Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Eating Roadkill

No, this is not a joke and I'm not trying to be morbid. In the state of Idaho, it is legal to pick up roadkill and use it for personal purposes. In our case, we saw an opportunity for meat and a usable hide. It's important to be discerning of what roadkill is appropriate for picking up off the side of the road. A few things to consider are: What is the state of the animal? Lots of blood, guts and smell should be a pretty clear sign this is not the animal to be ingesting. How long has the animal been lying there? If rigamortis has set it, just leave it…it's probably too old. 

This really isn't intended as a DIY post but rather a way to re-think and re-purpose that "gross old roadkill" we so often drive by without much thought. 

I actually did intend to make this into a DIY-butcher-roadkill-at-home kind of post but the day was beginning to get warm and we needed to get the meat into the freezer ASAP. As the days get colder, I can take my time with more thoughtful and detailed pictures of how to butcher a small ruminant animal, step-by-step, at home. An extremely valuable skill to learn if you eat meat.

This yearling doe was probably hit just a few hours before we found her a few miles from home. It appeared that some ribs were cracked and a lot of internal bleeding in the inguinal region as well as multiple herniations. To be on the safe side, we took only the neck, hind and front quarters. We did not gut the deer in order keep any contamination from getting on the good meat. Skinning a deer requires starting in the pelvis area. This is a picture to show how easy it can be to pull away the skin for a salvageable hide.

Hind quarters to be processed and wrapped. There was a surprising amount of meat on such a young doe.

If you are ever uncertain as to whether the meat could be consumed, just leave it. But! the hide from the animal can be a very useful and valuable asset. My husband is a hide-tanner by trade and many years of self-study. This hide is ready to be scraped and put into a wood ash solution for brain tanning.  

Luckily, we both had a free morning after finding this yearling deer on the side of the road to take every usable part for processing into meat and someday, some soft smokey leather. The remaining parts were given to the coyotes in our back-40.
 For our family, picking up roadkill can bring some meaning to an animal's untimely death. It's body will be regenerated into nourishment and clothing rather than be desiccated into bits all over the road. Being that there is so much waste in our society, this can be one small, yet impactful, way to salvage free food and a chance to find useful tools, such as bones, hide and hooves.

Many good stews and roast await our dinner plates this month, thanks to this young doe. We are full of gratitude for her life.

Please feel free to comment about anything regarding this post. I understand this can be sensitive material for some and I can also offer more outlets for DIY butchering small game if there is interest.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How to Get Good Food in the Country

To the reader, this post will really depend on what you consider "good food". I like having access to fresh organic produce, pasture-raised meat, nut butters, coconut milk, Tulsi tea, health food/junk food like Coconut Bliss and Green and Black's dark chocolate, kombucha, and the list goes on. Some fresh, local food as well as some store-bought items…
It's easy to walk into a Whole Foods, Fred Meyer or New Seasons (Portland area) and have the best of both worlds at your finger tips, but these are not easily accessible to folks living far from large cities that cater to these natural grocery stores. It's been about five years since I have lived close to a large town and I've had to get creative to meet my personal food needs. Here are some ideas, especially for those of you just recently new to a country, ocean or mountain side that does not seem to have the quality of food you desire.

1. Farmer's Markets- unlike the city, they may be small, but most likely prices will be drastically lower since farmer's are not usually driving long distances and the booth fees are probably lower. There may not be many vendors selling "certified organic" produce or meat but ask the farmer about their practices. The organic label can be costly and time-consuming for many small farmers who do actually cultivate food and animals with superb standards.

2. Azure Standard, A Bulk and Organic Food Delivery service- This is one of the best resources for those living far out. Typically, there will be at least one drop-off point in your small town, that receives an Azure Standard delivery once a month (or sometimes bi-monthly). The minimum order for that drop-off point is about $500. If ten people ordered at $50 per household you would qualify for a delivery! It's not difficult to spend this considering they have everything from Coconut Bliss ice-cream to paper towels to organic red bell peppers to compostable diapers. Really, they have everything! It's also a nice way to meet people in your town that have similar food values. Just call Azure's main phone line to see if there is already an established group in your area.

