The Day Before Thanksgiving

The Day Before Thanksgiving

You would think I would be in my kitchen from sun-up until sundown.


The day began at 6:30.  I got up, brushed, dressed, somewhat groomed and made pancakes for the family,

We were at my friend Sandra’s farm before 8 am to help her load 12 sheep and an unknown number of goats (it was supposed to be 25, but she kept changing her mind so I’m not sure how many ended up on the bus at the end of the morning).

The sheep loading was a piece of cake.  We sorted them (keep these 5, put the other 12 on the trailer).

Hooking the 5th wheel up to the truck was simple enough, but can I just say how happy I was that DH was there to do it.  If it were up to me and Sandra to get the trailer connected to the truck and backed into position – we would probably still be there now.

Once the trailer was attached to a truck and the sheep were on board, we drove over to the goat fields.

This is when it got complicated.  There were about 100 goats, give or take.  Sandra had scheduled to deliver 25 and it was up to DH, me and 2 small children to get them “sorted.”  She would point to a goat and exclaim, “On the bus” or “that one stays.”  If they were staying – we sent them out to pasture.  If they were headed to their doom we had to run them into a small holding area.  So later they could be ‘pushed’ onto the trailer.

After chasing 90 goats around in circles for 30 minutes, we re-strategized.

This is how working with animals goes.  You try something.  If it isn’t working, you try something else.  Eventually, you’ll get there.

We moved the remaining 90 or so goats into a very small area where none of them could run from us.

Have I ever mentioned how easy it is to work with sheep?

It is ever present in my mind right now.  Especially after moving a large group of sheep and then a large group of goats on the same morning.

Goats are a pain.

and pointy.

Speaking of points, I will say that I am happy God gave goats handles.

Having difficulty with & obstinate goat?  Grab ’em by the horns and take them where ever you please.  Very convenient.

Making things a bit more time-consuming and difficult was that my friend was trying to decide which goats to keep and which to load in the middle of the chaos.

She only sells her goats to one place.  It is an interesting place that will buy them on the hoof for a fair price.  She unloads them and goes home with a pocket full of cash.

The buyer has pastures where he can continue to grow the animals if he wants.  If they are mature, he will process them right away.  He has a large group of customers that he regularly sells the meat.

It’s a really nice arrangement for my friend, who is an older widow.

She doesn’t need to find buyers for the meat.  She doesn’t need to pick up the meat and store it or sell it.

And probably her favorite part of the arrangement is that when she sells animals to this business she knows it is terminal.

Why is that good?

Those of us who tend to spoil our animals are very hesitant to sell them to another farm.  We just don’t know if they will receive the same love, care, and attention.

We want to see our animals treated kindly and their lives ended humanely.

When animals go to this processor it is a guarantee, they will be treated well and their lives will end as humanely as possible.  There is no risk of food deprivation, water shortages or animal cruelty.

And they will never be sold or moved to another farm.  Their lives end there.

So we had to get 25 goats (of Sandra’s choosing) onto the bus with the 12 sheep.

I think it would have gone much faster if Sandra knew which ones she wanted to keep.  Once she made up her mind, we got them sorted and loaded and she was off to the races (so to speak).

When we arrived home it was 9:30 (am) and we decided it was a fine day to thin out the rooster population.

6 Steps to a More Sustainable Homestead

We had a few broody hens this past summer and they raised 3 clutches of eggs (or is it flocks of chicks?).  Anyhow, they incubated and raised a bunch of roosters for me.

You won’t hear me complain, the roosters make great chicken broth and they were free.

Why kill the roosters?

ONE:  They are hard on the hens

TWO:  They are always fighting each other to be the top dog (cockfighting is real, Y’all)

THREE:  I don’t want to feed them all winter

Winter is calling and all our trees are bare.  What was once a lush jungle filled with food for the free-range chickens to forage is now bare and dry.  There is still food, but the fewer birds we have, the better.

The more competition for the free food the less everyone will get to eat.  And I’m not buying bagged (expensive) food to feed a bunch of roosters all winter long.

So, the roosters needed to go and DH had blocked the entire day off to help Sandra.  The day was young, so DH grabbed a gun and headed out to hunt roosters.

The chickens had already been let out for the day because no one knew we would be butchering roosters.  This is a problem because we keep ours truly FREE.   Like, on 47 acres.

EXPERT TIP:  If you plan to process chickens.  Grab the ones you want out of the coop in the morning before letting all the chickens out.  Hold them in a cage or small pen until you are ready.

This is how things resulted in a chicken hunt.  My youngest son never misses a chance to shoot something (I realize he may need therapy), so he (the 11-year-old) headed out with DH and a .22 to thin out the rooster situation.

The chickens were literally everywhere.  Woods, fields, pastures, barns – everywhere.

Meanwhile, I am texting my oldest son (who is technically the chicken keeper around here) asking him which roosters he wants to keep.  There were approximately 8 running wild and we only wanted there to be 2.  Here is his description of the two roosters he wanted to keep:

#1 keeper:  Foghorn (he’s easy to spot- huge, white, and has giant spurs).

#2 keeper:  The black and white one with the poofy cheeks.

what even?

Let me tell you, “the black and white one with the poofy cheeks” describes at least 5 of the 8 roosters on death row and I am trying to determine which one gets to live.

All the while, my husband and son are running all over the place shooting the heads off roosters faster than I can look for poofy cheeks.

So, I finally decide that the poor little poofy cheeked cock is already dead and ask my 18-year-old if he’d be happy with the Kellogs Rooster instead- since he was still running for his life.

My son was happy to keep Kellogs and I managed to stop the chicken-serial-killers from shooting anyone else.

We definitely wanted to keep a couple of roosters.  They are good for more than just fertile eggs-

  • A good rooster will keep the hens together (crowd management)
  • He will alert them of danger (sound the alarm)
  • He will literally risk his life for them.

We actually had a rooster die protecting his hens many years ago.  It was terribly sad but so endearing.

The boys were successful.  We took the (dead) roosters to the cow barn to process them.  Our milking parlor (cow barn) has running hot & cold water, a sink, counters, and HEAT.  It was 30 degrees outside at this point so a heated barn was a fantastic option.

DH skinned them & I finished them for storage (gutted, chopped off the feet, washed & bagged).  It only took us 30 minutes and I am thrilled to have the meat in the freezer.

By the way:  My oldest son came home later yesterday afternoon to do a roll call and see who was left.  I was so happy to learn that Mr. Black-and-white-with-the-poofy-cheeks was still alive!  I thought he was a she, so he survived the culling. It’s a good thing I can’t tell a he-chicken from a she-chicken.

When we walked in the house to get cleaned up, it was 11:00 and I made some lunch (not chicken).

After lunch, I began the Thanksgiving fun.

My turkey soaking in brine in a Dicks Sporting Goods bucket.

I cooked and prepped and watched the Grinch and listened to loud music.  I made the cranberry sauce, the cornbread dressing, and brined the turkey.  I can’t imagine a better way to spend Thanksgiving Eve.

I am so thankful for all of you this year!  Thanks for hanging out around here.  I love you all!

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!




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