The chickens have been working overtime. I try to tell them to relax, take a break, but they just can’t. They love their work! WE HAVE SO MANY EGGS.
Chicken at work in the corner of the goat house.
Chicken thrown off the job so I can collect eggs. Pink and blue and green and white. I love my Easter-egger layers. (Little red hen notwithstanding. This is a widely-shared nest.)
Goats attack me the entire time. Blurry photo as I attempt to make my escape.
Glory Bee, right behind me, THIS CLOSE. Her eyes are so big, I fear I may fall into them.
Fleeing to safety under hot pursuit.
Meanwhile, Beulah Petunia is spitting out milk like she’s got 20 babies to feed instead of none. It’s wonderful to be swimming in milk and cream and butter again. It’s too much, of course. A family cow can supply a big family. As I wean Glory Bee and get used to having so much milk again, I have to adjust my mindset to deal with the plenty. It’s the same thing as when I have dozens of eggs or even when I look at the bags and bags of herbs I’m already harvesting in my garden. I have to remind myself that it’s okay if I can’t use it all. We are, most of us, brought up in the notion of waste not-want not, and that is a high priority here, too, but there are different variables. When purchasing food, most people try to purchase an amount that can be used before it goes bad. You wouldn’t go out and buy eight dozen eggs then give three-fourths of them away because it’s more than you need. Nor would you buy 10 or 12 gallons of milk a week and slop some to your pigs or chickens or dogs. But even on a small farm, you can easily produce far more than you need in the process of trying to live self-sustainably.
By the way, having a lot of chickens means I never run out of eggs in the lean winter months, either, when they aren’t all laying. It’s similar to the way I will pack the freezer with milk and butter to get through the winter when BP is dried off awaiting the next birth. Planning so that I’m never out of milk and eggs goes hand in hand with sometimes having too much.
I use milk in every way I can–cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc. If you can make it out of milk, I make it! And then I have to remember that it’s not really wasteful to share it with the animals when there’s excess. I also share cheeses, eggs, and so on with family, just as I share canning or bags of herbs or other garden goodies. One of the side benefits of producing for yourself is being able to share. Even as winter is over, I still have canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. I haven’t run out of my dried herbs from last year before I have fresh herbs again. The new season of abundance is upon us, and we haven’t yet run through all of last year’s store.
I’ll never make absolutely everything we use–that’s almost impossible. Even in the old days, they would trade what they had for what they didn’t have, exchanging with someone else who grew or raised or made what they didn’t. Living in a self-sustainable mindset doesn’t mean you have to make or grow or raise everything. In fact, no matter where you are, you can live in a more self-sustainable way. Start with baking a loaf of bread. You don’t have to go to the extreme of living on a farm or getting a cow to pursue a more organic relationship with your food.
Dilly Bread, except without the dilly. I used fresh oregano and chives instead of dried dill.
Other than the episode of the pigs, the main vacuum in our more “extreme” course of self-sustainability has been producing our own meat. As I plan BP’s upcoming “romantic encounter” and the next calf, I know that will change. Glory Bee is the heir to the dairy crown here. Subsequent calves will serve a different purpose. One good calf a year, raised to butcher, will provide us all the beef we need. We will probably do pigs again, though we haven’t yet. (Not sure if we will do it this year or not. We have no piglets at the moment.) We have never eaten any of our chickens, but I have regularly contemplated buying some chicks specifically for butchering. A batch of heavy-breed meat chicks can be ready to butcher in a few months. Meat birds are a short-term project. I buy chicken at the store. And THAT doesn’t make sense. It’s important to remember that the chicken at the store didn’t come into this world pre-packaged.
Yesterday, I ordered a batch of meat chicks!
I’m so excited! I can’t wait to taste my fresh home-grown fried chicken. Right after 52 puts them in styrofoam packages!!!! Oh wait…. FYI, they are ALL ROOSTERS. They sell meat chicks in rooster packs. They grow faster and bigger. And there’s not much else to do with them anyway…..
It takes a number of years to start a farm from scratch and become self-sustainable on numerous levels. We’re still growing our fruit trees and bushes, for example. But it’s easy to see how farmers, even in the Depression era, were living “high on the hog” (literally) even in a time of economic hardship. The same is true today. And while you can’t put the hens on hiatus when you have too many eggs, or cut a cow in half when you have too much milk, it’s better to have too much than not enough. My father grew up on a farm in West Virginia (a hop, skip, and a jump from our farm now) in the Depression, and he remembers it this way: “We had chickens, cows, geese, ducks, guineas, turkeys, sheep, and hogs. We raised a garden and canned a cellarful of fruit and vegetables every summer. With hogs to kill every fall and all of the eggs and milk we could use, we never wanted for anything.”
Now that’s living!