Category Archives: Ducks

Mrs. Mallard is missed

When she read about the demise of Mrs. Mallard and my lack of good photos of her, my friend  came to the rescue. Last year, while I was living in Saskatchewan and missing my animals she took video footage of my critters with her camera and, lucky for me, she still had them on her computer.  The above clip has Mrs. Mallard holding forth in the background. Several people have asked about the ‘Howling Duck’ and it is Mrs. Mallard’s voice which gave the name to the ranch. On the morning that a cougar bellied up to the goat pen and contemplated breakfast, it was her enraged voice that pitched me out of bed like a rocket from its launch-pad in realization that something must be terribly wrong. While not the glorious photo of her that I wish I had, it encapsulates the familiar sound that is mourned for and missed here on the farm.

Below is a clip of the ducks that used to live here on the farm. Some of them we ate, some of them were taken by foxes and the two big black Muscovy drakes (one of them jumps through the water dish) I butchered and took to the Rod and Gun Club fundraiser dinner and dance. Mrs. Mallard is the only Mallard duck in the bunch and keeps at the back of the bunch in the video. Since the untimely death of Mrs. Mallard a few days ago we no longer have ducks on the farm.

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Filed under Animal issues, Ducks, Politicking with predators

She howls no more

Sad news here on Howling Duck Ranch. Our namesake (and farm manager) has been killed. Mrs Mallard got taken by a fox yesterday. She’d gone for a swim on the pond and the blasted fox actually got her in the water. Until now she’d been safe on the pond, but I guess he’d gotten over his reluctance to get wet, or perhaps she’d floated too close to the edge. Right in broad daylight he snapped her up and she went without a sound. By the time I’d figured out what happened, it was all over, and she was gone.

That fox has been prowling around for the past few days, and managed to take a few chickens as well. Sadly, unless I catch him in the act, there is not much we are allowed to do to prevent this sort of thing from happening.  In this respect, it is me who is the sitting duck.

She was such a fixture around here, both visual and aural with her constant, carping, quack-quack-quack, that I don’t even have a decent photo of her to post in honor of her.

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Filed under Animal issues, Ducks, Politicking with predators

Of ice and hens

A friend of mine from New Zealand asked me the other day why I stay here, when there are much easier places to farm–I’m beginning to wonder that myself! The night before last, it started snowing; it looked like Mother Nature was just brushing the dandruff out of her hair.  But by morning it had snowed about 18 inches–not that it isn’t picturesque, but it is a make-more-work-for-me-kinda-scene that I am growing tired of this year.

I blame the goats for my negative attitude towards the ice and snow; they hate the snow and that makes me not like it. They stand in their shelters and bleat and moan about it, like I’m somehow personally responsible for their  lack of comfort. It is quite hilarious to watch them run from their barn to their day-paddock; like cats treading through puddles, they lift their feet high trying  not to get them wet. It is the best darn high-stepping trot I’ve seen, and would make many a horse person envious. There is usually a puddle or two along the way and they all leap over it, one by one. I picture them jumping puddles like that at night when I can’t sleep. This is what happens when you don’t have sheep.

When I watch these domestic animals and know how relatively pampered they are, it makes me wonder how the wild goats survive these Canadian winters. Actually, each Canadian winter I survive makes me wonder how any wild creature survives out there without shelter, heat, and readily available food. This year’s cold stretch lasted longer than the previous years I’ve been here, and I noticed the other day the wild birds were eating snow–I guess their puddles and water sources were all iced up and they were desperate.

The chickens, on the other hand, are relatively stoic, and I appreciate them for it. They seem to come out of the barn in nearly all weather. The only time they didn’t make an appearance this winter was for the week of sheer blizzard conditions we had in December. Otherwise, they are out grubbing for a portion of their living. It is helpful that they are an energetic bunch because, even with their enthusiasm for self-sufficiency, I’ve had to buy a lot more feed than previous years, and the feed costs have risen. Consequently, the attempt to be profitable is ever-receding into the horizon. I have yet to do the books, but I’m not all that enthusiastic. We both suspect that the off-farm job is actually paying for the eggs I’m selling. I don’t need to do the books to know we are going through more feed than we are realizing in egg sale returns, so I’m putting the accounting off as long as I can.

I want to farm, but I’m still not sure how I can actually make it work. It is just not enough to have a cute place and funny animals; I need a wage like everybody else. The funny animals take time and effort, and I could justify having them as pets when I had a nice salary; I am having a more difficult time justifying them, along with the ducks, now that I don’t. Surprisingly, when I say that to people (who have nice salaried jobs), they are shocked. “Oh, you can’t get rid of your goats, they’re so cute!” is the most common response. Yes, they are cute. So are the ducks. But cute doesn’t pay my taxes, replace my roof, or replace my truck as it rusts away. When did our society come to expect farms to be cute, and farmers to not make money on their farm? When did we stop caring that, like any other service industry, if it is not supported and can’t make a profit, it won’t last? This principle is well understood for all sorts of business and services, and yet farms seem to be thought of as something that shouldn’t make money. It is as if we’ve all come to accept that it is logical that farmers should work off the farm to pay for their farm. What other business would this (ill-) logic apply to? Would you run a restaurant that way? How about a mechanic shop?

