I have people ask me all the time "how can you eat or butcher an animal that you have taken care of? Don't you get attached?" Seven months ago, I said no, I don't get attached. That's because up until that point, I only raised poultry for meat. And chickens, well, they're chickens. Sure, I felt something while I was killing, plucking, and gutting them. And every single bird that I killed, I thanked for its sacrifice. I don't appreciate them any less, I just never got attached.
I hauled my pigs away to the slaughterhouse this morning after caring for them day in and day out for the past seven months and raising them from thirty to three hundred pounds. I can't help but reflect on the whole experience that has taken a toll on me emotionally in a way I didn't expect.
When we first got Karen and Alan last summer, the intention was to use them to clear our land. Milking goats was nowhere near being on, or even in the vicinity of my radar. But, it didn't take me long after getting them to jump on the goat milk train and decide that I wanted to expand my herd and start breeding for milk. For the past year we have kept them in a dog house with a door we could close them in. This set up is not suited for kidding or raising kids, and although we knew it was temporary anyway, the plans for breeding pushed us to get moving on a permanent solution.
There is an existing concrete slab on our property, adjacent to the one side of the goat's perimeter fence. This is where some sort of barn used to stand, and the slab is roughly 11x50 feet. Due to financial and spacial constraints, we decided on a 11' by 16' structure. Because this is going to exclusively be for small dairy goats (and Annie of course), this is a good size to grow into and if designed right, can provide more than enough space for the amount of goats we need.
Earlier this summer we welcomed a new addition to our farm family, a Maremma Sheepdog also known as a Livestock Guardian Dog. Not to be confused with herding dogs, LGD's live with their stock full time to protect and guard them, not herd them. Our house and property is surrounded by over 600 acres of protected conservation land, filled with natural predators. We didn't have issues with predation before, but when my companion dog Copper passed, the fox, coyotes, and raccoons started creeping in. We keep small Nigerian Dwarf goats which are vulnerable to predators such as bobcats and coyotes, with recent attacks happening in neighboring towns. This led to me reaching out to rescue leagues for a couple different LGD breeds including The Great Pyrenees, Maremma Sheepdog, and Anatolian Shepherd. I found a Maremma close by, who was a working 2 year old LGD but needed to be re-homed. I went to pick her up in Maine and she has been settling in fantastically since. Annie takes her job very seriously, and there has been a learning curve on both ends during the past few months. She is truly unique, and unlike any dog I have ever owned or known. As she has settled in and gotten more comfortable and established our home as hers, she has displayed some interesting traits that seem to be right in line with typical LGD behavior.
We certainly eat veggies fresh, but I am an avid canner and preserver, so I plant a surplus and in some cases, multiple rounds of quicker growing veggies to maximize yield. I am stocking up on canning jars, and beginning to plan what I am going to can this year. This year has been a banger year for the garden, I often look at it in awe at how fruitful and healthy it is. I tried several new (to me) veggies, and none have disappointed! Here's what's growin'...
Well, the time has finally come to process our first round of meat chickens. The timing couldn't be more perfect seeing as how we just ate our last scrap of chicken out of the freezer last week for dinner. This year certainly overall was very different than last year's experience in terms of growth and overall behavior. This year I also tracked all costs and weights down to the penny to allow me to get a better grasp on how much I am paying in the end per pound. It was a successful season, and as I expected, I am beyond pleased with the quantity and quality of the birds. We will process the second round in two-three weeks but we are looking at an overly stuffed freezer full of pastured raise poultry to get us through the next year.
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