprout wings and fangs, fly over to him and consume him in one gulp, then pick it's teeth with his bones! I got out of the cart and tried to lead him past the cow. I tried to calm him and told him I'd protect him, there was nothing to worry about, it was only a silly old cow. No deal. He wasn't buying it. He was convinced that monster would consume us both! So we turned around. It took a while to get him settled down to the point I could get back in the cart and head for home. We do need to work on the cow issues but that's best saved for a day when he's not hooked up to the buggy.

BTW, if you're wondering why there's no picture of the cow - well, I was kind of busy. Sorry. There are times when living to see another day is more important than taking a picture.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

The New Girls

"We know when we arrived a few days ago we were very frightened. And we do realize we weren't much better yesterday, preferring to hide in the corner. But this morning we're feeling much better about things in general, and we're ready to make friends with our new family and especially you, our new Mom who feeds us. And by the way, can you tell us what time breakfast is served because this feeder seems to be quite empty? We sort of got hungry in the middle of the night and, well, we kind of ate everything there was. Some hay would be nice, and maybe a little grain if you could manage it. And then after breakfast, we think we might be ready to join the others we've been seeing on the other side of the fence."
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Getting Ready for Winter

Fall is a busy time of year. Winter will make its appearance right on schedule, sometimes ahead of schedule, ready or not. The remains of the garden have been harvested with the plant stocks pulled and fed to the pigs. The rest of the hay has been gathered and looks like giant marshmallows lining the driveway. Sort of makes me think about roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire on a chilly night. Now it's on to putting the broiler chickens, ducks and meat goats in the freezer, yard cleaning and organizing, putting all the tractor implements in their proper places, and tightening up the barn. We'll begin moving the pig fence over a bit at a time so they'll be at their winter area by the time the ground freezes (you can't change fencing after a hard freeze since you can't push in fence posts). The last thing on the agenda will be putting the snow blade on the tractor. I never got around to putting my summer tires on the truck so instead of fighting the rush at the tire store to have my tires changed over, I'm way ahead of winter driving preparations.

We're installing a wood fired hot air furnace this year. The furnace and chimney materials were delivered today. Jim will need to pour a cement base for it, install the chimney, and put in ductwork. We wanted to get all the materials purchased by year's end however, to take advantage of the tax credit. And with any luck we'll even have it operational by the end of the year. Central heating, with a thermostat.... what a concept! Although I really enjoy my wood stove and will still run it when I want some extra warmth, or just the wonderful smell from it, we'll be able to heat the finished areas of the basement with ducts installed down there. Due to the amazing (and sometimes inconvenient) concept of heat rising we've had to have gas heaters to heat the downstairs rooms. It'll be nice to have them part of the whole heating system.

I'll be ordering sleigh runners for the horse buggy so we can enjoy sleigh rides. Talon will have to get used to bells on his harness. You can't have a sleigh ride without sleigh bells, now can you? That just wouldn't be right. I don't think he'll mind, he seems to take most everything in stride. Except fly spraying - he's convinced that sprayer is evil. Fortunately there are no bugs in the winter so he'll have a reprieve. We'll continue the spray battle next summer.
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