21 April 2013

First homegrown chicken dinner

I cooked the first meal from our first homegrown chicken this evening, somewhat as planned.  Our grilling idea was pre-empted by more rain (and the fruit trees and garden boxes rejoice) so I cooked the white quarters in the cast iron with some bacon on top (since I skinned him) and the lid on with low heat for a good 45 minutes before taking the lid off and starting the rest of the meal - corn on the cob, salad, and dinner rolls.
1st homegrown chicken dinner
Hubby and I consider this to be a big milestone for us, as processing a chicken I had raised from a day-old chick seemed daunting.  We did it as a team, and tonight we both feel it is worth it (zombie chicken weird dreams aside).  While the meat is certainly superb - firm and flavorful without being too chewy - there is a certain satisfaction knowing that this one had opportunities to eat some grass and flap around the yard a couple times a day.  We are both well aware of how commercial broiler operations are done, and I have been inside a Tyson-contracted broiler house when I lived in Texas in the early '90s.

We kept saying he tasted good ... and I remarked about how novel it is to actually know our dinner.  Hubby will need to articulate his philosophical thoughts about responsibility and appreciation in his own post.

When I cook up a whole chicken, I try to stretch it as far as I can into multiple meals ... now that seems even more appropriate.  My plans for the rest of the first Nugget are to wrap the leg quarters in foil with potatoes and carrots and cook them in the coals Tuesday when we resume burning the third tree trunk (there were no limbs left on that one).  The heart and neck will go into chicken stock, along with any leftover meat from the quarters, and become chicken 'n' dumplin's, which usually makes two meals for us.

Even though he was the smallest, least feathered, and most heat stressed of the Nuggets, here he is next to a one gallon waterer.
smallest Cornish-Rock broiler next to 1g waterer
And, despite yet another focus disagreement with the digicam, here you can see how poorly feathered he was:
the pink is bare unfeathered skin
The pics of in between him turning his butt to the camera, and coming out of the skillet, are on hubby's camera and I am hogging the connection tonight.  He should get them posted soon along with his thoughts on this new experience for us.

19 April 2013

Sunday dinner

*WARNING* This subject may be graphic to some.

This afternoon, hubby and I processed the first Cornish/Rock broiler (aka one of the "Nuggets").  It was the first time for both of us, as neither of us were raised to hunt although we have both cleaned fish.  This was much more hands-on than cleaning fish.

I originally planned for the first broiler to be slaughtered two weeks from now, for hubby's birthday dinner in early May, but I had specific reasons for moving the date up and for selecting this particular Nugget.  The past week has been warm and humid, and he was not tolerating the heat as well as the other four even with soaked/fermented food and plenty of water available.  He started panting before the others, and was the last to stop panting in the evening, and yesterday I made the decision to take him earlier than planned rather than lose him to heat stress.  He was also noticeably the smallest of the five, and was not feathering like they have.

Even being the smallest of the Nuggets, he still dressed out to a decent sized bird, a little larger than the cornish rock "game" hens in the grocery.  For hubby and myself, this will probably work out to four meals total given the usual amount of sides I fix.

I now know what things I need to work on: the big one is separating the bile duct from the liver without bursting it.  That was a mighty fine looking liver I had to discard.  Another big point - the knives will need to be sharpened more, as this Nugget had firm skin and flesh and organs.  The other four Nuggets are healthier, more lively, and have better skin and feathers.

Hubby did take pictures, but the rain that is bringing us cooler temperatures tomorrow is also making uploading slower than molasses in an arctic January.  A garden update is also (past) due.

15 April 2013

Chicken antics

Another no-pics update really quickly.  I went outside a short bit ago to see the start of a game of "Calvin-ball" going in the bachelor pad(*), with Dirty finding a fat millipede.  Six small cockerels bouncing off the wire as they try to get the millipede from him!

It seems to be (dirt) bath day in the rampart - chicks, Betti (post-egg), and Armando ... with Armando providing the soundtrack as he rolled in the damp sand.  Betti has now laid six eggs in seven days.

