Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Semantics and Stupid People

Fair warning: if you are easily offended, proto-vegetarian, or reading this to your children, then go read a different post.  This one is probably going to upset you and make you want to write stupid things in my comment box. There are also no photos this post. More next time. 

Okay, so if you're still with me, then off we go! This week was my week off from work. I won't call it a vacation, because I think of vacations as trips to the beach, reading a dozen books, lounging around doing nothing. That isn't my life these days. I spend this week trying to catch up on farm chores, and the one I look forward to the least was what I refer to as "D-Day for the birds". This time it was the ducks turn to become food for people.

So this is my blog today: the problem of language to describe what we do. What do we call this thing we do when we raise our animals and then turn them into food for our table? I have run across a lot of words for it lately: harvest, process, butcher, slaughter, kill. I'm sure there are more, but those are the more recent finds.  My question has more to do with cultural/social semantics than actual descriptive use.  All those words mean the same thing: to turn a live animal into food.  Yes, 'process' and 'harvest' are nicer ways to say it than 'butcher' or slaughter' or even 'kill'.  I usually say 'process', because I think 'harvest' is a bit too precious. Yes, there is a history in the OED for use of the word in referencing animal harvest, but still, it just sounds like I am actively avoiding the truth or something.  The odd thing is, that when I say, "I'm going to process the ducks tomorrow", what I hear in my head is, "I'm going to butcher and dress the ducks tomorrow".  But I say 'process' because it sounds nicer for my listener/reader to hear.  NOT because I'm trying to make the deed nice, but because I have seen the look of horror on people's faces when I say "butcher". I do enjoy a lively debate about the question of "should we all be vegetarians?" (No), but I refuse to be engaged by idiots raving about the End Time because I eat meat and it is cruel to the animals to eat them.

Actually, the animals survival as a species is connected to our use of them (be it eating, showing, working, whatever), so my eating one of my ducks keeps that particular breed alive because I'll need to breed more next year, and maybe my neighbor will want one, so I give him two to breed, etc., etc.  There is no cruelty inherent in eating animals, it is what we have done for thousands of years. The cruelty comes from how we treat the animals while we raise them and in how we butcher them.  If I eat a hamburger from Fast Food Joint A, then yes, I am eating meat that is cruel. There's no getting around that, kids.  Feed lot cows live in filth they can't escape and eat food that will kill them by the time they reach ten months of age, so it's lucky we slaughter them at seven months.  Similarly, if I go to Grocery Store B and get a "On Sale today pork tenderloin $2.99 per pound" I can promise you that hog did not roam freely on pasture and roll in nice, clean mud, but lived in highly stressful feed lot conditions and fed some soy-packed feed that smells like shit.  But we must have our cheap food, mustn't we?  If I had to eat that crap I'd be a vegetarian, too.

I eat meat. I didn't used to eat meat. I was a vegetarian for 20 years and I ate lots of processed junk that was sold as "Health Food".  It worked for me for 15 years, then it stopped working and I got very sick and gained a lot of weight and got even sicker.  After five more years of being ill I tried eating meat again, and I started to feel better and eventually lost some weight. I did make a conscious choice to only eat meat raised by people with a soul, rather than feed lot animals. This meant I had to do some homework on farmers, and some running around all over Georgia to find meat raised and processed humanely.  I also like to think I was a non-blame vegetarian, although my tag line was always, "If more people had to kill what they ate, there would be a lot more vegetarians in the world".  I still believe that. I wish more people would get more involved in the raising of their own food, rather than swinging by McDonald's or Burger King for the Dollar Menu.   The animals deserve better than a cheap dollar burger (of which the farmer might make ten cents, by the way).

A local farmer keeps his customers updated on the farm doings by posting on facebook. He recently let everyone know about how their day started: "4:00 am & pulling out for drive to USDA processor. Taking 4 beautiful grass fed cows."

They are leaving at 4:00 am because the closest place to get your meat processed at a USDA facility is four hours from the metro-Atlanta area, in South Carolina.  Now THAT should be what gets people angry. Why don't we have more USDA processors so we don't have to drive our animals to their deaths in another state? Well, that is another blog post. What got me ready to rumble was this reply-post by someone, I assume one of their customers, but I don't know. She takes issue with their Twitter-like post, above: 

"shouldn't we call it what it is, though....not "process" but "slaughter"? i like how you honor the animals by saying they were it hard on them to be transported to usda you stay with them as they go through the slaughterhouse to keep them as calm as possible? i know of a farm here that does a co-op, so she doesn't have to load them on a truck, send them to the slaughterhouse. they go up to them in the field with molasses treats, talk to them kindly and then use the bolt gun to quickly kill them. would that be something you could incorporate? just wondering...keep up the humane things you do and thanks ahead for sharing!"

