Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Yak’s Very Bad Day

I just want you to know that we didn’t get a yak yesterday. I would guess the vast majority of you are in the same boat but I’m not sure how many of you got a call that a yak would be dropped off at your house. If you did get that call, please comment below. I would love to hear your story and compare notes. 

Sometime mid-afternoon, I got a call from a friend that there was a trailer heading to my house with a yak. It was on death row for its part in the death of a horse, which appears to have died of yak induced fear. The yak’s lawyers would like you to know he was charged with manslaughter not murder, and the yak is holding that he was not responsible for what happened. Either way, the yak owners were horrified at the sudden death of the horse and my friend agreed that we would take it and slaughter it for meat. I gave instructions about moving the goats to one pasture and putting yak in the other and heard nothing else.When I got home, no yak. I called my friend and she didn’t know either so our assumption is, the yak was issued a pardon. Oh joyous day for that yak! He has been pardoned!

We are happy for the yak and sad for the horse owners. Loosing one’s riding partner suddenly is heart wrenching and our sympathies go out to the affected family. 

Until next time, love your lovies. Your time with them is finite. 

Next up is my adventures in harvesting goats. 

 

Who Gets the Deer? Me or the Dog?

I looked at the text message through watery eyes, trying to make the words make sense. I was sick in San Diego, which is not nearly as romantic as being Sleepless in Seattle. I was on a work trip in which we were trying to fit four days of work into two days. My brain and body were not cooperating. Staring at the text was not clarifying the message. Clearly, this required a phone call. This is the story Dave was trying to tell via text message:

 

Dave and Toni (the Good Captain Morgan) were clearing out deep brush from the site of the future horse pasture (which is a much larger undertaking than we originally thought.) Over the roaring of the chainsaws, they heard a noise. It was an anguished scream of a mammal. Giraffe they thought but no, we don’t have live giraffes on the property. They ran towards the goat pen, thinking something was attacking the goats or alpacas. (Oh yeah, in the last year while I was not blogging we got another goat and two alpacas, who are collectively approximately 300 years old. We will talk more about them later.) A quick head count confirmed the heard was accounted for and everyone was fully intact. That’s when they found Chaos, who gleefully lead them to a mortally wounded deer. I hesitate to call it a fawn because that incites thoughts of Bambi, which makes Chaos the bad guy.  She was a little bad but mostly, she was just doing what dogs want to do in the deepest, darkest recesses of their doggie hearts. Hunt. Even your Pekingese wants to hunt wild creatures.  Or should I say, your Pekingese especially. Those little guys are fierce! Chaos was super-pleased with herself. The young deer was not quite dead but was well on her way and in quite a bit of pain. She had hung herself up in the fence and Chaos had mangled her back leg and underbelly. Dave, bless him, who is not an animal killer by nature, decided the best way for him to dispatch the deer has beheading. They decided Toni was to hold the deer down and Dave was to cut off the head. There was some discussion about the need for accuracy. Toni having survived her tours overseas, did not want to contemplate the tragic irony of losing a hand in a non-hunting accident and Chaos was still attempting to do drive by licks of the deer, putting her snout in harm way. They had nothing to fear. The deer was small and Dave is strong; it was a swift death, worthy of a wife of Henry VIII. Decapitation is not really the Boy Scout approved way to kill a deer but it you are in a pinch, it is effective. Chaos continued to trot around gleefully.

 

Having no knowledge of how to properly butcher a deer, Dave immediately called the woman who helps us butcher the meat rabbits. Just the week prior she and I had been discussing the possibility of me shooting a deer from the front porch (I was kind of joking) and she had said she would butcher it if we did. How’s that for strange timing? Dave and Toni lined the back of Toni’s Land Rover with contractor bags and transported the bled out carcass. I’m not sure what Toni thought she was signing up for when she moved out here but I’m guessing a bloody dead animal in her rugged-luxury car was not on the list. I’m just glad my Subaru was parked at the airport waiting for my return! The butchering went smoothly and quickly. You will be happy to know, I don’t have photos. They paid her the front half and kept we kept the back half, which was then further split between the humans and the dog. Chaos got the mangled half and we took the good meat.

