Saturday, August 7, 2010

Favorite Part

Ah. I DO love my little life carved out here...

I almost named today's post, "Off With Their Heads!" but out of respect for a sweet, almost eight year old friend, I resisted.
Beans, Nugget, and I got an impromptu invitation to observe a chicken butchering at a friend's house today. Considering that we will be butchering our own birds in a matter of weeks and we are novices at this, I decided this was a good opportunity to learn something.
It was homeschool for grown-ups.
With Nugget in the baby backpack and Beans in my arms, we gave the two ill-fated birds their final petting. Our friends showed us a few tricks to get the birds to be calm, a hachet delivered a swift blow, and without a squawk, the hardest part was over. The birds were hung To bleed out while preparations to dress the birds were made. The kids found that gross fascination with parts like the decapitated heads and removed wings and feet that all curious youngsters have. Homeschooled kids (in my personal opinion) have an even deeper fascination. Mere moments passed before all the kids (except Nugget) were asking great questions about why the body continued to move, or what chicken brains looked like. (Nugget continued happily clucking at the chicken remains.) Even Beans had some good questions, for a two year old. "Why did we do that?" and "Does the chicken feel better without his head?"
In attendance were three adults, one teenager, and youngsters aged 1, 2, 6, and 8.
Yes. I let my kids observe.
Nugget cared not. In fact, she merely squawked happily at the other chickens roaming the yard. Beans was curious but not disturbed. We have talked many times since buying our own chicks about how chickens provide meat and eggs. Once the excitement was over, she toddled off to play with more exciting things. Her interest peaked again after the "Women's work" (cleaning the chickens and preparing them for freezing and cooking) was done; when the birds looked more like dinner than livestock. Then she decided she was hungry.

I got some good experience and anatomy/dissection lessons. I don't feel nearly as intimidated about our upcoming butchering day as I did before. And I even think I could infidently handle the dispatching of birds... a job I had definitely ensured my husband would handle before we started the chicken venture.
The job was easy and fun as we visited with our friends. I love the interplay of homeschool families working on a task together. It makes me sad that formal education takes all the FUN out of learning. I gleaned as much information from my friends' children as I did from my friends. When the older kids tired of the lesson, they joyfully (and without being asked!) took Little Nugget to play so I could enjoy the rest of my learning experience.
It was a modern day "Little House on the Prairie" day. I loved it.

And my kids? (Before someone gets their knickers in a knot about me exposing my kids to the facts of food production)
I'm thinking they survived the exposure. When I tucked Beans into bed, I had our usual conversation:

Me: "Did you have a good day? What was your favorite part?"
Beans: "Um, yeah. Mine favorite part was getting that chicken
and chopping off his brains and then maybe we are gonna eat him right up!"

I think I definitely have a farm girl in the family.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails

Friday, August 6, 2010

When Life (or your husband) Felts Your Wool Hat...

You should quit complaining about it and make yourself a really cute little purse.

J washed (and dried) a wool hat I made for him. Personally, I am suspicious that it may have been on purpous, but we'll let it stand as "an accident". No problem. I made him another hat (didn't think I would let him off THAT easy, did ya?) and after sulking over the ruined hat for a while, decided I could so do something cute with it. Someone in my family is getting an adorable little bag for the holidays. Stay on the "nice" list- it's really a cute bag!

Anyhoo... The moral lesson is really this: stop whining. NOTHING is "The End of the World" except for, well... The End of the World.
Alaska, farming, and toddlers are teaching me that.

The garden is looking pathetic. A lack of nutrients and a lack of water are the primary culprits. (The goats did not help.) as the days get cooler and begin to show signs of being shorter, I find myself excited for and wistfully longing for fall. I am ready to harvest what precious few things my lack of skill and dilligence in the garden will yield to me, and till it under. Better luck next year (and maybe a little more perseverence by me).
The chickens are also on borrowed time. Oh, don't mistake my statement for frustration! I am, afterall, the "Crazy Cat Lady" of chickens. I adore those critters and will miss some of their clucks when harvest time comes. But...

As Alaska summers wind down into Autumn, a funny thing happens. Residents can sense winter coming. Spring and early summer are exciting, playful times. Fishing trips abound and we add our campers to the parks and roads just like the tourists we complain about. We forget the summer is (so) temporary- for just a little while.
Late summer hits, hunting season draws near, the salmon begin to run, and suddenly every Alaskan Resident has a serious case of "The End Is Near"-itis. The panic sets in. There are leaky windows to repair, firewood to gather, outdoor projects to finish (or, ahem, start). And the thought of spending a precious weekend repairing windows just does not compare to spending a weekend on Fielding Lake, roasting marshmallows and eating fresh caught lake trout.
J and I find ourselves in the midst of prioritizing projects. What HAS to be done vs. what SHOULD be done vs. what's gonna get done because I'm totally going camping.

The days are visibly shorter now. The house is actually dark at night. Morning still comes early, but you can tell that there was an official sunset the night before and a sunrise in the morning. I'll bet we still have more daytime than most places for now, but not for much longer.
In the evenings when I lock the chickens up for the night, I catch myself gazing at the sky and wondering when I'll get a glimpse of the moon again. I also know that the best time for Northern Lights is coming soon (usually September-ish), and I find myself wishing the night sky was dark enough for them to make a noticeable August appearance.
I am aware that this is where I digress from the main population here- but goodness! I do love the winter.

Meanwhile, the chickens could stand to get a little heavier before heading to the freezer. I'll be getting aggressive about fattening them up over the next few weeks, though no chicken will be sentenced to the choppig block until our pullets start laying AND my sweetheart has gotten his hunting done.

other thoughts:
- I am halfway done with a pair of hand knitted socks. J has alreay laid claim to this pair. They are nice enough that I contemplated "accidentally" making them too small... Like maybe my size. Lucky for J I lost track of rows and they definitely fit him now.

- Have had lots on my mind including a good book called "Created to be His Help Meet". Seriously, gals should read this book.

-Upcoming year's homeschool "plan" in the works. Beans has been asking for her school stuff every day for the last week. Little Nugget has been chiming in- "School! School! School!"
Ahhh- I LOVE homeschooling! While everyone else's kids are crying about only having so many days left of summer break, my girls are begging me to leave the great outdoors and come up with some school projects.

- "Met" (Internet) a new friend (I think she's gonna be, anyway) this week. I love stumbling upon kindred spirits- it helps me feel way less weird than I really am! (snort!)

Enough banter for one evening. Babies are dozing off. That means it's time to lock up some birds and indulge myself in a cup of tea, some dairy free chocolate (I agree- real chocolate is WAY better but I really have no choice until I cease being a dairy cow for Nugget), and work on the other half of my pair of socks.

Until Next Time,
Happy Moose Trails