Archive for May, 2013

A Relaxing Memorial Day!

We get six holidays off in the store (New Years, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) and it seems they often get filled up with some place to go or something to do. I am not complaining when that happens. I love having guests but once in a while it is good to have a full day to do my stuff.

Today was my day; no where to go, no one coming to visit, and no cookout to fix. A full day for just me and whatever my little heart desired to do. I looked forward to it like a special, treasured gift.

This country gal slept in until the late hour of 8 AM. I sat on the patio and drank my coffee and listened to the sounds of birds and critters waking up to a new day. It is so quiet and peaceful back on the farm when the store is closed. Then I had my quiet time and I was ready to tackle my relaxing day.

I started a batch of brisket for the Farmers Market and then meandered out to the garden,  ran the tiller and weeded two of the raised beds. I put mulch on the ground between the beds and took some radishes to the house. Gene brought me a rotten, round bale of hay and I put it around the tomatoes and peppers. Then I trimmed the spent blooms on the roses and sprayed 3 gallons of roundup around the fence posts along the driveway, the flower beds at the end of the drive and the trees along the fence line coming up our road. I had intended to have that area cleaned up this year. I started earlier this spring but did not get it accomplished. Now the Poison Ivy is rampant and I have to kill it before I can complete my project.  In between all that I did two loads of laundry.

At lunchtime, I again rested on the patio with my feet propped up while eating my sandwich.  Re-energized I cleaned the front of my kitchen cabinets, made two batches of turnovers (blueberry and cherry) for the Farmers Market on Thursday, and a strawberry pie for supper.  After doing my chores (watering the greenhouse, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs) I mowed along the ditch banks at the end of the drive until I ran over an unknown object and stalled out the blades and had to quit.

After a supper of brisket sandwiches and fresh salad from the garden, Gene helped my pull apart the brisket and get it in the freezer. Then we sat on the patio with our feet propped up and talked about our day.  The evening was quiet and peaceful as we watched the cows grazing in the pasture until the birds started fussing as they prepared for bed.  A pair of cardinals chirped “pretty” and then finally about 8 all was quiet as they settled down for the night.

Gene’s day was frustrating. He had planned to mow hay all day Saturday and bale today. He is having problems that he can’t seem to solve with his tractor and of course on Saturday afternoon the equipment dealers are closed and we don’t farm on Sundays. Sunday is our day of rest and worship. About a week ago they had to replaced the injection pump on the tractor. All worked well for a few days and now the tractor can’t seem to get fuel.  He and Sam ended up spending all Saturday afternoon cleaning the fuel lines,  fuel tank and replacing filters. It still did not solve the problem. The IH dealer in Crewe was open today and he got a fuel pump.  This did not solve the problem either. He is beginning to suspect the injection pump is defective. Tomorrow he will call Cavalier Equipment. He did manage to get some hay cut using a smaller tractor but he is frustrated.  What was suppose to be a good hay weekend with good drying weather fizzled on him.

Tonight I am one whipped little puppy but satisfied with what I accomplished.  It was a good day.  Relaxing….yes!!!  No phone calls, no questions to answer, no invoices to post, no order deadlines to meet.  Today this farm gal was in her country world and that was relaxing.

I Love May

May has to be the “bestest” month of the whole year.  This year in particular, May is stunning. It is cool with a touch of warmth, rainy, stormy, sunny  and just plain gorgeous.

Today I worked in my garden.  I took the jugs off of my tomatoes that were protecting them from frost and cold weather. The tomatoes were dark green, bushy and growing nicely.  I hoed around the plants and staked them with t-posts.

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See the cows in the background grazing in the field of buttercups!

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Better Boy Tomatoes

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Then I planted my grape tomato (Juliet) and California Wonder peppers.  I like to cage the grape tomato.

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It already has some tomatoes on the vine.

I planted a row of zinnias and filled in a few empty spots in my bean rows.  I think the cool weather was hard on the germination of them.

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I had to go back to the house for my camera and take some pictures!

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Earliglow Strawberries

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I made a strawberry pie for lunch tomorrow. We are celebrating Mom Hertzler’s 94th birthday and Mother’s Day.

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Blue Lake Pole Beans

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I am really pleased with my raised beds. This one has my early stuff……radishes, beets, cabbage, lettuce  and spinach.

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This is the first year I have planted Red Sails Lettuce.  I love it.  That will be a regular addition to my lettuce bed!

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Burpless Cucumbers

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Planted 3 Blueberry bushes this year. They are looking good!

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I noticed the southern sky turning dark.  That is where our storms come from.  I quickly gathered strawberries, asparagus  and then I just had to take some pictures of my rose garden.

Who needs roses from a florist for Mother’s Day?!!!

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Another favorite flower-the fragrant, lovely peony that opens around Mother’s Day.  The first bud opened this morning just in the nick of time!!!  The bushes are loaded with buds.   I remember a mistake I made the first year I was married.  Dad Hertzler had planted these by the side of the house.  I sprayed them as they were loaded with ants!                               That is a big no-no!  The ants help to open the buds.

