Saturday, December 16, 2006
When Herman came to the fence, Kahlil acted the way he would around a dog that size. He looked away from him and wouldn't make eye contact. Herman lowered his head to put it through the fence. His body language must have not looked aggressive to Kahlil because Kahlil tentatively went to him. They smelled each other barely touching noses. Then Kahlil rested his muzzle on top of Herman's face. They have both been conditioned by humans to be friendly, but you do have to wonder what goes through their minds at a moment like this.
Don't forget to head over to Sweetnicks for Weekend Dog Blogging each Sunday night.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and
Part 5 Eating & Freezing Part
6 Final Thoughts
Eviscerating a chicken is the process of removing the insides. It's one of those things that is much easier to show someone rather than write down the process. I'm not sure this post will be of any help in explaining how to evicerate a chicken, but I suppose the pictures show something that people don't often get to observe. Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat there is more than one way to gut a chicken. The follow is what has worked for us.
Step1. After the chicken is finished being plucked, remove the feet. These are removed at the joint. We used a knife to do this, but I think some kind of poultry or garden pruning shears would have been easier.
Step2. Slice off the oil gland. This is on the top (if the chicken is standing up) of the tail.
Step3. Cut off the neck close to the body and save it for soup. At the neck opening you will see two tubes going into the chicken. The smoother one is the esophagus which goes to the crop and the one that looks like a vacuum cleaner hose is the trachea. Loosen them from the body.
Step4. Lay the chicken on its back with the tail facing you. From just under the end of the breast bone, start to cut the skin. Cut down toward the vent about maybe halfway. You want to be careful not to knick the intestine, so you might want to pinch or hold the skin toward you as you are doing this. Now cut the skin from the bottom of the incision to each side. The incision will be an upside down T at this point and should be big enough to squeeze your hand through. If it's not then enlarge it. Do NOT cut all the way down to the vent though.
Step5. Now comes the fun part. You are going to reach inside. The first time I did this I was surprised that it was warm inside a chicken. After years handling chicken for food prep which of course comes from the fridge very cold, I was initially surprised to put my hand inside a chicken and find it warm. It shouldnÂt have been a surprise, but it was.
Step6. As you are squeezing your hand through the opening that you just made, run your fingers up along the breast bone. When you are all the way in, grab whatÂs inside and pull it out. It takes a little force, but remarkably most all of the insides come out. Do not detach the intestine from the vent just yet.
Step7. Now, cut around the vent. This will be a cut the is shaped like a U. This will separate what you just pulled out and you will have removed the vent without cutting the intestine. You are almost done now and you chicken looks like a ÂnormalÂ chicken.
Step8. It is possible that when you pulled out everything from the inside the lungs stayed behind. If you do not have a Âlung pullerÂ (yes, there is such a thing) then reach in with your index and middle finger and scrape out the two redish pinkish things that are on the bottom and forward.
Step9. If it is a rooster you will notice two things are the size beans on the back of the chicken inside. These are the testicles and can be removed also. IÂve often seen them missed in chicken that I got from the store.
Step10. Now rinse the chicken thoroughly with water inside and out.
Step11. Now you are finished and want to get the chicken cooled down. We fill tubs cold water and ice and chill the chickens down quickly in the ice water for a while before refrigerating them
Store bought chickens usually come with their, liver, heart, and gizzard. For this batch of chickens we saved the hearts and livers and I gave the feet and gizzards away to a friend at work who took them. NOTE. When you are separating the heart and liver from the rest of the insides, you must be careful not to break the gall bladder. It's the greenish thing connected to the liver. If it breaks, bile comes out. We tossed out any liver that bile got onto and then very thoroughly washed any cutting board or knife that bile got onto if we did break the gall bladder.
Shows after the insides have been removed. The large round thing is the gizzard. The dark thing is the liver. Below the liver, is the intestine.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The first batch we butchered we hand plucked some and machine plucked some. By the time we did the second batch we had gotten the knack of the machine plucker and were doing them all by machine. The machine is ancient, but still does the job. It consists of a rotating drum with rubber finger like things that stick out. As the chicken is held against the rotating drum, the rubber fingers pull the feathers off. In addition to drum pluckers like we used, there are tub pluckers. These are even easier. You just put the scalded chickens inside and they are plucked clean with out even holding them.
Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and Chilling
Part 5 Eating & Freezing
Part 6 Final Thoughts
Plucking a chicken with the old automatic plucker.
Making sure the plucker did a good job.
