KW Homestead

Emma & Jason's pasture raised poultry, homesteading thoughts, and wild adventures.

Tag: cycle of life (page 1 of 3)

A First & Future Generation Farm (2FGF): Happy 2nd Anniversary

With our 2 year wedding anniversary coming up tomorrow, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a homesteader, to raise a family, and to believe that our land carries spiritual and cross-generational significance.

fall homestead wedding

Our wedding day, on our land. Photo by Jenny Tenney Photography.

Plenty of young farmers our age (30 & 26… Oh yeah, I married a young one!) inherited their land from their parents or even grandparents, on down the line. We did not. We both grew up in cities, with varied experiences of what land, nature, and farming meant. My parents raised chickens and the best veggies you could ever hope to find, as we went hunting, swimming, and camping on land we owned beginning when I was 12 or so. My father grew up a country boy and taught us how to kill and gut our first chicken (how long ago that seems now). Jason’s family has two folds: a maternal side that hails from the tropical beauty and abundance of Puerto Rico, where fruits and other crops grow in backyards and chicken go wherever they please, and a paternal grandfather who always hoped to be a farmer but whose allergies assaulted him every time he tromped through the bushes.

This is our lineage.

I used to feel a bit sad when I read about other farms being Fifth Generation, or any other awesome, unbroken number of generations. I would think about the legacy that, despite the reality of precarious land inheritance, these families continue and carry with them everyday. Both the maternal and paternal sides of my family have memory of family land that for some sad reason or another was lost to the family history, either through development, the Depression, or family disputes. I wager that you have a similar history in the living memory of your family. Just ask your oldest uncle and see.

But although this family land was loved and lost and is now just a memory, it doesn’t detract any value from the land we love and live on now. Jason and I are building a legacy, however long or short-lived it may be, one that we hope our children will love as much as we do. We believe that this legacy will stand the test of time because we are tied to the land, but more importantly, because of what the land means to us.

Our land means life. It means meat and vegetables raised in the healthiest possible way. It means medicine. It means joy watching the leaves change and the pigs farrow and the cows calve. It means memory. Yes, already there is memory here. The trees speak of it and earth remembers. The patch of ground where we said our vows and committed our lives to each other remembers and reminds us. Sacred ground where animals have bled, we have also bled. We use the earth but it also uses us. It takes over our old things, and conquers even the toughest changes we make. And we speak back to it, and ask to use this space for a while, to carve out a place for our children, and our children’s children, and beyond. This land will always be here, until the end of the earth. It will change and morph and gather new history once we are gone, but it will still remember.

Our land is our life. We work on it, live on it, love on it, and one day we plan to die on it. It is the full circle that after two years we have already come to see as what unifies us in all things.

And so even though we start fresh in this land, as First Generation farmers, we are also so much more. We are Future Generation Farmers. We create now what we hope will support and care for our grandchildren, and theirs.  We give as much life as we can in all that we do. It’s a fair trade, because we certainly take as well.

It our most sincere hope that this land will hold a place in the genetic memory of our babies. Science recognizes that the unique microbes existing in certain locations colonize and proliferate inside the bodies and digestive tracts of animals living there (contributing to immunity). So our children (and ourselves) will have a very real biological connection to this place, to these humble and bountiful 16 acres. To me this is epic. An epic connection to an epic place, called home.

Two years ago when I said my vows to Jason, I promised many things. He spoke to me of the memories we’ve already made on this land, and what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained. I said these words then, and I will say them again and forever mean them:

“I will always love you. Until I do not live. Until our children are all that is left of us, I will love you.”

And when the time comes that our children are all that is left of us, this land will live on, through them. This land, and the two farmers who lived their lives on it, will carry on.

.:.

Beginning Fresh This Fall: A Homestead Recovers From an Injury

We realize that it has been almost 2 months since we’ve posted regularly… And as I’ve briefly mentioned in past posts, the last few months have been busy and difficult.

I feel that there is finally time for Jason and I to breathe, relax, and reflect on everything that has happened.

On July 31, I was in the front yard setting up electric fencing and Jason was in the back yard processing a pig. I heard a yell and knew that something was terribly wrong. Jason yelled for help again, and I ran around to the backyard but he wasn’t there when I got there. I followed him into the basement and saw a trail of blood drops from the door to the sink, with Jason running his hand under the water.

