Another eighth of The Center Garden

The morning began with Odin making his escape into the pasture to be with Abba.  They have been separated for weeks as I've assumed Abba was pregnant: Odin, (ahem) didn't make the same assumption so 'visited' Abba today to make, you know, to make sure the 'job' was in fact done.  Add 'fix Odin's pen' to Kelly's to-do list.

The morning began with Odin making his escape into the pasture to be with Abba. They have been separated for weeks as I’ve assumed Abba was pregnant: Odin, (ahem) didn’t make the same assumption so ‘visited’ Abba today to make, you know, to make sure the ‘job’ was in fact done. Add ‘fix Odin’s pen’ to Kelly’s to-do list.

This morning I began construction (loosely speaking, verryyy loosely!) of another brick walk way and turned over another patch of grass.

This morning I began construction (loosely speaking, verryyy loosely!) of another brick walk walk and turned over another patch of grass.

My good friend Pecky helped me, standing close by to eat the tiny shiny beings I revealed.  Fortunately she wasn't in the mood for earth worms.

My good friend Pecky helped me, standing close by to eat the tiny shiny beings I revealed. Fortunately she wasn’t in the mood for earth worms.

She has something in her mouth here, just can't see it!  The Mean Barred Rock is The Mean Barred Rock because of the way she treats the other hens.  Pecky is Pecky because she loves to peck around for food.

She has something in her mouth here, just can’t see it! The Mean Barred Rock is The Mean Barred Rock because of the way she treats the other hens. Pecky is Pecky because she loves to peck around for food.

Good piggies.

The pigs were great today.  Emma was home with a cold so she went with me and babysat them while I worked on widening the path and making wreaths.  I need a nice swath clear of multi-flora roses before I bring my cow back there.  Since I got whapped a few years back, taking a thorn between two knuckles, sending a red line up my arm within hours I am a little paranoid of multi-flora roses.  Didn’t help that while I was buying arm length rose-trimming gloves a nice lady stopped to tell me her husband had died – DIED!  from a rose thorn infection.

The image of my dear Bonniebelle dragging me through a path of roses and killing me keeps me widening that path!

I digress.

This morning I didn’t feed the pigs anything before we went into the backfield.  The little dears were competing to see who could follow me best.  We were quite the sight.  Dory in the lead.  Then me closely followed by the pigs, with Emma taking up the rear.  When we got settled. me with my clippers, Emma sunning in white plastic Adirondack chair, the pigs happily poked and rooted around – perfect!  Per has this know-it-all attitude now.  He is so proud of himself when he comes when we call. His legs and length are so much longer than Abba’s he is always in the lead – which he is sure makes him my new favorite.  Abba just about kills herself running to keep up, poor thing is going to be fit!  Good thing she is for breeding not eating.

I sprinkled bits of fine cracked corn here and there – they had good fun finding it and digging it up.  Emma did a good job checking on them and calling them in if they ventured too far.   Made it easy for me to work.

After a while Emma headed back to the house, the pigs quickly decided to take advantage of being unattended and wandered off pretty far.  I didn’t call them but stood watching the grass wave well over their heads as they meandered through the meadow.  They weren’t eating at all, just enjoying their freedom.  When I called they grunted and came running.

I got them back into their pen with no problems, giving them a quart of clabber and a little grain.

Poor Per will likely have a little surgery this afternoon.  I picked up the ‘tools’ to castrate him.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

Egads.

Pig’s Head

Last night we had the pig’s head for dinner.

I’ve shoved this package from shelf to shelf  in the freezer since its arrival in December.

When I filled out the cut sheet there was this surprising ‘head’ option near the bottom.

I jotted in the x for yes.

The frozen eyes and snout were visible through the packaging.

Yuck.

I wondered why I marked the yes box.

Just like cleaning the carport, eating that head, required company as a motivator.

One out of four families that were invited agreed to come.

The rest politely declined.

All excused themselves for their spouses sake.

Last night our bravest? most cultured?  most adventurous? craziest?  friends arrived for a pig’s head dinner.

I  spent forty-five minutes scraping fuzz and bristles off the head.

Three websites recommended disposable razors for this job.

The razor did serve some purpose but a sharp little knife and a sharp big knife performed best.

The websites showed intact pigs’ heads.

My poor pig had no ears, no eye lids.

My poor pig had large gouges around the eyes and on one side of the snout.

I promptly covered the eyes  and gouges with half apples.

I followed a simple recipe online with a few modifications.

Every recipe I saw recommended two hours of cooking.

By the third hour the internal temp was 140.

I sliced off the thickest parts, laid them in the broth and put it back in the oven for another forty minutes.

The parts up under and back from the non-existent ears were intermittent layers of fat and white meat.

The checks were small bits of dark meat.

The tongue was dense, very dark meat.

Hands down the checks tasted best.

The tongue wasn’t bad but the texture was unusual,

The white meat tasted of fat, was very moist, but quite bland.

The cabbage, cumin, apple, and raisin salad was the best food on the table.

The small amount of cheek meat in no way warranted the

amount of freezer space or work that the head dinner required.

Yet I am glad we tried it.