Thus far, neither my ducks nor my goats have had to work for their living. Now that I am trying to make the farm a going concern, I have to look around it and put everything through an income-generating test: does it, or can it, make money? In light of this, I’ve slaughtered most of the ducks and lost the last two females to foxes. I’m going to take the last drake to the game dinner and he won’t be wearing a bow-tie, but I haven’t told him yet. In addition, I have been toying with the idea of finding a buck for my does and putting them to work. I know they will not make money because I’m not allowed to sell the meat, but they will at least provide me with a return in meat and milk. The milk I can make into cheese and the meat I can eat. The fact is, my workload will not change much in order to realize some milk and meat returns for us, directly.

Thus far in my farming career, I have yet to witness the birth of anything that doesn’t hatch, but I am drawn to the idea of mammalian births. I have finally managed to find a willing buck, and now I just have to get emotionally prepared for the result: extra work and butchering the kids. While I love the idea of seeing my goats pregnant, giving birth and having some kids around, I know that ultimately I’ll have to eat them or sell them. Our place is too small to expand the herd and I can’t just keep adding glorified pets to the equation any more.

I’ve managed to evolve emotionally this year and hone my butchering skills to cope with chickens and turkeys. If I get the does pregnant, then I’ll have to fast track the emotional fortitude to do in a baby goat. Learning to hunt this year has helped with the idea. After all, a goat is just a small deer. Still, there is one thing to butchering a deer you didn’t know personally and another thing to do in one of ‘my babies’ (it doesn’t help that they are called ‘kids’!).  Honestly, I’m not sure I’m there yet. I guess if I get the girls pregnant, I’ll have a time limit for that trajectory!

I’d like to raise more chickens and turkeys than I do, and maybe get into rabbits and goats, and sell the meat. Sadly, with all the prohibitive regulations it is nearly impossible to start anything without having to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars (think meat slaughter, poultry slaughter). I’d like to run a goat dairy, but we have the predators to deal with, on top of the prohibitive aforementioned capital investment. In addition to all of this, I’m living in an area where there are few people, so I wonder if there will ever been enough demand to make a farm work here.

Finally, I am struggling with the idea of investing more money here when there is such a huge risk of having my stock devastated by a bear or cougar. Even the losses I have taken (some chickens and ducks) amount to what may have been my profit margin. In light of the above, I toggle between wanting to go out and get a decent paying job so I can go back to playing at farming (and just supplying our own needs), and continuing to work at something extremely under-valued, in the hopes it will amount to something, someday.

I also face legislative blocks. Small farms in British Columbia cannot make a living on the wholesale market. This is why exemption status for small farming is so important. If we want to have local foods from small, sustainable farms that treat their animals humanely, we need producer-processor rights so that we (small farmers) can legally do direct marketing, attain the sales value, and avoid sharing the profits with middle-men. There are many places in the world that still allow this, but we have recently outlawed this in British Columbia for the majority of farming products. That’s why there are days when I think I should go somewhere and get a wage, or find somewhere I can farm more easily… but then I look up at these glorious tree-clad mountains and granite crags, put on my gumboots, and happily trudge out to care for my charges.

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Filed under Chickens, Ducks, Eggs, Ethical farming, Goats, Learning to Farm, Sustainable Farming, Turkeys

None of my ducks in a row

ducks-flying1

When we first acquired our land, several of our friends had strong opinions about what sorts of animals should populate our potential farm, peacocks being the first in a procession of not-so-practical-but-well-meaning-or-at-least-decorative suggestions.

duck-wrangler1

Not wanting to be divorced in the first year of owning my first farm, I held back at leaping to satisfy each and every interesting proposition. This was not easy. I have wanted to be a farmer forever, and getting started as soon as possible could lead me to consider the repercussions of peacocks only after I had them installed. The, ‘and then what’ was nearly a secondary consideration, but I knew that mustering up a reasonable amount of self-control and applying a certain critical sensibility to the developments would be paramount to staying married.

Much to my chagrin, it was soon apparent that I was not actually in control of who would make the decisions, nor what species would populate what would soon become known as Howling Duck Ranch. Some friends, undeterred by my non-committal, ‘I’ll have to think about it and consult the other-half’ response, took matters into their own hands.

That was how it came to pass that I arrived home from work one evening to find that I was now the unsuspecting owner of 6 Muscovy ducklings. They were nestled happily in a cardboard box in the garage, all set up for husbanding, replete with water, feed, heat-lamp and a ‘god-father’ beaming proudly as he handed them over to my care. I gazed over at the Other-half with a pleading, ‘Who am I to say no at this point?’ look.