Plucking by hand.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
There are a number of different steps involved once the chickens are rounded up. The first is the actual killing. There are a number of humane ways to achieve this. Some people cut the jugular vein. Some wring the necks and others chop off the heads. The easiest one for us physically and emotionally was to chop their heads off. This was done with a hatchet. We opened the door of the coop reached in, took a chicken and carried it to the chopping block. The chicken is laid across the block and a loop of string is placed around its neck. This loop is so the chicken will not move just before the ax falls. The chopper holds the feet of the chicke and swings. Each of us who swung the axe did not fear killing the chicken. Rather, not killing the chicken was a far greater fear. Our goal of a quick death for the chicken helped us be careful and accurate in our swing.
We’ve all heard stories about chicken running around with their heads cut off. Based on how much flapping of wings occurs while we hold the feet of a headless chicken, I believe this would be true. Out of respect for the chicken and fear of creating a big mess I don’t believe in testing this theory. After the head was severed, we placed the chicken upside down in a cone to finish bleeding. Under the cone is a bucket to catch the blood. The next step after the chicken is finished bleeding out is plucking. I’ll describe that in my next post of this series.
Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and Chilling
Part 5 Eating & Freezing
Part 6 Final Thoughts
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
We've had such a warm fall here in Massachusetts. I just noticed this dandelion blooming in my front yard and it actually looks like the grass needs cutting. It's practically December!
Just a few weeks ago I brought this geranium inside to winter over. I probably could have left it outside if I had covered it on frosty nights. There really hasn't been a hard sustained frost yet. My rosemary and sage are still hanging on.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Last Monday was butchering day. The first step started the day before. Instead of giving the chickens their usual afternoon feed and water, they are only given water. Essentially they are on a clear liquid diet for the 12 hours before butchering. This insures that there is little or no food in their digestive tract. That will make an easier and cleaner job the next day. The next morning they are brought to the area where we will kill and butcher them. Because they sleep in the mobile coop, this job is very easy and does not involve chasing or catching or stressing the chickens. Heidi drove the tractor to the field, hooked up the mobile coop, and towed them back. It's a really simple way to "round up" 124 chickens.
From the other side of the coop you see can the chickens all at the anxious to get out. It is a simple matter to open the door and take one out at a time to butcher. One feature of the mobile coop that you can not see from the picture is that the floor boards are spaced so that much of the manure falls out. This means that the coop doesn't need constant cleaning. The manure that falls fertilizes the cow pasture.
NOTE: I'm wondering if this chicken butchering series is going to bother anyone. I plan to indicate in the title what will be covered and have some text before the pictures so people have a chance to leave if they don't want to look at the pictures. What does everyone think? I really don't want to upset upset someone who is unprepared. For those of you who are really interested in the process, another blogger has created a really great video clip of the process which you can see here.
Friday, November 24, 2006
Sunday, November 12, 2006
In the mean time, here are some photos of sunflowers. Where I plant my vegetable garden, sunflowers grow wild and I always leave or transplant one or more to act as "poles" for something climbing. Last year I grew Romano pole beans on some sunflowers and this year I grew yardlong beans one sunflower stalk. When the sunflower is a few feet tall I pinch the ends to make it branch to give the beans more places to climb. As the beans grow up the plant I also pull off as many leaves from the sunflower plant as I can without killing it. This is to let more light in. This was my first year growing yard long beans. I didn't like the taste as much as regular string beans, but I did like it enough to grow them again. Each beanpod is about 18 inches long . That makes harvesting go really quickly.
If you click on the photo for a larger image, you can see some of the yardlong beans hanging on the right side of the plant.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Camera angle can mean so much. What appears to be a little country cottage is really an A-frame pig shed. The other side of the fence is mostly mud with a couple of very pregnant Tamworth sows wallowing in it. If my camera had not broken, I was going to take a photo from the other direction. This is one of the perennial plots (not mine) where I have my community garden at Codman Farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA.
Chick update: At 4 weeks old today, the White Rock Roosters weighed an average of a little over 10 oz. each.
Note. My camera (Nikon Coolpix 950) broke! I don't have time to investigate or buy one before my daughters wedding. Any thoughts on what you love or hate about the camera you use would be appreciated for when I start the camera buying process. In the mean time no more baby chick update photos.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Friday, September 01, 2006
After some hatchery and post office delays the chicks finally arrived two weeks ago... They are 125 White Rock rooster but a few seem to be something different. They are in a room in the barn that’s about 11 x 11 feet square. Chicks need an area where the temperatures are 90 degrees in part of the area the first week and can tolerate the temperature to be lowered 5 degrees each week for the first 6 weeks. To provide this temperature there are two heat lamps hanging in their enclosed area. They can self adjust their temperature by moving closer or further form the lamps. The chicks were two weeks old on last Tuesday.