Adventure is where you make it and this certainly was an adventure.

It was good fun to see everyone’s reactions and interest in the food.

Food is so easy to shovel in and swallow; this meal inspired full attention from the youngest to the most jaded eater.

This morning the chickens and turkeys were thrilled to have such a  large protein chunk to peck apart!

And I was relieved to find that the horrid fat smell that my hands had absorbed was finally gone!

Chore List

I am going away for a couple of days – the first days off since early August.  Annabelle calved on the 18th, I’ve milked her since then, minus four times when my husband practiced milking her.    He is involved in the farming, but generally sticks to manure moving, grain organization, and construction projects.  He also helps with butchering chickens and turkeys.  He also took the lead in castrating the Leif, the pig – egads!  That is a story for a different day!

My older children know all about the feeding of the animals so he has backup help if needed but school, homework, instruments, swim, and basketball conspire to keep them out of the barn for most of Monday thru Friday.

He asked for a thorough list of what needs to be done.  He has also been down at the barn throughout chore time this week so he has a full sense of what will happen.  I simplified a few things, for example I normally give Annabelle shredded beet pulp and chopped alfalfa – she doesn’t have to have them and they are a bit of a hassle  -otherwise here is what my daily chores look like.

Carrie and Sweetie Hen, eating under the horsetrailer.

Barn Chores

Morning Chores

In House:  Fill clean milk bucket ½ way with warm water.  Fill gray wash bucket – ½ soapy water, ½ clean water.

At Barn:

1)Rabbits:  Use warm water to fill their dishes.  Get one scoop of pellets to fill their dishes.

2)Chickens:  Use remaining warm water to fill black dish near barn door.  Stomp out ice as needed.  Spread two scoops laying pellets under horse trailer.

3)Cows:          Get both cows clipped in.  (If Huckleberry isn’t cooperative lock him outside. Use his grain as bribery.   Watch your chin – he is good at tossing his head at just the right moment to catch chins.)Clean up their area, making sure their beds are clean.  Use old hay to make nice beds for them, please. Put out fresh hay in their feeders – some in metal feeder, some in the stanchion feeder, some outside if not rainy.  One bale total.This is a good time to do turkeys.  Fill small white bucket ½ fill, scatter on ground outside if not rainy, in if rainy.  Use that bucket to take water from cows and fill the turkeys water – black dish outside.  Stomping out ice as needed.Give Annabelle one red bucket full of Coarse 16.  Give Huckleberry one white bucket full of Coarse 16.  (Dizzy can have a small handful of Coarse 16 at this point too.)Brush Annabelle – good bonding time – milking her is an emotional thing, bonding thing – can’t really rush through it.  Wash Annabelle’s bag thoroughly – even if not dirty, as it stimulates milk flow.  Milk Annabelle.  Because she isn’t used to you, her let-down may stop after a bit,  try washing her down again then resume milking.( I have found counting squirts to be helpful when beginning to milk – kind of like the breathing techniques for birthing.)

4)Dizzy:  When you are done milking, but cows are still hitched let Dizzy into their pen.  If it is rainy leave her in her pen with water and two flakes of hay.  Clean up as needed.

5)  Unclip cows.

6)  Take milk to house, strain, and put in fridge.

7)  Water cows.

8)  Every time I leave barn I double-check four things>

Cows unclipped, Hay for Cows, Water for Cows, Gates Shut.

Tom Turkey roosting and preening at the same time. He never stops showing off!

Evening Chores

In House:  Fill clean milk bucket 1/4 way with warm water.  Fill gray wash bucket – ½ soapy water, ½ clean water.

At Barn:

1)Rabbits:  Use warm water to fill their dishes.

2) Cows:         Get both cows clipped in.  Dizzy will come in – put her in her pen. Clean up their area, making sure their beds are clean.  Use old hay to make nice beds for them, please.  Put out fresh hay in their feeders – some in metal feeder, some in the stanchion feeder, some outside if not rainy.  Half of a bale total.  A flake for Dizzy.Water cows and Dizzy.Give Annabelle one red bucket full of Coarse 16.  Give Huckleberry one white bucket full of Coarse 16.  (Dizzy can have a small handful of Coarse 16 at this point too.)Brush Annabelle – good bonding time – milking her is an emotional thing, bonding thing – can’t really rush through it.  Wash Annabelle’s bag thoroughly – even if not dirty, as it stimulates milk flow.  Milk Annabelle.

3) Unclip cows.

4) Do final check>

Cows Unclipped, Hay for Cows, Water for Cows, Gates Shut.

5)  Collect eggs.

6) Take milk to house, strain, and put in fridge.

Notes:

If it is really cold, below 20 deg. watering will have to be done mid-day for all animals.  And/or heating lamps put on.

If you don’t get much milk add in a milking around 3 or 4, give her 1/2 bucket of grain and make sure she has hay.

If Dizzy is difficult you can leave her in her pen, just give her more hay.

If the milk gets a little dirty give it to Huckleberry, if it gets really dirty give it to chickens or turkeys.

If you notice any problems call me asap. Problems like:  cows or Dizzy not eating, not getting up, not pooping,  or udder feeling warm or looking red.

