Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finished Objects

I have been finishing up a couple of knitting projects this week. Right now, at this moment in time, I have NOTHING on the needles.  I need to start something else or I may get shaky!

My first project was a Truly Tasha shawl for my mom.  She spun all of the wool for the project.  Over half was spun on a drop spindle!  She intended it to be the warp for a woven shawl, but she never got around to it and asked me to knit it.  The yarn was overspun and kind-of hard (more desirable in a weaving project than in a knitting project) and I didn't really enjoy it at all until I began putting the lace edging on. It was rough and stiff and a little bit abrasive to the touch. After blocking, the shawl was perfect! It is soft with a lovely drape. I am so happy with it. I am so glad I stuck it out and kept knitting. 

Truly Tasha Shawl made from my mom's spindle spun wool.

Lovely lace edging on the Truly Tasha Shawl

The next project was a pair of socks for me.  They are the Monkey socks from Knitty. The yarn is alpaca I bought at the Fall Fiber Festival last Fall.  I love the lace. I love the feel of the yarn. I love the color. The pattern was pretty easy, too. 

Monkey Socks

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In The Garden

This winter I planned a complete layout overhaul of my garden space.  Instead of 11 3'x9' beds, I am going to have 3 4'x33' beds. 
My new layout is going to give me an additional 100 square feet of bed space!  

In order to implement this change, I opted to use a tiller which I don't usually do. It has been really wet here recently and the garden has only had short bursts of time when it wasn't too soggy to till.  The garden plan for this year hinges on me getting my peas in by Valentine's Day.  Sunday I managed to get one section (about 1/3) of the garden tilled. This was enough for planting peas, but I ran out of daylight.  Then, it rained again Monday. Yesterday was lovely, but the ground was so wet I couldn't plant anything.

Today, they are calling for rain. Grrrr! 

Well, I ignored what "they" were calling for and I went out to plant. I managed to get an entire bed planted with shelling peas and dwarf sugar snaps.  If you don't want to to the math, that equals 132 square feet! Yikes! I may end up with a pea sheller this year. 

Blessing of The Land (at Planting or Harvest)

God of the Universe,
You made the heavens and the earth,
So we do not call our home merely “planet earth.”
We call it your Creation, a Divine Mystery,
a Gift from Your Most Blessed Hand.
The world itself is your miracle.
Bread and vegetables from earth are thus also from heaven.
Help us to see in our daily bread your presence.
Upon this garden
May your stars rain down their blessed dust.
May you send rain and sunshine upon our garden and us.
Grant us the humility to touch the humus,
That we might become more human.
That we might mend our rift from your Creation,
That we might then know the sacredness of the gift of life—
That we might truly experience life from the hand of God.
For you planted humanity in a garden,
and began our resurrection in a garden.
Our blessed memory and hope lie in a garden.
Thanks be to God,
Who made the world teeming with variety,
Of things on the earth, above, the earth, and under the earth.
Thanks be to God,
For the many kinds of plants, trees, and fruits,
We celebrate.
For the centipedes, ants, and worms,
For the mice, marmots, and bats,
For the cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers
We rejoice,
That we find ourselves eclipsed by the magnitude
Of generosity and mystery.
Thanks be to God.

Taken from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Monday, February 11, 2013

Chicken Butchering

Last February, you will remember we hatched a bunch of chicks in the house. One of the disadvantages of hatching your own chicks is that you will end up with about half of your hatch being male. Now I have nothing against roosters.  We love our Roofus, but too many males (when there are females around) will act a fool! They will injure the hens and can fight to the death. Often an aggressive rooster will attack small children or even adults.

By September, the 5 cockerals from the February hatch were six months old and making themselves a nuisance.  We had put them together in a separate enclosure in August for our safety and the safety of our hens.  With no females around, they stopped fighting, which was good, but I knew that butchering them was something I would have to do at some point. Keeping them cooped up and feeding them was not an ideal situation.

My friend who hatched the chicks with me, came to help butcher.  I built a fire in the pit that morning so we could burn the offal as we went.  I only put plant materials in my compost and I didn't care to attract vermin.  My goal was to make the process as peaceful as a killing could possibly be.

We started with Roofio, the meanest of the bunch. He had been dipping his wing at me for weeks and jumped at my son.  I thought thought that would make him the easiest for me to kill.

I used a "killing cone" I made from hardware cloth to hold the bird while I cut the jugular and waited for him to bleed out.  If you have ever held a chicken upside down you will know that they go strangely still due to some effect on their nervous system. Additionally, the killing cone holds their wings securely so there is no panicky flapping of the wings.

The killing cone has a hole at the bottom that is large enough for the bird's head and neck to fit through. We said a prayer of thanks for the bird, his life and sacrifice before killing him. The first bird, Roofio took 2 passes with the knife to cut into the jugular because I didn't move enough of the feathers out of the way. In spite of this, It was very calm and peaceful- surprising if you have heard the stories of the headless chickens running around the yard after grandma killed them! The bird very quickly bled out. The rest of the birds only took one cut and it got easier as the day went on.

Amy prepares to cut the bird's neck.
I used tin snips to cut off the bird's head before dunking it in a pot of very hot (not boiling) water to loosen the feathers.
Cutting off head with tin snips.

Dunking in hot water.
For me, the most difficult part was the cutting it up part.  In case you have never thought about it, the innards of a chicken don't come in a little bag stuffed into the carcass! They are actually all attached to something... usually something gross like intestines, bile ducts, or the crop.  It took me some time (and the help of several YouTube videos) to figure out what I was looking at, where to cut and what places to avoid with the knife at all cost (bile duct).

It wasn't pretty.

The end result wasn't pretty, but I ended up with 5 birds suitable for making stew and stock.  I used every part of the bird possible, including organs and feet. I made the most beautiful hard-gelling stock I have ever made.

Peeled chicken foot.

 When the day was over and I had time to mentally and emotionally process the whole experience, I came to some conclusions: It was emotionally grueling to take several lives, even chicken lives. Praying and thanking the bird seemed to be ways for me to lessen the emotional impact of the act, but I cried when I killed the first 2 birds.

As I go through life as an omnivore I am much more acutely aware of the lives that animals in my food chain have lived.  I want them to have lived well and to have died peacefully. Raising your own animals and knowing your farmer are the best ways insure that they lived and died well.  I also know now to have some hard cider on hand so I can sit on the porch and decompress afterward.

 I am sharing this post at The Prairie Homestead.

I'm Back

I apologize for my absence over the last several months.  Our computer died and it just wasn't in the budget to replace at the time.  We finally had the money for a new computer and so I am back to blogging.

There have been many things I would have liked to share with you during my blogging hiatus and over the next few weeks I hope to do that. Rather than catch you up all at once, I plan to share different posts about: a broody hen, my first chicken butchering experience, our new church, our public school experience, some knitting projects and my new garden configuration.

For now, I'll leave you with an old family photo.  This photo thrills me and I feel so blessed to have a copy of it!
My Great Grandmother's first cousins Jocelyn and Myrtis Jennings
and their mother Annie. Taken around the turn of the 20th century.