UGH!

This whole pitch black by 5pm just IS NOT WORKING FOR ME!!! Hahaha.

I’m beginning to understand the rhythm of farming and to realize that while I can do things out of season it’s MUCH easier to do them in season.

So educationally frustrating!

Home Again, Home Again

What a time we have had since I last posted. We made a whirlwind trip home to Texas and Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. Normally I wouldn’t consider eight days a whirlwind trip but we get home so rarely that we always try to cram a years worth of visits into one trip. Between friends and family we wound up putting 1200 miles on the rental car. That’s just “visiting” miles, we flew from Seattle to Dallas. I don’t regret a single one!🙂

It was a little tough coming back to the overcast skies of the Pacific Northwest even though I love the green. I was born and raised in wide open spaces and sometimes I need to be able to see farther than a thousand feet. I remember as a kid standing on my aunt’s back porch in the Oklahoma Panhandle and seeing the grain elevators at Hardesty eleven miles away. Sometimes I need that distance to feel like I can breathe freely.

We are very lucky to have places to go and a place to come back to and friends that watch out for us. My coworker who lives a couple of miles down the road took care of our little farm while we were gone. We came back to a peaceful resumption of chores and whatnot.

We bred the rabbits the weekend before we left so we’ll be building nest boxes in the very near future. The pigs are growing like mad. I’m supposed to call the butcher in January to make them an appointment in April or May… probably April. And today I culled our first hen.

It was interesting doing that totally alone. I didn’t realize until I was finished that anytime I’ve cleaned fish or butchered a chicken or anything along those lines it was always with someone else. Plus, it’s been so long that it might as well have been the first time. It wasn’t a bad or emotional thing just different. And I have to admit that I’m kinda proud that I just did it cause it needed to be done.

Anyway, enough. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate it. If you don’t, I hope you had a happy Thursday.

The Cat That Made Me Question

Let me preface this by saying that all I have is questions, no answers.

My father has a real farm, 300+ acres, cows, big tractors, and lots of haying equipment. It’s not at all like my dinky 10 acres, two pigs, chickens, and bees. On this real farm he has a barn with stacks of feed. Stacks of feed always equals lots of mice. So my dad always has barn cats. Their population waxes and wanes in direct proportion to the hunting adeptness of the local coyote population. This is unremarkable.

One day though, my dad went out to feed his feline warriors after an especially fecund period and found every single kitten dead, not eaten, just dead, and a new tomcat on the premises. What happened to the old tomcat we never knew. He was either killed or exiled by the new tom, or became coyote food.

What we did know was that the new tom, however he came to be cock of the walk, had killed all those kittens. That’s what happens when a new feline male takes over a pride with young. The death of the kittens causes the females to come back into estrus and the new tom gets to pass on his DNA. This is unremarkable in the natural world as well.

Fast forward to my Introduction to Moral Philosophy class. That class, of course, just happened to include a section on Utilitarianism which of course led to an exploration of Peter Singer and his animal liberation movement and his self-made “speciesism”. Suddenly, the cat that was so unremarkable made me question everything I was being taught.

It is no understatement that a major reason Peter Singer is so important is because he is so divisive and provocative. If he weren’t, he would probably exist in obscurity like the other 99.9% of current philosophers. But the fact is he is well known. His arguments often seem to  make sense despite his monstrous conclusions and millions of people around the world are forming their ethical frame on his ideas. Another fact is that being exposed to him has caused me to constantly reexamine my relationship to, well, I was going to say the natural world but that’s just the world.

Back to the cat.

We define morality as knowing the difference between right action and wrong action. We define ethics as a system of moral principles. A moral agent has the power to cause intentional harm to another. A subject of moral worth is anything that can be harmed.

I began to question, was the tomcat a moral agent?(I think not.) Or was he just a cat?(I think so.) If he was just a cat then does that mean that morality does not apply to him? If he is just a cat and we can’t hold him to the same moral standards as ourselves then doesn’t that make morality a purely human concept? If I see a cat bring a mouse to its injured mate and I call it kindness then don’t I also have to call the killing of these kittens murder? If I am not allowed to anthropomorphize one shouldn’t I also not anthropomorphize the other?

I seriously think these are important questions because if it does turn out that morality (knowing right action from wrong action vs. instinct or natural behavior) is purely human (even if it grew out of our evolutionary path) then it affects the way we apply it to the world outside our species. I’m not talking about whether we eat meat or not, or if factory farming is ethical. I’m talking about the view we have of our actual planet and ecology.

Michael Pollan in his article “An Animal’s Place” quotes Peter Singer thusly, “It must be admitted,” Singer writes, “that the existence of carnivorous animals does pose one problem for the ethics of Animal Liberation, and that is whether we should do anything about it.”  And Matthew Scully as saying predation is “the intrinsic evil in nature’s design . . . among the hardest of all things to fathom.”

I would posit that Mr. Singer and Mr. Scully have decided that morality is innate and universal. I would also posit that pursuing action to support their decision would lead to catastrophic consequences not just for us but for all life on this planet.