He started to feel faint and I sat him down and looked at his hand. We stopped the bleeding and I didn’t look very closely, but I could tell that he definitely needed stitches. Our closest hospital is 20 minutes away and we drove there. We spent almost 10 hours in total in the ER and driving to and from 2 different hospitals.

Jason had been using a very, very sharp 14 inch blade for processing and he switched to his left hand to make a cut. The knife slipped and gouged his right palm and index finger. He ended up with a severed artery, nerve, nicked tendon sheath (we’re thankful the tendon was fully in tact), 13 stitches, a cast, and an August 6 surgery date.

His hand was immobilized in a cast that kept the pressure off of his tendons (since they weren’t sure if the tendon was damaged until they went into surgery). After the surgery, he had to deal with a smaller cast (shown below) and the inability to move at all without feeling pain.

hand cast

Jason’s second, post-surgery cast.

His physical therapist says that he will make a full recovery, and we both consider now to be a time when things feel healed, both with his hand and with our homestead. He hasn’t felt pain for many weeks, and he has regained almost full mobility!

The homestead is now operating at a higher level than it was when he was healing (we were just trying to get through day during that time), and we’ve seen the fruits of our labors: we’ve begun to sell Pekin ducks and duck eggs. The heritage turkeys are growing every day and we can’t believe how close Thanksgiving really is!

If there is just one thing we’ve learned (and there really is more than just one), it is that the life we have chosen, our homestead life, is meant for the both of us. We need each other. When one of us is down, the other one has to try to do double (and it just isn’t possible on the scale in which we’re operating).

There is still a lot to do to catch up and get ahead and ready for winter and next year, but we’re starting to feel “normal” again.

We’ve both learned a lot about our chosen life and our partnership during the last few months, and we’re proud to say that we celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary a few weeks ago on September 27. For us, our anniversary was a great chance to think of our fresh start for this fall!

We are also going to be posting more often (let’s hope we can get back up to every day), so stay tuned for more information about new things going on around Kuska Wiñasun Homestead, like:

  • Our new dog, Coona
  • Our experience selling ducks and eggs at market
  • The new turkey house
  • Some delicious duck recipes!

.:.

On Catching Pigs (Almost)

We didn’t get him.

We came close, oh so close, but we didn’t get him. The pig that is.

His number has come up, and our plan was to isolate him for a few days before the deed was done, but after an exciting evening complete with blood, sweat , and tears, we didn’t get him.

silvopastured pigs

“Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Bacon should not be highly rated.” ~Thomas Paine

 

8 Babies: A Pig Birth Story!

It has been a little over a week since our pot belly pig, Louise, had her litter of babies. Since then, her sister Thelma has also had her babies and both mothers are doing great and raising cute, healthy babies!

This is the account of the birth of Louise’s babies (the little bit that I experienced of it):

Early on the morning of May 1, I went out in the predawn to feed Louise and found that she had annihilated the patch of blackberries that was in her pen. She hadn’t eaten them, though, simply sniped them off at the ground and piled them high in the corner of the pen. She had also gathered any grasses that were growing in the pen and even thought a bit of the hanging tarp above her would be good for her nest.

Through my research, I learned that a pig that is about to give birth obsessively makes a nest for her and her babies about 12 hours before she goes into labor. I love the parallel with human mammals… How women often feel that nesting urge a few days before giving birth. I think it is fantastic that our mammal bodies know what is coming, even if our conscious brains do not.

So when I went out to feed her and saw that her nest was complete and she was laying on it, I knew her time was near! I was concerned that the blackberries vines would be too scratchy, so Jason added wooden wool to the pen and she quickly grabbed it with her mouth and started redesigning her nest.

I spent all day at work hoping that I wouldn’t miss the births, but when I got home I saw that I had missed them! There were 7 healthy babies, all dried off and nursing! I was able to go in the pen and sit right next to Louise since she was still in labor (having not yet delivered the placenta). Normally she would NOT allow this, but I sat down quietly and gently and didn’t try to touch her babies so she calmed down. I was able to pat her and talk to her and that was nice. I was hoping that she would deliver more babies but since the others were all so clean and dry, I thought that she was likely done delivering.

piglets

Piglets!

