Archive for October, 2009

Molting and That’ll Teach ’em

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

We’ve been going through some serious molt around here. My chickens have looked just awful, and the coop and yard have been filled with feathers. It’s a natural occurrence, and it takes a lot of energy to grow new feathers. So nature designed it that chickens will molt when there is a slow down in egg laying, hatching, and making new babies. Their bodies focus on growing new feathers. Hens stop laying and going broody, and roosters aren’t quite as amorous as in the spring. Chickens need their reserves to replace all those feathers, and that makes sense to me. Unfortunately, the typical timing of a molt just so happens to be as the colder weather starts to come in. And half naked chickens have to run around with little to keep them warm during this time. Plus, they look down right pathetic.

molting silver leghorn

But the good news is, it only last three or four months or so. Today I noticed that Bobby Lee, the Phoenix rooster, is busy growing in his beautiful tail feathers.

molting phoenix

Those white, quill looking things are his feather shafts, and each has a beautiful feather starting to come out of the end of it.

I’m thankful we are heading out of the molt. Not only am I glad my chickens will look better and stay warmer, I’m glad egg production may pick up a little again. Two to four eggs a day out of all these hens is a little disheartening. Even if the older hens don’t start laying again until next spring, at least I’ve got the pullets to help get us through the winter with eggs.

So many of my hens hatched out chicks this year that I’ve got a variety of ages in the yard. Many from the hatches from the last few months are teenagers now, and they are refusing to roost at night. They prefer to sleep in the nest boxes. This may not sound like a big deal to you. But it’s a BIG deal to me. These teenagers poop in the nest boxes. And they poop a lot! Each morning I have to change out the bedding in the nest boxes, and I don’t like changing out poopy bedding in the nest boxes. It kinda gets on my nerves. I have WAY too many teenagers to spend each night removing them and placing them on the roosts. So I came up with a plan…..

Remember my newly renovated nest box area?

chicken coop

Well, this is how it will look every night, from here on out, until those teenagers learn to get on the roosts:

Nest box cover

And those new nest boxes Bernie built me?

nest box

Well, they’re now covered at night too.

Nest box cover

Ha! That’ll teach ’em.

Wait. You don’t think they’ll out-think me on this one, do you?

I just don’t trust these sneaky little chickens…..

Orange Goo and Big Turkeys

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

I spent a long over due day in the kitchen yesterday. I’ve had three pumpkins from the mutant pumpkin plant sitting there waiting on me to decide what I was going to do with them for quite a while. So many of the bloggers I follow have been posting about roasting their pumpkins, freezing pumpkin meat and making pumpkin pies, that I finally decided yesterday was the day.

I have a confession. In the past, I’ve roasted the pumpkin seeds and either made a Jack-O-Lantern out of the pumpkin, or fed the pumpkin meat to my chickens. I’ve never roasted a pumpkin and I’ve never eaten any of the meat. Well, this year I feel I more than redeemed myself. I roasted the two smaller pumpkins and not one ounce of them went to waste.

I froze 10 quart bags of pumpkin meat and I roasted most of the seeds. Roasting pumpkin seeds is easy – separating the seeds from the pumpkin goo is not. Well, it’s really not that it’s difficult. It’s a little time consuming. I find putting the goo and seeds in a large bowl of water and then squishing all the goo between my fingers is the best method. The seeds separate, for the most part, and float to the top of the water. Once I get the seeds separated, I wash them off and remove any lingering pumpkin goo, and then let them dry on a paper towel. Once dry, I put them in a bowl, drizzle a little olive oil over them, dump on some salt, and mix it all together. Then I spread them on a covered baking pan.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I bake them at 250 for about an hour, turning them every 15 minutes or so. And when they turn golden brown, they are ready to eat. I keep them in an airtight container. I think they’ll last a couple of weeks or so like that, but they don’t usually make it that long around here.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

And after the pumpkin meat was frozen and the seeds were roasted? I fed everything that was leftover to the chickens. They love anything pumpkin. And I was happy to have no waste what-so-ever.

Angie’s post motivated me to actually make a pumpkin pie with some of that pumpkin meat. That may not seem significant to you, but I’ve never cared for pumpkin pie, and I saw taking the time to make one from scratch the last ditch effort to determine if it was worth allowing these things to grow in my garden.

Pies need pie crusts, so I made four of them, and froze all but one. When I roll out my pie crust, I lay the dough on a sheet of wax paper, and place another sheet over top of it. It rolls out without sticking to the rolling pin, and when I’m finished I can either peel off the top sheet of wax paper and then use the second sheet to help put the crust in the pie pan, or I can leave both sheets on and freeze the crust that way. For the crusts I freeze, I fold the crust in half (the wax paper keeps the dough from sticking to itself), and then in half again. Like this:

Pie Crusts

Then I put them in a gallon freezer bag, and call it a day.

Pie Crusts

Well, not quite a day. I still had a pumpkin pie to make. So I mixed all the orange goo with some milk, evaporated milk, and spices and poured it into my shell.

Pumpkin Pie

Then I stuck it in the oven and forgot to set my timer. Argh. I’m not sure how long the pie had been baking when I finally realized I missed that little step. So I ended up poking it with a knife to test for doneness every 10 minutes or so. As a result, the finished pie was full of knife stabs and not very pretty. But do you know what? It tastes delicious! I was really pleasantly surprised that I like that pumpkin pie. Which is really good, seeing as I have a freezer full of pumpkin goo. My dad sent me a Cream Cheese Pumpkin Roll that I’m pretty excited to try.

