Friday, September 30, 2005

Three squared is nine

And number nine should be arriving in May!

We're due May 22. We've suspected this for a while since I've been feeling so sick, but now it's been confirmed by a pregnancy test.

Just wanted to share the good news! And of course, we'd appreciate any prayers for a healthy baby and healthy (easy!) delivery. We're not sure yet what we'll do about a midwife, but we have time to figure that out.

Roger is outside right now digging a trench to get better water to the house. I'm off to take him some ice water. Praise God for the cooler weather, but it's still pretty hot if you're out in the sun!

Melissa

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Jinxing Myself?

Saturday night I was talking to Roger about how I haven't seen any of those tarantula-sized wolf spiders in the house for a while. I was glad of that because Samuel has been waking up more at night and I have to walk through a dark house to get him--barefooted!

Then Sunday night at church someone was telling me to watch out for rattlesnakes because our closest neighbor had found one in one of the kids' bedrooms. I commented that we had seen two or three when we first moved in, but nothing since then.

Then later Sunday night I heard the THUMP THUMP in the hall. That's the sound of someone trying to kill a spider with a shoe, but it keeps getting away. He got it though. Roger had seen one of those huge things running across the hall. Okay, I thought to myself, but still no rattlesnakes.

Monday afternoon Roger needed to relieve some stress so he took the guns and went off to do some target practice. Suddenly Clark comes running in crying and says, "Mom, I saw a snake and it was really fat." I asked him what it looked like. He said it had diamonds on it. Ugh. So I made Claire watch Sam and had Clark show me where it was. I was expecting it to be long gone, but figured I should at least look around. Of course, I had no clue what I was going to do if I saw it. So he tells me it was near Dad's suburban. I look and sure enough, there it is. I thought it looked really fat too, like perhaps it had just eaten. It's middle was rather lumpy looking. And it was sound asleep. I was amazed at how calm I was. I sent Clark to go get Stephen and Mitchell and he left. I stood there staring at this snake with my measly flip flops on. I had a thousand thoughts running through my mind.

"I've got to quit wearing flip flops. My foot could get bit!"

"Roger has the gun. But what would I do with it if he didn't? Shoot at the snake and hit the suburban?"

"It's awfully close to the tire. Maybe I can run it over."

"How could I get past the snake to run it over with FLIP FLOPS on?"

"Where are those boys? What's taking so long?"

Then Clark came back without either of his brothers. I sent him back again and then Stephen and Mitchell came out pretty quickly. Of course, they wanted to shoot it. But we couldn't do that--no guns AND it's too close to the suburban. It still wasn't moving although I knew it was alive because I'd seen it flick it's tongue a bit.

Finally we decided that I would get in the suburban from the passenger side while they watched to see if it moved. I started it up and the snake kept sleeping. (I really believe God was helping us out.) I rolled about 9 inches forward and the boys said stop. I had him trapped under the tire.

We felt horrible watching the poor thing struggle to get away, but not horrible enough. They are poisonous, you know! It was stuck with it's head just barely poking out, but lots of tail coming out the other side. It rattled. There's something really spooky about that sound. The kids all came out to see it. I want them to know that sight by heart so they know to be careful of them. Then Stephen used some sort of a tool with a flat metal piece on the end and a long handle (I think they use it to tear out tile, concrete, or whatever.) and chopped into it. It began to bleed. Another chop at the same spot and it came apart. It had 8 rattles. I really wanted to leave the dead snake there for Roger to find. I thought that would be funny. But we just couldn't do it. He came back and we showed him. The next morning Stephen backed up the Suburban and disposed of the rest. The kids all got to look at the fangs first.

Silly me. I then thought--didn't say it out loud--at least we still aren't seeing any scorpions. Sigh. Guess what. Roger saw one run across the kitchen Tuesday night. Then last night we were sitting in the living room talking and this HUGE scorpion ran out from between us. I was barefooted so I had Roger get up and stomp it.

So rather than being glad that I'm not seeing things running around or slithering around here anymore, we have started praising God that we find them before they hurt anyone. God is good and is keeping us safe. We are grateful for that.

And I am praying that He will just send them away!

Melissa

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sweat Bath

The high today in our area was 102. We were getting used to days in the low 90’s and upper 80’s with nighttime lows in the upper 60’s. Early fall in Coleman, at least this year, is kind of like life in an oven. We still do not have any AC for the house and the cooler weather with such a jump to hot was not appreciated. The rain from Rita was really nice to have. Oh, wait, we didn’t get any rain from Rita. I had hoped to gain at least a little precipitation off the misery of a couple of million folks down along the gulf. Well, at least the convenience store industry in southeast Texas is having a great quarter.

