So much to report down on the farm these days. I swear, things are always changing here, and it’s not even something that we can foresee or plan most of the time. We have become experts are rolling with what’s thrown at us.
For example, it’s freezing here. By that I quite literally mean the HIGH has only just today hit 32 degrees for the first time since well before Christmas. Is there snow? There is not, I’m sad to report. It’s too cold to snow. It’s just too cold to do anything, quite frankly.
Cadence has been on winter break since the 16th of December, and I’m not sure she has seen all that much outside of our house. So you can imagine how ready I am to get on a plane and fly to Maui tomorrow, because I’ve had all three kids under my frozen feet in this house for weeks. And yes, my feet are frozen. If you’ll recall, we do not have any central heat downstairs. Upstairs, the kids report that they are ‘hot’ at night. Meanwhile, Thomas and I are under three blankets downstairs. We currently have 4 space heaters going at all times downstairs, unless we’re doing laundry. If we’re doing laundry, we have to turn one of the heater off or we’ll pop a breaker. Don’t worry, I only have 3 kids and live on a farm, I’m not doing laundry often (said no one ever). So needless to say, it’s been touch and go here on the temperature game. The mornings are the worst for sure. The kids wake up and file down into our bed. Our room is definitely the coldest place in the house, but the bed with all the humans in it is probably the warmest. We’ve been hanging there well past an acceptable time to be in bed each morning just because it’s too daunting to get out of bed.
Thomas bundles up and heads out to work on the farm, but I stay slipper bound and work from the mild comfort of my freezing house. We tried to measure but found it to be a challenge, but I’d guess the warmest the downstairs is each day is around 65 degrees. So there is that!
Because of this fun an exciting drop in temperature, we’ve weathered (pun intended) three, count them, THREE broken pipes. Luckily they were all in the office- a place we don’t HAVE to spend our time, nor do we HAVE to address immediately. The office is a separate building from the house. We have been running a space heater in there at all times, but honestly, when the nights drop down to 6 degrees which actually feels like -5, what change do we stand?
One morning we woke to discover the pipe in the kitchen that delivers water to our refrigerator was frozen. Thank God, it thawed and didn’t break, but now we have two heaters in the office, two heaters on our enclosed back porch- pointing directly at pipes- and four heaters downstairs that are all running constantly. In addition to the upstairs central heat that runs always as well. It looks like this weekend the cold spell is going to finally break. We’ll see. Or I guess Thomas and the kids will see… I’ll be in Maui.
Another set back with the staggering cold weather is that Thomas shot two more deer and they froze solid while he was hanging them to age. Frozen solid. A little over a week ago, I was taking advantage of a little sun and I was working out on the front porch. It was almost dusk and I saw two deer come out of the pasture across the street and make their way into the very far side of our yard. Thomas had been out hunting that morning and hadn’t shot anything so I did a massive disservice to the deer and I told Thomas what I had seen. Thomas grabbed his gun and shot the poor guy from the house. It fell. He left it there for an hour or so (apparently normal?), but when he went out to grab it with the dog, Thomas discovered that it wasn’t actually dead. When Thomas put his flash light on the dog out in front of him, the deer jumped up and scared the dog and they both took off in different directions.
Long story short, that deer is not in my freezer. Run free deer, run free.
The next day, however, a mom and her adolescent buck met their match while Thomas was out in the woods attempting to find the injured deer. He brought the pair back to the shop and gut and skinned them to hang them.
Thank God he did that much, because that night the temp dropped down to the single digits and both deers were still frozen solid the next afternoon. Which reminds me, we now have a space heater running in the well house out front to both keep those pipes from freezing, and also to thaw the deers. We have almost as many heaters running as we do animals on this farm.
On that note, we have two less (potentially three less) turkeys these days. Two of the five males had their last meal the day after our Christmas party. Some friends of ours, who also homestead, had rented a ‘plucker’ and offered it to us to use. If you’re not familiar (and why would you be?), a plucker is a barrel with a bottom that spins, and along all the sides of this barrel, there are rubber probes that stick out. After the bird is dead (this is done by catching, holding down, and cutting the neck), you place the bird in the barrel and turn it on. The rotating bottom turns the bird around and around, while the rubber things essentially catch and pull out the feathers. It does an amazing job, I was impressed. You just run a hose in the top while the bird is spinning to keep the flow of feathers coming out the bottom, and you’re basically left with a completely bare bird in just a few minutes. I’m grateful for this machine because I can’t imagine pulling out all those feathers any other way. Our scalding pot came in handy here as well, because I forgot to mention that you’re going to want to give that bird a dip in there loosen the feathers before heading for the plucker.
Thomas used the turkey meat in the most peculiar way. He ‘de-boned’ them by keeping all the meat of the turkey in one, big, giant piece. He then seasoned the inside and rolled the piece of meat up. Then he tied it with string and cut it into two ‘turkey roles.’ We had one for Christmas dinner and I have to say, it was delicious. We’ve also tried the pig we processed and it too, is better than any pork I’ve ever bought at the store. We did pork chops rubbed in coffee and served with grilled pineapple. Twice. And we did a roast that ended up in a chili verde sauce. Amazing.
