Sunday, March 28, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
The chicks are still growing and eating like mad and I think I have basically two more weeks max before they outgrow their new larger brooder, so I need to pick up the pace a little on the coop. The picture on the right is Pouf - I think she (he?) is funny with her (for now I will go with her being a hen) big cheek tufts and the little light colored feather "spikes" on the top of her head - almost like little horns!
The spring flowers are starting in the yard which is a nice touch of spring too - the first rose bud is on my roses, the irises are blooming, the salvia (center picture) is blooming (which will hopefully mean hummingbirds soon) and the mountain laurel with its grape candy scented blossoms (picture on the right below) is also adding color to the yard.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Time to get myself and my kids to bed - I hope you all are enjoying spring and getting out in your gardens!
Monday, March 22, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
I'm having some friends over for my annual St. Patty's Day bash tomorrow - so probably no coop work until Sunday - but I am hoping to get the roofing on and MAYBE some of the wire on - but it all depends on how fit I am for work after a night of Guinness and Irish festivities! In case anyone else is going to make their Irish dinner this weekend - I have a great Corned Beef recipe to share that is adapted from one found in Sunset magazine many years ago.
Recipe (Serves 12):
- 2 very large sweet onions
- 8-10 large carrots, peeled
- 2 heads green cabbage (enough to cut into 6 wedges each)
- 3 Lbs small (2 in.) thin skinned potatoes - I like red potatoes for this
- 6-8 Lbs Corned Beef
- 2 c. malt vinegar
- 2 large cans Guinness (the kind with the nitrogen cartridge in the can)
- 1 Tbsp mustard seed
- 1 Tbsp coriander seed
- 1/2 Tbsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 Tbsp dill seed
- 1/2 Tbsp whole allspice
You will need a very large stock pot - 15-20 quarts. Using a sharp knife cut away as much of the fat on the outside of the corned beef as you can - this keeps the dinner from ending up very greasy. Put the prepared meat into the pot. Coarsely chop up enough carrots and onion to make 1 cup chopped of each and add it to the pot. Add vinegar, Guinness and all the spices to the pot. If the liquid does not cover the meat you can add water to cover - but I personally like to add more vinegar and Guinness - sticking to roughly the same proportions listed above. Cover the pan and put it over high heat (it will take about 20 minutes to come to a boil). Simmer for about 3 hours until the meat is tender.
While it is cooking, cut the cabbage and onion into wedges so that you have at least one wedge per person. Cut the carrots into 3-4 inch long pieces and scrub potatoes. Once meat is tender - add onions, carrots and potatoes to the pot and put the cabbage in on top of everything. Bring back to a boil (about 20 minutes); reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the cabbage and potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove everything to a platter, cut the corned beef on the diagonal across the grain and serve with coarse grain or Dijon mustard (some people like both - I prefer coarse grain).
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
So generally I had a busy evening and now I am off to relax, make myself some dinner, pour another one of those martinis and watch a movie!
Monday, March 15, 2010
and just enjoy getting strawberries with no one chasing them!
We also finally came up with a name for the last chick. She is so fluffy and her cheek tufts are so big that they nearly poke her in the eye - so my daughter thought that "Pouf" was a perfect name because she looks like a big pouf of feathers. So we now have Amelia, Pouf, Cadbury and Milkshake. I'm not sure if these are appropriate names for chickens or not - but those are their names none the less. Its amazing how quickly they grow- they are all starting to get real feathers on their wings and everyone except Cadbury (in the pic below with the strawberry) has the start of tail feathers too.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Recipe (serves 2):
1/2 c. chilled vodka
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp pear brandy (also called Poire William - look for the bottle with a whole pear inside - NOT pear Schnapps)
4 Tbsp Rosemary simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass!
To make the rosemary simple syrup combine 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. water and 1 sprig rosemary (about 6 inches long) in a saucepan and bring to a boil, boil until sugar dissolves, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove the rosemary sprig and chill syrup. The rosemary syrup can also be used combined with lemon juice and seltzer water to make a non-alcoholic rosemary lemonade fizz!
