Tuesday, January 31, 2012
We are having a bit of strange weather here. It got to nearly 50 degrees this afternoon, which is unheard of in midwinter. Everything is melting and dripping and turning into a sloppy mess. Poor Lucille Laverne doesn't even look like she got a bath this afternoon, which she did (a nice touchless one with the lemon-scented presoak). Chores took no time at all, as I didn't have to bang out a bit of ice from the water crocks. I hardly knew what to do with myself with my suddenly spare five minutes.
Winter, where are you? I think you forgot to come this year.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
This is a temporary logo. Really. I do rather like it (it was a free hot pink chicken clip art!! Can you believe it? Pink!) but I think I need something a little more...flamboyant. I mean, if you are going to become a poultry mogul selling/giving eggs to three consistent customers, you are all about the fancy logo.
I keep wanting to open the fridge door and stare in at my new egg cartons. Is this healthy? Probably not. Is it making me happy on a snowy Friday afternoon? You betcha!
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
This morning, I woke up, went outside, and had one of those moments when you think to yourself: Huh. I never thought I'd be doing this before 7 AM.
That's right folks, crank up your 48 of Barry White and switch on that sexy disco ball hanging from the ceiling of that vintage '70s porno set we all have tucked into our little vestigial brains. I was out there, in the cold, before dawn, encouraging two rabbits to have carnal relations, before my first cuppa of the day.
Such is the life of a rabbit pimp. Little Mama apparently had a phantom pregnancy (okay, she just wasn't pregnant at all, no phantom involved). No kits arrived as per the rabbit delivery schedule (29 to 31 days post-climax). Let's just say that Bucky and Little Mama had a very....enthusiastic....reunion. I can't say that Little Mama really enjoyed herself, but Bucky had a fantastic time heaving and snorting and eventually rolling over backwards...after about 30 seconds of go-go time. This is why you can do rabbit breeding before heading off to work. In the time it took me to bang out the frozen ice cubes of water dishes and hand out dried apple slices to the spectators (yes, the other rabbits seem to like to watch, little sickos that they are), I was pretty sure that success happened and that Little Mama would likely be preggo by the end of the day. (You see, she ovulates AFTER copulation. Betcha didn't know that about rabbits, did ya?) After congratulating Bucky on his wonderful performance, I bundled Little Mama into her cage, bid everyone a peaceful day, and wandered inside for my hot cup of coffee.
Boom chicka bwow wow, bayyyyybeeee.
P.S. An afternoon liason was also successful. I believe in under a month, Bucky and Little Mama will be proud parents once again. Eat your heart out, Viagra.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
I am going to bet that for many of you, combining the words "yummy" and "liver" was something you have never before contemplated. You have to trust me on this, it is possible.
So anyway, one of the best looking recipes I came across called for chili sauce. This is otherwise known as the tomato-based half of shrimp cocktail sauce, which reaches its' full potential when combined with creamy horseradish sauce....mmmmmm. Unfortunately, chili sauce is not something I routinely stock in my cupboards. I thought to myself, oh well. Better put that on the list for next time I head to the grocery store.
Hold the phone. Buy chili sauce? Huh. Try make that chili sauce, girlfriend.
For Christmas, I got myself a great book on small-batch preserving. In it, you can find everything from jams and jellies to relishes to sauces. And of course, condiments. Instead of heading to the store, I raided my freezer and root cellar closets for the ingredients to make a fabulous batch of homemade chili sauce. Wahoo! I cheated a little, and cooked it in my slow cooker on high all afternoon instead of on the stovetop. This is a great trick for making fruit butters, and works for things like tomato paste as well. A few hours on high, a whirl of my stick blender, and we were in condiment heaven.
In case you wanted to try your hand at making chili sauce, or just were curious as to what the heck is in chili sauce, anyway?, here's the recipe. I modified it a little, based on what I had in the pantry.
