Monday, October 11, 2010

Finally done

It is finally done! Well, the structure is anyway - I still need to get some more flagstone for in front of the coop - but the structure is done and the roof is on! I haven't painted the nest box yet so it is still in the garage, but the roost is in the house and the little girls are all moved in.
I think it will take them a little while to figure out the ladder to the hen house though. I put them into the house this afternoon before we left for some errands and when we came back they were down in the lower part, so at least they figured out the coming down the ladder part. Usually going up the ladder takes them a little longer to figure out. :)
Now that the new coop is done I need to get going on my fall garden. The broccoli, Brussel sprouts and Bok Choy in my living room really need to go outside. I really hope I can get the garden ready to go by the end of this week and get them in the ground. Then maybe I can just relax for a few weeks.... well, as much as I know how to relax anyway ;)
I guess I shouldn't plan to much rest anyway - the leaves are starting to fall here so that means soon my yard will be a pile of leaves and pecans. This year I need to try to actually pick up some of the pecans and do something with them. Perhaps it is because I am mildly allergic to them that I am never that inspired to cook much with them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting closer

I am getting closer but still not done. The hen house structure is done - it just needs a nest box and a roost and then its ready.

Once everything is in - the wire goes on the top and then the roof and a little wire on the the bottom of the front and it is DONE! I can't finish it this week but I am shooting for Sunday to be done.

I also got a little break to get into the garden and as forlorn as it looks right now there were still a few goodies to be found - a few eggplants, some yellow tomatoes and a handful of green beans - added to two lovely green eggs from Saturday and it made a lovely combination of colors in my kitchen :)

I also managed to cook up a few more Asian pork buns this weekend with the left over smoked pork shoulder that I froze a few weeks ago. They are just as yummy this time as last - I can't wait to try a Southwest version with some of the roasted Hatch chilies I froze.

Lately I have had too much work and not enough time in my yard and kitchen! I have so many things I want to do and not enough time to get it all done. I have broccoli, Brussel sprouts and Bok Choy growing in the corner of my living room and I need to get them outside but I need the coop done first. Goal for this weekend - coop done, veggies in the ground where they belong for the fall! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mini coop progress

Well, I was hoping to be done by now but you know what they say about the best laid plans.... Well, ok - in my case I didn't have a well defined plan so I have had some rework this time that has slowed me down. I had planned to arrange the sides and ends the opposite of how they are set up now, but did not account for the door opening into the coop when I thought out that plan (and no I didn't draw it - lesson learned), so I had to rearrange the sides.
Unfortunately for my plans, that made the whole coop 8 inches wider and now all of the purlins (roofing supports) are about 8 inches too short! So back to home depot to buy some more 2x2x8s, a few T brackets I forgot on the last trip, some gravel and sand for the floor and then I THINK I should be about there in terms of having everything I need to finish it off. Of course there is still more to stain and I need to paint the inside and build a nest box and cut the egg door into place and build a floor and put the roof wire and actual roof on and ..... well, you get the idea. So with all that to do, I don't think I will be done before the weekend. I hope I can finish it up by Sunday so the little girls can move into the new house. I think Athena (the Barred Plymouth Rock) may be getting close to egg laying age so I need a coop with a nest box for them soon!

Sandpaper Eggs

Sorry for the lack of posts - I have been swamped with work and my latest project. I finally decided to bite the bullet and build a permanent coop extension for the little girls to keep them safe from floods and from the big girls. I should have new pictures to post later this week to show the finished product - at least I hope I will!

