This morning we took the first of our two cows to the butcher. We try to breed our two mammas every couple years and then take one of the offspring in at roughly a year and a half old and the next one at roughly two and half years old. We’ll take the next one in January 2014. Our mammas are Dexter and the bull we used was a Belted Galloway. We’ve been really happy with the Belted Galloway/Dexter crosses, but might try something different next time.
We’re so lucky to have a slaughterhouse/butcher right here in town. They’re some of the friendliest folks and we love that we’re able to bring our animals there for processing.
We’ve gotten progressively better at moving our large animals around — this morning it took less than an hour to load our cow and get her delivered to the butcher. Read up on how cow-to-butcher transport went a couple years ago, if you’re interested.
We’ll be picking up the organs this week (fresh cow’s liver is awesome) and the meat the week after. Now we just have to clean out the basement freezer so we have room for everything.
Happy New Year!
While technically we had a “white” Christmas this year (we had a dusting that was gone by early afternoon), we don’t think it really counted. Luckily for this group of snow-lovers, a perfectly-situated Nor’easter came through yesterday that dumped about a foot of fluffy snow on us just in time for a white New Year! Sometimes when Nor’easters come through, they begin or end with rain or sleet. This time was perfect — snow from beginning to end and no slushy mess.
We didn’t have much snow last year — we had snow at Halloween and again in January, but that was it. Two years ago we had tons of snow, and I was having a clutch problem with my tractor (the clutch plate was slipping, I fixed it with an adjustment to the clutch pedal) so I wasn’t able to effectively move the snow around. This year, with the tractor in tip-top shape, I cleared all the snow off of the driveway and then cleared snow paths to the coop and barn and made paths for the ducks and geese and piles of snow for the kids (they love building snow forts). I even got a chance to go over to our neighbor’s house and clear a bit for her, but she’d already done most of her own driveway.
There’s something cathartic about pushing snow around and putting it into big piles. Like a giant sandbox with motorized equipment. I even plugged in my car seat heater so my tush was warm while I was “working” — too bad my fingers and toes were cold. Small price to pay.
Enjoy the snow!
Three years ago, we hosted a harvest party to celebrate our first anniversary as homesteaders. We made turducken. You can read all about it here. Essentially, you stuff a deboned turkey with a deboned duck that has been stuffed with a deboned chicken. It was AMAZING, but a whole lot of work. And, there were things about it that I didn’t love, like the soggy duck skin. I always said I would like to try to make it again, providing I found a better method.
This weekend, we needed to do our final home butchering session. We had four turkeys to process, and since we had so many ducks and geese born on the farm this spring, we also needed to reduce their numbers. When we were finished, we had 4 turkeys (total of 60lbs), 4 geese (total of 25lbs), 6 ducks (total of 20 lbs) and 1 rabbit (4 lbs). It seemed like we had the makings of a new version of turducken.
Here are some pictures from our butchering session. We borrowed our friends plucker and it worked well with the ducks and geese. We heated the water very hot to scald them (about 155F) and put in a good bit of soap. We did the turkeys by hand.
Mike scalding a duck.
Mike with one of the geese.
Jamie plucking the geese.
Jamie plucking the turkeys.
By adding in a chicken from the freezer, we had everything we made to make an epic “turoockenbit”. Turkey stuffed with goose, duck, chicken, and rabbit. I did a ton of research on the internet before getting started and came across this method from The Food Lab.
Here are all of the animals, clockwise from far left is the rabbit, goose, turkey, chicken (it was frozen in the picture) and duck.
I started by deboning the rabbit and made it into a forcemeat along with all of the hearts from the animals we butchered this session and the turkey livers. I pureed all the meat in the food processor until it was a paste and then added in some salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. I deboned the chicken, put a good bit of forcemeat inside, trussed it and then poached it in water until it read 140F.
Rabbit and organ forcemeat and deboned chicken.
Stuffed chicken ready to be poached.