Several weeks later, they were happily relocated from the garage to a dog house next to the pond. We let them out each morning and coaxed them in each night; it was an easy relationship since they loved their pond and also foraged far and wide for sustenance, eagerly supplementing the grain I supplied them with.

The ‘far and wide’ travels began innocently enough, staying within the boundaries of our yard. Soon however, these daily wanderings turned into mini-vacations all around the neighbourhood. Routinely after work I would press ‘play’ on the answering machine to find out where my ducks had been and what they had gotten up to during my absence.

After several days of irregular wanderings, the ducks settled on one particular neighbour’s place. He had a large field that the wild geese seemed to enjoy, and I guess my ducks took special note of this. Then my drake recalled the saying, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” Leading his harem to this field as part of their daily indulgence, he would watch while his gals gorged on seeds and greens. I thought it was charming, but my neighbour was not so amused.

For several days the answering machine would spurt forth the same abrupt message followed by an angry phone slamming back into its receiver: “Ah, yaaaa….it’s Krrrus…jor docks arrrrrrrr ovarrr hirrr agayyn!” Slam! I felt like the mother of a naughty child and suddenly realized how my mother always found out what I had gotten up to.

I began to dread the daily pressing of the play button. How was I going to manage my ‘docks’? I didn’t want to clip their wings. Flying was their only chance at avoiding the numerous predators in the valley, so fencing the yard to keep them in was a hopeless idea, but neither did I want to completely cage them.

Instead, I began dutiful daily rounds of running along behind them, clapping all the way, until we reached our property, and hoping they would grow out of this penchant for the neighbour’s field. Eventually, they did cooperate and began finding the few new available pastures: three other neighbouring fields, and the airport runway. Older and braver now (or more foolish), they took to flying off regularly to these fields hundreds of yards from home. The phone message “Your ducks are over here” began to take on not only new accents but also new challenges in getting them home. Our farmlet is surrounded by trees, as are the neighbouring fields, so the further afield they roamed, the more difficult the duck wrangling became.

At first they would venture only as far as the airport, four hundred meters away at the end of our country road. I would go out to the front gate, call, hear a response within seconds, followed by the stirring sight of six muscovy ducks flying towards me in tight formation along the lane at about twenty feet of elevation. With a wall of trees on each side, they looked like Han Solo’s wingmen preparing to attack the Death Star. As they began their descent, they would bank left just above my head, lower their landing gear and come to an inelegant stop somewhere in our yard.

These were my ‘duck whispering’ evenings.

But then came the moment in the middle of my chairing a community consultation meeting at the hospital. The receptionist politely informed me that I had an emergency phone call from the ambulance station just along the highway from my farm. Alarmed at the myriad horrific possibilities, I raced to the phone: “Your ducks are here,” said a paramedic. “Could you come and get them?”

“Actually I’m in a meeting,” I sighed with relief. “Could you possibly walk them home?”

Eventually I was reduced to the urban obligations of motherhood: every evening I did the equivalent of driving my Toyota Forerunner all over the valley calling out my children’s names until they appeared, climbed in the truck and got driven home. However, instead of scanning playgrounds and swing sets I was peering into ditches, sloughs and meadows; instead of calling out names I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled, ‘Here duck-duck-duck!’ And as they emerged from the fields, I would pick each duck up, load them unceremoniously into the back of the truck and drive them home. Just like children, they would jockey and fight for the best seats: they preferred the backs of the seats where they would stare out the windows and flap their wings proudly as if in flight. As the truck accelerated, so did the flapping; then they’d flop back and forth with each gear change in a desperate attempt to maintain balance and retain their hard won position.

One evening a drake made a frenzied bid for the front seat, wings smothering my face as he pivoted on my shoulder and left his calling-card. I decided there and then that they would not turn me into a hockey mom, and laid down the law about winter ranging.

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Filed under Animal issues, Ducks, Funny stories

How deep is your l’eau?

More than ankle deep in the stuff!

More than ankle deep in the stuff!

We are bilingual in Canada, or so the theory goes. I don’t claim to be, at least not in our  two official languages. However, I do remember a few words from my elementary school days, or what my mother affectionately calls my ‘cereal box french’:  ‘l’eau’ for water, ‘fenetre’ for window, ‘Ouvre la fenetre’ (Open the window), and ‘un bois de l’eau s’il vous plais’ (a glass of water if you please). (I’m certain I don’t remember the correct spelling, so please bear with me while I prove the exception to the theory.)