Mid-Winter Chili Sauce
4 cups diced, peeled tomatoes (mine were diced and frozen in July)
5 stalks celery, finely diced
2 apples, peeled cored and diced
2 small sweet bell peppers (I had about half a yellow and a whole red one)
1 Tablespoon dried jalepeno slices (okay, these I made myself...)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pickling or canning salt (same thing, different name)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 1-inch piece of crystalized ginger
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
Toss the tomatoes, celery, apples, peppers, dried jalepenos, onion, vinegar, sugar and salt into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then transfer to a crockpot that has been preheating on high. Place cinnamon sticks, ginger and allspice berries into a tea ball or tie in a piece of cheesecloth. Toss your spice "package" into the mix in the crockpot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours until everything is cooked into a very mushy state. Crank up your stick blender and whirl everything smooth (or, transfer into a blender or food processor and whirl until smooth). Keep sauce hot in the crockpot, while you sterilize your jars and crank up the water bath canner. Ladle sauce into hot jars, top with a hot lid, and tighten the band. Process for 15 minutes for half-pints or 20 minutes for whole pints, then remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Check the lids for sealing success in 24 hours and then store in a cool dark place. Should be good for at least a year, but toss if it changes color or grows something funky. I got four half-pints and one full pint out of this recipe, although I did have to add about 1/4 cup of hot water to the pint to fill it out a bit.
I think it's going to be awesome. Next, I'm going to try making ketchup! Pass the fries, please.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Can you believe it? Hot pink egg cartons. Who knew? Randall Burkey, that's who. You gotta give it to those Texans. They know their female chicken farmer audience sooooo well.
I am contemplating a serious impulse buy. Only a small order, a handful of cartons at most. (Well, more like 50 of them. That's all. Honest.) I think I need them. They could be my new signature egg cartons, distributed to my very few, lovely & local customers, who would return them to me like the precious jewels that they are, to be refilled with the eggs produced by the hard working girls in the coop. I could make sticky labels to put on them. Oh! I could design a logo. I've always wanted a logo. I'd feel like I have finally arrived, if I had my own logo. You know, like Martha Stewart has a logo. Except I wouldn't commit insider trading and go to prison for a felonious federal crime. Heavens, no. I don't produce nearly enough eggs to do insider trading on the commodies market. (Yet.)
Anyway, back to the logo design. Classic is always good, involving eggs or a nest. Or a picture of one of the girls, doing her "chicken thang". That might be a bit too bland for my logo, though. Something a tad saucy, something with a hint of zip and a dash of naughty in it. Maybe a chicken wearing a diamond tiara, drinking a Cosmo? Now there's a possibility....wait, nobody steal that idea! Alert the trademark police, somebody.
Whoever invented chicken bling like this really knows me. It's freaky, how much I desire them. I never knew how much I needed pink egg cartons, until I saw these bright fuschia cardboard lovelies. Cue angelic choir swelling in the background, while I go dig out my checkbook.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
To make it into a waterer, I slice it in half lengthwise (top to bottom), so you wind up with a skinny dish. If you cut it properly, you'll have the capped bit as one end of the dish. (Leave the cap on, or all the water will flow out.) Anyway, when the water freezes into a solid chunk (and it will, trust me), all you do is flex your formerly-litter-jug-now-a-water-dish a bit, and out pops a large rectangular ice cube. Tah dah. No banging the dishes, no heating bills going through the roof. While it does freeze over time, the girls & Rudy have figured out how to chip off bits of the ice. They'll eat that with great enjoyment. It almost seems like they like ice chips better than liquid water, some days.
I get asked a lot: Do you heat your chicken house? Well, no. Chickens actually put out a lot of heat, and they scrunch together on their roosting bars to stay warm. I also do the "deep litter" method of bedding over the winter. This is simple: Don't clean the house. Just add layers of fresh bedding on top of the dirty, mucky stuff about once a week. The chickens will root through it and mix it around, but the cleaner stuff stays to the top. Because it is a deep layer of bedding, it actually begins to compost. Composting, if you didn't already know, produces a heck of a lot of heat as the microorganisms start breaking down the organic material. This heat generation in turn heats the chicken house. It isn't like Kew Gardens in there, by any means, but it's a good 20-25 degrees warmer in the house than it is outside. Between the chickens snuggling together at night and the deep bedding, they fare pretty well without an electricity-sucking heat lamp hung from the ceiling. Come spring, I clean out all the mucky bedding and toss it onto the compost heap for a little while. It's nearly ready to spread on the gardens, directly out of the chicken house!
