Sunday, January 10, 2016

Turkey Butchering for Thanksgiving

This year we had a turkey butchering frolic on the Monday before Thanksgiving.
We had a wonderful time with the family and friends who came to help us.

The winners of life's lotteries- the ones selected for breeding stock.
 We hatched all but the senior tom ourselves this spring.  They did really well.  They free-range all over our property grazing and catching bugs. The bourbon reds are a heritage breed. They are Thomas's project.

The broad breasted turkeys are always out grazing, except for the morning of butchering.  It is less stressful for them to stay contained rather than chasing them around and trying to catch them.  That has happened a few times.  The young boys seem to like when that happens, but it's not the best for the birds, so we try and avoid chasing.

It seems the initial killing station is the place everyone wants to gather.  I prefer the garage, unless I am taking pictures.

 The dead birds are hauled over to the plucking station.  

The plucking station is often a hold up as you have to maintain the water temperature to scald the birds before you put them in the plucker.  We use a version of the "Whiz-bang" plucker that Paul built.  It works well for both chickens and turkeys.

 We take the feet off the turkeys before they go into the plucker, as they can get caught in the bottom ring and can result in broken legs.

Victoria gave a demonstration on how to properly eviscerate a turkey to all the first-time helpers and those who felt they needed a review.  Turkeys are a little different than chickens.  They do require more strength to complete, but there is more room to work on the inside.

Since the temperature outside was chilly, we used heaters in the garage.  Marbles came into warm himself up as well.  Cats love a warm spot.  Marbles is now 21 years old.  He still is an active mouser.  Not bad for an old guy!

We have a very skilled QC area (Quality Control).  The birds are given a very careful going over to make sure every feather and inside has been removed.  I love it when people come back to us and say that they heave never bought a cleaner bird.

Sanitation is a big part of the process as well.  Cutting boards and knives are given a thorough cleaning between every turkey.  We use hydrogen peroxide in spray bottles and our Norwax cloths in hot soapy water.  

The finished birds are weighed and given a good chilling in ice water.

Mikayla- Thomas's former debate partner

You never know who will show up at a butchering frolic....

We spend a lot of time preparing for the butchering day.  A big part of our preparation is food for all the helpers.  We made big pans of enchilladas,  butternut squash soup, and several varieties of fruit cobblers. Feeding your help well, makes for happy workers.

Little ones are taken care of by an older sister.   She keeps the children occupied with the legos and other toys we still have around.  She also helps with getting the food heated up for lunch.

The butchering was accomplished quickly and our friends even helped with raking the yard. That was a really big help to us.

Happy kids

After dinner the now chilled turkeys are bagged and the ones to be cut up are cut up.

All the weights were recorded with their numbers on a BIG piece of cardboard so that we can select the right sized bird fo each customer.

A big thank-you to the yard crew!

As everything was finished being bagged,  the clean-up began and our butchering day was over. It was another successful workday.  We did 30 broad breasted turkeys and 9 of the Bourbon reds. We have only 3 remaining in the freezer. 1 of the broad breasted and 2 bourbon reds. 

We have loved having the turkey in the freezer.  We enjoy the turkey stock we make from the carcasses, the baked turkey thighs, the stewed turkey legs and the roasted breasts.  So much goodness. Turkeys are so yummy for more than just Thanksgiving!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Mighty Hunter

Our family has done some deer hunting in the past, but we have not had much success with hunting since moving to the farm.  We feed our dog on deer carcasses most of the winter, so we are always on the lookout for free dog food.  Many of our friends who hunt, know this and send us their remains after taking the meat they want off of them.

The three boys, Elizabeth and I went south to a friend's going away party.   As we were driving home at 6:30 at night, we went around the north end of the swamp. There is a wooded hill that comes down to the road.  As we went past the hill, a large deer bounded out in front of us and we struck it squarely as it crossed. I hit the brakes, but it was too late.  The buck's head swung around and hit the side of the car and slid off to the opposite side of the road where he died instantly.

