Chicken Pluckin’

May 5th, 2012

Disclaimer: This post is graphic. It talks about killing and processing animals. Pictures are included. If that offends you or makes you sick, you might want to skip this post. I eat meat and would rather know what I am eating and how it was processed when given the opportunity.

Two happy cluckers
Lots of room to roam.

Our friend Robert's chickens have tons of room to run at Taranchulla Flats

We spent November in southeastern Colorado on our dear friend Robert’s property. From there, we drove up to Pueblo where we met up with some more wonderful friends – Jeremy, Stephanie and their two boys. We joined them at A Wren’s Nest Farm to partake in the CSA’s chicken harvest. We had only met them once before, at a mutual friend’s multi-day birthday party. That was almost three years ago. We had been communicating on facebook ever since. Once we were in there area of Colorado, we knew we had to meet up. The only problem was where? A chicken harvest at their CSA, duh! I can’t think of a better place.

I had recently harvested a chicken who had died due to misadventure. It met its demise during transport to my friend’s property. My friend was going to bury it, because he didn’t feel it was suitable for consumption. After some reading, I mostly agreed. The drive was only 1hr in near freezing temperatures and the bird was kept cold over night. However, the was bird was never bled and sat overnight full of blood. Not something that humans are accustomed to eating. At that point, I believed that it was still suitable for the dogs…. and I wanted to try my hand at harvesting. So after a couple of hours, it was plucked, gutted and butchered. I did it but knew that there had to be a faster way.  Unfortunately, no one on the property had ever owned or processed a chicken before and there were thirty more of them that would eventually need to be. That’s why I was so excited when we got the offer to attend the harvest at A Wren’s Nest Farm.

Processing Chickens involves a few simple but messy steps.

Step One: Raise said chicken. The folks at The Wren’s Nest did an excellent job of that – happy, healthy chickens!

Hen and Chicks at a Wren's Nest Farm


Hen and Chicks at a Wren's Nest Farm - Photographer: Paul Alhadef

Paul Alhadef: Photographer and farmer -Artisic and Quirky Photos- Take a look. You’ll love them!

Step Two: Kill the chickens. Our method of attack required one person to hold the chicken across a stump and the other to lop its head off with an axe. Both of these positions required a plastic apron or old, dark clothes. The axe-person had to swing sure and true. The holder had to control the chicken afterwards so that it wouldn’t break it’s wings during its final death throws and hold it upside down to drain it of blood.

Step Three: Dunk and pluck. If you scald them in hot water (~130F), it makes plucking a whole lot easier.

Chicken Harvest at A Wren's Nest Farm

Stephanie gets as OCD about plucking as I do - Photos by: A Wren's Nest Farm

Step Four: Gut and cut. The bolt cutters worked a lot better than my little ol’ knife. The feet make great ear rings. Gutting isn’t too bad. There is a technique to it that I haven’t quite mastered. I just make sure to get it all out without breaking anything.

Jeremy and Tammy cut'n and gut'n

Tammy and Jeremy really get into their work

Now there’s nothing left to do except cook and enjoy the bird. Jeremy and Stephanie unexpectedly gave up part of their share so that we could have a bird of our own. Too nice of them! We were just happy to hang with them and to be able to partake in the experience. Thanks to them, we were able to enjoy the bounty as well. We don’t have an oven, so even though this beautiful chicken would have been an awesome roast, we ended up boiling it. I didn’t take any pictures of the dumplings that we made with it so a picture of Rain enjoying a raw wing off of it will have to do.

Cooking and eating the chicken we harvested

Cook and enjoy - Rain Likes hers raw

If you are ever passing through Pueblo, CO, you just have to stop in and visit their farm. You may remember me mentioning it on facebook. It’s where I got my wool and learned to spin with a drop spindle. The farm has many farm fresh and homemade products for sale. It is also run by some of the nicest people we have ever met. So stop by and see a beautiful, sustainable farm in an unexpected place.

A Wren's Nest Farm

Dutch Oven

July 21st, 2011

When we down size, probably next year, I would like to have a dutch oven (camp oven). We will probably be cooking outside a lot more than we do now, and I think that one will come in handy. I have never used one before, but I have a definite idea of what I want in one. First, it must have legs so that it can balance under it’s own measure. Next, it should be stainless steel. I would consider a clay pot, but I don’t think they make them nor do I think they will handle the heat for years to come. A recessed lid is important. I want to be able to stack coals on it with ease as I will use it for baking.. a lot! Also, I should be able to lift the lid off with a hook from a distance. Speaking of handles, the side handles must have a metal wire running between them. That wire needs to be able to support the weight a full pot while hovering over a fire for an extended period of time. The side handles should also be large enough that you can use them to carry the pot. I think that’s it. Lol.

Has anyone seen such a beast? I thought I ran across one a couple years back, but I haven’t been unable to locate another.

