Monday, April 29, 2013

Strawberry Culture

It's time to revitalize my strawberry bed (and start a new one where the sad blueberries succumbed to a lingering death).  This time, I am determined to do it right.  Thank goodness for quality videos from  university extension services!

Happy Chicks

One thing you can be sure of with those chicks, they do love to eat.

(Om nom nom nom...peep!)

It's a veritable sea of chicks in there.  Peeping, pooping, leaping and frolicking into the air, they are so fun to watch as they grow into their personalities!

Don't they look happy?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a...Bunny?

Ophelia's kits are doing well and are starting to get very adventurous.  As you can see, they are all covered in soft white fur, and their little eyes are just starting to open.  With the pile of them, I haven't gotten a good count.  I think there are at least ten in there...possibly more?  In a couple of days, they will start coming out of the nest box and perhaps then I'll get a solid head count.  It's hard to count them when they are all jumping about like fish and squashing back into the mosh pit pile.

I added a new rabbit to my rabbitry this past week.  Everybody, meet Morpheus.  He's named after this guy:
(That guy from The Matrix)
No, I jest.  He's named after this guy:
(That greek god, in charge of dreams)
It only seemed fitting.  I do have an Ophelia, after all, and I covet sleep.  Anyway, it seemed like a good name for this peaceful dark haired cutie.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Brief Announcement

So it is Saturday, and it is a lovely day, which means I am outside.  Or inside still, desperately cleaning house so I can go outside as soon as I am done. 

Sunshine.  70 degrees.  No. Snow. 

Need I say more?

A brief announcement was in order, though, to say that the winner of the Chicken Health Handbook Giveaway is.....

Tara Adams!!

Congratulations!  Hope that news made your Saturday a little extra cheerful.

Now, everyone go outside and play in the dirt.  Wheeeeee! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

She's a Star!

The lovely Oprah Winfrey made her public debut yesterday, as the Resident Chicken at Lac Courte Orielles Community Sustainability Fair.  I took a couple of hours mid-day to talk about keeping chickens in the backyard (something I know a little about).  She was very accommodating to her adoring public, in particular two young boys who were very keen to challenge her to staring contests.  I can't tell you who won, but I'm sure Oprah would insist she remains the champion regardless of any challengers.  As she is the Queen of the Flock, who am I to argue with royalty?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Small Things

Aren't they adorable? Today they are one week old, and growing fur, fat and sleek. Their ears are still tucked against their teeny heads, but soon they'll be standing up like crumpled flower petals.  In another week, their eyes will open sloooowly and then, they'll start exploring their way out of the nest box.

Ophelia is being a wonderful mother.  She's hungry as a horse, so I'm giving her lots of extra kibble, hay, and slices of dehydrated pineapple as special treats.  (That's how she let me video her babies--she was preoccupied with gnawing her ring of pineapple and didn't mind that I was looking at her precious brood.)

Little white rabbits, in a pile.  It doesn't get much cuter than that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

With the temperatures finally becoming spring-like here in northwestern Wisconsin (it may get to 70 degrees on Sunday!), I took advantage of the impromptu snow day yesterday.  We got 8 inches of heavy wet snow, which knocked down several huge branches off my lovely pines--they are still leaning very precariously against the trunk, but hopefully will be dealt with soon--and after my work schedule got completely messed up due to late starts and cancellations, I threw in the towel and took a work day at home instead.

I may never get done with this school year, with all the days I'll be making up in mid-June!

But it was a great day to work outside.  The clouds parted, out came the sun, and the temperatures were right around 50 degrees.  The forecast for the rest of the week looks wonderful, so it was time to get cracking on the outdoor brooder for the fast growing chicklets.  They were far outgrowing their temporary "tub" in the bathroom, and it was creating a host of other issues as well.  I don't talk about it often on the blog, but I have terrible asthma due to repeated bouts of pleurisy and pneumonia.  And this past February, I had a bad run with pleurisy so this spring, my lungs are extra "tetchy" and having those chicks in the bathroom was making it very hard to breathe.  While I was using old newspaper as bedding, chickens do create very fine dust all on their own--and with chicks, you get little bits of fluffy down shed as well.  It was getting to the point that just ducking in to use the potty was leaving me groping for my inhaler.  The final straw was last night, when I woke up at 3 AM hearing a really odd noise and thought it was the storm.  Turns out it was my chest squealing...let me tell you, hauling yourself outta bed to use a nebulizer at 3 AM is no party, so the chicks needed to fly the coop (so to speak) and move on out so I could de-dust my bathroom!

