Tuesday, January 31, 2012

# 189 - Country House Framing - Steel or Wood?

A country cabin in the woods will be much different from our two-story brick house in the suburbs of Greater Houston. First of all, I've had my share of sticks and brick homes; this time around, I'm looking for a "country cabin" feel to our architecture and interior design, which is not possible when you live with a neighborhood association dictating construction guidelines.

In this neighborhood we now live in..."CITY" is allowed, "COUNTRY" is out. We're rebels, we have chickens.

A blog buddy of mine, TEXAN (who can be found at... gave me a great piece of advice a couple of months ago after reading my blog for a while about building a true country cabin; she wisely told me to make sure that I specifically tell the contractor that I'm thinking out of the box. Most contractors will indeed have the shiny surface, Home Depot version in their head because that's what most people are looking for...she made me realize that a contractor will not automatically understand my angle and perspective for design, unless they see it first-hand. So, that's another reason I'm careful to document my ideas for our cabin with this blog. I want quality work, but not traditional construction concepts. No regular kitchen cabinets for me, thank you.

Regardless, I've found that blogging has been a dual-action thinking machine. You put it out there and great ideas will come back at you to increase the goodness ten-fold.

As for our house in the woods, it will be basically standing on its own without any neighborly comparison in sight. Well, not like we have neighbors here in the city, very close to us. On our acreage, the closest neighbor is a good distance away, but not too far away, just a few acres. Maybe we need a Lassie?

Today, Deputy Dave has been thinking in-depth about the framing of his country cabin and he's exploring the idea of a steel-framed house. First, since we've already survived one tornado that hit us during Hurricane Ike, I think he likes the idea of a solid framed home that could better withstand the high winds we often get here in Texas. Another consideration to go for a steel-framed house comes after considering our house will be surrounded by trees. The entire reason for moving to the country is to enjoy our acreage, to enjoy the extra room to run around and to savor the forest spreading through our land.

Therefore, a steel-framed house would make sense in this regard because a falling tree will have potentially less impact on a steel-framed construction than it would on a house with a regular timber frame. Third bonus should be within the steel itself as the main supports of the house and the lack of susceptibility to insects ever making gnawing delight out of the corner posts.

Personally, I could agree to a steel-framed house, but the steel cannot show because I want the country cabin appearance to be first and foremost in the design. I will still want my wrap around traditional deck and the house will still need to be elevated...isn't that pier and beam? I never get it right. Post and beam? Anyway, you got my drift.

As for the interior, I've come to the conclusion about how to summarize the look and feel I'm going for...and this is super important to's what I've been blogging about for so long and I finally found the words for it...

...even with some modern twists, I want our cabin to embrace a certain historic character. I want to employ old-world materials that will give our home a welcoming and comfortable feel that is family-friendly.

And, most importantly, as we select the design of each room and the finishes for each area, I am not concerned with sleek and shiny, I want our finishes to blend in with the cabin atmosphere and to look better over time. No fad designs will be allowed in our home, each finish must look better and better with each scratch, bump and dent. Wear and tear will not be rushed or savored, but it shouldn't be dreaded with horror either. I don't want those kitchen cabinets that are completely ruined with one scratch. If it happens, I want the scratch to blend in and to promote deeper character.

Thank God I was finally able to get it out, exactly how I feel. Actually, it's how I feel about many things at this point in my life. I have a few treasured antiques and belongings that I'd feel a great sense of loss if something happened to it, but I don't want to live like that overall. In general, I want my house to be this awesome place that is full of instant history because we are incorporating historic elements and design to our country cabin.

Another element I look forward to embracing is newly made craftsman items with a mix of rejuvenated things, from newly made braided rugs to old hinges, I eagerly look forward to trial and error so that our country cabin look can fall into place.

Mostly, I want to avoid the watered-down version of home-improvement by avoiding modern, commercialized stores.

 As much as possible, I'd like to use hand-crafted, artisan workmanship in the cabin and this includes all light fixtures. Heck, I'd love to have some chandeliers made from mason jars or antlers.

So, that's probably the reason I'm drawn to the "mutt" kitchen style. It's rugged. It seems to have been there forever, yet is still functional and the "old" part of it is the BEST part of it. There is nothing to be dinged and dented that would create a need for tears or a chunk of the wallet to be impacted because of the "damage."