We purchased our water heater today and I will pick it up on Friday. The electrical panel is in place and all of the existing circuits as well as five new ones are wired and ready for the electric coop to come in and hook us up. Tomorrow morning is going to be all about getting the service entrance ready, which will involve cutting a hole in our metal roof. I am a bit nervous about this, but believe that if I am patient and move slowly it will all work out well. Kind of like facing down an angry dog – just act calm and don’t make any sudden moves. With the service entrance in place we will be ready to have the house wired. Hopefully we will be there by Friday.

I will also get the water heater that day and hope to get the trench for the water line cut next weekend. It is feasible that we will have hot water flowing through our pipes in the next 10 days. Then it will be on to the heating and air conditioning. We are getting close to normal in at least some areas.

Roger

Friday, September 23, 2005

Yes, I would like some of that flu, thank you.

Been busy the last few days. I am trying to get all of the projects wrapped up all at once and start a new job. Other than the job, nothing else is getting going. Nothing else pays, either. The meter for County Co-op water is installed - it has been for more than a week – but the trench for the service to the house still has not been dredged as water is step two. Step one is getting the electrical system upgraded to 200 amp service. For that I need time and help from Herman, our neighbor. Herman will be by tomorrow and that will get the electrical side of the house going. Then comes the water.

On top of that it is time to begin taping the drywall in the boys’ room. This is my least favorite job. I prefer painting to taping. I prefer the dentist to painting. I prefer the flu to the dentist. I will teach Stephen and Mitchell how to tape tomorrow. On Sunday I will teach them how to sand as I am not optimistic about the taping work. I would not be optimistic about it if it was my work, either. Supposedly there is a new type of drywall mud that does not require tape, but they do not have it at Home Depot. If you know where this can be found, please contact me.

The job – I started Wednesday as the Executive Director of the Coleman Economic Development Corporation. Nothing much to report so far. I have had a couple of meetings with folks from here in town and will be having more meetings in the coming days and then I will have more meetings. After that, I will meet some more.

We have a second cat now. The cat arrived this evening and is beginning to make itself at home with us. We are not sure what we will be doing with it. Katrina is enough of a concern as cats will kill chickens. (We were told this by someone – so it could be wrong and we apologize if it is slanderous to any cats reading this. Let me rephrase, cats allegedly will kill chickens.) We are not sure what we will do with the cat, assuming it will stick around. I have thought of a trap, but Jimmy and Scout are more likely to be trapped than the cat. I am a dog person, but I must admit that for now it appears that Katrina is smarter than either dog, by far. Or, as the dogs would say, more smarter.

Good night,

Roger

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pictures again

Joy and Katrina
Originally I was just going to upload a picture of the chicken tractor with the chicks in it. But while I was out there with the camera, Katrina (the cat) went running to Joy. I went to snap a picture of them together when Joy picked up the cat, turned around and asked, "Is this how you hold the cat, Mom?" as she held the cat with it's rear sticking out. I had to upload that pic too.

Hippie Chicks Tractor

And then here's our Hippie Chicks tractor. I'll let Roger tell you about it in the next blog.

As I was heading back to the house, the 3 oldest hens came running by me as fast as they could. I wondered what the hurry was until I turned around and saw one of the roosters running after them. I tried to take a pic, but it really needed video. Poor hens. I think they're looking forward to when we process some more roosters!

I also learned that flip flops, while great in my earliest years as a California girl on the beach, are not so great on the ranch. Mesquite thorns will poke straight through leaving both thorn and a piece of flip flop in your foot. I'm fine now though. ;-)

Melissa

Monday, September 19, 2005

DISH Network - blech!

Melissa was told by DISH Network when we cancelled our service that if we wanted to we could get just the over the air channels for $11 a month. Our antenna is not very good and we decided to take DISH Network up on their offer. I called to have it set up and while doing so told them that we were only signing up for the $11 month service. The lady on the other end of the phone said: “That will be fine.”