I spent a lovely morning outside, and here's what I built:

Seen from the side, with the nifty feedbox in a handy location

The improved door, which lets me get in and keeps chicks from being squashed in the process!
So it looks fairly utilitarian, but it has several things going for it.  First, it isn't in my bathroom.  Win!  Second, this is the best brooder I've built to date. Given that I don't have particularly grand construction skills, that is saying something.  It is basically three 4x8 sheets of inexpensive chipboard (one the floor atop two pallets, and two being the long sides) screwed firmly into 2x4 lengths fastened into the flooring.  For the sides, it is more 2x4 lengths in the corners, with 4x4 plywood "short walls" connected to them.  A few extra screws, a couple of hinges to allow the door to swing open, some chicken wire across the top and a sandwich of ER15 insulation and old quilts on top of the whole shebang to keep the heat in and the drafts out, and there you go: the latest and greatest homemade brooder.  Last but not least, it is really large--much, much larger than the galvanized tank the chicks had been in for the past week and a half--and they will love checking out the space.  That is, they will love it after they stop acting like it is going to murder them.  You wouldn't believe the shriek-peeping going on in there!

Currently there is one heat lamp with a 250 watt bulb in there, which seems to be making it more than warm enough for the chicklets.  They have a bed of 6 inch deep wood shavings to keep them extra cosy, and before I go to bed for the night I'll go out with an additional quilt to toss over the top and keep them toasty for the night.  I have a feeling I'll need to pull off some layers before I leave for the day tomorrow, or I'll have some hot chicks!  For now, though, they are getting used to having a much larger world to explore.

Aww, warm chicklets in their house (not my bathroom).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Helpful Give Away

I bought this for myself a few years ago, and it is incredibly helpful.  Everything you'd ever need to know to keep your chickens healthy, or diagnose their ailments (and many, many ways they can attempt to kill themselves by), all in one handy book.

It's so helpful, that I think one of my lucky readers needs to win it for their very own bookshelf!

Here's how the give away will work:  Leave a comment below, letting me know you'd like to win this handy dandy copy for your very own.  Be sure to tell me your name so I can track you down again!

Get a second chance by leaving a comment on my Facebook page, The Chicken Lady's Farmlette.

Make sure your comment is posted by Friday evening, April 26th at 6 PM.  And then, watch for the announcement of the winner on Saturday's post!

Good luck!!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Breakfast

When life gives you lots of eggs (I have six dozen in the fridge as I type), you get creative with the many ways you can enjoy this cheap and delicious protein source.

Fried.  Poached.  Boiled, soft or hard.  Scrambled.  Omelet.  Frittata.  Quiche.  On toast.  On pizza.  Baked in a cake.

Well, maybe not too much cake.

On a Sunday morning when I don't need to rush out and do something or other, I love to make a Puffy Pancake.  It is simple, tastes wonderful, and makes use of several eggs at one go--making room for the daily collection from the ladies of the Coops.

The Chicken Lady's Puffy Pancake

You'll need:  four to six eggs, depending on what size of pancake you want--or how many people will be eating it--one cup milk; one cup flour; salt; vanilla extract; fresh or frozen berries; butter; maple syrup or pancake syrup of your choice.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and flour until smooth.  Add in the salt (no more than one half teaspoon) and vanilla extract (I like a lot, so I put in about one whole teaspoon), and whisk smooth.

While making your batter, put a cast iron skillet into the oven at 450 degrees to preheat.  When it is hot, put two tablespoons of butter into the skillet and return to the oven to melt.

When the butter is melted, swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan and pour in the prepared batter.  Put your berries in the middle of the pancake (I go generous with this, nearly a whole cup) and quickly return the pancake to the oven.  Reduce the temperature to 400 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden brown on top.  Serve with additional butter, syrup or whatever you like--cut it like you would a pie and serve in large wedges.  It will be light and puffy on the edges, and more custardy in the middle where it is cradling the berries.