Today, the view from my ‘fenetre’ is less than appealing, thanks to the amount of l’eau I see in every direction: it has been raining since June. OK, so that is a bit of an overstatement, but only just. It has, in all honesty, rained for most of October, all of November and, apart from a short ‘breather’ of about half a day, all of December as well. Add to this misery the fact that 0ur ‘daylight hours’ stretch all the way from 8 am to 4 pm; although, unlike most of the valley, we have two ‘cuts’ in the southern mountain range which afford us half an hour of sun a day, when the sun is not shining, it matters not.

Water running almost all the way to the turkey and chicken barns.

Water running almost all the way to the turkey and chicken barns.

If I had one (and I probably should, being Canadian and all), I could almost canoe from the front porch to the animals pens. If it weren’t for the trenches I dug between the house and the garden (where the pink gates are and to the left), beyond the garden and before the new chicken barn, and between the chicken barn and the turkey pen, a canoe would be the only way to get around our property now.

It has rained about 5 inches overnight.

It has rained about 5 inches overnight.

Must be 4 or 5 inches of rain.

Must be 4 or 5 inches of rain.

It is weather fit only for ducks. The goats refuse to leave the barn in the morning on days like this. When I try to shoo them out, there is a plaintive chorus of: “N-o-o-o…I-i-i-t-t’s a-a-a-a-a-a-a g-0-0-0-0 ba-a-a-ack to b-ed day!” as I open their door and shove them out into the paddock. I have spent most of November digging trenches around the property to try to funnel the water away from the animal–and our–housing. I have also spent a lot of time wheel-barrowing gravel and sawdust around the property in an attempt to raise the ground level and gain decent footing. This kind of rain wreaks havoc with our soft land, turning it from spongy grassland into a mucky, slippery mess.

A few brave chickens face the weather in search of tasty morsels.

A few brave chickens face the weather in search of tasty morsels.

Usually the chickens brave the weather. Unlike the goats, the chickens are amazingly hearty and not much keeps them down. However, today there were very few to be found in the paddock and around the place. Instead, I found the bulk of them huddling quietly in their barn keeping dry. I guess they heard and took the goats’ advice; I know I’d like to go back to bed and not face this weather.

chickens huddling indoors during the day.

An uncommon sight: chickens huddling indoors during the day.

It is dark at the best of times this time of year in Bella Coola, but on days like this it is overwhelmingly dismal. The narrow east-west valley makes days like this seem like it is early evening from the time you get up till the time you retire. We have several sky-lights in our home so it is not often during the day that I have to turn on lights, but these days are the exception to the rule; I have on nearly every light we own, inside and out!

I try to see the positive side. Our Christmas lights look so cheery against the gloom, hung up on the barn and in the cherry trees. And a sudden drop in temperature would rid me of all this slush… but… here’s hoping it doesn’t freeze overnight and leave me with a skating rink rather than water-front property tomorrow morning.

Normally a small pond, the duck paddock is now completely submerged.

Normally a small pond, the duck paddock is now completely submerged.

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Filed under Chickens, Ducks, Goats, Sustainable Farming, Turkeys

Poultry in motion

Turkey plucker in background. Fire heating scalding water in cauldron.

Turkey plucker in background; fire heating scalding water in cauldron in foreground.

Last week I butchered 27 roosters, 8 turkeys and 2 ducks and, until a few days ago, I was doing it all by hand (see Butchering day: turkeys for complete photo documentary of the process).  Several days into the planned massacre, I had a food security meeting at the hospital (it being the only venue in the valley with video-conferencing capability). During the meeting, my mind drifted back to all the work I had to do back on the farm. While I was agonizing about how often I was having to sharpen my knife, it occurred to me that I might just be in the right place at the right time. After all, a hospital is the place where they cut people, in particular their skin, open. Why not use a scalpel?

With that thought I was suddenly anxious for the meeting to end so I could get back to the business ‘at hand’. My mind began leafing through the possibilities of who might give me a contraband scalpel; I mentally listed off the doctors whom I knew well enough to ask and noted, sadly, that all were either out of town or recently retired. While I was lamenting the loss of fruitful connections, one of the nurses walked by as if on cue. Perhaps I would be able to buy one: “Sure, but you might want to consider buying an exacto knife instead,” the nurse replied, listing off the virtues of the exacto knife: they are probably cheaper, just as sharp, not made for one time use, more convenient  and would last much longer. Laughing, he rounded out his thoughts with, “Besides, a scalpel is made for making nice neat incisions that are repairable–not really what you’re after.”

Who knew they were made for one time use? As I left the nurses’ station, I had the good fortune of running into another neighbour who at one time owned a chicken plucker. Convinced I was suffering the preliminary states of arthritis, but suppressing my desperation, I asked him nonchalantly if he still owned the contraption and whether I could borrow it. “It’s actually a turkey plucker,” he said rubbing his chin, then added mercifully, “Sure you can use it.”

