Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Fine Art of Chicken Processing

Elliott has taken over the poultry operation of our farm and is processing (slaughtering) 100 chickens every other week in April-October. Of course we want for him to be very successful in his new endeavor so we are helping him on the processing days, and Oliver and I (Meredith) are also working at a second farmers market on Saturdays to promote his product and boost his sales.

Several friends have expressed interest in seeing the events of a processing, so I am posting pictures from our two most recent processing days (yesterday and two weeks ago).

Elliott's chickens arrive at our town's post office when they are just one day old. They grow as they graze on the pasture until they are eight weeks old, which is when they are ready to be processed. Once moved from the pasture to the processing area, Sullivan and Harrison set them in the killing cones.
Sullivan has recently begun learning how to slit throats from Oliver, who is proud to be known as a "throat slitting expert". ;)Once they die, they are moved to the scalding station. They are repeatedly dipped in the scalding hot water, so the feathers are loosened.
Then they are moved to the plucker.
The plucker rotates the chickens around so that the feathers are completely removed.
Next, the chickens are brought to the eviscerating table. We cut them open to pull their guts out and rinse them in preparation for packaging and cooling.
It seems really disgusting, but you really get used to it!Mama is the fastest and most thorough eviscerater, but she was the one with the camera, so she isn't pictured. That's the whole process from start to finish!
Yesterday, Elliott set a goal of having all of the chickens finished, parted (he sells some in parts-- i.e. leg packs, boneless breast fillets, etc.), and packaged by 5 pm (we began around 10:30 am). He told us that if we finished by 5 pm, he'd buy each of us a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream! Fortunately, we finished around 4:45 pm, so we each enjoyed lots of ice cream last night!

"The first rule of chicken processing is if you feel something wet on your lip, don't lick it."
~ Joel Salatin ;)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Behind the Scenes of Week One (Written by Mama)

Behind the scenes of this first week of the farm fix-up, are stories and events that remind us that we've stepped out of our old, familiar life and into a world where we have so very much to learn and experience.

After our first day of working at the new farm last week, we all came home exhausted, tired, and late for milking. Meredith's crew arrived home just seconds before Tim's but it was long enough for her to go in the house, turn on her heels, and meet the second crew as we pulled into the driveway. We were greeted by one very angry young lady shouting with great frustration, "The goats have been IN OUR HOUSE!" Sure enough, in our absence the goats broke out of their pen, climbed our tall porch steps, hooved the handicap accessible door handle, came right in, and made themselves at home. It appeared they had enjoyed a nice snack of bread from the kitchen counter top, eggs straight from the carton, and sadly my decorative wheat bundles that had been harvested and saved for my memory of Meredith's first property she bought and sold. I felt as if it were some twisted Goldilocks fairy tale as Timmy ran upstairs and exclaimed in seriousness and with great relief that at least the goats hadn't gone into our bedrooms. We worked to clean up the mess almost in silence for fear of saying things that really shouldn't be said!

The next day presented more new challenges in this world of farming in which we're so unfamiliar. As I awoke that morning, the first thing that crossed my mind was a cow that had been very sick. I prayed for CC before I barely opened my eyes Friday. As Tim and the bigger boys began their morning chores, it became obvious that CC was even worse. She was less than 10 days away from calving but we feared she wouldn't make it that long. Tim called the vet with whom he had been in constant contact regarding CC's condition, and I could overhear the vet say it was time to put her down. Timmy flipped his cell phone shut, looked at me, and said, "I don't know how to do that!"

As God has so faithfully done in the past, He has given us people to help us in our time of need. Tim called our new farming friend, Ty, and explained the situation. Ty assured us he could help but suggested we try to save the baby calf since it was so close to the delivery date. He immediately made contact with a farmer known for his skill in such procedures and both men met our boys within hours. Tim and I were working at the new farm, waiting for word from the boys and praying for a miraculous outcome. After what seemed like a long time, tender-hearted Elliott called Timmy and simply said, "What do you want me to do with both of them?" Tears fell from my eyes as the disappointment overwhelmed me. There would be no miraculous farm story today.

With so much going on, grief is quickly pushed aside by the next pressing detail. It would be Sullivan's injured toe taking center stage. A few days earlier he had dropped a piece of lumber on it and by Tuesday, the toe nail was pushing away from the skin because of the extreme amount of pressure from the bruising below. He was limping and complaining of pain in his leg from the throbbing pressure. Knowing that we'd end up at a doctor if I didn't find a solution, I studied remedies online. After reading about the shocking solution, I thought, "If we're going to be farmers, I suppose I better learn how to do stuff like this and not be a pansy." (This next part is not for the faint of heart, but honest to goodness, it worked!) Brave Sullivan, my trusting patient, sat very still as I heated a needle till the metal point was red. The directions said I should touch the needle point to the toe nail repeatedly until a hole was made. I tried to make casual conversation, raising my voice a bit louder when the heat would sizzle and melt the toe nail, while my patient sat calmly as if he had complete confidence in my newfound medical skills. Just as the directions said, suddenly the pressure began to release and a mixture of.. well, you don't want to know every detail, began to come from the newly drilled hole. It seemed the procedure would be a success until suddenly (the online medical education never mentioned this might happen) the needle went too far and poor Sullivan shouted in pain! Oh, I felt just terrible for him. In that moment, I would have gladly spent the $250 to have had a podiatrist to do this. Sullivan was very forgiving of my inefficiency and I'm happy to report that he's healed!! His toe went from terrible purple with the nail beginning to lift off, to almost completely normal - with the exception of the unique toe nail piercing. As I try so hard to model my life after the Proverbs 31 woman, I wondered for the first time why the biblical description doesn't mention her dispensing medical care. Maybe I don't have to become the farm medic after all?!

