CW: harvesting animals
This spring we hatched out a few dozen chicks. And when you hatch out a few dozen chicks, it is inevitable you will get some roosters.
We hatched out these chicks with the intention of testing our roosters genetics. And in about a month the ladies should start laying and I will finally know – does my rooster carry one, two, or NO copies of the blue egg laying gene? I bought these chicks as “purebred” wheaten ameraucana chickens. When they arrived, there were issues, not the least of which is that one of the hens started lay BROWN eggs, which mans she carried NO copies of the blue egg gene. Given that these birds are supposed to lay blue eggs, and blue is a simple dominant, there’s a real chance that the rooster could carry any mix of blue egg genes too. That’s a problem. Purebred Ameraucanas are not only supposed to be blue egg layers, they’re supposed to all have two copies of the blue egg gene so that every Ameraucana lays blue eggs every time.
So we hatched out a group of chicks from brown eggs and one group from blue. If our rooster produces any brown egg laying chicks, we know that he carries only one blue egg gene. If he can’t produce any blue egg laying chicks from the brown eggs he has NO blue egg laying genes and needs immediate replacement. If every chick lays blue eggs, he has two copies and is a good to keep long term. The chicks are still only 14 weeks old, so we have some time still on that. About a month, I suspect.
But these boys… Oh boy. When you start to get several cockerels (roosters under a year) in one place at one time, all growing up together, they get a little noisy. The first crow was weak, warbly, and barely heard at 10 weeks.
Then by 12 weeks we had two crowing. And they would go back and forth. A decision was made to eat them ASAP. We can’t have that much noise. So we set about putting together our new chicken plucker I got for Yule this year from my MIL. She’s a wonderful lady who helps enable my animal habits with really nice equipment. Each year I try to limit my requests to one large item and always get more than I expect. This year is was a full Yardbird chicken plucker.
Upon assembly we discovered missing parts, which the Yardbird facility immediately shipped out. But they got caught up in COVID delays. So they finally arrived this week and we set to work.
After much fiddling, we finally got it running, the hose hooked up, and now at long last we are cockerel free. Instead we have several delicious whole chickens, resting in the fridge, ready to eat once rigor passes.
These are the cleanest plucked chickens we’ve ever had. The plucker did a great job, and it was fast. No more hand plucking! Never ever again if we can avoid it! We did two at a time and it was over lickity split.
The bad news is these chickens are just about the smallest bird this monster of a plucker can manage. These chickens processed out to 2lbs or so each and it still dislocated the occasional ankle or hip joint. It would never handle, say, a quail.
We may end up getting a cordless drill plucker if we do get quail in the future.
Since we recently renewed our NPIP certificate, that means it’s time to start selling stuff. We’re currently taking orders for hatching eggs! Our hatching eggs are $12 for 10 eggs and we ship all across the USA! Shipping is $13 USPS priority flat rate. We take paypal as our main form of payment.
People who read this blog know that we keep a robust mixed flock that lays a variety of egg colors. Our rooster is a blue egg laying breed which means the offspring of my chickens are Easter Eggers! All the offspring will lay a variety of shades of blue eggs and will come in a large number of colors. Here are some photos of eggs and chicks from this flock, including some of previous years adults! The eggs will be blue, white and brown but will all hatch into shades of blue or tinted eggs layers.
We’re also taking orders for a batch of meat chickens this year.
Our meat chickens are robust, pasture-raised birds with a great taste. Because we feed a wet feed, they do not suffer from the extreme growth rates and chronic dehydration that many commercially farmed chickens do. Our chickens are raised out to be slightly older than grocery store chickens giving the meat a slightly firmer texture and a stronger flavor. They also come out to be very large birds, becoming a 5-8lb whole bird. A single breast could easily feed three! The birds are $25 for one or $20 each for 2 or more.
We are happy to piece out a bird for you into traditional cuts, including boneless breasts or skinless anything. If you ask for us to not include anything (such as the rib cage bones for soup, giblets, etc.) you do so with the understanding that it will reduce your overall product weight.
So where is your food coming from this year? Are you ordering your hatching eggs from a large hatchery-style facility with chickens in cages? Please consider supporting small farmers instead by placing an order with us or one of the many other fantastic small farms out there!
If you’d like to contact us about purchasing hatching eggs or meat chickens, please see our Contact us page! Thanks!
