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

Eggs!!!!!



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.




Moving time for the new chicks

Sorry it has been so long for a decent update! The good news is - the chicks moved out into the coop. They are still in a little dog kennel to keep them safe from the big girls but they are out of my living room - YAY!!! The picture on the left is the day they moved in - they are in the house part of the coop. Each day when I am home I move them out either into the coop run or out on the grass - still in the kennel - but that way they can peck around in the grass and sand and start to pick up grit and get used to the routine. They really enjoy the time out on the grass. I am a little nervous about letting them all out together because since Athena (the black and white Barred Plymouth Rock) and Lilly (the white Silkie) are bantam breeds they will be much smaller than the big girls so I think they will be safer if they have a little more size before they are all together.

The big girls are really enjoying their free time in the yard. I am lucky to be able to work from home so in the morning before I get started I let them out of the coop to roam around the yard. I check them at lunch and then lock them back into the coop in the evening when I take them the table scraps (mostly just the starch and veggies). They usually come running because they are eager to see whats for dinner each night :)


I have about 6-8 weeks to go before I start getting eggs and I can't wait! Since we will average about 12 eggs every 3 or 4 days I decided I better come up with some ways to use up all those eggs so I started practicing some egg heavy recipes this weekend. I have to say the kids loved it Sunday when we had a Dutch Baby for breakfast (uses 3 whole eggs) and then home made ice cream for dessert after dinner (6 egg yolks). Of course I still have to use up the remaining 6 egg whites, but I have a few ideas - maybe Angel Food cake? Baked Alaska? Meringues? Going to try to use them up tomorrow night. I will keep you posted!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Video clip

video

My daughter was bored today and decided to take my new toy (iPhone 4) out into the yard to shoot a little video of the chickens. The little girls are still separated so they won't get picked on but so far everyone seems to be getting along fine. I will keep them separated for probably another week and then let them all be together. But even in their little crate they enjoy being out in the grass and being able to peck around. I have some other pictures and will try to get them posted soon - I know I am terribly behind on updates - summer vacations and chores have kept me too busy.

In gardening news I am sad to say I don't have much to report - I seem to have an uncanny ability to kill squash plants which is odd considering most people I know get so many they don't know what to do with them. On mine the stems all seem to split near the ground and they dry out and die. It isn't a beetle - I read they can split from uneven watering and we have had some periods of heavy rain so maybe that is what caused it? I'm not really sure but I planted a few more and am hoping they make it. I am getting lots of black eyed peas - now I just need to make some soup or something to use them up :) I got enough cucumbers to make a few jars of pickles before leaving for vacation and got back to plants that look very unhappy so I am hopeful that those weren't the last cucumbers I will get this year. Our temperatures are in the mid-90s so it is pretty hot - I may have to wait for a fall crop to get many more.

Sorry for the lack of pictures - I will do my best to get some new ones posted this weekend.