Anyway, it’s almost 10 o’clock and I have to work tomorrow so I’ll sign off now. I truly look forward to your thoughts!

Pig Tractor

So… eventually Don is going to forbid me to surf the Internet.

I saw a picture of a pig tractor and thought, “We could do that!” – so many of our projects begin that way.

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Here’s the link to the original post. I think it’s a book advert or something, and be warned, the text does not match the picture. But that was okay with me because I find a picture so much easier to work from.

It just so happened that on the same day that I saw this I also saw a Craigslist ad for weaner pigs at about half the usual cost! Sometimes you just can’t fight the universe.

That same evening found me in the barn sorting through more of the woodlot wood. That place is turning out to be a real blessing… or maybe an enabler? Depends on which of us you ask I guess.

It took us about 3 days of afternoons and one Saturday morning to complete. It would’ve gone quicker but I have to stop and ruminate on each step. “Is that where that should go? Maybe over here would be better” and so on.

Eventually we wound up with a moveable pen with an attached DIY self-feeder and water trough. It all moves. There are eyebolts on each end that we attach a chain to and pull with the tractor.

I have a video of us moving it out to the pasture but I can’t seem to get it uploaded to YouTube. Bummer. We finished the tractor on Saturday morning and by 1 o’clock that afternoon we had these guys in it. Our little farm now has bees, chickens, rabbits, and pigs. Remember how I said I needed to plan better? Yeah, that’s not working out so well. Hahaha!

Hope your October went well.

Bacon Bacon Bacon Rabbits

I always scroll back a little when I get on here to post just in case I’m repeating myself too often. Then I promptly forget and go ahead and post whatever. I’m a free form poster.

I think I mentioned starting some bacon. If not, I started some bacon. Today was smoking day! Woo-hoo! But wait… no journey worth taking is not without challenges right?

Wavy lines swish across your screen as your author has a flashback…

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It all started with this Costco pork belly. (I knew I had mentioned this!)

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Add equal parts salt and brown sugar and weird, miraculous stuff starts to happen. This gross, bloody, juice being one of them. If you dump the juice and replace the rub for a few days though the juice eventually stops.

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This is after 10 days. Truthfully, that was probably too long but I am so scared of poisoning us that I erred on the side of caution. The change is amazing. That floppy thing in the first picture turned into solid hunks of meat that you could pick up by one corner.

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Rinse the cure off and let dry for 24 hours, more or less, and it’s ready to cold smoke. What? You don’t have a cold smoker? Just one of those little Brinkmann bullet looking thingys? It’s time for REDNECK ENGINEERING! (My favorite.)

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It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a shipping crate and a dryer hose.🙂 The crate looks more important that it really is. The top of my smoker is basically just a big tube with a  lid. Its purpose is just to capture smoke. I didn’t want to drill a hole into the side of my smoker so I cut a hole in the side and bottom (top) of the crate. The smoke travels from the little grill through the dryer hose and up into the smoker. I was stunned that this crap actually worked! And it worked well too.

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This photo doesn’t really do it justice. It was puffing like a Tommy Chong devotee. After four hours I pulled it out.

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It didn’t pick up a lot of color – I think that maybe I let it dry too long before smoking – but it smells like Hickory heaven. It’ll go into the fridge tonight and get sliced and frozen tomorrow. We could if we wanted just hang it and it would be fine but Don doesn’t want meat hanging in the house. I just don’t understand that.

But what about the rabbits in the title you ask?

Well, while I was out in the barn making sure it didn’t burn down I thought I might as well do something productive. So I worked on the rabbit hutch. I might have mentioned, or maybe not, converting these shipping crates into a rabbit hutch.

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I’m pretty sure I did since the picture has already been uploaded. I’ve been working on it every time I get a chance since then. The only thing I have left to do is build some poop trays.

 

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The hardware and the wire are new, everything else was repurposed from the woodlot at work. It should not have taken me so long to build except I was figuring it out as I went. Regardless, it is all but done and not a moment too soon. The rabbits will arrive next Saturday!

I wonder what smoked rabbit would taste like…

Was that in poor taste?

Be well my friends.

Just A Weekend

One of the perks of working where I do is the “woodlot”. The parts we build and the parts we ship are pretty big. Consequently the shipping material that comes into the plant is pretty big as well. We get first shot at almost everything before the wood recycler takes it.

I take full advantage of the benefit.

Friday I had Don bring schlep-truck to the plant and I loaded up this:

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Saturday I spent a few hours pulling nails and got this:

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That’s fourteen 14′ 2X6s, two 12′ 2X6s, and about thirty 8′ & 10′ ones as well. It was just seriously awesome! I certainly don’t mind trading my time for bounty, plus the wood gets more use instead of becoming pulp. I tell myself that anyway.

Today I used another shipping crate from there to make a bigger brooder. The 19 chicks we hatched were just getting too large for our original contraption.

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Just two more weeks until they move to their new home but for now they think they’re living in the Taj Mahal.