This goes very well with bacon, by the way.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weekend at the Movies

It's another weekend, which means another movie night!  This weekend, I am going to watch a French documentary, Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution.  The description of the movie sounds intriguing, involving a town in France that mandates an organic lunch program in their school, and how this program becomes successful (or not).

Wouldn't this be a wonderful thing for more schools in the US to adopt?  Some already have local food programs, but to up the ante and make it organic and local would be an amazing thing.  Not just for the kids who get to eat good, wholesome and safe foods, but also for the community to participate in the program development and implementation.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicklet Update

The little bitties are doing so tremendously well!  Out of the passel of over 100 chicks (I lost count, but I know there were some extras), only one has not made it past the 48 hour mark.  All are starting to grow wing feathers and are getting taller and more "zippy".  They love to pile up in a mosh pit and take snoozy naps, and they really really like to eat. 

And poop.  It's a good thing I have lots of old newspapers, because I need to change the tub flooring twice a day so it doesn't get too stinky and damp.  They love to attack the newspaper when I put it in, which is too funny.

Here's hoping that the weather warms up quickly and these chickies can get moved out to the big roomy brooder in the car hut.  It doesn't sound like it will within the next week, but it had better do it soon.  Otherwise, I'm going to have to figure out how to fit a second giant metal tub in the bathroom.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Growing Things

I found this little tutorial while cruising my suggested video list on YouTube, and thought it might be a good one to share.  I would note, though, that grasping the seedling by the stem isn't really a great idea.  It's very easy to crush the tender stem, and kill off your seedling.  I try to do as little grasping and tugging as possible, and prefer to use the tip of a wooden skewer to gently probe out the rootlets.  After the seedling is free, I grasp it gently by one of the leaves and, again using the wooden skewer, tuck it into the new pot.

It seems to me as well that they put far too many seeds into each little peat pod to begin with.  I have much better luck starting 2-3 seeds per pod, and then using a tiny pair of sharp scissors to cut out the weak seedling leaving only the strongest one to survive.  I suppose it all depends on how many of your seedlings you wanted to survive, or how many adult productive plants you need in your summer garden.  I've gotten pretty ruthless over the years, as I've found one very healthy plant will out produce multiple "weaklings" over the course of the summer, and need far less hand-holding to get established and stay healthy.

Apparently, the Law of the Jungle applies in my garden!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Meeting A Personal Hero

I am wildly excited, because tonight I get to meet one of my personal heroes.  Will Allen of Growing Power is going to be speaking at the local university in Eau Claire, and I have the golden ticket to go!

Well, it isn't exactly golden but you know what I mean.  I am so excited.

When I grow up, I want to be Will Allen and feed all the people, too.

For ticket and program information, click here.

New Episode On the Air!

Check out the latest episode of The Chicken Lady's Yarn!  Episode 4 can be viewed by clicking on the link at the top of the right side menu, and it will open the Vimeo player automatically.

You can admire my new hat.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Perhaps Tonight?

Ophelia is hugely pregnant, with her sides sticking out a good inch horizontally.  I could have sworn she as going into labor last weekend, and likely she was, but no kits yet.  She's got a bit of hay worked into her nest box, and a tiny bit of fluff from her belly, but her nest is still under construction.  According to my calculations, kits could arrive anywhere from Sunday evening (two nights ago) to tomorrow evening.  Her appetite is off, with her kibble completely ignored for two days now, a little hay nibbled on, and a powerful lust for organic dried pineapple slices which she gets in the evening.  (Yes, that alone confirms that she is pregnant--a rabbit with food urges!)

I've found with the rabbits that just when you start to worry that something has gone awry, you go and check and there is a pile of little babies tucked into the nest.  Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well, and there are bunnies in the morning!

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Continuing Adventures

When last we saw our heroine, she had just returned from the first small animal swap of the season with a new hen named Doris Day.  Let's join her now and hear the continuing saga of the Adventures on Saturday!

After installing Doris in her isolation chamber, I contemplated taking a nap.  But as it was only 11 AM and I had some things that needed doing, I opted for a cup of strong coffee and a browse of email.  Lo and behold, there was an email from McMurray Hatchery telling me that my order of chicks had shipped on Friday!  Whee!  But when I checked to see where they were, it appeared that they were stuck in St. Paul.

That's not good.

