Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chicken Butchering 2.0

Chicken butchering is a frolic at the Mango's house.  We invite friends and families over to help that enjoy fellowshipping and working.  Some of the families are interested in homesteading, others just want to have the experience to cross off their bucket list.

Here is our second go round with butchering broilers.

This post has very limited blood and guts, and should be viewable by those with even the most squeamish stomach.

Our first butchering party was last November.  It was a very cold snowy day.  Not so this time.  The weather was perfect,  Not too hot and not too cold.  It was about 73 degrees with a light breeze.  We had no issues with flies or mosquitos.  The boys went back in the trailer to load up the broilers.  We did have more of a problem with broiler escapism.  That may have been operator error.  I think the boys were having a really good time trying to catch them.  Nobody escaped long term.

We started at 8:30 in the morning.

Usually the killing cones are manned by the young men with some adult supervision.  This time there were several young women who wanted to try their hand at it.

The chickens were taken from the killing station over to the scalding station.

The water at the scalding station has to be 148 degrees plus or minus two degrees.  You leave them in just long enough that the feathers pull out easily.  Not long enough or too long and the feathers are hard to pull out and the meat on the birds starts to cook. This is a good job for those wantng to avoid the evisceration process.

Paul and Thomas run the plucker

After the birds are scalded they go into the automatic plucker.

This is the inside of the plucker with two birds in it.  The birds are tumbled in there for about 45 seconds. The water from the hose washes the feathers out the bottom. They come out clean as a whistle.

The birds are put into ice water to start chilling until the next station is ready for them.

Even the little guys were put to work, or allowed to help, carrying birds from the ice water to the next station.

The next station was where the birds were checked over and any feathers the plucker missed are removed.

Elizabeth was the surgeon who amputated the feet and the oil glands.  When she was done the birds went to the eviscerators.

All the novice participants were instructed in eviscerating the birds.  It is a big job and all the help is very much appreciated.  These tables were filled with chatting people, having a good time.

JoAn checking out our new scale at the weighing station

The next stop was QC or quality control.  That is where the birds are checked over a final time to make sure all the feathers are removed and all the little bits and pieces are removed from the insides.  JoAn organized and ran this part.  Then the birds are weighed and assigned a number.  The number is rubber banded to their leg. This information is then recorded on our computer.

There were lots of young children that required supervision.  The older girls took turns watching them and making sure they didn't get into trouble.

The younger guys went frog hunting when they were done with their chicken jobs.  The young people also got a nice kickball game in after lunch.  

Here are our final numbers...

We started off with 101 freedom ranger broilers.  We butchered at 10 weeks of age and we had 96 birds at that point ( 2 died when a child dropped a board on them, one was harassed by the dog. one just died randomly at the end and I can't remember what happened with the other).  The average bird weight was 4.5 #.  We paid $1.55/chick.  We fed them Non GMO feed and we purchased chicks that were from parents that also were raised on Non GMO feed. We calculated our total cost, without labor, at $1.96/#. 

Our next batch of broilers will be arriving at the end of the month.  We are planning on butchering the next batch on Labor Day.  Let us know if you want an invitation to our frolic.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Oliver Arrives on the Farm... and Other Farm happenings

Come meet Oliver!  Oliver is our newest farm addition and is a lovely tractor.  His coming to the farm is a gift from God ( with Harold getting the assist).  Harold is a friend of ours who also farms in the area.  We were talking to him one evening and mentioned our need of a tractor to really be able to farm for ourselves.  We have a patient neighbor, who has loaned us his tractor, but at some point you have to start standing on your own two feet and stop borrowing all the time.  Harold said he had a tractor that didn't run and had just been sitting out for the last two years.  He said we were welcome to take it and see if we could fix it.  Paul and the neighbor ( who loans us his tractor when we need it) went down with a trailer to the farm.  The tractor needed some air in the front tire and the batteries needed to be jumped.  Harold had told us that the wheels had locked up while driving it out in the field and he had had to tow it into the yard.  Our neighbor turned the key as it was jumped and Oliver started right up.  The neighbor knew that sometimes Olivers get themselves stuck between two gears.  He jiggled the gear shift and proceeded to drive it up on the trailer.  Harold was a little sad to see Ollie go.  We were able to make Oliver happy with some very minor repairs (new inner tube, a battery, and lots of fluids, as well as some minor repairs to the hitch).  Praise the Lord!!!