Next, I deboned the duck and when the chicken was ready, we trussed it into the duck after another layer of forcemeat. This was also poached and then seared to crisp up the duck skin,
Mike searing the goose that has been stuffed with a duck and a chicken.
Deboning five animals in one day was pretty tiring.
The turkey stuffed with the other poultry and ready for the oven.
We roasted this in the oven at 425F for an hour and a half. It was pretty amazing.
You can see all of the layers in this picture, starting with turkey, then goose, then the duck which slid towards the back and the chicken with a thick layer of forcemeat, which was very much like a country pate.
Carving it was pretty easy. It tasted really yummy. But, in all honesty, after working on it for the better part of two days, when it came time to actually eat it, I was not as enthusiastic as I had hoped to be. Thankfully, everyone else loved it and there was plenty of veggies and apple pie for me I had a sample of all of the meats, and I think the chicken and goose were my favorites.
It was great to tackle this recipe again. The instructions from The Food Lab were amazing and I highly recommend following them. Maybe I will be ready to make this again in three more years.
We had an almost perfect Thanksgiving. The only thing that was missing was some of our family who weren’t able to make it this year. Today it was just the five of us and my parents. Normally we have a bigger crowd, but work and life kept us apart. Hopefully next year, we can all be together. We still had so many things to be thankful for, most importantly, the incredible food that we raised here on the farm this year.
We butchered one of our five turkeys earlier this week. It was a standard bronze hen and she weighed in at 13lbs. Not bad!
Here is Mike scalding the turkey after it had been killed (we cut the jugular and let it bleed out fully before removing the head).
After it was scalded, we plucked it and then Jamie did the gutting and trimming,
We brine our turkeys over night, then put them is a roasting pan with celery, carrots, and onion. In the over at 425F for 15 minutes and then we slow roast it at 325F until the thigh hits 175F. I think this was the best turkey we have ever done. It was so moist and flavorful.
These are veggies from the garden; kale, turnips and celeriac, potatoes, and squash. They look kind of rough now, but one they are ppeled and trimmed, they look lovely.
Veggies being prepped.
Kale for smoothies, root crops to be mashed, and squash for roasting.
Prepping the rolls.
The turkey was divine.
Our amazing feast.
A lovely meal.
We took trimmings out to the animals once we finished our meal. It was an amazing fall day.
Pumpkin pie for dessert. The pumpkins were from the garden and the crusts were made with lard from our pigs.
All in all it was a lovely, stress free day. Our meal was finished and everything was cleaned up by 1pm. We enjoyed a movie with the kids and then a late afternoon walk. Wishing all of you a wonderful day of good food, good company, and many things to be thankful for.
I haven’t had a tremendous amount of time for sewing this fall. Between work and the farm and the kids, there are just not enough hours in the day. In addition, Mike and I have been working on getting back in shape and that really becomes another “job”. One of the benefits of shedding some extra pounds is rediscovering my love of clothes and fashion. When I was a girl, I really wanted to be a fashion designer. The truth is, that is a really tough world to have a career in and I am much happier sewing a garment here and there in my spare time.
I have been having fun sewing some pieces for myself, previously all of my garment sewing has been for the kids. I really love Vogue V1250, I have made three versions, you can see one here in my flickr stream. I also love McCalls M6563, I have made about half a dozen of these tops, they are so quick to sew up.
Ever since I saw this dress by Alexia Abegg in one of my favorite Summersville prints, I knew I wanted to make something similar. The problem was that it took a very long time for the pattern to get released, as happens some times, and in the meantime, I saw this dress and thought that using Summersville would be perfect for this pattern. So, I bought my copy of McCalls M6609 and last weekend I made a muslin. I worked out some minor fit and sizing issues and this week I carefully cut out my pieces from my prized Summersville stash. I cut the front of the bodice on the bias, to really draw attention to the print in a way that appeared flattering. I cut the back bodice with the “stripes” going horizontally, while the skirt was cut vertically. I used Kona Red for the cut-outs.