3. Craigslist- If you live in a pretty small town, you may not be able to find the exact location on craigslist, but if you go to the site of the nearest big city, type in the search box the name of the town you live in. You might find a lot of used cars, ATV parts, and hunting supplies for sale and you may also find some food gems, like fresh eggs, pastured meat, fresh raw sheep or goat milk, honey, kraut cabbage…Again, another way to meet people in your community committed to growing quality, nutritious food.

4. Grow a garden- Ok, that's kind of an obvious one but sometimes not implemented. If you're someone who really likes brussel sprouts and can't find them at the local grocery store, just grow those…or whatever else suits your fancy. You don't have to put up an acre of fencing and do major tilling. One simple raised bed with some compost and a few seeds could be an easy way to have a crisp zucchini or head of lettuce rather than paying for an (often time) wilted one from the store.

5. Amazon or other online retailers- This is a new source for me but I'm really loving it! I have found the best deal on nuts, teas, chocolate, and other great food from Amazon. Having an Amazon Prime Membership is what inspired food shopping on the internet. It does seem strange and definitely not a ecologically sound practice amidst the revival to eat local food but I do make this choice occasionally in order to have some nutritiously dense food and tasty treats that cannot otherwise be accessed where I live.

6. Trade or Barter- maybe you don't grow or raise any kind of food but your neighbor down the road raises cows for meat. Are you a plumber by trade, a massage therapist, can you watch their children? In essence, what do you have to offer to your community in exchange for filling your shelves and freezer with delicious food.

7. The local grocery store- If they do not have carry healthy choices of food you desire or even the ever-so tempting health food/junk food, ask to speak with the manager or the employee who orders the food for the store. Often times, they can add your requested food to an existing order with a large company like Sysco. It's worth a shot!

I wish I had a photo of Coconut Bliss to fully encapsulate what I mean by "good food" : )

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sacred Sunday

A day of rest, family, connection, friends, and relishing in the sweetness of life

Saturday, September 27, 2014

All in a Good Day's Work

 For a long time now, I have wanted, in the worst way, to learn to build. So often, I look to my husband  to do the building projects on the farm. If he's busy with other personal or work projects my hopes for building farm infrastructure and home necessities get pushed down to the bottom of the To-Do List. Yeserday, out of curiosity, I picked up a Mother Earth News magazine for the first time and found a simple plan for DIY food storage containers that stack. For years we have been using plastic harvest bins on loan for potatoes and squash and need to return them next week, so discovering this plan couldn't have been more timely! I got a quick introduction to power tools from the husband, went to the local lumber yard and got to it!

Lars and I had a great time working together. He handed me every screw and I let him push the screw driver lever every once in while...

Here's the outcome with a bit of head scratching, a few drilling mistakes and an intense yearning to learn how to build. Next on my list: new chicken coop, sheep shed and a structure for hay storage...

Can't wait to put the potatoes in! 

If you're interested in trying out the plan, check out Mother Earth News Issue No.265

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Little Woodsman

People often asked when I was pregnant, what I thought my baby would be like and I usually responded that I hoped he was an excellent woodsman. I guess the name, Lars, gave me an image of a tall, strapping blond man building beautifully crafted cabins from hand hewn logs cut by hand. I read a lot of fairy tales growing up…
Well, here he is, without any parental pressure, working on clearing out a rotten stump and finding little saplings to pound on. 
A word to the wise: If you decide to give/make your child a play axe, make sure it's an OUTDOOR toy only! I won't go into detail, but you can imagine... 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cleaning a Sheep Fleece 101

 I've been spending the last few days hurriedly preparing three sheep fleeces to be sent to a local mill on Friday. The hurry, was in part, because the rain is due to come tonight and it's uncertain how long it will last. I dry my fleece outside so sunshine is a necessity for this process.

This is not everyone's cup of tea, but I personally love sorting through a fleece, skirting it (removing the  poopy dreaded edges), putting out burrs and bits of hay, and generally making a nice clean pile of wool. Fingers will build up a film of dirt and poop and the smell of lanolin is strong, but it's somehow deeply satisfying. As a woman, it seems this is engrained in my genes- to clean, spin and knit a fleece. I know, I know, men were the original spinners…

Once the farm debris and dreaded poopy bits are removed, it's time to put it in the wash! You need a top-loading machine to do this. Also, lots of Dawn dish soap or another brand of soap that is known for it's grease-cutting quality.

