Thursday, March 17, 2011

Whatcha call it?

I call them all Mrs. Black. There's Itty Bitty, but she was named before she moved in with me. For someone who's spent a lot of her career naming things, I sure don't stretch the creation juices very far in my animal naming. Everyone is welcomed, if they "do right"(to quote the dude at my service station) but I don't spend a lot of time thinking of names for them. The square headed Pit/Boxer mix rescue is kinda scary and I found a lot of people saying..."ha, ha, hey Buddy!" when they got out of their cars to greet him. Hopeful even. So I call him Buddy.

The Rat Terrier/Jack Russell that someone tied to a tree before moving out of their house was behind Brady's Upholstery left to fend for herself. I call her Brady.

Last month a new random dog was dumped on the property and promptly decided this was the Nirvana he was searching for. He's a border/aussie mix. I call him Border Collie. Whatever. He comes to it. But this dog is so great he'd come if you said Bangers and Mash out the window.

So anyway, Mrs. Black is in my kitchen. She comes in each day, eats some dog food and tries to figure out if I have any other snacks. Yesterday's orzo pasta was a hit. I vow to keep the screen locked. She is one of my egg laying, rather bold hens. She is one of a small flock of 6. I have recently added 25 meat birds. They will be living on the old tennis courts of this funky old estate I bought 6 years ago. They are 6 days old and making quite a racket in the spare bedroom. They are living in a Chicken Bus that my kooky albeit talented carpenter made out of old cabinet doors.

The Carpenter can make anything out of anything (when he feels like it) and frequently quotes the bible. Incorrectly. With a prodigious use of the f-bomb. Fuckin' Jesus would never do that, being one of my favorites. He has never once said, like the last 8 handymen at this property, "Michele, that can't be done..." And I ask a lot. Plumbing, electrical, insulation blowing, hole digging, philosophy, animal care, humor, labor, invention and yea, finally carpentry. I want to grow Tilapia in a kiddy pool with a solar powered heater and sump pump. He doesn't even roll his eyes. I trust that I'll be inviting you to a fish fry over the summer. He has called my desire to raise rabbits for their lean protein and low maintenance care (as opposed to goats or cows who can be destructive and expensive) some "country ass shit...eatin' rabbits?" and I try to explain that in some places, like, well all of Europe and everywhere but the U.S. rabbits are delicious and cheap. And well, prolific breeders. And I'm a lazy farmer.

But bunnies are so cute! I don't get involved in the cute factor. Growing food is for realists. I think chickens are lovely, but I'll definitely tuck into a basket of fried. So it goes for the smart animal idea. This whole, chickens are stupid thing is so weird. How do you know? What, they did your taxes last year and missed a deduction? They have a hierarchy. They put themselves to bed at the same time each night. They avoid predators (mostly) and they forage their own food. And they're delicious! Can your CPA say that?

And if smart is the line in the sand, then you better pass on the bacon. I have a feeling the reason we don't eat cats is because they don't taste good. These cultural slogans have gotten lodged in our collective herd brains and have us talking out of our asses. "Oh I couldn't slaughter an animal!" Really? But you could go through a ChikFilA drive through and eat that mass produced "poultry" crap? Come now, children. If you can buy a dirty feed lot cow ground up with hooves wrapped in cellophane that has passed through the hands of some 20 odd people from here to Tapachula, Mexico, at your local Kroger---you surely have the stomach to slaughter, let's call it process, an animal that has been fed by you and only you for the purpose of going on your table. If you don't, you should have the wallet to have some other stiff lipped farmer to do it. And it takes 24# of feed to raise a proper organic bird to be 5 lbs. in 5 months. Expect and be happy to pay about $20 for Mrs. Black when the time comes. Yea, I know. And to think that could be cutting into your coffee budget. I know I'm certainly worried about Starbuck's bottom line.

Here and in future posts I'm going to share my experiences with homesteading and growing food. Some of it is funny and some of it is scary. But hopefully you'll learn something. I know I am. I was a consumer/diner as a food/travel writer--then an end user/retailer as a chef and restaurateur and now I'm giving a go as a producer/grower. I'm moving down the food chain as it were. Call it what you want.