Saturday, September 28, 2013

September Tempest and the Final Chicken Round-Up

It a dark and stormy night. Isn't that how campfire stories start off as? 'Cept we weren't camping. And it isn't a scary story. It was just really dark and really stormy. The rain was driving down in sheets, and the gusting wind was blowing the precipitation sideways. The storm hadn't even come in full force yet. But we had a job to finish - the last batch of meat chickens needed to be loaded up in the truck for their one-way trip to meet their butcher.

The chicken tractor in the truck bed, and the cab filled with coolers ready to go. We just had to pack up the chickens. Usually, we wait until the morning of to get the chickens in the truck, but this time, we had been scheduled for an earlier slot, and no one wanted to have the great chicken round-up at 5 in the morning. We waited until the birds had all settled down for the night to make the job easier. By then, the storm had arrived.

With Jake on one side of the fence to put the birds into the truck as we brought them up to him, it was up to Dad and me to catch the slumbering poultry products. In the dark. In slippery 'mud.' With the wind blowing and the rain pouring. I'll stop playing my moaning fiddle now.

When we got to the other end of the pasture (which is where the birds bedded down), the tarp tents that we had made were barely holding on to the posts. Actually, some of the corners lost their grommets and had become shredded in the wind. We sliced the baling twine used to tie the tarps, and we set the red-neck structure-staples to the side with some weights on them to prevent them from blowing away. It was chicken catching time.

We each would catch two and slowly make our way back to the road where Jake and the truck were waiting. We passed the chickens over the fence to him, tried to keep count of how many birds we had loaded up, failed utterly at that, gave up on counting, and kept on the trudging gingerly through the wet grass and slippery 'mud' trying not to find the trip wires, er, I mean, the grape trellising anchor wires. And repeat. When all was said and done, we were soaked to the bone. Even our leather gloves had become saturated. Dad was smart - he wore the rubber duck yellow rain coat. If I had just added some soap to my sweatshirt and jeans, they would've been the cleanest things in my closet.

Take a step back. Breathe. We're done. No more meat birds. No more trips to the butcher. Until next year. But by then, we have had a winter to recuperate, and we're ready to start again.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Farm Girl Got Geek: Lembas Bread

If you're a regular human being, September 22nd is the first day of fall. If you're a Lord of the Rings junkie, it's Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday, and it's Hobbit day to the fandom. Since it was a gully gusher of a day, I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with a Lord of the Rings role playing game and eating tons of food a-la-hobbit style. 

But, as good as regular food is, something about making your regular food go with the theme of the day. So I set out to make Elven lembas bread, the traveling food of the Elves of Middle Earth. Batch of cookies? Check. Mallorn leaves? Uh... That's something that needs doing. You can't have lembas without the mallorn. I found a leaf pattern, but they used foam to make the leaves. I didn't have foam handy, and I didn't feel that the foam would work very well for a method of aesthetic food delivery. I did have felt. A lot of felt. And in green too. How convenient! ;) Cut out the pattern and sew all the veins of the leaf. Voila'! Mallorn leaves. 

Just had to pass it by the critics - the brothers. One thought that it was the coolest thing ever. The other thought that all that all the extra leaf and string action was just hindering his cookie consumption.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Choking Goat?

Yes, apparently goats can choke. I had no idea. You learn something new every day. A goat can choke on something if it's the right size, right shape, etc, etc, etc. It's gotta be just so to block that airway.

We were just doing morning chores. Nothing new there. (Why does everything unpleasant happen either during the middle of the night or during morning chores?) We gave the goats their regular morning grain mix with some sliced carrots when one of them started making the nastiest sound "BAA---!" Who needs coffee to wake you up when you hear that? That was certainly more than enough to instantly grab your attention; did we really hear what we just heard? "BAA---!" Em and I rushed over to see what was going on. Poor girl was pacing around, rubbing against anything, foaming at the mouth and struggling to even get a gasp. How she managed a baa of that decibel level is beyond me. Emi and I looked at each other wondering what on earth we're supposed to do (if you're to do anything at all). She laid down only to get right back up again and continue her frantic behaviors. She laid down again, this time she didn't have as much gumption to get back up; her eyes started getting glazed over. We consulted Dr. Google, nothing, so onto more professional assistance - the dreaded vet call. Whenever you call the vet, it always ends up being a gargantuan bill when all is said and done. They wanted us to bring her in?! But what if she doesn't make it down the hill? What if we pull into the parking lot with a dead goat? What if...? Just crate her up and head down the hill. It's all we knew we could do.