We stopped at once to make sure that our vehicle was OK.  We rarely see police in this area, but within two minutes we had a state patrol pull up behind us.  She asked if we were OK, we were, and then went to make sure the deer was dead, it was.  We asked if we could take the deer with us.  Roadkill is free for the taking with a tag in Ohio.  She wrote us up a deer tag for a FIFTEEN point buck.

The boys dragged it across the road and hefted him into the back of the van.  He was really heavy and it took a lot of heaving to get him there.  We had used the mini-van to take our goat to visit her boyfriend in this car, so the back was ready for  animal hauling.

We hauled the deer home and gutted it... after taking a number of photos.

We left the deer to age in a tree for a few days.

Then Paul and I went to work to butcher it.  Paul helped me get the skin off.  

He used the "golf ball, rope, and car trick to get the skin off.  You take a golf ball and tie a rope around the ball covered with the hide. Then you attach the other end of the rope to a car and gradually reverse the car.

Assuming that one has cut the fur loose along the limbs properly, the hide just peels right off as the car backs up, very slick!  You do have to be careful to not stand opposite the deer during this process, because when the hide comes off the deer rockets forward as it rapidly releases.

I did the rest of the butchering of the deer and processed all the meat.  The buck was most likely about 7-8years old and weighed about 250#.  The meat has been tender and tasty.  We could only use one side of the deer, because the other side was so bruised by the car.  For those who wondered, the car is fine.  We had to replace a headlight and the plastic grill is slightly cracked up, but that was the extent of the damage.  The mini-van is really not worse for the encounter.

Here is the rack of the deer.  The antler is broken off on one side.  It came off when it struck the car.  It had 15 points and 1 dropped tine.  Obviously, it is atypical.  It scored a little over 130.

I have decided that I will not ever have to go deer hunting!  I already have my trophy buck!!!

( My nephew is going to mount the antlers for me. I will post a picture when it is completed.)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life With a Goat

Maple, our French alpine goat arrived on the farm this fall.  A friend had to get rid of her because she kept wanting to confront school busses on their road. Michelle, has always had the nickname 'goat girl' because of her love and attachment for goats. She always dreamed about having her own goats and kids.  We found out she was available Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday evening she was on the way to the farm.

Maple is a wonderful milker.  She is easy to milk and gives lots of milk!  Michelle was already a pro at milking.  She was used to being milked only once a day and gave 3 quarts a day. Very impressive! She is very sweet tempered and affectionate.

She is very pretty.  She has to earn her keep her on the farm.  She helps keep the grass trimmed, gives milk, and even serves as a backdrop in photos....

Michelle did a photo shoot for my cousin's engagement pictures this fall. Had to have at least a couple with the goat.  Maple had to sneak a peek as to what was going on. (Actually, Goats do that funny movement with their head to move their food from one stomach to the next, our esteemed photographer just happened to get a very well timed cute photo.)

Our goat does have her moods.  One day she didn't want to be milked and so she knelt down in her milk stand.  We had to persuade her to get back up and behave.  Fortunately, this has only happened once. She only would hurt herself if she didn't get milked!

We are happy to have Maple on the farm!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Moving Into Autumn - Catch-up Posts Continue

This year was our 27th Wedding Anniversary!  On our 25th anniversary we bought the farm.  Life has sure changed since then.  This year we attained 27 years of marriage and our anniversary is on the 27th.  We are still hanging together.  It is amazing how God has worked in our lives and how He has changed us through the years.

This year we celebrated our Anniversary by going to a Bed and Breakfast, but we had our dinner at home.  The children prepared it for us.  What was truly special, was that almost all the food came from the farm.  The roast chicken was one of our broilers, the potatoes we grew ourselves, and the veggies also came from the garden.  The salad of sliced tomatoes and herbs came from the garden.  The carrot cake was amazing.  Michelle makes the best carrot cake I have ever eaten.  It is gluten free, and sooo good.  We didn't have enough carrots so Michelle found some golden beets in the garden and used those.  We would never have known if she hadn't told us. Interesting....

