Today we got a break in the rain (yes, already twice the normal amount for July...) to process the additional 7 cockerels from the April 15th order. We also took the opportunity to bid a fond fair well to Odie. Our late rooster had developed a habit of harassing the hens and running away at the first sign of trouble, causing two hens to get taken by a fox instead of himself. On this farm, the purpose of the rooster is to be a look out for hens and, if necessary, allow himself to get taken first by a predator. At the very least, he should be nice to the hens. Odie was none of these things. So he will be one more thing: coq au vin.
The processing went smoothly. We have a pretty decent system, working on a pallet strung between sawhorses under a tree. We fastened two kill cones to the tree, a turkey fryer filled with water (heated by propane) for scalding, and a water hose for cleaning. We plucked the birds by hand. It took us about 2 hours to do the 8 roosters, but we took breaks.
Overall, the wee cockerels dressed to about 2.5 lbs at 15 weeks. For reference, I am expecting 5 lbs dressed at 10 weeks from the Ranger meat birds. Odie was 4.5 lbs dressed. So all in all, we got 22 lbs of chicken which does not include the livers, hearts, gizzards and necks which we kept for the dogs or for stock.
The meat birds are growing like crazy and are all very healthy. They are so different from the layer chicks, with full, distended bellies and an insatiable hunger. They will stay in the brooder for another week and then will get moved out to the tractor where they will eat grass and bugs and feel the sun on their backs.
The garden is limping along. Thank goodness our garden area is considered "well-drained". The copious amounts of rain has threatened not only hay and crops, but water quality as well. Double and triple amounts of rain are washing fertilizers and other contaminants into brooks and streams. New Hampshire has closed several lakes, in the height of tourist season, because of the toxic algae growth that favors the nutrient-rich runoff. Despite our relatively low performance of our garden, I am more encouraged than ever to "do no harm". No pesticides, toxic fertilizers, frankenfood will be used on this farm. Good old fashioned compost and biodiverse growing principals will win out, I believe.
My uphill neighbor is a pharmer and although he has NO weeds (which looks a bit bizarre to my jungle-acclimated eye), his plants have drowned in his heavy soil. No worms to break it up and give the water a way to drain. No additional life to soak up the moisture. It's tough all over for farmers, but my little garden is holding its own. We're still getting yummy peas and broccoli (thanks to unusually cool temps), and the potatoes will be rockin' if they don't rot in the ground first. We may not get any corn at all, but we're already getting zucchini starting, some pumpkins, the first fingerling potatoes and the eggplants in the greenhouse are starting to flower.
There is one thing I do really well and that's grow the tallest tomato plants, crowning when they hit the top of the greenhouse at over 7 feet. I've had to string twine the entire length of the greenhouse to hold the giant plants back since they have long outgrown their 3' cages. These plants are super happy, putting out hundreds of yellow blossoms, and I am all too happy to come along and play the role of the bee. Only a couple more weeks now and I will hopefully have plenty of tomatoes.