Monday, December 19, 2011

Stumble Upon is the Devil

Yup, it is. Don't sign up for it - it will suck away all your time.

I've been stumbling around the internet lately, looking at projects other people are crocheting. It reminded me that I used to make lovely things, too.  It's been years. Seriously.  

So guess what I'm doing now? That's right - I've got a huge bag of vibrant yarn and I'm working on a new blanket. I think it's turning out quite nice.  This photo doesn't really do it justice. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pictures from Summer 2011

I'm having a hard time transitioning to fall.  Don't get me wrong - I love the change in seasons. I guess I'm just not ready for summer to end.  
We picked 42 pounds of strawberries and made multiple batches and varieties of jams:  strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, strawberry vanilla, strawberry rum, and strawberry rum syrup.  

We also made amazing strawberry sorbet, with my new Cuisinart Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt Maker.  I'm wondering why I waited so long to buy that.  OMG. I felt compelled to test as many ice creamy things as possible, so we had lemon, raspberry and strawberry sorbets, lemon frozen yogurt, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate chip ice cream.  I'm hooked.

I've still got a gallon ziploc bag of strawberries in the freezer - waiting for the middle of winter - when I need to remember summer.   

Seriously delicious.  We will be making this again. And again. 

Chickens!  Hey, how did they get in here?

These garden shots are from the middle of summer, when everything was big, green and lush.  Pictures from today are not so pretty.  I've still got a few things to harvest:  basil, carrots, and butternut squash.  But really, it's over. 

The garden was decent this year, although not as productive as I would have liked.
Increasing productivity is on my reading/research list for winter.  Next year, I'm not even trying summer squash.  No squash vine borers will be fed in my yard. Hopefully, the year off will get rid of them.  I'm tired of building up my hopes, only to be frustrated and disappointed by no zucchini.  

Broccoli plants early in summer. . .

Fresh broccoli is amazing.
No shortage of cucumbers from the garden, and that means pickles - lots and lots of pickles! I like to use a Bread 'N Butter recipe, but make it a little less sweet than normal.  And, I love sweet onions with the cukes.  Some jars even got a few hot peppers to liven things up.   

My first attempt at homemade ricotta cheese:
Simmering the milk & cream with the juice of half a lemon.You can see the curds and whey separate. Turn it off and allow to cool.  Strain in cheesecloth, collecting the whey in a bowl.  My dogs thought it was the best treat ever.   In the winter, I'll use the whey in homemade bread.  

Stuffed shells with homemade ricotta and sauce from the garden. Mmmmmm. Yes, it was as delicious as it looks.  I will never buy ricotta from the store again.  This was just too easy, and absolutely superior.  

For the first time ever, I made Sweet & Hot Pepper Jelly.  It is so beautiful!  And I really did it from scratch.   I made apple jelly from the skins and cores of apples I picked at a local farm.  The good parts went into our first apple crisp of the season.  I love that I could use the "unusable" parts this way before composting. I chose to start with apple jelly so that I wouldn't need to add in pectin. To the apple jelly, I added chopped sweet red peppers and a variety of hot green peppers.  

Canning reduced the heat of the peppers a little bit, but overall, this is a great condiment.  We've been  using it as a dip for cream cheese wontons and egg rolls.  I also like it with cream cheese on crackers.  Yummo. 

And we have EGGS!

A lot has happened since those little chicks have been here.  They are now 21 weeks old.  At 18 weeks, Martha laid her first egg.

I love how perfect and beautiful it is! Martha is an Australorp, and so far, she has laid 6 eggs.  One of the first was gifted to our neighbor, Michael.

When Michael was just 10, he was hit by a car. The injuries were severe and traumatic, and he has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.  At 57 years old, Michael loves to sit in the driveway, near the fence and watch the chickens run around, scratch in the dirt, and do chicken things.  Martha is his favorite.

Here is Martha's egg with a jumbo egg from the grocery, to show the contrast.  What you can't see, is the difference in flavor.  Holy Toledo! Fresh, creamy and delicious - Martha's eggs are amazing. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chickens Galore

All the "chickens being chickens" video you would ever want is right here:


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What are the odds?

So, I'm out of town for work.  Last night, I had an informal dinner with a client before an evening business meeting.  We were chatting about work related things when her phone rang.  She looked a little embarrassed, but excused herself and took the call.  I heard something about checking temperatures, making sure "they" were comfortable.  She got off the phone and apologetically said, "That was my husband.  I just got chickens."

I almost fell over!  Needless to say, we were completely distracted from our discussion of nonprofit boards, fundraising, etc.  It was all about our chickens and comparing notes.  We both spent several years researching, chose breeds known for friendly temperaments, good egg-laying, and cold-hardiness.  We also wanted a good mixture of colorful birds and a colorful egg basket.  Not surprisingly, three out of six of  our birds were the same breeds:  two Easter Eggers and a Silverlaced Wyandotte.  

