I’m hoping this means we’ve discovered our pot of gold.
I’m hoping this means we’ve discovered our pot of gold.
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…
It all started with this Costco pork belly. (I knew I had mentioned this!)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
This photo doesn’t really do it justice. It was puffing like a Tommy Chong devotee. After four hours I pulled it out.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Saturday I spent a few hours pulling nails and got this:
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
We 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.
We set 23 eggs in the incubator and hatched 20. One of the chicks didn’t make it two days so we netted 19. I think that’s a pretty good hatch.
We won’t need new layers until late next year so these will go on Craigslist or in the freezer but knowing we can perpetuate the flock is just giving me stomach tingles.
We had the most beautiful harvest moon last night! Of course my iPhone doesn’t do it justice. Fall is definitely in the air up here – 44 degrees this morning – and everything is starting to bed down for winter. The deer are more skittish now that it’s cooling down. I think they know deer season is upon them.
Sorry for the long silence. Be well.
For years I’ve had a secret desire to make hay. My first and most enduring experience of farming has always been hay. When I was growing up the boys in my family would congregate in the summer at one or the other of my two aunts’ houses where we would pick up, stack, unstack, and deliver hundreds and hundreds of bales of hay. It was hot, dirty, exhausting work. The type of work that only the competitive spirit of very young men can make interesting – and sometimes not even then.
99% of the time the hay was alfalfa. It was irrigated and we usually had 3 cuttings a summer, each cutting produced between 3500 and 4000 square bales. It was a lot of hay. What stuck with me over the years was the smell. There’s just nothing like the smell of hay at any stage in its lifecycle. Fresh mown. Hot and earthy in the stack. Even old hay in a barn still carries the scent of the sun.
As of today I finally have hay produced from my own land. It’s just grass (as if there is such a thing as “just grass”) and I’m about to give the majority of it to a neighbor. But this morning I called in to work and went and gathered it out of the field and for now I can walk out and smell summers from long ago.
The guy who cut and baled it for us runs a mule rescue. Interesting fellow. We were talking about mules and how he came to be a mule rescuer when he asked me offhandedly if I was a believing man.
“Somewhat,” I replied.
So enigmatic. Of course he didn’t notice, just commenced to tell me that he thought his ability to handle mules was a gift from God. Maybe it is. I don’t know. But I do know that being a believing man or not is more complex than we are willing to acknowledge.
He couldn’t know that I was a believing child. That I was a questioning youth and an unbelieving young adult. He couldn’t know that I yearned to believe as I grew older and then that I was disillusioned in maturity, that I was now a tolerant unbeliever who still believes just not in the same way or the same god.
He couldn’t know that inside me (inside all of us if we are honest with ourselves) there is a constant recalibrating of the dissonance of the past and that the answer to any question dealing with belief or emotion can never be “yes” or “no”. Even when it’s yes or no.
The Oklahoma and Texas panhandles in the late 70s and early 80s were not an easy place to be a gay youth. There is still a dark undercurrent to the sunny smell of fresh mown hay for me. And even though now it’s more like something you see under glass in a museum, I remember. I remember being uncomfortable and not knowing why or how to fix it. I remember good times and fun times but always as if through a glass darkly. I remember knowing without knowing how that I would have to leave that place and those people if I wanted to survive. That I would always want to come back but I would have to return home somewhere else.
Now, when I smell and touch my own hay I can say that I do believe. I have a large belief in the smallest of things. The miracle of grass. The satisfaction of work. The loudness of silence. The strength of peace. The gift of friendship. The solace of forgiveness. The wonder of love.
The magic of life.
I guess grass isn’t just grass after all.
Today we planted more deer food.
Some people call them fruit trees.
Despite my best efforts the bees keep on going. I finally went back in and removed the debris, cleaned up the hive floor and put them back together. The three bars that had fallen had fallen again so I just took them out. I figure if bees can make a home in a dead tree they can deal with the extra space. If not, well, live and learn.
I feel I owe you an explanation about my long absence.
Not long after the bee-pocalypse I found myself in the emergency room on a Thursday. Turned out I had a kidney stone lodged in my ureter. (Really, who comes up with these names for body parts? It’s like they think if they sound gross enough we’ll never bother to learn about our bodies.)
Anyway, the stone had actually been moving for a few weeks before and I guess turned or lodged someway that made what I thought was just pulled muscles into something akin to labor pains – or so I’m told. If labor is anything like what I experienced I am glad to not have the gift of giving life. Just sayin’.
I was loaded up with pain meds and sent home with the admonition that my stone was large enough that it had a less than 30% chance of passing and I would probably need surgery… which couldn’t be done until the following Wednesday. I’m glad it happened that way now because I passed it the day before my pre-op appointment.
So, long story short, I was down and out for a couple of weeks and then we just got busy.
The hens are starting to lay.
I had to add another box to both bee hives.
I broke out the box blade and uncovered the mythical driveway. It really does exist.
And we just finished covering up the crappy concrete beside the house with a pea gravel patio thingy.
More than you wanted to know.