 

(This reminds me of an old 911 call about the deer, the dog and the bambulance. Listen to it here. You will find yourself asking, “But what I want to know is who gets the deer, me or the dog?”)

 

So it came to pass that three nights later, when I returned from my trip and the fever had died down, Toni found a recipe, prepared and served the deer. It was, in a single word, DELICIOUS. I don’t know why people eat anything else. It was tender and flavorful. It puts farmed meats to shame. Also, the berry sauce was to die for. I like it on mashed potatoes, in place of gravy. I might also like it with gin, as a tasty cocktail base. The recipe for the venison and sauce can be found here (you’re on your own for the cocktail):

Venison: http://honest-food.net/2012/12/25/roast-venison-recipe-dumplings/

Sauce is something like this but I think she made it without the meat stock: http://eatlikeagirl.com/2010/10/27/wild-venison-with-wild-blackberry-sauce/

Hungry? Go forth and RELEASE THE HOUNDS! Let your Yorkies bring home dinner. If that dog won’t hunt, you can always buy venison online (or invite yourself to dinner at a hunter’s house.)

(Deer animal activists, while I am sympathetic to your plight and agree with many of your principles, this is not intended to spark a debate about hunting with dogs. The idea of hunting with dogs is discussed mostly in jest. I do not really condone any form of animal slaughter which causes undue suffering and hunting something with a dog does in fact cause undue suffering. This post is intended to have some fun with the crazy things living with animals brings to our lives.)

18 Years. Down the drain.

Some of you know, I am a vegetarian. Was a vegetarian. I say “was” because in the last two weeks, I have had three bites of three different types of animals. All of these animals came from our farm* so I felt OK with the ethics of eating them. They lived a good life. They died a dignified death. (Since I’m thinking about it, put that on my tombstone, please: “She lived a good life, she died a dignified death.”) And I also really, really wanted to use the Le Creuset cocotte that my supremely-talented-at-gift-giving husband got me for Christmas. I was really, really excited about the Le Creuset.

*Technically, one was just passing through the farm, on her way back to her deer family.

So what magical creatures drew me out of 18 years of vegetarianism? In order: rabbit, deer, goat. Yeah, pretty much the three cutest animals on a farm. This is further proof that my heart is black and shriveled. Really though, we raise the rabbits for dog meat. They are fast growers and take very little to get a lot of high quality meat. They are pretty much the perfect homesteader’s meat. If, that is, you can get past their adorable little faces. The goat was also bought as dog food. We brought him home as a little guy and raised him into a strapping young buck. Then just before he turned in to a jerk (as all billy goats do) we killed him. I named him Meat, just in case anyone questioned his fate. It could have been worse. I could have named him Sue. The ghost of Johnny Cash just rolled his eyes.

The rabbit is what started it all. Cpt. Morgan, who is living with us while learning French for the Army and I *PAUSE* This is going to get confusing if you don’t read the post I wrote about her last year. This is not a sign of my alcoholism; it’s her legit name. There are other signs of my alcoholism. Hiccup *UNPAUSE* were at the rabbit killer’s farm getting the rabbits slaughtered when the rabbit killer convinced Cpt. Morgan (can we call her Toni? We’re going to call her Toni) that she had to try the rabbit. Toni was very excited about the idea of eating our home raised meat. She might also have been suffering a severe protein deficiency after her first two weeks with us. I’ll be honest; I was pretty excited about cooking a rabbit. I enjoy cooking. I had recently been reading Jacques Pepin’s memoir, which had in it, aunt’s rabbit recipe. It sounded like the type of hearty, French provincial fare I dream of. Those French country dwellers really know how to cook. So I agreed to have one of the rabbit’s slaughtered for human consumption.

