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Friday, November 26, 2010

State of the Homestead

It's been a crazy week and not always a happy one. The homestead has been rife with drastic climate change, savage attacks and even death. Several deaths. But only one was murder.

First off, Greg has joined the club that until now only Iko and I were members. A grumpy scorpion, angry at being disturbed, stung Greg on the foot. Many colorful cuss words and smashing ensued. 

I know Greg thought I was being a drama queen a few months back when a scorpion stung me while in bed. He doesn't think that anymore. ;-)  Fortunately, the pain lasted only two days.

This week we also sent five roosters to chicken heaven. I had hoped to dispatch them over a month ago, but I didn't want to butcher them alone and we always seemed to have something else to do while Greg was here.

Being older birds, I figured they were tough so I boiled them for the dogs. (I regularly cook chicken for the dogs anyway.) As it simmered in the pot, the aroma was heavenly, so I took a little bite to see how tough it was. OMG! It was the best chicken I had ever tasted.

The dark meat was really dark and the white meat actually had flavor. Unlike store bought chickens, the legs were long and straight and the skin was a beautiful white with pink undertones. Greg is already making plans to build an automated chicken plucker so we don't spend so much time plucking next time.

But death also came in fur this week. I was working on edits when a coyote sprinted not six feet in front of my studio window. I dashed out as soon as I saw him, but he was gone in a heartbeat. So were one of my hens. I looked for her several times yesterday, but there was no sign of my poor chicken anywhere.

I'm glad Tank wasn't with me. I don't think I could have stopped him from giving chase. I might have to carry a gun from now on though.

We'd been in the 80s most of the week, but yesterday in the space of five minutes, it dropped down into the 40s. I still have tomatoes, peppers and eggplants on the vine so I covered them up and hope they'll make it for a few more weeks.

Our project for most of this week was a remodel of the greenhouse. The plastic sheeting didn't work, getting torn off with the first big winds of the spring, so this time we riveted hard plastic sheets together. 

One half of the greenhouse will be an actual greenhouse. But we're turning the other half into a second chicken yard. We'll be separating by breed in 2011 and we realized part of the greenhouse would be the perfect size for a smaller chicken yard.

The weather turned on us before we could finish though. I'll post pictures as soon as it's done. It looks pretty cool so far.

Today is Black Friday. Will you be out today? Let me know how the crowds are. I'm going to lie low until Monday. Meanwhile, I'm going to look for that dastardly coyote.


Marianne Arkins said...

Poor chicken ... easy pickings for a hungry coyote. :-(

Poor Greg ... have I mentioned recently how glad I am we don't have scorpions here?

And, it's amazing how much better "real" chicken is! It's the same as home grown tomatoes vs. storebought cardboard ones. Wish my DH would cave and let me have chickens...

NO shopping for me. :::shudders::: I've only done Black Friday twice. Never again.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: In the past I've only raised chickens for eggs. This is the first time I've raised them for meat and eggs.

I can't even begin to describe the aroma. It was incredible. And the taste! Amazing.

Good call on the shopping today.

Joanna St. James said...

Poor greg hope he is better now?

As for the chickens i thought you said it was for the dogs, methinks Tank and iko are wondering what happened to their chicken dinner

Krista D. Ball said...

I'm Canadian. It's a normal Friday here. So, there'll be no crowds. A couple American chains tried "Black Friday" sales here last year and there was a backlash in the city. Plenty of stores have sales, but most are having sales anyway in November, gearing up for Christmas.

The 40s? Boofrakinghoo :p It's warmed up here finally, so it's up to around -5C. Last night, people were walking around in tshirts and hoodies. Us Canadians are tough :p

Lia Bal said...

Hello Maria, hope your Thanksgiving went well. Sorry to hear about the coyote. We have a lot of them where I live and at night, we’re afraid to let the dog out by himself as they have been known to attack dogs in our area.

No black Friday shopping for me this year, or ever. I do have to work today, ALL DAY, so that’s going to be hard.

Linda Leszczuk said...

Ouch! Bet that's a club Greg were have preferred to skip.

I'm enjoying this great mental image of you doing the armed warrior thing, standing guard over your hens with Tank and Iko at your side. It would make a great bookcover.

The last two days, it has rained buckets here, with the temps in the 40's. Then the cold front came through and we dropped to the 20's. Glad it wasn't the other way around or we'd be doing some serious snowshoveling.

I couldn't raise chickens - can't get past making everything a pet.

Maria Zannini said...

Joanna: I gave them 'most' of the chicken. :wink: But the next batch is mine.

Krista: I have friends in Minnesota and Idaho who work on real farms. Their winters are brutal and they have my admiration for working outdoors in such cold temps.

Besides, I live in Texas so I don't *have* to be cold.

Maria Zannini said...

Lia: Coyotes can be dangerous--especially to little dogs. I don't worry so much with Tank and Iko because they're so big, but I still don't want them to get bit.

Sorry you have to work. Bummer.

Ref: armed warrior
Heh. I'm pretty sure I've seen several covers like that. LOL. I don't like to carry a gun, but I will if I have to. I'm actually more concerned about the feral hogs than the coyotes.

Dru said...

Not dealing with the frantic crowds looking for bargains.

Poor Greg. So I guess Greg did the drama king thing.

I hope the coyote stays away.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: LOL! Drama King. I love that!

