Archives for category: Sustainable Living

True story from the Lee Household:

On Monday evening someone gave us a pig.

Now we did not have much time to prepare for said pig as we only found out we were getting it on Sunday night and we did not know how big it was.

That being said River retro fitted the chicken house to a piggie house and we put some structural reinforcement around the bottom of the fence.

Now what we were not told was that the piggie was spoiled.

Very, very spoiled.

Upon arrival we were told that for some reason the pig would not eat grain.

No he likes blueberry muffins, pancakes and corn. Yes they actually bought him his own corn and blueberry muffins at the corner store.

JUST FOR THE PIG.

While we aren’t going to waste blueberry muffins, pancakes and good corn on a pig, so we figure the pig will eat the darn grain eventually.

The first night went well – Trace really likes the pig – his name is Riley (not our choice – it is the name he came with – Trace likes Wilbur)

Trace spent a long time scratching him and the pig really enjoyed that.

The next day Trace was at his dad’s, I was at work and River was making some trailer repairs in the backyard near the pig – so he was kind of keeping the pig company.

After I got home in the evening the pig finally ate a little bit of his grain.

River and I went inside for dinner and while we were eating we heard some rustling in the bushes outside. I thought it was the cat on the prowl – but no it was the pig tearing down the hill to the field.

River and 6 1/2 months pregnant lady rushed outside to capture this 50lb pig.

Now to look at this pig you would not thing that it would be so hard to hold him once you grabbed him – but he is a slithery little critter and I believe he is made entirely of muscle.

Now mind you we do not have any of his favorite treats on hand to lure him back to his pen – no muffins, pancakes or corn so he was not so willing to come to us.

We finally got him into the backyard – River had already gotten ahold of him once and the darn thing squirmed right out of him arms – so now we had to try to make it happen again.

With pregnant lady holding her belly – cause it hurts to run when your belly is sticking out as far as mine is – I tried to turn the pig at opportune moments so it would go towards River and not towards the road.

After several attempts of this we finally managed to build a little coral type thing by the entrance of the pig pen and corner him in there. River got a hold of him and had to literally pin him to the ground using all his weight so the pig would not take off again in the meantime the pig started squealing so loudly I am sure all our neighbors think that we were committing murder in the backyard.

My conclusion: the little piggie does indeed say wee, wee, wee all the way home.

I have since been told that a pig will not run towards a solid wall so we should have just held up sheets of plywood or something to turn it till we got it where we wanted it – well now we know – thank you DW.  (Who laughed like crazy when he read my story and just bought us a pig book to help us through this experience. )

 

Yep we did ’em in.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. River hunts so I have seen him process game before, but I have never been there for the whole process. You know – the actual killing part.

We had talked to Trace about the process and he knows that we do not kill animals unless we are going to eat them. It would be disrespectful of the animal to not use as much of it as we can once we do kill them. We thanked each of the chickens for feeding us and talked about how we should always be thankful to any animal that we eat. Trace’s dad did not want Trace to see that actual slitting of the throat so I had him turn around for that part. Trace hung out with us for part of the time and did his own thing part of the time. He was interested in the internal organs -is that the heart and are those the intestines, etc. It was like a science class in his own backyard, kind of neat for him to see and know that he has similar parts in his body that look and function in much the same way.

Here is how we did it – processing four at a time:

River caught the chickens and put them in the killing cone (yes that is what they really call them – kind of gross isn’t it) and did the deed. Then he hung the chickens up by their feet while he did the next one.

River dipped the bird in water that was between 150 and 180 degrees for about 30 seconds to loosen up the feathers then he de-feathered them.

I got the bird next and took the pin feathers out – much more challenging on some birds then on others.

River then gutted and processed the chicken, we only left six of them whole, the rest we cut up and separated into dark, breast and soup categories. I bagged the chicken, vacuum packed it and brought it to the freezers.

It took us five and a half hours for 20 chicken’s not bad for newbies. It would have gone faster with one more person to do the cutting up I think.

Overall I would do it again – I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, but it wasn’t so bad and I feel good about the food that my family will be eating – always a bonus!

I have not figured out how much it cost us per chicken yet, but I am sure it is less than the $4.75 a pound that it would cost for free range chicken’s at the local farm. I spoke to a woman at the local feed store and she said it costs her about $11.00 a bird and they bring them to a facility to be processed.

