Sunday, July 15, 2012

Life On The Farm

Life on the farm is good. There is so much to tell, I hardly know where to start. But since I have been absent from the blog for so long, I will just have to start somewhere.  Each day on the farm is different, except for our schedule in general. We start chores at 5:45 AM each day.  Since the sun is coming up later now, our start time will soon be adjusted to which will be a welcomed change. Morning chores last a couple of hours or so and involve feeding, watering and moving chickens (broilers and laying hens), pigs, and rabbits.  Afternoon chores start around 4:00 PM and go until dinner which is at 6:15 PM. Afternoon chores involve feeding and watering animals, moving the cows, gathering and washing eggs and whatever else needs to be done.  The rest of the day is spent doing any number of things.  I’ve been doing my best to write down what I did each day in my journal because we do so much, it is hard to remember it all. Here is a sampling of some of the things I have been involved in: making hay, packing meat in coolers for buying club or restaurants, loading and unloading trucks, butchering chickens (I will elaborate on this a bit later), weeding, planting, digging, chopping thistles, making repairs to things (egg-mobiles, broiler pens, etc.), piling brush, branches and logs, cooking, cleaning, various other construction projects and much, much more.  I love the physical work.  It does a body good to work hard all day doing something good for humans, animals and the rest of God’s great creation.

We butcher chickens every Wednesday and every other Friday. It is generally an all-day affair (if you don’t want to hear about how food gets from the field to your plate, don’t read this part). In the morning we catch the lucky chickens at chore time.  After breakfast we get busy butchering.  There are several stations on the butchering line: killer, scalder/de-featherer/head and foot removal, gutter, lunger (removes the lungs) and QC (removes any remaining feathers, etc.).  In general you are assigned a station and stay there for the day. I have done all stations except for scalder/de-featherer/head and foot removal.  Killing was, of course, the most challenging (at least emotionally) for me. I wasn’t sure how I’d take it, but I did fine.  I eat chicken, and it simply cannot get from the field to my table without the chicken dying.  Anywho, killing involves cutting both jugulars. This allows for the chicken to bleed out rather than suffocate (which happens if you cut off the head entirely).  After that is done, the birds go in the scalder, then to the plucker, then their heads and feet are removed. After that they go to the gutting table where the guts are removed, then the lungs and then on to the QC station where they are inspected for stray feathers and such.  This part of the process usually takes the entire morning. When we are done butchering, we take a lunch break (generally avoiding chicken ;-) and head back to the processing shed. The afternoon involves bagging birds, and bird parts (hearts, livers, feet, etc.). Sometimes we cut birds up into legs, wings, thighs, breasts, etc. This generally takes the rest of the day, depending on how many chickens we processed.  The only other animals butchered on-site is the rabbits. Pigs and cows are sent to a processing facility.

Hopefully this gives you a tiny glimpse into what happens on the farm.  More to come, but who knows when. :-) In closing for today, here are a few shots illustrating life on the farm:

The field by our cottage.

Here I am weeding the beans.

Sweet baby Ralph and intern Derek.

Cows being moved.

Intern Savannah constructing a broiler pen (many were destroyed in the Derecho several weeks ago).

Cows. The cows are moved every day. The black thing in the background is the shademobile – a mobile shading unit.

A hay pile we tarped.