Saturday, June 25, 2011

I am not too upset to eat

I posted a facebook message that I was going out to wrestle tomatoes. Meaning, I was going to go tie tomato plants to the stake.

Never made it there.

I needed to milk my goat Dear. I had read About An Acre's post on goat cheese making and I wanted to give it a try. After I milked her, I picked herbs from my garden, chopped them up with some red roasted peppers along with some garden baby garlic cloves and got to cheese making. It was fun. When is cooking ever fun for me? Cooking gives me a sense of satisfaction, sometimes a little bit of adventure. But never fun. Well, maybe decorating cookies and cakes are fun. But I am sure you are catching what I am throwing out here. I had fun. Perhaps, it is because of the accumulative rewards of raising an animal and planting seeds, to a finished product. Which is pretty much considered a delicacy by most people. Another reason might be that the door is wide open for creativity. I did not follow a recipe. I just jumped into it, cooked it, curdled it and I strained it. Then I added salt and my ingredients and wrapped it up in cheesecloth ball. I did it. Taste testing starts tomorrow, with wine and bread.

Back to wrestling.

Wresting in my mind and spirit and the manifestation of it to the physical realm.

Last Fall we bought a piglet. He sat on my lap on the way home and pooped and peed on me. I didn't care, I just scooped up the poo with my hands and tossed it out the window. I laughed. He was living with his brothers and sisters penned up in a dark stinky barn. He had lice, so the first thing he got was a bath. He was scared to death of people and squealed bloody murder. I was going to call him Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. My favorite childhood book. But, he got the name Sling Blade, from a movie Rusty saw.."uh-hum" I guess the guy in the movie made that sound when he talked.

Our intention was to have him as our farm pig.

And that is what he became. I wrote a little something about him in March on this very blog: Introduction 1 - Sling Blade.

Meanwhile, the more we have farmed, the more we have been inching to the conclusion that we MUST grow our own food. Another must is to live in harmony with the land, and grow food organically.

In the grocery store you don't know where you food was grown. Food that is massed produced, contain pesticides, chemicals, GMO's, (Say no to GMOs!) meat injected with antibiotics and growth hormones. In addition to this is the milk. We will slowly stop consuming cow's milk and switch to goat milk. Different than meat, milk is a product that is straight-lined through the digestive system. Therefore, the milk of an animal is more susceptible to pesticides in the animal's food (plant) source. Also a concern these days is radiation. We all saw how the radiation easily made it's way across the ocean from Japan to the American West Coast (and beyond.) That went right into the vegetation, water and therefore it went into us via unknown origin of food.

In my post, Carnivores Only I explained my struggle with harvesting our young roosters. I wrestled with the thought of off-ing my animals.

That was only the appetizer.

It became increasingly clear, that we could not contain a "farm pig". Sling Blade got big, and strong. So strong. He knocked down a stall door, wrecked the barn, broke gates, fences, and tore up the pasture area. He broke the duck pool, got loose, and made it difficult to feed the other animals. Sling lived for food. But he never ever was a mean to humans, birds or the other animals here. Even if some of them were mean to him. I am talking to you Meany-Pants the Rooster and Earl the Donkey. Sling was just a very large pig. He was getting very expensive to feed. But he ate like a king. He was happy. Radiant even.

I finally gave the OK for him to go.

First, I did not want to watch him go. I wanted to remember just yesterday afternoon. I was sitting in my goat herder chair and Sling came up to me looking to see if I had food. I didn't so he stayed there and rubbed his body against me and the chair, so much he tipped me over.

But suddenly, I felt compelled to just say good-bye and do a little thank-you prayer-energy-thing, before he left. Sling wasn't going without a fight either. I helped wrestle him on the truck, he leaped out. I saw a pig fly. In every sense of the word. He busted out of the carrier. It was quite a scene. Two neighbors came over because of the noise. Pigs are loud.

We finally had to tie his feet so he wouldn't jump out of the truck. The only alternative would be to build a crate. But by this time we were all tired. I poured some water on him to cool him off, and packed him a bunch of food, because they don't work on Sundays and he will just be pastured there. I sat there and stroked him, and told him he was brave. He rested on a bed of hay in the truck. Still rooting for food. Bless him. He made it a little easier with that. Like, I am not too upset to eat. I gave him more feed and pet him. Thanks Sling.
Rusty got home just now as I am writing this. He said that Sling's feet got untied on the ride over to the Butcher's place. When they pulled up the lady asked "Did he sit like that the whole ride?" Rusty said yes, he is a great pig. I didn't start crying until just now.