Holding his hands in the air and turning them from side to side, he provided me with a quick virtual demonstration of how to use the machine, replete with the final stages of turkey plucking–holding it by the feet and gently letting it roll away from you, careful not to let it go but moving with it as it bounced up and down on the imaginary rubber prongs–and finally we made arrangements for me to pick it up the next day. (I wondered what the other patients thought we were discussing as we stood there in the corridor!)

cutting table, scalding cauldron, and turkey plucker.

The sum total of my processing plant: cutting table, scalding cauldron, turkey plucker, guts bucket, hand washing pots and towels.

The next morning, he and my husband man-handled the great machine onto the brick patio which surrounds our fire pit, where I would be working. After they both left, I got myself organized, then got a chicken slaughtered, scalded and ready for the plucker. I plugged the machine on and it whirred satisfyingly to life. Doing my best impersonation of my instructor, I gently laid the chicken over the turning rubber prongs. With a rapid fire ‘tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk-tuk’ (reminiscent of a playing card held on the spoke of my bicycle wheel by a clothes peg), the chicken throttled to life, leaped out of my hands, whisked itself through the plucker with nary a feather lost, and flew through the damp air, pure ‘poultry in motion’, before coming to an abrupt stop on the wet grass on the far side of the machine with an unceremonious ‘thwap!’

Turkey plucker almost winning!

Turkey plucker almost winning!

When I switched dance partners from chickens to turkeys, which are much heavier than chickens, the torque was several magnitudes greater, and once again I was caught off guard as the first turkey made one final attempt at flight. Determined to win, I hung on to his legs for dear life, bracing my gumboots against the machine in a desperate tug-of-war. When I thrust my body backwards in a final heave, the battered and torn turkey, still not exactly featherless, brought the whirling prongs to a momentary halt, and I retrieved my bird. If I’d been working alongside Kevin Costner, I would have earned the right (from the native Americans peering at me from the tree-line) to the name: ‘Dances with Turkey.’ While I lamented the loss of my first investment (battered and torn as it was), my dog Tui smiled smugly at the prospect of several gourmet meals.

Dances with turkeys.

Dances with turkeys.

After a few false starts, I developed a feel for it. Overall, it was a fantastic addition to my repertoire and sped up my processing operation almost threefold! Here are a couple of (not so great) photos of my ‘slightly more high-tech’ but still incredibly low-tech, little operation.

Hanging turkeys ready for killing.

Hanging turkeys ready for killing.

Cooling the meat down quickly after gutting.

Submersing the meat in cold water to cool it down quickly after gutting.

Final checking over for pin feathers and general good condition before bagging.

Final checking over of chickens for pin feathers and general good condition before bagging.

Bagging up final product ready for the freezer.

Bagging up the final product (chickens) ready for the freezer.

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Filed under Animal issues, Chickens, Ducks, Funny stories, How to..., personal food sovereignty, Turkeys

Pressure canning meat and poultry

This post is at special request of Jo at Little Ffarm Dairy.

Chicken canned and ready for storage and winter use in soups, stews, and my favourite, curries!

Chicken canned and ready for storage and winter use in soups, stews, and my favourite, curries!

This past week and weekend, I completed a marathon butchering fest. In total, I butchered 27 chickens, 2 ducks and 4 turkeys which may not sound like much, but when you are doing it solo and without the aid of any modern day technology, it is a feat, to say the least.

In the midst of it all I also canned 8 chickens, all the stewing beef from our butchered cow, and am presently in the process of cooking two more turkeys and will can them later today. Having taken in the half a cow, I now have no room left in my freezer, so can I must! Food preservation is a juggling act at all times here, as we do not have much room in our wee house and we don’t have any form of cold storage… yet.

The following information includes recipes and methods for SAFE canning of meat, game and poultry which I have collected over the past few years:

Pressure canning is the ONLY SAFE METHOD for canning meat and poultry

Home food preservation must be done with care, to protect the quality and safety of the food. Jars or cans containing low-acid foods–such as vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood–must always be processed under pressure, to prevent spoilage or food poisoning. The bacteria which cause botulism, a severe and potentially fatal from of food poisoning, are not killed by using the hot water bath canning process.

PRESSURE CANNING MEAT (Beef)

All meat should be handled carefully, should be correctly slaughtered, and canned promptly or kept under refrigeration until processed. Keep meat as cool as possible during preparation for canning, handle rapidly, and process meat as soon as it is packed. Most meats need only be wiped with a damp cloth, though I make a habit of rinsing it in cold water (but that is just personal preference).

Use lean meat for canning: remove most of the fat, cut off gristle and remove large bones, and cut into pieces in a convenient size for canning. Pack hot meat loosely, leaving 1-inch head-space in Mason jars.

Prepare broth for filling jars: place bony pieces in saucepan, cover with cold water, and simmer until meat is tender. Cool liquid and discard the layer of fat that hardens on the surface. Bring liquid to a boil and use it to pack into jars packed with precooked meat (and poultry).