This kind of thing just pisses me off!  Really? THAT is your post to these farmers who clearly care about their animals and aren't an industrial feed lot killing hundreds of animals an hour??!!  I don't know this person, but it seems painfully clear to me she has never raised animals to be butchered, never butchered them herself.  Should she have to butcher them herself? No, but she also can't lecture about what she doesn't know or understand, either.  In order to be able to sell his meat to customers, the Farmer has to take his cows to a USDA facility.  They don't allow tourists in those places. You drop off your animal and come back later to retrieve the meat.  That is the deal.  Most of us would rather have a mobile unit( comes to the farm and we then could walk the animal up to the line and let the butchers take care of her, but in the current model we can't do that.  People drive me crazy sometimes. 

Poultry, and for some reason rabbits, are allowed to be butchered on-farm in Georgia.  There are rules and regulations of course, but being able to process our own birds makes it less stressful on them.  It isn't easy killing animals for food. I would rather not do it, but I also don't want to hand it over to someone who cared less about the welfare of the animals than I do.  It isn't easy, and it never should be easy, but I do it and I am grateful for the animals.  I like to think the good life they have of roaming the pasture and woods of our farm makes up for processing day for them.  In the wild most animals are lucky to survive a year and raise young before being killed by a predator.  Well, I guess I'm the predator in this world.  

I know I said no pictures, but I feel like I have to have something.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Morning Routine

For the past few months, ever since a fox and/or bobcat have been lurking around the neighborhood killing chickens and turkeys, we have been very religious about closing in all our animals at night.  This means, of course, that we don't go to movies, dinner or friends' houses without a plan on getting home before full dusk  hits.  The birds are pretty much blind in the dark, so if we don't get them in their houses before we can still see our hands in front of our faces, then they will panic when we try to herd them around. So we go out to the pasture around 8:45-9:00pm.  This can get wearisome to those of us who made theatre their career and sometimes have to be out before and after dark.  But, we do what we must to keep our birds safe. 

Each morning Barry goes to let everyone out any time between 7:30 and 9:00 am (we don't let them out earlier because we try to avoid prime dawn hawk-time).  As each group of birds is freed from their nightly confinement, they cavort around the field and zero in on Barry, now ready to feed and water them for breakfast.  This morning I went out with him to get pictures of the event. Someday I want to videotape it, but until then I hope the photos help give you the same feeling of controlled, excited chaos that I see every morning.

All quiet on the field...
Everyone is waiting, making all sorts of honks, quacks and cackles...
The little turkeys first (the goat likes to "help")...
The chickens are on the move...

The ducks are out!
The geese and big turkeys are out, too. Everyone wants breakfast...
The turkeys jump up to get the food before he can spread it...
Mass chaos!
Even the llamas hope for a treat.

We just try to stay out of the way.
Our Swedish ducks. They were babies only last month.
Yes, the llamas do get a treat. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

More Chickens

Last year we started with 25 Silver Laced Wyandottes as our egg-laying stock.  This year I hatched about 20 green egg layers from our older girls, and a few Wyandottes. I would have hatched more Wyandottes, but our rooster met his sad end defending the hens from a predator.  Luckily (I guess) two of the four Wyandotte eggs two are roosters. Hopefully we'll get another good Silver-laced boy so I can hatch some more good hens. These girls are good, steady layers throughout the year, and they are pretty, too.

We also like the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes, so I recently bought a few chicks from a neighbor. I also got several Black Copper Marans. They are the very dark brown egg laying chickens.  There is not difference in nutrition or taste, but they look so cool!

Maran chicks look a little bit like penguins. Fully Grown they look like normal chickens.
I also got a few Mottled Javas. I couldn't resist. 

The Blue Laced Red Wyandottes are very rare, and I was lucky to get a couple.

Our hens are laying well, even in this intense summer heat.  My hope is to add 25 new laying hens every year so we can keep up with production.  Then, rather than bringing in special "broiler chickens" to raise (that is what you get from the supermarket when you buy a chicken), we will specialize in older hens for stewing and slow cooking and capons (roosters whose testicles are removed at a young age so they grow fat and tasty with a normal life).  I just can not buy into the industrial model of meat raising, even on a small level.  It is too stressful for the birds and for us.  We are determined to do this our way, even if it means we won't make a living at it. Well, at least I enjoy my job...most of the time.

See you on the farm!

