Tuesday, June 26, 2012

chicken haircuts

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Crazy fiction. For the past few weeks, we have had 34 chicks living in our garage. Up until now they have been perfectly happy running about in their 12 ft. stock tank.

Then they discovered that they had wings.

Oh yes.

Now I'm not one to overreact, but our garage was the dreams Alfred Hitchcock films are made of. I'm not sure I will ever be the same. See, when I enter the chicken coop, I expect to have a chicken or two jump around, or at the very least, flap their wings at me in protest to whatever wrong I've committed. But, the last thing I expect is to have a dozen or more chickens fly at my face while I'm on a mission to thaw something out for dinner.

Just so ya know, I scream like a girl.

Since the chicks can't be moved out to the chicken tractors until later in the week, and flying about the garage could cause serious damage to my unused treadmill, I decided to spend an afternoon clipping wings. Thing is, I've never clipped wings by myself before. The chickens don't really like it. And I don't really like all that flapping about. Even if I'm the one doing most of the flapping.

Because birds need wing symmetry in order to fly, clipping one wing of the bird keeps them grounded. This should only be done if there is no chance that they'll be the featured guests at the all-you-can-eat buffet. (The only predators our chicks need to worry about are of the two-legged kind, and not until about 10 weeks of age, if you know what I mean.☺)

The hardest part of giving a chicken a haircut is catching them. Once caught, spreading one wing out to fan the feathers is simple. Sticking to the same wing for each chick makes it easier to keep track of which chickens have been clipped.

Our chickens range in age from 3-4 weeks. For this size, I clipped approximately 1 inch from the right wing. Older birds can have as much as 3 inches cut from the wing.

The whole process, including clean-up, took less than 10 minutes.

The trauma of my Hitchcock moment may take a little longer...☺

Monday, June 25, 2012

when life gives you pineapples, can 'em!

Last week, our local Fred Meyer (Kroger, to others) had an incredible sale on whole pineapple. (10 for $10!) Since I'm an opportunist when it comes to sales, I grabbed the limit of 10 and high-tailed it home before the store managers had a chance to rescind their offer. The problem with opportunists in the grocery store is that most of us are impulse buyers too. I had 30 lbs. of pineapple and no idea what to do with it all.

Once home, I learned that after the rind is removed, pineapple can be frozen, dried, or canned to preserve it. Since our freezer is full of strawberries (in tubs for wine making), I opted for canning the pineapple. Because of it's high acid content, pineapple doesn't need lemon juice and can be canned in a light sugar syrup. Pineapple juice could probably be used, but I didn't have any and wanted to stick with a proven recipe. (If anyone has tried this, please let me know for any future pineapple buying opportunities.☺)

To can pineapple:

In a medium saucepan, mix 2-1/4 cups organic sugar with 5-1/4 cups water. Heat to boiling; reduce to simmer until needed.

Carefully cut the top and bottom of the pineapple off. You can use a pineapple cutter/corer, or you can do it old-school like I do by using a sharp knife and cutting the rind off in a downward motion. Remove the pineapple away from the core by cutting down in 4 sections. (I save the cores and dehydrate them. They can be used to flavor kombucha or tea later!) Cut the pineapple in chunks (or if using a corer, they can be left in rings) and add to a wide mouth pint jar. Leave an inch of head-space at the top of the jar.

Ladle the hot sugar syrup over the pineapple and use a butter knife to remove air bubbles. (Just swirl it around.) Wipe the rim and place hot lids with rings on top. Screw down tight. Place in hot water (boiling) bath canner and process for 15 minutes for pints; 20 for quarts. Remove from canner and let the jars cool before storing in a cool, dark area. Refrigerate and use any that do not seal within a couple of days.

For the record, 10 whole pineapples yields approximately 24 pints of canned pineapple chunks. Not bad for $10!☺

This post is linked to Laura Williams' Carnival of Home Preserving.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coconut or Just Plain Nutty

♫Oh, I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts,
There they are all standing in a row.♫

Okay, I didn't have a bunch and coconuts cannot stand on their own, but fresh coconut meat makes a lovely little snack. Last week, my doctor gave me the news that I have a less than 3% chance of developing thyroid cancer. He went on to commend me on my recent dietary changes, even though he had originally said nutrition has nothing to do with auto-immune diseases. And then he iced my lovely little gluten-free cake by saying, "I do not recommend surgery at this time, and probably not for a very long time to come."