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Another spring favorite is the stately iris.  They bloom for a day and then are past their prime!  Their beauty reminds me of the verse in Matthew 6:28-29.  “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not neither do they spin:  and yet I tell you, That Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”   Solomon, the richest, wisest king in history with all his pomp and beauty could not hold a candle to the lovely lilies.

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I forget the name of this flower but it quietly blooms in May and has very tiny, delicate blossoms.

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My duck pen….

and then I have a few herbs…

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Chives. I like them for the way they bloom almost more than the use of them!

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And this my friends, is why I love May!

Note: The storm blew over this afternoon and after supper Gene tilled the rest of my garden with the big tiller behind the tractor. The ground worked up so soft and fluffy. Then he helped me finish planting  my garden;  Fordhook Limas, 2nd patch of Incredible Sweet Corn, and Hales Best Cantaloupe.  I am a satisfied gardener!

Butchering Chickens

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Red Sex Sal hen-5 months old.

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Fast-Grow Cornish Giant – 12 weeks old

I did a class on butchering chickens on Saturday.  When approached by a customer to do the class I was hesitant and resistant to the idea.  I really don’t enjoy butchering chickens!  But after enough encouragement I agreed and was surprised at the response.  The first class filled up, then the second and I have enough for a third if I can bring myself to do it!  I had about 20 willing participants who with some trepidation tackled the chore. I was impressed that I had two teens and they stuck with it and did a good job. I was proud of them. We had a good time (if plucking & degutting chickens is a good time!) and went away with a new understanding of what it takes to bring a good meal of chicken to the table.

I gave my camera to granddaughter, Emily, and told her to take lots of pictures.  She did-over 400!  Thank goodness for digital cameras!

I started off raising Fast-grow Cornish Giants for the class.  At first they did really well. The batch of chickens is documented on my website (www.hffinc.com) for those who are interested in raising them.  I had trouble losing them and by the time of the class and they were 12 weeks old I had lost 14 of the 25 and 1 was a severe runt.  Those that survived were huge.  I didn’t get them weighed-I wish I would have, but they had to weigh at least 15 lbs and some of the roosters may have been 20.  One of the participants weighed her Cornish hen when she got home and it was 1 oz. shy of 10 lbs!!!  Some in the class had to take my Red Sex Sal laying hens that were 5 months old.  I was feeding them a heavy corn ration to fatten them up but the contrast between the two birds was huge.  The pictures at the top of the page shows the difference.    I butchered one of the hens and we had it for supper Saturday night. The flavor was excellent and the meat was tender-they just weren’t very big.   Remember the children’s story of the “Scrawy Twany Lion”?  That is how my little hen looked beside the plump Cornish giants!  It was  incredible to me how fast the Cornish grew.

Now back to the class….

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Each person chose their chicken…

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and then we chopped the heads off.

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Waiting for the blood to drain.

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Deed completed.

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Heading to the scalder.

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A few dips into the hot water and the chickens are ready to pluck.  It does not take long-maybe 30-45 seconds.

Just enough that the feathers come off the skin easily but not enough to cook the skin and cause it to break.

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Plucking the feathers off.

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Once the plucking was done we took a knife and scraped the skin removing any feather stubs that were left.

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Singeing the plucked bird by holding it over a flame to quickly remove any fine hairs left on the skin.  This process only takes a few seconds.

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Washing our birds using a squirt of Dawn dish detergent and 1/2 cap (1 tsp)  bleach in warm water.

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Cut off the feet by bending the legs slightly backwards and cutting through the joint.

Also removed the oil gland on top of the tail.

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Making a slice through the skin and abdomen between the legs but being very careful not to cut into the guts.

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Removing the guts and organs by inserting the hand into the cavity along the breastbone and reaching as far to the front as possible and pulling the  insides out.

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You can see the heart laying just behind the guts and to the right of the liver.

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My hen had a bonus-egg yolks in it and a hard shelled egg just ready to be laid.

The egg yolks are so good to eat-even the tiniest ones. Put them in the soup broth or gravy to cook.

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I cut open the stomach or gizzard and peeled out the liner to remove the food contents.  The gizzard is good to eat but more tough and chewy in texture.

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The liver.

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There is a little green sack attached to the liver called the spleen.  You want to be very careful in cutting it off the liver to not break it. It is filled with a bitter substance that will ruin your meat if it breaks.

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In one of the hens was something I had never seen-the egg yolk with the white already on it.

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You could actually pick it up.  I put it in my roasting pan when I roasted my hen for supper. It was so good to eat.

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I am pointing to the lungs that are attached to the rib cage on each side. Pull them out.

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The hen is clean and ready to be cut into pieces.   I do see one little piece of lung in there yet. (The bright red spot on the right rib cage).

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Cutting off the wings.

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Using a large, sharp butcher knife to cut off the legs.  Then I cut the leg from the thigh. If you bend the leg backwards slightly you can find the joint to cut between the bones.

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Cutting the breast bone in two.

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Done!

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