All those fancy-dancy water heaters always crap out on me anyway. If you read the fine print, all of them say "Do not get wet". Umm, hello. It's a waterer. It is going to get wet, because you put water in/on/next to it. Chickens are also sloppy drinkers (not quite as bad as ducks, but close), who slobber water everywhere when they go for a drink or wrestle for position amongst their feathered fellows. So save your money, find an old kitty litter jug, and make your very own Best Chicken Waterer Ever. Your happy hens will thank you. The electrical company will mourn the loss of all your hard-earned dollars that they previously tucked into their back pockets every winter. You will have the pride of being the epitome of thrify farmer-ness. Ahh, the glory.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Hee hee. I have had this song rattling around in my head all night. You see, yesterday I met a really nice Amish man who came to the Seed Share I organized. Turns out, his brother has a son who raises New Zealand rabbits, and who also had some of these rabbits for sale. Aha! I was in need of a new doe, to replace Big Mama (who had the unfortunate habit of consuming her offspring). After the Seed Share, I headed off into the hills around Prairie Farm in Lucille Laverne in search of a new rabbit. I'm not sure that Reuben, the patriarch, knew what to make of me as I rolled into his farmyard in my big honkin' truck with the pink dice dangling from the rearview mirror. He definitely raised an eyebrow when he saw the fuzzy pink seat covers...
Anyway, it turned out that his son Samuel wasn't at home. He and some other of the guys were off building the new bakery (a bakery!!!!! oh. my. goodness.) in Reeve. We arranged that I would come back after dark, when he was pretty sure that Samuel would be home.
Here's a life lesson for you: When visiting the Amish in January after the sun sets, remember to bring a flashlight. I am pretty sure that their barn was lovely, full of happy cows and happy rabbits and some other livestock that I could hear but not see. I am sure that the walkways and paths were not completely filled with treacherous holes and sudden drop-offs. I am sure that the yard was not one iced over, rutted mess. However, since I couldn't see a damn thing, I can't be certain. It will be a whole new experience to visit in the daylight. I can't even tell you what Samuel looked like, although I know he couldn't have been more than 20, was tall, and was wearing a headlamp. He also knows how to sex a rabbit in the dark, which is no mean feat.
Okay, perverts. That doesn't mean what you are all thinking it means. No beastiality was involved. Basically, you feel up the rabbit to find out if it is a girl or a boy. Since their parts are all hidden, this is a bit of an involved process. If something sticks out at you, it's a boy. My rabbit was an innie.
I am now the proud owner of an Amish rabbit. I'll have to think of a suitably Amish name...Rebekah? Anne? Hmmm. Well, I'll contemplate that for a bit.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
I met some really nice folks, who are also waaaaaay into gardening. It is so nice to talk shop and trade tips with people who know (and actually care) what you are talking about. Later this week, I'll be sending the orders in and waiting impatiently for the packages to start arriving.
This is the time of year when the anticipation of gardening gets almost as good as the actually gardening experience. Right now, I can dream that all the seeds I order are going to grow exactly as described by the seed catalog. The reality of the garden, when everything is a riot of poorly growing, heavily smothered by weeds chaos, comes later. For now, I can enjoy the fantasy of my beautiful, orderly garden growing like mad...ahhh, Spring. Come along soon now, won't you?
P.S. The mouse has been caught. Finally. Here's hoping that he/she didn't invite relatives in to stay as well.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Two plates, smithereens. Cat, unscathed and still hunting. Mouse, escalating from mildly annoying to must-be-destroyed-by-any-means-possible level of annoyance.
P.S. Mouse apparently is a sugar addict. Many mouse poos were left behind in my now empty sugar bowl.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I know. What makes for exciting news around here, really isn't that exciting. You should know, however, that I was originally going to post about the fantastic sandwich I had for lunch. It was really really weird (roasted beets and goat cheese with arugula and balasmic vinagrette on ciabatta), and really really good. I decided, however, to go with the exciting news of finding five eggs in the nest box. So you see what could have been in this blog post.