So, I did what every farm girl does when she finds she's not dying. I bought some coconuts!

Now, I realize that not every farm girl would think to buy fresh coconuts, but with my new lease on life, I decided it was high time I learned how to open one. Knowing that I'm not dying anytime soon (I tend to wallow in the melodramatic when it comes to health issues), leads me to believe that there's still a chance I could be marooned on a tropical deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific.

If you can't find me, look here. On second thought, give up the search...I'm not leaving!
 And in the event that this were to happen, and I had a hankerin' to bake a coconut cake over a fire in an abandoned tortoise shell, I will have the skills necessary to remove the meat from the husk. Assuming, of course, that the coconuts actually fall from the trees, since my new lease on life did nothing to alleviate my fear of heights. (I'm not worried about flour, butter, or sugar...the island will provide all I need. Including toilet paper.)

Since my Mister is fearful of having to patch people up on his days off from the emergency room, he gladly took over the job of hacking into the coconut. There are a lot of You Tube videos that show how to open coconuts, but this guy shows how to safely remove the meat from the shell too. Any of the soft brown skin left can be removed using a vegetable peeler.

Once the coconut is free from husk and skin, rinse it well and dry it with paper towels. Fresh coconut won't last long outside of its protective shell, so unless you plan on eating it all, dehydrating the meat is a good way to save the rest.  (One coconut yielded approximately 3 cups of coconut meat, before we ate a cup's worth.)

I used a box grater and grated each piece over the large holes.

After all the coconut was grated, I lined my dehydrator rack with a silicone mat and laid the coconut out in a single layer. It took 2 of my round trays. To dehydrate, set the temperature to 95F., which is the lowest setting on mine. In 8-10 hours the shredded coconut will be dry and can be stored in a lidded container until ready to use.

Although, Madison thought fresh was best.

Until I mentioned coconut cake and tropical islands.☺

*Don't throw out the coconut water or the husk! Coconut water can be added to smoothies, baked goods, or over ice. The husks are great for lining the bottom of garden planters or can be added to the compost pile.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mexican Frittata

Every year about this time, our extra refrigerator is bursting at the seams with extra eggs. Well, every year but this one. It seems we have 1 rogue Tom turkey who has taken a liking to chicken eggs. They all know who the guilty party is, but...

Our Bourbon Red Bad Boys, otherwise known as the Three Amigos

...nobody's talkin'. 

So, until the culprit is caught, our eggs are being rationed out. There are no frivolous omelet's being made in my kitchen. No egg salad, deviled eggs, or angel food cakes either. Since the eggs are so scarce, it takes a really awesome recipe to persuade me to relinquish my hold on the egg carton. A recipe that makes me forget that it may be another 3 days before I stumble across a lonely egg rolling around the corner of the coop, undiscovered by the carnivorous Bourbon Red Bad Boys.

I'm talking frittata. A frittata is an egg dish that is baked like a pie. It makes it's own crust, but has the consistency of a good omelet, minus the fuss. This is our recipe for a Mexican Frittata, but you can substitute just about anything in this dish...except the eggs. 

Even if the Three Amigos try to tell you otherwise.

~Mexican Frittata~

The Players

4 Tb. unsalted butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 (5 oz.) can Mexi-corn, drained*
2 (4 oz.) cans mild, green chilies, drained
1 t. chili powder
1/2 t. chipotle chili powder
1/2 t. salt
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I use a gluten-free blend)
20 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Garnishes: paprika, sour cream, mild salsa (all optional)

In a large skillet, melt the butter over med-high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the Mexi-corn and green chilies.

Add the chili powders, salt, red pepper flakes, flour and stir until ingredients are combined. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs and sour cream. Use an immersion blender or whisk to blend well.