In the meantime it seems the hammering and sawing etc. have stressed out Cadbury a little - her egg production this week and past weekend has been only two eggs in four days - normally she lays 6 or 7 days a week rarely skipping a day. She also laid what is called a "sandpaper" egg today. I had never heard of it or seen one so I checked on the backyard chicken forum (one of my favorite sources for chicken info of all kinds) and one of the users sent me a link (added to my list of favorites below) that talks about different kinds of eggs and what can cause it. It is a good source for me since is this my first adventure with chickens and sometimes changes in egg production can be a sign of illness. Luckily this one doesn't seem to be - it can be based on the info on the egg site - but in this case since Cadbury does not seem to have any other symptoms, I am guessing it is just the commotion in the yard. The picture above shows Cadbury's normal egg on the left and the sandpaper egg on the right. The sandpaper egg is much much lighter and the dark spot on the end is raised and very rough. The whole eggs feels a little rough - not smooth and glossy like her normal eggs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smoking time

Smoking time in the new smoker! I got an inexpensive charcoal/wood smoker at Home Depot over the weekend and smoked a shoulder from the pasture raised pig I bought about a month ago. It was my first attempt to smoke something instead of grill it and I think it turned out pretty well. The smoke ring was about 1/2 inch into the pork and it tasted amazing. I meant to take a picture of it but didn't remember that plan once that shoulder finally came out of the smoker and it was time to eat!

Tonight - using the left overs I made some Asian Pork Buns. They turned out really well. I chopped up some of the left over shoulder, cooked down the pan drippings from the smoking process, added a little soy sauce and used that for the filling. I thought about using regular barbecue sauce and making them like pulled pork inside - but the smoke flavor was so good I hated to cover it up with barbecue sauce. The dough is a fairly simple to make -

  • 10 Tbsp milk
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large egg beaten (for dough)
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 egg beaten (for egg wash)

Warm milk and butter together in a microwave safe bowl just until butter melts. In a medium sized bowl, put the 2 Tbsp water and the yeast and allow the yeast to soften. Whisk the egg in a bowl and add the warm milk and butter to the egg. Add the mixture to the yeast. In a sifter combine flour, sugar and salt and sift into the liquid mixture.

Stir until the dough comes together, then turn out on a lightly floured board and knead. You may need to sprinkle with a light dusting of flour to keep it from sticking - but use as little flour as possible. knead about 5 minutes and then put dough in a oiled bowl (turn to coat the dough lightly with oil), cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour in a warm place.

When the dough has risen and the filling is ready punch it down and divide it in half. Roll each half into a 12 inch log and cut each into 4-6 even pieces. roll the pieces into balls and press them flat and spread them out to about 4 inches across. The dough should be thicker in the middle than around the edges. Place 2-3 Tbsp of the filling in the center and pull the edges up together over the dough into a purse shape and pinch all of the seams together. Put filled bun seam side down on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Continue until all the buns are done. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of rising preheat the oven to 350. Before putting the buns in the oven - brush the tops with egg wash. Baking time depends a little on the size of the buns you make - generally 15-20 minutes is all it takes for the buns to become deep golden brown on top and sound slightly hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before serving.

I have had similar buns with a sweet red bean filling - I am hoping to find a good recipe for those and try them next. The great thing about the little buns is that you can freeze them for up to a month or refrigerate them for a week - simply rewarm in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes and they are ready to pop in a lunch box - no mess and nothing can fall out of the nice neat little package. I am going to experiment with some other fillings too - maybe Teriyaki chicken or ground pork with cabbage and ginger (like pot sticker filling) - I think you could even make lovely ones with grilled veggies inside.

Floods, spiders and frog cakes - oh my

It has been a crazy few weeks - travel for work, flooding rains, "high water" chickens rescues, my daughter's birthday party, a new smoker and some new recipes!

First - the floods. When hurricane Hermine hit the gulf coast, she kept coming inland as a tropical storm and hit San Antonio and Boerne dead on. We had two days of pouring rain and strong winds. For the most part my yard stays fairly dry, but the run off runs down the fence behind the chicken coops. The big girls were fine in their coop - most of the run stayed dry and when the wind started they could go up into the hen house and stay nice and dry. The little girls didn't do as well in their mini-coop. The water pooled up around it and the wind was blowing rain into the opening if the little house - so they were not staying dry. In the picture that is water from the fence to the edge of the driveway - a muddy little mini lake. When I realized the water was getting too deep, I tried dragging the coop forward to higher ground and turning it to avoid the wind - but it wasn't going to work, so I brought the little girls into the garage and put them in their original small dog kennel for a few days. They were crowded but at least they were dry. I was soaked but they were nice and dry :)

The yard clean up was a bit of a chore but once everything dried out I was able to get everything put back in order. In the process of pruning one of the Butterfly bushes in my front yard I ran across this lovely garden spider and I had to take her picture and bring the kids out to see her.