In other news, no mice have been seen or heard of in two days. I think they are just in hiding. Beezle the Hunter is on nightly patrol until further notice. Or summer. Whichever comes first, really. I am also looking into the possibility of buying a vintage "ham can" camper, which likely will need a lot of rehab (it was formerly someone's ice fishing house) but will have the character appropriate to me, traveling around and popping into unsuspecting campgrounds across America. I am hoping to cute-ify the interior, and possibly do some painting of the exterior as well. I think pink would be perfect, don't you? Maybe with a sexy airbrushed reclining chicken, too...Anyway, if this one doesn't pan out, I am sure that someone out there has a vintage camper trailer from the 1950s or '60s that will come along. I've been dreaming of black and white checkerboard linoleum flooring, a teensy tiny sleeping bunk, and funky curtains trimmed with bobble fringe. Wouldn't that just be a scream? I think I may have realized my life's calling: buy a truck, then acquire a beat-up camper to rehabilitate into greatness. You gotta dream big, people. Dream. Big.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Those were really nice plans. About 45 minutes ago, I woke up from a really strange dream involving lying on a sofa napping and being continually interrupted in said naps by phone calls, a TV turning on, etc. When I woke up in the dark early morning, in my comfortable bed, I realized that around me in the dark were strange shuffling noises. They moved from point to point around the room...and then I heard a distinctive chink-chink noise that is the lid of my milk glass container on the bedside table shifting. As I lay there, thinking "huh that's wierd, why would the lid shift", something leapt onto my pillow. Next to my head. TOUCHING my hair.
Holy shit. It was a mouse.
On. My. Bed.
On. My. Head.
Yowza!!!!!!! Can you say, so not sleeping any longer, three times fast?
I had suspicions of a mouse in the house for a couple of days, but nothing definite. No mouse trails of mouse poo, no nibbled bread or crackers or packaging. Apparently, this mouse has been making a bee-line into my upstairs root closet, and noshing on dried apple slices. (Well, the rabbits do love them, and they are distantly related to mice.) So here I sit, sheets in the washer, coffee brewing, and a nice snappy mouse trap baited, set, and placed in the closet upstairs. Here's hoping that Mr. Leaping Mouse is as entranced by peanut butter-cat food bait as he is by my dried apple slices.
I may go to bed tonight with a tennis racket, wearing a hat.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
What, did you think this was on my ass? We don't post those kind of pictures on this blog, people.
At least, not yet. Hah!
P.S. Yes, it did hurt.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Sunday, January 1, 2012
After filling up on hot coffee, eggs and bacon, I headed out to excavate the animals. The chickens don't particularly like the snow, so I got an earful of poultry complaints. They were mildly molified when I produced left-overs from dinner last night (it was great, halibut with bananas, rice, and brocolli, but believe me, the company was even better) and a scoopful of scratch grains, as well as fresh water and a quart of kibble. The rabbits were in danger of roof collapse....well, not really, but the canvas roof was stretched pretty low. It is a breeze to clear off though, and kind of fun to wiggle and slide the clumps of snow off. It is impressive how dark a few inches of snow can make the interior of the bunny barn. No wonder why the Eskimos and survivalists realized that snow is actually a good insulator! Max the wonderdoodle and Phoebe the circus hound were having a great time frolicking in the new snow. I think fresh snow makes every dog channel their inner wolf, and dream of mushing across the icy tundra. Well, I like to think that anyway. Probably they are just excited to have new material to pee on.
Now I am back indoors, sipping yet more hot coffee and contemplating a Psych marathon. I love that show, so witty and so slapstick at the same time. It appeals to my strangely wired little brain in a very subtle way. Tomorrow is Day #2 of a New Year, and who knows what grand adventures await me. Today, I plan to relax and enjoy a snowy day.
P.S. Lucille Laverne won't fit in my car hut! It's not the end of the world, though. Her back end will squeeze in, so not too much snow will pile into the back.