 

piglets

Cute!

I left to bring her some more hay for bedding and when I returned I saw that she had in fact delivered another baby, but when I got closer I could see that the bay was a stillborn. It was a little black piglet, unmoving and not breathing. I picked him up and rubbed his chest to see if he might breathe with some help and tried to blow some air into his lungs, but he didn’t move. I think he had probably died a little while before in the womb, and therefore it was harder for her to deliver him, so he was born last.

We buried him next to our blackberry bush in the garden. With 7 healthy and chubby babies, Louise and Jason and I have a lot of life to be thankful for!

About an hour later she delivered the placenta and I “kidnapped” it to have a closer look at this amazing organ! Much to my surprise, Louise delivered another placenta later, as if she was a human mother bearing twins! Her sister, Thelma, also delivered 8 babies but only one placenta.

placenta

The placenta!

 

placenta

What a magnificent organ!

Louise quickly recovered and luckily I was able to pick up a couple of her babies before she was up on her feet again (since she would not have allowed it if I had tried just 30 minutes later).

piglets

Out and about!

 

piglets

Hanging out with mom!

 

piglets

Like mother, like son!

 

piglets

Hey, wait for me!!!

She ate her second placenta (or so I assume since it disappeared), drank water, and did not eat other solid foods that day. Mother pigs don’t need food on the birth day, but do need extra food after that!

Now her babies are amazingly fatter and cuter and are started to look more piglet-like.  Five are pink and two are black, one with white “stockings.” 4 are male and 3 are female, and the stillborn was also a male. She has let me touch a few of them gently both from outside the cage and from within. She always keeps an eye on me, though.

Her piglets are innately very socially conscious… They are born knowing to leave the nest to pee or poop and they spend a lot of time snuggling with each other and walking around, exercising their legs!

Overall, an extraordinary experience! I’m so happy to see many more pot belly pig births in my life!

.:.

Waste Not: Respecting the Rooster By Using It All

roosters

Some of the roosters, enjoying their time in the yard.

Recently we made a delicious rooster soup, and used all of the bones for the broth. We came out with a fantastically fatty stew that we will certainly enjoy again!!!

We wanted to be sure to use the entirety of each rooster, since wasting any part of them would feel like a disrespect. I watched each of them come into this world, hovering over the incubator like a ridiculous, nervous mom. I spent time with them and they came to know me as a creature to trust. Witnessing life’s full circle is a meaningful event, one that makes me all the more aware of our responsibility to honor the roosters after they have been dispatched. Here is how we used all of our roosters…

After they were killed, they were scalded in hot water to make plucking their feathers easier. All of these feathers were saved and I will be using them for earrings, a headdress, or even for stuffing fun, homemade pillows.

feathers

Feathers!

 

feathers

So many feathers!

Their heads were removed and we later put them in the compost pile so they can contribute their nutrients to our garden beds.

Their internal organs were removed, and the majority were fed to the pigs, who loved this snack!

We saved the livers for our dog, Bolt, and he got a snack also.

Then we fried the 3 hearts with salt and ate them ourselves. Delicious! This is one of my favorite little snacks… It makes me think of my childhood!

The feet were removed, cleaned, and steamed so that the skin would be easy to peel. These peels were given to the pigs and I saved the toenails for making jewelry.

The peeled feet were added to the soup… There is such great gelatin in chicken feet and it is so good for your body!

Once the broth was complete, the meat was removed from the bones and put back with the broth for our soup base.

I saved some of the more beautiful bones (the wish bones, phalanges, and other foot bones) for jewelry.

The remaining bones were cooked down over the course of a few days to make bone broth, a highly nutritous supplement to any future soup.

The bones that didn’t beak down fully were then mashed into a pulp to give to Bolt as a supplement… One better than money can buy!

So, thank you dear roosters! For all you have given us! We certainly appreciate it.

.:.

 

Maternal Magic: Pig Preparing to Give Birth

Today one of our sows is preparing to go into labor. She knows just when the time is right and she starts to make the bed on which she will labor and give birth. It is a ritual, really, a dance. Just like human women, when allowed to labor in natural, animal ways, her female body knows just what to do and when to do it.

She’s nesting, just like women often do before labor!

I find this video to be magical, since it is the first proof that birth is sure to begin soon… How exciting!