We also had a birthday party for my daughter over the weekend. She asked for a pond theme cake with a frog and lilly pads. I struggled a bit with the frog, but in the end I think it turned out pretty well and my daughter and her friends loved it! A few of the mom's suggested I go into the cake business - but I honestly have no idea how to charge for a cake and I'm not sure my figures are good enough, but it is something I am going to think about. Maybe I can do a few more and then hang up my shingle - kids theme cakes - get 'em here!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

We found her and she's ok!!

Lilly is ok! She wasn't grabbed by a predator after all!

She was wedged into one of the concrete blocks that is the foundation of the coop! I don't know how she got in there but this morning I heard a kind of muffled peep sound coming from the ground under the edge of the coop and when I went into the coop I saw a tiny fluff of white feathers sticking out of the block. I managed to get her out and she seems ok - just hungry and thirsty! I am soooo relieved!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rest in Peace Lilly

Very sad news today. The girls were free ranging in the back yard - like they always do when I am home and I was in the house working as usual. When I went out in the afternoon to check them and go pick up the kids from school, Lilly - the sweet little Silkie - was gone. There were no signs of a struggle, there were a few feathers but really not many more than usual, and it was broad daylight - so all I can think is that because she was so small, maybe a cat jumped the fence and grabbed her - or maybe a hawk. We are all heartbroken and feel terrible that she was taken by a predator. All I can say is that I learned a lesson. If we ever have one again I will never let Silkies free range - they can't run quickly or fly or see well - so I should have realized she was an easy target if a predator ever spotted her. I thought being inside of a solid 6 foot wooden fence with lots of places for cover and to hide and where I can hear any commotion was safe for her during the day. Rest in peace Lilly - you were so funny and adorable and you didn't deserve a violent end. I'm so sorry we weren't able to keep you safe.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fun bento lunch

The kids started school this week and my daughter likes to take her lunch. My sister gave us bento boxes last year and we have been playing with different accessories to make cute lunches.
With the little eggs the girls are laying we have the perfect sized eggs to put in the little rice molds so we got cute shaped eggs - the white bear face in the bottom left box is a hard boiled egg that we put in a rice mold and then colored with food coloring pens :) The little monkey next to the bear is a shaker bottle with garlic salt inside. The creature on the top right is piece of smoked sausage cut to have eight legs so it looks like an octopus - he is in a bed of celery "sea weed." It was fun to work on it with my daughter - she came up with the idea to shave the celery with a veggie peeler to make strands to look like sea weed. Its fun when she brings home the report of what her friends say about her lunches!

I'm also glad she is taking hard boiled eggs for lunches so that we can work through the volume of eggs we are getting :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hatch green chilies

It is Hatch green chili time! So today when the kids and I went to the store and smelled the roaster going outside I knew one of my favorite times of year was here!

I bought a bag of the roasted mild chilies and haven't figured out what to do with all of it, but tonight with dinner I decided we should have some fresh homemade Hatch chili cheese bread.

It turned out to be a little too spicy for the kids - even with the mild chilies - but I loved it :) My daughter liked the flavor but the heat was a little much for her - so I am sure when she gets a little bigger she will be a Hatch chili girl like her mom :)

I haven't decided what to do with the rest of the chilies - so I need to come up with some ideas. If I can't think of anything else then I will probably make a few more loaves of the bread - or maybe make it into rolls - and freeze it for later this fall to have with chili. Of course I guess I could always use the rest to make chili - maybe with white beans and some ground pork from my freezer..... hmmmm - I may have to work on that idea a little more. Thinking about it is making me hungry even though I just ate dinner!

