Thursday, December 16, 2010

Living with the Nature Spirits

This one is known as the Chthulu Spawn. S/he eats the mice which we also live with, which would otherwise be overrunning the house. Mice which will not, simply not go near a trap, live or kill. But CS gets them.

Yes, it might be a bit disconcerting to have a wild animal living inside the house, but then again the mice are wild animals too. And cause a lot more issue with contaminating our living space. This critter, a Short-tailed or Least Weasel, aka a Stoat, currently in Ermine guise, stays in the walls or under the sink where s/he can pose for the camera. Also s/he or another is busy catching mice outside, as well. So far *knockwood* they've left the chickens alone and as long as they do they are welcome here. We have an agreement. And there are plenty of mice, which are more of a size for the taking. To get a chicken the weasel must get it while it sleeps, the hope that the others do not wake and stomp her/him to death while s/he eats what s/he can.

And they can kill chickens. In fact, I remember being told as a child by some of the "old timers" that weasels were "vampires" for they only drained the blood of chickens, didn't eat the flesh. Um, you know, even as a kid I realized that something this size wasn't going to be able to cart off a chicken 20 times bigger than it was. The best one can do is drag it a ways from the others, in hopes the others don't wake up and stomp her/him to death, eat what s/he can and then hope to come back for more. But, alas, the farmer has removed the "vampirized" chicken and a new one must be killed.

But mice are easier, they can carry off mice. And the mice are plentiful. So are voles, chipmunks and squirrels.

Should Chthulu Spawn dare enter the actual house, however, there are dogs. Four of them now, btw, as we've adopted another Border Collie/Aussie mix, named Sachairi, to help Gleann out and to balance things out with our Greyhounds, Òrlaith and Cù Mór. All three would be lethal to the little spawn of the netherworld.

However, they do not concern themselves with mice or voles, except for Sachairi, who only seems interested in them when they are outside minding their own business. And he prefers watching the squirrels. Outside, minding their own business. The Chthulu Spawn takes care of them in the walls where they cause trouble for us.

All in all, we are cozied down for the winter. New wood furnace, everyone winterized more or less (the goats did take out part of a plastic window, however, you know, where in the goat pic spam post you see Elína standing in it in warmer times. They apparently are displeased with having their favorite entrance/exit taken from them, although we've had some nights where they should be appreciating it. And we have plenty of meat in our freezer, with some smoked good still to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Goat picspam

For anyone new finding this, I thought that over the next few days I might just post a few photos of those we live with here:

The brown goat with the ears is Randvér, a wether, now about a year and half old. The black LaMancha cross is Elína, a doe of the same age. Both are mostly pets, which may be trained for packing. The were acquired when a long time homesteader who has raised almost every other type of livestock found that they were a bit too personable even for her to raise for meet. We decided the two Mini horses we inherited from my father (there were four, but two followed him) needed companions in case something happens to one of them, as they are elderly. But they also like hanging out with chickens and our young mare.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gettting this started ---preparing for the winter

I'd been thinking of doing a blog to record some of our activities as we try to get a bit of a restart on our homesteading. We didn't get as much done this past summer as we hoped. We have a wood furnace coming in, but it looks like we won't get our solar panels up until next spring. We never did agree on a tractor to buy, so a lot of work we need it for didn't get done.

But we have gotten back into chickens and we've made steps to get our animal products that we can't raise ourselves locally. We've been buying milk and eggs, while waiting for our new girls to grow up, from Baum Farm. We have a freezer pig coming from a co-worker of mine, as well as half a steer from another local farmer. Our half a lamb isn't all that local, coming from our friend, Jenn, who will be butchering it herself in a class out a couple of hours or so from here in Vermont.

The same friend and her husband came out here on October 9th for our chicken sacrifice. After one of our 25 or so Dorking chicks had died on us and a couple of others got caught by a fox who visited while we were away (and who I caught snoozing on the porch next to the pen, with the chickens right up near that part of the fence also snoozing, one of my first days home), we were left with 12 cockerels and 10 pullets. This is along with the four hens and one rooster we've had for awhile, and the one pullet chick one of those hens, our 9 year old clucker, hatched. Of course, a farm, and hens, can only handle so many roosters, so our plans was to keep one Dorking boy. Another one is going to go to our friends.

This year we had killing cones and an automatic defeatherer, courtesy of a local farm group. The cones were helpful but I have to say that I NEVER want to do this again without the defeatherer. Seriously, what a difference! Because the plucking was always the most time consuming...the time when we felt all our grandmothers looking from The Other Side laughing at us.

Aaron gathered up 10 of the cockerels, leaving the two who were actually hanging more with the pullets than the others. Both the ones left are good looking birds, good size, feathering, five toes (actually they all had the five toes Dorkings are supposed to have, which is a first for us) and, apparently, more courtly and friendly with the girls. Which is important, we don't want a rooster who the hens don't like. Choosing the actual sacrifice, the bird for the Gods was still difficult, as they were really all fine and healthy. Just two were a bit undersized and "chased" looking...the lowest on the pecking order.

As always, I'd been stressed over the killing before we started. It's not a fun thing, it shouldn't be, as far as I'm concerned. It should be hard. But it's also very spiritual for me. I did the sacrifice first, which also allowed me to connect fully with the Goddess I serve, and the four of us took his body up to the temple area.

With 9 left we did three, then took them to be scalded (to loosen the feathers) and put in the defeatherer. Um, didn't really dunk them long enough so it took a bit longer and we had to hand pluck those quite a bit. BTW, while it's a wonderful thing, it's kinda gruesome to watch. I fully beheaded the chickens (we kill by cutting the throat) first, which made it less gruesome than some of the videos of these things we watched the night before (as we hadn't used one before we wanted to see one at work first) where the chickens still had heads. They were clearly dead, but not so obviously so which made it look worse.

The next ones we dunked longer and it worked better. After doing the next three, while our friends continued to clean them, Aaron and I killed the last three. This made the process much faster. Working with others is a big plus compared to just us, so I'm thinking we might consider that next year, when they have their first mixed hatch (they got pullets this year), maybe we can spend a day helping them and they can spend a day helping us.

After a bit of haggling, we sent them home with two of the processed chickens. They wanted to only take one, but agreed to take the second on the grounds that she'll cook it for us sometime when we visit. Damn it! I should have made them take THREE and have her cook two for us. ~;p (She's an excellent cook, a professional foodie, even, The Leftover Queen) One of the two remaining boys is theirs, but they wanted to wait until they got things set up a bit more rather than just "throw him to the girls" with the way things are set up. So they'll get him when we get our lamb from her. Works out well.

Um, as long as the fox doesn't come around and one of the boys throws himself at it.

The other will be a second rooster here...we'll be breeding some pure Dorking, but also some hybrids with our red rooster with the Dorking hens and with this guy and the hybrid hens to give us some bigger eggs.

I just finished eating some of the chicken soup that we made from the remains of the first chicken we ate. Our pullets are becoming hens and we're getting eggs now, although still supplementing from Baum Farm for the moment. I'm starting to feel like we really are getting back into this. There's no reason why we should be buying any more meat from far away sources again, or any at all for another year.

So next year as well as doing this again (well, not buying chicks but breeding our own) we intend to get moving on our vegetable consumption. We did get local veggies all summer, but didn't do so well in getting in a garden or with getting into preservation so we're a bit stuck as we're going into winter. We're still getting some local carrots and lettuce, though. But next year, we'll do better on that.