The installer showed up to set us up with our two dishes and went to work. The problem is that the second dish is what you need to get the full range of channels and the local channels. You don’t need two dishes for the $11 month local channels offer from DISH Network. I called customer service. Sadly, the service is very poor. Waiting on hold for 20 minutes to get a human is not a high level of service. Once I got the person and explained what was going on the Customer Service Representative for DISH Network told me that I was not allowed to do what I was told and Melissa was told we could do. I asked to speak to a supervisor. After some discussion, he agreed to have us hooked up for the $11 a month local channel option from DISH Network.

The installer was happy because he only gets paid if he installs something, but he also knew he had to call his company, the folks that have installation contract for this area. They told him no way. I was already gone so Melissa had to take care of the rest of the mess. In short, she spent about an hour on the phone with DISH Network and their installer and in the end DISH Network told us that we could not get the service their own service reps had suggested we get. They tout how they are the highest rated satellite TV provider by J. D. Powers and Associates. I hope they call me.

Now we are looking at a great big antenna for the house. Maybe we will go with DirecTV, but we expect them to lie to us throughout the process as well, so we may just stick with the antenna idea.

I am actually in a good mood today. The chicken tractor got finished, so I am happy. I just wanted to complain about DISH Network as I get ready to watch the Cowboys play the Redskins on a fuzzy TV.

Roger

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Learning about the differences in chickens

I bought chicken at the grocery store for tonight. This was my first store-bought chicken since we butchered our roosters a couple weeks ago (or whenever it was. Time means so little to me these days.) As usual, I got two chickens. I looked at them closer this time as I cleaned them. I wanted to check on things I'd never noticed before and learn if I'd done things right when processing our birds. I have a lot more to do in the future and I want to do it right, you know.

So I started to pull the organ meats out of the cavity. There were two livers and a gizzard. No neck inside, but the neck was still partially on the chicken. I'd had questions about the oil gland removal while processing ours and ended up just cutting off the whole tail because I couldn't figure out what to do. I'd never really looked at whether the tail was there or not before. I figured it out today. I think I can get it right next time.

So then I move on to the second bird. No neck still attached on this one. The feet were removed as sloppily as we'd done our first bird. Inside the cavity was a liver, a gizzard and a heart. But wait, there was more! The ribs were all caving in and falling out! This bird had the worst skeletal structure you can imagine! It makes sense if you think about it. Your bones get stronger as your muscles get used. But this bird just sat in a box and ate and pooped and ate and pooped. What's going to strengthen the bones with that kind of a life? Okay, you may argue, I want my meat tender and that means the bones are softer. Big deal. Here's the big deal: Joy choked on her bones because she got a drumstick from that bird. The bones were falling apart as she ate the meat. Honestly, I would never have given that a second thought before. I'd have thought something happened while cooking or whatever. But we have a good, healthy flock out there. They move around. They play. They chase down bugs and eat all that good healthy protein and truly natural food. They live a happy life right up until it's time for us to process them. Maybe that sounds cruel to process these happy birds, but it seems so much more cruel to keep them in little boxes until they are processed!

And this chicken was labeled "100% natural. No hormones, no steroids." Hmm. Is that all it takes to be called natural? I thought it was natural for chickens to walk around and forage for things. It just seems sad what we've done to our food source.

Oh, and let's talk color. Once, one of my children asked me why they call some meat "white" and some meat "dark" because there isn't really a difference. Our chickens had definite white and dark meat. I had to call the kids in to show them that there is a reason for the two terms when I was fixing the birds we raised. Tonight I noticed that the store-bought chickens' organ meats weren't as dark either. It just looked so unhealthy.

So I guess we'll be slacking off on chicken consumption until the chicks in the brooder are ready to be processed. We'll be taking orders soon too. You can order yours at Orders@panivinoranch.com. Sorry if this sounds like a commercial, but I am more convinced than ever that our birds are healthier than store-bought chicken and I wish we could grow enough of them to help everyone I know to eat healthy! But since it's not a real commercial, just email us if you want more info about availability, pricing, etc. I won't bore you with all that info here. ;-)

Melissa

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Film later

It seems that the best blog thoughts come along at about 11:30 p.m. I am just fading off to sleep and want to be sure to write about X tomorrow, but I don’t want to open my eyes to go write down the idea and I am sure I will know what the great idea was tomorrow. Today’s blog is not a late night thought. Today’s blog is about dinner with the preacher and getting the chicken tractor going and whatever other stream of thought comes my way.

