This post is just going to be random rambling, since I don’t really have anything educational to share really, but just a few things I’ve been up to lately.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been trying my darndest to learn to make sourdough bread. I was able to get a starter batch going from whole wheat sourdough starter I purchased from Cultures For Health. It seemed like it wasn’t doing anything for about a week, and then finally the starter began bubbling and growing, and showing some potential after all. That was exciting!
But now that I have an active starter, I’m having the hardest time figuring out how to turn it into a delicious loaf of bread! First I made pancakes. They had such a strong, sour flavor, none of us could stomach them. Next I tried a loaf of bread, but again it was so sour we ended up having to toss it to the chickens. What was I doing wrong?? I thought I might be letting the dough sit out too long before baking (I think I let it sit out for half the day that first time). The longer the dough rises, the stronger the “sour” flavor tends to get. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe that it would be healthier the longer it cultured?
I made a third attempt at a loaf of bread, and only let the dough rise for about 3 hours that time. Although it was definitely better, it still wasn’t something that we would enjoy eating. Ever. Another loaf to the chickens.
Then I started reading up on sourdough a little more, and I learned that the starter really doesn’t like freshly ground whole wheat. It prefers the flour to sit for about two weeks before you use it to feed the starter. Maybe that’s what I’ve been doing wrong? I had my husband pick up a bag of all purpose flour from the store today, and I’m going to experiment with feeding the starter this type of flour to see if I might have better luck.
If you’ve never tried making sourdough starter or sourdough bread, I’m sure none of this makes much sense to you. I apologize. I do hope to master this skill, and write a complete how-to on sourdough one day… hopefully.
Oh, we also had an unfortunate event with one of our hens last week. My three year old decided she wanted to feed the chickens, and failed to close the door to the chicken run when she went in. Of course, our dog immediately sprang at the chance to play a fun game of catch the hen. I was just a few feet away when it happened, but my back was turned as I was planting my celery and it wasn’t until I heard the commotion before I realized what was going on.
I saw the dog mauling one of our black hens, and I began yelling as I ran to free the chicken from the dog’s mouth. The poor thing. She was alive, but scared to death. Xia had immediately melted down and was crying hysterically. Through her tears she was saying, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I love the chickens!” Poor chicken and poor Xia. The hen seemed to be okay, just shaken up, so I put her in the chicken “hospital” to give her some time to settle down.
Xia was still sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t scold her, but I did explain to her that she has to be really careful not to let the dog get to the chickens, because it will kill them. We talked about it for a little bit, about how she must not go into the chicken run by herself. She was devastated at what had happened. I couldn’t be mad at her, she’d just made a mistake.
I went back into the coop to see how the hen was doing, and realized that she was dripping blood. I took her out of the cage and examined her backside. The dog had bitten a good sized gash near her tail. I considered what I should do for a moment, then I took her inside our house and poured some Betadine on the wound, hoping to at least stave off infection. I put her back in the hospital ward to rest again.
About 10 min. later, Jada and I peaked in on her again, but this time I quickly realized it was worse than I thought. Her intestines had fallen out, and were just hanging on the outside of the wound. Oh gosh! I gasped. Now what?
I went back and forth mentally for a moment. Is this fixable? She seemed to be fine. She was standing, looking around, alert. Her guts were just exposed. Gosh, what do I do? I knew she was going to die. Should I try to save her? I decided I would at least try.
Quickly, I ran inside and pulled out my medical supplies. I found a suture kit and more Betadine. I was surprised I didn’t have any more latex gloves in there, though! Yikes! (Note to self: get some disposable gloves for the med kit.) I fished around underneath the kitchen sink and just happened to find a pair of rubber gloves. Good enough.
I grabbed Jada as my assistant, and together we prepared for surgery. She was to hold the hen while I attempted to stitch her back up. Have I ever given stitches before? Nope. Would the chicken stay still while I tried? I had no idea. But she was pitiful, and dying a slow death. I had to do something!