Each week I plan to weigh a sample of the chicks and keep track of their weights. We’re also keeping track of how long it takes them to eat each 50 lbs of feed.
So far the weights are;
At one week, a sample of 10 weighed an average of 2.05 oz. each
At two weeks, a sample of 10 weighed an average of 4.45 oz each
From the weights you can see they more than doubled their weight during their second week.
I intended to take a photo of them today and brought my camera to the farm. Unfortunately I forgot to put the memory card back into the camera before I brought it with me. This photo from the first week will have to do for now.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I’m hoping to chronicle my experiences and thoughts raising broiler chickens this year and over the last two years in a series of posts over the next few months. I plan on covering everything from brooding to butchering.
Once chicks are a few weeks old they do not need the extra heat supplied by their mothers or heat lamps and can go outdoors. For the most part commercially raised meat chickens never have the opportunity to ever be outside. They spend their entire lives indoors in cramped quarters in broiler houses with tens of thousands of other chickens. This is not the way I want the chickens I eat to be raised. Why I think this is better will be the topic of another post, but today’s post is about the shelter the chickens will have. Even though they roam and forage in the pasture during the day, they need a place that is safe from predators and weather to sleep in at night.
The first year Judy and I did chickens, I built a movable pen. This is a popular was to raise pastured poultry made famous by Joel Salatin. The pen has no floor and is moved to a new area of pasture each day, giving the chickens fresh pasture and leaving the droppings behind to fertilize the pasture. One of the problems with this idea was getting the pen light enough to move, but not so light as to fall apart. I built it 8x8 feet by 2 feet high. Sadly it ended up too heavy for us to move easily on hilly terrain AND it fell apart. It didn’t last long enough to even get a picture of it I then built two smaller pens half the size with the pieces from the broken first pen. That worked as far as the pens being easy to move and light, but we soon decided we didn’t like the pen idea. The pen required moving too frequently and the chickens seemed like they would be better off with more pasture. We started to let the chickens out of the pens during the day and only put then in at night. This seemed to work better and meant that the pens did not require moving as much because the dropping from the chickens during the day were not in the pen, but spread out over the pasture. This system is called day range. Ithe one that I prefer and has worked well for the last two years.
The chickens I am doing with Heidi this year will also be day-ranged. Last year Judy and I built a new pen for the chickens that we think worked well. In this picture it’s missing a tarp that would cover it if there were chickens living it. It’s bottomless and made on wooden runners. It needs a truck to pull it to new pasture space. It was moved about once per week to fresh pasture. By substituting clear plastic for the tarp, this pen can be also be used as a greenhouse to start seedlings in spring. The red thing inside is actually a cold-frame.
Below is the pen that was built for the chickens Heidi and I will do his year. It’s quite fancy and I heard it won a trophy in the local 4th of July parade. I think it’s solidly built and with its real wheels is very transportable. One change that I think I would have made if it were my pen, is that I would have not built a solid floor. A bottomless pen needs no shoveling out. I think I’d prefer to let gravity do the work of manure spreading. This year’s chicks haven’t arrived yet so I can’t really say how much cleaning out it will need. Things never go exactly as predicted anyway and time will tell what Heidi and I think worked well and what might be changed.
The new chicks are scheduled to arrive this week and I must say I’m excited and look forward to learning more about raising broilers on pasture. They are White Rocks. In the past I raised Cornish Cross chickens and I’m really curious as to the differences between the two breeds.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
unlabeled mystery (turned out to be a medium orange tomato)
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Spigariello in the field (no the dog is not named spigarello)
Spigariello with some of today's harvest
Spigariello serving suggestion (just kidding. It needs cooking. )
Spigarello is a new vegetable for me this year. A friend gave me some seeds and I tried them even though I'd never actually eaten spigarello before. It turned out to be easy to grow and tasty. I planted it the same time as I planted broccoli. For cooking separate the leaves and stems and only cook the leaves. The stems are too tough to bother with. To me it tastes kind of like kale, but also with a definite broccoli taste. It is supposed to form little florets, but mine didn't. I'm guessing that might be because it's been too hot. I'm planning on freezing any extra I have for winter soups and growing it again next year. In the meantime it's been producing for weeks.
