Second Attempt at Flock Creation

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I still haven’t finished redoing the chicken house. I’ve made a lot of progress and I’m really excited about the changes we’ve made. You can see in this picture that the house is all set up for the chicks and I got the spot for my fencing supplies done. They’re on top of the nest boxes (the ones that need a door). I’m thinking of doing a sliding door, but I need to figure out how to set it up.

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One thing that has been kind of distracting is that we installed one of the windows from the house Dad has been working on. The house has always been darker than I would have liked, but with such short walls, it’s kind of hard to do anything about it. But this window, from a bathroom, looked like it would fit really well. It was great for height, but it was a little too wide for the studs, so Tony took the stud out and cut a hole in the wall and we nailed the window in. It’s amazing how much light that little window on the south side of the building lets in, but it’s really nice. I hope to have it covered with some hardware cloth by the summer so we can leave it open for more circulation in the summer.

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The babies arrived a little over a week ago and they are super cute. We got three black copper Marans (one rooster), two blue splash Marans, two buff Orpingtons (more Buffys!), two Rhode Island reds, two Australorps, two barred Plymouth rocks, and two silver laced Wyandottes. Our choices were pretty limited (I would’ve liked a golden laced Wyandotte or a double laced Barnevelder or a Welsummer), but I feel like we’re still going to have a pretty good mix of colors. We’re hoping that with the variety we’ve got, we can start finding a breed that works for us. I can’t deny that I’m excited about all the colors though.


Hello Pork

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Remember a few weeks ago, we said goodbye to the pigs? This week, we said hello to some delicious pork. The place we took them called to say they were ready (it took a little longer because we wanted some parts smoked). The really fun thing about getting the pork back was that we finally got some numbers. Together, the pigs’ hanging weight was 414 pounds (we didn’t get a live weight, unfortunately). Out of that, we got about 325 pounds of what most people consider “meat” (roasts, ground, etc). We also got the liver, heart, and tongue (about 10 pounds) and the bones (another 12 pounds) and the fat (almost 25 pounds). So far, we’ve had bacon and ham and they’re both really good.

We did learn some things in getting our pigs processed. We learned that “Do you want your hams sliced?” does not mean “Do you want your hams spiral sliced?” It means “Do you want your hams turned into steaks?” So we have two whole hams that have been sliced into steaks and, honestly, it makes them a lot more accessible than a whole ham. I’m not sure how upset I am about that mistake. The other thing we learned is that we don’t want just chops. I don’t know much about parts of meat, but from what I understand, the chops are with the loin, so we didn’t get any loin roasts. So we have 70+ pounds of chops and no loin roasts. Oh well. Finally, we learned that we should specify that we want as much of the shoulder roast as possible, even if it doesn’t make the size we say we want. We said 5-6 pound roasts and we got them. But there are no smaller roasts and we’re wondering if some of the roast got turned into ground.

All that isn’t to say that we were dissatisfied with our experience. As far as I can tell (having only ever had these two animals done), they did a really nice job and we were just so novice that we didn’t know how to ask for what we wanted. The guy who helped us unload our pigs was the same one who helped me carry the meat to the truck so it could be packed into coolers (another story altogether, which I’ll get to in a minute). He also helped us navigate the cuts questions and I don’t blame him for our not understanding – I really do feel like they tried to help us out. It’s just hard to think everything that people might not know if you are really familiar with something. And we assumed some things that, looking back, were pretty silly.

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To get the pork, I borrowed coolers from several people. People I thought would have large coolers. As it turned out, only one of those coolers was as large as ours. Fortunately, one was larger to make up some of the difference. Anyway, since I needed to  drop Q off at the vet, so I left early and I drove both 33 and 211 to get up to the processor. It was a beautiful drive…some of my favorite nearby roads, early morning (so fewer people), and a really pretty day.

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When I got to the processor and they started pulling out my meat, I was a little worried that I’d overstocked on coolers – I just started loading up the coolers with the meat we carried out. As I was loading, I realized there were several cuts that weren’t represented. Then, he started bringing more trays from the cooler, I realized that we hadn’t brought too coolers. We were at least one large cooler short of enough. I had a stack of hams and fat on my front seat as I drove around trying to find a cooler that might possibly hold at least the ham. The truck stop gas stations had those little Styrofoam coolers, but nothing that would hold a 20 pound ham. Finally, I asked for the closest Walmart and the biggest cooler they had was one like the cooler in the top left of this picture. Not great, but better than having a ham riding around in the front seat of the truck. I put the stuff that didn’t fit in the floor under my extra long-sleeved shirts and drove home the fast route, instead of the fun route. Fortunately, everything was still completely frozen by the time I got it home and in the freezer.

We’re really excited to have our own pigs in the freezer and it’s been nice to have something to give people as a thank you. For the use of the coolers, for the care of our animals…whatever. Eggs are nice, but pork is something a little different. It’s pretty freaking cool.

Finishing October

Things got really busy (again) at the end of October. First, was a wedding. Then, a scurry to get things clean ready for the chicks. And a rush to collect materials from a house that was scheduled to be torn down. And a hurry to plant things while the weather is so unseasonably mild. And I thought this was supposed to be the off season….

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The wedding was in Georgia, so it was a long drive, but we made it a two-day trip on the way down. Tony let me pick the route, so we meandered down to the Blue Ridge Parkway, took that most of the way to Asheville, then dropped down into Georgia. The first day’s drive was amazing and I really enjoyed all the turns. We stopped to check out the viaduct and the walk was nice (both because of the chance to get out of the car and because it was  really pretty up in the mountains). The second day’s drive was just to get to our destination.

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Because it was an evening wedding, we had the morning to explore. I’d done some research on things to do near Macon and we decided to check out the Ocmulgee National Monument. It’s nice that it’s so close to where we were staying (so we didn’t have to spend all of our time driving), but far enough from the center of the city that you could imagine yourself to be a little more away from it all. Unfortunately, Georgia is in a pretty severe drought right now. It’s so dry down there that a supposed wetland was entirely dried up. The creek that feeds into the river was completely dry and the river was much lower than it looked like it should have been. It’s been dry here, but not that dry!

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I intended to spend the week after the wedding getting ready for chicks to arrive (after the chickens were sick, I needed to thoroughly clean the house…there’s a post about it). Then Dad told me he was working on demolishing a house that had some good windows in it and asked if I was interested in having them. He initially mentioned it in reference to cold frames, but these windows are pretty nice vinyl things, so I think they’ll probably go in the barn when we build it. When I got up there, Dad asked if I was interested in the rocks too (they had a rock wall with little rock planting areas) and I said I’d be happy to take them. Then, Tony noticed the wood floors in the pictures I sent him and said he’d be interested in pulling those out too. The owners were hoping to get some of the better materials out of the house before tearing it down, but I guess Habitat didn’t want to go to the effort for some of this stuff. Anyway, we spent last week, last weekend, and this week working on getting some of the materials out while we can. We think we got enough of the floors out for the office Tony wants. And it looks like there are enough windows to do a couple of projects at least. And I think I’ve gotten two and a half truck loads of rock so far. And one load of cinder block (from the chimney). So somehow, we got some really good stuff just for the going and getting it.

The rest of the August-October pictures are here, if you’re interested (there are some I didn’t write about).