The preacher and his wife and their two children and their two foster children came over for dinner this evening. We had spaghetti and bread sticks and salad and ice cream. They bought a bit more than we needed and we got to keep the extra. It is good to have people over. It would have been good even without ice cream. They both seem to be the kind of folks you would want to have over and spend an evening with. Melissa and I are both comfortable with them and the church and we’ll be joining on Sunday. Unless we don’t. The preacher is a younger guy and they want to make a difference and push the church along the route to more growth. They are facing resistance as any change agent will face. I am glad we are getting ready to join a growing church. This is particularly impressive when you take into account that the community is shrinking. No great and earth shattering occurrences during the evening. It was just a couple of families eating and playing slaps.

The chicken tractor is on the right path now with possible completion a day away. This is good as the tractor needs to get occupied soon as the chicks are getting restless. I’m not to sure I ever thought about writing the words “the chicks are getting restless” and not following it up with a lurid paragraph or two. So here goes. Or not.

Anyway, the outer shell is built and the frame for the door is ready to go. Tomorrow afternoon I will get the tarp secured and door built. The mast arm would have been done already if not for the loss of a drill bit. Right now it is raining and the wood for the moast will not react well to that. I will get a picture and force Melissa to upload it to the blog as I know all of you are trying to figure out what I am talking about.

Believe me, if I could only remember what I had planned to write about last night as I was falling asleep you would be enjoying yourself.

Roger

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

little box, little house, #%*#@ chicken tractor

Did you miss us? Did you even notice we were gone?

Today’s blessing came in a small box that was in a big brown truck. What can brown do for you? It can bring me a gift! My buddy, Will Wickman, had a tankless water heater he’d gotten at Elliott’s as they were going under and he gave it to me. It got here today and it is small. It also needs a pair of 40 amp double pole breakers to make it work. At least that is how I read the instructions. I will get Herman to help me out with that one. This means that we have to buy only one water heater! It is good that we are upgrading our electrical service to 200 amps.

Today Claire and I went shopping at Home Depot and Tractor Supply. Tractor Supply is quickly becoming a new favorite. We have a Tractor Supply kind of store here in Coleman called Coopers and it is a good place to shop too. I bought a bunch of stuff for a chicken tractor today at the three stores named above. We really need to get a trailer. I drug four 16 foot stock panels home from Cooper’s this afternoon. Stock panels are welded wire fence panels. The wire is not rigid and was dragging on the ground behind the truck. It is about a mile and half from home to Cooper’s if you use the back roads, which I did. The panels sorta smoothed out the dirt roads. I am just glad I was smart enough to not try getting the dang things from Brownwood to home as I would still be making the drive.

The chicken tractor? I thought it would be smart to use pressure treated lumber to make the frame. Wrong. Treated lumber is wet and because of that the screws don’t bite into it and it can’t withstand the torque from the stock panels that are being bent to make a roof for the chickens. Tomorrow I get regular wood and start all over.

Tomorrow night the preacher and his wife and their kids are coming over for dinner. In some ways I get the feeling I am stuck in a Little House on the Prairie episode. Hopefully, Nelly won’t come over and spoil the day for Laura and Mary. This would be pre-blind Mary as we aren’t prepared for all of the angst of the later Little House episodes.

Roger

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Why we moved

The yard over by the barn has looked like crap since we moved as it was a “pile up the junk” zone. Weedy and junky. This morning Stephen, Mitchell, Faith, Grace, Claire, Clark and I worked on the area and it is now clean and nice. Before we began I asked each of them to look at the house and then at the near barn and asked each if they were proud of how the near barn looked. All were ashamed of the near barn. We talked about how many hands lighten load and got after it. Together, we all worked for an hour and a half and the job was done. After it was over we talked about how many hands lighten the load meant that 10½ hours of work had been done in 1½ hours. A couple of kids went inside at that point, but all eventually came back out. Clark and Claire went to work (with some grumbling) picking up and bagging the dog and cat poop. Grace helped put the two dog houses together and we have put them, along with the dog and cat food, over by the barn. The dog and cat poop situation around the house will, hopefully, improve now. Stephen mowed some. We all went to lunch amazed at how much of a difference we had made on the appearance of the farm in such a short time.

This afternoon we treated ourselves to a movie and some more mowing. Faith is now able to drive the riding mower, but she has yet to get a blade turning. Stephen learned how to work the weedeater. Clark and I put a flap on the brooder in case it rains someday and we looked for things that could cut wood but not Clark’s skin. We did not bother looking at peanut butter for this purpose as Clark was already certain it would not do the job.