Knowing that waiting two days would likely be too stressful for those chicklets, I tried calling the St. Paul center to see about picking them up there.  I'm not sure who I spoke to on the phone, but he was one incredibly rude individual.  After making me repeat my story three times (and I know he understood what I was asking the first time), he grunted, chomped his gum a few more smacks in my ear, and said, "No.  You can't get them.  So they might die.  Whatever."  And hung up on me.

Hung. Up. On. Me.


So I resigned myself to not being able to do anything, and likely having to deal with dead chicks on Monday morning.  There was still stuff that needed done, so I took Max and Phoebe for a ride up to Rice Lake to hit the Co-Op for some fresh fruit and veg to supplement our canned and frozen supplies at home.  Wouldn't you know it, we got over halfway there when the phone rang and it was the Postal Dispatch Center in Eau Claire--apparently, my chicks had in fact been sent there this morning from St. Paul, and could I please come get them?

Sure thing.  After my errands.  In a town one hour north of where my chicks are patiently peeping and waiting for me.

A trip like that requires sustenance, so the dogs and I cruised into Culver's and got ourselves some custard for the drive.  Once arriving at the facility in Eau Claire, you get to drive into the trucks only entrance (I always feel so wicked!), park in Area #5, and find this door:

There's this old buzzer next to it, that when you press it, makes what sounds like a vintage fire alarm bell go off somewhere inside the cavernous building.  You can hear all kinds of whirring and clanking and zooming of what I think must be forklifts zipping around the joint, all going about their business behind that mysterious puke-pink door.  Eventually, somebody wearing earplugs and a safety vest comes and lets you in.  They always know what I am there for, as I don't think they get many random visitors coming by.  No dawdling allowed, you have to move at a fast trot to keep up with the safety guy as he heads off into the racks and stacks of mail tubs.  The chicks are kept in a relatively draft-free corner of the warehouse, and after much scanning and poking of buttons on a handheld computer thingy, I was handed the largest of the three boxes waiting for pick up, escorted back across the working floor with no dilly-dallying, pushed out the door into the daylight world, and told to have a nice day.

Here's what went into the front seat next to me:

And check out who was just longing to visit them:

"But...I just wanna lick them.  Really."

Another hour long drive home (with a stop to fill up on gas because LuLa handled a lot of mileage), and 101 teeny beak dips in the water dish later, all the chicklets are safely installed in their temporary-until-it-warms-up-brooder in the bathroom.  I think they are pretty happy to be out of the box and into their safe little home.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Let's Swap!

It was a dark and miserable morning, but it was jolly inside LuLa cruising down the back roads to Ellsworth.  I was on my way to the first small animal swap of the season, and I had a couple of good friends along for the ride. 

Plus, we had coffee.

It took about an hour to reach the Pierce County Fairgrounds and maneuver the maze of buildings before reaching the pole shed where the swap was being held.  The first thing that greeted us was a woman with a pickup load of goats.  Check out this cutie:

A bottle fed baby, sweet as can be.  (No, I didn't bring him home.)  Unfortunately, he was the only healthy one in the truck.  The others were sneezing and coughing and dripping goo from their little noses.  The lady selling them blamed it on the weather, but somehow I don't think so...

Anyway, after that it was into the pole shed to check out the offerings.  They were pretty slim, with some mixed bag chickens and show rabbits.  I was a little disappointed--I was hoping for more selection of rabbits, and definitely not show ones.  They are lovely, but mini rex and lionhead rabbits won't add much to my meat production rabbitry.  I was hoping for a new doe from a hardy bloodline, so I'll keep looking.  There will be other swaps!  And there were a couple of chicken  breeders there, with lovely Buff and Black/Lavender Orpington breeding trios for sale and some straight-run Cuckoo Marans, Partridge Wyandotte and Araucana chicks for sale.

I got to talking with a woman and her daughters who raise chickens on their farm and had brought a collection for sale. They weren't the prettiest chickens there, but all were healthy and well feathered.  I was hoping for a Light Brahma hen, but they only had cockerels.  It was okay, though, because I found a lovely little pullet of mixed heritage who is sweet as can be and only a couple weeks away from being ready to lay her first eggs.  I've already named her.

Meet Doris Day.
 Isn't she lovely?  A couple of days in the isolation cage to acclimate and take care of what looks like a slight case of scaly leg mites, and she should mix in with the ladies of the Big Coop well.

Stay tuned for the other adventures that ensued after the swap!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Once More.

