Day two of roaster chickens is over. I took the second group of birds to the butcher yesterday. John had a day of work, but he helped me get them crated so I didn’t have to kill myself before I even got out of the driveway! It was a much more easy-going day than our first appointment a week ago. There weren’t as many of us lined up, and those of us that were there didn’t have any really huge numbers of birds. So things went smoothly and I was home by 1:30 for the washing, drying, inspection, bagging and tagging!
Once I get going it’s not too bad, but today I am feeling it. The birds are truly lovely. Not only were they beautiful to look at, but they are extremely tasty as well. We ate a really tiny one last week (we only had 2 that came in under 4 lbs) and were amazed at the flavor, and were totally blown away by the fact that the dark meat really is dark meat! And they were very good entertainment value as well because they acted like real chickens and were very active foragers. The roosters have been crowing up a storm in the past few weeks and strutting their stuff for the ladies. We are very pleased with them and hope that our customers are as well. Now I turn all my attention to t he lambs that need to get to the butcher in 3 weeks…
I seem to be falling off the blog wagon this past week or two. It’s been a very busy time. Butcher dates, and all sorts of farm things like moving sheep fencing in 98% humidity… not my favorite thing to do on a fairly steep hill! But it got done. The really exciting thing that happened this past week is that Pam of Hatchtown Farm and I were invited to Bridge Farm in Dresden to learn how to make soap. Having access to goat’s milk on a regular basis means that there is always a surplus, so I have been wanting to learn to do our own soap. The learning curve that revolves around the handling of lye has always stopped me in the past from just playing around with the process. So Pam and I went over for a lovely lesson, and came away with almost 7 lbs of gorgeous oatmeal lavender goat milk bars.
Well, the bars didn’t happen until 2 days later, but the smell is heavenly and I can hardly wait to start using it! It needs to cure for 3 more weeks, so in the meantime I admire it as I pass through our mudroom, where it sits in state on one of the big freezers :*)
Rhubarb the goat, that is. She had gone to live on a friend’s farm in Jefferson, a few towns over, early in the spring before she freshened. She had two beautiful kids. one a buck and the other a doe. Our friends have a young family and really enjoyed having her, but made the decision that milking goats was a little too confining for their lifestyle (ie, where are all the good farm sitters???). It really is a difficult thing to get away and to be flexible when you have to be around morning and night for milking. It’s been quite a challenge for us as well.
We really appreciated our friends calling us first when they decided to sell the goats. I was really happy to hear that Rhubarb might be able to come back to us. And she came back with her doeling, Baby Belle. Now we just have to work on Rhubarb’s milkstand manners (her sister SnowPea is much more laid back)! Whenever a goat is milked by a new person, especially in a new situation, the tendency is for them to try all their tricks. In this case, Rhubarb is very fond of kicking the bucket. We will have a meeting of the minds one of these days, but until then, her milk must continue to go into the plastic bucket for the pigs. They definitely are not complaining :*)
This has been the weekend for self-immolation, I think. On the eve of the anniversary of my mother’s death 7 years ago, we find ourselves once again working on clearing out the remnants of her house in town, in preparation for a friend to move in. We had another friend of the family renting the house for at least 5 of those years, and she had just put anything left behind into one or two rooms, and used the rest. (Being a very old, extended cape, there are a lot of rooms, and a lot of painting and sprucing up to do). The heat and humidity have been totally unbearable as well, making any movement a sweat-streaming agony. But we are getting ahead with the work, and today we even found some treasures that we thought had been lost forever in our year-long move from NJ 9 years ago! Right now John is sitting in his chair looking at some really old photos… we both have dark hair, no grays! Wow! But even better, I found some of the photos from the late 1920s and early 1930s of my dad’s family. I had resigned myself to having lost them somewhere along the way. Not being able to scan them right now, I photographed some of them (not very clearly!):
