Tag Archives: chickens

Let’s talk about food in La Yacata

Our whole purpose in living in off-grid rural Mexico is to become self-reliant. After 9 years of slow progress, we still aren’t there yet. But we are closer than we were.

ears-of-green-corn

Our microcosm provides us with regular food stuff. We grow corn, beans and squash ever year in the traditional way on sharecropped land. (See Las tres hermanas) Our non-GMO organic corn not only provides year-round foods for our animals but also allows for equally healthy tortillas–the very foundation of Mexican cuisine. My sister-in-law runs a tortilleria (See Failing at your own business–Tortilleria), so I am relieved of this very time-consuming task. Corn is also used in tamales, pozole and a plethora of other traditional dishes.

tamal

Corn and lime boiling in preparation for milling for tortillas.

We also grow garbanzo (chickpeas) after the corn growing season is finished.  It makes for a nice snack, either raw or steamed, with the added benefit that the entire plant is eagerly consumed by our grazing animals.  Fiona, the donkey, is especially fond of garbanzo.

garbanzo

Steamed garbanzos

Our organically fed animals also provide us with delicious foodstuff. From our small herd of goats, we have daily milk and occasional meat. The milk we don’t drink right away is pastured right on the stove for later. We use it for creamy hot chocolate or honey-dripped oatmeal. The honey is from a local organic hive and delicious!

pasturizing milk

As we don’t have refrigeration, we dry our leftover meat into jerky strips. The dried meat theoretically should last several weeks. However, it rarely does due to the presence of a pre-teen, always ravenous, boy.

drying goat meat

Our chickens, ducks, and turkeys provide us with daily eggs and occasional meat as well. Just as with the goats, this means butchering. My husband has had years of practice at this and, therefore, our animals do not suffer needlessly.

butchering

We also keep rabbits and have recently added sheep to our backyard barnyard. Both provide occasional meat. (See Waskely Wabbits and Old MacDonald’s Farm). I’m hoping that our sheep will give us wool and perhaps milk later on as well. But as we haven’t had much success with sheep herding (See Birth and Death) it remains to be seen if that will actually happen or not.

full of tunas

Tunas are not hard to find after the rainy season.

La Yacata provides food, free of charge, for us as well. Cactus fruit is abundant towards the end of the rainy season. It’s not unusual for us to spend an afternoon foraging for pitayas (See Picking Pitayas) or tunas (See Picking tunas) or harvesting nopales (cactus leaves)(See Harvesting Cactus) for dinner.

feverfew

Feverfew

Tea can be made from hojas (leaves) or roots of a variety of naturally available plants. (See Feverfew tea and Lentejilla). Wild mushrooms are also found aplenty during the rainy season.

acebuche

Acebuche berries

Mesquite trees provide a chewy sweet treat for a snack. Acebuche trees have tart red berries that can be eaten right off the tree or made into a refreshing drink. Even the grass is edible. Quelite can be boiled like spinach.  (See Women in the Revolution–Marcelina)

chirimoya

Cherimoya fruit

We have moras (blackberries), chirimoya, guayaba, limones (lemons) and durazno (peach) in season in our own garden. We anxiously awaiting fruit from our granada and nispero trees this year. Our orange tree up and died last year, so it looks like no oranges this year. I hope to do some container gardening as well. Backyard gardening hasn’t been very successful with our free range chickens and rabbits out and about.

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Filed under Alternative Farming, Animal Husbandry, Health, Homesteading, Native fauna and flora, Natural Healing

Our Family Hobby

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes.

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A family hobby? Us? We are so busy in our day to day lives that we don’t often have time for leisure activities like travel or bungee jumping or arts and crafts. But we spend time together as a family and we enjoy the time we spend together as a family. So what do we do together as a family? Our daily discussions, activities, and lives are centered around our animals. Animal husbandry is our hobby.

We play around with animal husbandry, not in the Wikipedia definition of Animal husbandry as “the management and care of farm animals by humans for profit,” since we certainly do not realize a profit, but more as the now obsolete meaning of the word husbandry as a “steward” of a household. We are definitely stewards.

