Chickens

Where I’ve Been and Independence Update!

Wowza!  I’ve been off the blog for over a week – it’s been a mad house around here!  What with the teething and growing and friends over for dinner and getting all set for the holidays, plus prepping to do my student teaching!  Yikes!

So a quick update…. I think I owe a few weeks of Independence days.  We’d be on week 28, but I really don’t feel like I have all that much to report for the last three weeks or so (see the mad house comment, above).  The chickens are just hanging out (or hanging in) in the snow, and we are still getting two or three eggs a day from them.  The two older hens are not laying, and I’m guessing they won’t lay through the winter.  The three little girls are busy, but they can’t keep up with Henry, the egg eating machine, so we did buy a couple dozen this week.  Yes, they are both local and humane.  ;)

So there’s nothing in the Plant Something, and only eggs in the Harvest Something category.  Does any one know if it is too late to put garlic in the ground?  We’ve wanted to do this, but have kept putting it off and now it might be too late??

We did pick up our hog (well, only half a hog this fall) last week.  We split it with Dave the Dentist, and so maybe that counts as Want Not/Prep & Storage or Build Community Food Systems??  Since we didn’t harvest anything new, there was nothing to Preserve.  Wait, no, I take that back.  We did boil a turkey carcass to death, so we preserved some turkey stock (which is delicious!).

Waste Not – well, compost and recycling, of course, and we are still mucking about with the pallets Rick brought  home for the new bins we want to make.  Rick brought home a piece of drywall that was to be cast off at work (they’re remodeling his office), to replace a damaged piece in our basement junk room.  Also, found a couple of cute uses for scrap fabric that have been transformed into Christmas gifts.

Eat the Food - ah, food.  The one category that never fails me.  I always eat!  So this week, we are making green bean casserole from beans we froze, and chardonnay glazed carrots from the sweet carrots of the late summer/early fall.  And mashed potatoes from the spuds stored down in the basement.  Yum.  Yes, we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner.  I plan to break out the home-made dill pickles and watermelon rind pickles for snacks while the turkey roasts.

And I made my cranberry sauce ahead of time.  I adapted an Everyday Food recipe.  I was standing there cooking it, when suddenly the urge to add rosemary overcame me.  I put it in and I think it turned out pretty tasty.  So here’s that one for you:

2 packages fresh cranberries (24oz each)
1.5 cups sugar
4 large strips of orange peel
1/2 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish

Rinse and drain cranberries.  In a large sauce pan, add cranberries, sugar, orange peel and water.  Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer 15 minutes.  Add rosemary sprigs and simmer 5-10 minutes more.  Remove from heat, and stir in orange juice.  Let cool, cover and refrigerate for up to a week.  To serve, bring to room temperature and remove rosemary, garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.

So that catches up the Independence Days.  Happy Thanksgiving Day to you!

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Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 1 Comment

Independence Days – Weeks 23, 24 & 25

Sweet E - 4 monthsThree weeks on one post… sheesh!  Things have been crazy for me the last three weeks.  Rick has, of course, been hunting which has left me with my hands full with the boys and not a lot of time for sane blog writing.  I’ve also been working on my childbirth educator’s certification, and am very close… this weekend is my workshop, and then I should hopefully be able to take my test and be certified.  Trying not to stress about this, but I am getting down to the wire a bit.

Then, this morning I woke up to one dead chicken and one chicken missing.  I thought Lavender, our grey chicken, had flown the coop… I saw what I thought was her jump over the back fence.  When I went out to investigate, she was nowhere to be seen and still (as of 7:00pm) has not come home.  Unfortunately, we don’t expect her back, as one of her Rhode Island Red comrades was lying dead (and partially dismembered) in the yard.

FALLJosie was trying to help herself to chicken for breakfast, but we don’t think it was her that did the killing.  There are fox tracks all over the place and I had only just let Josie (who has never tried to attack the chickens before) outside.  I didn’t hear a ruckus of any kind, and she didn’t have any blood on her.  But you’ll not catch her saying no to a free chicken either.   :(

We’re a bit bummed on that front, as it means we’re back down to only five.  And oddly (or maybe not so oddly) I’m not too sad about the dead red-head, but I have a bit of heartache about Lavender… this is why you don’t name food.  She was one of the originals, and though she was meanest and leanest, she laid a white egg everyday and was fun to watch.