Monday, July 24, 2006
The homegrown food for today is zucchini.
Home grown zucchini, like Rodney Dangerfield, seems to get no respect. It’s the butt of jokes and people act like it’s harder to give away than a litter of kittens. It does have a habit of hiding under its leaves and growing too big which is a shame because, in my opinion, size DOES matter. Smaller is better for zucchini. I like zucchini best about an inch in diameter. Bigger zucchini can be used for zucchini bread. I also sometimes make a casserole of zucchini, mozzarella, breadcrumbs and tomato sauce with zucchini up to 2 or so inches in diameter, but my favorite zucchinis are the very little ones that are smaller than are available in stores in the USA.
I picked my first zucchini this weekend. It was even smaller than the one inch diameter size I prefer, but you know how it is with zucchini, if you look away for a moment, it may double in size, so I grabbed it while it was still small. I decided to stuff the flower with a mixture of some feta, breadcrumbs and milk, then dipped it in egg and fried it. I would have preferred goat cheese for the stuffing, but had none. The zucchini I simply sliced and sautéed for a few minutes in olive oil. Together with some sliced tomatoes, it was a nice lunch.
Stuffed zucchini blossoms are a great way to use the flowers, especially the male blossoms that aren’t going to form zucchinis anyway. Just be sure to leave some male flowers on the plant so the female flowers can get pollinated. If you’re wondering which is which, the females have tiny zucchinis at the base of the flower. The males do not.
Variety: Franchi Seeds – Striato d’Italia ( Italian Striped)
I like this variety because it has ridges and nice flowers and of course because it tastes good.
Today’s feature was to be spigariello, but I’ll save that for another post because the photo does not do it justice. Today’s post instead will be the medley of the home grown dinner that includes the spigariello.
Everything on my dinner and salad plate I grew or caught, except for some butter, olive oil and salt which you can’t actually see, but it’s there improving what already tastes good. I enjoy and have lots of fun with the challenge of cooking meals mostly from things I grew, or in this case caught also. It’s kind of like a game for me to fashion a meal from what I can get from the garden or raise. I’ve added the categories of catching or foraging, because it’s my game so I can make up the rules. What you see some is of the striped bass that I froze after the Boston Harbor fishing expedition baked with a little butter and parsley, the first garden tomatoes with olive oil, basil and salt, and spigariello, boiled and then sautéed in a little olive oil. The spigariello is not actually as dark as it looks the photo. At the top of the plate is my favorite part of this meal. It's new Yukon Gold potatoes mashed with butter in which sage has been sautéed. The salad plate consists of romaine lettuce and a few Sweet 100 and Sungold cherry tomatoes, dressed with a little olive oil and salt. What follows is the recipe for the potatoes, It's so simple that it's really more of a concept than a recipe
Recipe: Potatoes with sage butter.
Boil some potatoes. Remove the skins.
Melt some butter in a sauté pan.
Chop up some fresh sage and sauté it in the butter for a few minutes until the butter just begins to start getting brown, but doesn’t actually turn brown. This will infuse the butter with the sage flavor.
Add the butter and sage mixture to the potatoes and mash.
Add salt to taste.
I purposely left the amount of sage butter to use out of this recipe. It’s a matter of taste and conscience. I used about a tablespoon of butter for one serving and it seemed right to me. I swear it tastes even better with new freshly dug potatoes, but it’s actually good with any old potatoes you may have around.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Saturday, July 01, 2006
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Friday, June 16, 2006
Below is a very young, also pea-sized cherry tomato. The variety is Matt's Wild Cherry. I planted this variety last year. Its a good tasting prolific small red cherry tomato. It is one of the most tenacious tomato varieties I've ever planted. When other tomatoes are being attacked by blights and other things this variety kept going strong and it's doesn't seem prone to cracking. When I discovered cherry tomatoes in a row where I knew that I had not planted any cherry tomatoes it was always this variety. It ranges every where. It is the exact opposite of compact and bushy. It has a lot of personality. I always thought it would be a great tomato to train on an arched arbor. I like this tomato a lot but now plant it on the ends of the rows where I can keep a close eye on it. The fruits are small, tomato red and are perfect for adding to salads or eating as you work in the garden.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Middlesex county in Massachusetts where I live was declared a federal disaster area May 12th due to flooding and it's been raining even more since then. I've planted green beans twice, chard and zinnia seeds, but haven't seen any sprouting in a few weeks and think they have rotted. It's just too cool and wet. For some reason the winter and summer squash have actually sprouted. The tomatoes and peppers that were planted as seedlings are hanging on, but not really growing much in what seems like endless cool wet weather. Even though I planted my potatoes in a trench they are looking OK and haven't been attacked by Colorado beetles yet. Lettuce is the one thing that really seems happy, but even lettuce is looking a bit pale due to lack of sun. I took this photo at Codman Farm in Lincoln MA where I have my community garden. I remember it was taken on one of the few sunny days this spring and was unseasonably hot. These three ducks had found a little shade and were relaxing the afternoon away. The way one of them has his mouth open it looks like the are all having an afternoon conversation. Everyone I talked to is really tired of all the rain, mud and flooding, but these three fellows are probably rather happy with the very unusual spring weather we are having.