Last month there was a major historical moment that passed in the blink of an eye. I doubt most of you know it, but this year our global average temperature exceeded 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial era average temperature.
(And if you’d like to ignore this fact, please feel free to be an ostrich and just scroll down to sausages. Truly, sometimes we just need some tasty food, not a morose look at our reality.)
Most people don’t even flinch at a two degree difference because it’s such a tiny number to us. For those of us in America its about a 3.6F difference. What harm could a few tiny degrees of temperature do? Well, as it turns out, a lot since it’s not like we’re going from a high of 90F to 93.6F in the summer. That number (2C or 3.6F) is the global SURFACE temperature, but what typically controls the weather is ocean and atmospheric temperatures (such as El Nino) where a change of 3.6F surface temperature can translate into changing the temperature of whole oceans, even well under the surface. That comes back up to the surface later, and with so much more warm water, absorbing even more of the sun’s energy it has an exponential effect on our surface temperatures in hot areas, translating to an actual change far greater than that of 3.6F. In truth, the gap between where we are now and a global average climate change is exponential. For example, an increase of 9F is not going to translate into Nebraska going from an average high of 88 to an average high of 97… It is going to take Nebraska from an average high of 88 to an average high of 130F or higher.
Imagine for a moment the north pole. This past December the temperature at the NORTH POLE reached nearly 0C. That seems like a low number, but that is 32*F. The point at which water freezes. Now do you know what’s under the ice at the north pole? Ocean. Ocean that absorbs heat from the sun and air, rather than reflect light and cool air the way ice does. You know what else is under the ice (or more specifically IN it)? Methane, which absorbs more heat from the sun than other air particles. So you know what happens if that ice starts to melt? A chain reaction, where the ice melting causes MORE heat to become trapped on earth, which makes more ice melt, which makes more heat become trapped…
Well, I’ll let this guy explain the very scary reality of it to you;
This is an older video, four years in fact. Average global temperatures will probably reach +1.5*C in the next decade and we’re close to that now. Now what this guy doesn’t mention is the SOCIAL impacts of these problems. And if you think they won’t happen you’re kidding yourself; we’re already seeing them.
And that incredibly shocking number, that so many people claim is just people being silly liberal naysayers but is actually well documented science, is a symptom of a much larger problem which is the drought in the middle east. The lack of water in the middle east has become a huge problem and if you think that the whole “not having food thing” has nothing to do with people getting angry, revolting, and killing each other, one needs only look back on every war ever where people started starving and revolting and killing each other. Just imagine adding to that the concept that both sides think THEIR God is punishing them for allowing the other side to live or some other religious nonsense and the fact that the US and other countries have been exploiting the middle east for petty power struggles, money, oil and world dominance for 100 years and it becomes a no brainer that people there are violent, angry, aggressive, extremists who just wanna destroy the whole world and take everything they’ve been denied for decades for themselves. Is it right? No, but it is definitely real.
And if you think “Well they’ve always had their silly religious wars and they have always been a desert. That won’t ACTUALLY reach America.”, think again. We feel the effects of those conditions every day through recessions from wars, terrorist attacks, TSA searches and oil prices as it is. Those effects spread, they have a butterfly effect. The recession put my dad out of work, no money meant my mother wouldn’t go see a doctor as she got sick, it means cancer had a chance to run amok in her body for years, and it means that on March 15th I will be honoring the day she DIED because some guys I never met dozens of years ago decided America needed more money and oil and set the precedence for our foreign policy in the middle east and our environmental policy of “ignore everything”.
And if the effects of foreign bodies reaching into the US and having chain reaction events aren’t enough or are too vague, remember that people are killed and threatened for not following a particular religious belief in the US rather frequently as it is. One only needs to look at our current presidential election to witness divides between frustrated people in a poor economy. And the droughts and aberrant weather patterns? They’re here,they have been here (for quite some time),and they will get much, much worse in the future. We are HOMESTEADERS. What happens when we get so little rain that we can’t grow our plants and animals any more? What will YOU do when your farm dries up to a crisp or is flooded under a foot of water for nine months of the year from these conditions? What will you do when people get fed up with being shot at for being different than “the norm” and don’t even have food and shelter and they decide to start picking up guns of their own? What will you do when it’s YOUR family being threatened by that instability?
The future is scary. It’s terrifying. I never thought I’d see the day when the conspiracy theories that my parents used to listen to on college radio would seem not so far fetched after all.