Here is the recipe for the Hatch Chili Cheese Bread

  • Roughly 1 c. of roasted, peeled, seeded Hatch green chilies - chopped
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1/4 c. warm water
  • 1/2 c. milk (I used skim)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 1/2 - 4 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg yolk combined with 1 Tbsp water

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water and let stand about 5 minutes until yeast has softened. Warm milk and butter in the microwave or in a small sauce pan to about 110 degrees - so the butter melts but not too hot or the heat will kill the yeast. Add the milk and butter mixture to the yeast. Next stir in the chilies, salt, sugar, cheese and about 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Stir until combined and sticky (a dough hook on a mixer works well for this but I usually just do it by hand). Once the dough is combined - turn it out on a floured board and knead in the remaining flour. The total amount varies - it depends on the humidity and other things - but basically I knead in flour until it is no longer sticky and it becomes smooth and elastic. Once it reaches that stage - about 8 or 9 minutes of kneading, form it into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl and toss it around so that it is lightly oiled on all sides. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled - about an hour.

Punch down the dough, turn it out and knead it just enough to release the air from the dough - 2 or 3 minutes. Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise again for about 45 minutes. When the dough is nearly done rising - preheat the oven to 375.

Brush the loaf with the egg wash and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on top. Remove from the oven, turn out of the pan and let cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eggs and a raccoon!

When I go out of town I have a wonderful lady who comes to take care of my pets and look after my house. I was out of town this week for work, and she came as usual to take care of things. She collected the eggs for me and even after taking a half a dozen for herself (I asked her to take as many as she could use) I got home to a bowl piled high with eggs! I am definitely going to be gifting some friends and family with eggs this weekend and coming week because in addition to this bowl I already had almost two dozen in my refrigerator from the week and a half before I left. When the two bantams start laying I am REALLY going to be in egg overload - but I am sure my parents and friends will help me work through them :)
So as exciting as the eggs were to find - we had a little more excitement in store for us. When the kids and I got home this evening it was just before dusk and I thought after being cooped up (literally) for the last week that the girls might like a little yard time so I let them out. I got dinner for the kids and then noticed it had gotten dark so the kids and I went out to close the girls back into the coop for the night. They were all up in the house on their roost but a raccoon was also in the coop and headed into the hen house! The kids screamed and ran into the garage and I ran in grabbed a rake and went out and chased the raccoon out of the coop and out of the yard. Luckily all the girls seemed to be unharmed - I don't think the raccoon had been in the coop long so we got there just in time. I am going to buy a live trap just in case it comes back. If we can catch it I will have animal control take it away. I am sure there are more because I live close to where a creek runs through town, but that is the first time I have seen one in the yard since I got the gate and the coop. I hope I scared it enough not to come back - but I have heard once they start sniffing around a coop they keep coming back. I really don't want them in the garden and I don't want them trying to get the girls - so I will see if I can relocate this one and hopefully not have another for awhile.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Double yolk

With the heat the girls haven't all been laying every day and Amelia has skipped a few days here and there- but yesterday she laid a HUGE egg and it turned out it was a "double yolker." I have heard that sometimes this happens with pullets (hens under a year old), but it was kind of fun to get one! It looks big in the picture, but really it was about the size of a normal "large" egg from the store. :) My daughter loves fried eggs so she asked to have it fried for breakfast (unfortunately I broke one yolk when I cracked it)!

You can see a little in the picture how tight the white is around the yolk - that's the sign of a really fresh egg. I had never seen one like that from the store before so I am always amazed when I crack them how high the yolks stand up and how little the white spread out. The yolks are also darker yellow than the store bought eggs - even the cage free Omega 3 eggs. In the picture below the egg on the left is from the store and the egg on the right is from my girls. I have seen even darker yellow yolks from chickens that always get to free range, but mine aren't quite as orange looking.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

And then there were four

This weekend Milkshake started laying! So now all four of the original girls are laying. The eggs in the picture from left to right are from Cadbury, Milkshake, Amelia and Pouf. Amelia's are the most sage green of the eggs and Pouf's are bluest. The colors look a little washed out in this picture - the eggs look almost white, but they are on a white towel to help show the color.