 Stir in the corn mixture. Add the cheeses and mix with a wooden spoon. Pour into 2 greased pie plates. Bake at 325 F. for 40 minutes, or until blond. Bake another 10-15 minutes, until center is set and golden brown. 

*You can substitute 1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn and 1/2 chopped red bell pepper for the Mexi-corn. Leftover taco meat, sliced olives, or green onions are also fabulous additions.

This can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until morning.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Inexpensive Entertainment

A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated another year since my escape from the womb. I also added another year to the growing tally of how many times I can celebrate my 29th birthday.

I'm up to 16. Don't judge.

One of the things I enjoy in the evening is sitting next to a campfire. The sound of the wood crackling, the smell of the wood smoke as it drifts toward the night sky, the laughter of my children as yet another marshmallow spontaneously bursts into flames...that is inexpensive entertainment. And better than any rerun on the boob tube. Our last fire ring, which was a rusty old barrel cut in half, only made it through 2 summers. In our area, rain is a campfire ring's worst enemy. So, for my birthday, my family built me a Pacific Northwest worthy fire pit. If you need a last minute gift idea for Father's Day, a campfire ring just might fit the bill and the pocketbook.

Here's how:

There are 12 stones for each of the 3 rows, for a total of 36 bricks. The bricks, or cottage stones, are almost a foot in length, so if you use smaller stones, adjust accordingly. Arrange each row in a circular pattern and stack the next row in a staggered pattern. This will allow the air to circulate and keep your fire from turning into a smoldering smoke-fest. If you have grass, you can add a small bag of sand to the bottom of the ring if you want to, but it isn't necessary. Depending on the stone used, a campfire ring can cost as little as $36. The best part? It can last indefinitely.

And I guarantee it will last longer than 2 wet, Pacific Northwest winters.☺

*If you live in town, check with your local fire department about rules regarding backyard campfires.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Future Chicken Farmers

As a mom of many, I've heard myself say things to my children that I never thought would come out of my mouth.

"I don't care if the grocery cart tastes like donuts~stop licking it!"

"Wearing underwear is a given, not an option."

"Boys, you may NOT baptize Barbie in the name of the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost in the toilet!"

"Yes, that is a poo-poo floating in your bathwater, and no you cannot keep it."

Today we added another to list.

Matthew decided he wanted to start his own chicken egg business. He originally asked if I would order him 400 chicks. I said no. Because I'm mean that way. His dad told him he could buy some chicks with his own money. Because he's mean that way too. Since Matthew worked so hard to earn what little money he has, we thought that would be the end of it. Until he plopped $25 down on the counter of the farm store and asked how many chicks that would get him.

My little entrepreneur came home with 8 Rhode Island Red pullets, some change in his pocket, and a smile on his face.

 Matthew wants to keep a close eye on his investment.

"No, you may NOT sleep in the stock tank with your chickens. And NO, Joel Salatin doesn't sleep with his either."

Never to be outdone, my granddaughters have taken a liking to chicken farming too. In their case, it's the 26 meat chicks that have captured their hearts.

Madison~"Yook, it's chickies! Are we gonna keep dem fo'ever?"

Me~"Just until they have to leave for freezer camp in a few weeks." 

She may not have fully understood my meaning, but her little sister did. 


I don't know about you, but I think chicken farming may be making a comeback.☺

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oh, how that BUMP made us JUMP!

A few weeks ago, the Pacific Northwest experienced an early heat wave. I realize that most of the country is harvesting green beans and secretly leaving their unwanted zucchini in unlocked cars, but for us, the gardening season didn't begin then. Even though we had record-breaking temperatures at the time, I knew that the chances of a late frost were still a very real possibility.

That, and I was procrastinating again. (But I was right. We did have a late frost. So my procrastination turned into intuition. I'm makin' lemonade here...☺)

Other than some beets, spinach, lettuce, and onion sets, the garden was pretty bare. So today we decided to git 'er done. When in git 'er done mode, a few bumps along the way are to be expected. Some of them are minor. Some however, can be real game-changers and you never know how the day is going to end. You just pray that it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

The new garden area
In April, my Mister and I plowed a new garden area for corn, potatoes, and sunflowers. The boys then put up a temporary electric fence to persuade the cows to keep off the freshly tilled ground. A few days ago, they put up the permanent field fencing and electric tape while I was running errands in town. Today I realized the problem. Look closely at the above picture. See it? Look closer. Try looking at all 4 sides of the fencing. See it yet? No?

