Friday, May 4, 2012

America: Land of Entitlement

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
I try to be nice on this blog. I really do. I do my best to keep political and religious opinions to myself here, because we all have those and it’s rare that any two  people agree wholeheartedly on such issues. But this is a homesteading blog and sometimes things need to be said about our rights and freedoms regarding this issue. And sometimes a little childish name-calling seems to be in order… ;-)

A friend sent me a link this morning from his local paper:
This link opens directly to the comments section, but if you scroll up, you’ll see the story. The article is about possibly allowing a city ordinance to go into effect that would allow urbanites to keep a few hens in their backyard. (This is in Maryland.)

Now, ten years ago, I would’ve probably gaped incredulously at such a thing and asked “You need PERMISSION to keep a few hens?” Course I live in the Great Repulic of Texas and we don’t ask permission for much of anything outside of the larger metroplex areas like DFW or Houston. A good many of us have lived on farms or in smaller towns and we don’t necessarily think it’s a mortal sin to grow some of our own food. We don’t even have to register our handguns (gasp!) and many of us have killed and eaten animals with nary a thought of their Disney doppelgangers.

I lived in the DFW area for about fifteen years, so I’m no stranger to the ways of city folk. And I’m sure a lot has changed in the last twelve years since we moved away. But more and more we’ve become a nation of the “Entitled Elite.” We expect others to do our dirty work and Bread Labor for us and we think that’s okay as long as we pay them with money. That belief, folks, is at the very heart of communism and it’s just another type of welfare – that is, someone else doing all the slave labor and “untouchable” jobs while we sit on our fat, lazy, entitled tushies.

But back to the article… Honestly, I can’t believe I share the planet with some of these ignorant yahoos. About halfway down in the comments section, there’s someone who truly hits the stupidity nail on the head. I won’t copy and paste that comment or user name for liability reasons, but you can see it for yourself. People like this are what is wrong with this country!

This person rages on about how a panel of so-called “experts” agree with him/her that it is downright unhealthy and even DANGEROUS to raise, keep or feed chickens! Even in rural areas! He/she cites reasons such as disease, smell and noise for this opinion. (Course obviously, this ignoramus didn’t consult any of the thousands of  “experts” that actually keep small flocks or a few hens in their backyard.)

There are other stupid comments, but that was the worst. There also seems to be various levels of concern over the inordinate amount of feces a few hens would generate. I hate to tell the Chicken Littles of the world, but a few hens in a backyard would barely generate enough manure to feed my roses and flowers with, let alone a larger garden! I know this because I’m raising about 200 chickens a year for meat and eggs and it’s still not enough to fertilize everything I grow. That stuff is more precious than gold if you have the good sense to know how to use it! Oh, and, it only stinks if there’s too much of it and it gets wet. That’s what a compost bin is for.

Disease? REALLY?! You’re more likely to catch a disease from your wild bird feeders than from a few chickens. Or from the raccoon that’s eating your pets’ food and sifting through your garbage. Or from the cat that left a turd in your three-year-old’s sandbox that she ate. Noisy? Well, they do like to announce the arrival of their eggs, but at least they’re doing something productive, unlike a backyard of yapping dogs or yowling cats. Of course no one should keep a rooster if they have neighbors within a quarter mile of them and special care should be taken keeping them around children. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Roosters are mean and aggressive, not to mention noisy. I keep two roosters for breeding and that’s one and a half too many, even in the country. (And if I could grow a couple of their testes on petri dishes, I’d be perfectly happy doing without the rest of them! So would the hens.)

If you’ve been keeping up with the “Urban Homesteading” brew-haha from last year, you’re not a stranger to this whole issue. And then there was the woman who grew vegetable plants in her city yard. Can’t remember if she got arrested or merely fined, but it sure did cause a stink. The thing that just kills me is all the people who run around screeching about sustainability and “Going Green” and animal rights and so on. I have to wonder how many of those people constantly seek out organic, locally-grown foods while they support legislation and lawmakers that prevent them or their neighbors from keeping a few hens or growing a small garden in their backyard?