So what am I doing about it? Well, I’m trying to found an egalitarian Ecovillage here in Northeast Ohio, a project I feel like Wiki does a fair job of explaining. We’ll live sustainably, we’ll form communal supportive bonds, we’ll rely on each other, and try to live well and respect other people without the discriminatory, violent, hateful, exploitation that permeates our current societal structure… Care to join us? (No, seriously, if you’re interested, please let me know!)
But beyond that, global change is out of my hands. I can change myself, but after that it’s not really up to me. It’s up to all of YOU folks out there. Like the TEDx video says; if you see this, it’s now your mission to make the impossible possible. Because without it we’re all screwed.
And in the meantime… I will show you some delicious sausages.
I had some friends over recently to help me prepare some rabbit sausages that, I must say, came out rather deliciously. I did my digging and my research and here’s how we did it. Your results may vary.
We started by testing out the meat grinder that I received for Christmas two years ago. Because of how tumultuous the following two years were, I never got around to using it so this was the first time it had been out of the box. It works very well, so I will endorse it but it does seem to have some clogging issues during stuffing. Not sure if that would be better or worse on a different model. The most frustrating thing about this grinder was the very short cord on it. I sure hope you’re prepared to use this large contraption on a small counter right next to an outlet and not on a tabletop! Or you could, you know, buy an extension cord.
Next, we deboned and cut the rabbit meat into chunks. the best time to do this is when the rabbit is still partially frozen but you can cut through it. Unfortunately this is VERY cold on our wee little fingers and difficult to deal with it. But we persevered and left a carnage of bones in our wake.
This was the hardest part. We also cut up some pork belly into it. Rabbit meat has almost no fat and so it makes a terrible sausage on it’s own. It really needs fat from another source so that it doesn’t turn into rubber when it is fried. Most people say to use half pork-half rabbit like one does with deer meat. Out of 9lbs of ground meat, about 1.5lbs were pork belly, so a much lower pork to rabbit ratio than most people suggest. I really didn’t want to use a lot of pork because I wanted rabbit sausage, not rabbit-and-pork sausage and this ratio of 1.5lbs pork belly to 7.5lbs boneless rabbit worked out just fine. It gave plenty of fat for cooking and retained the rabbit flavor of the sausage. The pork belly came from a local market and was from an Ohio hog.
We ground the meat and mixed the batches together to make sure that the pork was well distributed. For grinding meat, the grinder worked like a dream. Then we split the meat into two bowls and let it rest in the fridge while we mixed seasoning. We made equal amounts of two types of sausage; Italian and maple breakfast links. We got hog casings from our local big-box grocery. They sold what they called enough “all natural salted hog casings” for 25lbs of meat (which is probably accurate) in a tiny half-pint container for about $2.50. It was right in there along with Sugardale bacons, Johnsonville brats and cured box-store hams, so if you’re looking to make sausage, casings may be closer than you think! The maple syrup was 100% pure Ohio maple syrup. My herbs come from a local Italian restaurant supply store where I can get them in bulk for cheap. All around I spent maybe $9 on outside supplies and perhaps $1.50/lb on my own rabbit meat, meaning perhaps $2.50/lb on high quality natural sausage. Is it a good price for the product? Yes. Could I make money on it? Probably nah. Could I have done it cheaper? Probably yeah. Around here, chicken sausage goes for about $4/lb, which I think is a good comparison and it’s not the same quality product at all. Some day we may be able to provide all of these things to ourselves and not have to source anything from off the farm.
For recipes we just looked up recipes online and created an approximation of a mix of them, especially those for chicken sausages. We put more maple in the breakfast than was called for, and used wine as our liquid in the Italian.
We decided to do the Italian as bulk stuffed and the breakfast as links. We would keep some loose from each batch. Stuffing the sausages was much rougher than grinding the meat the first time and so I didn’t get any pictures of the actual process.
Ultimately we had some problems with the sausage meat clogging up the grinder and getting turned into mush. Every time we’d clean it out after this we’d get about 3″ of clean meat before it’d clog again. I suspect that a bit of oil and feeding it a bit more slowly and loosely may have helped with the problem but we were aiming for something with a lower fat content and so adding liquid oil seemed counter-productive and we really had no idea what we were doing. In the future we may add a little less pork and a little more liquid oils during the stuffing process; olive for the Italian and vegetable for the breakfast.