With my finishes that I have in mind, future "damage" would only mean, "Oh...Ah...that gouge looks awesome."

And now, I leave you with a photo of one of my fears while on our land. No fear of the little cat, just the scrawny, hungry one on the back porch. Supposedly, our area of The Big Thicket has black Panthers which are also rare Black Cougars.

I better watch my back...

Monday, January 30, 2012

# 188 - He's the Farmer; I'm the Dell; I Think

Back in March of 2011, Deputy Dave took me to the local Tractor Supply store to buy our first set of chicks. I probably stood in that store hovering over the crates observing and holding the little chicks for a good hour as I tried to determine which ones appeared the most vibrant and healthy, and yes, the CUTEST!

Dicky-Darn-Darn, they were ALL cuties! I kind of wanted to move into the store with all the baby creatures. I guess most of us farmer-at-heart people have that urge when around little fuzzy ones.

We had no idea that two of the seven we had purchased that day had actually been roos and not pullets. I saw a sign on the side of the crate that said, "PULLET," so I kept asking, "What is a pullet?" on that day and no one had an answer. Hello? Isn't this a FARM supply store? I can see that the title of the store's name has "TRACTOR" in, What EXACTLY is a pullet? Relax, I now know the answer, but as I tried to find out the definition on my very first chicken-adventure day in the big world, I was frustrated. No, I don't have an I-Phone, a Smart Phone or a Hand-Held-Anything except a $14.00 cell phone from answers to be found in that contraption.

We kept the chicks in the master bathtub, in a container. Then, they grew
larger and were allowed to roam in the tub on newspaper and pine shavings
Here is a shot of the dogs being so enamored by the chicks that they're
LITERALLY falling asleep trying to keep an eye on the little birds.
Bonding has begun.
I could not believe that an answer to the pullet question could not be found in the store's attendants. Obviously, they weren't all PULLETS in the crate because we got two roosters. Is it possible for a rooster to be a pullet I had wondered on that day? If you are like me, during the time when I didn't know the answer to this compelling question, a pullet is a young HEN, a female, usually a young laying hen under a year old. To me, a pullet is equivalent to us saying, "Miss" to the young lady.

And I still wonder how in the heck did we end up with two roosters in a box full of little "Miss" chicks?

The young man helping us make our final selection of chicks told us that his sure-fire FFA way of telling whether or not a chick was female or male was to cradle the bottom part of the head/skull very gently between two fingers and if the chicken feet come up's a male; however, if the feet start drifting and stretching downward in submission toward the ground, then it's a female.

Again, I guess the "Pullet" sign was senseless if we were checking for signs of whether the chicks were male or female.

Well, after we got home with the chicks, there were a couple of little boogers that we tested again and they kept bringing their little legs up into a fighting manner.

Houston --- we have a problem.

Turns out that two of the chicks were indeed roosters. We kept them for as long as possible, which meant, until they found their rooster vocal cords in full swing.

This city gal learned that roosters do not only COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO at the break of dawn, they COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO all day long...all freakin day long...just in our the suburbs...they make sure that you cannot hide your chickens any longer from the local chicken police. Every COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO had me scrambling to throw out a bit more feed to shut them up, I was whipped.

Anyway, my immediate surrounding neighbors who share our fences have been wonderful about our chickens. They lift their children and grand-children above the fence-line to see the chickens. The kids playing in the yard diagonal to our house hear a chicken clucking and the kids start making clucking noises and laugh hysterically. I found all the sounds,sights and intrigue revolving around the chickens to be wonderful.

My next door neighbor had just had open heart surgery and she told me that she loved sitting in her backyard and listening to the chickens because it reminded her of growing up in the country...of the country sounds and peaceful existence. She loved hearing the roosters find their voice.

But, we found a new home nearby for the roosters, and we've gone to check on them several times. They're big boys now. Well, except for the little Bantam rooster; he was an adorable guy of this "babydoll" chicken breed. If we'd been on our land, it would have been perfect because Miss Speckles would've had her little matched Mr Speckles and we'd have Baby Speckles all over the place.