Goats and Goings On

This is our newest addition to the farm: Baby the Boer goat. We are hoping for a good eater of brush and privet, and maybe someday we'll breed her and have baby goats. While Boers are not the best milkers, for their short milking period they give some very high-fat milk, which is great for making cheese.
We have been very busy on the farm raising our own heritage turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens. The incubators have been going non-stop since February, and deserve a break soon. Our last batch of turkeys are hatching as I write this, so once they are into the brooder the incubators will get put away for a few months.

We are excited to announce that we are undergoing "Certified Naturally Grown" grower certification. This means that we are growing and caring for our animals in a way that is even better than USDA organic because there are other area farmers who 'keep us honest'--not that we don't do that for ourselves, but I think it is a much better way than what the term "USDA Organic" actually means, which is very little. Please check out their website for more information, We hope to be inspected in the next few weeks and then our certification will be official!
We are very happy to again offer Heritage Blue Slate Turkeys for Thanksgiving. These birds will range anywhere from 7-18 pounds when they are processed.
For Christmas we will have something new for the American consumer: Goose! Some of you may have tried goose before, but for most of us it is a new treat. For centuries goose has been THE Christmas meal in Great Britain. Goose is what Ebenezer Scrooge sent the young boy to buy on Christmas Day! Goose is darker meat, fattier and juicer, and the goose fat left over from cooking is amazing for cooking potatoes in, I can tell you! Our Embden and African Geese range from about 10-14 pounds, and they subsist mainly on pasture grass with some organic feed supplement as they choose.

Thank you so much for supporting our farm. We are small, but dedicated to producing the best tasting, healthiest food around. If you have friends who might be interested in gathering their food from a high-quality, local supplier like us, feel free to send our email to them and invite them to join our Facebook page, just search for "Treffynnon Farm".

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


New additions to the farm as of May: three llamas! We got them for predator control (mostly foxes and maybe a bobcat) and fun. So far they aren't all that fun. Grown llamas don't make friends easily. Oh, well, they do make the farm look very 'picturesque'.

This is Kan-do,


and Bailey. Bailey has suri-type hair and he is the nicest of the three. I still can't get Hoopla to come near me, but Barry can get him to take treats. They don't spit at us, but do spit at each other a lot, especially when we try to give treats.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Boom Pole Comes to the Farm

Barry was given a new-old toy for his tractor today, a pole boom. Apparently with this thing he will now solve all the problems of the world (or at least on the farm) and get so much more work done that he can't even speak he's so overwhelmed. I don't know, it looks like a big, metal pole, but it makes him happy and I got a new work table out of the deal.
Our kindly neighbor, Carl, gave us the boom pole, and kindly dropped by to supervise. Barry decided the first thing to do would be to shift a lot of huge rounds of sweet gum tree he had gotten from a friend who's tree had fallen on his house (all fine). These pieces of wood are really huge! Two or three people can sit on one at a time, or you could use a couple as a good sized table.

The chickens quite enjoyed the snacks Barry kept unearthing in his moving of these huge wood pieces. They were in and around the tractor the whole time he was doing the shifting. They are pretty savvy at keeping out of the way, but every so often I think one might be about to get run over, but no, she's gone another direction and is safe. Silly birds.

By the end of the day Barry had moved about 15 of these big rounds into his own little version of Stonehenge, or Woodhenge, as I call it. Perhaps the Druids will show up to have a parade some day soon. This is also the place we'll be planting two dogwood trees, a pink and a white, in memory of his parents, his mum having passed away last week. I think the dogwoods will look lovely surrounded by the friendly seats...or we could use them as tiny stages, or...we'll think of something.

Oh, and I got two big rounds, one by the barn and one by the house, for my own use as worktables. I love not having to bend over to use the little log I had before. So the boom pole gets an A+ with me, even if I wouldn't have known what it was before today.

See you on the farm!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Chucks Grow Up

As with all things, time passes, we grow older and wiser, and if you are young enough, you get bigger (or old enough, too). Same with our animals. Remember these guys? Aren't they adorable?

The Chucks (chickens and ducks) arrived six and a half weeks ago. We raised them in plastic bins in the bathroom. Then they went outside into the bigger brooder house.

Today both got to roam around outside in their new outside runs (they must be kept under wire for awhile longer or they are just hawk-bait).

My how they have grown! Most of the ducks are almost a foot tall and weigh a couple of pounds. The chickens are heavier than they look, and their feathers are finally coming in.

The ducks are more afraid of us humans than the chickens, probably because the chickens are two-legged piranhas and will eat us if we don't feed them NOW! whereas the ducks are more laid back about food, but love playing in the water.

