by Throwback at Trapper Creek
It has been a challenging year here in the Pacific Northwest weather-wise, for gardeners and farmers. I wrote several weeks ago about my gardening challenges during the rainiest spring (since 1888) on record. This week I will share some of the challenges the rainy weather has had on our other livestock.
While our cattle have enjoyed the cool, damp weather and the pastures have flourished, our meat chicken flock has been in a holding pattern waiting for more moderate weather.
Ideally, we brood our chickens for about 3 weeks and then move them outside to their floorless pasture shelter for the remainder of their grow out time. This year the challenge was finding a window of 3 days or so for them to make the transition. It didn't happen. During the month of May and now into June our location never had more than about 20 hours without rain. I learned a long time ago not to be afraid to break the "rules." I could have stuck to my guns and pastured those birds from 3 weeks, but it wouldn't have been prudent to do so. On one hand we want them to have access to fresh pasture, but the flip side of this too, is that we also don't want them to be miserable, and consuming food just to keep warm. So we waited and we brought greens to the chickens, and patiently waited for spate of sunny days.
Finally, a stretch of dry weather was forecast, so yesterday we caught the broilers and pullets and moved them outside to their pen. The easiest low stress way (for them and us) is to just use a piece of plywood to block a few in the corner of the brooder at a time. Any scrap will do, this one happens to be my hanging plant shelf, and is about 2' x 8'.
Moving to greener pastures.
To move the birds a short distance and to make the move easier on everyone, we use what we call the CHICKSHAW. Basically a wheelbarrow with a lid of some sort. My husband had fashioned quite an elaborate Chickshaw out of an old wheel barrow, complete with a hinged lid, but it has seen better days. So we just improvised, and used a scrap piece of hardware cloth for a makeshift lid on our stable cleaning wheelbarrow.
Arriving at their new home.
Ideally, I would have liked to have the birds on pasture sooner, but we have to play the cards we are dealt. There are always pros and cons to everything and on the positive side, while the birds were in, we were able to add to the compost pile with the extra manure and bedding.
Signing on to raise our own food, sometimes means changing direction and following a different route.
This blog will not be adding more posts but will remain open for you to access the information that will remain here.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
by Abby of Love Made the Radish Grow
I gotta say that I have trouble trying to decide what to talk about when it comes time to blog-especially this time of year when time is at a premium. So, I think I'll talk about something along those lines.
By this early part of summer we are just about finished planting until the fall crops go in, yet the amount of work is still incredible. We are mulching, weeding, harvesting, mowing, raking, tending the animals, maintenance work like deck care, painting and tending decorative beds, plus the usual day to day. It gets pretty crazy. It seems most nights I come in from working and dinner is that last thing I want to deal with. We have several things to help keep us out of the local eateries (though supporting local small mom and pop joints isn't a bad thing every now and then). I use my crock pot for easy sandwiches, and the grill for a burger, pizza or steak. But we get tired of even those. About six months ago I started a freezer meal group-a group of six ladies who gather at our home once a month to cook all day. At the end of the day each family goes home with six different meals for the freezer. We go so far as to rotate categories so each member cooks from groups they may not regularly like lamb, goat and vegetarian. We also post all the recipes to a blog so that others can make what they ate. It is wonderful having those meals on hand when I walk in the door late. I am also very blessed to share time with a dear friend and her family, which includes a husband with mad kitchen skills. While my friend and I work on various tasks around the farm (they reap the benefit of sharing in harvests) her husband works on feeding us, which is awesome. The last backup we have is the newest. A friend has started a microbusiness supplying meals to others in the area with gourmet dinners. Each week this chef-gone-mama sends out an email detailing what that week's two options are. You can have one or both. In a couple days she makes things up and you can either have them delivered (if you're within 8 miles of her home) via bicycle or you can pick them up to put in the fridge until you need them during the week. After accounting for one freezer meal, two chef-mama meals, one mad skills friend meal and one crockpot meal, that leaves the weekend, when we work the hardest, but often also reward ourselves by eating out a meal or two for rest. Without all this, so much less would happen as coming inside in order to get dinner on the table would cut back on time substantially. I get creative during the winter months when I am cooped up-summer ends up being fresh veggies and grilling, but even that is tedious sometimes. Our lunches end up being chopped fresh veggies and cheeses with hummus or a sour cream dip. I love the fresh produce available this time of year, and luckily it is easy to enjoy without much effort. Even so, I love that we have found ways to still eat great food all year round, even when mama can't be in the kitchen all day working on it.
What are your strategies for getting dinner on the table on those crazy days?
Monday, April 19, 2010
by Throwback at Trapper Creek
Many times dreams or goals have to change due to unforeseen circumstances. For a long time my husband and I have been working towards being off-grid when it comes to our food supply. What comes to mind when the term off-grid comes up is electricity, but food security was a larger concern for us. To us electricity is a luxury I guess, which allows us to use our computer, use freezers for some of our food, and generally make our lives a little easier. If it were to go away we might be uncomfortable and crabby without being able to entertain ourselves after dark, but we really don't need it. We pump our water with water power, we heat our home, water and cook with wood from our forest. So really all our basic needs can be met without electricity. We decided to put our efforts into our food supply.
And we actually were doing a pretty good job, until my husband was diagnosed with Crohn's. He had lived with all sorts of digestive upsets since he was a child, but never really had a definitive answer. Besides that diagnosis, through his very competent ND, he has identified many food allergens that really have always thrown him for a loop. Unfortunately, some were staples that we were counting on with our off-grid food plans. Potatoes, tomatoes, & eggs to name a few. Back to the drawing board. This was major.
We had just spent the last 16 years rounding out our year-round harvesting fresh food plan, now it was needing to change fast. Besides the garden having to change, I had to wrap my mind around making sure every meal he ate was the most nutritious it could be, since he is not able to absorb all the available nutrients in his food. I never thought I would be the wife or mother who fixed separate foods at mealtime for different family members. But, plans change, I had to adapt and make the best out of a bad situation. I had a sick husband and a growing teenager, both needing different foods at the same time. These days, one meal component may be the same for all of us, but I have to mix and match ingredients and cooking methods. Sometimes it is as simple as corralling the potatoes with foil in a roasted vegetable dish, or using different fillings in his enchilada. I use bone broth instead of water for braising liquids or to cook rice with. Yeah rice...rice is the seed of choice for many of his meals. So much for being off the food grid, we have no desire to bend our land around growing rice, so we have to make peace with the fact that we are buying this staple. We needed to buck up, and get over it, move forward and change our thinking.
Changing our thinking means I have to see the positive. Growing less potatoes lightens my workload. Not fretting over tender salad greens for the entire family all winter, means I can devote more space to more hardy braising greens. And for food to truly be nourishing it should be prepared with love and kind thoughts and be comforting. My poor DH truly misses his potatoes, and he sees us eating them daily, but I have found that by substituting celeriac for the potatoes in dishes, just seeing the white vegetable eases that longing for him. So simple, yet so hard to come up with solutions. Always trial and error.
All in all we still provide much of our food: dairy, meats, vegetables and most fruits come from the work of our own hands. We must accept with grace the cards we are dealt and make the best of it. We need to feel the change in our hearts and then the mind will follow.
Have you had any challenges in your situation that have changed your goals?