So the next time you think of the term ‘farm fresh,’ I want you to picture me. Because we are quite literally living that out. And although it’s jarring and very different from the gated, golf course community I moved from, it’s beautiful in some way too. It’s undoubtedly a healthier, and more sustainable way to live and eat. And it’s very educational for both Tom and I, and the kids. We’re enjoying the process of beginning to fully provide for ourselves. All the while, we continue to learn and discover the many ways our food production system in this country is so flawed and broken. I can’t say that it’s easy to say goodbye to the animals we’ve raised, but I do believe it’s the absolute best way to know where our food is coming from.
I mentioned earlier that we may have lost three of our turkeys. After a long period of quite, we’ve had another predator attack the animals. This is the first attack on the turkeys, because they’re just so huge, so we’re guessing it’s likely a Bobcat. Thomas saw one in the woods when he was hunting so we know they’re there. And with the extreme cold, I’d guess it’s not unreasonable to expect more extreme behavior from these animals. One of the males was wounded, and I haven’t seen him today so I’m not sure if he actually made it or not. It’s too cold, I don’t go out to the barn these days. But a female turkey has been missing for days now. I’m going to go ahead and say she’s been lost, the poor girl.
To offset those losses in population here on the farm, in addition to the five chicks we hatched in the incubator pre-Christmas, we’ve now added four more with more on the way. It’s so very special to watch new life appear on the farm. Each time Thomas goes out to check the incubator, which is in the shop, his voice and demeanor are so genuinely excited and amazed each time that he returns with a newborn baby chick in his gloves. It’s a miracle that just doesn’t seem to get old. Life.
We learned recently that a hen can collected up to a dozen eggs, without sitting on them, before she starts to brood. The chicks will still survive and hatch, even when they’ve been exposed to the elements. And what’s even better, and you can do this experiment yourself as we most certainly will, when she collects them all before she sits on them, they will all hatch within 24 hours of each other, even when they were laid at different times. It’s so remarkable to me. There is this little seed of life that just waits, not growing and yet not dying either, for it’s mom to be ready to protect it. God has thought of everything. That is Devine design in it’s most miraculous form. And my kids are witnessing it first hand.
In addition to the chicks, we’ve also adopted another dog. I know, we’ve wondered beyond my comfort zone in so many ways I can’t even count. I never in a million years thought I’d have a small dog. And yet, Lucy shows up on our porch as a stray, and as much as Thomas wanted her to be an outside, farm dog, with the cold weather she has become quite comfortable sleeping on our bed each night. This is all his doing, I want to point out.
And in addition to Lucy, who has been here basically since the beginning, the day before New Years Eve, Thomas called me on my way home from Nashville and sent me to pick up a lost Golden Retriever that needed a foster home. Apparently, he had been found on the Natchez Trace (a highway nearby), wondering in the road. A lady stopped and honked at him, and as any other Golden Retriever would do, he eagerly approached her car. When she opened the door, he jumped right in her car. Of course, with the cold, she had to take him home. But her German Shepherds were not as eager to welcome him in as she was, and so she posted on some local Facebook pages that she was looking for a place for him to stay while she located the family.
Well, that was the story anyway. When I arrived to pick up the sweet boy- of course we can’t let a Golden Retriever end up at the pound, they’re kind of our thing, and they’re pretty rare in these parts- it was pretty clear to me that there was no family and no one was looking for him.
We brought him home and gave him a bath and de-ticked him. He was in pretty dodgy shape, but you’d never guess by his chipper, Golden disposition. We named him Scout and we love him.
The next day, New Years Eve, we had friends over who knew of a woman who would likely give him a good home. As much as I loved him, my house is too small for three huge Goldens, a farm dog who lives inside, and a barn cat who doesn’t know she’s a barn cat. So when they came to pick him up, I was okay letting him go, but Cadence was pretty broken hearted. He looks a lot like Nana and Ba’s dog, Gizmo, who lives back in Nevada and she had already fallen in love with sweet Scout.
So Thomas prayed with Cay, just as our neighbor was loading the dog, that God’s will be done. If Scout didn’t love his new family, or they didn’t love him, we were happy to take him back. They prayed together that Scout would have a happy rest of his life (he’s an old guy).
Well, about an hour later, Michelle called us to let us know that Scout absolutely refused to get out of the car when she arrived to do the hand off with her friend. He would not get out, and he refused any help with a polite growl. Basically, he gave a very firm, ‘Nope.’ Michelle said she tried a number of things to coax him out of the car, but he just wasn’t having it.
Of course, upon his return to our farm, he happily jumped right out of her car and greeted us as if he knew all along, that he would be right back. I mean, as much as we’d love to offer up another solution to be rid of sweet Scout, I think God made it pretty clear through this sweet pup, what His will is and where He wants Scout to finish out his days. So alas, we’ve got ourselves a fourth couch dog.
I always wanted a dog growing up. When I was eight, we got a German Shepherd and it was the best thing ever. I wonder what my kids ‘dog life’ will be like when they’re eight. I hope we have a big enough couch.