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 - http://www.nps.gov/pais/naturescience/releases.htm

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! :)