I also finished converting the dog kennel into coop number 2 for the little girls. I am not sure what to do when they start laying - but hopefully they will lay in the "house" part of their coop - but I am betting I will need to modify the interior to have a nest box in half and a roost in half. I took some new pictures of them (at the end of this post) - they are 12 weeks old this week, so I have a few more weeks - probably about 8 befor they start laying, so maybe by then the big girls won't pick on them too much if they are all together. I keep hoping I can get them incorporated into the big coop - but for now this works and it will work in the future when we have new chicks to integrate. Hopefully that won't be for awhile, but I guess we are ready when the time comes.

The inside seedlings are progressing - nearly all of them have sprouted at this point so now they just need to grow for a few weeks inside while the worst of the summer heat passes outside. My plan right now is to move them outside the first or second week in September - hopefully by then the temps will be back down into the 80s.

Not much of a post today - I need to get out and get the yard mowed and the grass trimmed - its a disaster from two weekends in a row with busy mornings and afternoons that are too hot to be outside!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Welcome home

We went out of town for the end of the week to take my son to the coast to celebrate his birthday and when we got home we had a full six pack of eggs waiting for us! I have a pet sitter who comes each day so she puts the eggs in the refrigerator for me so they didn't sit out in the 101 degree heat!

The trip was so awesome that even though it has nothing to do with my backyard gardens or chicks or anything I thought I would post a few pictures. We drove down to the Texas Coast for the weekend and went to the Padre Island National Seashore to watch them release baby sea turtles. The Kemps Ridley sea turtle is one of the most endangered of all sea turtles and one of its only nesting areas is along the Texas gulf coast. There are patrols that watch for nesting turtles and then the eggs are collected and taken to a hatchery where they are monitored and kept at a temperature that will result in a 60% female hatch rate (so cool the temperature determines the sex of the hatchlings). Once the babies hatch - they take them to the beach very early in the morning and release them under the protection of nets and volunteers to make sure the babies all safely make it to the water. Of course once in the water there is no way to protect them, but ensuring the full hatch makes it to the water increases the number who have a chance to grow to maturity over the odds they would have if they hatched on their own with no help. It was really amazing to see and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits the Corpus Christi/Port Aransas area in the summer. The information on it can all be found on the web site for the Padre Island National Seashore -

Monday, August 9, 2010

Busy day and lots of food

When I was up in Portland, Oregon about a month ago, I got the most amazing picked garlic I have ever had. It was smokey and delicious. I don't always like pickled garlic because it can be very hot, but the kind I had in Portland was unbelievably good. Since even a small 1/2 pint jar was about $8, I decided to try to make it myself. So tonight I made my first attempt at it. I'm not sure I got it quite right - but I am going to let it age for about a month and then give it a try. If it is good I know what I'm giving this year in my usual batch of Christmas goodies. Paired with some blue cheese on crostini and you have an amazing and easy appetizer.

I also had to run pick up 154 pounds of pork around lunch time from a whole pasture raised pig I bought a few weeks ago. With just the kids and I in the house, there is no way we could eat all that, so I split the pig 4 ways with some friends and my parents. I ended up with 47 pounds for myself - two shoulders, quite a few packages of soup bones, lots of country style ribs, 2 racks of baby backs, about 8 chops - some bone in some loin chops, and about 10 packages of ground pork. So I expect that I will be posting quite a few recipes during my upcoming adventures in pork! Char Sui Bao - Asian pork filled buns are on my list - I think they will make great lunch box meals for the kids. I am may make some "Texas" style and use smoked pulled pork inside - but will probably make some traditional Asian style ones as well once I get going with it - time will tell. I'm pretty sure I'm going to need to borrow my dad's smoker or get one before this adventure is over! :)