Breakfast links. The ones that stuffed correctly on the right and incorrectly on the left. You can see the difference between the correct “lumpy” texture and the lighter over-worked much texture on the left. Both still tasty.
Tubes of Italian with the same problem. “properly” ground lumps on the inside, over-worked meat on the outside.
Ultimately we cooked it up and had some really high quality sausage and some lower quality but still delicious sausage. I gave some to my friends, helpers and family and kept back plenty for myself. We will not be buying store sausage again for a good long while! Yum!
Some of the over worked breakfast sausages and some loose crumbles cooking in a bit of water as a taste-test. While the texture was wrong, they’re delicious and edible.
I hate to have such a news-y blog post but our great, grand money-grubbing government and FDA has done it again. They’re overhauling our food regulation system only for fresh produce, and it could seriously effect small farms. Some of us could loose our only real opportunities for profit because of this bill they are proposing. Currently it has a heavy focus on regulating fresh produce production with no focus on regulating big industry farming with accountability in areas such as corn or dairy.
The bill is called “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption”.
Things like this slip by many of us who are just getting into the industry (and many of us who aren’t) with no notice. This bill has been in proposal for months now and yet I am only just now hearing about it? They’re not making these things known to small farmers. This does not show up on the evening news. There’s nobody delivering pamphlets about it. And because of a lack of exposure there’s no campaign to make these terrible regulations STOP before they get worse. The best part is? It takes the better part of a week to read all the nearly 550 pages of the bill and understand them all. How on earth are we supposed to even propose a carefully written comment to our government about the poor management of a bill that, because we spend all our time farming, we don’t even have time to READ THE BILL. Ignorance is how they push it past us, and we should not tolerate it!
This bill will cost small farmers thousands of dollars a year. In the proposal itself it says that it will cost “very small farms” (previously in the bill suggested to be people who SELL less than 25K/yr in produce, not even who make 25K/yr profit) nearly $5000 annually. That means it could take what little profit you make and sweep it away if you’re a very small farm, especially an urban farm.
The bill is very vague on it’s regulations in regards to small farms. Most of us have direct accountability for our food anyhow. If I sell you a chicken and it makes you sick, well, then I’m screwed. You know exactly where that chicken came from and you’re gonna tell everyone I sell chickens that make people sick. We don’t need more regulations because we already have the highest standards from the highest level of accountability and transparency in our food production.
Now they’re imposing regulations on small farms that, due to poor wording, could make it so that many farms cannot sell “value added” products such as chopped bagged salad mixes, jams, jellies, pickles and other canned goods, grain mixes, milled grains, dries fruits or roasted nuts. These products would make your small farm a “food production facility” and subject to dozens of more regulations that would cost you thousands of dollars to meet each year; more than what most of us make profit-wise. Some small farms may not even be able to sell regular produce because they use things like saved rain water for their plants.
This same bill is coming from the organization that has allowed companies like Monsanto to control our food supply, that has banned raw milk because factory dairy production can’t meet safe raw milk standards, that is run and paid for by nothing but retired big agriculture CEOs pushing their own agenda… By the same organization that thinks it’s OK to pump our animals full of hormones, to feed calves cow’s blood in place of milk, and has NO regulations on a whole range of chemically and genetically “enhanced” plants that are banned in over 50 other countries. You’ll notice that this bill does NOT regulate those things at all. It almost exclusively effects fresh produce.
Please note that the comment period for this bill is only until September of this year. It’s only open that long because of a 90-day extension and it’s only JUST NOW showing up in our news at all. Take a moment out of your day, even just to write a few lines on this to our government and the FDA to express our displeasure with them once again trying to run small business farms into the ground. If you want to take more action, contact all your family and friends. There are less than two thousand comments on it right now, and we can make that number skyrocket. Share this through your social media, through e-mail, ask people to just take ten seconds out of their day to write something as simple as “Please re-word this bill to make sure that small farms are protected. I support my local small farms and they are concerned about how this bill will impact their already small profits.” It only takes a moment and it makes all the difference in the world.
Support your local small farms and businesses. Write a comment. Make sure the FDA knows how you feel about it. Do you eat local, organic, sustainable produce? If you don’t say something that could no longer exist in just a few years. Don’t let that happen; make sure your voice is heard!