Seriously, the best day of the week.  I heart thee, Saturday!

This morning (while you are reading this), I am out cruising in Lucille Laverne with friends, headed to a small animal swap in Ellsworth, WI.  Oh yes, that's right.  We dragged ourselves out of bed and hit the road to arrive at the Pierce County Fairgrounds by 7 AM, hoping to find some laying hens, assorted rabbits, and possibly pigs.

No, the pigs are not for me. 

And, it is highly possible that while out and about, looking at small animals for sale, I might just have gotten a call from the Postal Dispatch Center in Eau Claire, letting me know that my chicks arrived.  If that happened, then Saturday will suddenly become very very busy.  In a good way, of course.

But just because I was going to be off on an adventure early in the morning, I didn't want you to feel neglected.  In the spirit of Saturday morning cartoons (and who didn't love those, plonked on the floor with a giant bowl of Lucky Charms in footie pajamas), here's a little ditty about the loveliness of Spring:

Happy Saturday!

Friday, April 12, 2013

House by IKEA?

Okay, I don't think this is actually carried by IKEA, but I bet it would fit into the warehouse there easily in, maybe, six boxes?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Oh, Yes Please!

Spied this on Craigslist the other night:

8 year old Norwegian Fjord (Knapp)

8 year old gelding Norwegian Fjord. Broke to drive by an amish. would need some work. Hasn't driven for a couple years now. 715-***-**** I sat on him when we first got him but haven't since. just no time. 1,000.00 OBO. 
 There's also an ad for a donkey, lots of goats and "springing heifers".  Oh, and show pigs.

Craigslist is a very dangerous place to hang out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Starting Over

Sometimes, my brilliant plans don't quite work out.

I know, shocking, isn't it?  You'd think from the things I write about and all the successes I have, its just one long cake walk here.  Unfortunately, my latest project was an epic fail.  I had a great idea to make a chick brooder fortress out of an old crib (scored for $15 at the Barn thrift store), some hardware cloth, and ridiculously yellow paint.  Man, it was going to be awesome

Unfortunately, I did not take into consideration the teeny weeny itsy bitsy proportions of my cottage.  Once assembled, the crib was far too large to fit anywhere in my house.  No amount of shoving at it, cramming it around corners, or mild bashing would make it work.  It certainly would not fit inside the bathroom*, which is where my chicks are going to need to live for a little while until it decides to act like spring and I can put them out in the brooder in the car hut.  (I don't usually keep poultry in my bathroom.  It is the only room in the house with an actual door on it, necessary to keep the dogs and cats from having chicklet snacks while I am out at work.)

* Actually, it would fit in the bathroom.  It's just that nothing else, including me, would fit in the bathroom with it.  As I like to pee and take a shower periodically, obviously it wouldn't work to have the room filled with an egg yolk yellow baby crib-cum-chick brooder.

Who knew cribs were so gigantic?  Who knew my house was so small?  Apparently, should I ever have a child, they will not be sleeping in a crib.  A shoe box, now that would work.  (My hypothetical child will be very small and not grow quickly, nor would she need any of the usual "stuff" kids require.)
What to do, what to do.  Apparently, it's going to be a giant tub of some sort.  Not nearly as attractive as my revamped crib, but it will fit, be cleanable, and house them for a little while until the weather cooperates.

Dang functionality winning out over cuteness.

Ah well.  Now I get to go buy a giant tub, large enough to house 100 chicks.  Wheee!

In the spirit of starting over, here's a turn up of events:  I've been unable to reach the winner of the Incredible Egg Scale, and I haven't heard from her (him?) in response to the blog announcing the drawing.  Sooo.....let's pick another name, shall we?

And the winner is  Karen N. Congratulations!  I'll send you an email and work out the details of getting your prize to you.  (Sorry to the earlier winner, but this scale isn't teeny and frankly, I need the space. I also want it to live and be useful out in the Great Big World!)

Stay tuned for more project failures to come.  I'm sure they'll be even more exciting!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A Little Interlude

I'm working away on a project that is taking a tad longer than expected (darn damp weather, making my paint not dry!)  So, as I don't have anything too exciting to report, here's a fun little video for your viewing pleasure.

Spring is finally here!

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Really Good Book

I just finished The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food, and I am overwhelmed. 