There is no gate. None. Nada. Bump #1~In order for me to plant the garden, I would need to climb over the wooden fence and try not to get hung up on the electric wire on the other side. And to get out? Here's the thing. Oompa-loompa's don't climb. I would have better luck trying to dig under the fence than trying to scale it.

So I fixed it.

Actually, I had my son fix it...with a chainsaw.

Or so we thought.

The electric wire? It has to stay. Which doesn't leave much room for rolling a wheelbarrow into the garden. I also understand the term "got clotheslined." We'll call this Bump #2. So for now, the corn, potatoes, and sunflowers are still in seed form.

On my counter.

The kids and I decided to let the responsible party fix the wire first, so we opted to plant the main garden instead. Since we had covered the raised beds that were built last year, there would be no weeds to pull, dirt to fluff, or fences to chainsaw through.

Meet Bump #3.

Bump #3 made us jump.

This bump was ominous. And it was in the garden. It was loud. And it was angry. It also decided to use some intimidation tactics by swarming around our heads~the equivalent of an almost drive-by shooting in bee behavior.

Same swarm, different branch
Since I was sporting my trusty tie-dyed skirt and didn't fancy a stinger in my nether region, I called in the big guns.

My beekeeping Mister and his beekeeping brother
Hive #3~secured.

Planting a garden is exhausting. I'm not sure what I've done today, but I am sure I've done all I can

Except for planting the garden.

That will have to wait for another day.☺

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Storing the Kombucha

♥♥Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the prayers and words of encouragement that you have given me over the last few days. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds it, and in Him I will rest. My heart is full.♥♥

Peach/Raspberry, Pomegranate, and Blueberry Kombucha ready for a second ferment

A couple of weeks ago, we had a little incident with our kombucha. 

It wanted out of the bottle in the worst way.

Oh no!!

Since it was time to bottle our current batch, I decided to try a different method of storage.

Leave 1 inch of headroom in the bottle to keep too much pressure from building.

The kombucha is placed in an old insulated cooler and kept in the garage for its second ferment. This will keep the temperatures more consistent and hopefully keep the booch inside the bottles until ready to refrigerate.

Now if the booch goes boom, I'll be ready!☺

*This batch turned out beautifully. The carbonation was just right and the juice made it into our drinking glasses, not all over our faces. Which is always a good thing!

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop
                                   The Morristribe's Homestead Blog Carnival

Thursday, June 7, 2012

27 Squares

That's how many tiles are on the ceiling of the ultrasound room.

At least, that's how many I can see from my prone position on the hard table.

When I run out of squares to count, I move to the little holes in the tiles.

I'm sure the tiles only purpose is to give the patient something to do while they wait.

918 holes.

That's all I could manage before the ultrasound technician had me turn my head so he could get a better picture.

It's okay though.

My tears were starting to blur my vision.

48 is the number of images he took of my enlarged thyroid.

Maybe his vision is blurred too.

2.76 centimeters.

The size of one of the nodules.

Nodules apparently sound better than "growths."

Someone in a fancy office must have come up with that.

I'm not impressed.

6 is the number of days I have to wait before hearing any official results.

1 question was all it took to know the news wasn't good.

"Are you by chance having any trouble swallowing?"

A single nod was my only answer because the words were having difficulty making it past the lump in my throat.

It was all that was needed.


The number of hours before a specialist decides the best course of action.

That's 47,520 minutes of waiting.

Just waiting.

And spending those 1,440 minutes each day thinking positive thoughts.

Trying not to let anyone see my cry.

I've been chopping a lot of onions.

Nobody questions an onion.

When my tears are spent, I lie on the couch.

There are no squares or holes to count.

Just minutes...

One tiny mustard seed of faith.

Because of its size, it's easy to misplace.

I lost mine for a while.