We would have to figure in the cost of the chicken coop and the feed and water trays that we had to buy for  this batch of chickens but I would say our cost should still be less than the $4.75 a pound as all of our chickens seemed quite large.

Now what should I make first – a whole roasted chicken with all the fixen’s? Sounds pretty good!

 

 

 

We ate the first greens from our garden the other day and they were delicious! I am so glad we decided to have a garden and I am really glad we went with the square foot gardening plan because there is so much less to weed. Seriously – we barely have to weed. At all. Which has always been my biggest nemeses when I have had small gardens in the past. They turn into weed gardens – great if you are a weed looking to take over the world – not so great if you are a tiny little vegetable trying to grow into food.

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We have planted almost everything outside at this point only a couple of things remain in the house as seedlings and they will be planted shortly. We spent about $76 on seeds that should pay for itself many times over in produce – especially if we end up with all the tomatoes we are hoping for! We have 20 tomato plants in the ground with 15 for round two to go in a little later to keep the growing season longer – come on BLT’s and spaghetti sauce! Each plant should produce about 25 tomatoes each – yum, yum, delicious!

River did a great job starting all the plants and keeping it all straight – next year might be my turn for that – yikes – I hope I do as well as he did!

We got baby chicks about a week ago – they are really cute but growing fast. They are meat chickens so we (or mostly River with possibly my assistance with the packaging up – not sure I am ready to do the kill part myself) will be slaughtering them in about six weeks. Needless to say we will not be naming them.

River built a really great house for them in the hopes that we will have laying hens in a year or so – these lucky little guys get first shot at living there.

The new chicken coop! The boys really enjoy checking on the chicks – I am not sure which one enjoys it more…

Trace is getting a real kick out of it (you can see his little chair in the picture – he likes to hang out watch them play) – he loves to go check on the chicks with us and make sure they are the right temperature – he thinks they are fun to watch and shows everyone that comes over the chicks. Hopefully he will be able to eat them when the time comes. I don’t see him having a problem with it as we eat wild game that River gets like turkey, geese and ducks and he has seen River dress them out – but something he has helped nurture could be a different experience.

We decided to get the chickens because of all the information that we had been reading about how animals were treated and slaughtered in the big meat business. It seems safer to grow our own – we know what they are eating and frankly we are nicer to them – in there short lives they will not have their little beaks cut off and will get to explore the outside world a little when they get larger (usually about 4 weeks old) and they have a lot more space in our coop per bird then the traditional poultry houses.

I can’t say I don’t eat meat unless it was humanly treated in life – but I have been trying to be more contentious about where my food comes from and what my family fuels our bodies with. We have several local sources for meat the farm my dad works at in Dresden, Goranson Farm they grow and sell chickens, turkey at thanksgiving and portions of pigs that are raised on some grain and lots of veggies, www.goransonfarm.me; my aunt and uncle’s farm, Partridge Hill Farm right down the road, they sell grass-fed lamb and beef as well as pork (not grass-fed – but well fed); and our friends the Wright’s have Three Little Pigs Family Farm and raise pork, they have a great website at www.trustyourpork.com with really cute pictures of the piggies!

Piggies at Partridge Hill Farm – they are so cute at this stage – Trace always wants to take one home

These Partridge Hill Farm alpacas are not for eating – but they make very soft fiber for knitting and the babies are as cute as can be – who wouldn’t fall in love with those big brown eyes!

Baby boy alpaca born on 5/14/2012 – he is very curious – mama isn’t sure I should be this close to him though at Partridge Hill Farm.

Another curious alpaca on the farm – we don’t eat ’em – but their fiber is lovely for knitting!

Or maybe I should rephrase that: River has been busy –  I have been lazy.

River has finished our raised garden beds – with the exception of one that we need a little more vermiculite for. They look great! The trellis’ are on them where necessary and they have some fresh seaweed on top of them that will leach nutrients into the gardens as they dry up and get mixed with everything else.  River gathered the seaweed from the river by our house the other day – he took the canoe out and filled it up – filling the back of the truck with the rich seaweed to grow our veggies!

The faucet came in for our new kitchen and it has been installed, but the water is not hitched up yet.