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We waited the requisite three days for the meat to relax, then set out to turn our little friend into braised rabbit en cocotte with mustard sauce. The recipe came from The Apprentice, by Jacques Pepin. I’m not going to put the recipe down here. I don’t want his publishers to sue me. There are several recipes in the book, though it’s not a cookbook. It’s a fun memoir and I highly recommend you buy it, if only for the rabbit recipe. Basically, it’s rabbit braised, cooked to falling off the bone tenderness, in white wine, then finished with a cream and Dijon sauce. Run, don’t walk, to Amazon, right now. We did a couple of things differently than the recipe. First, I wasn’t sure if I was going to eat any rabbit so we attempted to make the stuffing separately. This was facilitated by the smaller Le Creuset casoulet Dave got me, with my larger cocotte. You like how I keep throwing that in there? My Le Creuset. MY Le Creuset. I’ve wanted one for the longest time, I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out the bucks and I definitely didn’t expect one (two!) for Christmas this year. Anyway, the world’s best bakeware couldn’t save the stuffing. We burned the living bejeezus out of it. We tried to save it by adding more water and drinking more wine. It sort of worked. But the rabbit was a whole different matter. It was brilliantly. If you cook, you know how terrifying it can be to try a new recipe, especially if you have never actually eaten the main component of the recipe. Everything with the rabbit was like cooking in a fantasy, Food Network show. It browned perfectly. I added way too much wine but better too much than not enough wine. The vegetable were cooking exactly on schedule, in the same pot as the rabbit, and looked lovely in the Le Creuset. Come on. You knew I had to say it again. I was in the zone. We had Brussels sprouts as a side. Below, you may oogle the dishes as they cook.

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Yes, that is my Le Creuset. Have you heard about it? I got it for Christmas.

End of this part of the story: The rabbit was delicious. Rabbit is all white meat, which makes it like the tofu of the animal world. It tasted like Dijon and cream. I love Dijon mustard and feel that Dijon will make any dish better, especially if the Dijon is stone ground, with huge mustard seeds!

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Since this is a really long story, we still have two more animals to go through, and I have a short attention span, I am going to pause for the evening and finish the rest of this story tomorrow. Or the next day. Definitely this year, unlike the last story about digging up Sheldon’s head, in which all the photos for that were on Dave’s computer that died, so you will never see the end of the story. I know, always an excuse. Just subscribe to the blog, so you don’t have to check in and get disappointed. Or just check back the day after tomorrow to get the rest of the story, disappointment free.

Task List and the Cabinet Connundrum

Warning: I cover a lot of ground in this post. Sorry for the disjointed, free association. Consider it a snap shot of my brain.

Yesterday, our list of stuff to do looked like this:

Orchard:

  • Prune fruit trees
  • Fertilize
  • Plant cover crop

 

Animals:

  • Build new goat birthing shelter and enclosure
  • Electrify chicken coop for protection against predators
  • Fix horse electric fence (damn goats don’t mind electric fence)
  • Chicken duplex roof and nesting boxes need new shingles
  • Build stands for bee boxes
    • Ant proof bee stands

 

Garden of Good and Evil:

  • Amend garden beds
    • Add compost
    • Plant cover crop
    • Fix garden plumbing after pipes froze and burst
    • Fix greenhouse panels after wind knocked them out
    • Expand blueberry cages so chickens can’t keep eating the plants
    • Trellis raspberries
    • Plant garlic (better late than never) (Dave wanted me to say, better late than pregnant. I told him no but I’m doing it anyway because I love him and his odd sense of humor.)

 

I got exactly one of those items done. We can cross off fix horse electric fence. So what exactly did I do all day? Mostly, I drove around on the tractor. Blame Dave. I was all set to toil, and I did for a while. Then he asked if I would box scrape the back road and…well, that’s where my day ended. Playing on the tractor is a giant, enjoyable time suck. Yes, I could make a case that I was doing something useful but the case is weak. Driving the tractor was not on my list. I did help Dave move some rubber mats into the old horse’s dinner stall, using the tractor. That wasn’t on the list but it should have been. His stall had become a soupy mess. In my defense, I figured I would ride the tractor all day and on Sunday (now today) I would do all the garden stuff.

Procrastination - procrastination Photo

Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow? Alas, the short rain shower that was predicted yesterday, turned into an all night and most of the morning downpour. Now the garden is too wet to work in, without risking compaction. This is what I get for procrastinating.

