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View the most recent comments below. To join in the discussion (or see a comment thread in order), click on the title of a comment, then follow the directions on the subsequent page to add a comment of your own.

Glad you had a nice celebration--looks like a good time was had by all.

For what it's worth, I totally agree on the post-Thanksgiving decompression, both on the mental side (even if it's close family and you love them to death!), and on the physical side (from eating way too much food!).

Comment by Jake Fri Nov 27 14:47:14 2015

Love thse stories, Anna and that pie looks great. We alwys have pumpkin and apple nd if my mom is with us, pecan. And maybe chocolate and lemon. Spending Thanksgiving in the hospital might not be my favorite thing, but we will have good stories to tell about it next year. Funny about the carrots. Hubby Steve is doing all the animal chores while I am here, and tonight, the goaties seemed to be missing all the attention they usually get. After he left the pen to close up shop at the chicken coop, he turned to find one of tje goats had worked the door open amd folowed him, as if to say, wait, you have not given us our nightly ear rubs with dinner! Of course this means we have to beef up our goatpen latch too, now.

Comment by Deb Wed Nov 25 22:27:45 2015

In Eastern Europe corn (sweet corn) was always considered animal food.

My Mom could never bake a cake and have it come out right, but pies? Oh my! She was the pie lady! Apple, chocolate cream, and others, but for thanksgiving we clammared for chocolate cream pie! Once she was finishing up the pie and getting ready to put Ready Whip on it. She shook the can really hard and somehow pressed the side of the nozzle before turning the can upside down. Whoosh! Whipped cream on the ceiling!

Comment by naYan Wed Nov 25 14:34:35 2015
Hmm, pies on the attic floor. Sure hope they didn't have a rodent problem...
Comment by Julie Wed Nov 25 07:47:11 2015

They felt like they needed to apologize for giving you more food? That seems so backwards. But if it's bacon...apology accepted!

Maybe you should write an e-book about how to use up leftovers; apparently there are plenty of folks who could use the advice!

Comment by Jake Wed Nov 25 01:02:51 2015
At the Friends Wilderness Center ( the Saturday after Thanksgiving we have a Cold Turkey Hike. All who come bring their leftovers. We have lunch and then take a hike to help burn of all the wonderful calories from the lunch. It helps to get rid of the leftovers, for those who do not want to eat them or freeze them for later, meet new friends on the hike, and have a great time in the wilderness.
Comment by Sheila Tue Nov 24 23:25:04 2015
I just wanted to say, thanks to small farmers, who keep doing what they do. :)
Comment by Chris Tue Nov 24 19:01:31 2015
Love black cats, I've got two of them, they are literally the kids I never
Comment by Matt Casdorph Tue Nov 24 15:45:56 2015

Kayla --- The one we got was 22 pounds, but I think they said the biggest was 24. Yeah, that's a lot of turkey. :-) But delicious if it's anything like last year's!

I'm glad to hear from you! I was just thinking of you today --- missing seeing you this week!

Comment by anna Tue Nov 24 11:30:08 2015
How big was it exactly? And besides, leftovers are the best! That's one of the good things about Thanksgiving dinner, right? Hope yall have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Comment by Kayla Tue Nov 24 10:43:45 2015
Are you kidding me? Well, no, I know you're not. Americans have become so disassociated from their food. I see this year that the Honeysuckle white frozen turkeys (avail to us urban folk) are in the 15-16# range instead of the usual 12-14#. I overheard a group of women discussing the 'crisis' "What to do after a day of leftovers?" "You can't give the stuff away." "Why do they stock the big ones?" I laughed. I bought 3 birds, 2 for the freezer 1 for Thanksgiving. I foresee gallons of hearty broth, soups, stews and sandwiches well into late spring. Silly shoppers. Nice snag for you. Congrats.
Comment by Kris Tue Nov 24 07:04:03 2015
You could always say you were testing your trench to make sure there was a continuous flow down hill, no ponding :)
Comment by BW Mon Nov 23 17:33:36 2015

The other poster was correct about going between knees and tendon (just poke a small slit through the skin).

But not just for security, it also opens the cavity so it is easier to clean and butcher...

BTW, I love what you are doing... I binge read your entire blog a couple of months ago and read it every day...

Comment by Don in NoVA Mon Nov 23 09:57:55 2015
I think its nice for people to be able to find this kind of information. Looking back at myself in July I wouldn't have thought I would have been incubating eggs myself. In August I got the urge to research how to incubate chicken eggs & so I made my own bator set some eggs 21 days later I only had 2 eggs left out of the 9 I started with, 1 pipped & the other 1 had died a day or 2 before hatch day. Me being me I let the pipped 1 sit for a few hours then decided to assist it (after recalling 1 video I watched before I even started to incubate) anyways the chick lived im glad I decided to assist it because I don't think it would have been able to get out on its own. I went through this same scenario with 2 more batches in Sept. & each chick from all 3 batches lived & thrived very well. Im just on here refreshing my memory for a batch I set 21 days ago since I haven't done any since last batch I did in sept. & thought I should say thanks for putting this on here for people who need it, I would post all my details on what I do if I knew how to make a page like you.
Comment by Alicia Mon Nov 23 02:47:18 2015

Jake --- Thank you! :-)

Bob --- I appreciate you saying that. I had a feeling we were using it wrong when I stuffed the feet in the little holes. It worked this time, but I can see how they could have slipped out. Your method sounds much safer and more effective.

