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!