The high for the day was about 92 and it felt like fall. We ate the last watermelon of the season this evening and everyone bathed because tomorrow is a church day.

We got a lot done today. We spent most all of the day together. We all felt good about the work we did and we started the process of inventing a new game that involves throwing a golf club and hitting a tennis ball. We will see how this turns out.

If I was still in Grapevine my day would have been one of going to the Mayor’s breakfast at 9, working for two hours in a beer booth, walking up and down Main Street a couple of times, eating something or other in the VIP room, putting on a tux and sitting through a Wine Tribute Dinner.

This is one of those days when I am just so very glad to have escaped to west Texas.

Roger

Friday, September 09, 2005

Killing Cones Found!

Life in the country is pretty simple. You shake out your shoes before putting them on and always check before pushing something over or lifting it. You need killing cones you go to the poultry supplier and see that you can buy them there for $30. After looking at them you realize these look an awful lot like traffic cones and those are free if you are driving in the right part of the country. Just kidding. We Googled it and found killing traffic cones for $6.

We now have the cones, sharper knives and a set of plans for a plucker. We have a scalding system that is not very good, but a friend of ours is looking for an old, unwanted turkey fryer and we are relatively certain something will turn up before too long. Another friend has noted that in her past they scalded turkeys over an open flame. This sounds appealing except that Sam, Joy and Clark are all spazzes and we would have singed kids and have to break from our work frequently with an open flame. Jimmy is also a spaz and would be a flaming terrier within half a bird. If any of you have an old turkey fryer, with the pot, that you want to get rid of, let us know and we will be happy to help you clean out your garage.

Measured the route from the house to the far barn and it is almost exactly 1/2 mile. Round trip would be - drumroll - one mile. Stephen is in charge of mowing and keeping the path and a swath to the sides mowed is his job. I am looking forward to running in the mornings or at lunch or some other time. I know I am in shape for much of the work here, I just want to make sure I am in good cardio shape.

Right now, though, I am dog tired as this has been a long day of construction type of work in a furnace we like to call the old garage. Tomorrow we try to make the outside look a bit better. It could be much worse, I could be having to put on a tux and go the Wine Tribute at the Hilton tomorrow night. I will take this life over that one every time.

Roger

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Home Depot has spoken

Jimmy is fine. Thank you for your cards and letters.

I spent three hours and $1200 at the Home Depot in Brownwood. We now have all the supplies we need to get the boys’ room drywall completed and the materials for the upgrade of the electrical system. We have the water softener and the whole house filter. We do not have the water heaters as they do not stock the 50 gallon models in propane, just electric and natural gas. I am supposed to get a call from “Wade” tomorrow when we will find out if GE makes a 50 gallon propane in the nine year warranty family. Fascinated yet?

Anyway, I am walking around Home Depot and notice that the directional sign for aisle 3 says “Drywall” and “Drywall Tools” instead of “Sheetrock” and “Sheetrock Tools.” The biggest single purchaser in the world of drywall/sheetrock calls it drywall. That pretty much ends the discussion. Sorry to spoil that chat line for everyone.

Mitchell caught a scorpion yesterday. It was put in a jar we have for venomous insects. Stephen and Clark added three crickets to the jar this morning. This evening there is a dead cricket, two live crickets and a partial scorpion in the jar. If there are any entomologists around, please let me know if this is really possible. The scorpion struck one of the crickets – the kids saw it happen. It could just be that our crickets are hopped up on crystal meth.

We have a wire spool sitting on our property about 75 yards from the house. It has the remnants of an old beehive in it. Yesterday Claire came in all excited as it turns out it is not a dormant beehive anymore. I may have a free beehive set up ready to go once I get boxes built. Just put on the funny bee suit and get the queen and move her to a new house. Hopefully they are not Africanized bees.

Roger

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fishin' Dawgs and Rugby Chicks

We named the rat terrier after Jimmy, my imaginary brother that was always dying in order for the kids to have a real life example of what could happen to you if you did something bad. Today might have been our first indication of how appropriate this name was for the dog. I was on the phone with UPS discussing how to get to my house since they don’t where we live and I hear Stephen yelling about the dog. He comes bustin’ into the room and says, “Jimmy has a hook in his mouth.” We go out the door – the phone is cordless – and chase him down and sure enough, Jimmy has a fishhook in his mouth and the fishing rod is trailing along behind him. I sent Stephen in to get scissors to cut the hook loose from the rod and asked the UPS customer service rep if I was still needed as I had to get a fishing hook out of a dog.