Comment by anna Sun Nov 22 19:20:36 2015
Have you played around with fodder systems for chicken feed? I usually do 4 rotating trays of wheatgrass, or other microgreens, during winter, but am considering expanding that this winter for goats and geese maybe.... mine is very low tech, just big baking trays spread with sprouted wheat, let it grow till about 3 inches, and toss the whole thing in the pen, roots and all. No substrate, just water them, drain off excess.. seems like you get at least double the weight of food , maybe more. Will try barley this time, since that seems to be the grain of choice in real fodder systems
Comment by Deb Sun Nov 22 18:15:28 2015
Cut a slit in the leg just behind the knee, being careful to not sever the tendon. Slide the gambrel through each slit.
Comment by Bob Sun Nov 22 16:06:11 2015
Nita --- That's intriguing! Our bodies so far seem keen on chicken broth, but that may be because about half of our year's supply comes from laying hens --- grain fed, but much more pastured. As our goat adventure continues, though, I could definitely see the red meat becoming a larger part of our diet. Ruminants are definitely more sustainable if you can have something local for them to graze on. And Mark loves red meat.... :-)
Comment by anna Sun Nov 22 13:54:21 2015

Gerry --- Nope, I'm afraid we're not hunters (except the front-porch kind). Honestly, I probably never would have shot a deer if they didn't nibble my sweet potatoes and strawberries down to the ground. For me, it's all about protecting my garden, with the meat being a good bonus.

NaYan --- The only disease that I believe carries over from deer to humans is chronic wasting disease. Actually, even that hasn't been shown to transfer, but seems possible due to its similarity to mad cow disease. Luckily, CWD hasn't been seen in this area.

Nita --- I'd guess an elk could eat through a garden even faster than a deer could....

Comment by anna Sun Nov 22 13:51:35 2015
Yes Edith, pigs are not stupid. Knowing that your plan is to ultimately slaughter they may decided to give you a nip as well. Do you blame them?
Comment by Anonymous Sun Nov 22 11:35:32 2015
Have either of you gone on a real hunt for your deer, or is it just front porch hunting?
Comment by Gerry Sun Nov 22 10:23:12 2015
I understand that deer around here can sometimes have a disease called "blue tongue". Do you know if that would affect the edibility of any meat?
Comment by NaYan Sun Nov 22 09:38:35 2015

Nice deer!

Not that many deer around here, but the elk, Ugh!

Comment by Nita Sun Nov 22 08:59:35 2015
It's definitely a journey, I used to think that too about the broth, but I have to cook to my husband's dietary needs, and we found the chicken broth to be a little allergenic probably due to the grain diet, compared to the broth I make from the beef or sheep which received no grain in their lives and only eat from here. Less tummy aches sure made it easy to wean ourselves from much poultry in our meat array.
Comment by Nita Sun Nov 22 08:58:04 2015

Becky --- Some of this is just practice, unfortunately. I feel like it took at least a hundred birds before Mark felt like he was killing the birds perfectly every time.

That said, here's what Mark does. (I gut and he kills.) He uses a very sharp knife and swears that buying a hunting knife made all the difference. He also wears a thick glove on this non-knife hand, which makes it much safer to cut hard and fast. We agree with you that a knife against a hanging bird's throat is a good method...once you get good at it.

Lucy sits nearby as we work and I toss her the hearts and (if she's hungry enough) the livers. The rest of the insides are buried in a posthole Mark digs in the ground at the end of our butchering day. We stew up the feet and necks to make broth, then dispose of those cooked bones in the wood stove, turning them into biochar. The rest of the chicken, we eat.

I hope that helps! Learning to butcher well is definitely a skill and you'll get better over time. Good luck!

Comment by anna Sun Nov 22 07:39:13 2015

Yay, venison!

Nice shooting, Anna. :-)

Comment by Jake Sun Nov 22 00:36:42 2015
Hi - I'm working towards self-sufficiency in Manitoba. I am developing a good barnyard mix chicken that'll be a nice size and is hardy for our weather (small/no combs!). Anyway, I've only "done" about 6 chickens so far and really haven't found the best method for dispatching them. Even the sharpest knife seems to take forever to saw through their skin, and I'm careful to part the feathers. I keep getting told by the old timers to use a hatchet, but I want the bird hanging or in a cone when I kill it. What is your method? And how do you dispose of the parts you don't use? Thank you.
Comment by Becky Sat Nov 21 21:07:19 2015
Thanks for the stats...i think I will give them a go next year.. and after paying an arm and a leg for pastured turkey for thanksgiving, I think maybe a few turkey poults too!
Comment by Deb Sat Nov 21 18:39:39 2015

Andrew --- That's a good question. So far, we've wanted to try so many things that I never have to worry about inbreeding. But I think I've pretty much settled on my favorite breed or two now, so starting next year I'll have to figure this out.

