Last weekend I spent three days trying to plant the last of the grass hay pasture in the upper fields. I had to drag the field with the harrow to knock down the weeds and smooth out the ground. One advantage of all the rain is that it softened up the dirt clods I had inadvertently created this summer. I managed to get the ground pretty smooth.
Friday was a gorgeous day! The temperature was pleasant and I was able to work most of the day on the tractor. I was able to finish the day and tell Annmarie that I was gonna get it done this weekend! I even managed to plant and cover almost 1.5 acres.
Saturday the plan had to be altered. I had been putting off killing the sheep for the last two months and managed to put it off until the last weekend of October! There was no more month to procrastinate in so Saturday was kill sheep day. We had three sheep to slaughter. Annmarie and I put them into the barn with the help of the dogs then when the two buyers showed up we sorted off the three whethers. Two of them were around 60# and the third was around 90#, he was the oldest. I usually do the killing when we are not having them professionally killed. I bleed them out using an old Basque method. We lift the animals and set them onto the barn window ledge with their head hanging out the window. I hold their head and right where their chin is I pinch the trachea slightly to find out where it located in vicinity to the spine then slide a fillet knife behind the trachea without cutting it. This allows you to sever both carotids and a hole on each side of the neck. The sharp side of the knife is pointed toward the spine so you don’t knick the trachea. You then just turn the knife sideways and apply pressure towards the spine, creating a wider hole for the blood to drain out. As long as the trachea is not cut the animals will just lay there and bleed out. It can be messy for the person holding the knife if the artery sprays blood out the top hole instead of following the laws of gravity. They just drain out and you end up with a very clean carcass. I am getting better at it. No mistakes or inadvertent knicks this time. Its important to understand that we treat the animals well and provide for them so that they can provide for us. Its not cruel, it is their purpose. We are all a part of the food chain and being at the top is always better than the alternative.
The two smaller animals we traded for a pig and the larger one we sold to an amazing gentleman from India. We all three cleaned, skinned and cut them up. We were able to use up almost every part of each animal. Americans don’t really understand how much of an animal we don’t consume. We saved the lungs, heart, kidneys, livers, heads, and all lower legs/hooves from every animal for the Indian gentleman. We asked him how he processed the head and lower legs and he said in India they burn off the hair then scrape the hide and then cook with them. I had a burn pile ready to go so I lit it for him and pulled all the boxes and paper I had saved this summer from the old house. He took 30 minutes and did exactly that before packaging up his portion. We also had jointed out his lamb and cut rib strips and entire spine into three sections so he could cut it up further at home. He was very happy and we learned something new, Oxen are not revered like the cow. Those that rever the cow can still consume oxen. I totally did not know that! I am going to have to fix the skinning area and install a gravel drain bed. When we wash off the carcasses it can get a little muddy. I want to dig down about 8-10 inches and fill it up with 2 inch gravel then the top 2 inches 3/4 minus gravel so the water just drains away immediately. My father always taught me the importance of keeping all your meat clean and up front prep is the key to doing this. I had bleached down the stainless steel table prior to us starting. It needs a little reinforcement, after five years it is starting to get a little wobbly. I can fix that, although the table will just get that much heavier after I reinforce it.
I was able to get my burn pile taken care of, I dumped off the few leftovers and hide up on the bone pile. Our neighbors had come over and gotten their cows that had showed up on Thursday on our back hillside. I thought it was the neighbor up the creek but it turned out to be our, over the hill, neighbor. He had a hole in the fence which is highly unusual as he is a great neighbor. I have learned though that all cows will get out eventually. Mine get out at least twice a year and have done that since we have had them. Even when I think there is no way possible for them to get out they do. We now have a note on the fridge with all the surrounding cow people’s phone numbers on it for just such an emergency. We usually get a few stragglers coming down out of the mountains after it starts to snow and will need to call everyone once again. Once you start calling around it works like a calling tree and pretty soon you are getting calls. Its times like that I really appreciate living in a place that people still look out for each other and it is the normal behavior.
Annmarie was not happy with the pile of wire and large cut up tree branches still hanging out in the ram pasture from my fence redo this summer. I brought the tractor in at dark and pushed all the tree parts into the fire to clean it up. I need to get the scrap fence pieces onto the scrap metal pile. The sheep kept going around the pile then did not want to go through the gate into the barn lot.
It rained all night Saturday and I was afraid I would not be able to plant on Sunday. Determination is a wonderful thing. I put on my thin cotton pants, two pair of socks and my chest waders with built in boots, a yellow rain slicker over my jacket with a waterproof hat and went outside. I bagged up the grass seed into large heavy plastic bags and tossed them and seed spreader into the bucket of my tractor and drove up to the upper field. I was able to trudge through the field feeling like an organ grinder with the seeder on my chest, my right arm turning the throwing wheel and my left hand thumb holding the reservoir gate open to allow the seed to fall into the spinning wheel. After three hours of this my right arm and legs were killing me. Mud on your boots makes it a lot harder to keep marching. I just kept listening to my book on tape and telling myself to just move my foot one more step. I kept that up for another five hours. Its amazing that if you take it one step at a time you can just keep going. Now there is a consequence for abusing your body like that, I did not sleep well. I kept tossing and turning and moaning in my sleep. I also will put my arms over my head in my sleep which causes me to jab Annmarie in the head with my elbows. Neither one of us slept very well and she made sure to spell out the reasons for it first thing Monday morning. I love it when she puts on her grumpy face!!
So I am officially done with planting grass this fall. I got it all in the ground and only ended up with an extra 50#. Annmarie has convinced me that I need to purchase a seeder for our small tractor. I am getting old and I want to plant alfalfa and I want to plant a field of Sainfoin which has to be planted 3/4 of an inch deep. So our plan is to put up more fencing and create some smaller pastures with gates around and through them. This will allow me to block off a few acres, till it and then replant it. I can keep the animals off of it for a few months until it is established. Doing this will increase our nutrition base for the cows and sheep. Mind you the three lambs we slaughtered looked amazing! They had a lot of belly fat inside their abdominal cavities, fat on their backs and the chests were covered with a thick layer. They had been getting plenty to eat and have lots of padding going into winter.