This brings me to some ponderings...Do chickens cross-breed? Would a Bantam have a chick with a Buff Orpington? Is this a No-No in the chicken world? As you all know, I'm farm-sexually-illiterate. I think Farmers are highly advanced in this area; they've GOT to be to make it on a farm. No pun intended, pure accident.

I love my Bantam and Buff Orpington chickens, they are very docile and seem to be fairly intelligent for a chicken, but I'd not want to assist in creating a raging chicken monster by cross-breeding two chickens that were never destined to find each other on the free range. No science experiments on our farm, thank you.

Now, back to catering to my A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder)...As for Miss Speckles and her being a victim of a full-blown dog attack the other day, she survived being locked in the jaws of a powerful Australian Shepherd. I am still in awe that I was spared having to spend the last few days bawling over the loss of my Miss Speckles. Thank God she survived...she's one tough bird!

And I'm actually walking around kicking myself in the rear for getting THIS ATTACHED TO CHICKENS! I mean, I knew I was going to really love HAVING CHICKENS, but I didn't think I'd actually FALL IN LOVE with the chickens.

Since we're nearing the day that the "For Sale" sign goes in our front about seven days, I'm also thinking about us moving to the acreage and raising our own meat. What kind of farmer will I make if I can't tolerate the prospect of one of my chickens being ripped apart? What kind of farmer will I make if I'm ready to fight a dog over one of my chickens trapped in his jaws? What kind of farmer will I make if I found myself needing to lie down after the chicken attack because the could-have-been scenarios were playing too loudly in my head?

And now I wonder...What find of farmer will I make when... comes time to eat the little piggies?

I guess I'm the "Dell."

The Farmer and The Dell would probably suit our household. Even if I really don't know what the Dell a "Dell" actually is.

Regardless, I'll do my best to be a good Dell while also trying to be a good Farmer.

# 187 - Workshop Hunt Continues

This structure appealed to me. I took a closer look because we are checking out every option to build for a workshop-storage building on the property.

I loved this little cabin - workshop, but the doors really stood out to me. Gotta love that barn door variation.

Now, these doors seemed to remind me of a European design. I'm not sure, but I'd love to know. Could it be that these doors are more likely to be seen on horse stalls?

This building is nice to look at, so it'd be appealing to have on the land. I told Deputy Dave that any construction project must first be approved by the architectural committee for our acreage...that committee consists of me and Deputy Dave. I have 51% of the vote because I am female and can picture it all in my mind beforehand. Deputy Dave trusts me on this matter.

Taking a closer look, it is clear that this structure is actually made for stables. We do not yet need stables, we first need a workshop. The stable structure poles would definitely interfere with our workshop layout. So, this particular building is out of the running as our first item to construct on our property. However, when the time comes for us to stable some animals, this structure might very well be back on the table for consideration.

Looking at all of our options is fun; hunting for the workshop that will be just right is important. I find this part of the process to be the most exciting. Well, I am sure that once we are in the middle of construction that I'll again say that this is the most exciting part of the process. Be prepared for lots of enthusiasm as we get moved to our acreage. 

I guess that's my personality. It's full of exuberance for this GREAT MOVE TO THE COUNTRY!

Okay, I'm taking deep breaths and working to slow my pulse down. Yes, I'm a tiny bit thrilled.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

# 186 - Chicken Survivor - Miss Speckles Lives Another Day!

Since we've had our chickens, there have been several close calls that nearly caused us to witness their demise. One chicken was attacked by our rescue Yorkie, but thankfully she decided that she did not relish gagging on a mouthful of feathers...after that experience, she was cured of ever attacking another.

Then, we had one chicken go limp and lifeless from heat exhaustion, it took a couple of days of being inside and non-moving, but she made a miraculous recovery. You can read about that experience here...

Then, this weekend, our daughter and fiance came for a visit with their two Australian Shepherds and my sweet Bantam, Miss Speckles, found herself nearly shred to pieces.

Here are a few feathers I scooped up from the near-massacre
scene in the backyard following the attack.
First of all, let me explain...Howdy, my boy, my Aussie...he is a dad already. He was bred with my future son-in-law's female Aussie and one of the puppies in the liter was kept in the family. The dog kept is a brown Aussie with brilliant glowing eyes and his name is Dunk.

