Ducks and Noodles

Whenever Todd introduces himself to someone  he refers to himself as a “duck farmer”.  Sometimes we get curious looks as to how you can actually “farm” ducks.  I believe it’s an accurate description and one that I’ve taken to using also.  We love ducks.  We’ve grown our flock to over 100.  See, we “grow” our ducks to use for food.  Either by eating eggs from the ducks or the duck itself.  I wish I could say it is an economical alternative, but I’m not sure yet.  We put a lot of our time into the ducks.  And depending on which breed of duck we’re talking about, lots of feed.  Pekin ducks are dependent on you for finding the majority of their food.  Muscovy ducks, on the other hand, are great foragers and they supplement their diet with feed.  All of the ducks look forward to their treats of whole corn and scratch.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck

We’ve been busy “harvesting” ducks for the past month or two.  On my last count we were down to 8 Pekins and … okay, I don’t actually know how many Muscovies are left!  We’re trying to decide how many we want to keep over the winter.  I’m pretty sure we will reduce the Pekins down to 2.  I love the temperament of them, but they eat a lot.  The only reason I want to keep 2 is because the one hen is the “sister” of our hand hatched goose baby (I don’t want him/her to be lonely) and the other is Lexie’s favorite 4H hen, Elizabeth.  We have quite a few Muscovy ducks that we have named and want to keep to breed.  We know we will keep only one drake.

Our harvesting window is slowly closing.  Nobody wants to be slaughtering ducks in the freezing cold.  Heck, nobody wants to slaughter ducks at all!  We’ve been culling around 6 ducks each week.  It’s a family affair.  We all know what our jobs are and we work in a production line.  Warning:  some content may not be suitable for children or those with weak stomachs.  Read at your own discretion.  Lexie and I choose the ducks that are to be slaughtered and deliver them to the boys.  The boys get the awesome job of axing heads.  Okay, I know it’s not awesome – it’s gory, bloody, messy, and downright sucks.  But you suck it up and do what you have to do.  I don’t even cry anymore – I’m a big girl now!  The ducks are hung in a tree to bleed out.  We all start plucking down.  There’s a 55 gallon drum that is full of down and someday we’ll find a use for it.  Lexie and I also choose feathers that are pretty and interesting to save for making earrings with.  The boys finish off plucking feathers and gutting the ducks.  Everything is done by hand.  After the ducks are cleaned and prepped, they are put into the refrigerator for 3 days to “relax”.  When ducks are slaughtered they get stressed and the muscles all tense up.  Letting them set allows the muscles to relax and the meat to be more tender.  At the end of 3 days I do a final cleaning of the ducks and vacuum pack them for the freezer.  We are fortunate, this winter our freezer will be full!  OH, a farmers weather prediction:  the ducks have been packing on insane amounts of fat this year.  And it’s still early.  More fat means colder temps.  Ugh.

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Dinner, I mean ducks.

Around here, we eat duck 3 or 4 times a week.  We eat duck like most people eat McDonald’s.  One of our favorite ways to eat it is Duck with Noodles.  Reminds me of those Bertolli frozen meals that I used to eat way back when.  When we weren’t gluten free and worried about what was in the food we were eating.

Duck with Noodles

  • 1 duck
  • spaghetti or fettucini noodles (I use Tinkyada brand gluten-free spaghetti noodles – made with brown rice only!)
  • olive or sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • Bragg’s nutritional yeast
  • basil or oregano, to taste

Place duck in turkey roaster.  Sprinkle with choice of herbs, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.  Remove and let cool.  Prepare noodles according to package directions.  While noodles are cooking, saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms in large frying pan until browned.  Place onion mixture in large bowl.  Drain noodles and place in frying pan with a little bit of oil, spices, and nutritional yeast.  Slightly brown or “fry”.  Remove from skillet and add to onion mixture.  When duck has cooled, remove meat from  bones and shred into the noodles and onions.  Sprinkle with spices and additional nutritional yeast.  Mix well. Our family of 4 can get 2 meals out of this.

Duck with noodles

Duck with noodles

The whole meal, hands on, doesn’t take long.  Once the duck is roasted, everything else comes together within 30 minutes.  Which is why it’s one of our favorite go-to meals.  Serve with a side of veggies, some homemade applesauce, and you’re good to go!

Duck with noodles and broccoli

Duck with noodles and broccoli

Farmers do eat well!  We feel really good when we sit down to eat, knowing that we put work into what’s on our plate and that we are capable of providing for ourselves.  It makes you appreciate your food, and a side of appreciation makes anything taste even better!

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Blueberry Baked Oatmeal and Bunnies

This past weekend we attended the Loudonville Street Fair.  Street fairs are better than regular fairs (if that makes any sense).  First of all, they’re free!  Second of all, they’re free!  Okay, I know I repeated myself but you’ve gotta love free.  Sometimes I get a little aggravated paying $6.00 per person to get into the fairgrounds to walk around and see a few animals, get bullied by the crowds, pay an extra $2.00 per ride per person, and go home hungry because you can’t find any good food to eat.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.  But with a street fair, you walk in and enjoy.  After you’ve spent an hour or two and there’s nothing left to see, you don’t mind leaving because you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your money.  Call me frugal.

Amy at Loudonville Street FairA rare (really rare) picture of me.  Usually I’m the one behind the camera.

That’s me, standing by the Porta Potty.  Yep.