I hate to tell you this folks, but we are WAAAAYYY past the possibility of sustainability on this planet. The only reason we are not already starving (in THIS entitled country anyway!) is because we are still mining the planet’s resources for fertilizer and fossil fuels. THIS PLANET CANNOT SUSTAIN SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE FOR MUCH LONGER! (And it doesn’t help when idiots like the Dueggars crank out nineteen children. Just because we can reproduce like cockroaches, doesn’t mean we should. Wake up and smell the birth control!)

If you live in the city or suburbia, WHERE exactly do you think your food is going to come from as our resources dwindle and our economy goes deeper in the hole so that food becomes even more expensive? For those of you who seek out food from organic sources, most of those products are still produced using fossil fuels – farm machinery and transportation are gasoline powered. The grains and feed grown to feed our livestock are only possible because we have extensive grain belts over much of the country and fossil fuels to feed the machines that produce them. Even components of our so-called “organic” fertilizers are often produced using non-organic fertilizers to grow them. Other countries don’t feed their livestock the way we do! Food and feed is expensive elsewhere. So expensive, in fact, that it’s cheaper to import meat & grains  from America than raise it themselves.

Seriously folks, if YOU don’t start raising a little of your own food on that postage stamp of a yard you dump chemicals and precious water on, where do you think it’s going to come from in the future? It isn’t your RIGHT to own a few chickens and keep a small garden in your backyard, it’s your RESPONSIBILITY!

I can’t think of a better place to start than raising a few hens in your backyard. They will consume every last scrap of food waste from your household that would otherwise go into the disposal or landfill. They will provide at least a little fertilizer for a small garden or flower beds. You can even save the eggshells to use on the garden and flowers. Nothing need go to waste when you have chickens. And the first time you crack open one of those eggs with the beautiful orange yolks,  you’ll know you did the right thing….

So moving on now….
Bunion the Goat

We have a goat! About three weeks ago, my next-door neighbor called and explained that her daughter’s goats had been attacked by a stray dog. The dog killed the pregnant female doe and injured the buck’s back leg so badly she thought he would always be lame. She said they knew I’d probably butcher him, but they couldn’t do it and didn’t want to just shoot him….

(I’m leaving out lots of parts to this story – my neighbors are of the poor “Entitled Elite” – they live on more than enough land to support their own table, but they eat not so much as a bean pod from their own property. Meanwhile, they live on welfare and keep lots of animals they can’t afford to feed. And the “stray” dog was one of the many mongrels they constantly take in. I’m not trying to rat out my neighbors here, it’s just simple truth. And they aren’t the worst neighbors we’ve ever had – her parents were far worse!)

Anyway, the poor little goat was easily twenty-five pounds underweight from malnourishment. The guys at the feed store recommended Sweet Feed to pack some muscle and fat on him. That seemed an affordable solution ($10 a bag) and it seems to be working so far. I also bought him a salt block. That was fun – I’ve never bought one of those before! Fifty pounds of salt for $5.95 – I should be putting those back for pickling and brining! J

I’ve actually become quite fond of the little goatnik, which Curtis named “Bunion.” (Bunion and Parsnip were the kobolds from “The Magical Kingdom of Landover” series.) But we can’t keep him. He is indeed lame, though his injuries have healed nicely. Someone really botched his de-budding too. He has one scur that’s easily 2” thick. We removed that last weekend and I don’t EVER want to go through that again! And he isn’t castrated. Nor am I keen on putting a rubber band around THOSE big cojones! He is also very poor breeding stock, so really, it’s best just to butcher him after he fattens up a bit. But I don’t have to like doing it.

I am, however, sold on goats. As a dairy and meat animal for a small family, they make more sense to me than a dairy cow. I’m looking forward to going in search of a couple dairy does after we get suitable housing and a yard built for them.