Rusty said that they are really nice people (we had heard this.) He said Sling just jumped off the truck and into the pen. Rusty fed Sling some of the food I packed and shared a bunch of wheat and cheddar crackers with him. And he was fine, happy munching away, when he left. I am not too upset to eat.

sling blade the pig - on his way to the truck

Right now I feel the urge to go save him. Save him, from who? Myself?

I think that is enough wrestling for one day. Tomorrow, I will wrestle the tomatoes, as promised. I am going to taste my first batch of goats milk cheese, with some wine. Hopefully I will not be too upset to eat.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

a few of my favorite things

Random time.
Ten favorite things, not necessarily in any order.

1. Raised Garden Beds

A great article on building simple raised garden beds from the Farmer's Almanac.

2. This old photo of my kids.

It was taken right before they went out the door for school. Nicholas, handsome boy, being so very comical, even at that age. Beautiful big sister Brittany, holding her cute little pumpkin, Sophia.
A blond a brunette and a red. The UPS man, Fed Ex guy and the US mail dude. Overnight mail.

3. Kalil Gibran

Then a woman said, "Speak to us of  Joy and Sorrow."
      And he answered:
      Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
      And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
      And how else can it be?
      The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
      Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
      And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
      When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
      When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
      Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
      But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
      Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
      Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
      Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
      When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall."

4. My green door. 

When we moved I dragged this door and another, from my old FL Bungalow, to my 1800's WV farmhouse. I use it as a table, connecting two metal tables. It extends my staging area. I use if for gathering, seeding, eating, you name it. It is located right outside of my kitchen door, so it is useful.

old green door
potted thyme
flower arraigning

5. My tea leaf reading cup.

I have a few of tea reading cups, but this one is fine china. It has a certain feel to it. I also like the cards transfers in the cup, so it can be read like tarot. 

tea leaf reading cup and saucer

6. His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

I would love to be in his presence one day. If I ever aspire to be "like" somebody, it would be him. He is like my wise old grandfather. That is the kind of affection I have for him. He is truly the key to world peace.

7. The number 7.

8.  Getty Storm

9. Earl (of course) 
He loves me and I love him.


10. Iron and Wine

A stirring mix of poetry and folk music.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

part two: anon

This is a continuation from yesterday's post: anonymous.

After we left my neighbor's mega-garden, he asked if we wanted to go see his cabin. Another jubilant, "YES!" came from me. Again, Rusty had been up there, but me, never.

Everything I saw, my neighbor carved out with his hands, a few tools and sheer hard work. Real hard work.

There was a road sometimes carved through rock. (We live in a very rocky terrain.) He talked about breaking up rock with a hammer. I saw the hammer. I saw the busted up rock.

He milled his own wood from his own property. Beams, boards, siding... everything. Built it, maintained it. It was quite impressive.

I wondered where he would go off to...

the cabin


ancestor seating

hot seat

a whole wall of antlers from hunting, or forest finds

boys club decor - acorn tip antler - rare

the hunter allows a dove to nest on the porch

his cool old truck

out building, built by hand
childhood stove (in storage)

thank you neighbor


Tuesday, June 21, 2011


First, Happy Summer Solstice. Did you know that the sun let out a big eruption of a solar flare today? The longest day of the year has come in with a major hot flash!

I tell you what, I was going to blog a little about goats today, but I got an unexpected surprise.

I talk about my old farmer neighbor friend often here. He usually comes over here when he sees Rusty. They talk about dogs, farming, hunting and gardens. I eaves drop, because I love the stories. I absorb what I can. Once in awhile get a word in or a question.

Lately though, we have seen more of him. I am glad. He lost his wife to cancer not too long ago and I was worried he might give up and follow her. But he hasn't. He hunted this fall and has kept a garden which is way in the back on his property. I never have had opportunity to go up there. Rusty has, because he is a guy. I don't feel upset about that. My neighbor is an old fashion, old man from a different era, when the men-folk talk about men-folk talk. The women gather and talk women-folk talk, (and cook, clean and tend to the children.)

