There are so many things going on here on the homestead, it is hard to remember it all.
Our Jerusalem artichokes have peeked through the soil…looking at the young green leaves really made my heart smile—the fruit (or tuber) of our efforts. I am very interested to see what this perennial plant will have to offer to us. If anyone has had any experience growing and or cooking these tubers, please message us or post a recipe.
Last Saturday, Paul went to pick up some blueberry bushes we found in a craigslist ad. He came home with twenty good looking bushes of blueberries of all sorts—big, small, blue, pink, and early, mid and late season varieties. The nursery was a regular residence in a suburban development. The owner had well over one thousand potted plants, mostly berries and fruit trees. It was amazing to see what you can do with what would otherwise be wasted space that soaks up resources, in the form of money, fertilizer, time, etc. While picking up the plants, Paul said the owner received 2 phone calls from customers, and another customer showed up as he was leaving. He was impressed with how good business was for such a small operation, and also brought home all kinds of ideas about how we could repeat the model at our home.
Paul brought home two plants each of four varieties of grapes. Once we build our fence, there will be a trellis that will support the grapes, and maybe some kiwi. Hopefully we won’t have to wait more than a couple of years to enjoy their sugary fruit. I know the children will definitely approve!
While getting the berries the long awaited arborist came to our neighbor’s house to take down a huge fir tree. I say long awaited because we have been at our house for almost four years. In that time I have lost countless hours of sleep watching that tree and worrying about our safety during every windstorm. We kept all the wood and wood chips. The aroma from the wood chips still makes me stop and soak it all in every morning. We use the wood chips as mulch and to keep the weeds under control. As for the wood, we don’t have an exact use for it yet, but if we can’t come up with anything, we can always burn it.
The next item on our Saturday agenda was to pick up some raspberry and strawberry plants we also found on craigslist, with a quick pit stop at Reber Ranch to order some hog panels for the soon to be chicken run. The strawberries were at a farm in Enumclaw. Paul picked out twenty raspberry plants, ten each of two varieties and two flats of strawberry plants. Feeling giddy about our future edible garden, we set out to another destination to pick up some chicks—our first meat birds.
After spending endless hours looking for a source for free range organic chickens for us to eat, Paul and I came to the conclusion that if we are going to eat chicken, we should be raising them ourselves. The decision was bitter sweet because Paul and I are both animal lovers. When we first got chickens we decided that we would keep them only for eggs, and let them roam our property in peace after “retirement.” But recently we have been reconsidering this decision.
We are killing a chicken every time we eat one. A no brainer, but easy to forget when they come bled, plucked, gutted, sectioned and packaged in plastic, ready to cook. Also, how those chickens were killed and treated prior to their death has been really haunting me. We considered buying chicken meat from a local CSA program we trusted. The farm looks amazing, and undoubtedly their chickens live a wonderful life. However, the price of raising chickens like that makes them cost prohibitive for our family. Especially when it’s something we feel like we could do ourselves; self-reliance!
We have been really careful about the meat we eat and most is organic. But what does that really mean? As I mentioned in a previous post, animals raised for mass market are never going to have the quality of life that we feel they deserve. In our experience with our flock of chickens there is a never ending amount of work keeping them happy. By cleaning their coop, providing them with greens and treats, and constantly being concerned with bacterial and parasitic infections, we find it difficult to provide a safe and happy environment in our own backyard. How can a factory with literally hundreds of thousands of birds
come close to the level of care that a small farm or backyard flock experience? With that said, organic chicken from a chain store is still hands down a gazillion times better than non-organic ones but still not satisfactory for us. On our homestead, the chickens provide for us, and we provide for them. It only seems fair!
We both have read numerous books about chicken husbandry and “humane” killing. Paul plans on taking a culling class. No matter what factory your chicken comes from (organic or not), the culling protocols are mechanized and impersonal and no one truly cares for the welfare of the chicken. Now don’t get me wrong, we are planning to kill our birds for food. But before we do, these creatures will have a whole yard to forage on, a garden full of lettuces and herbs devoted to them, a chicken coop where every bird will have more room than they know what to do with, socialization and most of all, the love and respect they deserve. Proper handling of the chicken before culling makes all the difference. Not to mention, when you cull a chicken at home, you would not allow the other chickens to watch. Imagine being the next one in line for death, watching others die and knowing there is nothing you can do about it. Some may think I am crazy for worrying about the welfare of chickens this much. But the way I see it these birds will give their lives to nourish my family. Giving them my best and the respect they deserve is the least I can do.
The breed we chose for meat birds is Jersey Giants. They were bread to replace/compare to turkeys. The papa of our chicks was huge! They are the most docile of all chickens and it really shows even in the chick stage how relaxed they are. Besides the meat, their best quality is that they are so large, they can’t fly meaning my chicken herding days are over—I hope. These guys (and gals) will be with us for 4-6 months, hopefully just in time for us to stock our freezer for the winter. Bringing the new chicks home concluded our very long Saturday.
We have much more to come. Thanks for reading!