I wish we could *really* drive our ewe flock down the road the half mile to the pasture we use at a neighbor’s place, but I think it might be a little too crazy for me to deal with! The few cars that use our road as a cut-through frequently get going quite fast, so it would be too scary to consider, even if the girls were totally well-behaved. So the other alternative is to literally “drive” them down the street. I was talking about putting the girls in the back of the Forester one day at work, and our friend Dan of Henbogle suggested that we should re-name the Forester the “EweBaru!” If the name fits…
Another crazy 24 hours here at the Ruit Farm. Yeesh! It hasn’t stopped since 3 a.m. Yesterday I separated the last buckling from his mother, so when I went to bed at 10:30, there was some calling and baabaa-ing and maa-maaing, but I ignored and went to sleep. Around 2:30 a.m. I began to come to consciousness and realized that something was not going well outside. All the mama ewes were bellowing and sounding frightened, and the goaties were chiming in with their chorus of noises as well. By the time 3 a.m. came around I was really alarmed and got my husband up (I am sure he appreciated that!) and we debated who should go out and check on what was happening while he diligently got dressed and picked up the big flashlight. I watched from the bedroom window as he walked the 100 feet up the driveway to the turn-off into the paddock area. When he immediately turned around and started back down to the house, coming along pretty fast, I knew something was up. All the ewes were out and Zorro the llama was very agitated and on patrol. I initially thought it was just a chance breakout, but we have since found out that the coyotes have been very active on this section of the road in the past few nights. We now think that Zorro pushed his way through a cattle panel that probably had some less than new baling twine holding it together, in order to go after a coyote. He left a lot of his fiber on the fence so we know that he went over and/or through it. The ewes were initially happy to have gotten into a section of grass that I was saving, but then began to be afraid, I guess. They met John as he walked up the driveway, and he said that the field of weirdly fluorescent eyes were a little scary! As soon as I went up the majority of them followed me right into the paddock, back in with their lambs. Only a couple needed to be seriously baited and rounded up. Zorro refused entry and spent the night on patrol. He wouldn’t even come in this morning, he kept patrolling the perimeter fence all day. Around 4 he finally walked into the paddock area and went very sweetly into the fenced section. It was exhausting. Wish I had some photos… the moon gave us some light, but otherwise I basically stumbled around with a grain bucket in my hand, trying to lure the ewes back. Raven was the only one I had to catch by the leg and put a halter on. Pretty scary, but thanks to Zorro, not one ewe or goat was sacrificed. It sometimes feels like he is a superfluous presence here (and a crazy eating machine as well!), but I really do appreciate him! He needs a llama treat :*)
As for the rest of the day, I worked on getting our roaster chickens into the section of grass that the ewes cut down during the night, and then my son helped me get the majority of the ewes into the pasture, a half mile down the road. Then I walked the donkey down to join them. I am absolutely all done in! It is way too hot and humid for me. I guess I have to put up with it for the rest of the week, so I hope things let up a little bit! We missed the Round Pond 4th of July parade again, but with the heat and humidity, I am not sure that I would have enjoyed it anyway. Sigh! After all the water and electrolytes I drank today, I think I may have a glass of wine. The chicken that I had intended to barbecue is still in the oven, my husband is in bed, and I suspect that I am soon to follow. Tomorrow is another day.
Roaster chickens are on the schedule to be moved down to the pasture any moment now :*) The only thing that had put a kink in the works up until now was that we didn’t have a portable shelter put together for them yet. Life being what it is, we had some of the materials, but not all. Advice from a variety of sources gave us too many ideas to begin with, and in the end we decided to take the plunge with some 2X4s and bent hog panels with a tarp on top. The only thing we did that needs some tweaking, is that we placed the panels so that there is a two foot space between them in the middle that needs some support, so John is attaching 3 strips of wood that will hopefully do the trick.
So yesterday we got it put together. It’s nice to accomplish something useful as I so often feel as though I am just spinning my wheels! All we need is a tarp and we can get moving on this. Phew.
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!