All posts by Michael Patrick McCarty

Marauders And Guilty Culprits

Red-Tailed Hawk In Flight

Yesterday my neighbor’s dogs killed several of our cherished chickens, again. I discovered the disquieting scene as I left for work. The story was easy to read in the thick mud, as was the trail leading back to the home of the evil doers.

I feel some responsibility because I had let them roam unprotected for a short time outside of their coop and flyway. On the other hand, it was not my fault at all because the dogs were well within the boundaries of my property. Colorado law clearly states that a dog owner is required to control the whereabouts of his animal so that this type of thing could not happen. A landowner does not have to fence the problem dogs out – the dog owner must fence the dogs in and prevent them from entering someone elses property. An uncontrolled dog can be cited by Animal Control as a “dog at large”. If it kills poultry or livestock, well, that’s a whole other ballgame.

I did not have enough time to deal with the chicken carnage at the time. So today I walked across my field to our bird pens to do just that and came face to face with a magnificent red-tailed hawk. The bird stared at me fiercely as only a raptor can, while deciding if it must abandon the prize. The hawk looked disgruntled, and guilty, as it grudgingly took off. But it needn’t have worried. I knew he had not done it. I left the chicken there, on the ground, for the hawk’s return.

I am sad for the loss of our chickens. They were our best young layers and had the best chicken personalities in our flock. I am happy though that I was able to steal such a close range look at the hawk. I love to observe birds of prey. He’s got to eat too.

I don’t fault the dogs. They were just being dogs, and some will kill chickens if not discouraged. I do have issues with the dog owners, however. They have been consistently disrespectful of our property rights, and have demonstrated little regard for the joys of poultry. They had been warned.

In this case, the marauders and culprits will be dealt with appropriately by the court, as they should. I hope the dogs fare better.

The red-tail is welcome to his dinner. I hope I see him again soon, under better circumstances.

Michael Patrick McCarty

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Rabbits Today Keep The Grocer Away

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, 4th Edition (Paperback)


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Rabbits Make Great Groceries

For most of us, frequent trips to the grocery store are a necessary and common activity. It’s what we do, and what we’ve always done. When we get there we expect to find rows and rows of neatly packaged food stacked high, far, and wide. Hell, we demand it! Most people believe that it will always be like that, and of course it will be, right?

Well, maybe, and then again, maybe not. For the most part the supermarkets are still there. Yet, for some time now something seems terribly amiss. It  has become harder and harder to fill that shopping cart with an adequate amount of high quality, nourishing food, especially if you take a moment to read the tiny print of indecipherable contents on the label. No doubt you’ve tried, and grown increasingly uneasy.

And it doesn’t take great powers of observation to conclude that the packages grow smaller while the price climbs higher with each successive trip. It’s the terrifying tale of the incredibly shrinking dollar, and it is probably not going to get better anytime soon. The effects are devastating and cruel, and it’s a painful thing to watch. It’s quite obvious that something’s gotta give.

From our point of view it is time to think out of the proverbial box, or in this case, the shopping bag. If you agree, think rabbits. They can help, and not just a little, but a lot. They are ready, willing, and able to work on your behalf. It’s what they do. Raising rabbits might be one of the best way’s to stretch your food budget, in the midst of what can only be described as a salvage economy left for the once great middle class.

Rabbits make a lot of sense for anyone that is interested in providing some, or most of their own food, for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:

  • They are quiet, easy to raise and care for, with minimum space requirements.
  • One buck and three or four does can provide enough meat to satisfy much of a small family’s fresh meat needs for the year.
  • Rabbit meat can help keep the doctor away, too. It is high in protein, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, B12, iron, and a wide range of minerals.
  • It is remarkably low in calories and harmful saturated fats, and free of antibiotics and other chemicals. Rabbit liver is an “original” health food.
  • The meat is nutrient dense and about twice as filling as chicken. A little rabbit meat goes a long way.
  • Feed conversion rates are excellent for domestic rabbits. They convert calories to body weight much more efficiently, and cheaply, than other animals, particularly beef.
  • You can supplement their diet with your table scraps or garden wastes, or what you might have growing in your fields or about your neighborhood. In fact, many people never have to buy any type of commercial feed product.
  • They are easy to barter for other needed or desirable items, or sell as breeding stock to other people.
  • They are easy to butcher, process, and package.
  • Recipes for all parts of the rabbit abound. Stew it, grill it, bake or fry. The possibilities are endless, and it tastes great too!
  • Their droppings are fabulous for your garden, and you can sell the coveted manure. They also provide great food for your worms.
  • The rabbit skins can be made into many kinds of useful clothing.

 Now you know why the rabbit has been called the ultimate homestead animal, or even “the new urban chicken”. I agree with each and every reason just mentioned, and can add a few more.

I despise shopping as a matter of principle anyway, and I consider any opportunity to avoid a trip to the market a celebrated victory. It saves money on gas and car expenses, which add up in a big hurry these days.

Why drive a car for several miles to pick up some groceries, when you can simply walk out your back door and grab some fine ingredients for your table? We like to pick some spinach and fork a couple of potatoes on our way back from the hutch. It’s called lunch, and we didn’t have to wait in a long line of frustrated people or suffer the indignities of a surly clerk. You might guess what we think of the self-serve scanning machine.

