Sunday, October 30, 2011


Time to bring the pumpkins into the basement, before the heavy frosts spoil them. We planted these in the middle of July, but still got a fairly respectable harvest.

The first of the chickens on their way to the chopping block. Jonathan wound up doing most of this part of the job. You can't help but feeling sorry for these poor birds as you're hauling them off. Still, they had a chance to express their chickeness (as author Joel Salatin puts it) by living outdoors and having a chance to scratch for food, etc. The chicken you eat at a fast food restaurant lived its short life confined in a dark building with thousands of other chickens and never saw the sun or a blade of grass. A chicken that has lived outdoors, eaten green leaves and bugs, vegetable scraps and berries tastes Soooooo much better than your industrial chicken that you wonder why we ever settled for factory food. The answer of course is because it is less expensive; but considering that we are what we eat, do we really do ourselves a favor by eating the cheapest food we can find?

Our friends the Sullivans came over with their children to observe and assist. It's good to know where your food actually comes from.

Sue, Nora and Jake observing the fine art of digging the guts out a chicken. There are a lot of smells associated with this phase of the process. It was a cold day so I had heated the garage and used my table saw, covered with plastic, as a work table. The warmth made for a comfortable working environment, but it also, shall we say, enhanced the fragrance.

I borrowed a motorized chicken plucker from a friend who had built it. You must first dip the birds in 160 degree water for nearly a minute ( I didn't time this, just checked the feathers to see how easily they came off), then drop them in the barrel and turn on the switch. The while drum has rows of rubber fingers and encloses a spinning base covered with similar fingers, so that the chicken is tumbled and tossed about and the feathers are pulled off. With the right scald (correct water temperature and duration), the picker works like magic. After 15 seconds you have fully plucked bird.

Sully wanted to learn this part of the trade, so I glady apprenticed him. After a few hundred more chickens I am confident that he will qualify for a journeyman's license. In all we processed 28 birds in about 3 hours, not counting lunch and coffee breaks. Next year I think we'll do turkeys however. Having to process only 7 or 8 turkeys started to sound real good somewhere around bird number 20.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


October has been a tough month for me. I first developed a bad case on tendonitis in my left knee. After about a week, just as the left one was getting better, the right knee flared up. I suspect I was favoring the left leg so much that I overworked the right one. Once the right knee got stiff and sore, I wound up overworking the recovering left knee and wound up with two painfully swollen knees at the same time - which pretty much puts you right out of commission for awhile. So say hello to icepacks, elevation, anti-inflamatories and the life of a couch potato. Basically I was laid up for four days with very little mobility.

(P.S. It turns out that I had Lyme's disease, which I didn't know when I originally posted this.)

Fortunately, the sun eventually came out and the inflamation began to subside, and lo and behold, on this fine morning I found that I could actually WALK without significant pain. Trust me, walking is nothing to take for granted. It is a wonderful gift!

Winterberries, arguably the most beautiful berry of all.

Sunlit pines against a gathering storm.

This scene was made all the more exquisite by the fact that I was actually able to walk off the road down the level of these berries without pain.

Sunshine is never more beautiful than when it follows or precedes a storm.

None of us wants pain. We try to avoid it. Yet somehow it opens us up to see beauty in new ways. I like to think that it expands our capacity to experience happiness. When you can walk slowly on still somewhat stiff knees for a mile without feeling any of those shooting pains that have been your companions day and night for a long while, you begin to wonder is there any greater joy than walking slowly in a beautiful setting without pain? Pain is a humbling thing, but it teaches us to accept life as it comes without demanding that it obey our wishes.

Red is the color of pain, but it is also a very beautiful color.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Moving the Mik's and Jeni's new freezer into the basement. We had less than an inch to spare.

An October sunrise. I was laid up at home with a swollen knee. Seems like you notice things like this better when you're mobility is limited.

Meat birds soon to be turned into freezer birds.

Fishing for steelhead near the mouth of the Elm. Skunked again.

Gunnar in his new moveable pen. We need to keep him separated from the ewes until late November so we don't have lambs in February.

One of the largest of our 23 pumpkins.


It's still summer in the greenhouse however.

Jonathn took top ten in the UP collegiate XC race at Marquette.

An autumn ritual - hauling firewood with the tractor to the back of the house where we throw it down a chute into the basement. After a week of unseasonable warm windy weather, the wood was nice and dry.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2, Otter Lake

A calm, warm afternoon - perfect for a paddle.

Carl and Chris joined us for trip around Otter Lake.

The Sturgeon river once emptied into Otter Lake near its north end. It flowed out of the lake about a half mile from where it came in. However, when the land along the river upstream was logged and cleared for farming, heavy erosion threatened to fill the lake with silt. To prevent this, the state cut a bypass around the lake and dammed up the old inlet. Now the the old river channel is a dead water slough.

The fall colors were about a week from their peak, but no one complained.

Warm October sunshine brings out turtles. We saw dozens and hear many more plop into the water as we passed.

Going up the slough was a relaxing paddle....

But things got kinda weird when we headed back down...

Didn't I just see you guys going the other way?

The fly in the ointment. After paddling 2/3 around the lake we were ready for a shore break, a chance to sit in the sun and have a picnic. We decided to land at a grassy spot at the right edge of the picture. After we had beached the canoes and gotten seated on our folding seats we became aware of a distinct aroma reminiscent of a fish that has spent too many days out of the water. Further investigation revealed a black greasy mass of questionable antecedents, which although unknown, strongly suggested a close association to the lower bowels of a large fish eating mammal. But since the brush was very heavy and no one felt strongly enough to relocate, we simply shifted our seats away from the subject at hand and enjoyed our picnic. It is only fair to relate this to you dear reader, lest finding yourself in a less idyllic situation, you may begin to feel that life has dealt unfairly with you and that you are always left holding the sh*tty end of the stick. Please rest assured that that stick has a broad reach and even those you are tempted to envy are familiar with its slippery handle.