Yesterday I stitched it all up. This is a very straightforward and easy to follow pattern. If you are an intermediate sewist, it should be no problem. I followed the pattern pretty exactly with the following changes/additions:
- I made this dress in a size 12.
- I used black for the lining instead of the exterior print.
- I serged my interior seams
- I attached the lining to the inside of the zipper
- I lengthened the skirt by 4 inches.
- I cut the front bodice on the bias and the back perpendicular to the selvage instead of parallel to it.
The dress came together quickly and I was very excited to wear it today to the Denyse Schmidt Studio Sale, one of my favorite yearly events (more on that tomorrow). I have another version of this cut out in a grey wool blend and I made a brown jersey version from some vintage fabric I had.
Here are some pictures of me in the dress. We got a bit silly with the turkeys, seeing as it is only two weeks from Thanksgiving, I was eyeing them up for size
I had to make a dress for Miss C as well. She likes to ham it up in front of the camera almost as much as her mother does. I can’t remember where the pattern for this came from, it is a super simple peasant style dress with an elastic collar. The fabric is a stretch jersey from JoAnns.
Last year, we lost power for 7 days after Irene. In 2011, Connecticut was also hit by the Halloween Nor’easter. We lost power for a couple hours during that storm, but friends of ours were out of power for 10 days (that storm proved to be the largest power outage ever in Connecticut with 830,000 customers without power).
When Sandy barreled through early last week, we were prepared for the worst (personally, I was putting our over/under at 7 days without power). We also had a generator in place and a stash of fuel in the garage, so we were in much better shape than last year. Power went out the afternoon of Monday, October 29 and came back on the afternoon of Thursday, November 1; just about 3 days without power. During that time I took screenshots of the CL&P Outage Map and created an animation showing how the outages propagated and were restored over the last week.
Down near NYC (Southwestern CT, New Jersey, Long Island), there are tons of people without power right at this moment. Gas stations can’t pump gas because they either don’t have supply or don’t have power. We can only hope that power is restored for everyone soon.
The other issue further south is the sheer destruction that the storm surge and flooding has caused. Some areas may take months to fully recover. If you are able, please consider helping the storm victims now.
As many of you know, an unprecedented storm is making its way to the East coast as I type. Last hear we had Irene and the Autumn Nor’easter. This year, both types of weather systems have collided, during a full moon no less, and the result is going to be something for the history book.
We have spent the past three days prepping. All of our “winter” animal tasks have been completed. We moved the rabbits into the grow tunnel, fixed up the stalls for the sheep and cows in the barn, and stowed everything that was loose. We checked on the bees, but found that there was not enough honey in the supers worth harvesting. Inside, we made a huge batch of pork stock and lard from the pigs we had taken last weekend to the butcher. All of the fresh cuts are in the freezer, and everything to be cured was taken to Noack’s. We have a generator this year, so all should be well. Hopefully the storm will be gentle, but all predictions seem to suggest otherwise. We hope you all weather this storm safely, I will leave you with a set of pictures we took of the farm today and yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow it will look much the same.
Jamie and Mike and crew
Our pigs are now at the butcher, thankfully. There was a period of time this morning when I thought that we were going to end up adding to the growing number of feral pigs living in the Eastern US.
For the past four cycles of pigs, we have secured the trailer into their pen area about a week before their transport date. We then place their feed buckets inside the trailer. We secure the fencing to the trailer so that they can’t get out. Typically, after less than an hour on the first day, we are able to get them up into the trailer and eating just fine.
This year, due to a combination of factors, we didn’t do this. And so, this morning, we had to get the pigs into the trailer for the very first time and to the butcher all in one go. It was a pretty rough process due to a number of mistakes which I will highlight below, with tons of pictures.
Here I am greeting the girls and trying to figure out where to put the trailer. Unfortunately, due to numerous trees and rocks, our choices were limited. See the mud in the bottom right of the picture? By the end of the ordeal, my lower half was covered in it.
