I am hiding in my bedroom with the computer and a glass of wine. My kids' loud voices are echoing upstairs into my sanctuary, and the smell of chicken in the oven is wafting up through the ceiling. The smell reminds me of the task ahead next week: “harvesting” our meat birds. I don't like this job of killing and processing chickens, but I sure like the taste of baked chicken – chickens we grew ourselves, raised on green pasture and organic grain. I don't like being part of the death of animals I raised, but I would rather eat THEM than meat I buy at the grocery store, packaged in plastic wrap, not knowing where the meat comes from, not knowing if the animals had a happy life. I know for sure that our chickens lead a happy life, up until the time of their death in the pasture they were raised in, without having to transport them to a slaughter house. They get to forage in beautiful green grass, get lots of fresh water, space and exercise and are allowed to chase bugs to their hearts' content. They live in a chicken palace with a mountain view. What's not to love?
Our pigs are next. We are hoping to have a butcher come out the end of October to process them for us. It's more expensive that way, but immeasurably less work for us. Our pigs are huge already, fattened on grass, whey and organic barley. They are spoiled, get moved to fresh pasture regularly, and get sprayed with the water hose in hot weather. They love getting sprayed and push each other out of the way to put their noses in it. Afterwards, they scratch themselves on every available surface, grunting with pleasure, almost grinning. They are so big and ferocious at feeding time that I am nervous. I don't go into their enclosure any more. When they were little, the kids played tag with them in the pasture, but now? Oh no! They bite my boots if I try to go into their movable structure, and they lean against me to scratch themselves, knocking me over. I bet they wouldn't mind taking a bite out of me.
The egg layers are safe from slaughter. These girls die a natural death, pass away peacefully in the chicken coop when they are several years old, and that's fine with us. They have cranked out eggs for months on end, so they deserve to live out their lives. The kids adore them. They watch them grow from one day old chickies, hold them when they are little, and feed them daily. “Chicken duty” is the kids' job: feed 'em, give 'em water, and collect their eggs. Between the ducks and the chickens, we are egg rich. What an abundant life!
|The kids are walking along the driveway to do "chicken duty". Eva's carrying the egg bucket. Oh my.|
|The kids throw the chicken's grain in the air and on the ground, so that the chickens can happily peck it.|
Talking about abundance: We are drowning in cantaloupes - can you imagine? Melons in the Pacific Northwest? Yes. You may kiss my feet. The way we do it is planting the starts in black plastic, to really crank the heat. This year, with all the heat and lack of greyness, they have exploded. We eat them fresh, juice dripping down our chins, invite friends over to gorge on them, and I froze about 15 pounds for smoothies. Ahhhh!!! This will be gold in the dark, cold, depressing winter.
And then there are tomatoes. Homegrown tomatoes, rich and sweet and juicy, warmed by the sun, freshly picked from the vine and bitten into... there's nothing like it, except maybe eating a killer chocolate cake. We bought two boxes of tomatoes from a friend and made it into salsa and sun-dried (or rather dehydrator-dried) tomatoes. The salsa is a big hit with my family. It's amazing what you can do with tomatoes, onions, garlic, sweet peppers, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. The kids devoured the salsa, served with stone ground organic chips. I should have bought about 150 more pounds of tomatoes. I tell you, the way these kids eat, we will have to start raising pigs. Oh, wait a minute. We ARE raising pigs. Phew. Good.
Despite all this work, we managed to escape for a two day vacation up to Birch Bay, close to the Canadian border, where we bicycled and played at the beach.
|A rare sight indeed... Steve relaxing.|
I leave you with the image of my son Lukas with a salmon he caught himself. My wilderness man husband Steve, Lukas and his brother Kai went out into the wild this week, with nothing else than some knives, bamboo spears, and a pot to boil water in. They left in the morning without eating any breakfast, so they would experience what it's like to feel hungry, and to be motivated to hunt and gather their own food.
Steve treated this as a rite of passage for the boys, and they came back changed, with incredible stories. They got to share them with our community at a feast, where they brought salmon they had caught and smoked over a campfire. Oh, how I love these men of mine.