Check out our pot belly pig, Thelma, as she prepares her nest for her babies…

Notice that at the end of the video, she has her eye on the tarp, and starts to rip it to shreds. Her instincts are telling her that that blue flapping thing is a perfect addition to her babies’ nest!

.:.

Meet the Baby Turkeys!

We recorded this video today… The turkeys are doing very well and are the friendliest birds that we’ve ever had! They even try to follow you out of their pen!

Check it out…

.:.

Birthday Reflections: Why I Love Living on a Homestead in the Country

Today is my 29th birthday, and I thought it would be a good (and fun) time to reflect on our almost 2 years in our house in the country…

These are just a few of the many reasons why I love living in the country on our homestead:

  • When the seasons change, you get to witness them in full color and bloom!
    tree

    Our blooming Bradford Pear; Bolt loves the spring too!

     

  • Where else to have our wedding except on our own land?!
    fall homestead wedding

    Our wedding.

     

  • That drive home from the city… When I leave the lighted ares of the world and finally get to the dark… Then I feel like I’m home.
  • Being able to use our land the way we want without anyone telling us otherwise. Gardens, animal fences, etc.
    garden

    Growing cucumbers in the garden.

    fence

    A yard full of chickens!

     

  • Having an entire fridge in the basement dedicated to chicken eggsduck eggs (in the future), and beer.
    fridge

    Eggs and beer!

     

  • Having an entire freezer in the basement dedicated to venison.
    meat

    Oh, meat!

     

  • Having all the animals we want without thinking about city ordinances, etc.
    geese

    Those crazy geese!

     

  • Being able to explore all of the crazy, old outbuildings we have and search for treasures inside!
    corn crib

    The awesome corn crib!

     

  • Having acres and acres of land to explore.
    woods

    Walking in the woods!

     

  • Knowing that our children will have lots of space to explore, run, play,and grow.
  • Feeling like our project ideas are endless and boundless.
  • And many, many more reasons that cannot all be stated here…

    tree and love

    Happy at home!

.:.

Almost Grown Up: 7 Week Old Chickens!

This video gets up close and personal with the 7 week old chickens!

At this point in their development, you can see who the hens will be and who the roosters will be! The roosters have well-developed combs and a few of them are even starting to crow! For most of the chicks, you can tell which are hybrids (crosses between Barred Rocks and Buff Orpingtons) and which are full blooded Barred Rocks.

Check out the video for more info!

.:.

Naming More Bantams

Since the hawk attacks a few days ago, we’ve recounted and realized that another bantam was taken, Perry, the pretty little one who looked like a hawk herself. This realization was another blow… Especially one that made me feel guilty. Why hadn’t I noticed that she was gone? And how long had she been missing from the flock before I noticed? These questions were bothering me, so I decided to take a very careful tally of everyone who is left to be sure that I have my numbers right in the future if an issue ever arises again.

Related to this, the four black bantams that are still living with the standard chickens had never been named. Early on, there was 6 of them that all looked the same without any major markings to distinguish them. Now that there are 4, I decided that it was high time for me to spend some time observing them (like I did with the new bantam flock) so I could give them names. When they have names, it is much easier for me to remember how many there are and to watch out for them accordingly.

So as an overview for myself more than anything else, there are 12 bantams that are living in the bantam mobile. They are:

  • From the new flock: Elvis, Presley, Red Wing, Robin, Ringo, Poka, Oro, and Churo (8). The 2 from the new flock that hawks took were: Teeny and Perry.
  • From the original flock: Vanna, Q, Bren, and Cleo (4). The rooster from the original flock that the hawks took was Roosty.

There are 4 bantams living in the standard pen, they are:

  • Sola: She has the smallest comb of all and it is very gray. She has no head tuft.
  • Media: She has medium-sized comb that is pink. She has a medium-sized head tuft.
  • Caper: She has a large comb that is gray. She has a large head tuft.
  • Hattie: She has a large comb that is red. She has a large head tuft.

There are 16 standards living in their pen with the 4 black bantams. They are:

  • Rex the rooster
  • 8 Barred Rock hens
  • 7 Buff Orpington hens

So now we at least know how many we have of each (since I always tend to forget). Let’s hope we have better luck in the coming year with keeping an eye on our poultry!

.:.

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