My younger sister MaryBeth passed away from cancer on the 14th. From the time she was a toddler climbing up the swing set in our backyard and giving my mother a heart attack, she was a fighter. But sometimes the greatest will in the world isn’t enough. Her daughters surround her with love and cared for her well in their last weeks together. She is fiercely missed. We will get together to honor her memory on December 9th.
Since Tuesday, the phone hasn’t been ringing and beeping with updates and the forlorn quiet is a stark contrast to the anxious waiting for news, always bad news. I need to change my ringtone to something new – I’m now conditioned to jump at the text notification, and not in a good way. Here at the homestead, we have a philosophy that if you don’t know what to do in a given moment because an outside situation beyond your control, do what you would otherwise be doing, unless there is a good reason not to. So we carry on.
Husbandry and gardening: The barnyard is quieter this week. The homestead census dropped by 12 this week, what with the turkey and goose harvest complete for the year. While I will never enjoy the killing (and anyone who does needs their head examined), there is a great deal of satisfaction for having done the job with skill and dignity.
I will admit also there is some fascination for what each bird reveals about our husbandry: where are the geese finding green grass this time of year? what color is the fat on this breed of chicken? how much did that variety of turkey weigh when dressed out? These details observed make us better poultry keepers in the future, and better at selecting the animals we want to work with. We are still eking out chicken fat saved from the last batch of Jersey Giants, a most carotenoid-rich yellow color that puts any butter to shame. They were also the best and thriftiest foragers, by far, of any of the dozen chicken breeds we’ve tried.
All told, we harvested 45 lbs of turkey and chicken, plus unweighed backs and necks for stock, 5 lbs of boned out goose breast and a little more in unboned legs and thighs. It’s going to be a well-fed winter.
The dogs made an emergency trip to the vet on Monday. We think they found a dying, poisoned rodent. Carson was shaking uncontrollably. Wyatt wasn’t so bad off because he vomited early on. It took Carson more than 24 hours to get over the shaking, but turkey harvest is his favorite day and he wasn’t about to miss it. Both dogs seem fine now.
The only gardening that got done was watering the garlic. We trimmed the goat hooves. R reorganized the deicers to consolidate them near a single water faucet. The goats, given their own elevated bucket, seem to be preferring to share the geese’s water, which the birds manage to get dirty within minutes of being refreshed, so we may drop down to even fewer deicers and save some energy.
Food, harvest and preserving: Once harvested, we put the poultry meat in coolers on ice for 24-72 hours to age. Except what we will use for Thanksgiving, the turkey meat is in the freezer and the goose meat is still on ice.
We made pork boudin, a Cajun-style rice and meat sausage that we were both introduced to when we lived in Texas. R smoked the sausages over mesquite wood to a toasty caramel color. Boudin sausage is a fantastic fast dinner food to have in the freezer. We also seasoned some with Asian flavors, but ran out of casings, so we froze it in bulk units. The Asian-style boudin will probably go into some sort of lettuce or cabbage wrap at some point, or maybe stuffed into bell peppers.
Energy and conservation: I’m using the porch-as-freezer regularly now. Cooling leftovers can sit overnight on a little wrought iron table. The laundry rack is now set up in the garage for drying clothes-it’s been either too cold or unpleasantly windy. The rack easily holds a full load. If it gets any colder, I will switch to doing a load right before bed and putting the rack in front of the wood stove overnight.
Community: We went to a delightful party on Saturday. I was out of ingredients for my usual potluck dish, so I improvised with an apple-cabbage-blue cheese slaw that was pretty good. The hosts had brought some ciders back from their summer travels, and we did an impromptu cider tasting for some novices-that was really fun.
Creativity and recreation: We went on a superheroes action film marathon this week, because the most recent Thor movie was at the local theater, and we hadn’t seen any in the series. Going to a real theater, with real popcorn smells, movie trailers and comfy seats is an unexpected luxury and we are so happy for the family that brought the Bicknell Theater back to life.
Next week: Thanksgiving! One of my favorite holidays to cook for, and I’m going to spread it out over several days so I can enjoy it even more. There’s also a bunch of projects to preserve and use the geese: smoking, confit-ing, salting and drying need to be done around the Thanksgiving prep.
Seasonal observations: About the last green thing in the garden is the apple mint around the water faucet. I’m curious to see how long it will stay that way. A light dusting of snow blew in; Wyatt’s first chance to play in it. He ran around with his head looking backwards at his footprints, which he had never seen before. Wyatt has a dangerous curiosity about matches, lighters and the wood stove. Both dogs are enjoying their winter role as manorial hounds on the rug before the fire. All they need are some meaty bones to complete the picture, but they have to settle for rawhides instead of raw meat. Some working dogs need to be taught to chill out and relax, these two need all the practice they can get.