Well, she wasn't dead when we got there. She was actually doing really well. Perfectly normal in fact. Darn goat. Well, they checked on her anyway to make sure that the airway was fully cleared. Since we were there, they did a check up to make sure nothing else was lurking. All clean. No mites/lice, good coat shine, good eye color, etc, etc, etc. We had a healthy goat on our hands. Going to the vet was certainly not on the docket for the day's grand plan.

Lesson learned? Shred the carrots. No more just sliced carrots for these caprines.
And goat Heimlich. We learned the goat Heimlich. I'll have to get some pictures sometime to show you how awkward it really is. ;)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Small Farm School 2013

The sun was just peaking over the horizon on Saturday morning when my mom came in to wake me up. I rolled out of bed and put on my 'cleaner' jeans and my new 'You might be a farm girl' shirt. I didn't even dare look in the mirror - it was too early. ;) Then Mom headed out to milk the goats, and I was off to do what chicken chores I could do by myself since the rest of the posse was still wrapped up in their toasty warm beds. After a quick bite of breakfast and pulling ourselves together, we (Dad, Mom, Caity and I) loaded up into the car 15 minutes later than we had hoped and hit the road to go the this year's small farm school put on by Oregon State University (Why do the schedule this sort of thing so early in the morning when the target audience has a farm and animals? I'm still trying to figure that one out). We arrived in time to get our registration packets and get settled in our respective classes. To maximize all that was offered this year, my parents and I used the 'divide and conquer' technique. Caity learned all about tractors (safety, driving, attaching implements, etc.) Dad took the berry path; Mom focused mainly on dirt, what's in it, and what can make it better. Me? Being my ADD sort of self, I bounced all over the place.

First session was all about raising small flocks of chickens. According to the instructor, a 'small flock' is anything  less than 3,000 laying hens. 3,000! I can't even begin to imagine that many birds on our property.
The next class was taught by a master gardener. Can you guess what it was about? ;) Transplanting veggie starts. And since the day was all about small farms, he took it the larger scale garden route.
By this point, my stomach was demonstrating a vast array of whale calls; it was time to eat. I scarfed my lunch down as fast as I could for two reasons - 1) I was competing with yellow jackets for my roast beef and 2) I heard some 'baas' and 'neighs.' Caity and I scurried the direction of the animal sounds and we found a draft horse, some alpacas and a couple of sheep.

Of course, animal time was cut short due to the next session starting.

I was then immersed in the world of honey bees. Their biology, what makes them tick, some basic bee keeping, and the lo-down on colony collapse disorder. It's called a disorder for a reason since it's not a disease - it's a certain set of symptoms with numerous contributing factors ranging from pesticide usage to suppressed immune systems to miteicide (am I spelling that right?) to a lack of genetic diversity. Say wha? Yeah, apparently the 1920 Bee Act prevented any more bringing in of bees from international sources. Hmm.

It's usually by this time of the day that I check out. My brain decides that it's nap time. So instead of going to a chemistry-laden dirt class like my mom did, I decided to enroll in the writing farmers session. With the smaller class size, it was much more personal. We went around the room saying our names, a little bit of our writing background, etc. It was intriguing to hear all varying reasons and uses for writing in the farming world. Some put together newsletters or worked with CSAs. Others, like me, just write for the heck of it.

The end of the day and I went kaput. Emergency ice cream was much needed. So ice cream I procured. With my head full of new ideas and tons of notes and my stomach full of ice cream, I sat down at my desk that evening and tried to get this post written. It didn't quite happen on the schedule that I was hoping for. The ice cream was good though. ;)