Since it’s too wet to play outside, I will be self flagellating, forcing myself to suffer a fate worse than death and put together our order for kitchen cabinets. We’re getting a quote for ready to assemble cabinets, made in the USA but I have to figure out what exactly, we need. I was up until 2am looking at their literature but the options are endless and I eventually fried my brain. Today, I’ll tackle the task again, with a freshly caffeinated mind and some graph paper. If you think I freaked out over choosing pendant lights for the counter space, you should see me in action trying to choose a PERMANENT fixture. A while back, we went to the “Giant Not Orange Home Store” and had them do a CAD drawing of our kitchen cabinets, so I’m cheating and using that as the base for our quote. I figure the Not Orange Home Store takes enough of our money, loaning us one of their underpaid kitchen designers for an hour should be one of the perks of patronage. Not Orange Home Store didn’t have as many options though, so some things will have to be changed. If you are just dying to know what the Not Orange Home Store came up with, I have posted the pictures below. Feel free to offer up some thoughts. I’m not stoked on the awkward corner by the fridge, I think it will be replaces with an appliance garage and I find the design in the kitchen to be lacking in aesthetic appeal.

The floor plan

The floor plan

Cabinet breakdown around fridge

Cabinet breakdown around fridge

MILLER 5

Cabinet breakdown around sink

Cabinet breakdown around sink

MILLER 6

Cabinet breakdown around bay window

Cabinet breakdown around bay window

I don’t have the CAD rendering for that last area around the bay window, which is a shame because that’s the only area I really like. You can kind of get an idea from the cabinet breakdown. Not Orange Home Store didn’t have very many options for this area but The Cabinet Joint, where we getting a quote has some pretty nifty options. This area will have glass/chicken wire upper cabinets for storing the china and other pretty things, a wine/beverage fridge (this will free up an entire fridge shelf), liquor cabinet/barware storage, filing cabinets for all the paperwork which inevitably ends up on the kitchen table (if you can’t beat it, fix it with a better storage solution), storage for the lap tops and printer which lives on the table, and some really high cupboards for those items which only come out once a year but are still important enough to keep, like the nice linens and vases for fresh flowers (though I keep vowing to make those a regular thing.) This will all be topped off with an aged copper counter that tops the lower cupboards and the bottom of the bay window, which can be used as a bar area, buffet or seat during parties. I’m pretty excited about this area, though to be honest, if we run out of money, this is the last thing that will get done. Isn’t that always the way it goes?

Wish me luck as I build my quote. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, send the men in white coats because I’ve lost my mind. You’ll find me on the tractor.

Playing Chicken

While I write this, I am sitting a house with almost no dry wall, at a picnic table, drinking wine from a wide mouth ball jar (the wide mouth canning jar allows the bouquet to more fully open up,) and I am listening to the happy peeps of the chicks in my (future) living room. What!? Not drinking out of real wine glasses? Oh, how low have I sunk? You’re right. There’s no excuse; I own proper wine glasses but I don’t know where they are boxed and packed. I should just go out and get more. Oh wait…You were more concerned about the flock of fowl in my humble abode? Me too. That’s why I’m drinking from a Ball jar. The story starts like this…

Our beloved middle child was turning 13 in May (a Taurus for those of you who are wondering and now sagely nodding your heads.) Her birthday is the day after my Dad, which is extremely convenient for me because I have never had a memory for birthdays. Anyway, I was prepared for this one because she wanted something that I was also excited about. She wanted chickens. Miss Moo has a vision of being an egg entrepreneur, an eggpreneur if you would. I fully support her vision. So for her birthday, I arranged for us to go to Peaceful Valley Farm, to see our friend Pam. Pam runs a small hatchery and in the springtime, has a pretty constant flow of juvenile chickens. She helped Moo pick out eight fine chickens, some sexed, some not but all in all, a gorgeous group of chickens.

Here, Moo is releasing the flock into the chicken duplex and the surrounding yard:

And here is the flock checking out the berry bed. We have since used hog panels to seal off the bed, after the tiny dinosaurs decimated it:

Almost immediately, tragedy struck when one of the chickens was murdered. The victim pictured below, was a slow moving chicken of questionable parentage.