As I’m typing this the second presidential debate is on the television. I have purposely avoided politics on this blog because that’s not the point of this blog. But I just gotta say, “Thank goodness I bottled hard cider today cause I think it’s gonna come in handy!”

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Be well.

Realization

My friends, my friends it’s fall! Time to wrap things up, wind things down, and settle into the autumn.

In my line of work we talk alot about “realization rates”. Realization rates are a measure of goal achievement. If I say I can build a plane in 200 hours and it takes me 400 hours I have a realization rate of 2. If I build it in 100 hours I have a realization rate of 0.5. The ultimate realization rate is 1. That means you set a realistic goal and achieved it. The 0.5 means your goal was too easy. The 2 means your goal was too hard or your effort was too small.

I would put myself at about 1.7 right now. I don’t think my goals are unreasonable nor do I believe that my effort has been too small – although I will admit to probably taking more sabbaths than I should.🙂 But I’ve begun to realize that my plan may have been too spontaneous and chaotic. And… maybe non-existent in certain areas.

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Our first ever batch of hard cider. It’s bubbling away on a top shelf.

I like to end these posts on a positive note so let’s talk first about where I missed.

My biggest failure was not getting the house painted. It was Don’s most important goal and I just couldn’t find the motivation when the days were sunny. I wanted to be out in the barn or clearing the woods or anything other than painting. Painting is so not farming, except that it is. Realization finally dawned on me a couple of weeks ago that farming as a lifestyle is wholistic – land, house, animals, garden, family, friends, even off-farm employment – it’s all one life. This one is due to lack of effort.

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At breakfast I realized that the eggs, tomato, honey, apple juice, and blackberry jelly were all produced right here!!🙂

I didn’t get fence up (although I started) nor did I get a real garden in (although we did have the small potato/tomato patch) nor did I get the barn totally repaired. But it wasn’t due to lack of effort or unreasonable goals. I didn’t have a plan and by that I mean a realistic, thought out, written down with dates plan. I was also missing my overall farm philosophy.

It’s philosophy that drives action and provides boundaries for decision making. A smallholder, which I may begin calling myself, farms to fill her or his larder whereas a “Farmer” farms for income. I realized as I walked onto the back porch the other day that we had created a larder. In addition to the shelves of canned food from the grocery store, there are jars of home canned apple juice, buckets of apples, buckets of potatoes, boxes of onions, and even a big bag of our own walnuts.

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Not our pig (yet) but we’re still makin’ bacon!

It felt good, this realization. If I am really honest I farm for the satisfaction of a full larder. I am not entrepreneurial nor a good businessman. I’m okay with that. I am however a good provider. I think mostly because it’s the thing that gives me the most joy. A smallholder with a full larder, yes, I can live with that!

I’m considering those goals realized.

Other things we’ve accomplished are our first batch of hard cider, pressing our own juice, CHICKENS and hatching chickens. The bees made it to the end of the season and we have something akin to honey. Our first try at bacon is in the refrigerator in the barn curing away. And in a couple of weeks we’ll have meat rabbits. All longtime goals that I never

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Two scavenged shipping crates on their way to being a rabbit hutch.

really thought we’d achieve and yet, here we are.

We’ve been here one year and two months. It’s been chaos, bewilderment, bedazzlement, be-damned wonderful.

I realize that.

 

 

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I think all that introspection deserves a nice, pickled egg.

Your First, My Second…

View of this post that is.

I’ve been quiet and short lately I know and I apologize but my sister recently passed away and I just needed to withdraw for awhile. My first draft of this post was about that. It was a good post but it was too personal and raw to share. And the truth is that while I am overwhelmingly sad my life has not stopped. My husband is still the most wonderful man I know. My kids are still precious anxiety factories. My Brady Bunch + The Griswalds + a smattering of the Manson Family family still endures. And chores still have to be done around here. Life, it’s what keeps you going through the tough spots. I would like to share some it with you.

img_2986We have made our first farm-based barter deal! These little guys will be traded for a breeding trio of meat rabbits! I belong to a few local bartering and small farm groups on Facebook. I saw a post about a family looking for more chickens who didn’t have a lot of money but did have meat rabbits. We chatted and reached a bargain. One month from now, when the rabbits are breeding age and these chicks are old enough we will trade. I just think that is frikkin’ awesome.

We also harvested our first honey!  Unfortunately we were just a little bit early and the honey is still a little unripe. But it tastes so good!

The box weighed about 32 pounds. That’s wood, comb, and honey combined of course. We got a little over a gallon of honey. It was delicious on biscuits. Just sayin’. We have one more box to go. We’re holding off on it in hopes it will be more mature.

We also managed to capture some of the apple harvest this year.

I have to tell you, these dried apples are the best I’ve ever tasted. I never really cared for dried apples but these actually taste like apples.

We also built a cider press and pressed our own juice!

I have to admit I’m on my way to becoming a food snob. This stuff just tastes so good. One gallon of it is going into our hard cider kit. Yes I will finally get to taste home-brewed cider! I am really pumped.

We still haven’t painted the house but I’m okay with that. I hope that your fall is going well.