Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Saga of the Three Little Pigs

It's hard to know where to start this story. Perhaps with "Once upon a time..." there was a housewife who wanted to put her acreage to better use, but didn't know where to start. Thanks to the internet she found many natural and affordable ways of tending her piece of land without having to buy a tractor or infuse the soil with dangerous but conventional chemical fertilizers and additives.

After much research and thought and looking, she decided that pigs could do a good job of clearing her land, and Tamworth pigs, especially, they being notorious rooters. But alas, the nearest for sale were over 2000 miles away... UNTIL she found a litter a mere 625 miles away.


After ordering and paying the deposit on my 2 little Bacon Bits, I set out in my 2002 Toyota Camry to obtain the critters. A man an hour or so north was also a buyer, and I told him if we could fit it with mine, I'd be happy to bring his back too. He had ordered one. How do you transport 3 pigs 10 hours in a CAR? Well, it's no small feat. I bought a 10x12' tarp, folded it in quarters, and lined my trunk with it. Then I bought a 30"x36" rabbit hutch, but had to remodel it to 26"x36". After this I installed it in my trunk on top of the tarp. I folded one of the backseats down so the trunk area was open to the car. Then I set out. I stopped a couple hours later to pick up my grandma, who will be 80 next month, who wished to join me on the adventure. We drove about 9 or 10 hours from there, and stayed in a nice little motel about a half hour from our final destination. The next morning we left at 6:30 or so and arrived at the piggies' home. The lady had told me they were about 10" at the shoulder (leaving plenty of room in my 16" high cage), and the guys at the feed store told me I could put half a dozen weaner pigs in the cage, no problem. Well, I am going to show them these pictures. We managed to get all 3 in the cage, and then had to put sawdust in (leftovers from wood pellets exposed to moisture). As you can see from the bow in the cage ceiling, they're probably about 16.5" at the shoulder. :) It is a universal truth that furniture in the showroom looks smaller than the same furniture in your living room. I guess the same rule applies here. Livestock in the field looks much smaller than that same livestock in the trunk of your car. Believe it or not, the next 10 hours or so were fairly uneventful. We got lots of attention at gas stations though. All in all, they traveled great. Better than my 2 kids, in fact. However, I have not actually yet tried transporting my kids in the same manner as the pigs. Perhaps they would travel better that way. When I dropped my grandmother off at her home, I fed the pigs. That was the only time I was worried that they might bust through the cage, perhaps. I shut the trunk and folded up the backseat and let the car rock and squeal and snort for a few minutes. Then I set off for home.

It was dark when I arrived. We could not reasonable extract a pig through the same doorway they came, so we undid the entire front face of the pen. Hubby had wonderfully set up their home just as I had read. We had earlier made them a little hay/straw-hut (was that the first little piggy made his house of straw?), and Hubby dutifully trimmed the brush and put in a dual electric-wire fence (which we've read is all it will take to quickly train a pig) one wire 6" from the ground, the other 12" higher. Apparently our pigs haven't read the same information, because piggy #1 (which was the piggy for the other guy) was carefully (okay, with much shrieking and bloodcurdling piggy-squeals) placed in her cave, but in no time had made it over to check out the wire. One yip. Two yips. apparently she'd made it between the wires before yip #3 was established, because she took off in all directions in the dark, of course. Our land is not entirely fenced in, and I excitedly knocked on my neighbor's door to inform them of the situation. Please keep your eyes out for a very expensive 16.5" tall pig. If they had any doubts about my sanity, they are certainly laid to rest now. The flashlight batteries died. But I heard a grunting in the dark. I 'herded' said pig back towards the car and pigpen. You do not need to grease a pig to be unable to catch it. That pig can really move. I made a distressed call to the sellers of the pig, and among their recommendations was to place the cage (other pigs still within) in the hay hut and perhaps their sister would join them. We did this, and shut off the hot wire, and in no time at all she was in with her siblings. At which point we piled a pallet, 2 bales of hay, an enormous and heavy steel trough, and some cinder blocks at the opening. We tossed in some food, poured in some water, and prayed hard that they would keep till morning. Then I made an urgent call to the buyer up north to please get his pig before we lose it again. He came the next afternoon and did an amazing job of removing his pig ("Tammy") from the hut and installing her in a kennel-carrier. No more touring the property for her. In the meantime, I had jump-started my old Toyota Celica with my new Toyota Camry, put in the kids, and headed to the feed store. I bought 10 fence posts and 6 cattle panels, which I had my favorite guy, Gary, place on the ROOF of my car with a forklift. Don't worry; I used a carpet scrap to "protect" the "paintjob" and I could almost see out the front window. Gary is 70 years old and tosses those feed sacks (and cattle panels) with more finesse than I can ever manage. He dutifully tied one end of the panels to the front bumper, and the other to the rear. I drove home amid many odd stares. Then I pounded fenceposts (which I can't make straight to save my life) and wired up the panels. That took awhile. But I now had an outer perimeter, a supplemental fence, if you will. THEN I let out the pigs...