Friday, June 09, 2006
Even though it rained yesterday, today and will again tomorrow I decided to go to my community garden, mostly just to putter and see what’s growing. I needed to bring some tomato cages that I’d been making from welded wire in my garage as my latest rainy day project. This time I remembered to bring my camera thinking I’d maybe take another photo of my verrrrry slooow growing artichokes or my flea bitten broccoli. On the way I spotted two turkeys by the road. My first thought was that I wished that I had my camera. In about a second or two it occurred to me that I actually DID have my camera. I pulled over and shot a few photos. Its times like this I really feel hindered by my 2 mega pixel, 3x zoom old camera. The turkey strutting with his back to me was just too far away to get a sharp image. I ended up using digital zoom just to make him bigger than a dot. The other turkey in the brush was very close to me, but it was dark and gloomy and I must have not been able to hold my camera still enough for the slower shutter speed. Even though the photos are not technically great, I’m really happy just getting them at all. I really like spotting wildlife and it’s such a bonus to be able to get a photo. I’ve seen wild turkeys before, but have never been as close to one as I was today.
Years ago there were no wild turkeys in Massachusetts. Now they are really becoming more common here.. From the hill I was standing on when I took the photos, the sky scrapers of Boston are visible and are probably about 7 or 8 miles away, as the crow flies. These two birds are almost urban dwellers. I found a site that has a nice FAQ about wild turkeys if you are interested in learning more about them.
Monday, May 29, 2006
My last post was about the flea beetles on my broccoli. I got lots of suggestions. I tried sprinkling with garlic powder and that seemed to help, but I think I would need to do that each day. This broccoli is in my community garden and I don't visit it daily. I once had luck with garlic powder to rid beans of insects, but those were in my own yard and I could apply it daily. Unfortunately after that it rained for 10 days. Because of it, I didn't go to my garden for a while and when I returned the beetles were much fewer. However, the broccoli looks terrible, has lots of holes and is stunted. I may try diatomaceous earth next . The broccoli is really a candidate for ripping out, but I figure I have two rows of it and it may be fun and educational to try diatomaceous earth on one row just to see if it works, so I know what to do next year. The garden is organic so it's not an option to just poison the little critters.
I'm not totally without broccoli however. The new little 8ft. by 42inch bed that I set up in my yard at home is doing OK. It only gets barely 6 hours of sun, so things aren't perfect, but I've eaten lots of lettuce from it and here's a photo of the first broccoli. It's such a contrast to the broccoli in my community garden. There's not even one hole in any of these leaves. I think one good thing about a new bed is that the pests haven't found it yet or maybe the chickens arfe helping with insect control. We'll see if the broccoli here looks this good next year.
So far I'm pleased with this new little bed. What's in it (starting from closest to the camera) is a row of broccoli, two rows of romaine lettuce and a few red lettuces, another row of broccoli, then an empty space where the spinach was a failure, then a double row of raab, then a row of parsley. I was happy that I made it 42 inches wide and not the 48 inches that I was tempted to do. I'm only 5'3'' but have no trouble reaching the middle. What also worked well was the 2 foot chicken wire. At first I wasn't sure it was tall enough to deter chickens and dogs. Two feet has been enough to give the dogs a visual cue not to run through the bed and the chickens do not go over it. I believe that it's the floppiness of it that deters the chickens from jumping up on it. Two feet is nice because I don't need to open it up to weed or harvest. I just reach over. There is one problem though. The chickens have eaten some things through the wire. One broccoli plant disappeared. It was probably pulled through when it was young. I really should move the wire out a few inches to help prevent more chicken damage.