We also got enough green beans from the garden to combine with some asparagus I had left to make a side dish to go with dinner and we had about 1 1/2 cups of black eyed peas, so I boiled those up with some onion and some ham stock I had in the fridge and have enough to be a lunch for someone.
Lastly of course we have our daily kaleidoscope of eggs. We got eggs from all three of the laying girls today and more signs that Milkshake is getting ready to lay - but no eggs from her quite yet. I can't wait to see what the next color will be!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Easter Eggs

YAY!!! I guess Pouf laid her first egg today because when I went out to check this morning there was a pretty blue egg in the nest! I haven't gotten a second green egg yet but I'm wondering if I might get a second one today. It has been pretty hot here which slows down laying so I'm not sure when Amelia will lay again but I would guess today or tomorrow.
Its fun to look at the carton and see all the pretty colors! Can't wait to see what color Milkshake will lay - if she lays pink (very unlikely) that would be a perfect easter basket!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Green eggs and ham!

Amelia finally came through and laid her first egg this afternoon! The kids were checking pretty much every hour and came running in the house yelling "Amelia laid a green egg! Amelia laid a green egg!" It is very exciting. So since I just bought a freezer full of pasture raised pork - now I can really have green eggs (or egg) and ham. ;) Now we have two more Easter Eggers to start laying and we could get more fun colors from them. Green or light brown are most likely - but I am still hoping for a blue or maybe pinkish egg. If everyone lays a different color egg then I can tell who has laid and who hasn't each day. I think Pouf (picture below)will be next - she started the egg squat today and has been checking out the nest boxes, so I hope in the next week she will start. I think Milkshake is still a few weeks behind the others, but we will see.
In gardening news I have seeds sprouting in my living room - the bok choy, broccoli and Brussel sprouts are all starting to come up so in a few weeks (hopefully the first week of September) I will have seedlings to transplant into the garden. I am hoping to also start some mache and lettuce soon. I'm wondering if maybe I can just grown those under the light year round - so when it is hot in the summer I can still have freshly grown lettuces. I have to decide if I want to give up that part of my living room permanently I guess :)
So with luck by this time next week I will be getting three eggs a day on average! The waiting is the hardest part!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Still waiting

Amelia has been singing the "egg song" and doing the "egg squat" for over a week now and still no eggs! Every morning we go check hoping for two eggs but so far there is only one egg each day from Cadbury. With luck we will get a blue or green egg soon!

The good news is that the girls were all able to free range today so the little girls were able to come out of their kennel. They still are too nervous to venture far out of the coop and mostly stay inside, but at least everyone can peacefully co-exist (for the most part) when the big girls can get out into the yard. So - at least on weekends everyone is "integrated" - although I admit it is certainly tenuous at times. I am hoping that with a few more days of everyone being in and out of the coop that they will all start to be more used to each other and not fight on the days they have to share the coop.

Other than some yard work to clean some worn out dill and tomatillos out of the garden today I decided that I should probably start a few veggies inside to move out to the garden in a month when it starts to cool off. So today I set the grow lights up and started seeds for broccoli, brussel sprouts and some baby bok choy. I have seeds for cauliflower too - so hopefully I can start some of that when these get going. If not I will just buy transplants for those this year. I also need to get some cabbage, onions, garlic and hopefully shallots. I tried some shallots this spring but I guess it was too late in the spring and they didn't produce anything, so hopefully fall planted shallots will do better. It seems strange to talk about "fall planting" when it is nearly 100 degrees here and the coming week is probably going to be our hottest of the year so far. But I guess starting a few things inside - with a transplant date in September seems reasonable.

One other accomplishment of the day - but it seems a little silly to even mention it - I canned one pint of spicy dilly green beans. Yes - that's right - only 1 pint. My beans are producing but not very well (my mom thinks its too much nitrogen in the soil) - lots of green leaves but very few beans. So since there were not enough to actually make a side dish for dinner, I stuffed 'em in a jar and pickled them. I have not made pickled beans before, but I had amazing ones at Jazz Fest in New Orleans a few years ago so I wanted to try to make some myself. Ok - I grant you that they were in a Bloody Mary and it was at the end of the day - but honestly - they were really, really good. I can only hope mine will be as good!
So another weekend is over - and I head back to work tomorrow. I wish I could just garden, can and bake every day - but considering my garden has not produced much this year I guess I'm going to need to keep the day job a little (ok - a lot) longer! :)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Birthday time

