Archive for October, 2011

Making it count

As enamored as we were at the first thought of bringing some cute little ducklings into our home, we did not immediately commit ourselves to this endeavor.  There was much thought and discussion that went into the decision – did we really know what we were doing? Could be provide for their needs? Why did we want them – pets? eggs? meat? Could we possibly bring ourselves to eat them?
We wanted to make sure that we knew what we were getting ourselves into, and to really be honest with ourselves about how we would feel about eating them after spending so much time keeping them alive and well.

After much consideration, we felt comfortable bringing living things into our home(stead) and raising them to provide food for our family.  Our plan was that this would initially come in the form of eggs, and then once the egg production ceased, the birds could then give us meat (the original idea was that by the time they were done laying, we would’ve given them some alone time with a drake and would have new layers to take their place).

And as difficult as it would be to eventually kill our little quackers, we felt confident that raising them in healthy conditions, killing them humanely and using their flesh to sustain ourselves, we would in a sense be honoring their life. We could do it. Not easily (at least not at first), but if we were content eating meat, there’s no reason to feel badly about being a part of the process from the beginning.

So we did it. We brought home two sweet, fluffy, noisy (free!) little ducklings in March. And they have been so great! With the exception of the squirty poo (which redeems itself in it’s soil-building qualities), and the inefficiency of our make-shift kiddie pool ducky pond, the ducks have been just amazing. It was so much fun to watch them waddle around the yard, picking at the grass, charging at the dog and winning the heart of every child (and many of their adults) who walked by our yard. Apparently (according to our neighbor), there was even a bus that would stop and let the kids all watch the ducks playing in our yard every morning.

And the eggs.
Oh the eggs.
Glory be, those eggs are tasty! By themselves, with some greens and hot sauce, on a bacon or sausage sandwich – in cookies and cakes and brownies.
Like little ovoid-shaped bits of gold, those eggs. 2 eggs every morning.

Plans have changed a bit, though. With our impending move, we had decided that we’d likely being eating them sooner rather than later. But that was still months away.  And then the Blue Swede got sick. Poor thing could hardly draw a breath.  So we gave a prayer of thanks for her plucky spirit and nourishing eggs (okay, Shaun prayed and I cried), and then Shaun mercifully ended her suffering and buried her in the yard.  We toyed with the idea of just eating the other right away, but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Okay, so maybe it had something to do with the thought of being duck-egg-less.
But that poor duck has been very agitated without her friend. She waddles around quacking loudly, looking under the garden cart, around the back of the shed, behind the pool, around the corner, quacking and quacking and never quite settling.  It was difficult to decipher whether she was upset or if I was just projecting emotions.  Then she stopped laying, which is typically a sign of distress.
So to keep with our goal of being kind, mindful animal owners, we have decided that it would be better to eat her now than to keep her alive and unhappy.

Tomorrow morning we will butcher and dress our first home-grown duck. It will not be easy – at least not emotionally – but our hope is that we approach this fully prepared, with swift hands and a grateful heart. We are blessed to be provided for on this earth, and I honestly hope that this will be the first of many animals to traverse our land and end up on our dinner table.

And I’m hoping that the meal shared with a good friend tomorrow evening will be a tribute to the duck’s short but sweet life here on our land.

Roasted Duck with an orange fig glaze, roasted rosemary potatoes, and greens (method of cooking yet undecided)
Oregon Pinot
Decadent Chocolate brownies (made with duck eggs, of course!) and vanilla ice cream.

Duck and Goose… soon to be Goose

Life has a way of throwing curveballs once in a while. Our urban farming adventure is about to take a break while we relocate to Coos Bay, OR. Yesterday I had to perform a mercy killing. Our Blue Swedish duck had pnemonia or other respiratory ailment. First time axing an animal. Can’t say it’s my favorite… but I’ll get used to it. The other duck seems lonely and quacks a lot. Before I relocate I will decrease the workload on my wife by butchering the other duck which we will feast on with friends.

I don’t recall mentioning the rabbit yet but we will be adopting her out thus leaving Goose. Our wonderful Lab/Pit mix. Our endeavors may transform simply because there’s little urban area causing us to become plain old farmers. An employment opportunity awaits and I hope when the wife follows me there we are able to buy a home and resume the yard farming. Next on the farming agenda… acquire chickens, more ducks, and 2 goats. One thing is for sure. We don’t have any plans to cease growing and storing much more food. In fact, hunting is a regular activity in the Coos Bay area so the processing of meat will become one of my homesteading skills. Wish us luck or offer up prayers as we transition to a small town where the sustainability movement is slow to take hold. May we not judge others but educate them.

Winter Wheat

I’ve embarked on a journey into grains. I spent hours over the period of months trying to find a place to buy Hard Red Winter Wheat. Turns out that Whole Foods has it in their bulk section. Because it’s Whole Foods I think nothing has been done to it to compromise it’s natural integrity. A test of the wheat berries on a plate with some water revealed that the berries will germinate…. so onward we march! (fyi- germination looks like little white tails growing out of the wheat berries which takes about two days. I tilled all the potato growing space in the front yard by hand and picked the rocks out. Once ready I spread the wheat berries by hand and raked a bit to cover some though I’m concerned they are too shallow. Perhaps I will go back and poke each one in the ground with my finger about an inch deep. Strangely this idea makes me wonder if one could grow a germinated wheat berry in a bellybutton?  Anyway, I’ve read that red winter wheat is the best cover crop as the berries it yields are the most nutritious and gives the most flour per square foot of crop. I have yet to invest in the grain mill and my initial searches reveal that it may be financially prohibitive to grind the berries into flour this year. However, I want a grain mill, I want one, I WANT one, I WANT ONE!!!. I’m enthralled with the idea of getting a good arm workout and in return I get food. Precisely how I view the prospect of work. This is especially true in our make believe economy when a meaningless paper bill is a placeholder in the exchange of goods and services. If I can circumvent the piece of paper and work now directly equates to food then I’m overjoyed by the simple beauty of the machine. Here’s what’s happening. Work= $. $ = Food, shelter, and playtime. Food $’s buys seed thus meaning $ X Work = food. When you subtract small amounts of food to save seed you have bypassed the $ used to buy seed resulting in Food X Work = FOOOOD! Fava beans are also a good cover crop in the winter and here in Portland they have them at the Urban Farm Store on Belmont when they aren’t sold out.