So anyway, here’s the dirt on Independence Days.  All in all, not the most successful three weeks since we’ve started this.

Plant Something –  um, none.

Harvest Something–  Rick successfully harvested a doe!  Eggs from just the young chickens, as the older hens are molting and looking quite pitiful.  A very large bunch of kale (and gave the Spicy Kale and Potato Soup a second – and much more successful- go ’round).

Preserve Something – venison and elk in the fridge, potatoes to the basement, carrots to the freezer.

Waste Not – I really think we had a big FAIL in this category.  The upright freezer door got left open a crack and we lost a bunch of food in the door.  The stuff in the body of the freezer stayed frozen, since it was full, but we had a mad rush to eat some pork chops and beef remnants.  The rest had to be tossed.  :(

Want Not/Prep & Storage - nothing new

Build Community Food Systems –  we were able to share a few veggies this past week, but I didn’t get to the last of the farmers markets to get those apples I wanted.

Eat the Food – mmm I.O.U. some recipes.  Not in the mood to type recipes right now, but I will say that we’ve been eating venison, practically finished the pork completely, enjoyed some tomatoes and chiles for a pot of home made green chile, eating potatoes, and peaches.  We did share a few of our preserves as well… mostly as gifts to my awesome bro-in-law, Dan.  :)

Categories: Chickens, Food, Hunting, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Independence Days – Week 17

We’ve been learning so much in the last few weeks.  The bumper crops from the farm and garden have made us do a bit more research into preserving, storage and preparation.  Also, gardening in the winter has been on the radar. 

We’ve always talked about but never tried planting things for the winter here.  But I went to the Rocky Mountain Seed Company, and got a few tips.  This year we’re going for it!

Plant Something –  spinach, beets, radishes and lettuce.  Also, bought some little pots of herbs to put int the kitchen.  :)  I’m not great with potted plants, but I have a good feeling about these ones.  :)

Harvest Something– eggs: in fact, so many eggs that I have three egg cartons in the fridge, and one is an 18 egg carton! Also mint, tomatoes, chard, zucchini, and on the farm we picked melons and winter squash! 

Preserve Something –  beans, corn and carrots into the freezer, canned peaches, peach jam.

Waste Not – How about this – I went to the Goodwill on Sunday to get more jars for canning.  They were $1.00 each (too much!), but while I was there they announced that Monday everything would be 50% off.  So I went back Monday morning, and got two books and 19 jars for fifty cents each.  AND they had a 2002 Burley d’Lite for $74.99.  I got it for half that!  $37.50!!  It needs a cover, and that will probably be about $100 or less.  Still an incredible deal!!  I did not waste money this week!

Want Not/Prep & Storage - started a food journal to track what’s being grown and stored, how much, and how long it lasts!

Build Community Food Systems – We are thinking of trying to sell a dozen eggs a week (I’m afraid to commit to more), and that money would help off-set the feed costs for the hens.  I’d like it to be to one person every week… someone who’s committed to buying them, I don’t really have time to market them.  ;)  Let me know if you’re in the area and want to buy a dozen eggs from free-range, pastured chickens! 

Eat the Food – peaches!  And peppers and eggplant and carrots and melons… so many things!

Harvest Stuffed Peppers

P9030012This recipe makes enough hash to stuff four peppers (serve four people), but I only stuff two for Rick and I.  The remaining hash gets divided into two portions – one for Henry, and one for Rick’s lunch the next day.

2 bell peppers that can stand on their ends
2 medium sized potatoes
1/2 white or yellow onion
1 or 2 peeled carrots
1 small or medium sized squash
1/2 to 3/4 cup protein of choice: left over diced ham is in the picture, but eggplant, eggs, ground beef or sausage works great too.
Fresh torn basil – to taste
Salt & pepper
2 TBS olive oil

Cut the tops off of the peppers, remove seeds and ribs and set peppers aside.  Chop all other ingredients into a 1/4-inch dice.  In a 12-inch skillet with a lid heat olive oil; add potatoes, onions and carrots.  Season well with salt and pepper. Put on lid and let cook over medium, stirring to keep from sticking to bottom of the pan, until onions are soft and the potatoes and carrots are on their way to being cooked through. 
Add squash (sometimes I add the pepper tops too).  Let cook uncovered until potatoes are almost tender, stirring as needed to keep from sticking. 
Add cooked meat (or raw eggplant), and basil.  Mix well, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Scoop mixture (which I call hash) into the peppers.  Place peppers in a rimmed pan and bake at 375 until heated through and potatoes are done.  They could also be finished on the grill instead of the oven.

