Happy New Year! Life took off like a rocket, and I’m still running to catch up. I feel as though it has been way longer than a month and a half since my last post. So much has happened, I’ll give you a drive- by update.
We got the hay in! That was a fun day. Nathan definitely honed his tractor manipulating skills (there is skill much more to ‘ driving a tractor ‘ than just ‘driving’). The friend who sold us the cattle graciously lent us his time and truck and trailer to pick up 47 round bales and bring them out to our hay barn. It took five trips and most of the day, but we got it all in before it got dark and the rain started! (Just a note to anyone who might want to do this- we did not have a bale spear, and highly recommend one.) The kids had a blast climbing all over the bales, and jumping in the truck.
Just before Christmas, we got two sheep! A local sheep farmer, who we met at church, traded us two live rams (just weaned) for several processed chickens from our farm. The plan is to raise these on pasture and keep the meat for our family.
Now, I have to admit, I was so excited to get lambs right around Christmas. I had it all planned out- the whole family was going to dress up like characters from the Nativity, and we were going to pose with the sheep and get one of the cutest family Christmas photos EVER!
Well, that…. didn’t happen. Just goes to show how new we are at this. When the sheep arrived, they were literally twice the size I had anticipated. I mean, I was told to expect “lambs, just weaned” and assumed they would be small, cute and cuddly, jumping about playfully. These guys turned out to be as big as Labrador retrievers, and more skittish than whitetail deer on opening day! Poor things, you would move two inches and they would race around their barn stall like Olympic speed skaters when the gun goes off, hooves clattering and all! So, less than 5 minutes after they arrived, my “perfect picture” idea dissolved into thin air.
They are pretty sweet, though. The white one is more curious and apt to venture out a bit more than the black one, but they are always together. Eating, resting, sleeping – they are never more than three feet from each other. It’s fun to have a black sheep, too, because when I sing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ with the toddlers, they get all excited, reminding me “We haf one a doze!” You know, we haven’t named them yet. Any suggestions?
It being the beginning of the year, we are setting our goals and planning for the months ahead, and already the projects are stacking up! First, get all the legal paperwork done to bring our products to local farmer’s markets. Get the market garden tilled and seeds started before spring. Build an Egg mobile for our layers, a Gobbledy Go for our turkeys (and order the poults to put in it!). Add more pigs to the farm (there’s a good demand for pork and bacon), get the pigs on pasture and build them a shelter. Build two more Wheely Coops for our pastured meat birds (and order the chicks to put in them, too). Fence the last pasture on the hill, make sure we have feed for all the animals, and lastly, acquire a dairy cow and some basic milk processing equipment. Anyone want to volunteer on the farm this spring? ( Yes, I am serious…) That last item might have to wait till next year… But we’ll see, God might have a surprise for us. He spoils us so much, I have almost come to anticipate these things!
Another big change in the farm this year is getting the bulk of our feed grown locally. Since we are a soy – free farm, and soy is the #1 protein source for most animal feed, we need to substitute something else. That “something else” is PEAS! A friend of ours (who has grown row crops before) has agreed to try growing non- GMO, organic peas for us the year. So, we’ll need to build large feed bins to store the feed, and purchase the equipment to get the feed into the bins, and hey! Check out our feed grinder!
One thing I have been putting off is getting the vet out for a visit; the longer I wait, the more we have to ask him about! We’d like to have him come out and check all the cattle individually, as well as steer a couple of our young bulls. One of the cows ended up with a funny looking swelling on her backside after calving, and it hasn’t gone away. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all, but I’m sure we ought to have it looked at. Nathan recently discovered that one of the piglets has an umbilical hernia. I don’t think there is much a vet could do about that outside of cost prohibitive surgery, so I think we’ll try duct tape to hold the hernia in and wait for it to heal on its own. And maybe the vet could give us some pointers on castrating male pigs…
In the kitchen, I have been pressure canning quite a bit; I’m quite at ease with it now. Even though we didn’t have a garden this summer due to the move, and therefore no produce to “put up”, it appears that canning bone broth may become a year round activity. We have so many chicken bones, feet, and necks, it would terrible to waste them, especially since these bird bones yield a much more nutritious and rich tasty broth than any you can find in a store! And of course there is the beef broth from the cow we culled last Thanksgiving. Utterly delicious. And plentiful!
I’ve also been experimenting with new foods, as well. Since my recently acquired food allergies do not seem to be going away anytime soon, I’m slowly venturing into the world of gluten free substitutes. Hence, the reason we had pizza with a homemade chickpea flour crust the other day. It was quite easy to make and the result was satisfactory. It’s definitely not a puffy crust like Dominoes (no yeast makes a quicker meal on the table) but the flavor was well rounded. I topped it with cheese and arugula, which gave it a nice twist.
Oh, and that other picture over there on the right? That is a comparison of the size of chicken testicles. Our last batch of roosters that we processed had a good number of individuals with rather large male parts (some as large as their hearts, in fact), which got me thinking – “Do people eat these?” A cursory internet search found that these organs are indeed edible, are a popular street food in Taiwan, and a delicacy often found at fairs in Hungary. So of course we had to try them. Or rather, I cooked them for Nathan to try. 😀 They have hardly an flavor on their own, and so are cooked with spices and aromatics until almost bursting. I believe Nathan described the texture as “smooth”. After testing a couple different recipes, though, I think we came to the conclusion that it’s probably not an organ worth bothering about at this point in time. Livers and hearts are probably more nutrient packed, and meatier (read, more satisfying) too.
Oh, and I can’t forget to mention: Calf #3 made her appearance earlier this week! She’s a big beautiful heifer, and we named her Tango. Here she is with Momma Straw. We are expecting at least three more calves soon, to make a total of 19 head of cattle.
Till next time, live life with lots of exclamation points (the good kind)!!!