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

Growing Up Is No Fun

February 28th, 2011

Poor little Rain Dog. The last twelve days haven’t been much fun at all. Just when the slabber dogs were starting to warm up to her and realize that playing all of the time isn’t so bad, this has to happen and she gets put on lock down. On the plus side, she has been getting longer and more frequent walks. And, she still gets to run with Blue since he hasn’t quite figured out that he’s a boy and she’s girl. It’s about half way over, baby girl. Then you wont have to sport anymore of my homemade diapers ever again.

Growing up is hard
Poor Rain

Tinfoil hat (for EVDO)

July 28th, 2010

The things you’ll do when you’re sitting around the house…

The other day I built a parabolic reflector out of cardboard and some foil tape I had lying about. I was researching various homemade antenna designs I want to tinker with and stumbled on one that I actually had all the parts for on hand. As we are so close to the edge of EVDO reception here that moving down the hill a few feet would kill the signal, it seemed like it would be worth a shot. After all, it cost maybe fifty cents for the foil tape I used and the cardboard was free.

Parabolic EVDO Antenna.

Now, this is hardly a good mobile solution as it’s fairly directional, but after spending twenty minutes or so on the roof pointing the reflector and testing bandwidth, I got pretty good results. The SNR increase doesn’t even register on the cradlepoint’s web interface, which is fairly lackluster, so I had to result to ping flooding our upstream router to detect a better signal. No, I didn’t DoS it, I kept the packet count to 100 at a time while aligning and 1000 packets for bandwidth testing.

I didn’t record all the numbers, but to give you an idea of the improvement: without the reflector, we were seeing 10-30% packet loss and average roundtrip times that ranged from 5 seconds to 9.5 seconds. Even at that, the connection was usable. Once the reflector was aligned, packet loss dropped to 0-1% and average roundtrip times stayed about 2.5 seconds. This equates to a 100-300% increase in bandwidth plus the bandwidth recovered from dropped packets.

The connection is hardly blazing fast, but it’s quite a bit more usable than previously. For our normal usage patterns, it’s actually quite acceptable. Bear in mind that our average roundtrip times are similar to 380ms. The previously stated times are for icmp packets being sent out as fast as possible and saturating the connection.

With that sort of improvement, I’m much more determined to build a waveguide antenna for times when we’re having trouble hitting a tower. Bonus points if I can fit both the wifi and 3g spectrums into the same antenna and use it for a wifi repeater as well.

Juggling at Slab City

February 21st, 2010

Johnny juggling 3 balls

I’ve been juggling off and on since I was fourteen, but I never learned much more than a three ball cascade or two balls in one hand. Sure, I could juggle that way indefinitely, but it was kind of boring. This summer in Alaska, I had the good fortune to pick up a juggling book behind a second hand book store free of charge. Suddenly, there were lots of new things to try and a few tricks I had even forgotten about! Combine with lots of free time and stir well.

These days, I’m up to four balls in a fairly solid pattern. But my three ball juggling has gotten a lot more interesting… at least for me. I learned a handful of new patterns and techniques and then started mixing and matching them, which lead to a few things invented on the spot. I drop things a lot more, but at least I’m not bored!

  Make Your Own Fire Poi
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That Old Mississippi Mud!

February 3rd, 2009

Mississippi Mud - Stuck

Internet connectivity has been spotty, but not as spotty as the sides of the truck. About a week ago, we stopped overnight at a horse trail in the national forest just off the Natchez Trace. On pulling in, we saw a rather deep looking mud puddle and in our infinite wisdom, decided to try and keep the truck clean. A few words of advice: in Mississippi, if the road looks bad, the ground around it is awful. Fifteen feet off the road, the ground sunk in bad enough that we needed to put the truck in 4WD and lock the hubs to get out.

Now this is the point where everybody tells you that 4WD allows you to get stuck deeper in. The smart course of action, would have been to back out. However, I looked at the ruts we’d already made and looked ahead. No big deal, just a little 10″ deep ditch. Nothing the truck can’t handle, right? At this point, the ditch, with water running through it, somehow, looked better than the foot deep mud behind us. I guess everybody that’s spent much time in the mud is giggling about now. I hadn’t taken into account that a ditch, WITH WATER IN IT, is likely to be at least as gooey as the ground around it.

So, long story short, another fifteen feet of driving put us in quite a bit of nasty crud and the poor, overloaded truck refused to budge any direction but down. I got out and started digging in some hope of flattening the area out. Jenn decided it was a great time to snap a picture. Women! I can’t fault her too much though, by the time the night was over, she did her share of digging.

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