January 25, 2016

Arrivals and Departures

My beautiful little sister came for her first visit to Whidbey! To begin our visit, we admired the island a bit, then we ate mussels and mussels and mussels at Christopher's on Whidbey, we gave her the tour of our grand estate, then talked, talked, talked, ate good stuff, slept, talked, talked...and then ate some more good food at the Root Table in Seattle before we dropped her off.  It was incredible to have her here, and very hard to say goodbye. :'(

It was chicken culling time at our house this weekend- sighhhh. We needed to weed out any that weren't laying anymore, because it's just common sense that you don't feed organic food to an animal that isn't giving you anything in return.  But that doesn't mean it was without emotion. It really was sad. Three were chosen. Three are gone.

The awful plan started with a consult between our lovely young neighbors and my equally lovely husband.  They discussed  how to choose the right birds, when and where the deed would be done, and the best way to cover all the details. These kiddos have saved our bacon on any number of occasions since we moved in and became instant chicken parents.  You might say these kids are really good eggs. :)  I'm all done with the puns now - probably.

We were fortunate to have use of the equipment that our neighbors rented to cull their own, larger flock.  Here it is all set up on their patio. This is the same set-up we used this summer when we helped with 150 birds.  It's pretty slick.  It starts with a humane cutting, then scald, de-feather, and go. WARNING - the next photos show the process more "intimately".  If you can't handle the truth about where you're fried chicken came from, stop reading now.

Here are some shots of the process in motion. Our lovely neighbor kids and my lovely husband hard at work.  And yes, it was as rainy and cold as it looks, and there was a little extra waiting while the water heated properly, but they got the job done!

This is how our birds looked when they came home from the neighbors.  Already in pretty nice shape.

After a little rinse, they were ready for me to do "my thing". The job of eviscerating was my acquired skill this summer.

Pulling out the innards without having various parts and pieces burst is the aim.  There's a lot of tightly connected goods in there.  These birds were layers rather than meat birds, which is what we processed this summer.  There were some interesting differences, like a bright yellow fat layer. From what I've read, this is a sign of good health and a good diet.

It's a fascinating anatomy lesson.  Trying to identify the parts is kinda fun. This is a chicken lung.  Now that is interesting, I don't care who you are!

Here they all are in a Conga line.  They're all cleaned up and ready for the freezer. We are told the meat will be tough, so they are really only good for broth.  We shall see!

In just a few weeks we'll have another arrival - baby ducks!  We have three ordered and we're beginning to get our supplies ready for getting them started on the right foot.  The plan is for them to share space with the chickens, laying some nice eggs for us, and we're also planning on them eating all the disgusting slugs out of our garden.  But, making plans is tricky, no???  We'll see!

January 8, 2016

The Eagle Has Landed

Isn't this bird majestic?  So beautiful...EXCEPT when it lands on one of the posts of your chicken coop!!!!!!  That was what happened this morning and we were awakened by the ringing of chicken screams - poor girls!  This photo was taken near our house, but not by us.  Our visitor was about 2 feet high - enormous bird. There is a lake near us where eagles hang out, and we've seen them flying overhead and heard their oddly sweet chirping-  examples of eagle chirps.

photo credit GWessels Oak Harbor, WA

The eagle took off as we fumbled to get our drapes open, the locks off the slider, and scramble for the camera!  The eagle kind of looked back at us, and all of our spastic flailing, as if to say, "What's your problem over there?" And then it swooped away into the trees.  It was way cooler than us.

We weren't overly concerned about the safety of our chickens since the previous owners saw fit to put this net over the entire coop.  It's not the most charming look, but it sure does the trick - at least this time around!

This is my girl Loulou - she's my favorite :)  She was named after the song "Lou, Lou Skip to My Lou", because every time I go out to the coop she comes skipping out to see me ♥  She had a lot to say to me when I went out to visit them after the eagle incident.  They were all chatting away actually!

So here's a parting question for you chicken people - there are lots of other animals that come around here, like dogs, deer, other birds, and the girls have no reaction, so how do they instinctively know that this bird was interested in a meal? Animals are fascinating.

January 4, 2016

A Snow "Event" on Whidbey

Just a powdered sugar dusting at our house today, and so pretty!

Snow birds - they are not thrilled.

These shots are from Saturday. The first is looking over Dugalla Bay - about 12 minutes from our driveway. The second is near the Ala Spit Park, about 20 min. north of us.

One of our New Year's resolutions was to occasionally stop our ongoing projects, and go out and enjoy where we live!  We were driving around on Saturday running errands, and trying to find a non-existent estate sale - phtttt :)  But the wonderful consequence was driving by a couple of places we hadn't yet explored. These pictures show views of the Cascade Mountains, with Mt. Baker centered in the second shot.  It was an incredibly lovely day, and once again we were awestruck by this glorious place. "Let the rivers clap their hands; let the mountains shout together for joy." Ps. 98:8

More resolutions for 2016 :
 - add a couple of ducks to our bird flock
 - learn to salmon fish, NW style

- learn about crabbing, maybe with our own pots???

 - get back onto our bikes, which will help us explore the island even more!
 Learning curve after learning curve...how can that be a bad thing?!

January 1, 2016

2016 - A Whole New Year in a Brand New Place

The location of our garden, our home, our nest - has changed again.  We are now on Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington, in the town of Oak Harbor.  It is beyond beautiful here, and we're still shaking our heads daily, trying to comprehend how we landed in this spot.  So much has happened, there is so much to share, and much that will be left untold.  It truly has been the best of times and the worst of times, a season of light and a season of darkness - thank you Mr. Dickens :)  I can't even guess what will come along in 2016, but I look forward, once again, to the pleasure of writing about our daily life and the path that God unfolds for us as we go.  Happy New Year to all!
p.s. this blog will be moving soon, so please forgive all the broken links!