I think somehow when I gave him the plants there was a turning point. He has seen me out in the garden working. I talk about my experiences, and how I see things. I saw him smile when I was talking about how much I love Earl, my pet donkey. I have chipped away at something. He sees me now. He still would never come over to chat unless Rusty was here.

But this evening while I was out pulling weeds, I heard his truck pull up. Rusty wasn't home yet, but my neighbor had told me on Sunday that he would give me all of his romaine lettuce for my ducks, goat pig, (heck even Earl loves romaine leaves.) So he pulls in and I walk up yo his truck. He asks me where I want the lettuce, and I tell him right there by the truck. Well he is pulling out these mega-lettuce heads. He grew these from the little weed-like plants I gave him, not that long ago. I was so delighted. I couldn't believe how big they were! As I am praising his lettuce yield, Rusty pulls up.

So my neighbor, says you want to come see my garden? I say, YES! I go inside grab my cameras and then we all piled in his truck and drove up.

I gasped when I first saw it.

It was huge. HUGE. The hugeness included how big the plants were, not just the actual garden plot. The plants I gave him. Giant. They make mine look like sickly weeds. Now, he told me I can't give away his gardening secrets. So I am keeping him anonymous and I wont share his secrets. After all, I was invited to the men's club. I don't want to blow it.. Here are some photos I snapped off.

monster cabbage, from my seedlings



broccoli and my foot - look how large the broccoli is! My seedling as well.

The unknown neighbor cuts me two grocery bags of full broccoli.

I have more photos of a cabin he built. I will share some views from there in my next blog.
Time to sleep! I am pooped. I will this edit tomorrow. Maybe.

Monday, June 20, 2011

chicken tractor

I gave my old knees a good workout today. Having more plants still in containers, I asked Rusty to till me another garden. He says I keep him busy, pushing for more garden space, and then more. I am addicted to planting things! I can't help myself.

Also, I asked him to build me some chicken tractors. I would build it myself, but it would take me two days. It took Rusty about an hour and a half. For those of you who are not farming, a "tractor" is a mobile chicken pen and housing. People use these tractors for young chickens, for backyard chickens in suburbia and city plots and some people use them for gardens. I know another farm that puts young ducklings in them. Which is pretty smart. Ducks poo like crazy.

We have decided to use the tractor in our garden as part of staying a pesticide free farm.The chickens love to scratch and peck and eat bugs and grasses. This eliminates the need for pesticides and cuts down on weeding. I am all over that! The chickens then poop in that area, and it acts as natural fertilizer. Every day, you move it along. The tractor in a garden setting needs to be pretty narrow to be able to fit between the rows of vegetables. Another benefit of a tractor is the chickens need less feed which cuts down on consumer waste. Additionally, the chickens, and eventually their eggs, are more healthy. It might not be exactly the same as free roaming, but it is pretty darn close. There is a shelter attached, so the chickens can get out of wind and rain and feel secure, always having a place to duck into if something scary happens, like when the mower comes by. Also, hawks can't swoop down and grab your babies. Perks all the way around. Permaculture is based on this sort of farming/living structure way of being mindful of the every day.

I was having some sort of camera operator issues, so this photo is a tad blurry. I am too tired to go up and snap another right now. So here is my first official tractor for my chickens and garden.

chicken tractor in the garden

two Brahmas - look at the hairy legs

chicken tractor in the weeds

two chicken butts

green pepper plant - random shot

photographer issues and carrots

tonka enjoying the chick-weed, cabbage, carrots and the cool earth

new garden - Earl - tiller

Today, I planted a row of romaine, (Yes, I still have more) a row of broccoli, two rows of two varieties of tomatoes, and three rows of pole beans. My idea is to plant in waves. This way we get fresh veggies longer. It helps if you are canning too, to get some breaks. Besides canning for part of our year's food source, I am also selling some. I need to recover my cost of planting, a new tiller, etc... then I will be donating some to needy families. People get non-perishables from food pantries, but these families need fresh vegetables, as much as my family and I do. It is a win, win, win.

Another great day here in Wild and Wonderful WV!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

carnivores only

So today was Father's day. My Father is withering away somewhere alone and in denial. He chose that path. Not me. I excused myself from his life long ago.

I have a stepfather now. Late in life. I wish he would have come around sooner. I always had a hole in my heart in the shape of a Father. I know that hole wouldn't have got so big, if my stepfather was my stepfather when I was so young and impressionable. I needed somebody safe.