Moola is in isolation as of yesterday.  She didn't quite look right, plus I caught her pulling tailfeathers off the chicks, so I caught her and put her in the old wire dog crate.  She has a bald spot at the base of her tail where Betti had pecked her, but that one isn't as bad as the larger bald spot on her lower breast.  I have her in solitary to see if Betti is the one picking on her, or if she is pulling her own feathers for some reason.  She did lay one egg on Saturday, but it landed in the food dish and cracked.  She had a membrane only yesterday that I had to wipe/pull - no shell and no yolk, just the membrane that is between the two.  She looks much perkier this morning, and sure was singing the poultry blues.  I suspect a chicken version of Humble Pie's "30 Days in the Hole."

(*) The bachelor pad ... now named because of the four Gold-Laced Wyandottes I got from TSC, all four are cockerels.  Add in two of the "golden girls," Dirty and Sandy, who are now looking very roo-ish.  If Sandy doesn't stop picking fights in all the coops, he'll end up with the Nuggets and share their fate as well.  I moved him last night after seeing him trying to pull Armando's sickle feathers, which earned him a grab by the scruff of his neck and a shaking from Armando.  About five minutes later, he did it again.

As for the Nuggets, they must be hitting another growth spurt.  They cleaned up their breakfast ration by the time I finished with the others, then lined up along the wire cheeping for more.  They even had that same "hope!" look on their faces as the dog does while watching me cook.  I gave them seconds, and they polished off most of that as well.

I have started some new things on the chicken feed, namely soaking the scratch either for a minimum of four hours or overnight, then serving that on top of the dry crumbles.  The Nuggets and Betti seem to love it the most.  We're still unpacking boxes, and hubby found the bulk seasonings yesterday to include garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes ... both often recommended for sprinkling on chicken feed.  I joked this morning that I feel like I am cooking for the chickens, while hubby retorted that I will only be pre-seasoning!

Breakfast this morning was toast and fried eggs: one each of Betti's and Winn-Dixie's "Farm Fresh" for each of us.  Right now they are pretty much equivalent.

12 April 2013

The day will come

At some point in the future, the day WILL come when I am finished with planting.  Today just is not that day.  Tomorrow doesn't look like it either.  Garden box #3 is full of green things (and some purple basil - as if I could resist purple!) and now it's on to #4, which has two tomato plants as of yesterday.  I am also using the north fence on the property line for tomatoes and zucchini so far.

Betti the red hen has restarted her laying, and Armando the rooster was dancing around both hens this morning like a newly-21 private on the club dance floor in Korea.  Hubby had quite the laugh at that simile this morning.

Time for me to go play in the dirt some more.

08 April 2013

Quick update 8 Apr

I've been a bit too busy/tired to fuss with photo editing, so here is a quick text update:

  • Rampart Fowl is now complete - it's 9 ft by 6 ft by 6 ft and currently populated with the "golden girls" who have been renamed "the breakfast club" now, plus hubby's surprise/reward: one grown rooster and two adult hens, all red.
  • Three more garden boxes built: one filled and planted yesterday with Kennebec white potatoes, one partially filled but still needing more dirt, to be planted with more green beans and carrots, and the third still empty but also designated for potatoes (Yukon golds).
  • Spanish moss pulled off the north fence, and planting started: so far three zucchini plants (that were supposed to be green onions, but ...) and six Homestead variety tomatoes.  I have some Red Hot Cherry peppers and a couple regular jalapenos still to get into the ground.
  • Speaking of peppers, hubby requested I grow these also for his chili and whatever else strikes his fancy.  Varieties planted into various boxes are: TAM Mild jalapeno, regular jalapeno, mammoth hot jalapeno, Anaheim pepper, Carmen sweet Italian pepper, Cubanelle sweet pepper, sweet banana pepper, Cayenne pepper, and New Mexico Big Jim pepper.
  • A bit of purple!  I scored two good-sized Cherokee Purple tomato starts, plus some purple basil ... and to top it off, three purple colored coated tomato cages.
  • Along with the dozen flat of marigolds on clearance, I picked up a 4-cell variety flat of coleus and successfully separated out TEN plants.  Those are my two favorite pretties, and the marigolds pull double duty as insect-pest repellent.  Now to get them all placed around the front.
Pictures will be coming at some point.  I still have a bunch of planting to do, which takes priority.