They must've first thought they were in a torture chamber. They kept circling the hut, pushing each other up against the hot wire (which I added another strand to) and yipping when their ears, tail, snout, or wherever came in contact with the fencing. Then they spent the rest of the day in their hut. They did come out to eat, eventually, and immediatly started rooting up the ground with amazing ease, considering their young age (7 weeks). I could probably use them to dig a ditch when they're 6 months or so.

We are naming them Ezekiel and Gertrude (Zeke & Trudy). My grandma had an odd dream the night before we picked them up (and she never recalls her dreams). Something about them running on a big hamster wheel, and relating that wheel to the wheel within a wheel in Ezekiel. Hence, his name. I'm not sure where the Gertrude comes in, except that it was her given middle name which she dropped when she got married. So, come on out any time. Meet Zeke and Trudy, the reasons I can't leave the place ever again. At least not until I am a little more confident in their staying put.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Turkey Day

Seriously, do NOT scroll down if you have any aversion to the reality of how your dinner makes it to your table. While these pictures are funny in a way, I want to take a moment to discuss the seriousness of it all. We raised Turkeys this year, for the express purpose of eating. Their life was heaven-on-earth compared to any Thanksgiving meal you buy in a store. By that I mean that they did what turkeys do; they had room to walk and strut, they ate the lawn (and pooped on the lawn - but man it's looking good now!), they had friends, friendly human contact, and didn't have to breathe their own fecal dust or crawl over dead compadres every day. That said, on to the humor.

Our helpful and sleep-deprived brother-in-law came over to help turn the birds into food. He is a redneck of the best sort, as you can see from the picture. Don't miss our lovely butchering-table; that would be the sideways fridge shot full of bullet holes. EVERYone serious about country living needs one.

He wields that knife so gracefully, does he not? Notice the giant cauldron scalder (ok, it's a livestock trough, but these birds were huge!) for ease of plucking.
Meet the meal: We call him Tom. But then we called all the male turkeys Tom, so don't get too sentimental.

A formidable foe, to be sure. But our man Josh here is not afraid. He studies the art of Turkey Processing from the Masters.

He will lasso him with a string, handily found hanging from the nearby clothesline (which also serves as gallows: One of the important attributes of a successful farming operation is flexibility and multi-use items.).

Ok, impressed yet? I bet you're wondering why the tub was bloody before the turkey got hung up... Well, the hanging turkey was actually the first one we took care of, and then Brave Josh decided to lasso the HANDICAPPED turkey. He was a little nervous about it, to say the truth. But he conquered!
And now, the most important part...The Marinade...
Budweiser Select of course makes the meat extra tender, juicy, tastey, and delicious! You can also use any of the local micro-brews for a nice difference.
After removing the feathers, entrails, etc, it's time for dinner! Well, time to cook it anyway. Check out this 46 lb beauty (disregard the black feather quills in the skin, please).
Actually this was one we butchered a couple weeks later, when we had no freezer space. So it really did go from the backyard to the dinner table. We ate on this thing for 9 days, plus had 2 dinners frozen for later. It was kinda tougher than we're used to, but the flavor was so much better than it's storebought counterparts!
And just to get your mind of the gruesomeness of it all, here are some mutant potatoes to end the post.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I just sat down and read a page or two in a book I'm reading, Releasing Kings for Ministry in the Marketplace co-written by John S. Garfield and Harold R. Eberle. The gist of the book is finding your 'calling' when it's not a 'church-calling'. In other words, the title. This chapter deals with the Strengths of Kings (those not called into church ministry); their desires, visions, and passions. We so often think we have to be without desires or passions, in order to serve God well. This page is amazing! He quotes a John Elridge "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you fully alive, because the world needs you fully alive." Garfield & Eberle go on to explain that they're not teaching unbridled enthusiasm, but they are

teaching ehthusiasm. Passion is your friend. It is God-given. He put it in your nature...Does God really want you to live this way? Let me boldly declare to you that this is the only path to holiness (wow, think on that for a minute!). Traditionally, holiness is defined as the absence of sin, which really is more a byproduct of holiness. Real holiness springs out of the passion and fruit that go with the positive things we naturally and passionately desire to do; things that match the heart of God. This means that to attain holiness, we cannot focus solely on sin and be sucessful. In a sin-oriented theology, we force ourselves into a discipline of religious obedience, integrity, perseverance in trials, faithfulness, serving in another person's vision, learning authority and submission - all things we can try to generate in our own strength without God. ... I want you to do your own thing - because your thing is God's thing! Too extreme? God created you with desires and passions we need to pursui in His way. But they must be pursued. They reflect His heart. you are an expression of God's heart.