Lard Making

18.79 lbs. Pork Fat

Lard making was definitely an adventure, one that I wish I had done outside in November not inside in January.

I ended up moving two crock pots outside to cook.

The smell…I didn’t like it too much.

But I loved the cracklings.

 I was so well oiled from the inside I was sure my split thumb and dry skin would be entirely healed this morning!

Hot Lard

I also made a tray of salt pork.

Had to go to an old book bookstore to find a cookbook.

Well, maybe I could have found the info online but

any excuse to expand my cookbook collection I’ll take.

Found a fabulous condition 1911 cookbook from Maine.

Valuable for its many recipes calling for lard.

Bought another book about hay making.

Cooled Lard, One Gallon Total

And another that had very simple guide to making salt pork.

Huckleberry very naughty tonight.

Let well-feathered chicks out for entire day today.

Milked out more milk today than I have since Annabelle came into milk in August.

I am Not a Real Farmer

Oatmeal The Pig

If I were a Real Farmer it wouldn’t be 10:25 p.m. and me just in from milking the cow.

If I were a Real Farmer I’d be up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. – and be happy about it.   I am going to confess right up front here – I am not a Real Farmer.

I milk the cow at 9ish and 9ish.

Tonight 10 p.m. ish.

I am The Farmer and The Farmer’s Wife.

I tend the chickens, and the kids,  I mend the fences and the clothes, I feed the cows, and the spouse, and the kids, and the pig, and the turkeys, and the rabbits, and the horse, and the dog, and the cat, and any visitor who comes along. I toss around hay and laundry by the bale full.

I don’t like to get up early.  I did that the first few years of farming and was exhausted and a tad grouchy.

My favorite meal to cook is breakfast.  It’s hard to cook a nice meal and have two kids out the door at 7 and another off at 8:30.

I love coffee, but I am a sipper, it takes me at least until 8 to have enough to be truly awake.  I can cook and parent and drink coffee – I can’t shovel poop or milk the cow and drink coffee.

On the weekends I sleep until eight-thirty.

Oatmeal Cookies

Being a Real Farmer – the up and at ’em kind- would be Real Difficult for me.

At 9 a .m. the house is empty, I’ve had my coffee, and I can savor my moments as Farmer and can gradually move to being the Farmer’s Wife again.

At 9 p.m. the house is asleep, I’ve been Farmer’s Wife all day, but then I can savor my moments of being the Farmer – under the stars.

And at the end of the day I might not be a Real Farmer but I have been Real……

Real What?

Real Present.

Yes, present; and also Real to me.

Eating Leif

FACTS: 1 degree at 7 a.m..  Milked out two gallons for Huckleberry and a little shy of two gallons for me.  Collected 7 eggs.  Princess locked in with chicks due to low temps.  New gate that DH made yesterday for stall/hall point is wonderful.  Repairs to hay feeder and wash bucket equally appreciated.  And DH took advantage of frozen ground to empty manure trailer this morning.

THOUGHTS:

This morning I was frying up a pan of breakfast sausage and thinking about Leif, the pig, who was now the pork.  Leif was our first pig.  My husband and daughter went to a pig scramble in Springfield, ME and she caught Leif.  It was love at first sight, not for me; for my daughter.  She taught Leif to sit, come, and dance within days.  The fact that we intended to eat my daughter’s pet disturbed every visitor that came and saw the unquestionable bond between pig and child.  And frankly,  it disturbed me.  At the end of this trail was pain.

“How can you do it?”

“Don’t you get attached?”

“Don’t you feel mean?”

“Don’t the kids cry?”

“How ever can you do it?”

I’ve been asked these questions innumerberable times in the past five years.

I do get attached.  The kids do cry.  I cry.

Every time I’ve cooked sausage, ribs, roasts, and liver, from Leif I’ve thought of him.  Giving him a wonderful life, giving him love, and giving him a humane death do not negate the pain.  The pain of losing something we cared for, something we loved, and something we butchered, all hurt.  The satisfaction of serving my family food that was raised outside of the massive food production system does not negate the pain.  Those things help me, and my family, accept the pain on an intellectual level, but on a deeper level the pain exists.

And I’m okay with that.

Life is full of stuff that requires acceptance.

Take a leap here with me.

We’ve had lots of stuffy noses in the house this week so I’m hearing lots of blowing.  In fact, I’ve spent $2.99 per box for 3 boxes of tissues.  My Dad uses a handkerchief.  He blows long and hard, neatly folds up the handkerchief, and tucks the wet mess into his pocket.  In ten minutes he might find a dry corner in the handkerchief and blow again.  I wonder, if, we, as a society, started to toss our tears, and our loves, and our attachments out of our lives at the same time that we began to blow our boogies into tissues and toss them into the trashcan instead of into handkerchiefs?

My husband said I can not wrap up the complexity of butchering my beloved animals in a handkerchief and just leave it at that.   He said that bringing up mucus when talking about food and death is just gross  – and he is right. It is gross.  But think about that handkerchief for just one minute – wrapping up grossness, and putting it in your pocket, walking around with it, reaching in and pulling it back out  – now that is acceptance.