Monday, July 25, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Delicious, Nutritious, Fresh, Farm-raised Food.

The chicken couldn't get any fresher! I roasted one in the oven and gathered veggies from the garden. Steemed beets, green beans, and sauted swiss chard and onions. One plate has goat cheese sprinkled on top (not from our farm); the other parmesan cheese.

This is why we are building a sustainable farm. It is fully satisfying for us to sit down to a complete meal from our farm. Of course, a glass of milk topped it all off.

Poultry Project in the bag!

What a tremendous day we had on Saturday. All the research, running around, list-making, and set-up beforehand paid off in a smooth moving assembly line as we processed our first batch of broiler chickens.

We set up the equipment along the east side of the shop and rigged an awning overhead to keep the hot sun off. As it turned out, it kept the short rain shower off! There is gravel underneath, running water via garden hose to the table, and trough for runoff and pails for entrails.

A gentle breeze and no bugs added to our day. The fresh air was all we had; there was no smell to deal with.

Cones were set up around the corner on the north side. From there chickens went to the scalder which was a turkey frier purchased at Fleet Farm. Then to the whizbang chicken plucker borrowed from generous friends who had made it. Then the birds were put in the icewater cooling station until a spot opened on the eviscerating table, a stainless steel table we bartered for bluegrass music. Then to the final checkpoint and into more cold icewater. All birds were done to this point before any bagging was done.

A team of 2 - 3 cleaned the birds. Next time we'll move one man around the corner for a little more elbow room.

The final chilling station was in the shade in the shed (old garage) with the large door open for plenty of ventilation. We made a peg rack to dry the birds a couple of minutes before bagging. We used hog rings and shrink wrap bags for a nice, tight package.

We have a list of fine-tuning items which include more coolers and ice, smaller hog rings and pliers, better running water system at table, and several other small but important details. These birds were cockerells of various breeds. Not one reached 4# but they had to go as the hybrid broilers are ready to move into the pasture pen. The hybrids will grow faster and bigger. We ended up with 45 bagged birds in 4 hours and can easily see that getting shorter.

In 6 weeks we'll do it again and then again 3 wks after that. This year is dubbed the learning year for us to work out the kinks and such so that next year we can do several more batches.....or bigger batches? We'll see. For now, we are praising God for his blessings on the poultry project thus far.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hot and Humid! Chickens on deck.

Things are sure growing furiously in this hot and humid weather! Green, LUSH lawn. Tall, sturdy weeds. Prolific, energetic mosquitos. What more could a farmer want?!! You can envision our to-do list as its not very long: mow, mow, weed, weed, and then mow some more. Be sure to wear long-sleeved shirt and long pants. When the heat breaks, we'll be busy.

This Saturday will be our first chicken processing day. I'm excited. And a little anxious. Lots of details (and there are lots) have been worked out, but a few big ones still are pending. It will be good to just give it our best shot at preparing well, gathering our team, and then getting the job done to the best of our ability. Then we'll celebrate, eat good, nutritious chicken dinner, and analyze how it all went to improve for next time.

Next time? Yes, that's right. Next processing date will be in about 6 weeks. We're in this for the long haul and by next year want to have a good, efficient, healthy system down to produce nutritious pasture poultry. Its definately an adventure full of ups and downs.

But then all of life is an adventure. We're thankful to be on GrassStain Farm growing food, enjoying life with friends and family, and knowing the blessings of our Creator.