New Chicks – the Jury is Still Out

We have been debating on and off about getting chicks this year. There are so many reasons to do and just as many reasons to sit out a year.   We are approaching the end of chick days, so if we don’t buy some soon, then the decision will soon be out of our hands.

chick days

A sign of the times…Chick Days.

One of the reasons we need to consider new birds is predators.   Last year we lost a number of hens to a fox.  We have not lost to predators every year, but it is always a possibility.    We could not take that same kind of predation again this year.   We have already seen a large fox this year. Our hens already are not doing as much free ranging as they would like because of this.   We are keeping them in the run more hours and close to the house when they are free ranging.   It is not a guarantee that they will not meet an unfortunate demise, but it does decrease the odds of them being fox dinner.

Another reason for thinking about adding some youngsters to our flock is some of our hens are past peak laying and if we don’t retire them to freezer camp this year, they will only be good for stock.   I hate to be wasteful.   It seems to me that is almost disrespectful to not fully utilize the bird.   When they get beyond tough it settles wrong with me, it seems that I have been less than a good steward. You want to rotate out your heavy laying hens every 18-24 months if you hope to eat them.

One of the reasons to not get chicks is we would get to put off one of the worst parts of backyard chicken wrangling, butchering.  I would so love to put them in a cage haul them off to be butchered and come back neat little hens in a plastic bag, but it doesn’t work that way.   It one of those things that is a reminder to me of the hard work that goes into putting food on our table.

Another reason to not get chicks is I just plain old don’t like the part of raising baby chicks.   They are sensitive to cold, drafts and require lots of work to get them to the laying age.   Some people love this part, to me it is just one big hassle, I’d rather skip. There is a period where we are running two separate flocks and two separate sets of chores for each of them.

The local ranch supply will be getting birds in only for a couple more weeks, so we will soon be making the road trip to get some chicks or by procrastination the decision will be made for us.  Either way is ok with us this year.

Furlough: Dinners from the Freezer

One of my favorite oldies!

We are now in our third week of government furlough.    It has been a time for us to appreciate all that we have in our pantry and freezer.   We are lucky to have such a well stocked larder.   The challenge is we like to cook fresh and ethnic foods.    It means we often pull things from our stores and add things from the grocery to allow us to make exactly what we want.    We are now having to tap into out our creative side of making menus without going to the grocery to get items.  We are challenging ourselves to make do with what we have at home.   This generally means we are eating more traditional 50’s American menus.   I have been tapping into my old cookbooks.  It is interesting to explore some of the old favorites and discover some new ones.   One of the biggest challenges is to cut recipes down to size for just the two of us, because we are not big on leftovers, but this lack of a paycheck is reminding us to be more thrifty than normal.

Recently we had half a ham which should have been one family Sunday dinner.   Instead it was a traditional ham dinner, the next night we had scalloped potatoes and ham, followed by Senate Navy bean soup, lastly it made a great Indian lentil soup (dal).   There is a little ham left and we will be making a Quiche to finish it off next.    We were quite pleased with how we succeeded in making so much from that single piece of meat.    It did serve to remind us though that good menu planning is no accident.   It takes time and forethought to ensure that you are successful with menu planning.

Though there is an ongoing economic price to pay for us being a pawn in the government, it has reaffirmed that there is a reason we are frugal, and put food by.   We again thank our parents for teaching us to get by with what we have and plan for rainy days.   We have been reminded that we are survivors, because that is a choice we can make when it seems like there are no choices for us.   It has made us stronger as a couple because we are in this challenge together, stronger than we would be separately.

Responsible Animal Ownership

CourtneysDigiscrappin_YourLife_WA4

I just read a news article “Backyard chickens dumped at shelters when hipsters can’t cope, critics say”  Why does this surprise anyone?   Have you visited a dog/cat shelter lately?   I am always amazed at how many adult animals are surrendered  in and the reasons they are turned in.

I have blogged before about when you take on chickens you need to be prepared for the full cycle of life.   I also have talked in this blog about  when I have culled/butchered chickens and how it is a sucky part of owning a small flock.   I haven’t done it to gross folks out or offend them, though some of the private offline emails have received indicated that I am a whole lot of nasty things because of some of the posts.   I do it because I want to share with folks  that there is a cycle of life to the food we eat and the animals that we own.   When you fantasize about the farm life and how wonderful it would be to grow your own things and then harvest them, don’t forget just like your life agriculture  isn’t all rosy.   If farming or ranching was easy we would still have millions of families still in agriculture.   Instead the number of people who grow the food we eat is smaller than ever.   More and more of our citizens are so far removed from where their food comes from they can imagine how it all happens even if their logical mind tells the.

I am an advocate for folks growing some of their own food.   I think it is important for folks to understand how hard it is to bring food to the table.   But I hope you start small and think about what you will do if it is only a phase.   Assume it is, it might be one season or a ten year phase, but odds are it will come to an end eventually.   If you start with a small garden a little sod can put your life back the way it was.   If you choose to have animals it is much more complicated to get started, but also much more complex to stop.   With animals you need to be prepared to respectfully end it which in many cases involve butchering.

Remember if you want to be more self-sufficient you can’t be self-sufficient if you only do the easy things and leave the hard decisions for someone else to make.