Archive for the ‘homesteading’ Category

chickens and butter

June 12, 2011

Before I tell you about how I murdered my first chickens, let me tell you about butter.

I first discovered that butter is delicious when I was about 20 years old.  I grew up eating butter on toast, because mom didn’t buy margarine (unhealthy!), but she put the butter on the toast because it was expensive and us kids would have used too much.  So I was in the habit of using a teeny tiny amount of butter on my toast.  Until that fateful day, ten years ago, when I took a break from video games, went downstairs, made some toast, and got out the butter.  I must have been opening a new package of it because I noticed that 1 serving of butter is 1 Tablespoon.  So I used a Tablespoon.  THAT TOAST WAS THE BEST THING I HAD EVER EATEN.  Seriously, I ate nothing but buttered toast for a couple days and told everyone how amazing it was.  That’s my most vivid food-based memory.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Me and the housemates killed our very own chickens recently.  I killed them, then me and my girlfriend plucked the feathers, then butchered them.  I ended up kindof dissecting mine, because oh my goodness, what is all this inside my chicken??  This must be the heart, and the lungs, and kidneys!  It’s got all the same stuff I do!

Including meat.  I was looking at my hands and thinking, wow, I am made of meat, but nobody eats me.  I am so lucky.

We ate the chickens.  (I used recipes from an old “Joy of Cooking” since it had information about chicken weight and whether it was a broiler or fryer or whatever, and which techniques to use for each.)  The meat was a little tough but it was a rooster, so next time I will be sure to slow cook it, or just make broth.  I guess roosters are considered worthless for meat, but it wasn’t like I could just throw them out, right?

Definitely a food milestone– and a backyard homesteader milestone!  And now that I’ve got a community garden plot, I’ll be composting chicken shit for my next milestone!

… though neither of those will be as delicious as that first buttered toast.


change of plans

January 11, 2010

Okay, I don’t know if anyone even remembers, but I was supposed to be growing things in my backyard and having goats and chickens.  This is not going to happen because I decided to move in with my grandmother.  She’s sick, basically dying of cancer.  But she is mobile– the problem is that she just can’t handle being alone.  I’ll spare you the details, but she basically gets scared and calls 911 a lot.  My family has been paying a caretaker for live-in care, and I was invited to live with her– they would pay me and cover living expenses like food and utilities.  I’d be cheaper than the nurses-in-training they are paying now, and of course they get to keep the money in the family.

This was tempting since I have no income and the economy is a little scary now.  I initially decided against it because I was trying to put together my future as an unmarried person and get my new career plans in order.  But I finally realized (i.e., my housemate finally got it through my head) that I’d be a fool not to take the opportunity– not only because I’d finally have income, but mostly because I’d regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity to get to know my grandmother better before she dies.  Plus, I’d have plenty of time to review and plan and even start to implement my new life at grandma’s.  And, while she probably won’t eat the wierd Indian food that I love to cook, she does have a fully-functional and traditional kitchen, which will be nice.  (Right now I have regular stove and oven, but without ventilation hood, so we do some cooking outdoors over propane.  Plus, the house is so often in shambles due to it’s being a fixer-upper-in-progress that I have little counterspace to speak of.  Not that I’m complaining exactly, it’s just a little unusual.)

Anyways, now I feel I’m almost back to where I started.  My grand plan to raise food in my backyard is down for the count– but not completely.  My grandma’s yard is tiny and almost completely shaded.  But that will help me be more creative.  And my mom’s yard has plenty of sun, and mom wants chickens!

This could turn out to be a very neat year.  I’ll need to focus on my motivation and determination.  I have a bad habit of getting discouraged and giving up when things turn out to be more difficult than I anticipated.  I blame that partly on my old religion, which somehow taught me that if the road is too rocky, then God is trying to say it’s not his will.  Of course that’s due to my laziness too, I’m not trying to absolve myself completely.  It just seems that every time I notice a bad trait in myself, I immediately make a connection to something I was taught in Christianity and how that teaching made my negative traits worse, or re-inforced them.  To be fair I should consider my good traits and see how Christianity encouraged them.

But like I said, even if I can’t move my plans forward in practice, I’ll be able to improve my habits and character traits.  That counts for a lot in my book.

working vacation

May 1, 2009

The last four days I took vacation so I could work on my yard.  You should see the pile of weeds and tree trimmings.  It’s surely a fire hazard.

And, if I had a quarter for all the rocks in the dirt, I’d be able to buy a week’s more vacation so I could finish excavating.  I have to make a sifter, but the power tools are not very, uhm, power-y.  So I’ll try for nails and wood glue this weekend.

There’s sheets of ugly plastic all over the yard, also, for killing Bermuda Grass.  If 130 degree heat doesn’t kill it, nothing will.  It’s the fuckin cockroach of the world of backyard gardening.  In six weeks I will have a pull-up-the-plastic-party.  There will be gin and tonic.

Speaking of gin and tonic, I need to make mint juleps tomorrow for the most exciting two minutes in sports. 

Anyways, once the rocks and grass are out, I buy bulk compost and dirt, pour it all over, mix it up, and plant vegetables.

I am learning patience.  And I can wield a hoe around a sprinkler like you wouldn’t believe.

April 14, 2009

There was a fire drill at work today (woo!) so we were all standing around outside, and I was chatting with a woman who just had surgery for carpel tunnel.  She saw me flexing and stretching my wrist and asked me if I was getting carpel tunnel, and I told her I guess I am, since there’s little else it could be.  She reminded me to take it seriously because it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.  And it’s not like I’ve been in denial about it, but she was right.  There are some things I need to follow up on with the doctor, and there are some diet changes I’ve been considering.  I’m hesitating on the diet stuff because I need to do more research; there are certain foods that are supposedly helpful for swelling-types of illnesses like arthritis and repetitive stress injuries.  I don’t know if the science is valid so I need to check that. 


But more importantly, what she said made me remember that my thoughts of changing career are more than a hippie back-to-the-earth fantasy.  I really do need to get outdoors, moving around and working in a healthy way.  I understand that farm work is hard work, and I am also sure that I don’t really understand how hard it will be.  But sitting here clicking and typing hurt a little bit more very day, and it’s not just my wrist.  And of course there are repetitive movements in farming, and injuries are probably more likely there.  But I’d rather have an injury from a real accident, not because I clicked the mouse for too many hours a day.  Seriously– isn’t that embarrassing?


And then I get annoyed because working and commuting take up so much of my day– like, all of it.  I was just thinking this morning that I need to take a week off and spend some time outdoors working and learning in the yard.  I have to start.  And working outdoors in April is far more preferable than Summer.  There is no California Dreamin’ when you’re as far inland as I am. 

harvest season

April 1, 2009

As of Sunday, I had about 100 pounds of grapefruit in my kitchen. I’ve cut it down by about 1/4 by juicing and drinking it like it’s going out of style. So this is my first real introduction to harvest season insanity. I’ll have to get a handle on it because the figs should be coming in soon — all this bounty is coming from a friend’s property, by the way, and my friend hates figs — and figs will only keep for two days (and they don’t ripen after you pick them– that’s why you don’t see figs in grocery stores). So I’ll have to rig up a system to dry them, firstly, and also I’ll find some recipes to bake them in and freeze. That should do it. It’s just one tree, unlike the citrus. Just in case I have way more figs than I am anticipating (which is a lot), I also may call my friend who has a pressure canner and split anything we can with her.

This is really exciting.