Harvey Ussery has this advice, but keeping three separate flocks sounds pretty tough to me on our small scale.

On my own farm, the traits I look for in chickens (beyond production) are: yellow fat at slaughter time and orange egg yolks (both signs of good foraging), not flying over fences and ending up in the garden, and surviving predators while foraging in the woods.

Comment by anna Sat Nov 21 10:32:04 2015

Nita --- You're totally right. That was my final analysis of Cornish Cross --- they simply don't range well enough for my rotational pastures to work. With layers and even the Red Rangers, simply turning them into a new pasture every week and rotating back around to the first pasture in a month keeps the cream growing, but not so with Cornish Cross. Unfortunately, we don't have the type of pastures you need to do Salatin-style tractoring --- too many trees and hills.

It's pretty pricey to buy chicken feed here too. But I can no longer conceive of cooking without their broth, so we have to grow enough to make soup bases. :-)

Comment by anna Sat Nov 21 10:24:20 2015
Marco --- Usually, I figure the trunks are too big to be easily bendable. But after being completely winterkilled to the ground last year, we could have easily done that with this year's growth. Unfortunately, I forgot about the method! :-) Maybe next year....
Comment by anna Sat Nov 21 10:20:04 2015
NaYan --- Yep, they're PVC. If you missed it, you can read the full construction information in Weekend Homesteader: October.
Comment by anna Sat Nov 21 10:18:17 2015
MG --- We put together our full sumup of the project in this ebook. The short version is --- it works great during fall, winter, and spring, although we do add a little supplemental heat during the very coldest nights. No need to cover the doors with anything.
Comment by anna Sat Nov 21 10:16:05 2015

When we raised CX for sale and strictly followed Salatin's methods we got a feed conversion rate of 2:1. It's not hard to do if you are diligent about fresh range for the chickens, free range really lowers the feed conversion rates on any breed because it only takes a few days for the insects and "low hanging" fruit to be foraged out of existence. It's the same with grazers, they eat they high energy part of the plant the first day and then if not moved or allowed to range far and wide they are forced eat farther down the plant and at that point are getting just fodder.

The best chicken we raised for ourselves were the roosters from our pullet batches, and butchered at 20 weeks. After 12 weeks or so the meat changes and becomes more flavorful, so it's no wonder the CX are bland, they are still babies. We used to eat a lot of chicken but no more, too expensive to raise anymore, the price of feed grains are astronomical for what you get. It may be different in your area where more feed grains are actually grown.

Comment by Nita Sat Nov 21 09:42:45 2015

Greetings! Please forgive me for asking an off topic question. I know little about homesteading and just found your refrigerator root cellar video and wondered did it work well and if you ran into problems what were they? Were mold, fungus, bugs or critters a problem? Did you cover the doors with anything to protect when not in use? Thank you in advance.

Comment by MG Sat Nov 21 02:49:44 2015
I think I commented on this way back when you first posted your fig freeze protection post. This comes from years of old world knowledge with figs. Yes I would wait till they fully deleaf and bend them down and cover with tarps/plastic and top with mulch/light garden soil well. My late uncle did this for decades with variety's that aren't very hardy.
Comment by Marco Fri Nov 20 20:57:18 2015
What are your hoops made from? They look like common PVC?
Comment by NaYan Fri Nov 20 12:10:29 2015

When I was at the Nature Center we had a really pretty butterfly come through on October. I don't remember what kind, but I remember looking at it's distribution map and finding that it only lived in the deep south. I asked our butterfly guy, Larry, why it was here and he said "It's going south for the winter."

"But if it lives in Georgia..."

"Yeah. Sometimes they get lost."

That poor little butterfly bothered me for weeks, so far off track he was hundreds of miles north in Tennessee instead of over Mexico!

Comment by Emily Thu Nov 19 10:33:11 2015

How would you guys recommend breeding and improvig gentics of your own sustainable flock, and how often would you have to introduce a new rooster into the mix? Presumably at some point they would inbreeding problems... so keep the same rooster, eat the others that will inevitably be born once they become big enough to eat, and keep the same mac daddy doing all the breeding. Looking for practical implementable info a homesteader could use.

I am very interesting in the art naturally improving the genetics of ones herd (flock) to becoming healthier and superb foragers for ones homestead ecosystem in whatever ones part of the country. I have doone a good deal of study on natural cattle herd gentics building (Jim Elizondo on You tube has has some really interesting video series on the channel Living Web Farms - seminar Sustainable Ranching 3 Day Worshop. After watching this series, pretty eye opening and thought provoking, I think that the same principles could be gainfully employed with chickens, goats, hogs, or any livestock for that matter.

Comment by Andrew Wed Nov 18 20:35:37 2015
Josh --- You made me laugh. :-) I'm pretty sure I couldn't actually call it that without risking getting sued, though.
Comment by anna Wed Nov 18 13:59:00 2015