I cannot buh-lieve that we are already at the end of July! It seems like yesterday that snow was on the ground and we weren’t worrying about overgrown brush dominating the landscape. Now I look outside and everything is super lush.
With summer in full swing, we turned our focus to a brand new project: raising a round of chickens for meat. We never raised chickens before and I wanted to incorporate them as an organic bug control in the pastures. The thing I like about raising broilers is that you only do it for a short 10 week period. This is enough time to rotate their "Chicken Tractor" through the pastures and over the llama poo piles. They’ll scratch these and eat all the bug eggs and larvae and hopefully save me some time in dealing with the deer flies. After they are fully grown into young chickens we process them right into the freezer. I’ve read and studied as much as I could about chicken processing and I know that it is not a pretty job! Luckily I was able to locate, and reserve, some poultry processing equipment so that we aren’t hand plucking all 25 birds. So, we’ll see how it goes. For now though, its all about the baby chicks! Awwwww! They are so cute! We thought about naming them: Teriyaki, Grilled, Butterfly, Kebob, Stuffed… They say not to name the birds you intend to butcher as you’ll become close to them. Well, no worries about that here…Marinade, Fried, and Roasted. But, I will say it was neat that the hatchery include a free "rare and exotic species" bird with our order. Glenn named him Marshall. He’s got a little pompadour feather head. We’ll probably end up keeping him. That means I’ll probably have to figure out some sort of housing for the wintertime after all (which was what I was trying to avoid until I was ready for egg layers…ahhh well.)
Living in the mountains with our mild summers we don’t really feel pressed to get the alpacas shorn for the summertime heat. So shearing has been a little later than typical. This is year number two for shearing practice. I still feel like a drunk poodle groomer when I look at them. This year we had some clipper challenges that sent me back to the drawing board a bit to figure things out. I ended up ordering a DVD about shearing so that I can bone up some more on this skill set. I know I’ll get there, but right now its still a little touch and go. At least I didn’t cut any of them with the clippers! Poor Cisco, or brown alpaca, was the only one not to be shorn because all the blades became too dull by the time we got to him. We did his neck by hand, but he’ll have to wait until the new blades arrive. All that dirt in their fiber really can dull you clipper blades fast! I’m thinking about how I can wash him before we clip him next to see if that works better at removing the dirt in his fleece.
The seemingly slow start to the summer is reflected a bit in the garden vegetables. Everything is really taking its time. I think part of the reason was the cold snap in June. However, we have been harvesting…some baby greens here and there, some Romaine lettuce, even our first head of scrumptious Fennel! The real treat has been the freshly picked peas! WOW! There is a serious difference between the taste of peas fresh from the garden versus anything you will ever buy in the store. We found this great recipe for preparing freshly shelled peas that includes layer the following in a sauce pan: oil, chopped romaine, chopped green onion, peas, and a sprig of mint and parsley. The romaine lettuce was a surprise to us. It really adds a bit of green leaf to the peas that is just right.