Not by the enormity of the challenge that faces farmers and gardeners in the battle to save genetic diversity, not by the incredible, horrible things that have occurred due to corporate greed and consumers turning a blind eye to the high costs of convenient, cheap food.

No, I'm overwhelmed by the powerful theme of hope throughout this book.  It's more than yet another book about the evils of chemical farming and the merits of preserving our cultural heritage.  It's a story of acceptance, of listening to the stories behind what we choose to grow in our gardens and harvest to feed our families, friends, and communities.  It's a call for action, in whatever ways you choose to take that action to face the challenges of making food a long-term option in our world today, but in a positive, non-dictatorial way.  Instead of feeling nauseated or frightened or powerless, I feel like I've had the best kind of visit with a good friend.  You know, the kind of visit where you talk about anything and everything, where your life is laid out on the table between slices of pie and good tea, and stitched back together smoothly and seamlessly like the scarf that miraculously grows between your needles as you knit and talk, knit and talk. 

Too many times, I watch a documentary or read a book about the perils of continuing down the chemical path of Big Ag, and end up feeling angry.  Like I want to break windows or throw fire or just stomp around like a deranged Yeti.  I can't tell you how refreshing it is to finish a book like this, and feel free and inspired.  I want to go and sort all my hoarded seeds, and plan and plot to gather new ones to plant in warm soil, watch them grow to harvest and share with others.  The farmer in me is cheering, her fist pumped to the sky and the sun falling warm on her smiling, upturned face.

"I say, Rev up your awesome.  Look around, so many people have their shoulders into the load.  You.  Pick a place to push.  Pick up a tool--a hoe or a shovel.  Start turning the compost bin, to make the soil in which the seed will grow.  You will begin at the center, the center of many concentric circles that expand further and further out from you.  You will become a local hero and a local rock star, and from there your influence will wash outward, even across the glob, where so many people are rising up like germinating embryos to claim food sovereignty, to rescue local seeds, and to guard human civilization's cornucopia.  Come home.  Have the courage to live the life you dream: There is nothing greater than this.
Begin now.
Are you going to farmer up or just lie there and bleed?" -- Janisse Ray, The Seed Underground

Sunday, April 7, 2013

He's Back!

My friendly robin is back in town!  He seems a little confused by the snow that is hanging about, but he is back to sitting (and pooping) on my pink mailbox, singing his little heart out.

I haven't seen Mrs. Robin yet, but I know she's around somewhere, likely scoping out which nesting site she prefers this year.

Either that or she's still in Boca Raton, waiting until the weather here in the north warms up a bit more. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Happenings

A little reminder of last year in the garden...ahh.

It is Saturday!  I know it was only a four-day work week, but sometimes, those short weeks get packed extra full and it is so nice to greet the weekend again.  It doesn't sound promising in weather terms (damp, rain, possibly snow--I refuse to acknowledge that possibility on principle), but that's okay.  My spirits will remain undaunted.  A trip to the Barn in New Richmond is in the plans, and a stop at Farm & Home for some more seed starting odds and ends.  Then it is into the car hut for purging and rearranging and some light brooder building.  I am really hoping that the ice floe across the floor has melted enough that I can shift some things around.  If not, that project is going to get a bit more complicated.

I also hope to bake some bread.

That means I also need to clean the kitchen.

Where's the housekeeper when I need one?  Ha ha.

Before I head off to tackle that repetoire of chores and projects and gadding about town with friends, it's time to announce the winner of the Incredible Egg Scale give away!  (Drum roll, please...)

And the winner is....suraineko  Congratulations!  Stay tuned for an email from me with details of the good news.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Weekend Movie

In addition to building the brooder (and also clearing out the horrible mess that has become the car hut), I plan on kicking back and watching this gem, Natural World: Farm for the Future.

It's available in segments on YouTube, or you can click the above link and watch the whole 49 minute show.

Popcorn, anyone?

P.S.  Today is the final day to enter to win the Incredible Egg Scale Give-Away!  If you haven't posted your comment, be sure to do so before 6 P.M. Central time.  You never know, you could win!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Morning Music

I can't wait until my morning chores have this sound track playing again.  Spring, I am so happy to greet you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Here's What's Growing

It is officially April, and while it still looks and feels a bit November-ish outside, indoors it feels like Spring.

