Friday, November 28, 2008

Frank the Border Collie

This is Frank.  He is three years old and trained to herd sheep.  We got him from Steve at Brightwater Farms.  Steve has trained him since he was a puppy and gave Mike a lesson last weekend (Mike did ok).

The one brown eye, one blue eye can be a little creepy.  We're getting used to it.  He's a great dog.  Very energetic!  We need some sheep for him to herd.  Those are supposed to come in the next few weeks.  Mike is going to go to a herding class this weekend.  Margaret might go as well.  She's taken to being the second in charge of Frank.  When he doesn't listen the first time she uses her "tough and mean" voice.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fate or just coincidence?

Three things come to mind as I look out the window while lying in bed (I'm feeling pretty awful today).  Mike and the kids are taking Frank for a walk so he knows the boundaries of our property and gets to know the pasture area.

1.  Mike has wanted a Border Collie for some time now.  He wanted a Frisbee dog and agility dog really-- not necessarily a working Border Collie.
2.  When Mike was in high school there was a business card machine in a restaurant he and his friends hung out at.  He made himself a business card that said Michael Akey, Shepherd. 
3.  One of Mike's first email addresses in high school was poultryman.  He thought chickenman was funny but thought poultry was even funnier.

I remember Mike showing me that business card when we were dating and thought it was pretty goofy.  It's in a line in some Chevy Chase movie-- could be Caddy Shack- I have no idea. 

Did I ever imagine that he'd actually turn out to BE a SHEPHERD or the POULTRYMAN?  

So that's my philosophical question of the day.  Was it fate or can you go back in your life and always find 2-3 things that pointed you in the direction your life headed?

Wow-- lots out there on-line on Fate or Coincidence.  If I find anything worth passing on,  I'll link it in.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Frankie say relax

Frank is our new dog.  He is a Border Collie.  We are getting sheep in a week and a half.  They are Katahdin/Dorper crossed sheep.  We are going to get 2 older ewes and 2 yearling ewes that might be pregnant.  They have been with the ram for the last few weeks.  That could mean April lambing!

Frank is cute.  He has one brown eye and one blue.  He knows his herding commands well.  But he has a mind of his own.  He only sort of listens to dad.  But he is sweet.  Dougie does not know how to handle Frank so he nips him.  Frank wants to play.  Dougie wants to be left alone.

Today Maddie threw up in our car on the way to get Frank.  Maddie is my friend.  I hope she feels better!

We will put a picture of Frank in later.  We need daylight first.  And the camera battery isnt charged.  :(

We had a great day.  

Of course we did this all in one day.  

We like pie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Its been a while!!!

The new toy.  My MPU.

The MPU arrived yesterday after a short 2 hour drive to and from Mifflinburg, PA.  I purchased the unit from Eli Reiff, the Poultryman.  Eli was a gracious host, as always, and built this unit for me.  There are 6 killing cones on the side of the trailer, a propane fired scalding unit, a plucker, and an eviscerating table and a primary chill tank.  The MPU can probably process 50 birds per hour with a crew of 3, and perhaps as many as 70 or so with a good crew of 4.

Everything is stainless steel.  The scalder and plucker can hold about 30 pounds of birds at a time.  That should be about 6 five pound chickens or one big Tom turkey.  The process goes like this:

The night before you are to slaughter and process the birds they are collected and put into pens, or cages.  You want to withhold food for their last 8 hours.  We dont want a crop full of grass or grain and a gut full of poop.  Makes for icky processing.

The next morning I arrive early with my trailer.  The scalder is filled with water up to the middle and the burner is lit.  As the water heats up, everyone chats and makes small talk.  Next, the fun begins.  The chickens are removed from their cages and one by one they are put head first into the cones and we make like a slasher movie.  They are quickly dispatched and allowed to bleed out.  After a minute or two of bleed out, they are put into the scalder at 147 degrees for approximately 50 seconds.  There is a timer.  Which is good because Id forget about them.

Then they are put into the plucker and tumbled around for another 50 seconds or so until they are plucked clean.  Then the feet come off and the oil gland at the base of the tail (called "the Bishop's nose" for some reason).   Then an incision is made around the vent and the intestines are pulled out.  The heart, liver and gizzard are removed, the neck cut off, the windpipe and crop removed from the neck area, and the lungs are pulled out and the bird is washed out.  The gizzard can be cleaned and the heart can have its outer fat and membranes cut off with scissors.  
Next the bird gets a bath in cold water to start chilling it down to below 40 degrees as quickly as possible to help prevent the growth of bacteria.

And then the birds are moved to a secondary tank of ice water to cool and voila!  Done!

The birds can be put in the fridge for a day or frozen right away.  If you want to eat them fresh, its best to wait 24 hours for them to relax or age.  Rigor mortis does wonders for flavor.  Birds eaten too soon tend to be tough.   The birds can be vacuum packed too.

Turkeys are processed the same way.  They are just much bigger and go in the scalder and plucker one at a time.  Ducks are harder, they dont like to lose their feathers.  Eli says to put some Dawn detergent in the scalder and to scald them longer to help loosen the feathers.  They still dont pluck clean as easily as the other birds. 

Im excited to have the tools to process my own birds.  They are gonna be some tasty eating next spring!  

We are going to need a bigger freezer.


Monday, November 17, 2008


The chicks now look like chickens!  They have been moved to the brooder house.  Mike is now going to figure out how to build an egg mobile-- delayed due to sick child today.  
Mike is also going to pick up his MPU (mobile processing unit) on Wednesday.  He'll spend the day with Eli learning how to use his setup (meaning he'll process some chickens with Eli) and then drive it back to the house.  

This was taken two weeks ago.  I love maple trees.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

AHHHH-- Internet

We have internet access.  Well, to be more specific, we had internet access through a dish, the rules of the service were lousy so Mike canceled it the next day, then he decided to try a cellular connection and its not so bad.

Of course I'm writing this post in a specific part of my bedroom facing south/west so that the connection stays strong.  But I can now reconnect and remember what having an internet life is all about.

Mike will be finishing up the CSA offering for 2009 in the next 2 weeks.  He wants to take on 10-11 shares the first year so that we get started slowly.  I'm also going to start developing a flower share so those who join the vege share will be asked if they would like to be part of research and development this year.  This means you'll get some flowers sporadically in your regular share and asked to give us feedback and ideas for different flowers to make available each month.  Daffodils and Tulips were planted last week.  I found a bunch on sale so may have gone a little overboard.  I think we ended up planting 700 or so bulbs.  I do love tulips.