Next, I fed the pigs just enough to keep them interested in me so Mike could open their pen and back the trailer in. Do you notice how the chickens are more interested in the food than the pigs? Another problem. I didn’t feed the pigs dinner the night before, hoping that I could motivate them with food in the morning. It didn’t work quite that well.
Mike “securing” the fence to the trailer. Note how the fence is opening into the end of the trailer instead of out? Another problem. We ended up chasing pigs three separate times this morning before we finally made a fully secure jug. As in they were on the loose, running around the “back yard”.
I am trying to coax them in with food. I am not sure if you can tell, but due to the positioning of the trailer, the ramp was a few inches off the ground. While this is fine for a person, it is unacceptable for a pig. Also, due to the mud, the pigs were slipping all over the plywood we put on the ramp for “traction”.
In this moment, I was so overly confident. It was maybe half an hour in to things, and I thought I was going to get them both right up. Then one of them spooked and it was all over.
Do you see the look of disapproval that this pig is giving us? Like, “WTF are you crazy people trying to do???”
This picture was taken about an hour into the process. We made a “jug” with the pig fencing. However, we were rushing, and didn’t properly secure it. They escaped three different times. They are very strong and very fast and very big. During the third time they escaped I was having fantasies involving Mike’s .22. Thankfully, we were able to get them back in the jug each time with food and coaxing. After the third time, we decided not to try to rush getting them up the trailer, but instead focus on making the jug 100% secure with a ton of posts.
We pulled out the plywood and fixed the ramp so it was flat on the ground. We put a trail of food up the trailer leading to their food bucket. Our other pigs would have gotten right in at this point, but not these girls, they were too smart
Here they are teasing us. We thought they were going to go on again. What this picture cannot convey is all of the cursing and slipping and hustling we did just to get them to this point. Seriously, as I am typing this post I am sipping honey lemon tea as my throat is sore.
Once we got them to this point, we used a pallet and a 2×4 to ratchet them farther in. We don’t have any pictures of this, as we were all working. We had made a narrow jug with pig panel that was heavily secured so they couldn’t get under it. Then, Mike came behind them with a pallet and Jackson and I were on either side of the fence on the outside. Once they were past those two trees you see in the background, we slid in the 2×4 behind the pallet so they could not go backwards. Normally, they would have jumped right up the trailer to get to their food, but we had to ratchet the pallet, sliding one side of the beam up a few squares in the fencing each time. They did not like this and we were constantly worried they would power their way out. Finally, they saw their food bucket and ran up to eat. Then, we slid the pallet up and slid another 2×4 behind it to secure them on the trailer while we lifted the ramp. That was almost the worst, hardest part. The ramp got stuck on the fencing and Jackson and I had to lift and push it up each section. I will have tons of bruises from that.
Here they are on the trailer, somewhat calm and eating. We untied the panels from the sides and away we went!
Here we are at the butcher. Unloading was thankfully much easier than loading.
All the pigs were hanging out and resting in the outside run. Tomorrow, they will meet their fate.
Here is what the process should be like
And here we are at one of the local casinos after a buffet lunch and time spent in the kids “game room” (think old-school arcade, it is pretty fun). Next year, we will definitely prep the week in advance, this was way to stressful and intense for all involved.
A couple weekends ago, we got together with two other families to process close to 100 chickens (about 25 were our own). One of the other families had a “kill cone” setup, which holds the chickens in place while being killed, and had procured a mechanical plucker. We supplied a scalder setup, which was a galvanized trashcan on a turkey fryer burner.
The first step is to actually bring the chickens over. Here, M and I bring over a batch of about a dozen chickens.
Big J got some hands-on experience killing the chickens.
The chickens were scalded and then transferred to the plucker. We’ve never used a plucker before, but it worked so well we are sure it’s a must-have next time we butcher a set of poultry.