So why am I tired and in need of a martini? Well I worked my tail off this morning on the coop! I followed the instructions very carefully and managed to build the main frame of the chicken coop. The front and rear walls are 10 ft long and 6 ft high, and the end walls are 6 ft wide, so the coop will have 60 sq ft of run space. Having the 4 main walls done sounds like I would be nearly done, but unfortunately I'm only about 5 pages into a 25 page set of directions! But I am really proud of myself - I did it all myself - with just a little help from the kids to do some sanding and move the finished walls into the garage to keep them out of the elements until I can get them stained.
I am hoping that tomorrow I can get them all sanded and stained and with luck if I am not too tired I will start work on the roof supports.
So last but not least, a chick update! The babies are all doing well - tonight we hand fed them small pieces of strawberries and you should have seen the hilarity that ensued! They leaped and ran around and chased each other like mad all trying to steal whatever piece of strawberry that someone else had. All this even though there was a whole dish of strawberry pieces - more than enough to go around!
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
The chicks are all doing fine and getting stronger and showing personality. The smallest of them all is the bravest - she is one of the Easter Eggers - every time I put my hand into the brooder she runs to the front and pecks at my fingernails. I am not sure if she is protecting everyone or thinks I have treats for her! The others are not quite as brave yet - but when held and softly stroked on their neck and back they close their eyes and relax. So I think they are starting to get used to people. I think they may also be getting used to Oliver (our cat) he loves to watch them (yes they are protected by hardware cloth so he can't get to them).
So on to another day - tomorrow I head to buy coop supplies - they will need to be delivered so they should come Saturday morning so I can start the work! More to come!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
It has been a busy day - after the chicks arrived and I went to retrieve them from the post office I came home and got them introduced to the brooder. after dipping their beaks in the water and the GroGel (nutrient powder you mix with water - that's the green stuff in the picture above. Once they were settled in I got back to work on my real job. A few hours later the bell rang and it was one of the contractors I asked to give me a bid on putting a gate across the end of my driveway to fully enclose my backyard so that I can keep deer and dogs out and the chickens in (when they get older). That was no sooner done than another truck pulled up - this one loaded down with two cubic yards of garden soil and another 1/2 ton of limestone chop block to finish off some other yard projects that I started last year!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
The baby chicks were due to hatch and ship today - which means sometime between now and Thursday four little fuzzy chicks will arrive! That means I have to get ready! I have been reasearching all I can on baby chicks, checking off lists and making sure I have all the right supplies on hand - it reminds me of the nesting period I went through just before I had my children - only this time "nesting" is a little more literal than it was before!
I ordered three Easter Eggers (EEs) and one Silver Cuckoo Maran - all pullets (female chickens for those new to the lingo like me). From what I have read, the EEs will lay either blue, green, pale brown or pale pinkish eggs - each hen only lays one color egg so you never really know what color eggs you will get until they start laying - so hopefully we will get at least a few green and blue layers. Marans lay dark "chocolate" brown eggs - but the pictures I have seen seem to range from typical looking brown eggs to very dark (yup - they are pretty close to milk chocolate) eggs. Eggs are a long way down the road though so we will have to wait and see when the time comes. I have read that hens don't start laying regularly until they reach 24-26 weeks and don't really reach full production until they are 30 weeks old - so we will have to wait until the end of the summer to know what kinds of eggs we will get.
I have a brooder area all set up for the new arrivals and I have my fingers crossed that they make the journey safely so the kids and I can start our journey with them! Fuzzy chick pics coming soon!
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Wish me luck with the dirt and coop materials - lots to do in the next few weeks!
Friday, March 5, 2010
At this point I have started an expansion project on my gardens to expand my growing area, and have ordered baby chicks and will be putting in a backyard chicken coop for eggs. No roosters, no birds for meat - just a few pet chickens that will also provide us with fresh eggs.
I am a single mom of two elementary school age children (one boy and one girl) and we have a house cat named Oliver. I didn't grow up on a farm but I did ride horses when I was young and have had limited exposure to various kinds of livestock. So I am learning as I go and expect to make many mistakes along the way but with luck I will learn from those and get better at this with time. :)
So now to set expectations - I am not expecting to raise all my own food or live off my 1/4 acre, but I do expect to substantially increase the produce I grow vs. buy, stop buying eggs from what I consider to be cruel sources, get my kids engaged in gardening and spend more time outdoors!
I will blog a little each week about my progress and hope to get lots of feedback and ideas for how to expand and still keep it sane ;-)