Howdy and Dunk have a great time playing together. They are both accustomed to being around chickens. Henry's parents have a ranch/farm and have always had chickens. Dunk has never had an issue being around chickens until this past Friday.

After playing together for a long time in the backyard with the chickens running around, Howdy and Dunk could be seen running across the backyard. I was sitting on my bed and my double french doors had the shades pulled fully upward and I had a great view to the awful scene as I witnessed Dunk running from Howdy, but I could clearly see that Dunk had something rather large and white in his jaws.

For a split second, I considered the sight. There are two white things in our backyard, white stones that are too heavy for a dog to be prancing across the yard with it in his mouth and the second white thing is Miss Speckles.

I raced for the door, ran outside and found Miss Speckles trapped in Dunk's powerful jaws, but my screaming, "DROP HER NOW!" as I lurched toward Dunk seemed to convince him that he no longer wanted the chicken, he only wanted away from me.

Amazingly, Miss Speckles, covered in mud and with one wing oddly sticking outward, fell from Dunk's jaw and took off at a high speed for the corner of the house to hide under a large elephant ear.

Meanwhile, Dunk had terrible evidence of his attack all around his jaw. Miss Speckles had lost a great deal of feathers and part of them were lining Dunk's lower jaw. I yanked some of those feathers out of his jaw and slapped his nose with them while saying, "BAD, NO, NO, NO!"

Here is a picture of Dunk on a brighter day. A day he had not attacked any chickens...

My oldest daughter, Heather, and her fiance were so upset. They could not believe that Dunk had attacked a chicken because he's occasionally been around chickens since he was a youngin. But, something had changed and caused Dunk to snap. Obviously, he now sees chickens as an animal to attack. Then, Henry remembered the dogs on his parents' land going after the buzzards. It seemed to make sense that Dunk cannot differentiate between a buzzard as a flying object to attack and chickens as a flying object to attack.

As Dunk went into his kennel for a time-out and to escape my wrath, I tried to get a close look at Miss Speckles, but she remained huddled beneath the elephant ear and appeared terrified. There was no way that I was going to go in after her and cause her more terror. I decided to leave her alone. She had momentarily stood back up and I had been able to quickly do an inspection of her legs and they still seemed okay. Her ability to run to the corner was a great sign that she might have a chance.

By the time Deputy Dave got home from work, it had been a few hours, but Miss Speckles finally came out of her corner. She was a few feathers lighter, but she appeared okay. Deputy Dave went outside, picked her up, gave her some love and ran his hands over her wings and body to make sure everything was truly okay and it was. She survived an attack by an Australian Shepherd.

This is Tux...the first Australian Shepherd we'd
ever had. My daughter got him while in college, but
he lived with us for quite a long time. He's a wonderful dog.
The mud caked onto Miss Speckles body on both sides proved that he had been pawing her to pin her to the ground so that he could pick her up in his jaw. She must have put up a fight. Poor gal.

If I'd not looked up at that very moment and seen Dunk with Miss Speckles in his jaw, then she most likely would have been torn to shreds within the next thirty seconds.

Belle the Yorkie has one chicken attack to her record,
but the experience had been so sour for her that she was instantly cured.
As for Howdy, I was momentarily angry at him for not stopping Dunk. But, he was hyper and clearly confused about how to handle the matter. When I had glanced upward to see Dunk with the chicken in his mouth, I also knew something was really wrong by the way Howdy was running behind Dunk. Howdy had been continuously and rapidly turning his head to look at me through the windows then he'd turn his head back to Dunk. This rapid head turning from us to an object is a habit he has when he wants us to LOOK at what he's seeing, as if he's "pointing" his nose at what he wants us to see after he's gained eye-contact with us.

I could see that Howdy was on edge by his body looking so tense as he ran, as if he wanted to jump on Dunk, but didn't know if he'd be in trouble for doing so. You see...Howdy is constantly "chastising" Dunk for every little move he makes. Howdy's need to herd Dunk is so powerful that we must remind Howdy, frequently, to back off. Having a houseful of Aussies is definitely a unique experience.

