The Farmhouse in December.
The first cold blast of Winter is like a sounding alarm to the farmer.
It's a warning that tougher times are surely ahead and to get things in order quickly.
By now, the garden has been "put to bed," the watering systems are set up accordingly, the hay is stacked and the seasoned wood is chopped.
By the first snow, I have culled down most of my flock to the breeders for next year.. except for maybe late hatch juveniles that haven't quite matured yet.
(culling can mean selling to pet homes which is where most of my birds go).
As we approach a new year, the grass has withered away and there is very little nutrition remaining in what is left. The bugs have vanished and our feed bill has more than doubled as the birds consume more in order to build fat that will help fend off the cold.
So, it's time.. time to finish the livestock to be butchered and time to harvest the last of the fowl.
The Goose Troop
They are all beautiful and heavy so culling them is difficult but at 50 lbs. of grain consumed daily among the 26 of them, it had to be done. Traditionally, a breeder should select the healthiest and best quality animals for breeding the following year. First to meet the clever were the light birds, the birds with a very timid or aggressive behavior and any birds with undesirable genetic traits. Then we worked our way toward the heaviest and best quality stock while sexing them to be sure to keep the best 5 females.
After a bit of a cold start, we found a groove and made swift work of 20 geese, 4 turkeys, a few ducks and several roosters. Our supplies are simple and much needed. We had a bar height table for butchering, an electric plucker, a scalder, buckets of clean water and sharp knives.
The birds were first bled out, then were dipped in the scalder for a few moments until the feathers came out easily then quickly into the plucker and on the table to finish.
Here, Dana, cuts up a 30 lb. turkey into more maneagable sized chunks. The breasts are quartered and the wings and legs separated. The pieces are all bagged up for many dinners some time this winter.
Dana took time away from her farm in Southern Maryland to assist with the harvest. We are so thankful and learned so much. I couldn't imagine doing it all just the two of us. Another friend, Tom, joined in the help. We paid him in protein but, I think he was content to help and take in the lesson.
Here is Dana's website where she sells her waterfowl locally in the DC area. moosemanorfarms.com
The necks, livers, gizzards and hearts are all cleaned and packaged as well for stocks and soups.
Here is our finished result...
The farm is more quiet and the remaining geese are adjusting to a new pecking order. The saddness that may have come with the death is quickly overcame by the happiness I feel that it is done and that we have produced so much flavorful and healthy meat for local families.
So.. for now, we honor the survivors. May their beauty and health be passed on to the next generation of fowl here at Green Hill Farm and may 2015 bring them sunshine, lush grasses and fat bugs. We raise a glass to them.
Photo credit for the homestead picture and for the goose troop goes to Dana Kee