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Life at Lizard Holler
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Posted: April 25th. 2010
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We have a small farm here in Northern CA. We purchased 10 acres of beautiful land at the foot of Mt Shasta so we have the best view in the world. I named our farm Lizard Holler in honor of the 1000’s of them running everywhere and the fact that we live in a hollow bowl-type depression.
We are slowly but surely converting our land into a green farm. No pesticides or chemicals are used and we treat our land as if it was an extension of our own living body, because it is. Everything we put into the ground, we consume in our garden and our water and poultry, so we must be careful with what is introduced into it to remain healthy. We recycle and reuse to create a balanced micro-environment on our land. In doing so we create a healing environment for ourselves and our Mother Earth because what we take from her in the harvesting is given back in the composting, and enrichment of the soil that is natural and healthy. And not just in the garden but eventually everywhere on our property.
We raise our own poultry for eggs and meat and they have free range to scurry after all the bugs, grubs, and lizards and graze on the grass and weeds and such. And yes, one of the downsides is the reality of having to butcher these birds for food. But the reality is that if I want to know that my food is healthy and humanely treated, it is my responsibility to ensure it is done so. My husband and I know by experience all that goes into the care and feeding of our birds. In fact they are quite spoiled!
Being farm and ranch-wise, it helps to make a distinction between those that are pets and breeders and those that are food so that you don’t get too emotionally invested, though occasionally that does happen.
We also raise turkeys, and this year we kept a Bronze Turkey pair as breeders. This was done to allow more of a chance for the chicks to be raised right from our own breeding pairs so we could follow the results. My husband promptly named the pair Bert and Gertie and poured a lot of time and care into giving them extra tidbits of bread, greens, and love. And they in kind responded with great health, fanatical love for him, and all humans who had goodies, and unbelievable growth!
This was our first year at raising Bronzes, but we had researched and wanted to raise a natural bird that was fertile breed and not a hybrid that is sterile such as the common white turkey generally raised and eaten on Thanksgiving. We decided on the Bronze because it is naturally a big bird that could produce the biggest yield, quicker, and cheaper. Because it does cost money to raise our food we need to factor in cost. So they were are natural choice. We have had them since they were one day old, so we knew everything that was given as food to them ensuring no antibiotics. But there is one bad genetic trait that they have. It is found in their extreme fast growth and weight gain. In about 20% of the cases (especially when over-fed) they will blow their hip or knee. And that was the case for Bert. We had previously made a promise to each other, my Hubbs and I, that we would never allow any of our animals to suffer; and we now had to live up to that promise concerning Bert.
Bert had lived a full 6 months and was almost a pet to everyone here. Even when the grandkids visited, they were an instantaneous hit. The grandkids hugged him and petted him and Gertie, and they in turn, fretted over the kids, as if they were in fact their chicks…it was really precious to see! We fortunately have pictures to bring up those happy yet bittersweet memories. But after much checking and examinations, the verdict came back that Bert had in fact blown his hip. And for a bird his size, it would be extremely inhumane for him to continue to suffer, because he would constantly be trying to get up and walk.
Now I know that there are some who would say “How could you eat him…he was your pet!” I will say back to you, ” No- he was in fact and purpose for food-so How could I not?” To waste his life by discarding his purpose for being, which is food, is an insult to the cycle of life itself! True we had become emotionally attached to him as a pet, but his first purpose was for food. We honored him and his purpose by utilizing his final gift to us, his body. It is part of the cycle of life on this farm. It helps to keep us in check, and to understand the depth of the consequences of our lifestyle as farmers and as meat-eaters. We respect the lives that were given, and we refuse to be blind to the ultimate purpose of these birds. But we will not allow any suffering.
So Bert was humanely dispatched last week, and he ultimately had the last laugh on us! He was too big for my Hubbs to lift by himself so we could weigh him. His weight? 75.4 lbs! Dressed….65.6lbs! I have never in my life dressed a bird that big! Never! He was huge! We ended up having to halve him, because he was too big for the oven and even then that one half was almost too big for the largest pan I had! And the both of us ended up tweaking our backs dressing him out.
Whoever heard of 1/2 of a turkey weighing 32+lbs? But Bert gave another gift in his sacrifice…he is one of the best tasting turkeys I have ever had the honor of preparing. One of the most tender, and the moistest…. and in 6 months, he went from less than an ounce to 75+lbs! At that rate…it was 12.5 lbs a month weight gain! Big returns on small investment! But we need to become wiser in not allowing them to get “THAT” big ever again.
Gertie weighs in at a petite 65lbs right now and is now happily foraging with the rest of our chickens. She is doing great and shows no signs of bad hips or knees, and is laying an egg almost every day. She is a natural brooder (she loves to sit on her nest if there are eggs in there) , and so we will try again to get a couple of Bronze toms and at least one more hen for breeders. Hopefully, once we get one that proves not to have that defect; we can breed it out of our turkeys. The Hubbs and I learned a very tough lesson in killing something with kindness, and have vowed to control the amount of goodies so this does not happen again. Gertie is now officially on a diet.
My Hubbs and I respect our fellow creatures in our own way, we believe in owning up to our participation in our food consumption, and respect and value the gift of their sacrifice. We refuse to not utilize every part that we can. This is our way to bring respect and value to their gift of sustenance to ourselves.
The realities of farm life bring the Hubbs and I back closer to Mother Earth. Slowly, the frenetic days of living in Sparks NV are fading, to be replaced by a slower but just as busy pace of life. One that brings us back to the more honest and natural cycles of growing and harvesting. We live by the seasons, dictated to by weather and influenced heavily by the Moon. We choose to live close to the heartbeat of Mother Earth, restoring balance and respect and healing. We are starting to see the fruits of our hard work, in the form of healthy organic fruits and vegetables, and meat and eggs. That alone is worth every ounce of sweat that is going into our living area!
Everything is involved in this cycle and rhythm and nothing is wasted. It’s purpose is recognized, honored, and respected in our own way. And nothing is taken for granted.
We’ve learned to keep a generator on hand for when the power goes out; we also have a wood cook stove with a 6-gallon water reservoir that doubles for our source of heat. And our water heater is on-demand kerosene, but the cook stove can easily be converted to allow a water jacket and hot water heater feed in a pinch. There are a few more things that we need to get done this year…like rebuilding the green house that blew away a couple of weeks ago. It was made with a flimsy aluminum frame kit that the Hubbs tried in vain to beef up….but with 70mph winds.
So if you live in Arkansas be on the lookout for some poly-carbon panels. They fly just like para-sails! The next greenhouse will be in a more sheltered area and built far more sturdy, by hand and not some kit.
So now it’s time for more canning of turkey broth that will be used in all the future soups and stews and for freezing about 5lbs of breast meat that is left over-unbelievable! And since the weather is bad for today…we will huddle over our seed catalogs by the cook stove discussing the pros and cons of the various seeds to plant, laying out the beds in the garden, checking on and feeding the chickens and Gertie, and stocking the wood pile.
And while I’m baking the ever-present chocolate chip cookies; the cats and dogs will snooze blissfully on the couch and bed, re-living their chases of squirrels and lizards in the summertime days. And life will seem at once balanced and cozy and more in tune to Mother Earth. Life is more honest and becoming more in touch as each day goes by and that is good!
Peace and Blessings!
Copyright: copyright (C) January 2010
Location: Montague, California
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