We laid her down on the table, and I lifted her wing to examine the wound. I was so discouraged to discover that the “gash” was actually a huge hole in her side. I was peering straight into her body cavity, and could see most of her internal organs. For a split second I considered whether I could shove her innards back into her body and attempt to sew up the hole. But I knew in my heart that the wound was much too large to fix. She was going to die.
And in that moment, I had to make another hard decision. Let her die a slow, painful death, or put her out of her misery.
Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “No big deal, right? You are a homesteader, after all”.
Um. No. Beheading chickens is not my thing. That’s actually my husband’s job. I’ve never beheaded anything in my life. Except a bee one time, but that was different.
There I was, cradling the bleeding hen, blood dripping down my pant leg. I wanted to save her so badly. But instead I was contemplating whether or not I could kill her.
When word got around that I was considering butchering the hen, thanks to Jada, the other two kids quickly took their seats on the ground nearby. I laid her, still quite awake but very weak by now, on the butchering stump. She didn’t struggle or protest. She just laid there on her side and closed her eyes. It was as if she wanted me to end her misery for her.
In my hand was a butcher knife from our meat processing/hunting kit. As I slowly put it to the hen’s neck, I was suddenly mortified that it wasn’t going to be sharp enough. What if I don’t make a clean cut? What if I don’t sever her head with one whack? Oh gosh, I can’t do this! I can’t do this!
I looked up anxiously at the kids, who were giving me mixed advice from their seats a few feet away. From one I was hearing, “You can do it!”, and then the other would plead, “Please don’t chop her head off!” I had to explain to our son that the chicken was dying, and that I didn’t want her to needlessly suffer.
I struck the edge of the log a few times with the blade to judge how sharp it was. It just didn’t seem sharp enough! There I stood, for fifteen minutes, no lie, trying my best to muster the courage to make that final blow.
I can’t do this. I can’t do this! I’m so sorry chicken. I CANNOT do this!
Finally I looked up at the kids and told them that maybe I could do it if they weren’t watching. They all protested, but finally they slowly trudged inside and out of sight (and then snuck around the other side of the house and spied on me).
There I was. Me, and the chicken who would open her eyes every now and then and look at me, her executioner, and beg for a speedy death.
I raised my arm, and then lowered it, practicing my chopping action. Okay, I can do this...
No I can’t!
I’m such a sissy.
I wished I could just let her die, then practice cutting her head off once she was dead just so I could get a feel for how much strength was needed to sever a head in one blow.
It occurred to me that maybe I should try the ax instead of the knife. I went and got it, and was much more confident feeling the weight of it in my hands. Even if I struck a weak blow, the force of such a heavy item falling would surely make up for my sissiness.
After raising my arm, then chickening out (no pun intended), and trying to gather my nerve again about 20 times… I finally let the ax fall.
And I didn’t sever her head with one blow. Oh my gosh!
She turned and looked at me, halfway severed!
Oh my goodness!! Panic. It’s a good thing chickens don’t scream out in pain or I’d be seriously scarred for life.
I quickly struck again, then again just for good measure. Her head was off, and her body was twitching as the muscles slowly realized they were no longer connected to the brain that had once controlled them.
She never made a sound. Thank you LORD for making chickens die silently.
I stepped back and sighed a sigh of relief. I did it. Done. No more suffering. The kids peaked their heads out from their hiding places and I announced, “I did it”! They were proud of me. And although I was still a little freaked out, I was proud of me too.
I buried her in the woods.
I learned a few valuable lessons that day.
1) We definitely need to sharpen the ax.
2) I think a kill cone would have been so much easier on my nerves.
3) Chickens don’t seem to experience pain at all. If they do, you’d never know it.
4) Beheading a chicken really didn’t need to be nearly as dramatic as my first experience was. But I had no idea what it would feel like to intentionally kill a living animal that I was just trying to save minutes before. I think I’ll do better next time.
So, there you have it. That’s what’s been going on in my world lately. Other than that, my days have been pretty much consumed with planting new stuff, tending to the plants I have growing, and cleaning up around the property.
Looking forward to warmer days ahead!