This is Tux again. He's an incredible Aussie.
Of course, he had been neutered, which I can see makes a HUGE
difference in their ability to focus and calm down for better behavior.
I told Heather and Henry that we all love our animals and that we'll simply adjust to this situation. When Dunk comes for a visit, we'll have to keep the chickens in their coop.

Dunk is not neutered.
But, I did go have a "conversation" with Dunk and I told him that it was so sad that he now had a rap sheet, he had a record and we could no longer allow him the same backyard freedoms he once enjoyed. He seemed to not have a clue as to what I was saying. Go figure.

One thing I can say in his defense is that Dunk mainly lives with my daughter and Henry in a regular backyard, without any farm animals. He gets to only visit people with poultry and livestock. He probably doesn't have the proper supervision and training that an Aussie needs so that he can understand his proper role with the animals. If they don't get that training and enforcement while a puppy, you can probably forget trying to undo the urge they have to attack.

Howdy is not neutered, but we are wanting to breed him
once we move to the farm. He is a wonderful dog.
Howdy is well accustomed to being in close quarters with chickens.
So, Dunk can't really be faulted. He's been a regular house-dog and not exposed enough to poultry in a tight environment so that he can practice self-restraint and herding knowledge about what is game and what is clearly not game. I don't think Heather and Henry are planning to move to their own farm any time soon, so this is not really an issue, except when they're visiting their parents, but we will adapt so that the dog can enjoy himself as well without adding to his record.

Lyla is a beauty. She's naturally the most intelligent
out of the whole bunch. She's probably the best dog we've ever had...a mixed breed.
Regardless, we still WUV Dunk! Well, after I calmed down I admitted that I can forgive, but not forget...for the chicken's sake I'd better not forget. I think Miss Speckles will appreciate me retaining my memory of that scary moment.

I'm so glad my favorite chicken wasn't eaten. And this is what happens when you LOVE your chickens too much, you'd fight an Australian Shepherd over them.

Friday, January 27, 2012

# 185 - Change in Scenery

Deputy Dave took this photo from his office building window last week at the Harris County Criminal Courthouse. It's always amazing to me to be in the city and to marvel for a moment or two at man's great efforts to make this life bigger and better in many ways.

I guess I'm just tired of living in the city on a day to day basis. I feel the need to clarify my feelings on H-Town...Houston.

There's no doubt that I could easily live in the heart of the city, preferably in the theater district so that I could walk to everything...Broadway-style shows, musical performances, coffee shops, and I'd be able to browse through the most awesome boutiques and then find a five-star restaurant within a few steps.

I know that city living can be amazing. I've grown up living in Greater Houston; I've always lived a short distance from Houston and Deputy Dave works in the heart of downtown. We understand city life.

However, it is not easy to find solitude in the city. The congestion, the noise, the crammed-in proximity of one thing to the next, the city smells that are sometimes less than life can be wondrous, but it can also bring unnatural conditions to our world that are too synthetic. The city is less likely to offer nature other than remnants in the form of city parks, tidy bits of cultivated nature. Although, I will admit that Houston does indeed have some amazing parks and gardens that will knock your socks off.

As for entertainment, dining and city adventure in general...I don't think Houston can be beat. In these areas, I love Houston and it will always be a part of my life.

Our land is actually within a hour's drive into Houston. There's no way I could move any farther away than that distance from Houston. This distance allows me to live a rural life because of the open freeways closing the gap between us. I don't think I would ever want to completely forgo the advantages that being near Houston affords, especially with the Medical Center. It definitely has its advantages, such as when my cervical spine needed to be reconstructed in 2009.

But, when we're on our acreage, I feel such a sense of stillness and awareness. Being on the land heightens the senses. There's a focus on nature that is intense, yet soothing. I'm allowed to be adventurous when hiking our land. I never know if I'll make it across the creek without falling in because of my clumsy nature. Some of us just don't have great balance...and that "some of us" is expressly "me."

The frontage of our property.
It is never boring to weave yourself among the ever changing landscape, through a forest of towering trees and savor the feeling of being incredible small in the scheme of things, yet also simultaneously feeling larger than life as you breathe in the fresh woodsy air.

