Recap of the 4th of July weekend. Lots of pictures!

The Princess bakes a 4th of July cake
The Princess, post cake creation and prior to gobbling it up

Having The Princess bake an independence day cake is becoming a tradition at our house. Fluffy cake, whipped cream, and fruit stars and stripes all put together by her Highness. This is a tradition I can get behind!

Loading watermelons for our cows
Spork taking a well deserved break while Miguel loads the last pallet of watermelons

Every day we go to two farmer’s markets to collect all the fresh produce that they cannot sell due to damage. We collect about 2500 pounds per day by my rough guess. That’s 365 days a year or over 900,000 pounds of produce a year to feed our animals which is pretty much their only feed besides what already grows on the farm. Here we are loading on the 4th. Yes that is three pallets of watermelons. This doesn’t show the heaping full truck bed already loaded with other produce. The next day we put FOUR pallets on the trailer and still had the truck full. That was a personal best for me for one day. Cows LOVE watermelons, as do pigs, and chickens, and kids for that matter. The cows are starting to figure out how to break open watermelons and it’s funny to watch them chase the round melons around the pasture. While all the rest of us (animals both in the house and out) still love watermelon, SWMBO is getting a bit tired of watermelon juice covering her counters. Looks like its time to switch to peaches.

Feeding cows fresh vegetables
Feeding the cows a pallet of food. This is one of three that day.

This pallet was full of sweet corn husks, watermelons, squash, zucchini, and I don’t know what else. By the time the cows were done with it, it was just a pallet and some cardboard. By the end of the weekend, I noted that the cows were looking mighty portly. A few are showing some signs that they may need to be culled but the rest are looking fat and happy with slick coats and not a lot of signs of parasites. Right now #23, #14, and #3 (all brood cows) all look like candidates for culling, along with #28 and #40 (steers) who both had bloat but are doing better now.

Spork shooting a 22 rifle
Spork shooting his sister’s 22. He went through about 30 rounds and never missed!

The beauty of a longer weekend is even on the farm it’s not all work and no play. I took a little while to take SWMBO, The Princess, and Spork down to the shooting range to get in some practice. Spork was phenomenal, knocking down every target with boring regularity. Since he did so well, we decided to put him to work on our squirrel menace. Every year we have squirrels strip our fruit trees of all of our fruit before it has a chance to be harvested. With Spork doing so well in his shooting, it was time to introduce him to hunting. Between Spork, myself, and Alice, we accounted for 4 of the little fluffy tailed rats this weekend, with more to come.

The Princess shooting a 22 rifle
The Princess trying her hand at shooting.

The gun is still just a bit big for the Princess but she stepped up there and took some shots. She was nervous at first but very excited after shooting. I believe we’ll have her back again this fall when the weather is nice. By then the gun should just about fit her.

Father and daughter preparing to process chickens
Dad and The Princess off to process chickens.

This weekend we processed our 25 freedom ranger chickens. We process on farm and despite being able to sell these chickens pretty much anywhere we want with such a high demand, in the end we are simply going to put them in the freezer and eat them ourselves which was the original plan. There is a difference between home raised chickens and store-bought chickens and we have another 50 on the way for another batch. The Princess was everywhere for processing and did every single job on the line.

Catching chickens
The Princess did every job at least once, but this job she did all of the chickens, all by herself.

You never know when catching chickens will be a skill you need to list on your resume.

Killing cone for chickens
Miguel using our new killing cone. Miguel made the cones and they worked perfectly.

A quick bleed and the worst part of the job is over. Nobody likes killing animals but these chickens lived a good life on our farm and never had a bad day till this day. I believe you should know where you food comes from and all chicken ends up on the plate somehow. These chickens went from their home to the cone, with no scary truck ride or meat factory in between.

Whiz bang chicken plucker in use
The chicken plucker in action. This is a home made version of the whiz bang chicken plucker.

Note the blood on the face of The Princess. For a minute that morning she said she didn’t want to be around chicken processing, but then she reverted back to her old blood loving self and was in the middle of the fray. Playing with all the blood is her favorite part, unless you count identifying all the organs, which she is quite good at.

The Princess, killing chickens.
Did I mention she’s quite ok with blood?

She’ll probably grow up to be a vegan, but she’ll know where food comes from and how it gets to the plate.

An overview of the process. Chicken butchering on farm.
An overview of the process.

Concrete floors, bleach for cleaning, and plenty of water to work with. A pretty good setup. We need to switch to food grade water hoses and tweak a few other things but overall the processing setup is working nicely.

Chicken puppet
The Princess’s chicken puppet.

When we couldn’t keep enough work for her to do, she reverted to pulling a whole chicken from the ice bath and plopping it on her hand then proceeding to run around acting out scenes with her “chicken puppet.” It was very cute, and quite twisted which at least for me and Miguel was funny. I’m sure someone would say that she’ll have emotional scars from seeing chickens killed or any of the other things she chooses to do on the farm. Folks, playing with a recently deceased chicken couldn’t be more normal. Scarring comes from having the world hidden from children and then they learn reality when they are adults.

Chicken on the counter, ready to be cooked.
Chicken on the counter, ready to be cooked.

For those of you who were put off by the previous images, this probably looks more familiar. Our chicken, grocery store ready, cut into traditional cuts and ready for SWMBO’s magic act of turning this chicken golden brown and yummy.

Fried chicken, straight off the farm.
Fried chicken, straight off the farm.

This chicken was walking and clucking this morning, now it’s our dinner. Thanks to SWMBO’s efforts in the kitchen we sat down to a healthy and hearty meal. Yes it was as good as it looks.

SWMBO vacuum sealing our chickens, getting them ready for the freezer.
SWMBO vacuum sealing our chickens, getting them ready for the freezer.

And don’t think she’s a one trick pony, just working in the kitchen. Here is SWMBO, still in her workout clothes after having worked out for two hours, bailing us out on the processing line by taking the quality control and packaging station. She saved us because we were getting backed up with not enough hands to do the work. Thanks Honey!

This was just a small part of our weekend. Yesterday evening Spork was excited telling SWMBO about what he and dad were going to do tomorrow. She had to break the news to him that dad had to go to work tomorrow, that he would have to wait for the next weekend to spend the day with dad again. Broke my heart to hear that I was letting him down for today but I guess that means he had a good 4th of July weekend. I know that I did.

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