Thursday, October 17, 2013

Autumn thoughts

Has it really been 3 months since I last posted? Time flies in the summer. I was super busy weeding the garden and harvesting and canning. I canned something like 36 pints of various types of salsa, 36 quarts of peaches and pears and 14 quarts of applesauce. I still need to figure out what to do with all the ground cherries that are just waiting to fall off the plants. Someone gave me a suggestion I want to try - pull up the plants and hang them upside down until the fruit falls off (put a sheet under them to catch the fruit). As an added bonus, all those ground cherries won't end up sprouting in the garden in the spring (turns out they are rather invasive but oh so tasty!)

Now that fall is here, I am finally able to relax a little. Dark arrives by 6:30pm so I can't do anything outside. You would think that will all the extra time I would have a spotless house. Not the case. It is just as bad as usual.  My goal is to focus on one area every evening and to make sure that I am done with it by 9pm so I can sit on the couch and crochet for a bit. That's certainly more relaxing than I did all summer!

Even though it is dark and cold outside, I still have outdoor chores to do. I stopped milking Daisy because I am getting so much milk from Mystique still that it seemed pointless. She is still nursing her doelings a few times a day, but she should wean them soon. One of her doelings already thinks she's ready for breeding because she's  coming into estrus every 3 weeks and is flirting like crazy with the buck. She walks over to the crack between the stalls and turns her butt to it and wags her tail. Poor Hef is going nuts because he can't get to her. If she's big enough in December I will breed her but she needs to be around 80 lbs. As of now she's about 60. 

Just because Hef can't have access to Windy, doesn't mean he hasn't had any action. Daisy was in estrus a couple of weeks ago so I had this brilliant idea to put him in with her for the day. Well darned if he didn't go straight over to Mystique and breed her - I didn't even know she was in estrus! So much for my plan to breed Daisy early and Mystique later so that I would have a year round supply of milk. Lesson learned - always put the doe you want bred in with the buck and not the buck in with all the does.

Autumn also means downsizing. There isn't as much forage so I have to supplement all the animals for the winter. I was hoping to butcher one of our rams (the smaller one) and the two wether lambs. But the wether lambs just weren't heavy enough so the ram was the only one to leave. He came back in little white packages of ground meat and I tried some the other night and it was good! There are a million different opinions on the taste of mutton and the taste is so varied - it can be based on diet, breed, sex, age, etc, etc. He was a little tougher than the younger lambs but not enough to cause a problem. So only one less mouth to feed but every little bit counts. And now there's no fighting between the rams over the ewes.

 Also downsized were the chickens. Because we hatched out some chicks this year, we had a bunch of extra chickens and they don't all fit in the coop well. There were chickens perching in nesting boxes, on feeders, on the ground, etc. So last Sunday P and I decided to butcher chickens. We ended up being able to catch 7 of them and we also decided to butcher 2 of the male ducks since 9 ducks was way too many and at least 4 of those were male. And if you want to know how terrible male ducks are just read this:
Anyhow, P got the job of killing the birds and then I hung them to bleed. Next we had to remove feathers which means dunking them in hot water for 30 seconds. That is one seriously stinky job.  The kids (minus the youngest who wanted nothing to do with it) had a great time defeathering. I was quite surprised. They wanted to watch the killing and be part of the butchering. I feel wonderful that our kids KNOW where meat comes from and will therefore have a greater respect for animals that provide food.  I got to do the gutting because I'm good at it I guess. Or maybe because my hands are small enough to fit inside a chicken. My son was extremely interested in the guts. He wanted to know what all the parts were - I should have brushed up on  my chicken anatomy. Gutting is a gross job the first time you do it but after a while it's not a big deal. Though it is physically very taxing. My neck, shoulders and back are still suffering days later.  I learned something new about ducks which I should have known all along - they have down feathers! As fluffy and soft as they might be in a pillow, they are a real pain in the butt to get off of the duck. I don't even know if I like duck but this is a cheap way to try it!  Two of the chickens we kept whole as friers. The others P skinned and cut up into parts. The carcasses became LOTS of chicken stock.  And we are now going through a lot less poultry food. That stuff is expensive nowadays!

So that's life right now. I love fall and winter because I get to rest, but I truly miss the sunny days and long warm evenings where I get to be outside enjoying nature. Only 5-6 more months before I can be back outside with my hands in the soil...