Some people do not want to venture into the woods. They can only think about the scary things that scamper around and the predators that could be lurking nearby. However, since I was a child, I have felt comfortable in the forest. But, I'm usually prepared. First of all, I never walk without a large, sturdy stick. Deputy Dave carries a knife and a gun, always.

The stick is important for hiking in Texas, mainly due to snakes crossing your path. Deputy Dave and I have definitely had a few snakes cross our paths. A large stick can give you a definite edge in a situation with a wild animal or a snake. You can even use the stick to fling the snake away from you.

I've even killed an aggressive Cottonmouth one time that didn't want to let me pass by; I won the right-of-way. I've been within five feet of raccoons, skunks, porcupines, deer, snakes and have seen coyotes, foxes and bobcats. I've never come across wild boar while hiking, but I do know that these animals would probably scare me the most, out of all of them combined. Being a Texas gal, I know a lot about these animals and they're definitely in the zone of our land, but we've yet to come across one on our property. I can tell you that Deputy Dave would be thrilled to come across one of these...he'd love to have a Louisiana-style roast.

It's difficult to explain because I've grown up in the Greater Houston area, yet I've spend much of my life in The Piney Woods because my family had always owned land deep within its confines; my grandparents owned a country place out there and my parents (my dad) still has land that I grew up going to very often...these properties are within a few short miles to the land we now own. The area of The Piney Woods and The Big Thicket feel like home to me. I'm very happy to be moving out there full-time.

Deputy Dave will definitely be in his element because he's raised steer, swine and rabbits...and now chickens. Some of his happiest memories are during the times that he was raising his livestock, and I know he'll be very good at it as we prepare to raise some together.

This weekend, we have our kids at the house for a nice visit. Tonight, we're eating etouffe and tomorrow we're having more family over to join all of us for a taco fest. It's already been an exciting visit with more surely to come.

However, I still eagerly look forward to our change in scenery. Each day, we're closer and closer to making that important, pivotal change in our lives.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

# 184 - Anonymous Food

Today, I was posting a comment on a blog buddy's story about their turkeys being killed by a fox. They had several turkeys killed, but were left with one for this past Thanksgiving meal preparation. A mighty big turkey I might add.

If you want to read about their story first-hand, go to and get the whole deal laid out.

Anyway, I left them a comment and I began to consider the issue on a deeper level. This blogster wrote about how the loss of the other turkeys prompted the one remaining lone turkey left alive to look for friendship within the farmers themselves. This attachment made the turkey's sacrifice for the Thanksgiving dinner table even more poignant and it tells of how difficult it can be to raise your own table food.

How do we keep our farm animals from becoming pets?

After I made my comment about the turkey attack, I found myself being grateful for those who are brave enough to raise and process their own food. This is not a task to be taken lightly.

After you have raised an animal for months...fed it, watered it, housed it on your land, provided a healthy environment for it and taken the initiative to be nurturing during its growth, it can be a tough ordeal to have the farm animal go from tenant to table food.

And this is the reason farmers often have a depth about them concerning the cycle of life...they understand seasons, the life and death cycle, they develop a sharp eye for their environment and the animals in it, and the farmer knows of survival hardships as a byproduct of running a farm, not from reality television. I admire the farmer's tenacity.

I believe that text book knowledge is much easier to come by than hands-on knowledge. Therefore, I respect the Pioneers of our past and the Homesteaders of today who are recapturing lost farming techniques that bring self-reliance. I especially appreciate those who are bringing back the small scale farming lessons for the rest of us to absorb on whatever scale we wish to absorb it. From those who walk their land and explore the indigenous plant life to the people raising goats, I am appreciative of their efforts. I'm sure the farmers of yester-year found the hands-on, trial and error learning process of farming to be much more difficult than the written record part of the equation.

Recording all they had learned was probably a cinch compared to everything they'd endured to get to the stage of being able to write about their experiences.

So, most of us are on our own when it comes to learning how to grow our own food or process our farm animals. We might find a book about processing chickens, but unless you have the fortitude and the willingness to dig in and get it done, you will likely continue to only read about it with paralyzed action.

For me, I've been like the rest of society and have been purchasing most of my food from the grocery store, especially our meat. As for tomatoes and many herbs, we've tried growing them ourselves, but presently, our garden is kaput. I currently do not have canning knowledge to extend the life of my garden to my pantry shelves for the off-season, not just yet. That will be another area of change for this 2012 year.