Today was processing day. My friends (four of them) showed up for the day right on time. One of them brought some champagne and we watched the processing a rabbit video twice. We discussed how it was going to be done and looked at the rabbits. Eventually the time was nigh, and we took one of the boys outside.
Broomsticking is harder than it looks. The first time I did nothing but upset the rabbit and it started screeching when I let up on the stick. This was quickly remedied and the neck popped. But I seriously hesitated, and may not have followed through if not for a friend literally stepping in to help. Off came the head with the scissors and I sat back and looked on. Still OK. Normally I’m pretty sensitive to blood but in this case I was OK. I’m glad I can deal with this at least!
Then came the skinning and gutting. It went VERY well. The videos and prepping I have done made all of it work out. I separated the organs for the dogs (lungs, heart, liver, kidneys) and pulled out the guts. It was messy but turned out. I had a good set-up; sturdy packing paper around my cleaning station to catch the guts, pan for edible organs, bucket of bleach water for scissors and knife and a bucket of rinse water for after the bleach. One more bucket for skins. The rabbits went indoors to be rinsed heavily and tidied up after each cleaning.
The cleaning went well and the rabbit went inside to be rinsed. Second rabbit was killed by a friend and the neck did not break right away either. It’s hard; they don’t tell you what to feel for. The first “pop” doesn’t do it, you have to KEEP pulling until you feel the second, much bigger pop and it feels like there is nothing between the stick and the earth. This is what they don’t tell you; until that big POP happens the rabbit is still alive a dying slowly; you have to end it RIGHT there. Once you feel the second pop you’ll know it and then you KNOW it’s done. The third rabbit was unfortunately similar done by me. None of the kills took “long” but an extra 10 seconds makes a difference to the rabbits. Next time it will be faster.
The third rabbit was skinned by my best friend. I love telling people about this girl because she is 5’2″, 100lbs and the most powerful girl I know. She drives a black jeep, hikes in the woods and does fencing and archery for shits and giggles. Her first time touching an animal for processing and she skinned the rabbit in just a couple of minutes. It was incredible. She popped the skin off like an expert hunter; she has never touched a live skin in her life. I love this girl to death and we have been friends for over 12 years. I’m honored every day to be friends with such an amazing person!
The fourth and fifth rabbits went very well, and were frozen aside for a taxidermist that wants some small animals to practice on.
Then the last rabbit, Tasty, was processed. I could not get ahold of my sister to give her away and I got in my new breeder; a lovely otter standard Rex rabbit. It was time for her to go. Being a HUGE 10lb rabbit made it harder but with the help of one of the more masculine muscular members there it was quick. Cleaning the rabbit was harder; Tasty was a big girl in life and in death her carcass felt like 50lbs. But actually cleaning her was the best I did on any of them and her pelt will be wonderful tanned.
As we killed each one we thanked them for their sacrifice. We thanked them for the lives they were giving to feed us, our customers and contribute to our income. We apologized for the need before setting them on the ground to dispatch them. While I raised them specifically for food, there’s a part of me that wished I could keep them all as pets forever and watch them live out their lives… But that’s not how the real world is.
By the last two rabbits I was happy and calm. I felt proud for my accomplishments; here I had kept and raised six animals under optimal conditions and turned them into my food. It’s amazing how fast the rabbits went in my mind from living animals to meat once they were dead. One of the four people I had with me commented how amazed she was that I had become so comfortable so quickly. But how could I not? I have been planning this for months, I knew where my food came from years ago, and I knew the animals lived well.
I am still waiting to hear back from the museum about the skulls. Unfortunately one of my friends screwed up the rabbits for the taxidermist a little, putting the one that was bleeding from it’s mouth head-down so it bled out a fair amount (which is bad). Greg was supposed to be the one to do this, but he didn’t. He flipped out a little when the whole, head-attached dead rabbits came in as well. I may have to offer a rather significant discount for the one that is messed up
At the end of the whole process my friends and I sat down to eat the fruits of our labor; two fryer rabbits, cooked in a crock-pot with extra spices and onions. Mashed potatoes and carrots on the side. We cracked open then champagne and some orange juice (for those who don’t drink) and had a toast. I think we all felt pretty good about the day, and next time it’ll go way better.
I am especially glad. I know tonight that my meal was free of chemicals from happy rabbits that lived well. And that’s mostly what I hope to pass on to anyone who eats my rabbits; that these rabbits lived and died well under extrodinary care.