Farmhouse Heat

It’s hot.  The paper says it hit 97 degrees, but we don’t believe it.  Still, it’s 8pm and steamy hot.  The Bearded One and I recline on opposite ends of the couch, our bare feet and legs touching, a fan blowing.  No one has air conditioning up here.  Ruby the dog is lying in the cool dirt under the house, and Garfield sprawls on the relatively cool slate floor of the covered porch aka the cat condo.

I can see the thermometer on the deck — 80 degrees — through the latest home improvement, a magnetic mesh door the Bearded One saw advertised on late night TV.  One of those things I would never know about or buy, but it is unqualified genius and a genuine asset to the place.  Low tech.

View of the official TV MAGIC MESH Hands-Free Screen Door from the couch when the Bearded One is spray-washing the deck.

Both the gardens and our psyches need some real summer, and it’s here at last.  I’m sweaty and exhausted and grateful — even as a distant car zooms by on the dirt road and a dust cloud wafts through the cedars, across the gardens, and into all our open windows.  Keeping the farmhouse cleanish, the chicken poop and dust out, is a constant chore, especially in the summer.

“I’m glad we found this place,” the Bearded One says, barely moving his dry lips in his catatonia after spray-washing mildew, dirt, and cobwebs off the exterior siding and the decks for the past three scorching days.  He is usually a night owl, but not this week.

“It’s a sweet house,” I say.  Then we both close our eyes, weakened by the conversation.

A Hermit-at-Heart built this pole house in 1991, the very first house on the road.  There wasn’t really even a road back then.

The foundation is 16 huge poles in a 30′ x 30′ TicTacToe grid, sunk 6 feet into the earth and concreted.

Framed pole house, 1991.

The house is built 4 feet off the ground, which is great for earthquakes and floods as well as accessing plumbing and electric lines.  The other advantage was cost, since little clearing of trees needed to be done.  In fact, without the tree cover, the house would be so hot tonight we’d be sleeping outside.  On Google satellite photos, you can’t find any hint of the house itself.

The vast majority of the year we’re cold and huddled around the centerpiece of the house, the wood burning stove.  It can heat all 1400 square feet.  The Bearded One has been splitting wood and making kindling bundles on and off for a month now.

Just this week he declared the firewood supply adequate for a year, and then collapsed in the den for the night.

Alder, Cedar, Hemlock, and Douglas Fir — dried 1-4 years.

Garfield noses his way through the Magic Mesh door and the “18 powerful magnets” click it shut behind him.  “MEOW.”  He is little but loud.

“Hey, Sweetie Kitty,” I say and he jumps onto my belly and begins a rumbling purr.

The Bearded One opens his eyes.

“What’s on our minds?” I ask and smile.

“We forget,” he says.

“We’re going to harvest the meat birds this Friday,” I say.

“Oh, yeah.”

Momma Goose came over this afternoon and declared our 8-week-old Cornish Rock broilers ready to process.  They’re losing feathers, and with this heat and their fast weight gain, they could suffer heart attacks.

8-week-old Cornish Rock broilers ready for harvest.

So early on Friday morning — Momma Goose recommended “first light” which makes the Bearded One very sad, but he is dealing with it — before it gets hot, we’re hauling our 26 birds in the trailer behind our garden tractor (it might take more than one trip) up the road to Momma Goose’s where she and her husband and son will have the rented equipment and will help us and teach us how to kill and dress out the birds to be put in our freezer.  We’ll go back and help out with the other families’ birds in two weeks.  Ours are going earlier because we fed them a much higher protein food.

“We need to go to Costco and get a big roll of plastic wrap,” I say.  “She said we’ll need lots of it.”

“I’ll clean my Alaska hunting knife,” says the Bearded One.  “She said to bring sharp knives.”

Garfield gets up and walks over my thighs and rubs against the Bearded One’s thigh.  “Hello, Cat,” he says, and then he yawns hugely.  It goes on and on until finally his jaw snaps shut and he sinks back into the pillow.

