Well, we did it. It was somewhat of a rite of passage really, as 'farmers'.
We butchered our first chickens. Remember, we hadn't really wanted meat chickens in the first place, its just how it worked out.
We had a pretty tidy set up in the garden shed on the island. After installing a new range/oven in the house, we had the previous range to spare. We set it up with propane and had two active burners for boiling water. There is already a cold water running sink in the garden shed, with filtered drainage.
We had stools set next to buckets for comfortable plucking. We had strings to hang the fowl from, should we prefer to stand and deplume. We had great music playing from the solar speakers, and it was an absolutely beautiful day.
No matter how comfortable the conditions, it doesn't really prepare one (or make a person comfortable) for the shock that butchering is.
I will spare you the gruesome details, but I will do some quick farm finance.
We had thirteen chickens. The yield on those thirteen chickens was almost 100 lbs. They were 15 weeks old, and consumed an incredibly large amount of corn grain. 50 lbs every two weeks. Based on the average price per bag of grain, each Chicken cost $13.83 from hatch to hatchet, but we also got the experience of butchering them ourselves.
Needless to say, our local butcher need not worry about us becoming competition. This will not be something we will be doing again, but we are grateful for the know how, should we ever need to.
For no other reason than we did not have enough freezer space in our micro fridge, we offered the chickens up to friends and neighbors. Seven different families enjoyed our Hush Valley Chickens, and we felt pretty good about that. Several people even sent pictures of what they were doing with their bounty.
New casita update: The lot is getting closer to completion, and the skeletal frame of the new casita should be in place tomorrow. The casita will be placed in such a position that, though it overlooks the rock garden and river, it is not visible from the original casita, nor the house. Each casita still retains the feeling of exclusivity and privacy, while having an uncompromised view of the beauty that is Hush Valley. We're pretty excited about that.
With school starting again in two weeks, we are headed out of town for a few days.
Hush Valley Lodge is about 2 hours from San Jose (Juan Santa Maria) Airport. We have driven, and found it's about $35 in gas each way, and $200 for a week of parking. $200 more if you go even one day into the next week. Its quite unaffordable.
We have taken a cab and found it's about $125 USD each way.
We have asked a friend to drive us. That cost about $40 in gas, and almost a friendship. Traffic was horrifying and the GPS got us lost several times.
So this time, we are trying the bus.
We went into Santa Maria today and purchased 3 future one way tickets on a direct bus to San Jose for $3.54 per person. I sure hope this works out, because that's much more affordable transportation.
January has kept us on our toes! It is traditionally one of the nice weather months, and it has been, yet the rain is still coming. We typically have a short sprinkle at least once a day. It isnt cold though, and though the sky may darken, it usually results in a rainbow.
We have had rainbows every afternoon for the past week!
We have had several guests in the past month and are expecting more this weekend. We have had some great suggestions about better signage, especially because the road we normally guide people to is closed for repair. We made some signs to place at intervals along the roads that lead to the elusive Hush Valley Lodge. On the US, blue and white road signs indicate services are ahead such as gas, food, and hotels. Though we aren't a hotel necessarily, we like that the blue and white are also very Costa Rican colors. You'll find many older structures use this combination of colors.
We also spent a few weeks with Peter, Jo, Molly and Gary. Plans were decided and arrangements made- all leading to the big news. They have broken ground on Peter and Jo's casita!
It will be located where the old wood shed was on the hill side, with an incredible view of the rock garden and river.
This casita is a steel frame, with framed rooms that fold out from the center to create a 600 square foot casita. Its difficult to describe, but we will keep you updated weekly via our blog, and facebook!
We estimate the casita will be complete by the end of March. Then, Hush Valley will have another lovely, yet still private casita for our guests to choose from. Exciting!
This week we transferred the frye -turned fingerlings- into the hatchery pond. Naturally, this piqued the interest of the heron, so it had returned to its station at the hatchery pond. Evidently, these fish are too small to be bothered with, so far, as the heron is now perched above the pond which houses the largest of our trout. We had also noticed a significantly smaller heron at intervals as well. It took far to long to realize that the smaller heron is likely the young of the larger, and that it is currently in its 'training to be a hunter' phase. He has competition though, as Dave and I spotted this hawk just hanging out above the same pond.
I find great humor in having come from the beautiful coastal Pacific Northwest, where we would delight in seeing a Great Blue Heron in the bay, or on the riverbanks while kayaking.
Here though, they are the bane of our existence as trout farmers.
There are officially 7400 small fingerlings after an official count this week. Even after the losses from the heron. These little creatures measure anywhere from 2-3 inches in length. The counting process was quite entertaining. Its should be noted, the count was far higher than expected. Evidently they always give a few hundred extra frye at the farm where we bought them, because the distance many people have to cover to get them, on such rough roads, will typically equate to some loss. It was a pleasant surprise.
The cats are settling in nicely. Coming around bit by bit. Bobbie still has a rather concerning interest in them, and their food bowl.
I had noticed that I hadn't seen any cat littler in the stores that we frequent. I finally asked at the feed store when I saw a small bag of sand that had a cat sticker on it. Apparently it is uncommon to have a house cat here in the mountains. Most cats are either indoor/outdoor or strictly farm cats that live outside, thus- no need for litter. A quick eyeball of the bag told me that it was simply river beach sand- of which we have plenty. So Dave built a cat box, and Quinn dug some sand. Voila! Cat box.
There are stores similar to Costco and Petco here, which undoubtedly have boxes and litter, but they're in Cartago or San Jose, much bigger cities. We have adjusted the old adage ' Necessity is mother mother of invention'. Ours is more like, 'Aversion to San Jose traffic is the mother of invention'. It is to be avoided at all cost.
( I find it funny that in this pic 1) the cat seems much friendlier than it is. 2) In the doorway you can see the ever present Bobbie wondering how the heck the cat was allowed on the bed. 3) You can see Dave's phone, and if you zoom in, you'll see a recipe for Banana pudding pound cake. I really REALLY hope that's in our future. :-))
Still no resolution on what to do about the massive chickens. One weighed in at 10 lbs! Remember- they're less than twelve weeks old, but they look like small turkeys. I'm hoping when partners Molly and Gary arrive this week, maybe one can act as the terminator, and we can try our hands at 'harvesting' a chicken. We shall see.
The pineapple is so sweet right now! Dave has been enjoying baking and experimenting with it. Last week he made Canadian bacon calzone. It was amazing! The following morning, we enjoyed Pineapple and carmalized brown sugar pancakes. No syrup necessary.
We finally decided to make our menu offerings to the casita, fluid. Certain things are better in certain seasons, and we want to offer the best peak season fruit and vegetables we can, and from the farm whenever possible.
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Dave and Krista are a couple from the Pacific Northwest that led overwhelmingly busy lives.
Click here to pick up your copy of Anne's book! It's all about their adventure and the establishment of Hush Valley Lodge: from leaving their middle-class suburban lifestyle in Canada to reinventing themselvess in the beautiful mountains of Costa Rica. Check it out and if you enjoy it, please spread the word! Thanks!