When you finish your meal, throw all of the leftover table scraps into your worm bin under your rabbit hutch. Bend down, and stir around until you have a pile of worms for your handy coffee can. Grab your trusty fishing rod, and head for the closest lake.

Feed A Friend Today – American Robin

Have some fun, and relax. Spend a few hours in the fresh air and sun with a friend or a loved one. Catch a batch of scrappy fish for tomorrow’s meal. Save the offal and other bits from cleaning your fish, and give them to your chickens. They need some protein too, and it makes for happy and vibrant hens. Gather their bountiful eggs in the morning, add some selected produce from your garden in the backyard, and enjoy a comforting, leisurely breakfast.

Later, take a brisk walk along a quiet road to invigorate and tone. You’ll have the time, because you won’t need to shop for food. Be sure to wave at everyone else as they pass you on the way to the supermarket, and try not to flash a big, self-satisfied smile. No point in rubbing it in.

Well…, perhaps just a quick one, but not too big.

ancient rock painting of hands and fingers
Have A Great Day

 

Michael Patrick McCarty

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A Simple Act of Protest

 

Today I ate a homegrown cherry tomato, and I liked it. It was perfectly ripe, bursting with flavor, and it did not travel 1000 miles or more to get to my mouth. In fact, I picked it from my sun room, just a few steps from where I write this.

I ate it because it was good, and I could.

To eat it supports a system in which I believe, one that is right in so many ways. It is a local transaction, of that there is no doubt. More than that, it is a conscious and personal act. I tended and nurtured that small plant, and I studied it’s growing fruit with hope and anticipation.

To eat a tomato from the supermarket more than likely supports a system that I do not believe in. That tomato depends on chemicals, the corporate model, and long distance transport, steeped in diesel. It rarely tastes like a tomato either.

Thus, I so protest. I pop it into my mouth and I eat my cherry tomato which was just a second ago still attached to the vine. It is an inconsequential act, I suppose, but it still holds power. It makes me feel better. It may not change the world in any significant way this day, but it did change my world, and for the moment, that is enough.

inproperstyle / Pixabay

 

A Face Only a Mother Could Love…A Squab Is

Squabs: Devoted to the Practical Side of Squab Raising (Classic Reprint) (Paperback)


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A young squab pigeon, sitting in a nest box.

 

A squab is an unfledged, immature pigeon.

Once easily found and gathered in the wildlands of times past, they have been a reliable source of animal protein throughout the course of human history. Pigeons were without a doubt the first domesticated poultry, preceding even the chicken, as is more commonly thought. Once domesticated, they became a favorite menu item for every culture and society throughout the world.

Most squab grown for commercial or backyard harvest weigh one pound or less, and present a perfect serving portion for one person. Since squab are harvested at 24-28 days old and hence have never flown, they are extremely tender when properly prepared.

A succulent, dark-meated bird, squab has a full-bodied flavor with an accent of the wild, without being too rich like a duck can sometimes be. Delicate and moist when cooked, it is considered a preeminent ingredient in cuisines as diverse as French, Moroccan, or Cantonese. They offer a taste and texture truly unlike any other bird.

A favorite of homesteaders and homegrown epicures, they can be easily raised and harvested, providing a welcome source of meat throughout the year.

Food Freedom!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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Ode To The Pigeon

Home Cookbook of Wild Meat and Game (Paperback)

Book by Angier, Bradford

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Antique Painting of a Pigeon at a nest box by William Holman Hunt
A Marvelous Bird

 

I really can’t tell you exactly why, but pigeons have always fascinated me. Common may they be, but I never tire of watching them do their normal pigeon things. I love to see them on the wing, too.

Call me a pigeon fancier, I suppose. I raised them for several years, and one of the highlights of my day was always that first visit in the morning to feed them and to see how they fared through the night. They never failed to brighten my day.

I don’t have a flock right now, but I can tell you that there are some birds in my near future.

They seem such a necessary part of the backyard, or homestead, once you have experienced the joys of the pigeon.

Some insight into the nature of the bird can be gained by examining the definition and the origin of the word.

PIGEON

  1. Any of various birds of the widely distributed family Columbidae, characteristically having plump bodies, small heads, and short legs, especially the rock dove or any of its domesticated varieties.

Word Origins
early 13c., from O.Fr. pijon “young dove,” probably from V.L. *pibionem, dissimilation from L.L. pipionem “squab, young chirping bird” (3c.), acc. of L. pipio “chirping bird,” from pipire “to peep, chirp,” of imitative origin. Modern spelling is from later Fr. pigeon. Replaced culver (O.E. culufre, from V.L. *columbra, from L. columbula) and native dove.

If you have any doubt as to the character of the bird, I have always liked this excerpt that I found in “Home Cookbook Of Wild Meat and Game”, by Bradford Angier.

“The modern city pigeon is a descendant of the rock pigeon that in the Old World dwelled among the cliffs and crevices above the caves in which early man built his first fires. He has been with us since our emergence from the ice ages and has adapted as readily as ourselves to the artificial canyons of man’s first walled towns. He has known the Grecian palaces and the metropolises of Byzantium. His cold flat feet, adapted to high and precarious walking, have sauntered in the temples of vanished gods as readily as in Boston’s old North Station”.

Think about that, next time you contemplate a pigeon.

But then again, perhaps you already have…

Painting by William Holman Hunt

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Michael Patrick McCarty

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