Saturday, July 9, 2011

What a week!

One of my American does and her most recent litter
Wow!  It’s been a busy week.  I never knew being unemployed was so exhausting!
The boys and I went into town on Tuesday and picked up feed for the animals and groceries for us.
On Wednesday, I took 9 rabbits in to get butchered.  I picked them up around 2pm and managed to get 3 boned by 5:30.  No, it really didn’t take me that long; I just had to get a load of dishes going and clean my island off. 

Max, the youngest, needed a break, so I took a load of laundry out to the clothesline and let him run around.  He was having a good ol’ time.  He had found Bear’s (our Aussie) football and was carrying it around.  Max wandered off towards the far side of the barn, and wouldn’t come back when I called.  Just as I was getting ready to go after him, I heard him start to scream.  Looking towards the barn, I could see through one of the stall doors, that one of the roosters was attacking him.  I went tearing off towards them, yelling at the rooster.  The stupid bird just looked at Max and looked at me as if to say ‘what ya going to do about it?’  I shooed the rooster off of Max, who promptly took off running for the house, still screaming.  The rooster then decided that he would take me on. 

Now this is not the first time, or even the third time, that this rooster thought he could take me on, and each time, he has come out the loser.  You would think he would have learned by now but chickens are not even close to being the smartest bird in my barnyard.  To put it nicely, he flew at me, I ducked but snagged his feet.  And, voila, we had roasted chicken for dinner.  We actually had him for dinner the next night, because by the time I was done dressing him out, and cleaning up the rabbit in the kitchen, I was exhausted!!

Poor Max, I caught up with him halfway to the house, and he was crying inconsolably.  I took him into the bathroom and stripped him down.  He had welts all over his back and arms but only 2 small punctures; one right by his ear that was bleeding and one on his right shoulder blade, that eventually turned into a lovely black and blue bruise.  I cleaned them really good and put on triple antibiotic.  Then Grandma and Grandpa came over and made a big fuss over him while I went outside to deal with the rooster.

Thursday, I got an early start and while the chunks of meat from the first three rabbits were thawing, I boned the other 4.  Two of the rabbits I left whole and put in the freezer to roast or fry later.  I kept a big stew pot boiling on the stove and threw the bones in to make broth which I need to can this weekend.

After the 4 rabbits were boned and chunked, I put the meat into the freezer and set up my manual meat grinder and got to work on the first batch of meat.  It went pretty fast but by the time I was done, my left hand felt frostbitten and my right arm felt like it should belong to Popeye!  All in all, grinding all 7 rabbits probably took me about an hour to hour and a half.  I didn’t weigh it afterwards (I wish I had) but I would guestimate that I had 25-30 lbs of ground meat.

I divided the meat up into 5 batches; I put 3 lbs of straight meat into 1lb bags, then I made a batch of Italian sausage, Portuguese Linguica, breakfast sausage and a small batch of pepperoni.

The Italian sausage was the easiest.  A couple of years ago, my husband purchased some Weston sausage seasoning mixes.  The Italian tasted perfect once I figured out how much to add.  I did this by trial and error.  I would add spice then fry up a small patty in my cast iron skillet.  That was the best part, the taste test!  I also used the Weston pepperoni, which was pretty good, and the Weston breakfast sausage.
Now the breakfast sausage mix I thought left a lot to be desired so I added in a lot more sage, some fresh ground ginger and pepper and it still wasn’t perfect but it was pretty close.

Now for the Portuguese Linguica, which is one of my absolute favorites, I used a recipe I got from my Master Food Preservers’ class.  Here is the recipe for anyone that is interested.  It’s very easy to make and uses ingredients that most people already have on hand.

Portuguese Linguica
1 lb pork (Boston Butt) or use 1 lb ground pork
4 large cloves garlic
½ tsp crushed red pepper
¾ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
¼ tsp fennel seed
1T paprika

If using pork butt, cut into 1 ¼ inch cubes.  Chill well.  Place in grinder and chop.  Smash garlic and put it in the bowl with the other ingredients.  Mix well.  Refrigerate for 2 days (optional).  Put in casing or make into patties.  Cook well.  Will make into about 12 patties or 10 links.

With the Italian, Linguica and breakfast sausages, I made some into patties and left some bulk, packed in 1 lb freezer bags. 
(Ignore my dirty kitchen; I make a mess when I cook…)

So as you can see above, I have 3-1lb bags of just ground rabbit, 2-1lb bags of rabbit pepperoni (I will let my husband put it into casings if he wants), 1-1lb bag of Linguica and 7-1lb bags of Italian.  Plus I had a whole cookie sheet filled with patties.
I made the patties right on wax paper, and then layered the wax paper on the cookie sheet.  I also labeled the wax paper so I could keep the sausages straight.  I’m thinking I made some of the patties too big but by this point, I just wanted to be done.  After a night in the freezer, I let the patties sit on my counter for about ½ hour before separating and putting them in gallon Ziploc freezer bags.
I made Tony up an appetizer plate when he got home so he could try them all.

All in all, I think the sausage came out very good.  When I do it next time, I think I will get a couple of pounds of pork fat from the butcher shop and mix into the meat.  The patties are pretty lean. 

According to my calculations, rabbits and ducks are about the only two things that I have in my barn that is more cost effective to raise than to buy at the store.  My rabbits cost me a little bit more than they should because instead of butchering them at 8-12 weeks of age, I usually do it around 16 weeks so they have more meat on their bones.  So we have a lot of good meals ahead of us J.

Speaking of the barnyard, this morning, I went out to let everyone out of their stalls.  I let the goats out first so they can mow some of the weeds around the barn while I am letting out the chickens, ducks, turkeys and guineas.  I went into the feed stall to get some grain for the goats and discovered feathers all over the place. 

The night before, the turkey hen had wanted to sit on her eggs and she wouldn’t get off and go into her stall with the others.  And when a turkey hisses at me, I back off!  Unfortunately,  the feed stall’s back wall is dry-rotted and there are several large holes that the birds use to go in and out (they like to lay their eggs in the feed stall).  So when a raccoon came poking around last night, it got right in with my turkey hen and killed her, leaving me with a lot of feathers and a nice mess to clean up.

I really HATE raccoons.  I lost 30-40 birds to them last year and was hoping that any raccoons left, would have moved on, but that must have just been wishful thinking on my part.  I am still letting my chickens run around since I figure they have a better chance out the in the open.  Raccoons will kill them without eating them if they are close at hand.  

I really need to get a Livestock Guardian Dog to keep an eye on things for me.  I bought a pup last year, but I think she got poisoned by some water in a barrel in a pile of junk the previous owners had left behind.  I have been on a waiting list for another for about 9+ months now.  Guess I need to give them a call and see if they are going to have any pups available any time soon.

For other news, we got an appointment with a Neurosurgeon on the 20th to talk about Cody’s upcoming (5th) surgery.  This surgery will be to implant a Vagal Nerve Stimulator,  which will hopefully help to control and reduce his seizures and to help with his recovery time afterwards.  He had 3 seizures on Friday, with the first one being the worst in which he stopped breathing twice.  Thankfully, it was of short duration and he didn’t even turn blue but it sure raised my blood pressure!!  We had to use the last of his rescue meds so hopefully he doesn’t have any more seizures until we get more on Monday.

The good news of the week is that I got the new hoses on the swimming pool pump, filled it up and its ready to go!  Yeah!  I just can’t take hot days, which for me, is anything above 80 degrees.

Well, the dogs are insisting they need to be feed, so I will see you all next time.