And when the growing season is finished, you can bet that all of us are having fresh garden vegetable withdrawals. I promise you that the grocery store tomato cannot compare to the flavorful taste and intense fragrance of home-grown tomatoes.

The older I get and the wiser I become, hopefully, and the more that I can see that knowing the source of my food, especially my table meat, is something to pursue further. Choosing the anonymous beef or the anonymous chicken in the industrial package or the grab-bag turkey at Thanksgiving is not something that I can do anymore without it being a conscious decision that will bring me a bit of uneasiness.

Putting a face to our table food while they're still out in the pasture won't make it easy to set out a roasted chicken, but it's honest, it's involved, it's pro-active and it's a great opportunity to control more of what we consume.

Of course, there will always be those faces that we cannot
begin to think about putting on our table. Yes, it will be difficult to
not make all the faces on our land a pet, but that would mean
the continuation of purchasing more "anonymous" food, which I want to avoid.
The farming generational gaps have left the majority of us dependent on others for our food. We think the money in our pocket or shoved into a bank account will always put the food on our table and perhaps it will. But, what food are you paying for? Are you absolutely certain that it is the best that you could be forking into your mouth or could that anonymous meat donor be of a questionable background?

I don't know how to process my own meat. I've never raised my own livestock nor poultry for my table, but that will be changing. I've got to learn how to do this...I am convicted to learn how to better feed my family with food that is no longer anonymous because of being distantly produced.

Our chickens during early stages of their growth.
This will be another huge Farm Life Lesson for me and my family in 2012. We've been raising chickens for the eggs they produce over the past few months now, and it's almost impossible to imagine having to process my chickens from my own yard, but I know I can do it. Well, not right now with THESE chickens, but later this year, with specific chickens raised for meat.

As I always say, I'm nowhere ready to forgo my chicken and dumplings; there's nothing wrong with being the carnivorous animal that I was meant to be.

I've heard the old saying that a farmer believed each animal on his land should earn its keep. Our ancestors didn't have the advantage of feeding and housing farm animals simply as backyard "entertainment." So far, we've been very fortunate and non-pressured to see our chickens as great stage performers of our backyard; I have enjoyed every moment. For our family, the act of owning chickens has already educated many of the young people in our lives about these awesome creatures. Children absolutely love gathering eggs, and I've witnessed most adults being terrified of chickens while children are drawn to sit among the chickens without being afraid.

And, I cannot imagine waking up and not being able to see Big Mama and Miss Speckles, but I don't want to move to our acreage and keep expecting to raise farm animals without them serving a greater purpose for our family. There has to be some accounting for maintaining acreage.

After we get settled into living on our acreage, my plan for processing our first set of meat-chickens is to sign up a few serious family members and close friends to spend a day on the land conducting the dirty deed an organized, cooperative fashion, we will process a batch of chickens. Each person gets to take home 3-4 farm-raised chickens packaged for the freezer and a life-long remembered Farm Life Lesson. I expect we'll share the horror. Anyone whom I love and adore will be allowed to learn about this farming task with us. So far, I've had several family members and friends ready to join us, even if they are squeamish. The will to learn is high. I'm thrilled.

On that day of cooperative chicken processing, my youngest daughter, Stefie, is guaranteed to be absent from that group. However, she will be happy to continue eating her food from anonymous sources. If she sees a face, it gets a name from her...she's not farmer material...not quite yet. She's got a lot of "country girl" in her that she can't deny...I have pictures...but she's definitely not one to do anything with a farm animal except love it as if it were a dog.

She's young. Heck, it's taken me over 40 years to gather the courage to even consider these topics in straight-forward new manner. The country girl in me is learning how to outlive and outlast the city girl in me. And that's okay. I'm ready.

I'll be living in the country very soon and looking forward to tracing my food from the growth-chart phase to the table with steam rising from it. The entire ordeal is appealing and a challenge I'm ready to tackle. In 2012, I'll most definitely be eating less anonymous food. The prospect is encouraging and this keeps me motivated to keep packing and to keep painting to get this house SOLD!