World Mandate Photos

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I
posted a few more photos over at Thinklings.

Weekend Photos

Our cord of wood:
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A duck hen:
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Meat birds (these guys are on death row):
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What I Did Today

8:30 a.m. -- Got up.

9:30 a.m. -- Did the Chicken chores.

10:30 a.m. -- Made our weekly Saturday morning Big Breakfast.

11:30 a.m. -- Started digging. I was trying to find our kitchen grease trap, because it was overflowing and stinking up the yard. The fellow who used to own our house told us that he had emptied the grease trap 15 years ago, so it was probably time for it to get another emptying. Oh boy.

2:30 -- Watched part of a documentary with Brandi. It's a PBS documentary titled The Farmer's Wife. It's about a farming couple in Nebraska trying to keep their farm solvent and their marriage intact. So far, so good.

3:45 -- Located the grease trap access and began the most horrific job of my life, pulling out chunks of congealed food that had accumulated in the trap for the past 15 years. The stench alone was horrible enough. (I'll try and post some photos later.)

Well, that's it for now. I did manage to clear out a bunch of the junk in the trap; hopefully it'll be another 15 years before it has to be touched again.

Today

We visited the World Hunger Relief Farm for the first time today. We had heard of the place years ago, but never thought about going until recently. It's actually on our side of the county, not too far from our home. I think it took us about 15 minutes to drive there.

Today wasn't the greatest day to visit anything outdoors, though. It was cold, windy, and rainy. We did manage to learn a bit about raising goats (Brandi's convinced she wants a goat asap) and we got to buy some fresh, organic produce (see the photos below). I think the WHRF is going to be a good resource for us; if nothing else it's a good place to buy fresh produce and goat sausage. Yes, we bought a pound of goat sausage and it was delicious! We have been contemplating getting a meat goat but were uncertain as to whether or not we were going to like goat meat. If the sausage we ate today was any indication, I don't think we're going to have any problem enjoying goat meat.

So, without further ado, here are some photos of Brandi shopping for veggies at the WHRF and a shot of the goat sausage cooking on our stove:

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After Hours

We had a cord of wood delivered yesterday and I rushed home to try and get a shot of the wood stacked neatly near our chimney. By the time I got got home it was too dark, but I decided to take a photo anyway ...

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Calf?

We're dying to get a calf. Our plan is to fence off 1.25 acres and to let it munch on our luscious pasture grass. After about 4 to 6 months, we'd kill the fatted calf and (hopefully) have meat for a year, and then we'd repeat the process.

I've gotten rough estimates for the fence, and it looks like it's going to cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000. That's not chump change, but we might be able to get it done this spring or early summer. In the meantime one of the patriarchs of our community -- a nice older man who lives down the road -- has offered to possibly let us raise a calf in one of his fields. The beauty of the scenario is the field is right next to ours, so we'd be practically raising the calf in our back yard. If this plan pans out we might be able to get a calf within the next couple of months. Awesome!

Incubation

We're currently incubating 12 eggs. I think the eggs have been in the incubator for a week, and it takes three weeks for them to hatch, so we have a couple of weeks to go. Based on our research we think we should be able to get 5 to 8 chicks when it's all said and done. The chicks are from our laying flock, so they'll all be Delaware chickens. The females will be integrated into our laying flock, and the males will be fattened up and eaten! Delawares -- a rare breed -- are dual-purpose birds so they do well with both laying and meat production. They're not ridiculous on the meat side, like the fat boy Cornish Cross chickens that we're currently raising for a February slaughter, but they do supposedly provide quite a bit of meat. Both Brandi and I area really looking forward to eating one at some point in the future.

And now for a completely non-related photo I shot just a few minutes ago:

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What I Did Today (After The Big Freeze Last Night)

- Slept in until 9:30 a.m.

- Lumbered outside to see if our chickens survived the freeze (they did)

- Heard a cracking sound and then witnessed our outdoor spigot erupt

- Ran over to the curb to turn off the water main

- Went back to the site of the eruption and dug a hole looking for the PVC pipe joint, thinking it would unscrew and I could replace it

- Found the joint, but no luck on the unscrewing idea

- Texted my handyman friend who told me I'd need to cut the pipe below the break, and then join it with a "union"

- Went to local hardware store, bought the necessary stuff

- Much to my surprise, I successfully fixed the pipe

- Had a sense of satisfaction

- Went about my day

- About 30 minutes later I was informed by my lovely wife that the water pressure was low

- Went out to check the pipe, and saw that it was fine, but another pipe inside of our shop was gushing water like crazy

- Apparently the ice had thawed and caused another pipe to break

- Turned off the water main again

- Went to hardware store again

- Capped the new broken pipe, turned the water back on and then frowned when I realized it was still leaking

- Went to hardware store again

- Capped the pipe again

- The cap held this time (thankfully)

Country Commodities

It's interesting to observe price fluctuations for country commodities.