We have been doing a lot of cooking on the wood stove since it has been cool and the wood stove has been going anyway. It is really fun to cook in our new space, another fun aspect of cooking in here is that Trace can reach the top of the wood stove without standing on a chair (which always scares me a little how they have to lean in a little to reach – balance not always being perfect) so he is learning how to flip pancakes with the best of ’em! We have made pancakes (many of them), crepes, mashed potatoes, grilled cheese, stir fry, and more spaghetti sauce for pizza (yum)!

We finished reading the book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen as a family – it was fun to read together and it gave Trace many opportunities to tell us how he would do things if he were in that situation (and he had a LOT of ideas!) One of my favorite things to do is to read together whether we are all reading our own books or reading and listening to each other it is a calm restful thing to do.

So now – onto other things – I will keep you posted on our garden progress – it is almost time to plant spinach and other cold weather crops outdoors – I can’t wait!

 

I just planted rosemary and thyme from seed in the house. We will see how they do. All the things I read on the internet said start from a cutting or a plant starting from seeds will produce poor results. Too bad – we bought the seeds – we are starting them from seeds. I am hoping for success if only to prove to all the doubters out there that they can be started from seed for the garden without too much pain and suffering!

Cross your fingers…

This past weekend was great! I organized my new pantry – it looks very pretty with all our canned goods lined up and pretty.  We got a table that we bought from a friend home and it fits our new space perfectly! Our new living space is so perfect for us – none of us want to spend time on the other side of the house because this side of the house is so comfortable!

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We also transplanted our rhubarb plants and River has been doing a lot of seed starting. We can’t wait for green things to grow in the garden!

Enjoy the week!

We made our raised garden beds this weekend! With River’s patience, I learned about power tools and I must say I cut a pretty straight line with the circular saw – not bad for a first timer! We have them nailed together and they are ready to go in place…as soon as the appropriate areas are cleared for them. We have to clear the areas in front of the house. Right now there are lots of day lilies, what my dad calls sneeze weed and a few other flowers. Our rhubarb is also in this area but will soon be in a new raised bed all its own down in our field with a healthy dose of horse manure to increase production. (How the rhubarb ended up in the flowers is still a mystery to me – my dad might know the answer…)

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We are currently gathering the ingredients for our soil, a blend of peat moss, vermiculite and compost.

We have had a bit of a conundrum about the vermiculite and the peat moss as both of these are non-renewable resources. Most peat moss comes from bogs in Canada that are being depleted faster than they can grow back. We have decided to get a little at the store and to harvest our own locally so the moss will have a chance to regenerate. Since these are raised beds with bottoms that will not be walked on (very important not to crush your soil!) – the soil can be used forever while only adding a bit of compost to the beds each time something new is planted. We know that the peat moss and the vermiculite will have a long life in our garden growing veggies for our family so it will not be wasted.

On Monday while Trace and I were at bird class, River started seeds for broccoli, cauliflower, spinach,  lettuce, swiss chard, cabbage, kale, mesclun, onions, arugula, parsley and salad greens.

Trace can’t wait for peas so he can “pick ’em and eat ’em right in the garden”. I agree peas are a fan favorite around here!

I washed two small blankets that we keep on the couch yesterday – they dried on the line and smell fabulous.

This morning I noticed that there is bird poop on one of them.

Back to the washing machine it goes – good thing I really like the smell of clothes dried outside or bird poop could be a deterrent.

I am off to hang up some more laundry – I hope the birds keep away from the clothes line.

I  decided to make lasagna this weekend and for that we need spaghetti sauce. specifically sauce without basil in it as Trace is having a reaction to basil right now. (Who knew basil could cause so much trouble!) We canned a lot of spaghetti sauce this summer – but it all has BASIL in it – of course. Luckily we stewed a heap of tomatoes too!

So I set up a temporary kitchen next to the wood stove (our new kitchen is almost ready!) and got to work – it is raining out so the wood stove was nice and hot already.

 

All of our veggies came from two local farms, Goranson Farm and Dig Deep Farm. The pork sausage came from Goranson Farm too – delicious!

 

I added the tomatoes and sausage to the pot and the sauce smelled yummy!

We let the sauce bubble away on the top of the stove all afternoon – the house smelled glorious and the sauce tasted terrific! Yesterday I made the lasagna and we all agreed – delicious! We hope to do more of our cooking on the wood stove next winter when our kitchen and living space is in the same room.

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