I was relieved to hear I am not the only crazy one.  Marcia admitted to sleeping with the baby monitor since her chickens moved out into the coop a few days ago.  (Her babies are four weeks old.)  My chickens are now six weeks old, but I was out in the yard at midnight, with a flashlight, checking on the girls every night during their first week in the coop.   

After sharing pictures of our babies and their coops, and having a good laugh, we got back to work. But somehow, our chickens kept sneaking back into the conversation!

6 weeks

Hard to believe how much they have grown!  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chickens and Dogs = Danger

I was innocently checking on the girlies, while the dogs had a chance to get out in the yard.  The house has been under construction, so their backyard access has been a bit challenging.  Anyway, Loretta flew right past me, out into the grass.   Ellie (Golden Retriever) and Isabel (Heinz 57 - I think with a bit of Sheltie in her) went crazy.  CHICKEN!!!!  Fortunately, Gertie (Goldie- Newfoundland Mix), is afraid of our feathered friends.

Joe and I made a mad dash to grab the hounds - and I was able to get Loretta safely in my arms - and back to the coop.  Poor girl!  I'm anxious to give them a chance to roam the yard, but clearly, dogs must be securely in the house to do this.  It was frightening!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I love my chickens

I'll admit it.  I was a little nervous about taking this on, which explains why I researched it for about 3 years before finally moving forward. I was worried about investing a lot of time, energy and money into this project.  What if I hated it?  Could I risk giving my husband a little more fuel for his fire?  Clearly, he already thinks I'm a little nutty.

Getting the coop and moving the girls outside was a big deal.  To me, birds do not belong in the house. But of course, the babies were different.  Well, I was not prepared for how quickly they would grow.  I checked them every morning and every evening, and I saw changes each time I looked.  It was fascinating!  And I realize they are not done growing and changing.

Without a mother hen to show them what to do, the first two nights the girls prepared to settle in for sleep in the grassy run.  Noisily, they piled together in the cold grass.  Although it had been a beautiful day, the temperature was dropping to the 50's overnight.  They were not happy!  I scooped them up and put them to bed inside the coop.  They immediately settled down and went to sleep.  And yes, I do have a heat lamp up there for cold nights.

Last night things were different.  As it got dark and chilly, they got noisy.  Lucy was the first to head upstairs, followed by Maggie.  The others ran around underneath, chirping loudly.  Lucy and Maggie peered down from the safety of the coop, calling to the others.  Within about ten minutes, everyone was upstairs, ready for bed.

One of the things I really like about our coop design is the open "stairway" to the run below.  It allows the girls to decide when to get up in the morning, and when to head to bed, alleviating us of the need to "rise with the chickens." I'm not particularly fond of early mornings, so this works for me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

More Coop Pics

Which Came First? The Chicken or the Chaos?

There are certain people in this world who wake up every day with the preformed thought, fully articulated before their eyes are halfway open (possibly carried over from some blissful and manic dream) that, "My life is pretty good, but there's way too little chaos and confusion in it; I wonder how I could change that." Still others go through the day thinking, "Wow, my life is really chaotic and disorganized.  What I'd really like to do is test the limits of my ability to cope with chaos and disorganization; I wonder how I could do that."  Whatever the time of day, this is invariably followed by, "I've gotta have three cups of coffee first; this is gonna take a lot of energy!"

At the extreme end of this hypothetical chaophilic scale (people like this often make up their own words -- like this one which is a fancy and scary word meaning 'chaos loving' -- probably because the English language, like all man made institutions, is too precise and rational) are those who think, "one farm animal in the backyard of my suburban home would be just plain boring; I need at least half a dozen."  When they were single, you can bet dollars to donuts they followed a  natural and orderly progression from there to "I need a partner who won't mess up my chaos with his own chaos [yes, these people are usually women; sorry, but it's true].  If only I could find someone who scores high on both the 'buttoned down' and 'tolerant' indices."

Happily for them, there is a yin to their yang, the maniacs who marry the type of person who wakes up every day thinking, "what kind of crazy, chaotic activities (editor's note: plural intended) can I add to my buttoned down beloved's life today?"

As you may have suspected by now, I... am just such a yin.  And Elizabeth is, well, she's the crazy chicken lady.  Yes, go ahead, it's safe.  Go ahead and call her Crazy Chicken Lady.  It's her own term of endearment.  She likes it!  How crazy is that?

Let's be honest: I, myself, would probably never have gone out of my way to ensure that every morning, when I look out my back door, I see chickens.  I never wanted four hamsters, either.  In fact, I never wanted one hamster.  Or three bunnies.  A turtle with a broken shell.  A used guinea pig.  Four frogs.  Or their crickets.  Or the tadpoles who would have become even more frogs had not one of the frogs I didn't ask for but got anyway - Scratchy (and proud of it) - hadn't been so darn vicious.  What's that, you say?  "I'll bet you had them anyway hahaha!"  Darn right I did.  I had ALL of them.  (I never asked for the three bats that found their way into my house over the years, either, but that's probably nobody's fault.  Probably.  At least they didn't stay long.)  What's next?  Bees?