Note that this is one of those recipes that ends up catching all the random veggies in the kitchen that need using.  It’s great with mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, celery, zucchini, extra peppers, even a tomato added at the end.  It would also be great topped with grated cheese.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes | 1 Comment

So You Want to be a Farmer

hoeing the fields closeupOf course it’s no secret that I want to be a farmer.  Rick and I joke about it almost daily, and, very un-jokingly, we work hard putting up produce from the CSA, growing our own in the garden, raising the chickens and generally learning all we can about living on the land.

Getting chickens was a baby step.  We started with four and moved up to seven.  They eat a lot.  And they poop a lot.  And for the first year, we didn’t get a lot of eggs, but spent a lot of money on building them a coop.  Now we know more, and we’re getting lots of eggs, and though they’re messy and dig holes, we are glad to have them, and thinking of better ways to do things with them.

Part of the reason why we decided to be working members on Monroe’s farm, was so that I could get a taste of what went into this pipe dream.  Every week last year, Rick sent me off to Kersey with the admonition to pay close attention to what Jerry said, and to ask him about ______.  He wanted me to pick Jerry’s brain weekly.  Did he grow Brussels sprouts?  When did he plant potatoes?  How do you know corn is ready to harvest?

A week or so ago, a working member friend, Tracy, posted an article about taking A Farm Vacation on her Facebook page.  At the moment I first saw it, I was tired from processing food and working, and thought, “Vacation!  What?  Farming’s hard work!”  And it is.  But after the trip to Palisade last weekend, I’ve changed my mind.  I want to take this vacation myself.

Palisade was so beautiful.  The Western slope of Colorado is sunny and warm and the towns charming.  Rick and I saw an orchard for sale and picked up a flyer.  Ah – we could live here, and we could grow this.  If only we had more [money, and] time to sit here and pick Buck’s (the owner of the orchard where we harvested peaches) brain on how to do it all.  If only we could stay here and give it a try for a while before investing in property.

Monroe piggies by Rachel Carlson PhotographyI really love having H (and now E too) out there on the CSA farm every week.  While his biggest thrill is playing with the other kids, catching toads and feeding the pigs, I have the opportunity to remind him that those pigs will become pork chops, and those toads eat the bugs that destroy crops.  He gets excited when we move from the barn to the fields, and he plays behind us in the rows, eating melons, catching “buggies” and pulling weeds.  He is gaining an understanding of where food comes from.  And this means so much to me.

A few months ago, I read a blog post called This Place We Know by Sharon Astyk.  Sharon is a beautiful writer, and the post is quite long, but it really captures something. I want my children to understand where their food comes from and what happens on a farm.  That a farm is more then a cutesy place where cows say moo and pigs say oink.

And I know, now days, I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Here are a couple of articles that have appeared recently on people dreaming of the simple life: one from Utne Reader: The Organic Farm Fantasy Meets Reality and on Mother Earth News: Skills for Farming.

I envision my boys growing up in an agrarian life style.  Being connected to the earth and to our food connects us with God.  The Maker made this and made us.  The grocery store has broken the connection for most of us.

Seeing my boy pick a peach or nectarine and delighting in that sweet first bite before he’s even taken a step away from the tree is amazing.  There’s no lesson about fruit coming from tree needed when he picks it himself.

In our home, we don’t have many conversations about limiting candy.  You’re more likely to hear, “No, you’ve had enough carrots,” or “Ok, but this is the last tomato before dinner.”  And these statements don’t make me sad.  Last night as Rick prepped green beans for going into the freezer, we worried about Henry eating so many beans that he’d spoil his dinner cooking in the oven.  And he did!  This is a good problem to have, we’ve decided. For Henry, going to the garden to pick (and graze) tomatoes brings joy.  The fruit of  spring’s labor is wonderful.