We went to the fair on a mission.  We were watching our friends show their rabbits. Both of the kids went home with a ton of ribbons and a few trophies.  Just another day on the showing circuit for them.

Rabbit show at Loudonville Fair

Winning rabbit of the show!

We had a little fun “posing” the fluffy bunnies too!

Rabbits at Loudonville Fair

Posing the show bunny

Lexie managed to get in a little bit of training on how to properly hold a rabbit.

You should hold them like a football, with their head tucked into your armpit (poor bunny) and your arms supporting them underneath.  This makes the rabbit feel secure.  Not quite sure what it has to do with a football, but I suppose that’s why you’ll find me baking instead of watching the games.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never taught my kids how to hold a football either.  Oops!  See, you just never know what skills to teach your kids and what they might need them for.  Football = Rabbit shows!?

Rabbit showing at Loudonville Fair

Learning how to hold a rabbit like a football!

Congratulations to the kids on their winning bunnies and winning showmanship!  And thanks again for all the tips!

Last night I made Blueberry Baked Oatmeal for dinner.  Yes, you heard right – dinner!  Todd had a late night at work and I wanted something easy with leftovers.  I heart leftovers!  And since my Grammy got me thinking about baked oatmeal…

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

  • 4 1/2 cups of oatmeal (Not instant. We use certified gluten free oats)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I use coconut palm sugar)
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups milk (we use Silk Almond unsweetened vanilla)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (fresh duck eggs, of course!)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on how cinnamony you like it!)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

I’m a lazy baker.  SOOOO… I take a glass 9 x 13 baking dish, put my 2 sticks of butter in there, and pop it in the microwave for a minute to melt the butter.  Then I throw all the remaining ingredients in there and mix it up right in the baking dish.  You don’t even really need to measure the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, or nutmeg.  Sprinkle it in there and don’t worry about it.  Bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so and enjoy!  You can even mix it all up, throw it in the refrigerator, and bake it in the morning.  That’s my idea of baking!

Blueberry baked oatmeal

Piece of warm fresh-from-the-oven blueberry baked oatmeal

If you look really close at the picture, you can see the steam coming off the oatmeal!  This stuff doesn’t last long around here.  Nik says he could eat it every day.  The great thing is that you don’t need any additional sweeteners or toppings.  Okay, I like to add a little more cinnamon and a dribble or two of milk.  Everybody else eats it just the way it is.  I’m thinking of trying it with apples and cinnamon or maybe peaches.  Like those little packets of instant oatmeal.  Only better.

Speaking of oatmeal, it’s snack time and I’m pretty sure there was a piece left over in the frig….

Have you made a different variation on baked oatmeal?  I’d love to hear some of your recipes and suggestions!

Pheasant with Homemade Crockpot Applesauce

I love this time of the year.  All the preparations for winter, a myriad of colors, a crispness in the air… and canning.

Fresh garden beets for canning

Beets from our garden

We harvested the remaining beets, tomatillos, and carrots from the garden.  The carrots were juiced for us and the leftovers were fed to Buster Bunny.  Tomatillos were made into salsa verde, which we all agreed wasn’t as good as our friend Dave made it.  I’ll work on it for next year, and maybe steal his recipe.

The beets were washed, boiled, peeled, and cubed in preparation for canning.  They would have to wait until canning day.

We took a day and went to visit my parents.  While we were in the area, we stopped at our favorite apple orchard and loaded up on apples.  We bought 4 overfilled brown paper bags of #2 apples.  These are apples that have fallen off the tree or that have a bruise or other minor flaw.  Perfect for homemade applesauce.  We bought a mixture of Gala, Macintosh, and Jonathon.  And a big bag of Honey Crisp just for munching on.

Peeled apples for applesauce

Large bin full of peeled apples

Super Easy Sugar-Free Crockpot Applesauce

  • peeled, cored, and chopped apples (enough to almost fill your crockpot)
  • lots of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • water
Homemade crockpot applesauce

Crockpots full of homemade applesauce

Put everything in your crockpot, add a little water, and let cook on low for about 6 hours.  Or turn it to high for 4 hours.  You can add more water depending on how thick you like your applesauce.  You can also add a few more apples halfway through so that you get some apple chunks (if you like it chunky) in your applesauce.

Applesauce should be canned using the boiling water method.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace in your jars and process quarts or pints for 20 minutes.

I spent the next day canning beets in the pressure cooker and applesauce in the boiling water canner.  We made 8 batches of applesauce over a 3 day period.  My kitchen smelled like apple pie.  It was also quite messy!

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

I now have 35 quarts of beets and 27 quarts of applesauce.  That doesn’t include the beets and applesauce that we’ve already eaten.  It’s looking to be a good year for canning!  I love the feeling I get from having a well-stocked pantry.

We had a surprise in the poultry pasture.  Nik was collecting eggs and came running back to the house.  I was sure something had happened to one of our ducks.  Instead, we saw this guy standing there…

Pheasant

Pheasant

Not what I expected with the ducks, geese, and chickens!  Nik and I herded him into a corner and he flew out.  I think he probably stopped by for a snack and wasn’t sure which way to go to get out.  Luckily for him, it wasn’t pheasant season!

To top off our day, we were treated with a beautiful sunset.  It makes me think of that old sailor saying:

Red at night, sailor’s delight

Red in morn, sailor’s take warn.

Colorful Sunset

Colorful Sunset