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From the Beginning

June 25th, 2013

When we got our Muscovy ducklings last fall, we knew they’d eventually become food for our table. Some people have a hard time understanding how we can possibly slaughter an animal that we raised, particularly when they’re so cute as babies.
ducklings 3
Being meat eaters, we want to make sure that the meat we’re eating was raised with respect. Nowadays, it’s not difficult to find local farmers that raise their animals in the best conditions possible. Even with that, we’d rather do it ourselves if we can. By taking part in each step of the process I know exactly how that animal was treated and what it was fed.
duck
When you first see sweet little ducklings, it can be hard to imagine that they’ll ever grace your table. But, as with most animals, the males start to grow up and nature takes over. They become aggressive towards each other and often towards you. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought to cull our male ducks, they were beating up on each other and occasionally trying to attack us.
ducks 2
We kept one gray male and the one remaining female (two of our females were lost to fox predation). The lady duck is currently sitting on a nest of eggs, we’re hoping she’ll hatch out a nice clutch of ducklings in early July.
ducks in kiddie pool
For the same reason I like to grow my own vegetables, I am raising my own meat. There’s just something about being involved from the beginning with what appears on your plate. When these ducks were small they were fed potatoes grown in my garden with greens harvested from the lawn. They lived happy lives splashing in a kiddie pool outside my kitchen window.   When the time came, they were slaughtered right here on the premises, no stressful travel to a processing facility. We wanted to take part in every part of the process to ensure it was done in a respectful way.
braised duck
duck breast prosciutto
After slaughter, they were seared, braised and salted & cured. I must say, they were delicious.  It’s certainly easier to let someone else handle the raising and slaughter of your animals, but I’m not one to go for ease and convenience.
ducks 3
Another reason to raise your own animals is because there are other benefits.  These ducks mowed the lawn and controlled insects while they were foraging. They also produced quality fertilizer for my garden in the process.   I also like knowing that 100% of the animal was used, their feathers were added to the compost pile, their bones were made into a nourishing stock for us and then converted to bone char to improve the soil in our garden.  Raising my own animals allows me to tighten the circle of my garden and it allows me to be 100% certain that everything that goes into my food was produced in the best way possible.
ducklings
With lady duck sitting on a nest of eggs, the process will hopefully start all over again soon. We’re definitely looking forward to braised duck this coming winter! Even though raising animals from the beginning is more work than picking them up at the grocery store or the farmers market, they truly are a blessing to have around. These duckies provided us with lots of laughs along the way. I’m certainly glad we decided to keep ducks and there will always be a place for a small flock in the gardens of Chiot’s Run!

Have you ever raised an animal that ended up on your table?

Friday Favorite: These Piggies

June 7th, 2013

I must say, we’ve only had these piggies for a month and they’ve quickly become our favorite livestock.  They’re very personable and happen to be wonderful garden companions.  Since they’re fenced in back by the main garden, they come out and root and oink while I’m back there working.  They even come running when they see me (probably because I often have a treat in hand).
pak choi piggies 1
The most beneficial part of these little porkers is that they’re fabulous garbage disposals.  We had a heat wave at the end of may, temperature were up around 90 for a few days.  As a result, my pak choi bolted.
pak choi piggies 2
What used to be a sad thing in the garden is now almost a cause for celebration as I know the pigs will happily munch it down and turn it into delicious bacon and ham.  Early next week all the early spring spinach will be ripped out and fed to the pigs to make way for peppers and tomatoes.
pak choi piggies 3
We’ll definitely have pigs at Chiot’s Run from here on out. I’m already researching the kinds we want to try next. We want Guinea hogs for sure and I’d love to try Tamworth pigs as well. Next week we’ll be moving them into a wooded area to see how they do in that type of setting, should be interesting for sure!

Have you lost any vegetables because of the weather?

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Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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