We carried Jimmy into the house – this was the second time he has gotten to come in. I knew there would be a way, over time, to break down Melissa’s resolve to keep the dogs out. Stephen left the dog work to Melissa and me. The first round involved cutting the hook off as the tip of the hook had gone all the way through his dog lip and was poking out the other side. I held him and Melissa cut the hook in half. She was worried that in pulling the hook the rest of the way she was going to yank out his hairs and so we swapped with me pulling and her holding the dog. After a few minutes it became clear that pulling the hook was not working. Stephen advocated pulling it out the other way as that is what he does with fish. I disagreed and we decided to push it through, rather than pull it through. The hook popped through and Jimmy was let loose. (We have a catch and release policy here at the Panivino Ranch.)

After church we all went out the brooder (except Mitchell who needed to come inside and be alone after an hour with people) to watch our favorite show – chicks gone wild. In tonight’s episode Clark, Stephen, Faith and Claire caught crickets and tossed them into the brooder. A chick would grab it and other chicks would chase after the first one trying to get the cricket away. It was a lot like rugby. Eventually we had four chicks with crickets getting chased around in the brooder. When you only get one channel, and that one not very well, you make your own fun.

One final animal note: Kat is doing fine and we have gone ahead and purchased cat food for her as I am the only one in the family still believing that we should dump her in town.

Roger

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pictures

Several people have asked for pictures to try to visualize what we're talking about. So when I had the camera out to take pictures of Katrina the cat, I took pictures of several things for you.


before pic of garage and breezeway

sheetrocking the laundry and boys' rooms

First is the "before" pic of our garage and breezeway. I stood by the wall to take this picture I think. I believe it is taken from about the same place that the second picture is taken. There is now a door where I stood for picture #2. In the first picture you are seeing the breezeway and door to the garage from the breezeway. (What we are calling a breezeway is simply an enclosed area connecting the garage to the house. It is connected to what was originally a garage and was converted.) Roger and the boys demolished most of what you see. They made the exterior walls line up between the two garages (old and newer) so it isn't a breezeway and garage, but one great big area. Then they framed in walls inside to create a bedroom and laundry room. They are in the process of drywalling (or sheetrocking) the two rooms now. At the time I took this, they had the ceiling pretty much done. You can see they still have a good sized stack leaning up against that center "wall" there.

Katrina the kitten

The next picture is Katrina (aka "Kat") who was named after a hurricane and is about as still and quiet as a hurricane. I'm assuming she cries all the time because she's hungry. She gets quiet between feedings now. Taking a picture of her was tough! I got lots of blurry shots of something moving.

brooder

The last picture is the chicks in their brooder. I was going to post one of the brooder from the outside showing our roosters underneath in the shade of the truck and then one of the cute little chicks up close, but dial up takes just short of eternity to load a picture so this one has to do.

I was going to post a picture of the current dining room/boys' room, but again, dial up is sooo slow. So just imagine your typical garage. Now, where there is often a step up in a garage, that's been walled in to make a small laundry room and a closet with a water heater in it. There's also a railing around a "landing" by the door that leads to the house (this garage is enclosed, but still feels very garage-y so it still feels to me like you're entering the house rather than just moving from room to room.) So in what is left, we have a refrigerator, a freezer, our large dining room table, and two sets of bunkbeds. There's enough room for all this, but it's not a very private bedroom yet. The new boys' room will be done soon though. I'm sure they are glad! This odd garage-y feeling room will be our new kitchen and dining room. Then we'll turn the current kitchen into a larger living room. Hopefully it will be big enough to have a sofa again. I'll post a picture of these spaces as we work on them so you can see before and after pics--or at least before and "where we're at now" pics.

Melissa

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Miscellaneous

We ate the chickens last night. You know the joke about how meat X “tastes like chicken” when we can’t describe how something tastes? I am here to tell you it is not the case if you’re eating real chicken. The chicken I have been eating has a taste of chicken to it. The chicken I had last night had flavor. I’m not gonna get on a soapbox about the modern poultry industry and the evils of Cornish Cross hens that are the Elizabeth Taylors of the chicken world. I just wanted to share with you that I have now had real chicken, one was a Rhode Island Red and one was a Barred Rock, and they had real flavor to them. The meat had muscle tone to it, if that makes any sense. You couldn’t get it to do a sit-up, but you could see muscular definition. We are going to try smoking them next time. The Eviscerator didn’t really follow any set recipe last night as we all just wanted a taste and no seasoning would have probably been fine. However, these were older chickens – the age of a fryer in the store is eight weeks and these were about 14 weeks – and so they were a bit tougher. They had also been running for their lives right before they were processed.

