Thursday, May 26, 2011

the birds

This spring the kids and I have really gotten into bird watching. We have seen so many beautiful birds in our backyard. So many in fact that we haven't even had to travel out of the yard to find a variety of these wonderful animals God created.
Here are a few of the one's we've found that rank near the top of our favorites list!
First, the Western Tanager. Now it could be that we simply haven't paid that much attention to birds in the past but I don't ever remember seeing these in our yard. They showed up about 2 weeks ago and their feathers are such a lovely contrast to the green of the trees they're in.

The Oriole. These boys just started visiting our feeders this past week. Oh the orange and black! Stunning! The females are here too and while they're not as bright, they are still a very pretty bird.

The Varied Thrush. This one is my personal favorite. I haven't seen them lately in the yard but earlier this spring they were abundant. The picture here doesn't really do them justice. The colors of their feathers are so beautiful together.

The Norther Flicker. This bird is actually part of the woodpecker family but mostly scurries around on the ground. Look at those spots! The males have the bright read feathers near their beak while the females don't have any red at all.

And remember those Starlings? Well, we still haven't made that pie but they did make a nest in a tree hollow in the back and, with the help of a ladder, the kids were able to see the babies up close. That was so exciting!
Do you bird watch? If you have children and homeschool, have you done a nature study on the birds in your yard? What is your favorite native bird?

*Oh, and I wanted to add that we have found some great bird books on Amazon used books. I got a book specifically on birds in N. California for $0.18!*

Friday, May 13, 2011

Butchering Rabbits and a Recipe For Them!

Earlier this week some friends of mine and I butchered 3 rabbits. I had never processed rabbits before but figured it couldn't be that difficult. I've done deer, hogs, turkeys and chickens so I was somewhat confident. What I needed help with though was the kill. I'm a wimp. Seriously. Ask me to shoot a deer at 100 yds and I have no problem but when you can't shoot an animal and you have to kill it another way, I just get creeped out. So I called in reinforcements for support! We each did one rabbit. I'll totally admit though that I waited till the last one to muster up the courage for the kill. *Thanks Kristy and Ida for giving me the courage!*
I got the basics of the process from here and here. Both were extremely helpful.
Gavin was gone at work, the little kids were sleeping and we three gals had an "afternoon on the farm."

*The next few photos may be graphic to some. There is very little blood in them but if you're squeamish then you may want to stop reading.*

The finished product.

I have never cook rabbit before so I went searching for recipes. Then a friend reminded me of my Little House Cookbook. How could I have forgotten? I took the recipe for Stewed Rabbit and adapted it a little. It seemed a little too plain for my taste- but Caroline Ingalls didn't have easy access to all the things we have today so I can see how it would have been basic. Plus, I didn't have any Salt Pork. I did have bacon though and used it instead.

Here's my recipe for:

Stewed Rabbit and Dumplings

1 3lb butchered rabbit (cut into 8 pieces)
6 oz bacon
½ onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 c chicken stock/broth
2 Tb butter
2 Tb flour
1 c water
salt and pepper

2 c flour
1 heaping tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4-1c buttermilk
Dice bacon and cook it in a 3qt chicken fryer. When cooked, remove pieces and leave fat in fryer.

Season rabbit pieces with salt and pepper then fry rabbit in bacon fat for about 10-15 minutes.While rabbit is frying, saute onion and garlic with butter in small saucepan, until tender.

After rabbit has been fried, add chicken stock/broth and sauteed onion/garlic into fryer. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes on medium to medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, brown flour in small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, making sure not to burn it. Flour is done when it resembles cocoa powder. Leave flour in skillet but remove from heat and allow to cool. Once it has cooled down, stir in 1 c water to form a thin paste.

Make dumplings mixing all ingredients together just until blended.

Uncover rabbit, add in flour paste and bacon pieces. Then drop by spoonfuls, the dumpling dough, covering the top of the rabbit.

