Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alouetté, gentille alouetté...

Warning - this contains some detailed photos of our us harvesting our excess roosters.

This summer our broody hens hatched out seven chicks, of which four turned out to be boys.  Now, hopefully you know by now that you don't need roosters for hens to lay eggs.  Additionally, when you have more than one rooster fighting for dominion over the harem things can turn nasty.  Our dominant, three-year-old rooster Kazoo will not share the coop with the young upstarts, so every night we have to go out with a flashlight and rescue the recalcitrant boys off the roof of the coop and shove them in with everyone else. Since it's hard to find homes for excess boys, we decided to take the plunge and do our first chicken harvest.

Neither of us had harvested chickens before, so we watched some youtube videos.  I liked this one the best. We dressed in Troy's cooking clothes.  Set up an ice bath, trash can, hanging hook, cutting board, and knives, and caught us a rooster boy each.

We didn't have a cone, so we simply tied them up by their feet and bleed them out by cutting a carotid artery on the side of the neck.  The chickens are already in a semi-stupor when held upside down, and once they loose significant blood pressure, it all ends pretty quickly. 
Troy decided he wanted to try skinning his chicken.  Here it is after being rinsed off.

I wanted to go traditional by plucking my bird.  There is definitely a knack to it, and while there are a few pins left in the skin, it wasn't that hard.  This is my bird after plucking.  Really does look like one of those imitation rubber chickens.

There's the crop.  Don't want to cut that open accidentally.  This is where all of those biology dissections really come in handy.  Pulling apart viscera is the same on all animals.

Yes Mom, that's me doing the nitty gritty.  I really did stick my hand repeatedly into the chicken.  (Ask me about the time I didn't eat chicken for several months after being threatened to stick my hand into the chicken or go without.)

When we were done we rinsed out each carcass and placed them in the ice bath to finish cooling rapidly, finally putting them in a freezer bag and into the freezer.  Since these birds are all from breeds that specialize in egg laying, they don't have the plump breasts that meat birds do, so these won't be great roasting birds.  Also, at four months of age are probably beginning to toughen up just a bit.  Most roasting birds are harvested at 10-12 weeks old.  These'll probably go into a soup or stew pot.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Life of Riley

I've heard there haven't been enough Riley posts, so here you go, our life with Riley.  Enjoy!
Day one with 13 week old, tri-color Welsh Pembroke Corgi, Riley.

Hanging out with Ringo at 49er Feed and Farm Supply, a full size male Corgi.

Running in green fields while I work, 5 mo old.

Going to work.  Water? Check. GPS? Check.  7 mo old Riley? Check.

Exhausted after a morning of playing and exploring in Forest City, 8 mo old.

Special canine supervision at work, 9 mo old.

Helping Sue Flynn sweep the floor after Spinning Saturday, 9 mo old.

Hanging at the river and patrolling the boundary, 10 mo old.

After preparing this post, we found out that Ringo, our Corgi friend at 49er Feed and Farm Supply on Wolf Road, was fatally injured after being hit by a car Saturday afternoon.  Our deepest sympathies go out to Ringo's family.  He will be missed by many in the community.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grass Valley Celtic Festival

The Grass Valley Celtic Festival hosted by KVMR is my annual chance to reunite with friends acquired during the eleven years I worked and played at Renaissance Faires.  The last several years I was in faire I braided hair with Adorn Thy Hair/Tresses Entwined, and the Celtic Festival is not only at my local faire grounds, the hair braiding booth comes every year.

Good friends, good music, best fairgrounds anywhere!  And then it turns out that my fiber guild also participates as entertainment.  Wham!  My local, fiber and faire worlds collide.  It means a lot of my favorite people all centralized into one place.  I even spun a bit when I wasn't braiding.
Barbara Sue with her masses of hair.

Jocelyn with her long hair and sunglasses. (Sspt, those aren't period sunglasses.)

Riley made lots of new friends

Tiffany getting to play...

And even Leann and Shane from Americoprs stopped by!

Getting ready for winter

Last week's chance of rain had us scrambling to put things back under shelter, caulk the holes in the shed and getting the chimneys cleaned out and ready to use.  Some things we try to do all summer, like cutting and stacking fire wood,  but there is invariably a fall scramble to get everything done.

There's a reason for fall cleaning in addition to spring cleaning.  I need this kick in the pants, I mean opportunity, to organize and put away all of that stuff left laying around out of doors while we work on projects.  Trimming goat hoofs and making new garden trellises means that bags of screws, drill bits, etc., are often left left wherever I used them last in one mad attempt after another to squeeze one more activity into my day, and now we have the seasoning of reckoning at hand.  I've even cleaned out the garden cart!

We're not the only ones getting ready for winter; we found this praying mantis in our bathroom earlier this week, happily munching on a resident crane fly.  The first year we were here we had a mantis take up residence behind the African violet on the bathroom shelf.  There's no plant there now, but this guy seems just as happy hanging out by my deodorant or on the bathroom mirror.

So going down the list, chance of rain scare not withstanding, we have maybe a cord of wood put by, the yard raked, about half the tools put away, fall veggies planted and chimneys cleaned.  We still need to finish roofing the new goat pen, finish organizing the tool box, built a compost bin, organized the garden tools and pots...  I think I'm losing the battle.

Of our babies born this summer, well some of them are almost all grown up, with some surprises.  The triplet doelings are doing superb, and have put on enough growth that they should handle the cold without any problems.  And those twin boys from Pi?  Well, turns out one of them was a girl too!  
Brack, 3 mo old wither from Pi
Bess and Mary, 5 mo old doelings from Maharani

Unfortunately, it turns out that Pi isn't that great for milking.  Small udder, undeveloped teats even after nursing for three months, so we swapped her out with 3/4 La Mancha doe from Quest Enclave, who is Pi's actual owner. In exchange for wintering at our place, I can milk Bean until it's time to dry her up halfway through her next pregnancy, sometime mid-spring.  Already Bean is an obliging, sweet goat who is giving us about a pint of milk each morning. 

Bean, newest addition