Saturday, December 28, 2013


Our roosters got into a fight this morning. It was not the usual barnyard scuffle, but rather the kind which one of them was not going to leave alive. We came to the realization that we had to make that choice for them; the younger, friendlier rooster got to live, while the oldest and meanest rooster had to go. It was not an easy
choice--choosing when an animal will die never is. This was not my first chicken slaughter, by far. This last fall, we killed 70 meat chickens in one day, and I wielded a machete at the butchering block. However, slaughtering an animal that was not originally slotted for the freezer was different. I played with the dog so that his barking would drown out the sound of the gunshot.

Archibald came to us as a tag along. We paid for a flock of chickens, and he was thrown in to the mix labeled as "one old rooster that I didn't have the heart to kill." I don't know what that makes us. But, he was happy during his time here. He had his small harem of cast-off hens that the younger rooster, Henry, did not bother with. Archibald and Henry would occasionally get into crowing wars and, though Henry was always the clear winner, Archibald would still strut proudly after its conclusion. He had beautifully iridescent tail feathers, but the rest of him exuded a somewhat scrappy appearance.

We were going to be late for our family Christmas party. It was scheduled for this afternoon, but the rooster 
ordeal set us back. The husband had to chop wood, the goat had yet to be milked, and I was left
standing in the kitchen holding a feathered carcass among gift bags waiting to be filled. Upon spotting the headless bird, my toddler pointed and cried, "uh-oh!" I quickly sent her upstairs. As my dining room table disappeared under a pile of downy feathers, I could hear her running through the bedrooms. She was supposed to be taking a nap.

Eventually, I finished dressing the chicken and filled the slow-cooker with ingredients for stew. We originally
planned on discarding the carcass; however, I have a hard time letting food and life go to waste. If we are
going to kill an animal, we are going to use whatever we can. So, Archibald simmered in the slow-cooker, and a pile of his exquisite tail feathers was saved for my oldest daughter, who collects them.

We arrived at our gathering an hour late and somewhat frazzled. The morning had been full of setbacks. My
husband missed a shot at a deer due to an ill-timed bark from our dog, spent longer than expected trying to cut wood with a dull chainsaw, and was unable to get our 4x4 truck up our slick hills to pick up the wood after it was finally cut. My homemade gifts were assembled in a way that would make Martha Stewart blush, and I dug out leftover cranberry sauce from the fridge to present as a side dish. We were hungry and somewhat cranky, but happy to relax with our family and devour some ham and apple crisp. Our dinner-table conversation turned to the intimate details of chicken slaughtering and goat breeding.

By the end of the day, I came to a few different conclusions. First, we are blessed with a very gracious and
supportive family. They regularly put up with our farm schedule and all of its demands, and they laugh at our rather inappropriate stories. They bless us with homesteading and goat related gifts and appreciate my simple, homemade ones in return. Second, we can do this. We can make the difficult decisions and make the best of it. There are tough days--but not impossible ones--and plenty of joyous moments in between. And finally, I need a new filet knife. And a slaughtering table. Fortunately, we are going to Cabela's tomorrow.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas on the Farm

Well, I somewhat dropped the ball on writing the obligatory annual Christmas post, but better late than never!

One of my favorite Christmas morning activities is celebrating with our animals. After presents have been unwrapped and coffee has been downed, we take little treats to each one. My oldest daughter made popcorn for all the poultry, and, before Dad could put on his boots, she trudged through the snow falling gently down to hand deliver it to her barnyard friends. The goats were given a dollop of molasses with their oats, which stuck to their lips as they licked it up. I dug out a venison bone from the freezer for the dog and gave the kitties goat milk with their breakfast. All in all, the whole farm took part in our Christmas celebration, which seemed appropriate. After all, Jesus was born in a barn.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

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Merry Christmas

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Shopping

Need a last minute Christmas gift for the goat lovers in your life? Check out this adorable tote by West Elm!

Market Tote Bag - Totes Ma Goats

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Dairy Goat Homestead: Building Our Goat Barn

After our goats spent many summer months with only a small shed for shelter, we decided it was finally time to build them a real barn. Winter was quickly pressing upon us, and it would soon be followed by kidding season in the spring. Also, our bossy new Alpine doe made it necessary for us to provide more space for the others to get out of her way, especially since they would soon be pregnant. So, using a continuous supply of homemade apple pie as a bribe, and we got a crew of a few family members and friends and got to work.

Continue reading at Mother Earth News.