Henry in the orchard 2When he sees us tilling the garden, he knows it’s to get it ready for the plants.  When he plants a seed, and then gets to see it grow into a plant and then the plant grows a flower, and the flower grows a zucchini, he gets it.  There’s not a lot of explaining to do.  And compost is an opportunity to show him how we give back to the ground to keep the circle going.  The eggs are a reason to be kind to the chickens.  Sharing scraps with pigs makes the pigs happy and helps them get ready to be a delicious meal in the fall.  Happy animals make better food.  Happy chickens lay tastier eggs.

It’s funny to think that just a few years ago, I had never gardened before.  Rick was the one who wanted a place for a garden when we bought our home.  He had grown up with it.  I think he may have thought twice about that first garden if he had know what it would spiral into.  :)

I’ve always wanted to be in the country, to be on land.  I grew up doing 4-H, wishing I had a horse.  I even made Rick promise that I could have a horse after we got married.  But I had never thought about farming or growing things until that first garden.  Now I’ve gotten carried away.  I want my own beehive, my own milking cow.  Steers for beef, chickens and ducks for meat and eggs, a turkey to raise for Thanksgiving.  And fields full of veggies and fruit, melons and squash.  Fruit trees.  Grain. I want it all!

I don’t think Rick was prepared for the fallout of that first little veggie patch.  Certainly not for the chickens.  Sharon Astyk wrote another post to this effect.  Rick and I could relate to her guide, “So You (Don’t Particularly) Want to be a Farmer” on more than one account.  It’s a guide for the spouse/partner/family member of a person who has been bit (hard) by the farming bug.  The post had us both laughing out loud, for it was so very true.  Despite planting the seed with that first little garden patch, Rick got dragged into this wanna-be farming thing against his better judgement.

For example, the chicken thing was all my idea.  I used phrases like “think of all the money we’ll save on eggs!” to convince him.  Our very first egg from our very first chicken had to be (ever so gently) pried from the vent of that hen… she was egg bound.  And who did it?  Not me… HIM!  I was afraid of hurting her.  He saved the day.  And I’m sure he resentfully thought me a madwoman!

But most especially one line at the end of Sharon’s post hit home for Rick and I and this crazy pipe-dream of owning a farm together:

Sweet FruitSometimes there’s nothing more to dream of than being yoked together in the same harness, on the same land and doing the same good work for all the days of your life.”

Rick and I continue to be members of the CSA because we are still learning things, and because we have become addicted to the beautiful food that comes from Jerry’s land.  We still ask questions, pick brains, read book after book.

We’ve so much to learn, although I feel we’ve also learned so much.  Winter squash is harvested after the vines fall,  melons are sweeter if you limit their water.  This is how you store potatoes and canning isn’t quite as hard if you’re doing it with a friend.

But the best thing we’ve learned from growing things together: Seeds sown in love produce sweeter fruit.

 

Excerpts cross posted at BlogHer.com and monroefarms.blogspot.com

Categories: Chickens, CSA, Food, Garden, Recommended Reading, Urban Homesteading | 6 Comments

Independence Days – Weeks 8-11

Genny's chocolate pie with our raspberriesWell it’s time to get caught up on a few things!  I last left this post on E’s birth-day, so while we’ve continued harvesting and eating and what not, I’ve not written it down!

We did get quite a few turnips and raspberries this week.  More raspberries than we’ve ever gotten, in fact.  There are still a few more ripening up, but I’ve been enjoying what we’ve gotten so far.

My lettuces and spinach bolted, so we’re going to be pulling those, and the peas (both the snow peas and the snap peas) are about done too.  So for the last few weeks here’s our report card:

Plant Something –  nada (that I can remember)

Harvest Something – Eggs, including the first mini-eggs from the pullets, turnips… lots of them!, our first zucchini, peas, radishes (a handful), raspberries…

Preserve Something –  green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, garlic, turnips, onions…

Waste Not– recycling, composting, and another big batch of  turnip greens this time.  Also, I packed up maternity clothes to return to my friend who lent them to me (I’m putting this in because instead of being wasteful and buying all new clothes for a few months use, I borrowed).  We’ve also been eating lots of meals made by friends, and the leftover have been great for lunches.

Preparation and Storage - Rick scrubbed out the “new” freezer.  We are solidifying plans for a buffalo (or at least half), as well as mulling over the idea of another pork this fall.

Build Community Food Systems – still spreading the word about the Englewood Farmers Market, Rick worked at the CSA, we shared extra zucchini that was going to go to waste, and we got to try some chicken from a co-op (thanks Genny).