We are keeping the garden quite small this summer. Texas was invaded by army worms a couple weeks ago and I’m thankful I didn’t have much planted. They decimated a 4’ x 80’ bed of onions in only a couple days. I caught them just as they trooped into the garlic. THAT would have been devastating – and expensive!
Army Worms

So I’m just now getting the summer garden up and running. Okra, cukes, melons, summer and winter squash, a few tomatoes and quite a few peppers. The corn and green beans won’t do well during our nasty summers so those will have to wait until the fall. I’ve got a lot of herbs growing in containers and I’m hoping to use this summer to get some things done around the homestead. We desperately need to do some fencing and some work on our house, along with building a toolshed and another outbuilding. Sometimes you have to prioritize over the garden, though I really hate it.

We are on our third hatch of chick-lets and those are all doing well.  We’re going through chicken from the freezer pretty fast, so I’m glad we’ll have more soon.

As we make the transition from the heavier foods of winter to the lighter foods of summer, we always eat a lot of Mexican food this time of year. What we don’t raise ourselves can be had at a good price right now. I just bought some excellent avocados and mangoes this week.

Following are a few of our favorite warm-weather recipes. The pork and chicken marinades make for excellent fajita meat or just grilled and served with stir-fried veggies. I’ve been buying boneless pork sirloin roasts from the grocery and slicing them about ¾” thick for the cutlets. Of course, the chicken breasts and all the other parts are always from our farm.
Chicken Fajitas

Chicken Breast Marinade
(for 4-6 chicken breasts)

* ½ cup white wine
* ¼ cup lime juice
* ¼ cup olive oil
* 1 tablespoon chili powder or lemon pepper seasoning
* 1 teaspoon salt
* fresh garlic to taste, minced
* a little wine vinegar

Pork Cutlet Marinade
(for 4-6 pork chops/cutlets)
Curtis claims these are so good you don’t need any kind of sauce with them. I let them marinate for at least 48 hours.

* ½ cup sherry
* ½ cup apple cider or juice
* ¼ cup olive oil
* 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
* 1 tablespoon coarse brown or honey mustard
* 1 tablespoon brisket rub or steak seasoning
* fresh garlic to taste, minced

Diane’s Famous Chicken Enchiladas

These have gone thru a lot of revisions over the years, but they have always gotten rave reviews. They tend to be one of those “filler” meals – you know, for days when nothing sounds good, I’m out of menu ideas & I already have a stewing chicken thawed to use in SOME capacity. ( I kill or thaw one every week knowing it will get used.) There’s always Salsa Verde in my pantry & we grow tons of peppers, so even if there aren’t fresh peppers, there will be dehydrated or canned. (You can use any kind of pepper, it doesn’t have to be poblanos.) I also tend to have some wheat allergies & even though I eat wheat products some, a gluten-free meal is always welcome. I’ve found corn tortillas keep forever in the fridge, so those are always handy if I don’t have time to make fresh ones.  You just can’t go wrong with these!

*1 small chicken, cooked, deboned & chopped
*1 large onion, chopped
*3-4 cloves garlic (or more, to taste)
*2 large poblano peppers, blistered, skinned, seeded & chopped (about 1 cup)
*1 heaping tablespoon chili powder blend
*1 heaping tablespoon powdered ancho peppers
*1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

*1 pint (16 oz) salsa verde
*8 ounces sour cream
*½ pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated

*10-12 white corn tortillas
(or flour tortillas, if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 400.

Saute the onion and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil or lard until soft but not browned. Add the chicken and peppers and heat through. Add the seasonings, mix well and cook for a few minutes to meld flavors, adding a few tablespoons of chicken broth if the mixture is too dry.

Into a medium casserole, pour about half the salsa verde and spread over the bottom with a spoon. Mix the remaining salsa verde with the sour cream in a small bowl.

Wrap the corn tortillas in a towel and microwave them for about a minute to steam them so they don’t tear. Fill each with about ½ cup of the chicken filling, roll them up and lay them side by side in the casserole. Spread the salsa verde/sour cream mixture over the top, then sprinkle on the grated cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly & brown. Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over the top as soon as it comes out of the oven.
The new fish spitter on our front porch

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