It's been quite a long year since I posted last! The farm has been a lot of work and we've had to move once more, leaving our precious tomato crop behind to whither and die at the place that no longer wanted us. We're staying at a new place now, a place that looks more permanent, at least in the sense the new renters absolutely adore us. The neighbours here are, as usual, quite horrible, but I have many plans to win them over with cupcakes and biscuits.
Currently we are on three cleared acres, just a small little plot, as we save up, finally, for our new home. I've been working off and on as a chef for small jobs here and there while writing my cookbook and making money various other ways. My husband has quit his job and opened his own at-home and mobile business repairing trailers, tractors, pretty much anything metal and huge that needs welders and hands. Just yesterday with his spare time and money, he has built me a gorgeous steel pen for my beautiful golden pheasants.
We have two nanny goats, Nanny and Jealousy and a billy who does not belong to us named Diego. Nanny is a year older than Jealousy and has kidded before so she seems much more comfortable with her fattening belly than Jealousy, who's on the last legs of her first pregnancy - if she can get on her legs at all.
The abattoir agreed to kill and dress my goats for me for $30, which seems fair. We recently spent $75 on a whole dressed goat we cut up into bits on a fun learning day to get into our freezer. It seems almost sad that I only save forty or so dollars by knocking my own goats up and having them killed for me. That's a savings of less than $5 a month! Goats themselves are $80 a piece, living. Not really a marketable venture. At least we only borrowed Diego so we didn't have to pay for him - he got to knock up our goats and gets a good feed in the meantime, until the old owners need him back for their next mating season.
My biggest excitement right now is the milk that will be coming in. I am looking forward to all sorts of lovely things. I have collected a few cultures and was heavily depressed to find my vegetarian rennant had spilled all over the fridge. It's only a few dollars but when you're only saving $5 a month on goat meat, you do what you can. The dairy is what'll put me back in the black, I believe. I will be posting recipes for goat's milk mozzarella, goat's milk ice cream, goat's milk yogurt, all of it. There will even be video of me attempting to milk a goat for the first time. Yes, the first time - because I need to really mess up on camera to show people how even a silly little thing like me can make this work. If I can, anyone can!
Quite a few of our chickens have decided to eat eggs and some had to be culled. There's still more that need to their heads removed, but I'll get to those as I can. They were quite violent with it, so it was obvious they weren't going to 'get over it'. Either way, I was able to make a roast, some stock, a ton of dog food AND save $6 a week on their food/egg losses.
When killing your chickens saves you $20 a piece immediately... you do it. It doesn't even become a moral vs. heart thing anymore after awhile. It just simply is. This is the way it works to make the farm work otherwise the farm doesn't work. I've lost hundreds of dollars in eggs over the last few months. I've fed chickens who were hurting the final product. It just works like that, sadly. I don't feel good killing them.
I see chicken trucks pass through my small town daily. The chickens in them are missing feathers, can barely stand (if at all), have pale combs and beaks and just overly look miserable, disgusting and on the verge of disease. My chickens, while not as fat and meaty as their factory counterparts, are full of yellowy fat, combs bright red and large, eyes shiny, feet scales thick and strong, and their nails long. They are healthy.
I know I hardly ever eat chicken now; chicken breast is one of the worst things I can eat in my opinion. The breast, the nicest bit, to be eaten and throw the rest away. Why this waste? Why do it? I keep the bones for stock, gorgeous beautiful golden stock that flavours almost every dish I make incredibly, it's gelatinous texture thick from the quality of the bones I used. I keep the liver for a classic pate and the heart just to fry and eat. I can never cleanly remove the lungs so I just leave them in the bird to flavour my roast. The legs and wings are delicious and so is the meat stuck to the back. Lungs and stomach (minus bile duct) go into dog food. Nobody eats the feet, I keep trying. So I find it hard, incredibly hard, after killing my own chickens, to eat breast meat or any chicken in public, really. I see the life I had to let out in order to get a breast or two. And when I see us throw the rest of the carcass, the beautiful meat and extras, just to have the best pieces, I find it wasteful and horrible.
In order to eat a chicken every other week, which would last me about 3 days of meals (we are a small family) I would have to kill 25 chickens a year. Just to have two breasts every other week! A chicken breast a week is 25 chickens. A week! I know people who cannot manage a day without chicken. And do you think they're all coming from the same chicken? Guaranteed you've probably not eaten the same two breasts off the same chicken if you've bought it somewhere commercially. When you really sit down and think of the damage, it crushes you a little. Especially when you only have thirty or so chickens at all - I would have to cull nearly my entire flock to each chicken once in awhile for a year!
So meat is a treat, I suppose. We only get it two or three times a week. Usually in the form of goat or beef, since we still have a cattle farm up north run by Glynn's parents. Glynn has also started some tanks up for fish farming, which he wants to do on a small scale for our family for now. The bees are also coming in soon. Chicken is a rare treat because of the life to meat value it has on a farm. Beef brings in quite a lot of meat and goat a fair amount. I would say a whole goat is enough for a family of a four to eat meat twice a week for 6-8 weeks, if they were very hungry and liked making lots of sandwiches from the leftovers. A half cow should last 6 months with extreme carnivore mode set.
I AM SO SICK OF STEAK. Okay, let me tell you super-marketers something - steak is the BIGGEST thing on a cow. Not as in, it's worth a lot, as in, it's what a cow has the MOST of, other than being a cow. Depending on weight and thickness, you can get something ridiculous like 100-150 steaks. Maybe more! I never get to the cow on the farm before it's half eaten anyway so some steaks might be gone already! Minced beef is utterly useless if you're not into an American diet and all the cool stuff like heart, liver, oxtail there's only ONE of on each cow, so that becomes the real treat. How funny, right?! When you farm, steak is quite possibly the most obnoxious overdone incredibly boring meat you can have. What do you do with steak other than make steak? Slice it and make steak sandwiches? So naturally, one off items become massive treats. Big bags of fat are exciting because they end up being my drippings for my meat pie crusts. Liver is exciting because they're so much of it and it's so finicky to cook it becomes a fun little challenge. (Note: I currently have one sliced liver taking up FIVE take away containers in my freezer). Heart tastes amazing cubed into a stew with chuck STEAK. (I have gone so far as to throw T-Bone & Rib Fillet into a crockpot because *bleep* STEAK!)
So now when I go to the butcher, I beg for oxtail and heart and bones. Oh, do you have tripe!? I would so love a bit of tripe! These are the one-off things you can only get as a treat when you raise them yourself, not a disgusting off-cut you want nothing to do with. Steak, however, becomes so incredibly constant that, here, have a steak. TAKE MY STEAK. TAKE IT. I still have steak in the freezer from Christmas (not the holiday, the steer)... a new cow is coming into the freezer soon along with half a pig I got from a free range farmer and I still can't bring myself to eat another steak.
I'm sure all of you just feel terrible for me.