Farm eggs -- $1 to $4 per dozen. We're big egg eaters so we have to frequently supplement our own farm eggs with some that we purchase from a gal we know (hopefully that'll change within the next few months because we're currently incubating some of our hens' eggs in order to bump up our laying flock). Right now we buy eggs for $2 per dozen. It's not uncommon to see them for $3 per dozen (especially in small country grocery stores), and while $4 per dozen seems astronomical, it's not unheard of. I heard a farmer on a documentary talking about how people would complain to him about $3 per dozen eggs while they were standing there holding a 75 cent can of soda.

Raw milk -- This is more of a gray market item, so it's not really something you're going to see listed on Craig's List. We buy raw milk from two families. The only price I've been quoted is $4 per gallon, but I've heard of raw milk being MUCH more expensive than that.

Laying hens -- $3.50 to $12 per bird.

One cord of wood -- I've done some research on this the past few days and I've seen anything from $100 delivered to $275 come-and-get-it. We settled on buying from an acquaintance who sells a cord for $125 delivered. I thought that was a fantastic price.

Once we start looking into buying more animals (we're thinking about a cow, honey bees, maybe a goat, and maybe a small horse), I'm sure we'll notice a wide range of price fluctuations there as well. I think like with most things in life, you get what you pay for, but occasionally you just find a great deal.

It's Cold

And it's going to get colder. It's supposed to be around 23 degrees tonight 17 degrees tomorrow night. Thankfully I scored some free oak firewood that'll last us through the cold spell, but I'm going to have to break down and buy a cord of wood next week. It's not a big deal, really, because a cord (8' x 4' x 4') ought to last us a very long time -- I'm hoping for two months at least. Also, supposedly, using a wood-burning stove to heat your home is more economical than gas or electric.

I just love the feel of burning wood. Our wood-burner is like a giant candle in our living room -- it's that relaxing. I also love knowing that, up to this point, I haven't had to pay a dime for wood, but that's all going to change soon.

Back to the point of my post, it's cold and getting colder. I think our animals will be fine. The laying hens and our rooster are in their coop that's located in our barn, and it opens to the south so it safely blocks the north wind. The meat birds are tucked away in their tractor (cage) with a blanket on top, and the ducks are pretty much impervious to cold weather. Our cat will sleep inside.

Goodnight. Bundle up.

Couple Of Photos

One of our duck hens out ranging:
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Our rooster and a hen inspecting the newcomers:
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Meat

We acquired our meat birds today. We decided to get six of them for the first time around and in about five weeks they'll be ready to harvest. At that point I'll take them over to the fellow's house who sold them to me and he'll show me how to butcher them. There's something very satisfying about this whole process. Assuming all goes well I plan to have a constant rotation of meat chickens, so hopefully we'll be harvesting meat every five to six weeks.

Here's a shot of their home, a little chicken tractor that I rescued from a dumpster and promptly refurbished (those birds outside the tractor are some of our curious laying hens):
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And here they are. One of them will be fried within six weeks, and the others will be frozen for future consumption:
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Christmas Eve Blizzard Video

Here's a video clip from the now-famous Christmas Eve Blizzard in Waco last week. There actually wasn't much snow, but the wind was blowing like crazy.

Untitled from Eric Guel on Vimeo.

What's This Blog For?

I ask myself that sometimes. The answer usually always goes back to either me or my family. While I love the idea of a blog being a wide-open journal that anyone in the world could stumble upon, I realize that I probably only have a handful of readers, and that's completely fine with me. I have no delusions of grandeur, and if I'm feeling compelled to entertain any such delusions, Thinklings is a great outlet.

This blog is more of a personal journal (and photo album) than anything. I want to be able to look back on this blog years from now and see what was going on in my life at any given time. Hence, I've focused heavily the past few months on our family adventures in moving out to the country and starting a homestead. The whole process has been life-changing, and as a result we're different, better. God's been amazingly faithful, and I know His faithfulness is steady despite circumstances.

In 2009 I pretty much avoided a lot of theological speculation on this blog. I still read theology -- in fact theology and church history are my favorite reading subjects. I still think on the things that have consumed my theological ruminations in the past: the nature of hell (I think it's a reality, but perhaps not in the Dantean sense), Universalism (I reject it, but in my heart of hearts, I hope that it's true), and Calvinism (I embrace it). I don't know if I'll speculate much on theology in 2010, but who knows? The goings-on at our humble farm (along with photographic documentation) will probably keep me pretty busy on the blog this year. Therefore, I don't have any plans to ever really shut this blog down. I may take a break for weeks, months, or even a year or more, but I can't see myself calling it quits. I think journals are valuable time capsules, and I have a hunch that perhaps my future grandchildren would want me to continue blogging.

In short, if you're someone who frequents this blog, thanks for stopping by. I probably won't change the format much because, as a journal of sorts, this place is more for me and my family, although I do hope to write a few things that might pique the curiosity of outsiders.