NOTE: Meat should not be browned with flour nor should flour be used in the broth to make gravy for pouring over the packed meat as the starch in the flour makes the sterilization process very difficult, and so this is not recommended for home canners. (Best leave this to Chef Boyardee and Heinz.)

Meats may be processed with or without salt. If salt is desired, use only pure canning or pickling salt (table salt contains a filler which may cause cloudiness in bottom of jar). I use 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint, 1 teaspoon to each quart. More or less salt may be added to suit individual taste.

Follow step-by-step directions for your pressure canner. Process meats according to the following recipes.

When canning food in regions less than 2,000 feet altitude (dial gauge canner) or 1,000 feet altitude (weighted gauge canner), process according to specific recipe. When canning food in regions above 2,000 feet altitude (dial gauge canner) or 1,000 feet altitude (weighted gauge canner), process according to the following chart.

ALTITUDE CHART FOR CANNING MEAT AND POULTRY

ALTITUDE DIAL GAUGE CANNER
Pints and Quarts
WEIGHTED GAUGE CANNER
Pints and Quarts
1,001 – 2,000 ft. 11 lbs. 15 lbs.
2,001 – 4,000 ft. 12 lbs. 15 lbs.
4,001 – 6,000 ft. 13 lbs. 15 lbs.
6,001 – 8,000 ft. 14 lbs. 15 lbs.

Processing time is the same at all altitudes.

PRESSURE CANNING GAME MEAT

Pressure canning is the ONLY SAFE METHOD for canning meat.

Follow step-by-step directions for your pressure canner. Process your game meat according to the following recipes.

CUT-UP MEAT (strips, cubes, or chunks) Bear, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, and Venison
Remove excess fat. Soak strong-flavored wild meats for 1 hour in brine water containing 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water. Rinse. Remove large bones and cut into desired pieces.

Raw Pack—Fill jars with raw meat pieces, leaving 1-inch head-space. DO NOT ADD LIQUID. Adjust jar lids.

Hot Pack—Precook meat until rare by broiling, boiling, or frying. Pack hot meat loosely in clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1-inch head-space. Cover meat with boiling broth, water, or tomato juice (especially with wild game), leaving 1-inch head-space. Adjust jar lids.

Dial Gauge Canner—Process at 11 pounds pressure – Pints 75 minutes and Quarts 90 minutes. For processing above 2,000 feet altitude, see chart for recommended pounds of pressure.

Weighted Gauge Canner—Process at 10 pounds pressure – Pints 75 minutes and Quarts 90 minutes. For processing above 1,000 feet altitude, see chart  for recommended pounds of pressure.

PRESSURE CANNING POULTRY

Pressure canning is the ONLY SAFE METHOD for canning poultry.

Follow step-by-step directions for your pressure canner. Process poultry according to the following recipes.

CUT-UP POULTRY

Boil, steam, or bake poultry slowly to medium done. I tend to boil it and make the broth at the same time. If you have broth on hand you can precook in the concentrated broth for more flavor. Poultry is medium done when the pink color in the center is almost gone.

Cut poultry into serving size pieces and if desired, remove bones. I always debone the meat as it is my personal preference. I find it easier to use in recipes if it is done this way. Pack hot poultry loosely in clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1 1/4-inch head-space.

Make broth from bones and bony pieces, neck, back, and wing tips and the gizzard, heart and liver if you have them. Pack hot meat in clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1-inch head-space. Do not pack food tightly. Cover poultry with boiling broth or water, leaving 1 1/4-inch head-space. Adjust jar lids.

Poultry may be processed with or without salt. If salt is desired, use only pure canning or pickling salt. Table salt contains a filler which may cause cloudiness in bottom of jar. I use 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pint, 1 teaspoon to each quart.

Dial Gauge Canner—Process at 11 pounds pressure.
With Bone – Pints 65 minutes and Quarts 75 minutes.
Without Bone – Pints 75 minutes and Quarts 90 minutes.
For processing above 2,000 feet altitude, see above chart  for recommended pounds of pressure.

Weighted Gauge Canner—Process at 10 pounds pressure.
With Bone – Pints 65 minutes and Quarts for 75 minutes.
Without Bone – Pints 75 minutes and Quarts for 90 minutes.
For processing above 1,000 feet altitude, see above chart for recommended pounds of pressure.

RABBIT

Pressure canning is the ONLY SAFE METHOD for canning rabbit.

Follow step-by-step directions for your pressure canner. Process rabbit according to the following recipes.

Soak dressed rabbits 1 hour in water containing 1 tablespoon of salt per quart. Rinse and remove excess fat. Cut into serving size pieces. Boil, steam, or bake to medium done. Rabbit is medium done when pink color in center is almost gone. Pack hot rabbit loosely in clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1 1/4-inch head-space. Cover rabbit with boiling broth or water leaving 1 1/4-inch head-space and adjust jar lids.

