Not Available in Stores

What’s particularly fun about having a small farm is being able to eat foods which are largely unavailable in any store at any price. As mentioned in a previous post, we feasted on roast guinea fowl for Christmas dinner. They were delicious; despite being at least two or three years old, the birds turned out very nice after having been roasted in a Crock Pot for 18 or so hours on “low”. Incredible how much gravy dripped off of them, and what a wonderful smell filled our house.

Also remarkable was how much meat we got off those two little game birds. We ended up storing the leftovers in the fridge for a week, unable to decide what to do. Finally, Mrs Yeoman Farmer (MYF) had a brilliant idea: Guinea Pot Pie. We defrosted a couple of quarts of chicken stock, then used it to simmer a pot of chopped carrots and potatoes. Added the de-boned guinea meat (and what was left of that wonderful gravy), then baked it with a freshly-ground rice flour crust.

As we were serving up this New Year’s feast last night, I asked MYF, “How many people in this country do you think are having Guinea Pot Pie for dinner tonight?

MYF’s response came quickly and without hesitation: “Exactly five.”

Goodbye to Guineas

Yesterday, with mixed emotions, I butchered both of our remaining Guinea fowl. At one point, we had dozens of the birds; the idea was to employ them for their bug-eating prowess. However, as time went by, we discovered their downsides: Guineas are always half-wild, extremely difficult to catch, and even more difficult to contain. Mrs. Yeoman Farmer grew increasingly irritated with their tendency to fly into her garden and take dust baths in her recently-planted beds. I managed to buy them a reprieve from the chopping block last summer; I’d grown rather fond of them and their antics, and didn’t want to see our farm without them.

But even I have come around now. It’s not so much a matter of seeing Guineas as pests — it’s more a matter of letting go of my attachment to them. And besides, guinea meat is delicious…and we figured it would make a nice treat for Christmas Dinner.

So, Saturday night I plucked both of them off their perches in the barn. One put up quite a fight, and made me chase him all over the building before I could corner him. The other allowed himself to be surprised, and went quietly. They spent their last night in a cardboard box, and then I dispatched them Sunday morning after Mass.

Was it hard to pull the trigger (or knife, as it were) on them? Sure. Butchering chickens and ducks and turkeys isn’t difficult; we have so many of each, they’re more or less anonymous. But with only two guineas, they’re “part of the crew” in a way that no individual hen or duck ever is. And it was tough knowing that with them gone, there would be one less type of critter in our menagerie.

But it’s not like I’m in mourning for them or anything. No way. I’m happily looking forward to Christmas Dinner!

Death Row

The garden is now largely planted, but there has been a problem: one chicken in particular has repeatedly managed to find a way in and tear up the tender young seedlings. We tried chasing her out, but she’s been extremely resourceful in getting back in. Most mornings when I wake up, she’s already out there poking around.

Around here, that earns a chicken a one-way ticket to Death Row. Particularly since this one is a meat breed that I simply didn’t get butchered last year (and her useless eggs are the size of marbles), her time is up. This old dog cage is where our fowl spend their last hours; the metal cone is what we use for actually butchering them. The bird goes upside down into that cone, then I slit the throat and let the bird bleed to death (kosher style). This method is very effective at bleeding the bird thoroughly, and is much less messy than the “cut the head off with an axe and watch it run around the barnyard” method.

My wife also suspects our three Guinea fowl have been tearing up the garden, and I was preparing to butcher them today as well. But she, acting as Governor, decided to give them a last minute stay of execution. We strongly suspect that this one chicken has been responsible for the bulk of the damage, and she’s willing to spare the Guineas for a few days. If the garden remains unmolested, the Guineas live. If not…I’m getting out my .22 rifle and going hunting. (Guineas fly so well, and roost so high in the barn, they’re nearly impossible to catch.) I really like the Guineas a lot, so I hope they behave themselves. They’re wonderful bug-catchers, and with Japanese Beetle season (and the seventeen year locusts) just over a month away, I’d like to have all hands on deck. Stay tuned.