There Was Just No Stopping Her

Belly up, neck first. Cut the neck skin just a little, then on the right side carefully peel the crop from the skin. Assuming the birds didn’t eat the day before it should be pretty empty, if not be extra careful because it can make a big mess. Turn the bird butt up towards you. Cut off the tail. Flip the bird and make a careful cut to open the abdominal cavity and cut around the butt hole. Again being extra careful to not cut anything beyond skin deep.  Pull out the guts being sure to pull the throat and wind pipe out as well. Scrape out the lungs. Put the heart,liver and gizzard into separate buckets (if you want to save them).

I just save the feet.

This fall we butchered chickens again. Grandma was always up for helping with that project. This year she wasn’t going to be there for it. In fact, I didn’t mention to her that we were going to do it. I knew she’d want to and her health wouldn’t allow her to be out in the damp cold like her mind would want to.

I was a few birds in and just knew I was missing a step so dad gave the house a call and asked if grandma would be able to just come up a direct for a bird or two. Each year I need a refresher course with her. This year was no exception. Mom and dad only live ten minutes away and it was about that until grandma and mom came rolling down the driveway.

She hopped out of the car and handed her coat to mom as she rolled up her sleeves.

“Well wha’ do we got going on here? Give me one of those birds, I’ll show ya.’”

She looked frail but still had a fire in eyes. She instructed me through a couple birds and I realized it was the first step with the crop I was forgetting. Once I fixed up those first few, things went better. Grandma was getting cold but “I’ll do one more” she’d say. Finally we had to cut her off. She wanted to be out there just as much as we wanted her there but none of us wanted to risk her catching a cold.

“We butchered a lot of chickens on the farm. I never minded it like Monica. She didn’t like to butcher and usually found a way to get out of it. But I like it.” she’d say it every year. 

I too don’t mind the job. I’m not sure that I really like it, not that grandma was that attached to it either. But she enjoyed it enough to show up every time with a sharp set of knives to get the job done.

That was the last time I would get to butcher chickens with her. It is said you never know when the last time will be for anything. We knew this would be the last time. I tried to pay extra close attention because of it and when I bury myself in work dealing with some things is easier. Not that she was making that easy as she’s telling me the Mary statue goes to me and so on.

Butchering chickens was one of many skills that grandma passed down. She made the best potica (baked nut roll- pronunciation and spelling depends on where you’re from). My cousin was fortunate to get one more lesson making that during deer season this fall. As all of us girls did, she was sizing up the table they were working on. That was the table that the potica was made on. It’s the perfect size, when the dough is hanging off all the sides evenly it’s been stretched thin enough.

Thousands of buns and bread loaves came out of her small galley kitchen. All of which were brushed with butter while hot, the golden crusts glistened.

It was at grandmas that I learned to use a wringer wash machine and what it felt like to get your hands caught in it. Grandmas was also the place we used a stock tank as a canoe when the yard flooded in the spring.

In the summer grandpa would drive grandma, mom and all us kids down the road to fish in the creek. Grandma would pack a picnic lunch to eat in the pine trees while picking blueberries. I still love a picnic in the woods.

Growing up we’d spend time with grandma in the kitchen or in the garden. I doubt I was ever any help in the garden but she always let us swing on the gate. We’d help water the flowers  that were everywhere. 

We’d spend hours swinging from the oak tree by grandpa’s work shop and rolling down the hill that it overlooked. In the winter the same hill made for great sledding. In fact, one Christmas grandma broke her nose while sledding with all of us kids. I don’t recall it slowing her down much though.

In the evenings she’d always have a small stitching project to keep her hands busy and a quilt on the frame all winter long. We tied a lot of blankets in that basement bedroom.

She was never idle. Even while going through multiple rounds of chemo treatments she was out mowing acres of lawn, raking leave, washing windows in the spring and fall and shoveling snow. She’d haul her firewood to the house for her evening fires. There was just no stopping her. Right up until the end she had to have something to keep busy with. I learned a lot from her and hope I will do her proud to pass those lessons on.

My brother, sister, grandma and I. 201?
Grandma and I at my wedding-
Yes I have a mouthful of sandwich but she looks good. 

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Years ago I made a request to a German teacher who was a regular customer at my bakery, that when she went on her next trip to Germany to please bring me back a bread cookbook or two and I’d pay her for them. The ones she brought were in German, as I had hoped, and had some great pictures too!

Now, I don’t speak German. That was the language class I took for a few semesters in high school. In hindsight I should have taken Spanish. The only phrases I remember are “I don’t know” and “I have no money”.  Really useful phrases (insert eye-roll), not something like “where do I find great food?” or “two beers please” (my best Spanish phrase at the moment). Nope. I won’t be traveling to Germany any time soon the way it sounds.

The recipes look wonderful, or the pictures do at least. I started roughly translating a few that I wanted to try first shortly after receiving the books. Well, I received a request for a sunflower seed bread and wouldn’t ya’ know there’s a recipe for that in both cookbooks!


Sometimes I question my sanity.

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Farm T-Shirts Available for a Limited Time!

I’ve been wanting to be able to offer Farm T’s but haven’t been able to figure out the best was to go about it.

For the first try I’ve set it up as a fundraiser through Custom Ink.

All proceeds will be put into the savings account of a second kitchen on the farm that will have a
Sole Purpose of Baking, Canning and Teaching Classes!

Get yourself a T and share the link with a friend!


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Two Cows In, One Cow Out

It’s that time of year when we say goodbye to the steers and they take a ride to the butcher shop. The last few times we’ve had at least three people to help load the cows and it (knock-on-wood) goes really well. Even the loading of Wheezy went without a problem. I was excepting to not have too much trouble that night either.

Hindsight is 20/20, so it’s said. That being understood, I should have let Caroline out of the barn that morning. Instead, I let her out that evening, when the trailer was backed up to the loading door, which was open. A cattle panel (wire fence panel) was loosely leaning as a guide for the boys to get to the trailer. When the barn door opened for her to go outside she went running. There was shit flying as she was kicking up her heals like she was training for a PBR. Her excitement got the boys excited and they joined in.

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Please Let it be the Neighbors Cow

I don’t usually have the kids to daycare early enough in the morning to have breakfast but this particular morning we were planning to be there early. According to the schedule we received in the beginning breakfast is as 8:00 which means I try to have everyone there be at least ten to-.

We were doing great. We were right on track to get there on time. I told the older three to get their shoes on and get buckled while I got the baby in the carrier. It’s nothing new, they do it every morning. Then back came the little boy, “mama, there’s a cow in the yard!”

A quick silent prayer “Oh dear Lord, please let it be the neighbor’s cow.” We’ve never had any visiting cows wander through but it would have been fine with me this morning. I would have waved at it and left on time.

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