I'd give him that title but scorpion stings really are bad. Anyone who gets stung deserves a pity party. That sucker hurts.

Ref: coyote
Me too. Unfortunately, now that he knows there are big fat chickens here, I'm sure he'll be back.

Cathy in AK said...

Sympathies to Greg. I'd totally go the drama quen route if a scorpion bit me.

My f-i-l has a small cattle ranch in Eastern Washington. He'll often raise some meat chickens as well. There is nothing better than the beef and chicken raised on his place. When we visit, we'll often swap meat for fish. And he has a chicken plucker! I think there's a pic of it on my blog somewhere. Odd looking thing with rubber fingers, but oh so efficient if you're butchering lots of birds.

No Black Friday here! I'm not a shopper anyway, so I wouldn't venture out today if we had the stores.

Good luck with your coyote troubles. They are clever beasties.

Maria Zannini said...

Cathy: Aren't those chicken pluckers neat? We found the plans for them online and we might even have a spare motor lying around that Greg can cannibalize.

I wish they'd hurry up and invent a matter transporter. I'd gladly trade meat for fish. :)

Grandpa said...

A lot of drama there, Maria. Hope Greg is better now. And good luck with the remodeling of the green house. We have foxes which prey on chicken - same irritant

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Grandpa! Thank goodness all I have to worry about are coyotes and feral hogs. I'd hate to add foxes to the mix.

I've heard there's an indigenous population of bobcats, but I've never seen any tracks.

After an incident with a wily raccoon, we have since built all our chicken yards as aviaries. I like to see the predators shake their paws at it in outrage. :)

Sherri said...

Sorry to hear about the hen.

Were you biting your tongue and trying really hard not to dance around singing "I told you so" to Greg? :) Haven't been bitten by one of those buggers yet and crossing fingers I never do. Though I think the beasties you have are worse than what we have.

We actually turned on our heat yesterday, LOL. We had a blast of cold hit (only 42 most of the day which is 15 degrees below our norm for this time of year) and if we stayed above freezing last night I'd be surprised. Despite wrapping, I think my lone tomato plant lost the battle. Too bad I couldn't bring it in the house like I did the orange tree.

Black Friday...never! Did it once, well, I sent the hubby out once, and never again. He didn't get what he'd gone in for, everyone was rude, and it's just not worth it. And if that experience wasn't enough, the death in Walmart clinched it for us.

We're home, safe and sound, and gonna start decking the halls.

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: Were you biting your tongue ...

LOL. No. I felt sorry for him. I hate scorpions. They really, really hurt. About the only thing you can do is ice it down to numb the pain.

Good for you on decking the halls. Did you finish your 'socks'?

Kay Theodoratus said...

Welcome to the world of real chicken. I grew up with back yard chickens, and for years, could barely choke down commercial ones.

Should have mentioned "free range" chickens when we were giving thanks yesterday.

Maria Zannini said...

Kay, you are so right! Why didn't anyone tell me they tasted so good? :grin: I will never go back to store bought again.

With any luck our chicken operation will be in full swing next year--complete with chicken plucker.

KarenG said...

Maybe you should eat the old chickens and feed the dogs supermarket chicken. Sounds like you have had a lot of action around your place lately!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi KarenG! The plan is to eventually be able to feed both man and beast from our little homestead.

I was a little surprised the chickens tasted so good despite being older than I would have normally butchered. Live and learn.

Mike Keyton said...

All this talk of chickens is making me hungry

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Stick around. There might be coyote on the menu too.

Wendy Ramer said...

I had never dealt with scorpions (though I am one!) until living in the hills of northern Italy years ago and man do they freak me out. Nobody in our house was stung but we had a few good scares.

Maria Zannini said...

Wendy: Now that I know how much they hurt, I do all I can to avoid them. I wouldn't wish them on anyone.

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

I would love to be able to have a greenhouse and a henhouse. We just have a strawberry patch and some grapes planted as well as an apple tree. We try to do a garden to but the rabbits that live under our deck always get to it before we do! LOL

Poor chicken!

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving :)

We went out on Black Friday to return library books. We also shopped at a fabric store next door to the library when we saw it wasn't busy. They had patterns on sale for 99 cents each. We saved $185!! (They are normally $15 - $20 each) We also bought some sparkly purple fabric to make my daughter a dress with. I am satisfied. We black friday shopped without having to endure the masses. I feel like I cheated or something. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Kimber and welcome!

I can't believe patterns are so expensive now. I haven't bought a pattern since the day I realized I was born without a sewing gene. :)

But it sounds like you made a killing. Congrats!

PS Thanks for following me. I have returned the favor.

Barbara Ann Wright said...

One good thing about living in a student town is that it seems emptier on the holidays. We ate out and even shopped a little with no problems. Of course, we didn't go out at 4am to do so!

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: 4am
I know. Isn't that crazy? I don't think there's anything the stores could offer that would make me go out at an ungodly hour.

Shelley Munro said...

Yikes, I remember plucking chickens when I was a kid. A machine to do it would be awesome. I used to hate doing it.

Your week was certainly action packed!

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Plucking is a great deal of work--especially when you have arthritis in your hands. I am all for the machine.

Madeleine said...

Stung by scorpions sounds very exotic and painful. How do your hens cope with the scorpions? :O)