Jesus told them, "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. ~Matthew 17:20

Move mountain, move.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Dear Joel

Okay, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, or have eloquence flowing through my veins, but my weekend at the Mother Earth News Fair surprised even me.

We browsed booths that advertised fabulous chick condos,

which went well until the Mister and I started measuring the dimensions and taking notes to build our own for far less money.

I enjoyed learning about skinny pellet stoves,

until we realized this guy has nothing to do with pellet stoves. He builds greenhouses. Or so he said. The only greenhouse he could show us was on his phone.☺

I did great sitting in on lectures and workshops, taking notes and even asking appropriate questions at the end. I learned about stocking a real food pantry from Lisa Kivirist, author of the cookbook, Farmstead Chef. I liked her so much that I went to her workshop on small farm business's for women and dragged my Mister along for the ride. I listened to Deborah Niemann, author of Homegrown and Handmade, discuss how to choose the right livestock for the homestead, and to Janice Bryant who talked about moving back to the farm. My Mister learned about home dairying and both of us enjoyed watching barefoot hippies build outdoor ovens out of clay. We visited with the lovely ladies at the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the Weston A. Price booths who supplied us with bumper stickers like, "Cholesterol is for Lovers," and "Don't Mess with Perfection~Drink Raw Milk!"

Which are now mounted on the back of my Expedition, right next to the Dutch Brother's Mafia (coffee) bumper sticker.

We saw Ed Begley, Jr. run past us after exiting the men's room.

This guy is fast. And this picture is NOT from my camera.

I couldn't get my camera out fast enough to take a picture of him there, but did have the pleasure of running into him later at a booth for composting toilets.

He was sitting on one.

I didn't have the heart to interrupt~the book he was reading looked pretty good.

We enjoyed listening to Will Allen of The Good Food Revolution. (He is featured in the documentary, "Fresh".)

Awesome guy. Big guy. And deserving of the standing ovation he received.

He made me cry.

And the lady next to us.

And maybe even my Mister.

But what surprised me the most was my visit with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

I'm pretty sure Mr. Salatin had security guards ready to take me out if needed.
After spotting Mr. Salatin wandering around the booths, my Mister and I stalked approached him to say howdy. Except, saying howdy may have been a little too ambitious for me.

"Hello Mister Salatin. I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your books and can't wait to implement some of those same ideas on our farm," said my Mister.

"Well, thank you. That is very nice to hear," said Mr. Salatin, while shaking my Mister's hand.

 "We're working on cross-fencing our field so that we can have the chicken tractor follow the cows, blah, blah, blah...." (my Mister)

"That is biologically, fundamentally, ecologically, unadulterated blah, blah, blah...." (Joel)

While my Mister and his new buddy, Joel, shot the breeze, I just stood there. Grinning. Laughing that stupid, uncomfortable machine-gun laugh that I get when star-struck, "Uh-uh-huh-huh-uh." And while I stood there, Mr. Salatin, who apparently didn't remember me from our little encounter last year, kept throwing worried glances my way. I'm sure he wanted to know if I had taken my meds before coming to the fair, but was much too kind to ask. During this little visit, I didn't hear much except the beating of my own heart. Since the room was spinning, my vision was a little blurred. And because my armpits and hands were sweating rivers of joy, I kept my hands firmly stuffed into the back pockets of my blue jeans while coming up with brilliant things to say like, "I like eggs. A lot."

Thankfully, I couldn't remember how to take words and make sentences, so my brilliance never left my mouth.

Guess I can be glad for small favors.

If I could go back to those 8 minutes, I would tell him what a remarkable speaker he is. I would thank him for inspiring so many of us with his words, tongue-in-cheek humor, faith, and wisdom. I would mention that it is not only adults he is inspiring, but 12 and 16 year old boys, who want to be farmers just like him. I would ask him questions about the types of grain he uses for his hogs and chickens, where he buys his electric netting, and what time of the year he has his animals bred. I would ask him how many hours it takes him to butcher his 400 broilers and compare notes on butchering weights. I would ask him how he manages to fit it all into one day and if he ever gets to take vacations with his wife.

And I would ask him about his hat.


Maybe I should practice some before next year's fair.☺