Cook uncovered for 10 minutes and then replace cover for the last 10 minutes.

Serve with a vegetable and mashed potatoes.

I did broccoli with ours and didn't think of the mashed 'taters until we were eating our dinner... but thought it would have been great to pour the gravy over some fluffy mashed potatoes!

I was very happy with the way it all came out. The rabbit tastes very similar to chicken so if you don't have any rabbit on hand you could use this same recipe with a whole, cut up chicken.

I purchased these rabbits for $6 each. I believe that the final cost came out to just over $2/lb. If I had raised the rabbits myself, the cost would have been significantly less. Rabbits are raised till about 12 wks old for butchering but aren't weaned from their mother until 6-8wks, so there is very little "raise" time in between. To raise them you must keep a buck and a doe (preferably 2 does) year round. The gestation time is just under a month, very similar to chickens. I'm not sure that I want to take on raising rabbits right now with everything else we have going on, but it is certainly something we'll be thinking about.

This post is linked to the Barn Hop!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

What a wonderful Mother's Day it is! To have my 4 wonderful children happy and healthy and with me is such a blessing. I am looking forward today to some extra cuddling and spending time with the precious gifts that God granted me. The littlest of which is sitting on my lap as I type.

Today I am also thankful for 3 wonderful women.
My grandmother. She is so very special to me. Although we don't live close to each other now, I'm thankful for the few trips to see her, the phone conversations and the letters back and forth. What a blessing she is to me.

My mother-in-law who is always there to help out with the kids if I need it. She's patient with them and enjoys playing with them for hours!

And most importantly, my mom. What a wonderful mother she is. So supportive and generous. She is always thinking up thoughtful acts to do for others, including me! Her time while visiting us (on almost a monthly basis) is spent helping with housework and most importantly, creating wonderful relationships with her granchildren. Putting together puzzles, reading books, taking them for walks, building great Lego creations and all the other fun things she does with the kids! Thanks Mom!

I hope that your Mother's Day is blessed!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the animals commeth

I was going to break this blog post up but then I realized that if I did that, you probably wouldn't see it all for weeks. Especially since we're forecasted to have sun this entire week.
Either spring is actually here or some nice person paid off the weather man to appease me.

My plan then this week is to spend as much time outside as humanly possible soaking up the rays and getting a thing or two done.
We added 4 sweet baby animals to the homestead in the last couple of days. First came the Runner ducks. We have never kept ducks before and I wasn't sure what to expect. You'll have to tell me, are all ducklings super friendly? These two little guys (or gals) are the sweetest little creatures. They seem to love being around people.

They are perfectly content to sit on Layton's legs. Maybe it's because on the way home from the feed store Layton told them, "Don't worry little guys, we're on our way!" and then proceeded to sing them, "You Are My Sunshine."

This is Freddy.

This is Ferdinand. (Names compliments of Layton)

Layton told them he would build them something out of his Legos.

Layton said that he is going to be in charge of taking care of them because he is a good "Farmer Boy." I think that Almanzo Wilder is one of Layton's hero's. (By the way, spell check did not recognize the name Almanzo....what is the world coming to?)

Next, piggies.

Two gilts to be exact. They came home yesterday and while I'm thinking that they're the cutest little things right now, all of that will change in about 4-5 months when they're 220lbs and stinky.

The piggies don't have names. As I've said before, it's better not to name things you're going to eat. Unless you're naming it Pork Chop or Bacon.

The little ones are happy in their new home. The post below has the tour of our little pig barn if you'd like to see it.

These pigs will be ready to butcher come August/September. It's amazing how fast they grow. They're an ideal animal to keep for meat. The time you keep them is relatively short and they grow to produce quite a bit of meat in that time. Two pigs keeps us in pork for about 8-12 months.

I'm keeping full records this time on these two so I'll be able to break down the cost for you after all is cut and wrapped!

Did you add any new animals to your homestead this Spring?

This post is linked to The Barn Hop.

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