Since moving to Mexico, we have been involved in purchasing, raising, caring, breeding, healing, feeding, selling, butchering and sometimes burying all sorts of animals.

Afternoons will often find us settled on the back steps watching some aviary antics.

Mrs. Macho setting on the eggs.

Mrs. Macho setting on the eggs.

We have been host to domesticated pigeons escaped from the tiro de pichon (shooting range) and watched them raise generations of babies in the eves of our animal area. Eventually, Mrs. Macho moved on when we had to change the roof slant, but it was fascinating to watch the love and care both Mr. and Mrs. Macho took by sitting on the eggs and feeding the ugliest little broods. We enjoyed watching the babies growth and their first practice flaps and then rejoiced as they left the nest one by one.

quails

Codornices are small, native quail.

We have also had codornicess, which are a small native quail. We noticed most how the little guys would come to greet us at feeding time, even pecking at our shoelaces when we were slow to acknowledge them, hopping up and hooting just like in the cartoons.

chickens

Chicken hierarchy

Of course, our mini-homestead has chickens and chicken culture is amazing. Their socialization and hierarchy are as intense as any telenovela (soap opera). We have watched young roosters make their first macho challenges to the current head mucky-muck. We watched as Henny Penny gave up the will to live when the love of her life was no longer there. We chuckled at Jovencita’s attempts to adopt every single chick hatched and shook our heads at the poor mothering done by Hilda. We were horrified in the pecking death of Gringa, for the crime of being different from the others. And we are on hand to cluck over the newest batch of hatchlings. (See Why did the chicken cross the road?)

bump head goats

These goats are less than a week old and already playing bump heads!

One of our daily activities is taking the goats out to forage. Some days this is a run for your money if Duchess or Twiddledee get it into their heads to head for the hills. Most days, it’s a relaxing afternoon under the mesquite watching the antics of the goat kinder (kindergarten) as they play king of the rock or a rousing game of bump heads. We have even had kids that wanted nothing more than to sit in your lap, although this tends to be a bit cumbersome as they grow. (See Separating the sheep and the goats)

beauty

Beauty getting saddled up.

Sunday afternoons will often find us spending time with our hoofed animals, which currently includes Fiona, the donkey, Beauty, the yegua (mare) and Shadow her colt. It is not unheard of for us to take a family ride up and past La Yacata and back, sometimes further. We have even been known to have donkey races just for fun. (See Donkey Races, A horse is a horse or not, Beauty’s Babies)

gato

Smile for the camera now kitty!

I must not forget to include our long list of puppies and kitties that have come into our lives, sometimes for an extended period, sometimes for just a few days. Their personalities, travasuras (naughtiness) or amiableness, have made them such a pleasure to come home to. Currently, we are hosting 2 dogs, Hershey and Chokis and one cat, Little Miss Licorice Stick, otherwise known as Licky. (See 101 perritos)

Whether we have been strictly observers or had a hand in their daily lives, we have enjoyed our foray into animal husbandry. We have come to know that animals are sentient beings and that our actions and attitudes towards them affect their lives, sometimes drastically. Ahh, a hobby with moral value. What more could anyone ask for?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • 8 Reasons to Go Camping with Your Kids — The weather is warmer, and it is time to think about taking a break. As you plan your family vacation, Mandy of Living Peacefully with Children, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, explains why you should consider hitting the trails with your kids.
  • Crafty Cohorts — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys crafting with her kids, and the skills they are learning.
  • Helping Himawari — Sophelia’s family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan share a passion for helping when a dog is abandoned at the nearby elementary school.
  • The ‘Art’ of Having FunMarija Smits shares some thoughts on family art and fun.
  • How we made our own Family Day — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how her family celebrates the best day of the week, a chance for connection and adventure and endless possibilities: Family Day!
  • Our Family Hobby — Survivor talks about how animal husbandry has become her family’s favorite hobby at Surviving Mexico Adventures and Disasters.
  • Sowing the Seeds of Passions — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs wonders if her interests, and her husband’s, will shape her children’s passions as they mature.
  • Harry Potter Potions Party — One of the best activities Dionna at Code Name: Mama has ever done with her family has been a Harry Potter Potions Party. She is sharing the resources she used to create their potion recipes, the ingredients and tools they experimented with, and the recipes themselves. Feel free to use and adapt for your own budding wizards and witches!
  • Pastimes Have Passed Me By — Kati at The Best Things takes a new perspective on projects that never get done.
  • Food as a cultural experience for preschoolers — Nathalie at Kampuchea Crossings finds that food is a good way to engage her preschoolers on a journey of cultural discovery.
  • Pastime with Family vs Family Pastime — You can share lots of pastimes with your family, but Jorje of Momma Jorje discovered a family pastime was much more pleasant for sharing.