Dial Gauge Canner—Process at 11 pounds pressure.
With Bone – Pints 65 minutes and Quarts for 75 minutes.
Without Bone – Pints 75 minutes and Quarts for 90 minutes.
For processing above 2,000 feet altitude, see chart for recommended pounds of pressure.

Weighted Gauge Canner—Process at 10 pounds pressure.
With Bone – Pints 65 minutes and Quarts for 75 minutes.
Without Bone – Pints 75 minutes and Quarts for 90 minutes.
For processing above 1,000 feet altitude, see chart for recommended pounds of pressure.

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Filed under Chickens, Ducks, Food preservation, Goats, How to..., personal food sovereignty, Preserving the harvest, Turkeys

Butchering day: turkeys (graphic photo documentary)

Warning: If you are not seriously interested in learning about turkey butchering, seeing the process documented in photos, then I suggest you do not read or look any further.

Hot water ready for scalding birds.

Hot water ready for scalding birds.

I have, up until today, learned most of what I know about farming, animal husbandry, animal veterinary care, and butchering from a book. When you have been raised in the city, don’t have a farming background nor access to someone knowledgeable to teach you, this becomes the only way to learn.

My friend Clarence was butchering his turkeys today, and upon hearing his technique, my ears perked up and I asked him if I could help. Not only was it a chance for me to learn by doing, but also it was a chance for me to get behind the camera and document the process!

We had discussed the various ways of killing a turkey and when he asked me how I did it, I told him we cut the heads off. ‘That’s how we did it on the farm’ he told me. ‘I don’t do it that way anymore’. A long time ago, an old Jewish Rabbi taught Clarence how to butcher turkeys the kosher way. Since learning from the Rabbi, Clarence has never looked back. ‘You sever the jugular’ he said, gesturing to his neck  with a slicing motion, then telling me how this technique keeps the bird from flapping around, risking hurting itself and/or you in the merry dance. ‘They only flap a bit at the very end of their life this way’ he told me.

Until today, I had only read about this technique. This not only sounded like a much better way than I had been doing, but also it was the way that Joel Salatin described dispatching chickens and turkeys in his books. According to Salatin, it is the most humane and effective way to do it; the animals fall unconscious and die, but their heart works until the end to pump all the blood from the body and veins. Thus, the animal is clean for the rest of the proces; the part that makes it kosher I imagine.

I have been thinking about attempting the process of Salatin’s description since reading about it. However, I have previously had terrible experiences with attempting to slaughter animals by following a book’s description and had tried all sorts of ways to kill chickens. I found that there is technique involved in each form that simply does not get translated well, or I didn’t understand clearly. Finally, after putting several chickens through misery in my attempts to dispatch them ‘ethically’ and ‘bloodlessly’, I decided I would simply cut the heads off, and keep the suffering to a minimum. At least that way, I reasoned, they are dispatched quickly. It might not be very artful, but it was effective.

However, here was an opportunity to learn first-hand a better way under the guidance of someone well versed in the art; so I leaped at it.

Photo documentary: The slaughtering process (graphic photos included)

NOTE: this documentary and step by step will work for turkeys, chickens, and ducks (and their wild equivalents).

Step one: catch the bird by the legs and tie it up from its feet, high enough over the ground so its head is up off of it by about 6 inches (see fifth photo below). When catching the bird, grab it by one leg, then the other, being careful not to get hurt by the wings. Most turkeys are pretty benign once you get a hold of them by the feet, but you should be cautious during the process of catching them because their wings are powerful and the claws on their their feet are sharp.

Locating the jugular vein on either side of wind-pipe.

Locating the jugular vein on either side of wind-pipe.

Holding the head, cut the jugular veins on either side of the neck.

Holding the head, cut the jugular veins on either side of the neck.

Step two: grab the bird by the head and sever the jugular vein, do this on both sides of the neck. The jugular is on either side of the wind pipe which runs along the centre of the neck, below the beak. Be sure to cut deep enough to have the blood flowing fast, not a slow drip. You will know that you have cut the jugular when the blood-flow is strong. It may even spurt a little. Once the jugular is severed on both sides, step away from the bird, out of the reach of the wings. During the bird’s  ‘last gasp’ they will flap their wings several times and you don’t want to be in the way. You could be hurt, or they could break a wing.

Cutting into the jugular vein.

Cutting into the jugular vein.

A good steady flow of blood lets you know you've cut into the jugular vein correctly.

A good steady flow of blood lets you know you have cut into the jugular vein correctly.

Hung by his feet, cut and bled, and performing his 'last gasp' flapping.

Hung by his feet, cut and bled, this Tom is in the 'throws' of death.

Step three: place the bird in hot, nearly boiling water for about 10-15 seconds. Be certain the bird is dead. He will have his eyes closed and there will be no more movement from him. Carefully take him out of the half-hitch knot and place him in 180 F degree water, not boiling; you don’t want to scaled the skin or meat. Be sure to completely dunk his body for 15 or so seconds (Clarence says 10, but he counts slow!).

