Monday, February 27, 2012

Our First Butchered Chicken....

What you are about to view is not for the faint of heart!
There are graphic images of a perfectly healthy chicken being butchered for our dinner table.
Be aware there is blood and a headless body.

So, we've been on this chicken adventure since around March 2011 and it has been fun!  We began to desire to raise our own food and read everything we could get our hands on concerning chickens and gardening.  You see, we like chicken!  :)

We started out with a few mixed Bantams (one rooster) and a few Rhode Islands Reds.  We mostly wanted to start out by raising chickens for eggs.  It was going great!  So great, in fact, we decided to hatch some of our own!  We are homeschoolers, after all!  What better science experiment can you get than watching your very own eggs hatch!
It was awesome!

The kids (ok, me too) were just glued to the incubator windows!

We only had one hatchling!  But we are so thankful to have that one!  What an experience!

So we decided to do it again, this time with more eggs.

Well, that was a success, however, we ended up with a lot of little roosters.  Too many roosters, to make myself clear.

No worries!  We'll just eat 'em!  After all, we want to be more self-sufficient, right?  RIGHT??  Yes, yes we do.

We read blogs and watched videos on how to butcher a chicken in the most humane, efficient way.  The Deliberate Agrarian has a great blog post on butchering, and lots of great general info. for newbie homesteaders like us. 

We also found a couple youtube videos that were especially helpful to us:

The first video covers killing, scalding, and plucking.

The second video covers cleaning/gutting.

Then, the opportune time presented itself.

Meet Cheep-cheep.

Cheep-cheep was............well.............a little cocky.  He became the most agressive rooster we had.  You couldn't go near him without him wanting to fight with your feet.  Not a problem if you have pants and shoes on.  A pesky problem if you are in shorts and/or sandals.

He got to go first.  :)

 Being strung up by the feet.

Making the cut.  Do you see that he closed his eyes?
The chicken, not Matt.

 It took a few minutes for him to bleed out.  I think we need a sharper knife.  I was worried about this part, but there was no squawking.  Only a little flapping about (which is what you want to pump the blood out).  He made one little half-hearted cluck right before he went limp.  We knew it was over.

Then, Matt cut off his widdle head. 
See, his eyes are still closed.  He didn't see a thing.
The chicken, not Matt.

I warned you about the headless body.

Scalding for easy feather removal.
We used a portable camp stove and just made sure the kids stayed clear of it.

Pretty easy.  Says the one who stood by taking pictures.  ;)

Wearing rubber gloves helped alot.  The seem to grip the feathers and help pull them out easier and faster.

Ok, enough watching.  Time for me to get my hands dirty.  Gutting was a little difficult since the bird is so small and it was my first time.

All clean!  This little rooster weighed in at a whopping 1.25lbs!!!
Some people might not think a bird that small was worth the effort to butcher, but believe it or not, he actually made a nice pot of chicken and dumplings, which we ate two meals from.
That was such a learning experience and gave us such a satisfying feeling, we felt confident enough to proceed with the other four "extras" a few weeks later. 

This time, Grandpa (my dad) came to help.  That was nice for me, as he cleaned two chickens and I cleaned two chickens.  This aspect is done in the kitchen sink, and it definitely has a "distinct smell" when you get to a certain point.  It was nice to have help.  :D

This experience also gave us the confidence we needed to raise meat chickens.  We have 20 on the way, along with some laying hens of various breeds for lots of eggs.  We are starting with a relatively small number, so as not to overwhelm ourselves.  If all goes well, we will order again in late July/August for another round of harvesting in September/October.

Some people were concerned with how our kids would take this.  We certainly told them ahead of time what was going to happen, and these mean little roosters weren't exactly beloved pets, so it's not like we just went out into the backyard and killed our puppies. 

I'm happy to report they were thoroughly excited, fascinated, and wished they could take part in it!  As soon as Matt was done with the first chicken, they immediately began asking if we could do the rest!  To date, not one of them has had nightmares or felt bad in the least that we killed and ate our chickens.  I love that they are learning where food comes from.

Do you raise meat chickens?  Ever butchered one?  I'd love to hear your stories!

I'm linking up to the Barn Hop at Homestead Revival!  Her site and her Barn Hops are a wealth of information for sustainable living.  Go check it out!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Homesteading Goals............

I have read so many books on homesteading, self-sufficiency, traditional food/healthy eating over the past year.  I couldn't even tell you how many.  Dozens, for sure.

So, what to do with all that information?  I don't know.