The seed starting station is lit and full of started plants.  I am excited about many of them, particularly my storage onions.  They are off to a very sturdy and healthy start--I took advice from one gardening friend to start them in little peat pellets, and advice from a local CSA farmer to give them repeated haircuts to strengthen them and keep them from flopping and molding.  So far, it is all working!  If they make it until I can plant them, this would be the first year I will have successfully done onions from seed.  It's only taken me five years of trying...
Anyway, the variety I chose is called Copra:

They are a standard yellow storage onion, and the ones I got to grow last year held well into February (which was when I ran out of my onions for the season).

I also have some different tomatoes growing, including this fun one:
It's called "Hilly Billy Potato Leaf".  Yeehaw.  I do love bicolored tomatoes, and I've never tried this one.  I'm also hoping for luck with Silvery Fern Leaf and Orange Jubillee tomatoes, as well as Hinklehatz peppers.  I just love that name.  Apparently, it means "chicken hearts" in Pennsylvania Dutch.  From the picture on the seed packet, they do look a little like chicken hearts.  Hopefully, they will taste like peppers.

I'm planning on starting some kale soon, and likely some Asian cabbages.  Don't worry, flower fans, I haven't forgotten about the eye candy.  I have a whole little flat of Seashell Cosmos started, and soon will be starting a couple varieties of morning glories to grow over the mailbox.  And with any luck, the snow will continue to melt and the seed potatoes will arrive, and springtime will go on in its' glorious way.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday means...

Another Give-Away!


My friends at Murray McMurray Hatchery have generously donated an Incredible Egg Scale to give away to one of my happy readers.  With an egg scale, you can sort your eggs by size which, while making for interesting conversation, can be helpful if you are thinking about selling you eggs to friends and neighbors.  Does your hen lay a large egg?  Or could it be (gasp!) Extra Large?  Ooh, the possibilities!

I have one of these beauties in my kitchen (it's a nifty vintagesque one I found in a junk shop), but I am tempted to buy one of these new ones for myself.  I mean, it's shaped like a chicken!  How fun is that??

To win, simply enter a comment below and let me know how much you'd like to win this cute (and useful) scale for yourself.  All comments need to be posted by 6 P.M. Central time on Friday, April 5th.  For a second chance, Like my page on Facebook and leave me a message saying "Egg Scale give-away!"

One lucky winner will be drawn on Saturday, April 6, 2013.  If I were you, I'd get my entry in today!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Kitchen Culture

In my endless quest to be more self-sufficient, I've decided to expand my repertoire into the home dairy business.

Well, not exactly a business--chickens don't make milk, and while the rabbits do, I don't even want to contemplate how arduous it would be to actually milk them daily.  (Shudder, shudder.)

Luckily, there are organic farmers who have happy cows that actually like to be milked, and who sell their product in the store so I can buy it.  My first foray into home dairying was to make yogurt.  Now, I am not a yogurt fan.  I find it eerily textured like snot, and the commercially made & horribly flavored stuff makes me want to go upchuck in a convenient corner.

I have started liking Greek Gods brand greek-style yogurt (although not all the flavors--plain is my current acceptable option), but it is kind of expensive.  So when I read in Home Dairy with Ashley English that I could use GG as a starter for my own homemade yogurt, I was game to give it a try.

It starts as simple as measuring out four cups of cold milk.  I had whole milk in the fridge, and because I like my yogurt stand-your-spoon-upright-in-it thick, I whisked in two packets of dry gelatin powder.  No mucous texture for me, thank you!

After heating it to just under boiling, you simply remove the pot from the heat and whisk in three heaping tablespoons of the plain yogurt of your choice. 
Then, it's ladling, capping, and popping into a preheated  crockpot. 

 My crockpot has a "warm" setting, so I just keep it on that overnight.  I also added about an inch of warm water into the bottom of the pot, simply because I was worried about the ceramic overheating and possibly cracking.

 After an overnight gentle warming encourages the active yogurt cultures to grow, it made the heated milk all nice and thick and delicious.  Perfect for a simple breakfast such as this:
Gooseberry jam and a touch of honey...mmm!
I'm still not a huge yogurt fan, but its growing on me. And, for just a couple dollars worth of ingredients, I have three pints of the stuff that will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Not too shabby, all things considered.

Next step: simple cheese making!