The first week of work at the new farm concluded with a thrilling, overwhelming welcome from those with whom we'll be sharing our property - an abundance of black snakes! Yes, they've come from near and far to greet us. We have one living in the pump house for whom we are choosing a name, while many others have taken time to stop by for a surprise visit. One slithered across the driveway as if to assure us that he'd keep an eye on the place while we'd be away. Another tried to join us on the porch for lunch. Yet, one really went all out to make us feel welcome and was discovered in the master bedroom. We don't know if he came in under a door or maybe just through one of the holes in the bedroom wall. You can only imagine how we anticipate more visits from the vast welcoming committee with each closet we open or bucket we overturn.

All in all, I hope week 2 of the renovations is much less eventful and our biggest dilemma will be how to hang 8 bath towels in a tiny, closet sized, shared bathroom!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Progress Update

Yesterday marked one week of work on our new house. At least some of the family has been out there working every day except Sunday. I (Meredith) wish I could post amazing "after" pictures, but everything is still very much in the "before" stage! We have made a lot of progress though. All of the wallpaper has been torn down, as well as the vinyl backsplash in the kitchen. Daddy was replacing one of the broken window panes in the picture below:
Elliott and Oliver worked hard pulling up the many layers of flooring that had been put down over the years:
The floors are stripped down to the original wood now, so we can begin sanding and refinishing them.
Daddy finished building the closets in the dining room and one of the upstairs bedrooms. We had planned to do the painting, but we found someone on Craigslist that was willing to do it for a very good price so we hired his crew instead. They began painting yesterday and Daddy says they are doing quality work.
The upstairs bedroom:Elliott and Oliver have learned so many carpentry skills over the years they have worked with Daddy:We were having quotes done for the roof repairs, but PaPa (Daddy's father) and Daddy were able to fix the roof yesterday! That will save a lot of money. Mama also tore up floors and pulled the left behind nails.
We bring lunch each day and eat on the front porch:
I pulled the nails left on the walls from where a zillion pictures have hung over the years. Then I patched the walls with spackling and sanded them:
Maybe our next post will look a little more encouraging! A fresh coat of paint always seems to make a huge difference in all of the houses we have fixed up.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day at King's Dominion

Yesterday we took the day off from our work at the new farm and went to King's Dominion (a fun amusement park)! We were so glad that Oma (Mama's mother) could come with us, especially since it was Mother's Day. Oma, Mama, Sheridan, and I (Meredith):
Our family loves amusement parks. We especially enjoy thrill rides and rollercoasters! Sullivan, Mama, Oliver, and I are on the far left:
Sheridan's not ready for the big rides yet, but Daddy will get her on the big rides as soon as she can stand as tall as she possibly can and meet the height requirements! Daddy says I rode Rebel Yell (a wooden coaster at King's Dominion) for the first time when I was only 3. Elliott, Oliver, and I rode all the rollercoasters, and even rode one five times in a row! We love the steep, huge drops and the upside down loops. Mama and Sheridan on the carousel:
Harrison and Sheridan on the airplanes:We always pack a lunch to eat in the parking lot. The food inside the park is sooo expensive.
Daddy bought us season passes, so we hope to go many more times throughout the summer and fall. Elliott and Sheridan:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Interior Pictures of Our "New" Farmhouse

Yesterday was "Day One" in the restoration process of our "new" farmhouse. We worked hard, however, it wasn't very visible progress. The following picture is the back porch/sunroom. Oliver took off the awnings to let in extra sunlight (and because the awnings were quite outdated!):
From the back porch you enter the kitchen:
Sulli on the countertop peeling off old wallpaper:
The laundry room is accessed from the kitchen:
I (Meredith) worked on unscrewing the many curtain rod brackets over the windows. I was on the washing machine in this picture, and on top of some windows were 3 different places where folks have added curtain rod brackets over the past 100 years!: The bathroom is off of the laundry room. The only bathroom!
The dining room is very large. Daddy is building two closets along one wall because the house lacks closets and storage areas (two of the bedrooms don't have closets!).
Daddy and Elliott began tearing up the layers of flooring to get down to the wood floors, which we're having sanded. Wood floors are most practical in our homes because our floors get a lot of use from a lot of muddy boots!
The family room:
There is a huge kerosene heater in the family room. It is quite unsightly, so we would love any creative ideas anyone may have of how to cleverly disguise it (it takes up an entire corner of the family room!).
Elliott ripping out trim where they were building a closet:
The master bedroom is on the first floor:
Hallway leading to the master bedroom (the door on the right), a second entrance door, and the stairs leading to the remaining three bedrooms:
I like the little balcony area on the second floor! We are thinking about building bookshelves and a window seat for a little library.
Of course all carpet is coming up and we are painting all the walls! This will eventually be Sulli and Harrison's bedroom:
We have lived in three bedroom houses for a very long time, so the four boys are looking forward to sharing each of their bedrooms with only one brother instead of three. Sheridan took her afternoon nap in what will eventually be Elliott and Oliver's bedroom:
The following is going to be the bedroom shared by Sheridan and me! I am looking forward to sharing a room with my sweet sister. I had just finished tearing off the wallpaper in this room when I took the following picture:
I love this little area and hope to turn it into a sewing corner!
Harrison worked hard hauling 2x4's for the closet construction to the house:
Harrison taking a break at the end of the work day:
Sulli dropped some lumber on his toe, causing it to immediately turn purple! He was put on "light-duty" and took a break to read on the front porch:Some pictures of the fields:
There is also a pond on the property: More views of the exterior:
Oliver and Elliott taking off awnings:
The view from the road:
We are moving to the house in just 3 weeks! We have so much to do over the next few weeks. I'm already greatly looking forward to being settled in and sharing the "After" pictures!