Oh, yes I do!

I thought I'd try to learn one new skill each month.  Of course, I thought of this in February, so the perfectionist in me already feels a month behind! lol

I'm not great at following my own rules, so making a list of things to try/learn/do would probably be a dismal failure.  You won't hear me saying "February will be bread month, and March will be yogurt month, and April will be............blah, blah, blah."  I finally know myself better than that.  I already have ideas for the coming months, but really, it will boil down to doing what I feel like I can accomplish and being able to access supplies when I need them.  If I made a list I wouldn't stick to it.  Dismal failure, remember?  This is supposed to be FUN!!!

Here are some of my ideas:

Sour cream
Soft cheese
Vermiculture (worm composting)
Showing chickens
Raising turkeys (I have a lot of convincing to do with this one)

In February, I decided I wanted to make bread.  When I say I want to make bread, I mean I want to stop buying bread from the store because I can make my own better-tasting, healthier, cheaper bread at home.  And I want it to be easy.  Or else I won't do it!

I found a great recipe over at Homestead Revival.  Can you tell that's my favorite blog???  I'm always posting about Homestead Revival!  If you've never visited, get on over there and learn something new!  Amy is so great about blogging about what she learns, tries, and succeeds/fails at.  She is so honest and I just love her!  She also has better pictures than I do.

Oh, yeah.  Bread................right.

The bread turned out great!  It wasn't my first time to make bread, but I had not done it in a long time, and I was specifically looking for a bread that wouldn't disintegrate when I sliced it thin for sandwiches.

I made the recipe as written the first time.  Then, I made it again with half whole wheat flour and half organic all-purpose flour with some extra wheat germ thrown in.  This was the more popular bread, by far!  So, I made it again. 

Now, I would love to use all whole wheat flour, but I have yet to find a flour (in the stores) that doesn't have that bitter, whole wheat taste to it.  I sweet friend of mine demonstrated her grain mill for me and sent me home with several flours, one of which was Prairie Gold.  All of her flour was so delicious!  It was ground so finely and it made everything soft--WITHOUT the bitter, whole wheat taste to it.

Matt isn't completely on board with spending almost $300 on a grain mill yet, so I also thought if I began making bread regularly, he'd see how much I'd use it!  See how sneaky I am?

I haven't bought bread in 3 weeks now.  Yay!

Not only that, but I think I'll continue!  This recipe is nice and easy.  I use my Kitchen Aid mixer so there is very little to do by hand.

Here's the recipe, although you should still go over to Amy's blog to read it--she has lots of pictures and helpful tips.  I just copied and pasted her entire recipe, photos and all, into Word so I could print it and add it to my recipe binder.

The little notes by the ingredients are Amy's notes, not mine.

Whole Wheat Bread

2 C. warm water (110 - 115 degrees)

1/3 C. olive oil

1/4 C. honey (I like to use raw honey)

1 egg

3 1/2 tsp. yeast

5-6 C. whole wheat flour (I like to use Prairie Gold freshly milled)

2 tsp. sea salt

Combine water, oil, honey, and egg in mixing bowl.

Add yeast and then three cups of flour and salt.

Continue adding two more cups of flour. On the sixth cup, add only as needed. Starting timing your kneading process with a timer for 10 minutes. Watch the dough as it kneads and add just a bit more flour here and there as you see it getting too sticky and leaving too much on the sides of the bowl.

Transfer dough to a well greased container for proofing (rising). Roll the dough over to coat it with oil. Cover and place in a warm location. Proof until doubled in size.

After the bread has doubled in size, turn out, punch down, and shape into two loaves.
Place into loaf pans and brush with melted butter.

Proof again, letting the loaves rise to just above the top of the loaf pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then turn out of the pans.
Now I just need to make a bread bag to store my loaves in.

FEBRUARY SKILL:  Make bread so I can stop buying bread

Check.  :D

Next month, I'm already spying making yogurt from the Raw milk we get.  We'll see..........

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On piercings and other metals in the head.......

When we had our daughter 10 years ago, many people asked when I was going to have her ears pierced.  What?!  Why would I pierce her ears???  She was just a baby!  Well, I know that this is common practice where we live, but I just couldn't stand the thought of doing it to her.  Not yet.  Not to my baby.

Well, fast-forward 6-8 years and I would occasionally ask her if she would like to get her ears pierced.  "NO. WAY.", she informed me.  She wasn't ready.  Fine by me.

When she turned 9, the dentist highly recommended an orthodontic exam for her, due to some pretty severe overcrowding and protrusion.  She got her braces on April 1st, last year. 

