Posts Tagged ‘ducks’

What’s Old is New

I have a passing interest in history, mostly to fuel my interest in stories. I have been working on a story set in Boston in 1705. It is a part of our history that isn’t very well known, since there weren’t any major land discoveries or wars at that point. That makes it a little hard to get into the minds of the characters, since I can’t go to Gettysburg as I could for a Civil War story or Lexington, Massachusetts for a Revolutionary War story. Two major sticking points for me to really understand the main character’s life are a town house that produces much of its own food and the associated chores as being social occasions. I got to experience both this weekend with the Heirloom Gardens Meetup Group.

This Meetup Group is an extension of Sundari Kraft’s Heirloom Gardens. It is to help with those times when she needs more hands than

Garden Beds

her apprentices have. I think it’s a great idea for letting people that can’t be apprentices due to time or distance restrictions, like myself, still participate and learn. I happened to be up in Denver on Saturday for a class, so I signed up to help plant garlic. It is usually planted in the fall, but this was an experiment to see if it could be planted in the spring for those of us that didn’t manage to plant it in the fall for whatever reason.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the yard we would be working in. The houses in that part of town tend to be modestly sized, with town-sized yards. I was expecting a couple of beds, mostly. Possibly raised beds, surrounded with grass or mulch of some sort. I wasn’t expecting the miniature farm that she has. It is the most efficient use of a back yard I have ever seen. The animals, goats, chickens, and a couple of ducks, live on one side, and the other is given over to garden beds. When I think yard, and I am sure I’m not alone in this, I think grass, shrubs, maybe some flowers. However, I believe this yard is put together the way far more yards used to appear for most of civilization. In times before you could just pop down to the corner store when you needed a dozen eggs, it

made sense to keep the egg-makers in the back yard. They are also excellent non-fossil-fuel-using garbage disposals. Of course, not everyone would have every kind of animal, but when you don’t have neighbors on one side with a milk cow or goat and a neighbor on the other side raising ducks to trade with, it does help to have them all yourself.

The work itself was not hard. We had to pay attention to the spacing for the garlic bulbs and make sure we were putting them in their holes pointy-side up. That was about the extent of the mental challenge. However, it was a really nice break from my regular job in front of a computer and all the time I’ve been spending in class to sit on the ground and dig in the dirt. It also let the three of us, Sundari, a young man in college, and myself, chat. There was no deep philosophy discussed, nor did we compare which Housewiveswe thought was the best. We discussed weather and

Ooh, comfy garlic bed . . .

mountain biking along with gardening and small-business challenges. We also talked about the goats that were out and about in the yard so they didn’t feel left out. Naturally, they insisted on being in the middle of what we were doing more often than not, since that had to be the most interesting part of the garden. Once all of the cloves were planted, and the end of the bed was marked so that something else could be planted in the balance of it, all we needed to do was mulch it with straw and return the goats to their pen.

I was particularly interested in the seed-starting meetup on Sunday. This was even less physically demanding, since we spent most of the time sitting in chairs around the table. It was slightly more mentally demanding, though, as we had to make sure that we got all of the even slightly sprouted seeds off of the wet paper towels and into the seedling trays and not break any of the ones that had sprouted with abandon. The goats were out again to hang out with us. One of them determined that the freshly planted and mulched garlic bed was perfect for a nap in the sun. It was a different group dynamic, being a larger group and all women this time. I could almost see the starched collars and long skirts as

Seedlings to be covered

we sat around chatting about gardening and, there were a couple of mothers present, children, among other things. The plastic seedling trays and PVC-pipe greenhouse are modern inventions, but the conversation could have been held just as easily over quilts or shelling peas. I was the newest addition to the group, and some of them had been doing these things together for a while so they had a shared history. I am starting to see articles in various places about activities you can do for entertainment for free, since so many people are more strapped for cash than they were just a few years ago. However, chores seldom make the list. They should, though. Sundari mentioned that we probably planted about a thousand seeds. Those will become a thousand plants that will feed her CSA. All of this while trading ideas and getting to know one another in a far quieter atmosphere than a bar or a club and a far less expectant atmosphere than a networking event.

I expect community is something that I will be spending a lot of time thinking about and musing about on here. I am finding that the homesteading community

Staying warm to grow

is an interesting blend of modern techniques including blogs and meetups and good, old-fashioned chore-sharing and swapping. There are some things that just can’t be explained in a tweet or taught in a blog post. There are some experiences that still have to be, well, experienced.

Plucking Birds

My main focus right now is gardening. However, part of my general focus is the attempt to become more seasonal with my life. As anyone who has lived seasonally knows, you can plan and plot and decide all you want, but in the end, you take what the season gives you.

Some time ago, there was a thread on a forum I frequent, asking if there was anyone interested in extra game meat. Her husband was such a good hunter that he could bring home more than the family needed. In order for him to hunt as much as he would like to, she needed to find homes for the extra game. The game would be “as-is” so whoever wanted it would have to clean it or have it cleaned themselves. I don’t have a truck for transporting or a chest-freezer for keeping game of any size, but I volunteered to take any fowl off her hands.

I’d almost forgotten about it when the first e-mail came to let me know that there were birds to be had in early December. I picked up four lesser-Canadian geese. I wasn’t sure I could handle that many, but she assured me that once I got them cleaned they’d pack down to a much smaller size.

How they arrived.

At her suggestion, I YouTubed “breasting out” geese. I also looked up cleaning them, but breasting them out seems to be the preferred method, as the breast meat is by far the bulk of the meat to be had. I plucked one for roasting just to see if I could do it, but I was on the deck and losing sunlight, so I breasted out the other three. I also pulled out hearts, livers, and feet. The feet are for broth, they help it gel, and I keep trying to convince myself that I need to learn how to eat offal. The hearts didn’t look to scary or weird and liver is, well, healthy. I ended up with one (slightly dilapidated) roaster, six breasts, four hearts, four livers, and eight feet. She was right, they take up a lot less room that way. Also, as a hint, plucking them inside a trash bag will keep the neighbors from complaining. Feathers still got everywhere, but in a somewhat lesser volume.

It's a messy process.

I was surprised at how un-squeemish I was about the whole thing. Aside from biology classes, I haven’t made it a habit of dissecting things, and I had been concerned that I wouldn’t be able to.

But it gets tidier.

That would seriously undermine my ability to eat meat once I became self-sufficient. However, after cleaning them, I had no qualms about tossing one of the fresh breasts into the frying pan. It cooks like chicken, but it sure doesn’t taste like it! It’s better!

Goose and kale- easy and delicious!

On Christmas Day, she gave me four mallards that were in need of similar treatment. They were done in two batches and were easier to pluck. Possibly because they were soaked a little in warm water first, at the suggestion of my uncle who has chickens. Two of them got plucked this time, and one was roasted for dinner that night.

A new plan . . .

I’m glad I started with Canadian geese. I don’t like them. Never have. That made it easy to dismember them and make me realize that I can do this.

Yes, I did figure out how to remove the neck prior to roasting. I think I want a cleaver for next Christmas, please.

The mallards, however, were a little different. I don’t have anything against them. In fact, I rather like them, so it was a little harder to pluck and dismember them. Unfortunately, that made the question of whether or not I could eat a chicken I’d raised a little less decided. I still don’t know if I can kill them, but my cleaning skills seem to just need practice. This also reinforces my desire to learn to hunt. Goose is good!