Thomas's baby bourbon red turkeys are quite the escape artists.  We are likely to find them free ranging all over the farm.

The broad breasted turkeys are growing quickly.  They will be ready for eating in less than a month.  They should weigh in at about 20 # then.

It looks like we may actually have a few apples on our trees this year.  This will be a first!  Another thing to be excited about.

Here is Oliver at work.  Paul had cut a tree down,

and rather than cut it up and drag it to the back with people power and multiple trips. Let Oliver do it.  Paul chained the branches to the back and in just two quick trips the whole tree was dragged to the back by the fire pit.

Paul trying out the swing

Here is another project that the girls completed with the cousin's help.  They installed a swing on one of the trees by the pond.  There is now a quiet contemplative spot to sit and swing and look out over the pond.

Rona, Sara, and Elizabeth on the raft.

The raft has been getting a lot of action.  Here Elizabeth was taking two of her aunts out for a little float on the pond.  They are here helping to get my Mother-in-Law established in her new condo.  She has moved to the area from her long time home in New Mexico.  We are so happy to have her nearby!

The two Joanns
Here is my M-I-L taking a tour of the farm with JoAn.  She really enjoyed seeing everything again.  I was impressed at how well she got around.  My M-I-L will be 87 this month. She comes from vigorous Norwegian stock, and has aged well.  

blueberry shrub

Here is one last crop that is starting to grow.  These are our blueberry bushes.  The berries are still green, but some of the bushes are setting real nice.  We just have to get them under netting before they ripen, so the birds don't get them.

The days are so long now.  Sunset comes later and later in the day.  People down south don't appreciate this as much.  In the north there is a significant increase in the amount of daylight in the summer.  In the Philippines, where my sister and her family live, the sun rises and sets at 6, all year round!  Here in the north the sun rises at 5:55 AM today and sets at 9:04 PM.  The light also stretches even further as there is 2 hours of twilight before and after these times.  It does allow us to get more done in a day outside.  I really enjoy our longer daylight!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Farm Update For May 24, 2015

Alas, I am behind on the farm updates.  Things here have been busy.  What do you expect? It's spring!  We are trying to get everything done in between speech and debate tournaments.  It has been a cool spring, so that has at least given us some extra time.

Here's what's going on...

The bourbon red turkey poults are thriving.  They have a poultry fence around the brooder house, that doesn't even slow them down.  They are amazing fliers also.  They fly up to the top of the brooder house (about 10 ft) to roost.  They are such a tight bunch.  There are 11 poults in this group.  You never see one that you don't see them all.  They peep  continuously.  I find it a happy sound.

The girls built a raft to go on the pond.  They used a well built fence section that they sanded down and varnished with 4 55 gallon vinyl drums that a farmer gave them.  They tied it all together and it works very well.  Everything but the rope was repurposed.  Even their pole is an old shower curtain rod.

The frogs are all alive and well.  There is lots of croaking in the evening and most of the night.  We have lots of tadpoles in the pond.  Did you know that bullfrog tadpoles take two years to become a big frog?  We like the frog music.

Life on the farm is peaceful.  We did learn something new this week.  We learned that turkeys can swim.  Our turkey hen was sitting on her nest in some brush, when the dog discovered her and chased her.  She took off running and then flying.  She, unfortunately, only got enough air to make it half way across the pond.  The children were out there and were afraid that they might have to go rescue her before she  drowned.  Instead, she swam duck style to the edge of the pond and went on her way.  