The main suspect is Chamberlain. Chamberlain is a frizzle and HE is a HE. He is frequently called by the other name for roosters:

Chamberlain is named after the evil Skeksis from the Dark Crystal. Pleases see the photo below. That’s the face of a killer if I’ve ever seen one. Both of them:

Chamberlain has been sentenced to the death penalty but is still sitting on death row until I learn how best to kill and gut him.

We have been living in relative peace and chicken harmony since the arrival of the girls (and Chamberlain.) The horror of the murder quickly passed. All was status quo until a week ago, when the CEO of Smart Chick Eggs (a subsidiary of Moo Enterprises) got her father to buy her a copy of Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. For four hours she looked through the book. She bookmarked pages of breeds she is interested in. She became…obsessed. Then she did the thing that any Smart Chick would do, if she wanted more creatures. She took the book to her Auntie. We frequently joke that Auntie is one bad decision away from being a hoarder. Auntie, LOVES to assist others in acquiring new creatures. Within two days, we went from having a modest flock of seven (soon to be six) future egg layers to 16 (soon to be 15) mix and matched, sometimes gorgeous, sometimes ugly-ass chickens. The new additions are: two more frizzle hens of unknown parentage, two Miller Fleurs, a hen and a rooster (a super cute french variety), two more Amercauna chicks (a respectable egg laying breed) about three weeks old, two, two day old Silkie chickens with tiny afros, and three showgirls. Have you ever seen showgirls. Not the awful movie staring the formerly cute but nerdy Jessie from Saved By The Bell. I’m talking about a freaky-show variety of chicken-chicken-turkey crosses. They are by far the ugliest things EVER! When I named Chamberlain after the Skeksi, I was wrong. These things are Skeksis in feather boas. I don’t have any photos of ours because I have been busy but please enjoy this photo stolen from Backyard Chicken’s website:

It’s the Chinese Crested of the chicken world. Auntie could not resist these insanely unattractive creatures so we now have three of them. Two are silkies, one has normal feathers but still lacks the neck plumage. The only thing these chickens have going for them is they are very personable. Like the hairless cat, if humans don’t like them, they have no chance at survival. Unlike the hairless cat, they are still edible in polite society, though I imagine it takes a bit of doing to pluck one. I am willing to spend the time if they are not nice.

So now, I have chickens housed everywhere. Being the get of dinosaurs, generations back, they have a very complicated social structure in which they torture each other to death, if any member looks different. Actually, it’s a lot like middle school. (That sounds like the start of a joke. What does middle school and a velociraptor have in common?) The youngest chickens can’t be housed with the older established flock because the older chickens kill them. The Silkies can’t be house with the regular feathered chickens because the regular chickens kill them. The Bantams and the full sized chickens can’t cohabitate because…you see where this is going. We have a pending housing crisis here at the farm. For now, the four youngest chickens, the Amercaunas and the tiny silkie chicks are living in a large dog kennel in the living room where they have access to the heat lamp. The seven (yes, seven!) motley crew chickens are living in Chaos’s wire kennel inside the chicken duplex, where the showgirls refuse to mingle with the frizzles and Mille Fleurs, who are so so scared, they take turns hiding their heads under each others’ wings. It’s a mess. And to top it all off, Smart Chick, Moo has been at her Auntie’s for the last two days, leaving her chickens to fend for themselves. (I’m feeding and watering them but their cage needs to be cleaned and I know just the 13 year old for the job.)

So where do we go from here? I’m not sure. Soon, I am going to have to figure out legitimate long term housing for these things. I have watched the way the older chickens look at them and I can tell, there’s no way they are going to live in peace, love and KFC. I don’t want to put them in a tiny stinky coop that needs cleaning and the duplex yard is already maxed out as far as how many chicken the land can support before it becomes a sand lot of chicken destruction. I guess we will have to build a chicken tractor to run next to the rabbit tractor (oh by the way, we have meat bunnies now, more on that later) and I will be sending Smart Chick Eggs a bill for services rendered, itemized under janitorial services and improvement of facilities. Let the business lesson begin.

