Chickens & My New Blogging Style & Other Stuff

Strawberries are in peak season here on our little homestead. Last Sunday, for breakfast we had strawberry shortcake with lots of berries. What a treat!


My stiffneck garlic plants are sending up scapes. A scape is the curled central stalk with a seed pod on the end. If you leave the scape on the plant, the curl will straighten out and stretch up to five feet high. Most garlic growers pull the scapes off so the plant’s energy is directed into making a bigger bulb.

I used to pull the scapes and throw them away. Someone said you can put them in stir fry and they are good. I didn’t think so. But a couple of years ago, garlic grower Fred Foresberg sent me a couple jars of his dill-pickled garlic scapes. They were remarkably good! Now, after pulling the scapes, we cut them up, pack the upright lengths into pint jars and pickle them. They are a family favorite.


We now have 65 Cornish X chicks under a heat lamp in my shop. They will be the one and only batch of meat birds we raise this year. Eight or nine weeks from now we’ll be processing and putting them in the freezer.

The first time we processed our own chickens (8 years ago), the job was difficult and offensive. I couldn’t imagine that I would ever get used to it, or be able to do it very quickly. But now, odd as it may sound, I’m looking forward to processing day. I hope to process this batch of chickens faster than ever.


Having the right tools for the job makes processing easier. I have a Whizbang Plucker, which I consider a necessity for processing birds. I also have a Whizbang Scalder. The automatic scalder is a luxury for only 65 chickens a year. But, from the beginning, we’ve considered raising meat birds for sale to others. We do not have the land with pasture to do this now but still hope to someday.


A couple years after writing the book, “Anyone Can Build A Whizbang Chicken Plucker”, I started making and selling featherplates and a few of the other, harder-to-find plucker parts. My featherplates are made of 3/4” HDPE plastic. I have a system and several jigs I use to fabricate the plates in my little workshop outside my home. I love to work in my shop and to put my boys to work helping me make the featherplates. It is a sweet taste of the way home life was meant to be with the father and his sons working together. Unfortunately, it is only a taste.


The other day I had a pile of made-and-packaged featherplates fall over and two of the plates were ever-so-slightly damaged. There is a small chip on the backside edge of one and a scratch on the edge of another. The damage in no way detracts from the functionality of the plates and won’t even be seen once they are installed. But they are not perfect and I am selling them for $20 less than the usual price. Contact me by e-mail ( if you are interested in plucker parts and would like to get one of these discount featherplates.


Keith Bradshaw over at Allelon Farm is the latest person I know of to blog about his newly made Whizbang Plucker. The photo he provides at this link shows one of my fetherplates in action. The spinning circular disc at the bottom of the tub is the featherplate. It’s what does most of the plucking.


Yesterday Marlene made 20 mini loaves of “Nutty Grain” bread to include in a friend’s CSA delivery. They were a free sample. Joel Salatin is a big believer in giving free samples to get new customers.


The Lovely One also bought me a paper shredder for five bucks at a garage sale last weekend. I've been thinking of getting a paper shredder but have held off because I didn't want to spend the money. I firmly believe that, if you are patient and shop at garage sales, you'll find anything you want. And it'll be cheap.

Now I can shred all the paper waste that I generate at the computer writing books and filling orders. And I can shred junk mail too! And when I get a pile of "shreddings" I can use them for packing books and plucker parts. In other words, I can send my junk mail and scrap paper to other people! :-)


Those of you who have read this blog for awhile may have noticed something different lately. Gone are the long, thoughtful postings that I used to make. I have had to change my style for one big reason... lack of time. I just don’t have enough hours in the day to write like I once did. I am extremely busy with my family, our homestead projects, my regular job, and various part-time, home-centered entrepreurnial enterprises, and I know many of you out there have the same problem. I’ve also decided to save the longer stories for another Deliberate Agrarian book that I may write one day in the future (but not any time soon).


One last parting thought—Do you know what the average GPH (Guns Per Household) in Alaska is? I’ve been told it is 16.


Jonathan said...

Where did you hear that on the GPH in Alaska? It'd be neat to hear that sort of statistics for other states as well. Among my friend's families the average guns per person is three or four, although a lot of them have between five and ten.

Lynn said...

We read your "chicken chapters" tonight after supper and before dessert; I guess after living in the country for almost 2 years it's tough to find anything that makes us feel queasy! I wish Marlene lived closer so I could ask her questions about selling her breads and soap. We do have a farmer's market in town in the fall, but there aren't many people selling and even fewer buying.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Jonathan,

I heard the statistic at a graduation party I went to on Monday night. The young man has graduated from college in Florida with a degree in nursing. While down there, he met a very nice Christian girl and they would like to get married. But before that can happen, he needs to meet the girl's father and get his permission. The girl is from Alaska. Her family lives in a log cabin in the wilds at the end of the Alaska Highway. It sounds like they are real homesteaders. So the boy is leaving this week for Alaska for a month to stay with the family and meet the father and, hopefully, make a good impression.

As he was telling those of us who attended his party about the girl he met and her family, someone asked how many guns his future father in law (hopefully) owned. He immediatly replied, "Fourteen." and then he related the GPH statistic. I don't know where he got the statistic but I'll bet it's somewhere on the internet.


Yes, I wish we lived closer too. I think our families would get along just fine as friends and neighbors. And I'd love to meet Steve, Mountain Fire Keeper, too.

Marci said...

It would be wonderful to all live in community. We had a little bit more of this in the last place we lived. We have some here, but those around us do more of the stuff we do as a hobby that can be left undone, etc. We truly are trying to grow or raise as much of our own food as possible.

I would love to see your recipe on pickling the scapes. I love garlic and often chew on one of the scapes when I pick them. I have included them in stir fry, etc.