The ducks are still on the adorable side, but the chickens have become more interesting as future food. We will be keeping some of the female ducks for egg laying, but since they all look alike we'll have to get up close and personal to figure out which is which.

The fun never ends on the farm!

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Perfect Food

Eggs. This is a post about eggs. I am obsessed, just a little, with eggs. I love cooking them, eating them, hatching them, but mostly eating them. I also like to learn how people around the world use eggs, in cooking and other things. I didn't know, for example, that goose eggs are prized for craft projects and creating amazing art eggs.I also love to learn about how other cultures perceive their food industry. Here in the U.S. we have a huge "Egg Board" which tells us how to store/cook/use eggs, since we apparently have lost all knowledge of the things. However, in other countries (where cleanliness of food supply seems to be a non-issue), the eggs are graded by size and packaged and that is about it. In Barcelona's Boqueria Market, the eggs at one stall are out for all to see (though not to touch!)

In Great Britain, eggs are out on the shelves in half dozen boxes mostly (I guess they go to market more often then do we?), and each egg has a little stamp like "organic" or "natural" or "British", something like that.

What I notice is that we Americans are totally and completely OBSESSED with egg refrigeration and egg shell cleanliness. We think that if the egg has been out of the 'fridge for more than ten minutes, it will instantly 'go bad' and kill us. The rest of the world, however, has a bit of common sense, and most don't refrigerate their eggs. I don't refrigerate my eggs, but I do keep them in a cool spot. Granted, they use them faster than we do, and they usually buy them at a small market, not a Mega-lo-mart. The average American egg in the store is about two weeks old, did you know that? When you think about all the washing and grading and sorting and shipping they have to do with 10,000 eggs a day, you can see that they might not be fresh from the chicken that day. Your farm-fresh, unwashed eggs will keep just fine on your refrigerator shelf for at least 8 weeks, probably longer (I am not a USDA rep, nor do I play on on TV, just saying).

Also, I am surprised that many people wash their eggs before they use them. Why? Are they covered in chicken poop or encrusted with something nasty? I don't understand the need to wash something that I don't even let touch my food. I crack the egg, part the shell and let the inside fall into a bowl. I also crack each egg into a small bowl before adding it to my recipe. That is common sense I learned from my mother. Eggs are a natural product, so you might run into one that has gone bad or has a blood spot or something. You break each egg into the little bowl first so the one bad egg doesn't ruin the batch. Get it? "One bad egg..."?

The only time I wash my eggs is if they do have dirt or poop on them (chickens and ducks will get muddy) and only right before I use them. Eggs have a natural coating on them from the hen, called 'the bloom' that protects and seals them from outside dirt and keeps them fresh for weeks. Washing the eggs can actually force dirt particles into the egg and cause bad bacteria to form, so if you wash, do so gently. The Big Egg Industry washes all their lovely white and brown eggs because they know Consumers don't like dirty things (then they coat them with food-grade mineral oil to replace the natural "bloom" from the chicken). They taught us that "Dirt is Bad!", but really dirt isn't 'bad', but the stuff that gets into the dirt can be bad for us. Eating a bit of dirt once in awhile is good for the immune system. It's eating poop and dead growing bacteria that is bad for us. You won't find any of that in our eggs because our chickens and ducks run around and forage, which builds their immune systems, and they aren't under stress when they lay eggs, so the eggs are pristine on the inside and out, until someone poops near it or steps on it or it rolls into the mud. But the amazing thing is that the perfect egg with its natural bloom protecting it is still totally pristine inside! That is so the future chick has a better chance of surviving. Battery/caged/confined hens are under great stress, so sometimes their egg laying channel gets clogged with poop, which can get pulled up into the egg stream and get inside the egg before it is laid. Yuck!

We use clean, recycled egg cartons when we sell our eggs. Last month I got two cartons that had "Disney Eggs" on them. I was stunned! When did Disney start into the egg business? Where are their farms? Are the eggs pastel colors like Americaunas lay?

After a closer inspection, it seems that Disney is shilling for Eggland's Best Eggs. I guess more moms will buy eggs if they have your Disney "Pals" stamped onto the egg. I have no idea what these sell for, but I'm sure they are expensive, and not much different than all the other eggs. Sheesh.

Probably more later on eggs...

More snow pictures

We had our 'blizzard' on Friday, and it was totally gone by Monday. That is the kind of snowfall I can live with, even if it did create a lot of havoc around this southern city. Here are a few more photos from around the farm, just because.