For now, I’m looking for the quart size wine glasses. Oops, I mean Ball Jars.

A Moving Story

It’s been a while, I know. No excuses. I was just busy and depressed. The combination meant I was using the very little “give a crap” that I had on things that I had to do so people wouldn’t start to get concerned, like moving and personal hygiene. Let’s talk about moving.

We moved in two big rounds and lots of tiny fragments. For the first round, Sarah and Detective Paranoid came up and helped. We took several trucks full of stuff; all of the non-essential items. Here we are loading up the truck and moving to Prunetucky, just like the Beverly Hillbillies.

That’s Detective Paranoid getting some kid help. His head is not shaped like a pea green polygon in real life. It’s just for the blog. You know, changed to protect the innocent and paranoid.

After the first round or moving,  we were left with the basement, which was quite full and all of those things we can’t live without, like clothes, four different blow dryers, 60 bottles of wine. You know, just the necessities. Dave kept his tile saw and six large coffee cans full of nails. Then for a couple of months, every time we went to the ranch, we took some items with us. One would think that the second round would be cake after all of the pre-moving. It wasn’t. It was grueling, torturous, and some other adjective that means really miserable. We barely made it out on time. Our cause was probably not helped by the fact that we went to a charity tequila tasting the night before. However, it was at that tequila tasting that I roped yet another friend into helping us. I would rather forget most of the event but it was about 14 hours long and ended with a coupe de grace that went a little something like this….

It’s early March. Dave and Marsha are 13 hours into the final phase of moving. Marsha I helping Dave unload stuff that took two men to load. Marsha (that’s me!) does not possess man like strength. She is pissed and therefore Dave is pissed. Everyone is hungry; the night is pitch black and it’s threatening rain. The dogs go running off into the night, most likely chasing a deer. We continue to drag the heaviest antique furniture out of the moving van and up the stairs into the garage attic.  About 15 minutes later, the terrorist terrier, AKA Lily the Weasel, starts barking a big (for her) angry bark. An alert bark. We try to call them back but they don’t come and neither one of us is in a position to care enough to tromp into the woods looking for them. Minutes later, they return, drooling, snorting and reeking of sulfur. Apparently the deer they were chasing, were really skunks. I wanted to cry but at that point, I hit rock bottom and when you’re at the bottom, you can only look up. I started to laugh that hysterical, maniacal laugh. I am so thankful that we had the moving van because that’s where the dogs spent the night.

The next morning, I went to the Safeway where I purchased four quarts of hydrogen peroxide, some dish soap and a box of Arm and Hammer. The checker looked at my goods, looked at me and deciding I was probably not feeding a strange addiction, said, “Are you doing a science experiment?” I desperately wanted to tell that I think that’s what my life has become but instead I told her that the dogs were skunked last night. “Oh yuck,” she said. “Do you live here?”

“We do. Actually, this happened while we were moving in, last night.”

The checker at the next stand burst out laughing and shouted, “Welcome to Prunedale!”  And from that moment forward, I have been in love with the people in this town.  By the next week, everyone at the Starbucks knew about our moving and skunking, thanks to my chatty husband. There’s nothing like a skunk story to band people together and create a community. We are home.

So we are officially moved in. There was some trial and tribulation at first but we are settled and living peacefully, more or less. Stay tuned, I have lots of updated photos and fun tales (tails?) from Redemption Farms.

Inspiration

There days when I can’t handle the never-ending construction and the hemorrhaging money into a house we can’t live in. I wonder if it’s worth it to pay the insanely high price of real estate, that this area commands and I question the sanity of living in California. On those days, we ignore the list of stuff we have to do, my sister-in-law (who has her own list of things that make her question the value of ranch) and I load up the horses and head 30 minutes to the State Park. We tack up, throw on our coats to protect us from the chilly ocean breeze, weave through the throngs of kids on bikes that Wilder Ranch State Parks draws, and in just one hour we find ourselves here:

In a meadow, between the forest and the ocean, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.