We did buy knife sharpening tools today and they worked. Clark was in the bathroom and was playing with one of my knives and cut his finger pretty badly. Yesterday that knife was much safer in some ways. He wanted to know if the finger that got cut had blood sugar in it.

The Eviscerator wanted me to pass along that the only bothersome part of the meal last night was the carving of the birds. The kids were sitting around the table trying to figure out which chicken was Domino and which was Pickles and were requesting parts from the birds by name. It was a bit disconcerting for her.

This evening as we were heading out to church we had an emaciated kitten come walking up the driveway. We went to church and she was still here when we got home. She is about six to seven weeks old, thin as a rail and won’t stop trailing along after Scout. Ever the topical homeschooling family we have named her Katrina. We might post a picture of her, but she is pretty ugly and I think our best course of action is to take her into town and dump her off there. Seems fair, a little tit for tat.

We had a death in the brooder this afternoon. I think there is another chick on its last legs right now. We do not have a “hospital” for the ill so we will hope for the best for a while and see what we have in the morning.

Stephen, Mitchell and Faith went to Brownwood with the youth from church after services this evening. They are going to CiCi’s and bowling. Stephen and Mitchell I was fine with, Faith is another story. I know she has the survival skills necessary once she gets comfortable, but until then I worry about her. I told the boys to take care of her. I probably should have clarified that to an admonishment to “protect her.” They will be home soon enough and I will find out what happened eventually.

Roger

Next time we'll scare them to death - it ought to work as well as what we tried this time around

The Eviscerator told me that I should blog about killing the chickens as it is a portion of the process she did not take part in or do. I am complying now, instead of earlier, because I have been busy with Mitchell putting ceilings in the remodeled area and getting other stuff done.

When I last blogged I noted that Mitchell was going to do the killing. As the time came to actually slit the throats he decided he needed to see it happen once before he actually did it. That left me with the black bean. I made him hold the first rooster for the dirty deed. We had wanted to get a “killing cone” to hold the animals in while we cut their throats, but no one sells killing cones, even out here. I decided to get a traffic cone and modify it. No luck. We decided that in a pinch we would modify a milk jug. Our next need was a knife. We had some old knives and a sharpener and spent much time Thursday night trying to get the knives sharp. We thought that maybe we were to the point of having sharp enough knives Thursday night.

So there we were Friday morning with the first rooster upside down in the cone and the time had come to cut his throat. The first slash only took out some feathers. The second broke skin, but with minimal blood drainage. The third slash went deeper, but again, minimal blood came out. I had read an account where a woman talked about using a shrub lopper to cut off the heads and I decided to try the hedge trimmers as the loppers were in the far barn. Wrong tool. Very wrong tool. All I managed to do was mortally wound the rooster and knock him out of the cone Mitchell was holding. The rooster ran around flopping all over the yard for about 30 seconds – much to the horror of every child there. Faith was absolutely terrified. Joy and Clark – who had been cheering me on just moments before – were crying as they watched the flailing rooster. Mitchell went inside and we did not see him for another hour. I was not happy with the turn of events either. The rooster died and I went to the near barn to get the ax. Turns out the only thing duller than the knives and the hedge trimmers was the ax. I might as well have been using a hammer.

I decided then and there that the next chicken would get its neck broken and then its head cut off. Have you ever tried to break a chicken's neck? I had heard my older relatives and acquaintances talk about doing this numerous times but had never been the one doing the ringing. Turns out there is a technique to doing this, I just don't know it, yet. I tried to whip the thing, it just resisted. I tried spinning it while holding its head and it just slipped out of my hands and ran away. We caught it – The Eviscerator, Stephen and I – and decided that cutting off its head was the best course of action. The ax had not gotten any sharper, but I figured that I was a few minutes smarter about how to do it. At first I held the rooster and Mitchell swung the ax. The first stroke missed the bird entirely. Remembering the nail in my palm a few weeks ago Mitchell and I traded places. The first hack was a glancing blow. The second hack hit him square on and his nerves twitched him out of Mitchell’s hands and we had another chicken dance in the yard. This was very different from the first rooster’s dance as this one was dead while the first one was really mad and injured. We gathered up the rooster and took one last hack separating the head from the body.