Dunking the Tom in hot water to make the feather plucking easier.

Dunking the Tom in hot water to make the feather plucking easier.

Step four: remove the feathers and the pin-feathers (re-dunk the bird if the feathers do not come off easily).

Let the plucking begin.

Let the plucking begin.

De-feathering, a close-up shot.

De-feathering, a close-up shot.

Step five: Remove the head and neck. To do this, you want to cut the skin around the neck and pull the beard back over the head. Then, find the aorta and windpipe, get your fingers under them. Then, cut into the chest wall, careful not to rupture the stomach and spill the content. Cut through the layers of skin, and then rip the fat with your hands, pulling it gently away from the stomach which will be located behind a wall of fat. Once you have located the stomach, pull gently on it and get it out of the chest cavity. Then hold  the aorta and wind-pipe and and cut them off as deep into the chest as you can get. Then, peel it all back over the head, turn the head gently to find the joint where it attaches to the neck and cut between the head and neck joint. This will sever the head without having to cut through bone.

Cut skin all the way around the neck, below the beard in case of a Tom.

Cut skin all the way around the neck, below the beard in case of a Tom.

Locating the wind-pipe and aorta.

Locating the wind-pipe and aorta.

Gently pull stomach away from chest wall and out towards head.

Gently pull stomach away from chest wall and out towards head.

Stomach, head and neck, ready for severing.

Stomach being pulled out of chest cavity.

Sever head (and stomach, wind-pipe, aorta) from the neck at the joint where the head meets the neck.

Sever head (and stomach, wind-pipe, aorta) from the neck at the joint where the head meets the neck.

Wind-pipe, aorta, stomach and neck off the bird.

Wind-pipe, aorta, stomach and neck off the bird.

Cutting off the neck.

Cutting off the neck.

Step six: Remove the lower legs. To do this, cut between the joint and sever the cartilage. This way, you don’t cut through any bone and the leg comes away easily.

Cut between the joint, through the cartiledge and sever the lower leg.

Cut between the joint, through the cartiledge and sever the lower leg.

Within minutes of his death, the Tom begins to look a lot like Thanksgiving dinner.

Step seven: remove the oil sac. At the base of the bird, just above the tail is the oil sac. It is under the skin. Cut the skin, and gently pull away the skin and the oil sac as you go.

At the base of the tail is the oil sac, remove this first.

At the base of the tail is the oil sac, remove this first.

Step eight: remove the anus, being careful not to cut through the colon. To do this, cut the skin on either side of and around the anus. At this point, Clarence tells me that it comes in handy not having his left thumb and index finger tip, ‘I can use it to remove the stomach contents and not worry about my nails rupturing the contents!’ Incidentally, he did not lose them to the butchering process, but to a dynamite mishap as a young child.

Cutting around the anus, careful not to sever the colon and spill its contents.

Cutting around the anus, careful not to sever the colon and spill its contents.

Anus and colon tube.

Anus removed and colon tube exposed.

Step nine: Remove the innards. To do this, reach into the cavity with your hand. Roll your hand to one side, detaching the innards from the chest wall. Repeat towards the other direction. You should then be able to feel the heart and lungs. Take hold of these and gently pull your hand out from the belly cavity, pulling the contents with you.

Carefully removing the innards from the turkey.

Carefully removing the innards from the turkey.

Step ten: Once the innards have been removed, carefully cut out the heart, liver, and gizzard. Slice the heart in half (butterfly) and rinse of blood. Cut the liver away from the gall, careful not to spill the gall bladder contents, rinse. Cut the gizzard away and then carefully butterfly the meat, being sure not to cut into the  crop and spill the contents, rinse. Put these items to one side with the neck. These pieces are kept for cooking and are cut up small and used to make the stuffing.

Carefully cut through meat surrounding the gizzard.

Carefully cut through meat surrounding the gizzard.

Behind the meat is the gizzard, a small pouch-like stomach full of grinding stones and undigested feed.

Behind the meat is the gizzard, a small pouch-like stomach full of grinding stones and undigested feed.

Carefully cut the liver away from the gall bladder, then rinse it clean.

Carefully cut the liver away from the gall bladder, then rinse it clean.

Neck in two pieces, liver between neck, heart, and gizzard.

Neck in two pieces, liver between neck, then heart, and gizzard.

Step ten: cool the bird. Place the bird in cool water to chill the meat completely and give it a final rinsing.

The final dunk, cooling the meat.

The final dunk, cooling the meat.

Finally, you have your turkey ready for the table or the freezer!

Three Tom turkeys now ready for the table.

Three Tom turkeys now ready for the table.

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Filed under Animal issues, Chickens, Ducks, Educational, Ethical farming, How to..., personal food sovereignty, Turkeys