Almost supermarket ready!
After plucking, the next stop was the eviscerating table. A team of 2-3 adults were gutting and trimming the birds.
Big J holding a nearly finished chicken (it still needs to be rinsed and chilled).
This is probably a few more chicken feet than we’d ordinarily have use for.
And here are our finished chickens chilling in the ice water.
We really weren’t sure how this would go, but it went wonderfully. We ended up processing about 25 birds/hour and had a great time together. The weather was definitely in our favor, too, it was a beautiful fall day in New England.
If you were going to do this, it really takes about 6 adults working the chickens and 2 adults on support staff, watching kids and getting meals ready. What would really be an easy day of work would be to have everything set up and have people going by 10 AM (have brunch out, snacks), work for 3 solid hours and you could get 60-75 chickens done. Stop at 1 PM or so, clean up and have a big lunch. A rockin’ playlist doesn’t hurt, either (thanks Jamie and your Facebrook friends!)
The best reward was the roasted chicken the next day. Delicious!
I am not really sure how it is possible that this is the last week in September, but it is! Our lives have resumed a more regular rhythm since the summer ended, but it is still pretty full of life as we head into the fall. Here is a round-up of all the things we did in the last month.
In August I made three quilts for the CT Children’s Medical Center. I made these in conjunction with the 100 Quilts for Kids Project sponsored by Katie at Swim, Bike, Quilt! Last year I made two quilts, and each year I hope to make one more to donate. I also won a quilt in a raffle from a friend, so I was able to drop off four quilts to the hospital, two baby sized one and two toddler sized ones. Next year I also plan to drop off a teen/big-kid sized quilt.
I made myself this wooden handled purse, following this pattern from Ellen at The Long Thread. The fabric is from Storybook Lane by Ever Kelly. I LOVE how it came out and plan to make a few more as gifts.
I have been doing a fair bit of garment sewing for myself as well. Not anything I am ready to show just yet. I have gotten a few McCalls and Vogue patterns for draped jersey tops and dresses. I also got the latest Alabama Chanin book and I can say it is by far the best yet, and that is saying a lot because I LOVE her books.
The garden was severely neglected in August as Mike was out of town and I had too much going on to keep it well tended. Even so, we have continued to harvest a few baskets of food each week, namely peppers, eggplants, corn, tomatoes, and greens. This week the kids and I also harvested all of the squash and pumpkins. Looks like we will have a lot of pie making coming up!
The animals are all pretty good. We have a large flock of ducks and geese after such a successful breeding season this year. We have really been enjoying getting a lot of eggs again from our newest flock of laying hens. Our meat chickens will be ready for butchering in a few weeks, but we are worried our turkeys will not be big enough for Thanksgiving. Pigs go to the butcher in the end of October, our one wether cross lamb left from last years breeding goes in December, and one of our heifers goes in January. We decided to not bring in a bull this summer, but next summer, we will get one and breed our two mommas and the daughter as well and then sell her as a bred heifer. We may also get a steer for our meat for 2014. We need to check on the bees and see if they have any honey for us and just this morning we had a new kit of rabbits born and another momma who was busy making a nest for babies.
We have wood stacked for winter, but we need to get motivated to get hay in the barn. Last year we had some issues with the hay and the animals not wanting to eat it, so instead of getting it all from one source, we are going to get 50 bales from each of 4 or 5 sources.
Our lives have been wonderful and full. September means getting back into a regular rhythm with classes and school and soccer and such. This year we are really trying to get out and about as much as we can as well, hiking the local trails and attending many local festivals. It feels like most of the farming tasks and chores are now running smoothly and on auto-pilot. We have learned what is worth our time and what is not and that leaves us more time to enjoy the other wonderful things in our area. We feel pretty happy with the current balance we have obtained. I have no doubt that things will continue to shift and change as our family grows and evolves, but for right now we are all happy and that is a very good thing.
Wishing you much happiness and love!