(Ok, this is not part of the quote (neither is the above parentheses) but the durn blogger won't let me out of it. ) Isn't it amazing? Whether you serve in the church as a pastor, teacher, evangelist, apostle, prophet or outside it as a businessman, teacher, politician, doctor, broadcaster, artist, farmer, parent, etc, this is so freeing! I'm sure I'm not the only one who constantly second-guesses my motives or directions or decisions, and this is a wonderful reminder of how much love and interest my Lord has for me. It's not some big cosmic game of God instilling us all with passions and desires only to sit back and see if we can manage to 'overcome' them. Obviously I'm not trying to advocate sin in any form. And we certainly all need to be praying about the paths we take. But I firmly believe that God lays before us many options... and many of them are equally good. Trust me, he will use any and all choice we make to bring us closer to Him (ok, quit thinking of trials and suffering here). That's an interesting rabbit trail... as a parent, I know that my pride and approval in my children brings them closer to me than does their sin and guilt. Hearts are knit when a warm smile of love and acceptance is shared. I bet God is the same. He will let us fall on our faces when we are disobedient (selfish, etc), to teach us the folly of our ways, but he would much rather see us overcome (give, love) and draw closer to Him in it.

For me this means so much. Sometimes I think I'm a bit schitzophrenic in my 'passions'. Reading up on this, doing that, learning all I can about one project or another (and then undertaking it). Is this ok? Am I some black hole of attention deficit, always devouring the next thing? Perhaps it is ok. Perhaps being a Jack (Jacqueline?) Of All Trades is part of what makes me tick. *I* think it is.

May you be blessed in your undertakings, in your passions and in discovering your true self, your calling.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Upper Body Workout? For sure. Today I "churned" butter. I acquired some delicious organic cream last week and I've been churning it ever since. I've been using a large (costco size) plastic mayonnaise jar and 2 small steelies (like in the magnetix set). I put them in the freezer for a few minutes, then fill it 1/3 or so with cream. Then I shake it. And shake it. And shake it more. And roll it down the stairs. And shake it. Eventually I noticed it made butter! Well, not exactly that simple. I noticed it was ... different! Grainy instead of smooth, and tinged with yellow. After that I put it in a bowl and start pressing out the buttermilk; eventually rinsing it with cool water, adding salt, and putting it in a plastic-wrap-lined mini-bread-loaf-pan. This goes into the freezer. Today I thought I'd try to do a larger quantity with less bicep-pain. Which was an interesting endeavor, at first. I set up my mayonnaise jar as usual, but this time I wrapped a cushy baby quilt around the jar and tied it with some jute. THEN I put it in the dryer on air-fluff. Hehe! Aside from the loud thumping, it might've worked. Just not very quickly. So I abandoned that and shoved the blanket-clad jar between the footrails on the spring-hung rocking horse. I tied a rope to it's 'reins' and that had potential too. I took a break to pour some cream in the KitchenAid. Eventually I abandoned the rocking horse, dryer, and all jar-shaking. The Kitchenaid did a fair job of churning it, but working and rinsing that butter is a lot of work in itself. I've done about a gallon and a half of cream, and have ended up with 5 or 6 of these little loaf-sized butters. SOooo yummy.

Also today, we got our chicks! Nothing like brooding chicks in October, I tell ya. Thankfully they didn't come yesterday in our snowstorm and 60mph winds. I thought maybe my chicken coop wouldn't survive after all, but it held! The post office called at about 10 min. to 7 this morning and I ran over and could hear the peeping in the entire PO lobby! 15 Barred Rocks, 15 Rhode Island Reds, and 1 "Rare Chick". I think that will be it's name. One of those free samples, you know. We have no idea if it's male or female, or what breed it might be. It's certainly cute, though. They seem like they're doing well. Eating and drinking, though it's hard to tell if all 31 are managing it. Just doing my egg-shopping extra early!

What does "aspiring to simplicity" actually mean?

Well, it meant the whole thing I wrote before Hubby crashed the computer and lost it...

It means I must consciously make decisions towards simplicity in my daily life. Uncomplication. It means not being absorbed by the latest tv drama or Hollywood fashions. It means I must take responsibility for myself and my family. It doesn't mean I'm giving up electricity or never shopping at costco again.

But it can seem paradoxical. We might think it is simple to pick up a dozen eggs at the store. But for me right now, raising chicks to have laying hens while I teach my girls about responsibility, nutrition, caretaking, creation, God, and biology is simpler. Fighting traffic, tired kids, carseats, parking lots, long grocery lines, tired kids, carseats, parking lots, and traffic is not simple. It does not afford as much time of teaching and parenting as raising these chickens does. And I think I will be a better mother for reducing my traffic-fighting time.

This blog will serve to keep record of the projects we are undertaking for this purpose. I hope we who read it are blessed.