Elizabeth has always loved horses and this fall she has had the chance to take riding lessons with a friend of the family.  Liz was Michelle's debate partner several years ago.  She is also a horse lover.  Liz competes in riding competitions.  She and Elizabeth have become really good buddies.  

Liz won Austin, the horse, in an essay competition on why the previous owner should give the horse to her.  Austin is a thoroughbred, who wasn't quite fast enough to win on the race track.  He has converted nicely to a riding horse.

Elizabeth has gotten to ride almost every week this fall.  She has made real progress in her riding.  Liz also spends time teaching Elizabeth how to train a horse. She has her working him on a lunge line and has also taught her how to groom and take care of a horse.  Her lessons always end up being over two hours long.  She loves it.  She would like to someday learn to jump horses competitively. We will see.

The camp we go to in the summer, somehow got a picture of our family and used it on their brochure.  That was kind of cool!

In September, Maple arrived.  Michelle has always been the 'goat girl' and she really loves goats. Now she has a goat here on the farm! A friend of ours had to get rid of her because she kept going in the road and not letting the school busses past.  That is a problem in town.  She has been great for us.  She learned quickly to respect the electric fence.  Smart gal!  She is a wonderful milker and gives us lots of milk (over half a gallon) every day, and we only have to milk her once a day.  That is peachy!!!

Life on the farm is wonderful.  There is lots of work but there is so much peace and beauty.  I think I appreciate the peace and quiet more because of all the things to do outside.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Summer Activities

This year we planted a large variety of potatoes.  There were yellow, purple and pink ones.  We definitely harvested more this year than last.  I don't think it was a great harvest, but we did get about 5x more pounds than we planted.  That's progress!  With a bit more care and learning we could make planting potatoes worthwhile. We deep fried them in our own lard  and they were delicious!

We had some very yummy meals out of the garden this year!  We love beets and try and eat them at least once a week year round.

Elizabeth and I had a mother daughter date and went to the Irish festival.  We wanted to see the Willis Clan, the Gothard Sisters and some others.  The festival was free to those 12 and under.  The guy at the gate gave us a really hard time when I tried to get Elizabeth in.  He thought she was older and really scowled at us when I insisted that not only was she  under 13, she was only TEN! Oh well!

Willis Clan

We had a great time together and the music was wonderful!!!

The children worked very hard to get a new rope swing up.  First, they tried climbing the tree and trying to throw the rope over the branch.  That was a little dicey and made Mom nervous, so they came up with Plan B. They attached a small string to a softball and then threw it over the branch. Then they tied a bigger rope to the little string and then they were in business.  The swing is in the middle of the yard surrounded by driveway and it gets lots of action. You gotta have a rope swing if you live on a farm.

This summer we made our annual pilgrimage to Greenwood Hills Bible Conference.  It is the sixth year in a row that we have gone. It is always a wonderful time of Bible teaching, fellowship and fun.

This year they had a Slip 'n slide down a hill one afternoon.  It was amazing how many people tried it. This sweet lady is in her 80's and she went down it about 10+ times.  I was amazed at how well she walked up the hill afterwards.  She didn't run and jump down she would sit up at the top and ask for a push.  Her dear husband kept saying, " Bea, remember that you are not so young and you will be sore tomorrow and I will have to help you. Can this be the last time?"  The other older men in the area watched with admiration at the spry wife he had. It was pretty entertaining.

 Bea was a missionary in French Guiana for many years and raised a large family.  She was a girls' counsellor at camp until she was about 82.  She is truly an amazing woman and I want to be like her when I grow up.

JoAn and T-Bob went down many times.  T-Bob got  a pink belly from reaching the end of the slip 'n slide and sliding onto the grass. Silly boy!

Here is T-Bob and Michelle belly flopping down the hill.  Everyone had a great time!

We love our time at Greenwood Hills!