She was so proud.  She felt so grown up!

And she LOOKED so grown up!  Where did my little girl go?  I took in a 9 year old, and left with a 12 year old!!!

So, not long after she got her braces, she began to ask to have her ears pierced.  Finally!  Yay!  Special girl time!  We talked about it a bit, and we decided when she got her braces off, we would have her ears pierced.  I thought that would be long enough away that she could still change her mind if she wanted, and it woud be a sort of "rite of passage" after having the braces removed.  Also, I thought if she could take care of her teeth with braces (not easy), then she would do just fine taking care of her ears.

Last Friday was the big day!  She did not forget, and she did not change her mind (much to my delight). 

First the braces:



Then came the ears:
Before (she's a little nervous)


Admiring her new look :)

She didn't even cry!  I was so proud! 

Then................... as we were walking around the store waiting to be checked out, I looked over at her and noticed she seemed pale.  I called her over to me and put my arm around her and asked her how she felt.  She told me she didn't feel quite right and she kind of sunk into me. 

Uh, oh. 

Not good.

She looked so pale, I thought she was either going to vomit or pass out.  She was very listless.  It made me very nervous.

I had her go right outside the store and sit on a bench with her BFC (Best Friend Cousin), Bethany (who came along with Aunt Susie and baby Colton for moral support).

We had planned to eat lunch inside the mall right after the ear piercing, but I was wondering if I shouldn't just take her home.

She wanted to go eat.  I had her lay down on the bench in the restaurant for a few minutes and she felt so much better!  When she sat up, Bethany said, "Hey, look Ava!  Your lips are pink again!"  Lol.  It wasn't very lol when it was happening, but as soon as I realized she was fine, it was a little humorous.  I think she was trying so hard not to cry, that she suppressed a little too much.  I'm pretty positive her blood pressure dropped significantly.  Scary.

Anyway, now she has pretty little earrings and she is proud of them.  She says she swapped one metal in her head for another!

I love having that little girl.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby chicks!

My, oh my, are baby chicks cute!  This is the 5th time we've incubated our own eggs, and it never ceases to amaze us when hatch time arrives!

This time, we incubated 8 Rhode Island Red eggs.  I've not been successful at candling in the past, but we tried again later during gestation.  Success!  We spied 5 live chicks inside our 8 eggs.  1 of them appeared to be unfertilized, the other 2 were just dark, without movement.  I marked them with an 'x', and two '?'.  The rest got check marks.  I wanted to see how accurate the candling was.

In our experience, Rhode Island Red chicks have always hatched on day 20, instead of day 21.  This time was no different.  It took all day, some were quick and some were very slow, but all 5 of the expected eggs hatched!

They are so cute with their tiny pink feet!  My niece was also able to witness one egg hatching, and she enjoyed that.  The kids took turns holding an egg (being careful not to turn them/disorient them) to feel the chick moving inside.  That was so fun!

You aren't supposed to be able to sex RIR at hatching, but based on the markings on the back of their heads, I predict we have one male and four females.  Our rooster rate has been too high in the past, so I'm hoping for hens!  We need eggs!

We will also be purchasing chicks from Murray McMurray later this week.  Both for meat and eggs.  Our back yard will be bustling with chickens soon!

And, just for fun, my pet:  "Sheriff" Andy Taylor

This is my first link up to Amy's Barn Hop over at Homestead Revival!  There's always neat things to see...................head on over and check it out!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gardening....Back to Eden

This post is about gardening, which is what we are gearing up for currently.  If you aren't interested in gardening, feel free to skip this post.  Then again, this film is so neat you might want to watch it "just 'cuz".   Here's the trailer.

This guy, Paul Gautschi has the most incredible garden and method of gardening I've ever seen!  So incredibly simple, yet very successful, just the way God designed it to be.  Paul is a believer, and gives all credit and glory to God.  Refreshing!

Here's where you can watch the entire film:  Back to Eden

Such an incredible amount of gardening information in this film!  I can't wait to show it to Matt.  Last year, our garden was such a flop.  Basically, we got loads of zucchini, a few green beans, and a couple of tomatoes.  Everything died from the 108 degree temps we had, or was eaten by bugs.  Not exactly what we'd hoped for.  We are arming ourselves with information in order to have a much more successful year!

You can get a pretty good summary of the film over at Homestead Revival, which is where I heard about it.  Thanks for sharing, Amy!

I'd love to hear what you think about it!