I am not writing this to be a big blogging bummer, because it isn't. I have forgiven and moved past. I am happy my Mom has somebody to grow old with. I am happy that my experiences, all of them made me and molded me and brought me to here.


We really didn't have any great plans for Fathers day. A meal, hanging out together. Brittany is even home! She is never home, and she is being nice. Yes people with teenagers, there is light at the end of the hormone-crazy-teenager-tunnel. There is the twenties. A little less drama, a little more insight to the big picture.

My dear husband, Rusty, for whom I must thank for showing me what a real Father is, through his parenting of his daughter and stepchildren. They all might as well all be his, because that is how he treats them. That is who he is. I am thankful for his love to children that may or not be biological, but in every sense of the word are his children.

It was a pretty laid back day. Sophia baked a cake, with very little back-up from me. We planned yummy cook-out and we all were going about the day, like any other day.

Rusty got on the mower. He loves riding that thing. It has a cup holder for a cold beer, and he can't hear us women, being women over the engine. Poor thing is surrounded by women. I think it is his escape. His man-toy break. I figured, hey, he is having a good day when he gets to mow.

Well, he unfortunately gets a flat tire. Freak thing. We still have no idea why. So now he is looking around for something to do. He says, "I think I will butcher some chickens then." I take a gulp and say, "OK."

I am all about self sustainable living, and it is easy when it comes to goat milk, eggs and vegetables. My specialty. But, butchering chickens, oof. I know that I have to learn how to do this for myself. If I am going to eat meat, I better damn well be able to look into the eyes of the animal I am about to kill. But I am not a killer. No way. I am a life giver. I am a Mother. I am everything nurturing. Except for one thing... buying meat at the grocery store is still killing. If it comes in a package, doesn't mean the meat fairy came and grew some protein out of rainbows and bubbles. No, the meat business is pretty ugly. Animals that are raised for meat in mass production have a horrible existence. Horrible. And we consume that energy with our meat.

Back to Father's Day and my answer "OK."

So my gift to my husband, and to myself was to butcher three chickens today. (In my head.)

First. This was part of the plan. I hatch and raise my own chickens here. I hatch both pullets and cockerels. I can't have a bunch of roosters here or they would kill each other and/or the little laying hens. I can either give or sell them to somebody who sell them to an alligator farm (for reals) or harvest their meat. Me butchering chickens is no more horrid then buying a pack of Perdue in the market or some chicken-mc-nuggets from McDonald's.

I stood beside my husband as we "processed" three of my flock.

It wasn't that bad. Of course I didn't do the deed. I am not there yet. But I did watch, and then I cleaned and cut them up and placed their precious meat into freezer bags. I said a little thank you. The toughest part for me was to pick out who was going. It was an easy pick for the Cornish Rock, he was going to die on his own if he got any bigger. He was supposed to be a Brahma. I didn't buy a chicken with the intent to harvest it. But, I may now. That chicken was huge. As big as a small turkey. I kept him whole for a roaster. Gulp. Shiver. But I did have to pick out two of my young roos. If they get any older they get tough and then it would be a waste.

I spared Obama. He made it through a dog attack and hid out for a few days, until I found him in the trash bin. He is still limping and he is a companion to Ring-Tone II, a pullet, who was also attacked by a dog and was gone for more days than Obama. They bonded in their little hospital barn room I put them in. I catch them sitting together in the sun. I couldn't pick him. No. Then there was Washington (George) he was the first chick that I ever hatched. He is the biggest red. Big cockerel. Well not big yet, but tall and lanky. He got spared too.

So, I chose the two, one red and one black. Two Presidents. I hatched them myself. I loved them, and I killed them. They are in my freezer.

chicken with love
my tools

on the left is the cornish rock, on the right is two young cockerels

this helped

Rusty thanked me for helping him. I thanked him for doing the hard part. Now we have homegrown organic chicken with no hormones, additives, antibiotics, and no bad energy to feed my family.

My daughter Brittany, swore not to eat it. Ok, so part of my family.

My neighbor Shirl came over later with some eggs from his hens for me to hatch, and we all discussed a Fall garden. Then we sat down to a huge meal (not chicken) and ate some Father's Day cake.

It was a good day for me. I hope Rusty had one too.