I nudge his tush with my toe, blow him a kiss, and say, “First light.”

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8 responses to “Farmhouse Heat

  1. oh, the sweet languid rest after hard work in the heat.

  2. So today you kill? I have to say I don’t envy you first timers. Hopefully Mother Goose is an old time chook killer of old and you guys can stand back and get a chance to get used to chook murdering 101 before you get thrown in at the deep end. We have 2 more roosters that are just starting to make pests of themselves and so they will soon be chicken stock futures. The dogs get very excited whenever we head out to the shed at night time… nocturnal visits to the shed mean its rooster killin’ time!

    I am glad that you are getting a bit of heat. Your garden will be loving it! We still have sunny freezing cold days and the dogs can be found pretty easily in a sunbeam (inside the glass sliding door) or in one of their armchairs right next to Brunhilda. We LOVE your selection of wood! We would be using it to make things rather than burn. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and the bearded one would probably say the same for our various eucalypts and sheok that are our endemic timbers. We are already working out which of the sick Euc’s we are going to take out as wood futures (and roof futures!) in the next few months. I wandered around the “garden” today and things are starting to stir. I got the urge to get into the garden but managed to quell it before I got frost bite and hightailed it back to the house to jostle with the dog to get the best spot in front of Brunhilda. She is certainly going to enjoy her rest this summer!

    I hope that today (Friday) doesn’t traumatise you guys too much. It’s never nice to have to deal with the reality of having to slaughter the food that you have been growing but its somewhat easier when it’s a radish or an ear of corn I can tell you! Enjoy your weekend and hopefully it isn’t too hot 🙂

    • Chickens are not zucchinis, this is so true, Fran. The deed is now done, 24 meat birds in our freezer and 2 left alive to see how big they grow and how they flourish or not. It was exhausting work, but so good to do it, as you say, with our veteran chicken farmer neighbors. I did all the jobs but cutting their throats. I’m still processing it all in my brainpan. Ruby was certainly interested in all our new smells when we returned…and put everything in the washing machine!

      • It brings out the “Primal” in our boys! They stand on the deck watching and vibrating with anticipation! When we kill we use as much of the bird as we can and as Steve doesn’t like chicken skin or fat, the boys tend to get it rendered down into chicken scratchings as a treat. They also get the meat that drops from the carcasses when we make stock so you can see why a late night foray makes them so happy! It will be interesting to see how the remaining 2 go without their siblings and allowed to grow and reach their full potential (whatever that is!). At least its done now and you can breath a sigh of relief that you won’t have to do it again for a while. 😉

  3. Christine Widman

    Food chain Friday. You fed your meat chickens and now they will feed you.
    I admire you and the Bearded One.
    I don’t think I could manage it though the roots on my mother’s side are farmers – with chickens and pigs and cows and sheep. Eggs, meat, milk, wool.
    With the temperatures coming in at 107, languor is the word here also.
    My love and I are couching it while being mesmerized by The West Wing. We aren’t TV fans so we were oblivious to the show when it came out in September 1999. Given the political climate of the world now, this series is particularly prescient.
    We too do the foot touching.
    Hugs and kudos for your courage as farmers this Friday,
    C

  4. It will be 97 here today. However, I understand that your humidity occasionally exceeds 35%, and today, ours won’t. 🙂 To me, it is always a stunner to discover that a lot of folks truly, honestly believe that food comes from grocery stores. As in, that it *originates* there, from some unspecified source substance. With regard to your service as poultry executioner, I’m proud of you. It helps that the birds aren’t tremendously bright or cleanly, I suppose. Face it, this would be harder if it were snowy owls.

    • Thanks, J.K. I’m still processing the processing, but it was a very good experience.

      Re: the source — I remember when my daughter was young and asked where medicine comes from. I began a detailed explanation of plants and chemistry, and she frowned and said, “Nuh uh. It comes from a medicine truck.” I took the path of least resistence and agreed.:)

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