Start to fill the machine with hot water and add about 1/3 cup of soap. This amount will clean the equivalent of 2-3 pounds of fleece, assuming that you skirted it well and removed the poopy wool. Put the fleece in the washer once the soap is mixed well with the water. 

The fleece will seem to fill the entire machine. I just push it down into the water or you can also use a stick to submerge it. Make sure the fleece is completely covered in water with some to spare. The water will turn brown and dirty-looking. Turn the water off on the machine and leave it sit for about 10-20 minutes. Don't wait much longer since lanolin will started to condense at around 110 degrees F, making it difficult to remove from the fiber. Then, after the waiting period of 10-20 minutes, turn the dial to the spin cycle. This will immediately drain the water out and dry out the fleece significantly. Don't worry, it won't felt the fleece. 

After this process, there may be some soap residue left. Since I'm taking my fleece to a mill to be further processed I filled the machine up a second time with hot water (sans soap), let it sit another 10 minutes and set it on spin again. Depending how much dirt and lanolin is in the fleece, you may want to repeat the process (with both soap and water) 2-4 times. My sheep, being Icelandic, have very little lanolin and this particular flock have the cleanest fleeces I've ever seen!

To finish the cleaning, I have a large metal table with lots of stamped holes in it, that the fleece gets spread out on. This makes the drying process quick as the airflow is reaching it from all sides. A regular table works fine as well but the fleece may need to be turned over to help release more moisture.

Another thing: I like to measure the staple length of the fiber before sending it off to the mill. If I do decide to sell the roving or batting, it's a nice and common detail to inform your customer with. Take one lock of wool and measure with a ruler.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shearing in the Fall?

 Yep. Our sheep get shorn twice a year. We have Icelandic sheep which are considered triple purpose sheep: wool (and lots of it!), meat and milk. These hardy sheep grow an inch of wool, or more, a month   which can allow for bi-annual shearing. It was a bit depressing to have to watch their magnificent fleeces be taken from them, especially as the nights are getting colder, but the relief comes during these last few 90 degree days, that they aren't burdened by the heat.

We actually had a shearing party which ended up being quite the event. This was the first year we have hired someone to come do this intensive work (although he made it look pretty easy…) of shearing. Neighbors and friends from out of town came prepared with beer, snacks and a lot of anticipation. Our shearer, Clint Goodwin, is apparently pretty reputable in the Pacific Northwest and teaches one of the only sheep shearing courses left in the United States today. The next course is this coming April in Tri-Cities, WA. My husband had the good fortune of accompanying Clint at another farm about 20 miles down the road from us and was able to have a hand with electric shearers and some first class training with Clint. He came home with a sore back and I got about 5 pounds of beautiful roving from the Columbia sheep they were shearing that day. Lucky me!

So, now we have some very naked looking sheep and I get to spend the next few days skirting and washing their fine coats to and send off to a local wool mill to be made into roving and batting. The plan is to start an Etsy page to start earning some money from our homestead. Work less (away from home) and playfully work more (at home). 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Celebrating My Mother

We hosted my mother's 70th birthday today. It was such a pleasure to spend the morning making beautiful table arrangements, baking a triple layer vanilla paleo cake, cleaning house and dressing Lars up in a fancy little outfit. Because the celebration was for my mom, it didn't feel like work. As the years continue, I feel less of that mother/daughter struggle and more gratitude, A LOT more gratitude. Now a mother myself, it's much easier to see how loving, patient and generous my mother was with me through all those horrendously hormonal teen years. She spent hours cutting out paper dolls with me on weekends amidst cooking, cleaning and full time work and made fun travel bags for me every time we took a trip to Seattle. What a wonderful mom!

Family members blessed our home for the first time today as well, and I can now say I truly feel at home. Sharing a meal with not just immediate family, but the extended members always gives me the sense that I am home. These people have known me and helped to raise me since my birth and now we share toasts, home cooked meals and the last few gorgeous days of summer together.

Sacred Sunday

A day of rest, family, connection, friends, and relishing in the sweetness of life