Eat the Food – Since the zucchini are coming on, here’s a recipe from the Great Food Fast cookbook (also on www.marthastewart.com) that uses up a fair amount of summer’s favorite squash.  I’m not a big fan of curry, but this was pretty tasty.  It can be served warm or cold.

Curried Zucchini Soup

1 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
Coarse Salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1.5 lbs zucchini (about 3 medium) sliced 1 inch thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup sliced almonds (for garnish)

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and 1 TBS salt and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are soft.  Add garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant – about 1 minute.

Add zucchini and potato, and 4 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, and simmer 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth (don’t be tempted to skip this, it does affect the flavor of this soup).  Serve warm, or refrigerate until cool.  Top with sliced almonds.

Note that I paraphrased the instructions, since I didn’t want to write it word for word.  But it’s pretty basic.  :)  Enjoy!

Rick also thought that it’d be smart to make a large batch of this soup and freeze it for the winter when you have no zucchini.  He’s a pretty smart fella, I think.

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes | 1 Comment

Pullet Surprise!

Little ChickensDid you know that little chickens lay little eggs?  About three days ago, Rick found an itty-bitty egg in the nest box.  And one each day since.  Either we have one pullet trying on her egg-laying shoes, or they are all gearing up to be omelet producing hens. 

We were really surprised that they are laying so soon… it took our hens until the end of August to start laying the year they were pullets, and even then, it was inconsistent and they were really spread out for a long time.  We weren’t expecting any for another month or two.  Three in  a row already this year is pretty exciting!

egg scalelittle eggsHere are two of them with an egg from our adult Aracauna (Mayzie).  As well as a close up view of one of the newbie eggs next to one of Poppy’s big brown eggs.  Quite a difference!  I wish I knew which of the Rhode Island Reds were laying them!  

The eggs will continue to get bigger over the next year until they are nice and large like the ones our adult hens give us. 

Categories: Chickens, Food | 4 Comments

Independence Days – Week 7

Henry & DaddySummer arrived this week, and not just on the calendar.  It finally got hot.

We had a couple days without rain, and I was lamenting this, because I really love the rain, and because I don’t want it to be really hot when I am in labor at home with no a/c!

On Tuesday, I headed to the farm to do my weekly work on the CSA.  I’m glad I did because we got produce for the first time this year!  We got peas, red leaf lettuce, purple kohlrabi, turnips, garlic and a zucchini.

We actually got bonus veggies too, since the guy I car pool to the farm with is on vacation in Alaska with his family, he said we could eat anything from their share that wouldn’t keep.  So I will refrain from eating his garlic (though it will be hard), and we’ll see if the turnips and kohlrabi make it (though I’m taking the tops).  ;)

Here are the facts for week seven:

SprinklerPlant Something –  nothing new went into the ground this week.

Harvest Something – Eggs and our first peas! Besides that, does hoeing billions of weeds count as harvesting?!?!

Preserve Something – Froze two containers of the below soup.

Reduce Waste– or, as I’ve recently seen it called: “Waste Not” – I’m excited to put something other than my ‘usual’ list of recycling, etc. in this category this week.  Instead of tossing the tops of the kohlrabi to the chickens as I normally would, I made a soup with them and a left over ham bone that would have otherwise gone to waste!

Preparation and Storage - nada.

Build Community Food Systems – still spreading the word about the Englewood Farmers Market, working on the CSA.  Discussed splitting a buffalo with another CSA member as well.

Eat the Food – We’ve been enjoying the CSA goodies and snacking on peas here and there.  I’ll have to think up a recipe to share….

Categories: Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Urban Homesteading – Denver’s New Trend?

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a writer for the Denver Post.  He was doing an article on Urban Homesteading.  Cool!  Yes I was interested in talking to him (and thrilled he might be interested in talking to me, just based on my blog here).  After a few emails back and forth, he ended up not being able to meet up with Rick and I as scheduled… his deadline was too close. 

However, I wanted to share the article with you all.  Looks like there’s a trend going here in the Mile High City.  Glad to say we’re more than three years into it ourselves… And cool to see others in Englewood (my town) and other places in the Denver-metro area that are doing it too.

Check out the article: Green (1/8) Acres Sprout in the City by Douglas J. Brown.

Categories: Chickens, Garden, Recommended Reading, Urban Homesteading | 4 Comments

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