Lessons learned: 1. Get really sharp knives for the work to be done. 2. Get a killing cone that is steadier than a milk jug. 3. Wake up really angry and ready to just kill whatever comes your way. 4. Don’t skip out on the morning cup of coffee. 5. Hedge trimmers don’t cut necks cleanly.

Roger

Friday, September 02, 2005

Processing Chickens: Melissa's perspective

What a day. It's only 1pm and I feel like it's been a full day already. I woke up around 6:30 and realized the post office hadn't called. I figured that meant no chicks today and went back to sleep. They called 20 minutes later and I got up and got ready to go. Roger and the older 3 kids stayed home to be sure everything was ready. I took the younger 5 to keep them out of the way. They were begging to go anyway.

We picked up the chicks and brought them home. There were 2 that hadn't made it through the shipping process, but the rest seemed happy to be out of the box. We're assuming there are 98 left, but those little fuzzballs move too fast to count them. Then we have 3 keets (baby guineas) that should grow up to eat things we don't want around here. We're told they keep away snakes and mosquitoes. That would be nice.

Then we turned our attention to the 4 roosters that were put in a pen when the rest of our grown chickens were let out. We got our gear ready and quickly discovered we have knives that aren't sharp enough. I'll let Roger tell about the killing process if he wants to. I kind of kept my head turned and kept busy with other things at that time. We had read all about how to do this. I read several times over about how to clean the bird, but still had to look at the book. Our book said they can do a chicken in about 10 minutes. I expected us to take longer, but wasn't prepared for how much longer. No one knows for sure how long it took, but we think it was an hour or so. We scalded it and then began plucking by hand. Then came the part where I had to clean it. I'll spare gory details, but have to share that at one point I pushed against a lung and the bird squawked! It had no head at that point, but just the sound of air escaping made a chicken-like squawk. That startled me enough that I dropped it and stepped back. Then I just laughed and kept going.

The second rooster only took about 20 minutes. Huge improvement! We'll go at least that fast next time--we learned a lot from the first one. We let the other two roosters live a bit longer though. We want to get sharper knives before we do anymore. We couldn't stop at one because it takes two birds to feed our family one meal.

We're pretty tired now, but tomorrow night we'll have fresh chicken for dinner that we grew ourselves and processed ourselves (I think these were 2 of the ones we even hatched ourselves). We'll know without a doubt that there are no antibiotics, no hormones, and no chemicals added. Just pure, fresh chicken.

I hope we like it!!

Melissa

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Life, death and sheetrock (not drywall)

Sorry to have not blogged in so long. I have been using my limited time on the Internet – we are dial-up after all – to keep up on the tragedy that is New Orleans. We have kept busy otherwise. Tomorrow we are scheduled to get 100 barred rock chicks. In eight weeks the plan is to process them and sell what we can. We will hold back about a dozen hens when the processing happens so that we will have egg layers for our use.

The chicks’ brooder is the bed of a 1969 Dodge D-200 pick-up truck. We originally purchased this with the idea that Stephen and I would work on the truck and it would be his when he turned 16. Stephen has exactly 2 hours in this project at this time. The scrap value of the truck was used as a trade-off to help fund his mission trip to Jamaica in July. Now Mitchell is intent on fixing the truck in time to drive it, but he has yet to make a move toward a wrench.

Tomorrow is also the day we slaughter four out of five roosters. Sorry, we will process four out of five roosters. Mitchell will slit their throats. Stephen will scald them. Faith, Grace and Claire will pluck them. Melissa and will gut them. I will them give them a cold bath and fold them up for storage/eating. The feet and necks are spoken for already. If you want their hearts, lungs, livers, gizzards, combs or beaks, e-mail Melissa and she will make sure that you get the part. We don’t deliver.

Mitchell and I are all scratchy this evening as we insulated the old garage today. We will be drywalling Saturday and Sunday. I went to get the drywall at the local hardware store and when I asked about drywall they all just stared at me. Then the lady behind the counter says “Oh, you mean sheetrock,” and everything was alright. Later I told the folks at the front desk I needed to see about renting the drywall lift and the two of them looked at each other and asked a third fella if the store rented ‘drywall lifts’. He looked at me and me and his mind sort of wandered and then he snaps to and says to me “You mean sheetrock?” I told him yes and suddenly everything was alright. I guess in the Metroplex we are hardware bi-lingual.

Roger