So, entropy being what it is - that is pretty much its definition, "it is what it is" - and overruling such things as "conservation of energy" in the conservative, orderly hierarchy of laws in my ideally conservative, well ordered universe... I have chickens.  Not just one chicken.  Half a dozen chickens.

At least they are out of my house now.  At least they're out in the yard , where they provide an endless incentive for my three dogs to bark.  A possible side benefit is that they may scare the poor little things into a heart attack, thereby giving me an excuse to say, "Quick!  Call the pediatric bird cardiologist."  'Cause I like saying that (don't ask me why; I don't know).  That's a triumph for a "store bought eggs" kind of guy.  If you say, "dozen," I say "eggs."  If my wife overhears you (and she will, because she's always looking for new "ideas"), she will say, "chickens."  You say "chaos," I say "theory" ... and she says, "Yay!"

In fact, she overheard the title of my post and immediately blurted out - you guessed it - "CHAOS :D"


Primed, waiting for paint.  Our new hen house is made from recycled materials. Notice the tires on this side.  The other end has handles so the entire coop can be moved "wheelbarrow style" around the yard.  Love it!
Is this new home a birthday present?  The girls are one month old, today.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Three weeks old, and someone replaced my little fuzzy babies with awkward teenagers.  This is Maggie, a Speckled Sussex.  She really is beautiful!  Look at those giant feet.  I understand the connection to dinosaurs when I see this.

I'm making it a point to hold each bird on a daily basis to make sure they are comfortable with people.  They aren't always fond of being picked up, but they don't peck me, and they do tolerate it.

We are definitely ready for them to go outside.  The coop should be here soon!

Maggie - wishing I would put her down and leave her alone. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 8

Amazing to see how quickly they are changing! Cuteness overload.

Chickens CAN fly!

I went into the "chicken room" this morning to check on the babies. It's part of my new routine: change their water, check their food, and hold each chick for a few minutes.  We are making it a point to hold them for a little while several times during the day, in an effort to get them comfortable with being handled.  Some of them are not too fond of this process, although Sunday evening, several chicks fell asleep in hand.  Very sweet.

Back to this morning - I was very surprised to find only 5 chicks in the brooder box.  Loretta, one of our Easter Eggers, had flown the coop! She was walking around outside of the box.  Fortunately, she is one of the calmer birds, so catching her was easy.   We now have a lid set askew on the box so that it blocks them from flying out, but still allows plenty of ventilation.

I will post pictures soon.  It's been just a week, and each chick has more than doubled in size and grown beautiful wings.  They are even getting their tail feathers.  So cute!

This is the only time naming our pets has been easy.  They are:  Loretta, Prudence, Maggie, Sadie, Martha, and Lucy (aka Princess Yellow).  Can you guess the theme?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guess what? Chicken Butt!

Apparently chicks can get something called "pasty butt" which is what happens when they have a little constipation and the poo blocks their vent. (Vent is the chicken word for anus.)  I've read many warnings about the danger of pasty butt, so naturally, I've kept a look out.  Sure enough, two of the girls needed attention this morning.

The remedy - hold the chicken's butt under warm running water, and use a paper towel to gently wipe the dry poo away.  Pat dry.  Using a qtip, swab the vent with a little vaseline or olive oil.  This prevents new poo from sticking to her rear end.

I know this is more than you ever wanted to know about chicken butts.  It is certainly more than I ever thought I would know!

Let's hope this is the last we will see of pasty butt!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

rapidly changing

Picked up the girls this morning at about 7 a.m. and by 3 this afternoon, we noticed actual feathers forming their wings, replacing the fluff!  You can't see it in these pictures, but the feathers are definitely there.  They are all alert and strong.  So much fun to watch.  (Missing from the pictures - Prudence!)





Princess Yellow - Lucy

May 3 - the girls arrive!

Day one - baby chicks.

Adorable. What else is there to say?  The yellow one has been very sleepy. She does perk up, so I'm not worried about her. And one of the brown ones seems to be a little more aggressive than the others. Not bad, just a little bossy. Looks like the pecking order is already being established!  Will have to wait and see how this unfolds. 

Gertie, our Newfie-Goldie mix, has very little interest in the little girls.  I think I could leave them alone together and nothing would happen.  Ellie Mae, on the other hand, is very interested.  As a result, the babies are safely locked in a room so the Goldie does not have unsupervised access.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Here we go

This May, we begin a new adventure: pet chickens.  I'm so excited, I can hardly stand it.  I've got six babies on the way: an Australorp, Speckled Sussex, Silver-laced Wyandotte, Salmon Faverolle, and two Easter Eggers. Once they arrive, this blog will document our experiences.  These breeds were chosen, after much research, specifically for friendliness, docility, and dependable egg laying. 

Why chickens?  I want to know the eggs I'm eating, cooking, and serving to my family come from happy chickens who breathe fresh air, see the sun, scratch in the dirt and live a good chicken life. My research (and I've been looking into this for about 3 years) indicates a few chickens are easy to manage. We shall see! It's time to take the plunge and give it a go.