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Battling Nature–Flies

fly

We live outside of town, surrounded by open space, grasses, and animals. Our garden wall is shared with the neighbors, who happen to be bovine. We have horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and dogs,  and an occasional pig, all of which poop. And the poop attracts the flies. In the months before the rainy season, there is a biblical plague number of flies. They are everywhere. We have screens on the windows, which for this area is eccentric, but necessary to keep out the swarms. But somehow they still get in. So I looked into methods of extermination.

First I tried Raid for Flies. Yep, it’s a real thing. Comes in a purple canister. I sprayed one day after I had left the garage door open and a gazillion flies peppered the ceiling. I sprayed the whole can and then stumbled outside, nearly unconscious. It did kill some of the flies, but I puked and puked and thought I was going to die as well. And when the air cleared, there were dead fly bodies and live fly bodies about. Not a victory there.

So then I asked what the locals do for the flies. The solution is to hang a clear plastic bag full of water at the entrance of the house. The theory being the approaching fly will see its own magnified reflection, think it is some sort of giant insect, scream and veer off. I see some flaws in this plan, the predominant one is that it doesn’t seem to keep the flies out of my house anyway.

When my mother-in-law moved her kitchen from in the house to an outside patio area, the fly problem was exponentially increased due to the lack of walls. So her solution was to buy pink pellet poison, put it on plates and set them around the kitchen, on tables and the floor. The way it works is the flies are attracted to the sweet poison, eat it and drop dead. As a testament to the effectiveness, little dead fly bodies littered the plate. Again, however, there was a flaw in the plan. No less than 3 of the household pets were also attracted to the pink sweet poison and died horrible deaths. I also thought it might be hard for my mother-in-law to win this battle with flies, as the kitchen was outside. For it to work effectively, she would have to exterminate all the flies in La Yacata. This seemed an impossible task and more than I was willing to take on. I only wanted flies to stay outside my house, not kill off the entire species.

So I asked around some more. Fly traps. That yellow sticky spiral tape stuff that you hang from the ceiling. Ok, this wasn’t venomous. I could try this safely. And each role is only 8 pesos. Within an hour, my house was fly free. I admit, it’s not pretty, dead and dying flies and their parts hanging in the kitchen. And if it is accidentally hung too low, a pain to get out of one’s hair. But it works. The simple way is usually the best.

Yet, there were still flies outside. Oodles of them. As I knew I wouldn’t win the battle against all the flies in La Yacata, being outnumbered, but I hoped to reduce the number in my immediate area. I thought about other enemies of flies. So what eats flies? Spiders. Ok. Giant spider webs constructed in the garden were left in peace. Lizards. Again, found easily throughout La Yacata, but not really subject to permanent residence in the backyard.

Birds. Now there’s something. Our chicken flock had been growing steadily, and I noticed that there were fewer flies where the chickens were. I looked around again. The piles of animal poop seem to be gathering places and breeding grounds of flies. So why don’t we let the spare roosters have an area to patrol? The white rooster gets the sheep pen. The black rooster gets the goat area. The two little red roosters get the horse stall and dog area. For good measure, the littlest rooster has free range in the garden. The roosters fatten up quite nicely, and just as importantly, fewer flies.

Then, when we got ducks, yippee. Ducks love to catch flies and are entertaining to watch to boot. They lie in wait, motionless for so long that you think there might be something wrong and then, all of a sudden–blam! A vertical leap and beak snap and one less fly in the yard. And they get their protein this way. You know what they say “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

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