For my son's birthday we are going to head down to the coast to hopefully catch a sea turtle hatchling release at Padre Island National Seashore - so today he had some friends over to go roller skating and then come back to play for the afternoon. So this morning I had to rush to get a cake made for the party. I baked the cake last night and froze it (makes it less crumbly to frost) and this morning there was a flurry of activity to make the Swiss meringue buttercream frosting and my daughter helped me make a sea turtle and eggs out of rolled fondant. The kids like helping with fondant decorations because it is like ply-dough except you can eat it. We don't really like the taste of it though - so we just use it for decorations.

I have lots of yard work I need to do tonight and I need to figure out how to build a separate area for the bantams - but it will have to wait until tomorrow or later tonight, but I wanted to post the picture of the cake since I think it turned out pretty well.

We are still getting eggs from Cadbury - I was out of town last week for work so they couldn't be out in the yard at all, so she only laid 3 eggs the 4 days I was gone. I think she is happier when she can get out in the yard during the day so we got more eggs the week before when she was able to free range each day. Being gone has one advantage though - I came home to a carton with enough eggs to make up a meal :) Now if I can just get the Easter Eggers to start laying eggs I might actually be able to fill up a whole egg carton!

Monday, July 26, 2010

So much for the truce

Well things were fine and peaceful all day when the big girls could be in and out of the coop and the yard. But this afternoon there was a rainstorm and we put everyone back inside and the big girls managed to get between the mesh and the run wall and totally attacked the little girls. My son ran in and rescued the little girls and we got everyone separated again. I took the kids to a friends for the night and when I got back they were all in the little girls section again and were chasing them around like crazy. So I guess its back to the kennel for the little girls for a little while longer until they are a little bigger, or until I can build a full wall to keep them separate - which I guess will end up on my chore list for next weekend :(

At least I had good news in the nesting box and a surprise snack from the fig tree. Hopefully the commotion of catching everyone and rescuing the little girls from the attack won't throw off Cadbury's laying - she is the only one who hasn't attacked the little girls and she is the only one laying - so right now she is my absolute favorite. In the last 7 days she has laid 6 eggs and they are delicious. I have to say the Easter Eggers all seem to have a mean streak - so if there aren't some blue and green eggs soon and they continue to be so aggressive to the little girls - they may be headed for new homes before too long.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New home for the little girls

The little girls now have their own little house and a divider to give them some run space without subjecting them to the pecking and attacks from the big chickens. I am hoping to get them all integrated by the end of August so the little girls can start free ranging too,but they need to be a little bigger first. Their house has a little perch for them - only about 4 inches off the floor so that it is "hopping" height since Silkies aren't fliers.

I continue to get an egg a day from Cadbury and I think Amelia isn't far behind her. She has started checking out the nest boxes and cackling more like Cadbury does - so I think the time is near. I can't wait to see if I get blue or green eggs - I hope so!!

Lilly - the Silkie - is so cute - she is a little fluff ball! The only problem is that yesterday - when working on the house and dividing wall I swear I heard her trying to crow! I really, really hope Lilly does not turn out to be a rooster because I don't want a rooster but I really wanted a Silkie. I am hoping that maybe it was just a unique call that was due to her being frightened by the sounds of the drill and tools, but I guess time will tell.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nesting box time

Another egg today! I put it next to one from the store for comparison. You can see how small my little eggs are - but I like how dark they are. I hope they will be very dark brown once she reaches her prime. I was able to confirm they are from Cadbury - she went into the hen house today as soon as I moved the little girls down into the run. She scratched around and was very talkative and went in and out several times. About an hour later I wen to check and there was the new little egg :)

I didn't get one yesterday but I think it may be because the little girls were in the hen house all day in their kennel. So I need a new plan. I think I am going to have to temporarily separate the section of the run that is under the house and give the little girls their own little house in there until they are big enough to all be together. I tried letting them together today, but Pouf and Amelia immediately went on the attack. Lilly (the silkie) actually got one good peck in right on Pouf's head, but Athena (the Barred Plymouth Rock) basically was getting beaten up so I separated them all again.