Broken

March 26th, 2011

Between my laptop being out of order and being super sick, I’ve been out of commission for a bit. I am not sure which one is worse 😉 Probably the laptop. Once again, it’s power cable is giving me trouble. This time I cannot easily fix it. Maybe if I still lived near SkyCraft (gawd, I loved that place!) and had easy access to tubs full of relays and resistors (and anything else imaginable) I could or if I had held on to the old one for parts. Instead, I just ordered an “OEM Replacement“. In all actuality, I could have repaired it on the road… for free. It would have just taken time to diagnose which component had died, searching through the many electronics that people dump in the bushes for a replacement, and soldering it in. For some reason that just doesn’t appeal to me at this moment. I hope it’s just a phase. I fixed the last one three times before it finally gave up the ghost.

Breakfast sandwich on a homemade stovetop bun

Today’s breakfast served on a stove top bun

I am not completely out of ambition (though with this cold/flu/plague I am pretty close). I have started making bread, again. However, since I am without (conventional/solar/dutch/convection) oven, I don’t do it the orthodox way. I bake on the stove. I also use my crock pot. Now that we have solar, making bread in the crock pot is even cheaper.

Well, I had a few other subjects I wanted to touch upon, but I am feeling drained and am going to go back to bed. Maybe next time.

Time Enough At Slab City

January 13th, 2010

Before we hit the road, I had dreams of building and using a solar oven. It’s one of the projects that Johnny was referring to in the last post.  Up until now, it never seemed like the right time to make one. It was either too cold, too much shade, or we we weren’t staying in the area long enough for it to be worth the effort. Now that we are in the desert where it’s 75-80F degrees and always sunny, I am nearly out of excuses. We have also decided to stay for a while, so now I am completely out of excuses. However, being the ever resourceful person that I am, I found a new one…. Continue Reading »

Who says eating cheap is eating crap?

December 6th, 2009

One of the biggest adjustments for me to make when we started this trip was cooking at home versus eating out every day. Jenn has risen to the occasion and made some wonderful meals, but I still had a craving for Thai food, which I used to eat several times a week. Thanks to Tony and Caro up in the Seattle Bay area, I have finally learned to make a passable curry! I’ve been making it off and on since before we headed to Alaska; and for the most part, I think I’ve got it down pat.

The first thing to do, is go to an Asian food store and pickup red curry paste. Yes, I know you can occasionally find curry paste in your chain supermarkets, but you can actually get a large enough container to make several dozen meals for the same price as the tiny one meal container you might find in a chain supermarket.  In fact, the last curry paste I bought was in the neighborhood of $6 for a 35 ounce container. I don’t recall off the top of my head what the tiny containers you might find in supermarkets are, but I’d guess they’re under 2 ounces for a similar price. We hit an absolute dearth of Asian food stores in Alaska and thankfully couldn’t find the tiny containers either or I’m not sure I’d be able to live with myself.

Okay, that’s the big secret. I don’t have an actual curry paste recipe as that’s way more advanced than I want to be in the kitchen. Once you’ve got the obscure shopping out of the way, it’s one of the easiest meals you can make and still look fancy. As long as you’re in the Asian food store anyway, you might as well grab some coconut milk and whatever you like in your stir fry. Often the prices there are better than chain supermarkets anyway.

You can make stir fry, right? If so, curry is a breeze. Just make stir fry anyway you like it (but without soy or teriyaki sauce!). Depending on what we have on hand, I will use chicken or pork, broccoli, carrots, green pepper, onion, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, baby corn and bean sprouts. I recommend adding things like baby corn, mushrooms, bean sprouts and bamboo shoots last in order to keep from overcooking them. Once you’re done with the stir fry, set it aside and start on the curry sauce.

My personal method is to add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the pan over low heat and squirt out some curry paste into the oil. How much is up to you. I tend to like it fairly spicy so add perhaps 2-3 teaspoons. Next, add in coconut milk. Anywhere from half a can to a whole can for two people will work – depending on how hungry you are and how ‘soupy’ you like your curry. Getting the right amount of curry paste and coconut milk may take a little trial and error, but you can always add more paste if it’s not spicy enough and more coconut milk if it’s too spicy.

The next bits are optional, but I’ll just tell you the way I do things. If you want a more panang style curry, you can stop right here.  For a sweeter curry, add about a tablespoon of sugar and stir it in. For an even more diverse mix of flavors, I usually add some small pineapple chunks along with pineapple juice. Depending on what you’ve added to your stir fry, you may or may not need to add a little salt. Bean sprouts definitely negate the need for extra salt. Just let this simmer and cook to your own taste. Remember that the flavor will be a bit diluted by your stir fry and rice.

Once you’re happy with the curry sauce, toss your stir fry in and let it simmer for a few minutes. That’s pretty much all there is to it. Serve over rice. We just use white rice, but get as fancy as you want.

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