Consecration Acres

"If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy."

Week 5 with Chicks…etcetera

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Sometimes giving posts meaningful titles is easy.  Sometimes I stare at the blank page and wonder if anything significant was accomplished during the week.  I remember this from other post-baby periods…when making dinner, getting laundry done and put away, keeping the floors and kitchen counters partially visible is all monumental.  I know it won’t always be like this.  I managed to strap Joseph on and do some kitchen work earlier this week and I did not feel like I was going to die afterwards.  I am making progress…bodies are just so slow and the build-up of work is SO immense. I am trying not to indulge in impatience.

Speaking of work build-up, my husband and kids have been out working on the garage to try and make it usable again.  We need to clear space for another freezer if we are going to try to put up meat for this many people.  If my calculations are correct, we could probably get by with what we’ve got for this batch of chickens if we ate down the contents of the smaller freezer, but we’d be out of luck the next month when we got close to Thanksgiving and wanted to stock turkey and cranberries.  I’m also considering whether it might be a good idea to grab a free broken freezer and stuff it with goat and chicken feeds.  We’ve been storing our feeds in plastic trash cans, but they are far from airtight even when people remember to put the lids on and the meal moths are starting to take over.  I also don’t like being month to month on anything, and the trash cans’ size and shape makes storing extra really difficult.  I’d had high hopes for these when I bought one a couple of years ago–visions of an orderly (and matching!), wall of stacked feed bins where I could tell how many months we had at the flip of a lid, but as reviewers have since noted, they do not keep bugs out.  If they do not exclude vermin, why exactly would you need one?

We’ve begun watching the goats for signs of heat and the boys think that last Sunday was the day.  If they are consistent (and average) then they’ll be back in heat October 12 and have kids March 11.  Ha!  I will just be happy if we can pick up on a definite pattern.  We never figured it out last year and I am dreading the possibility of having to either drive them around a lot, board them for a MONTH like we did last time, dry them up prematurely, or any of those other not-exciting things.  It seems that, like people, they should be fairly consistent in their own cycle lengths, etc.  If it were not for the commandment to pray over our flocks and fields, I’m sure I would never have the gall to pray for  the things I often pray for these days–eyes to see and understand even this…

We are wondering if perhaps we should just breed Ella this year and milk Penny through.  Better nutrition has improved Penny’s milk curve and eight goats (supposing Penny had triplets again) would somewhat strain our stall space.  At the same time, the break during the holidays and the wettest months is not such a terrible thing and I have to think that first milk is all the sweeter for the anticipation.  We have a few weeks before we have to decide for sure.

I am continuing to study hay and pastures.  I used this government-provided tool to discover that our land is pretty much useless, including for building on!  Who knew?  Our house must be a figment…  Anyhow, I will assume that they are wrong about everything else as well, although I’ll continue to project low yields and a lot of work to make it all happen as this is always safest way to project.  I’m enjoying the books and articles, but our climate is so vastly different here from the normal Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall places I am reading about that is it hard to know whether anything I’m reading will apply here or not.  It would be nice to stumble across a “Guide to Growing Dairy Goat Pastures in Zone 8 or Maybe 9 During a Record-Breaking Drought” as it would save us a lot of time, but I have the feeling we are going to have to write our own.  I am considering just ordering a couple of pounds of seed in each of the varieties I think should grow well here and sowing some test plots next month.  Hay needs at least six weeks before the first frost to get established, so that should give us sufficient time.  Aaaaand my preferred storage method for all of my fantasy hay this week is this one.  Each holds a TON of hay…at these prices that is at least $400, probably closer to $550.  Amazing.

Yes, impending hayseed-sowing weather means that our heat has finally begun to break.  Our afternoon highs are still pretty warm, but it’s less persistent and night and less pushy in the morning as well.  I always feel so hopeful when this happens (a holdover from my years in the Phoenix valley?), this growing sense that I am not about to be destroyed and that lovely things lie ahead.  Baking, roasting and stewing (food, finally and not me)! Rain! Working in the cool!  Fires in the woodstove and sleeping under blankets!  Sweater-wearing!  And, of course, sourdough and kefir this year!  Winter is the reward for a Summer well-lived.

I started my second ever batch of sauerkraut.  My success is making me consider other vegetables with a fermenting eye…

I also made a good batch of chicken stock.  It gelled up beautifully and it tastes wonderful.  Elijah made the whole roasted chickens whose remains were used, so the only credit I can take for the favor is that I did not overcook it like I usually do.  I will, I will, I will figure this whole stock-making thing out.

And I will get another shot at it soon.  This evening Elijah went out to pick some tomatoes for dinner and spotted smoke to the South of us.  It looked close (it was about 2 miles away…the whole spontaneously combusting countryside thing leaves much to be desired) and my husband thought it might be on the land of some friends of ours, so he headed out to make sure they were ok.  When he got there, he found them unconcernedly slaughtering turkeys.  He asked if he could watch/help and they said that he could take one home if he did it start to finish.  “Why don’t you take that big one over there?” and they pointed to the biggest, angriest-looking (this according to my husband) tom.  So he did it–caught, beheaded, dunked, plucked and eviscerated and we have a 35-lb turkey cooling in our fridge.  He now says that chickens will be easy.  That thing was probably close to 50 lbs live weight if my conversion chart is correct!  I’m so, so glad that he got some hands-on.  He was the only one who didn’t help out with the chicken-butchering we attended two years ago and I would be foolish to think that I will be doing the bulk of the work come October.  A six-month-old is still a baby…  Our friends also told him that they believe our feed-store owning neighbors have a tub-style chicken plucker!  Another huge load off my mind if they will allow us to rent it from them.

BTW, the fire was contained in less than hour and only burned about 12 acres.

Upcoming this week: I need to finally commit to a battery.  Our electric poultry netting arrived and is sitting in its box on our floor not doing anything to protect our rapidly growing chicks.  Silliness.  Again, I need to accept the potential for blowing it the first time around and having to chalk it up to experience–just part of Raising Meat Birds School.

Also, the same turkey-slaughtering neighbors are slaughtering a steer this week.  My husband is going to try to be there.  I will try to be as well…Joseph willing.

I am afraid that peach/nectarine season is going to end and we will only have peach butter to show for it.  I need to be a bit more ambitious and get some into the dehydrator and into some jars as well.  Freestone nectarines are so easy to can, I really don’t have much of an excuse to skip it.  And you see how easily I can talk myself into canning…

Joseph looks at me like I am the most wonderful person in the whole world.  It is nice to have a little one.

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