I did move the nesting box into the hen house - I am hoping that having it there doesn't disrupt Cadbury's laying and that she will like the coziness of the nest boxes. I guess I will find out soon enough :)

Just one more picture today - the sunflower below was in my garden but the rain bent it over so I cut it and brought it in to enjoy a little sun in my kitchen!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


WOW! I guess I must have counted months wrong because we just got our first eggs! I didn't see any when I put the girls away last night, but this evening when I went out there were TWO little brown eggs! I am thinking that maybe they are from Cadbury - our Silver Cuckoo Marans (in the picture below). Marans are supposed to lay dark chocolate brown eggs. These are not very dark, but I understand that Marans egg color darken as the hen matures. Eggs also typically get larger as the hens mature - so while these two eggs are pretty small we can expect larger ones as the months go on.

If they are both from Cadbury, she must have laid one last night when I put them into the coop for the night - and maybe the other one today sometime. I didn't see either egg when I let them out this morning, so maybe I have two girls who started at the same time? I honestly have no idea how to figure out who laid them! The Easter Eggers will hopefully lay blue or green eggs, but sometimes they also lay brown eggs so these could be from one of the "EE"s. Any chicken people out there who can guess at which breed these came from? One looks like it has a stripe around the middle and is darker on the ends than the center. You can see that in the picture above. I included the quarter so you can judge the size better.

Is it dorky to be SO excited over eggs? :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mmmmm Fredericksburg peaches

In addition to the chicks moving out, I got a few other things done over the last few days. I finally got the kids out to Fredericksburg to pick some peaches. Those of you who aren't from Texas who have never had a Fredericksburg peach may have had delicious peaches in your lives, but there is nothing like a peach from the Texas hill country! We picked close to 13 pounds of peaches in just under 2o minutes. It was a hot day so the fast results were fine with me! I am sorry to say I did not take a picture of the cobbler I made - I was so amazed with it that we dug right in and didn't think about pictures until after the fact. I will share the recipe with you though - it was so easy it is amazing.
  • 4 cups sliced fresh peaches
  • 2 cups sugar (divided)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a bowl. Stir in 1 cup of the sugar and set aside. In a medium sauce pan, combine the peaches, 1 cup of sugar and the water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. While the peaches are cooking put the stick of butter in an oven safe casserole (I used an 8x10 casserole dish) and put it in the oven. When peaches are cooked remove them from the heat. Stir the milk into the flour mixture and combine thoroughly. When the batter is combined, remove the hot casserole from the oven - being careful not to burn yourself. Pour the batter into the hot butter - DO NOT STIR. Spoon the peaches over the batter and drizzle on about a cup of the cooking liquid - DO NOT STIR. Put the whole thing back in the oven and cook for 35-45 minutes or until the batter has puffed up around the peaches and has turned a golden brown. Remove the cobbler from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

I have seen this recipe called "floating peach cake" and "canned peach cake." It was so good that I really want to make it again but knowing the peaches won't be available for long I decided to can my own in cobbler recipe portions :) So the three jars in the picture at the top will be used to make cobbler in a month or two when there are no more fresh peaches available. Somehow I think that when my birthday rolls around in November I will make myself a cobbler for my cake :)

I also made the nesting box for the chickens over the weekend. It is in the garage for now - until the new chicks are out of the kennel and then I will move it into the hen house. There are two nest boxes - chickens share so two should be enough for 6 chickens. I also had enough black eyed peas to make some ham hock and black eyed pea soup and I got a nice squash from my only remaining summer squash, a cucumber and a few small cloves of garlic. I may plant a few more squash but it is pretty hot here now so I may need to wait until late August or early September to get the second harvest planting started. I may try starting some in my living room in a few weeks and try moving them outdoors when they are a little bigger.