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Earning Their Keep

January 14th, 2014

We’ve had a bit of a warmup here in Maine, it’s been in the 40’s the last couple days. I’m not complaining as the inch of ice finally is almost melted off the driveway. I’m not so happy to see the snow melt, it’s provides valuable protection for the garden during the winter. With this warm weather, the risk of predators also goes up. Thankfully, Tara is very aware of this as well.
Tara sniffing
She’s been patrolling the perimeters and is more alert than usual during the day. Yesterday she spent a lot of time standing on top of the tallest snowbank sniffing the air. Dexter has also been spending the days outside, hunting along the rocks walls in the gardens, rustling up his own meals of tasty little rodents.
Hard working animals 1
The Sweets, our garage cat, is also working hard, though she’s nocturnal so I don’t see her very often. I have spotted her up under the chickens several times late at night when I take Tara out. Thankfully she’s keeping the mice out of the coop and away from all of our outbuildings. Working animals are very valuable when you have a place like ours. It’s great when you can use an animals natural instinct to help you out! They certainly make our lives much easier and do a great job with their appointed tasks.

Do you have any working animals, or have you been around working animals?

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.
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.
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?

The Sun

March 21st, 2013

Mr Chiots always jokes that I’m like to sun and it’s probably not for the reason you’d expect. You see, here at Chiot’s Run, everything revolves around me. Why? Because I fill the food bowls.
The Sun 3
The Sun 6
When I’m in the house, I have 2 cats and a dog that are always close by waiting for a hand out. When I’m outside, there are cats, dogs, ducks and chickens that follow me around. It’s especially evident when it’s nice outside and everyone is out and about.
The Sun 1
The Sun 5
The Sun 2
Whenever I head outside, animals come out of the woodwork hoping for a snack of some kind. It’s rather amusing actually, though it can be annoying at times. When I head up to the coop to check for eggs, I really don’t need all 13 chickens to follow me up there. When I want to move from the kitchen to the office, I don’t need to be tripping over cats and dogs.
The Sun 4
It’s funny how that is, the person providing the food somehow becomes the center of those around them. Others rely on us for nourishment. That’s not a bad place to be, except sometimes I feel like they’re sneaking up on me plotting their attack. Mr Chiots and I joke that someday, when I forget to feed the animals, he’ll find me all tied up like Gulliver!

Are you the primary food provider in your household? Do you find animals/people following you around?

Reading & Watching

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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.