This is another of our projects.  We are inoculating these logs with mushroom spawn.  We are going to try and grow our own shiitake mushrooms.  You can see the wholes drilled in the logs and the tags on the end.  Once they start 'fruiting' you should get crops for about four years.  We will keep you updated.

This is our crazy hen.  Her theme song could be the old song, "Don't Fence me in".  She does NOT like hanging with other chickens.  She roams the farm by herself all day long.  If she gets lonely, she goes and visits the turkeys.   They don't especially like her company either.  Sometimes she flies in and sits with them on their roosting poles.  The turkeys promptly fly down and go outside.  If she eats from their feed they give her fully half the feeder, and the 19 turkeys eat from the other side.  She is a bird without a flock.  We have tried putting her with the other chicken flock, but as soon as she is loosed, she flies over the fence and beats us back to the house area.  Oh well.

We had a lovely bunch of irises this spring.  They looked so lovely.

We also had our first little batch of honey berries this spring.  They are off some bushes we transplanted from the old house.  They may be called honey berries,  but they were not very sweet.  They taste a bit like a blueberry, so I am sure they are healthy for us, we just need to have a few more. They all got eaten. LOL

The lilacs smelled heavenly this spring.  These are tight outside the kitchen windows, so their lovely aroma wafted into the house.  So nice.  Lilacs are one of those things that remind me of my grandpa.  He always had well tended lilacs in his yard.  He had a number of different colored blooms.  I still think of him often, especially in the spring.

Elizabeth feeding the broilers.

The broilers are growing well.  They are getting close to that 4-5# mark that we need them at before we put them in the freezer.  Anybody who wants to come help butcher is welcome.  We will be putting them in the freezer on June 9th.  We do have a plucker, so the worst of the job is done for us. Let me know if you are interested.

We only give the broilers food at night.  They free range all day. This is what it looks like when we put the food in the feeders at night.  It is a real frenzy.  On Saturday, the broilers almost got drowned out.  They are penned up in the back field at night.  We had about 6 inches of rain in a couple of hours time.  When we went out to check on them, they were sitting in several inches of water.  Ever wonder where the saying, "Madder than a wet hen"  came from?  We have some ideas.

We stop almost every evening and watch the sunset. It is so beautiful and peaceful.  The frogs are croaking, and you may hear a few insect noises, but all the animals are settling for the night.  It is such a nice time of the day.  We thank God for the farm and for His beautiful creation, as we stop and admire it. They are never the same from night to night.  
God is so good!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rainy Day visit to the Farm

Recently, my nephew Levi, came on his spring break to spend some time on the farm.  He enjoyed playing outside in the dark.  There are often late night chores to do on a farm.  Things have to be done whether it is raining or dark.  That's just the way things roll on a farm.

He enjoyed playing with the baby turkeys.  He learned how to catch them and hold them.

Elizabeth and Levi spent most of their day playing in the upstairs of the barn.

They had a great time building a fort with hay bales.  

They built a lot of furniture.  This was their 'picnic table'.

They built lots of hiding places into their fort.  They liked to hide from 'visitors'.

No fort is complete without a rope swing.  They had a wonderful time playing in the barn.  It was a great day building forts and relationships.

Happy Mother's Birthday!

We always celebrate my Mom's birthday on Mother's Day.  Her birthday is always close to that holiday.  This year Mom attained the grand young age of 75!  She is very young for her age.

We enjoyed a picnic outside in the evening.  The children had a great time together.

It was a lovely evening.  Lots of good conversation!

Pappy the turkey always keeps an eye on all our guests. He greets them in the driveway and gobbles his attention.  He always hangs arounds the picnic tables when we are eating outside.  He doesn't beg or expect food, he just enjoys the company.

These two girls really enjoy being cousins.

Isaac likes to break in to the girl's games.

Car and Sadie feel like they 'need' to put on a program at all family gatherings. They sing and dance and spend a lot of time giggling.  The family patiently wait and watch the girls programs.  They are sweet.

The evening was finished up with giving Mom her gifts, both for her birthday and Mother's day.  It was a lovely evening.