Not our favorite day, but once again it was time for chicken butchering. We did half of our flock (the big ones) and will do the other half in a couple weeks, after they’ve grown a bit. Warning, there are photos with this post that some people might not want to see. I’m going to post them, though, because… this is a farm blog. Don’t read further if you don’t want to see blood and guts.

We put the chickens in killing cones, and they become much calmer when they are upside down. We slice their jugular vein and they bleed to death. This is slightly less traumatic than chopping their heads off, but killing chickens is no fun no-matter what technique we use.

Next we scald them. We dunk them in 140 degree water for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until their wing feathers pull out easily when tugged on. Now they are ready to go in the chicken plucker.

Always our favorite part of the event, the Whiz Bang Chicken Plucker does its magic in 20 seconds. Not your grandmother’s chicken plucker, this state of the art contraption whirls the chickens around and rubber fingers pull all the feathers off the bird. Ain’t technology great.

Our super awesome crew: Trevor, Caitlin and James demonstrate the Whiz Bang’s wondrous result. We’ll pull the few remaining pin feathers off by hand.

Dad showed us the finer points of gutting a chicken.

We all gave it a try. It gets a lot easier with practice. There’s actually a lot of finesse in gutting a chicken, we discovered. Rule number 1: don’t bust the gall bladder or gross green stuff goes everywhere (we all did at least once though).

We buried all the guts and feathers in the garden, where they will become fertilizer. Then Dad took the chickens inside where he cleaned and washed them. We will keep the birds in the refrigerator for a couple days to allow them to tenderize before we freeze them. There will be enough for us to have a chicken a week for close to an entire year. Of course we won’t need to start using them up right away because the idea of roast chicken is somehow unsavory just now.

cat carrier

August 28, 2010

Simon has discovered that if he takes a flying leap at the back of my neck when I’m sitting or bending down and then digs his claws in, it’s nearly impossible for me to get him off. He seems to feel entirely entitled to this behavior. Ever tried to get a cat off your back when they don’t want to go anywhere? Not easy. So I end up wearing him like a scarf around the house and the garden. A warm, fuzzy, angry scarf with sharp claws.

huckleberries for sal

August 21, 2010

Huckleberry season is here and it is delicious. Blueberries are good, but huckleberries are so much better. They are small, juicy packets of extreme berry-osity. And they are free! You just have to pick them…

It quickly becomes obvious that it’s going to take a while to fill one’s pail. There is a sinking sensation I get when, after twenty minutes of picking, I look down and see that the bottom of the pail is still visible. This depressing reality check can be quickly assuaged by a mouthful of berries, however. Then the bottom of the pail is even more visible. Quick! Another mouthful! It is a vicious cycle, for sure.

After a couple hours of picking, Luke, Dad and I collectively owned 3/4ths of a gallon of berries. If we go back about three more times we might have enough to keep us in huckleberry pancakes for the year, unless some disgraceful human being eats them out of the freezer bag on the sly. I, of course, would know nothing about that.

Bonus Pristine Nature Experience! A herd of around twenty elk stampeded across the road in front of us on our way home. NEATO!

barn party and pig roast

August 17, 2010

We got the pig from Nora Hawkins, who raised it. It was a young pig, 7o lbs or so (live weight.) We stuffed it with onions, apples, and apricots, and tied it up tight. Cari helped me foil the hooves, head, and tail so they wouldn’t cook too fast.

I’d never roasted a pig before. Neither had Dad, or Annie. But we’re up for trying stuff. We borrowed the steampunk-esque, propane tank-turned-BBQ you see in the photo above (no, Tyler did NOT make it), which would probably be big enough to roast a whole cow in with room to spare. There’s a wood stove on one end and a propane torch on the other. The propane torch goes out a lot, I discovered. I had to keep checking on it all night and all day.

We roasted the pig for about 20 hours on low heat, around 200 degrees.

My dad and Kirk Skovlin, (he loaned us the BBQ and showed us what to do to cook our beast) did the slicing and dicing honors.

Roast pork, baked beans, mac ‘n’ cheese, buttermilk biscuits, collard greens, pickles, and BBQ sauce. All of it homemade from scratch. Doesn’t get ANY better than that. The pig turned out perfect, somehow, despite the three of us greenhorns who were cooking it.

Dessert was also all homemade: banana cream pie, berry cake/tart/thingy, a bunch of other yummy stuff, and Annie made ice cream, two flavors, both AWESOME. So of course she got to lick the paddle.

The food was so good even 6 month old babies who don’t eat solid food yet approved of it.

We took the party up into the hayloft when it got dark. Dudes on rafters drinking beer. What could go wrong?

Barn party dance floor. Sweet!

This party is definitely happening again. It was super awesome and I still get hungry thinking about all the food. Next year we roast a wildebeest! Cari, you can get us one, right? And kill it and skin it? Thanks lady!

P.A.E.; ear mountain

August 3, 2010

The most prominent mountain visible from town is Ear Mountain (named for looking like bear ears).  Of course this is the one that I wanted to climb first. The only problem with mountain climbing in coastal A.K. is waiting for good weather.  On one of the rare days when free time lined up with that good weather I decided to try and make a run for the top before the clouds sucked back in on the island.

I had a little difficulty finding someone to go with me so I decided to go alone, which is not something you usually do in bear country.   Armed with the hand cannon I set out.

I made my way through the devils club and other brush encircling the mountain like living high security defenses.  Singing and yelling the whole time to scare off the bears (it seemed to work – I didn’t see one other living thing all day).

Anyway, I made the top, It was beautiful, I love mountain climbing. Enjoy the pics!

eat pie! win a kitten!

August 2, 2010

Free pie! Free kittens! Why wouldn’t all of Wallowa County line up at my booth? We asked people to try all 12 kinds of homemade pie and then vote for their favorite. It seems to be a lot easier to get people to vote for pie than it is to get them to vote for politicians. This tells me we should start electing pies into office instead of people. They’d probably get more accomplished, anyway.

Caitlin and I had found a hungry-looking kitten in a barn and decided to try to find it a home at the market. A couple of teenage girls went berserk over it but couldn’t convince their parents to let them take it home on the plane to Alaska. I told them they could have a pet seagull instead, but they declined for some reason. They went away, moping. Lexi Fluit took the kitten in the end, and it’s going to go live on a ranch near here. Probably just as well. Simon and Henry were scared to death of it anyway, so it couldn’t have lived with me.

The winner was a strawberry-banana cream pie made by—ahem—me. I know it looks like there might have been some funny business, with the organizer of the contest being the winner… but I really had nothing to do with it. The people have spoken.

Second and third place go to my mother for her fresh peach-strawberry and raspberry pies, respectively, so it was a clean sweep by the Reiningers. Yeehaw!