Along with spending the day with pumpkins, I also spent a lot of time with a turkey. A 20 pound turkey, to be exact. Bernie found this fella on sale at the grocery store. Bernie’s quite the bargain shopper these days. At any rate, I roasted the turkey and we had a little of it for supper last night. I froze many bags of turkey – some for us and some to use in the home made dog food. After all the turkey was picked and frozen, I threw the carcass in a stock pot, added some seasonings and chopped onions, carrots, and celery, covered the whole thing with water and let it cook for about 3 hours. After straining, I ended up with six quarts of turkey stock in the freezer.

It was a long day in the kitchen yesterday. But as cold and rainy as it was outside, I was very happy to be there. We had the wood burner cranking out heat and the house smelled of pumpkin pie and roasted turkey.

And that huge mutant pumpkin? I’ve about decided to scoop out the seeds to roast and save a few for next year’s garden. And then I think I’ll donate the pumpkin itself to our neighbor kid so he can have the biggest Jack-O-Lantern in this neck of the woods.

So what have you been doing in your kitchen? Is your freezer full of good food? Have any pumpkin recipes you’d care to share?

Do We Know How to Show a Girl a Good Time, or What?

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Bernie has his “to-do” list during the week, and heaven knows my requests never make it very high on his list. That’s probably because my requests usually have to do with my chickens. Bernie’s to-do list usually has to do with providing things that result in a more comfortable life on the homestead – like wood for the wood burner, buildings to house equipment, food for the table, and blah, blah, blah. So, when the weekends roll around, Bernie will usually ask me what is on “my” to-do list and do what ever it is I want to do. And what I usually want to do is make MY life easier concerning the chickens.

If you’ve been reading my Facebook posts, you know that my sister, Debra, visited us last weekend. We were tickled to see her and, because Bernie and I have very little social skills, we took advantage of the free labor. I wanted to build a lean-to off the side of the chicken coop. You may recall the “Big Top” we ended up with in the front yard this year.

Tarp over chicken coop

Well, I was tired of it. But I still wanted to provide a little shade for broody moms and their babies, and I wanted to have an area that would allow the chicken feed to remain somewhat dry during the wet weather. So….. this is the weekend we planned to build the lean-to off of the chicken coop. And, as our luck would have it, this is the very weekend that my sister planned her visit.

Debra is a real sport. She never complained one single time. She even acted a little excited about it. My family is very odd.

coop lean to

coop lean to

I realize you don’t see Debra on a ladder swinging a hammer in those pictures. It’s not that she didn’t want to. The first time that I got up on the ladder to hammer a nail, I fell. And it was not pretty.

coop lean to

coop lean to

And Bernie was not happy. As a result, NO ONE but Bernie was allowed on the ladder for the remainder of the day. He can be such a buzz kill sometimes.

But Debra remained at his side, and in the end, we had the chicken coop lean-to framed in.

coop lean to

Isn’t she a cutey? Heifer.

We didn’t get the roof on before she left, but Bernie and I managed to get it finished this afternoon. Naturally, Bernie did the vast majority of it, but he did tolerate me getting up on the ladder two whole times. And I am quite please with the results.

coop lean to

My chickens seem to like it too.

coop lean to

Debra is a wonderful sister. I’m sure I couldn’t ask for a better one. She’s pretty, fun, sweet, and a good worker. And she keeps coming back, so I’m guessing she doesn’t mind that we take advantage of her visits too terribly much.

Feel free to drop in on us anytime. You may want to pack some work clothes……

One Lucky Boy

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

If you keep up with me on Facebook, you may recall that last week I posted that I was looking for a home for a cute little Phoenix cockerel.

phoenix cockerel

This guy narrowly escaped freezer camp a few weeks ago. He was spared for two reasons 1) He was really too little to eat and 2) he’s a full bred Phoenix. I really love my Phoenix hens and roosters. Not only are they pretty, they have very nice dispositions. I was really hoping we could find him a nice home. And that is exactly what we did.

When my friend, Charlotte, read my post on Facebook, she immediately wrote to tell me if I couldn’t find a home for the Phoenix cockerel, she would take him. Charlotte has wanted chickens for a very long time, and she somehow convinced Tex to agree to this cockerel. I wrote Charlotte back right away and said “Consider him yours.” She named him Feathers.

Bernie and I went over to deliver Feathers, and help work on the new coop and chicken yard that would be Feathers’ new home. When we got there, everything was well under way.

phoenix cockerel

Within no time, Charlotte and I had the chicken walking plank ready to go, and Tex had constructed the sliding chicken door.

phoenix cockerel

Charlotte tiled the floor of the coop. I am not kidding.

phoenix cockerel

Tex went in to install the roost. But there was a slight problem. Tex is a little bigger than a chicken.

phoenix cockerel

But he figured out a way to make it work.

phoenix cockerel

Just look at these new digs!

phoenix cockerel

Charlotte put the litter down, and we installed Feathers. He immediately showed his approval by scratching around happily.

phoenix cockerel

The guys quickly closed in the chicken run.

phoenix cockerel

And Feathers was allowed outside to check out his new yard.

phoenix cockerel

He looks pretty darn happy in his new home, doesn’t he?

phoenix cockerel

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Charlotte took this little cockerel. I had hoped to find him a good home and I am just tickled that I found him the perfect one.

phoenix cockerel

I have learned to never say “never” on the homestead. I never thought I’d let my hens hatch out babies. I never thought I’d cull one of my chickens. I never thought I’d eat one of my chickens. And I never thought I’d give one of my chickens away.

Hmmmmm. Following that logic, I never thought I’d win the lottery either. So maybe, just maybe, Feathers won’t be the only lucky one around here!

PS – Thank you Tex and Charlotte for bringing Feathers into your lives and providing such a wonderful home for him. Oh, and thanks for letting me use your camera and sending me all the pictures.

I Can Bring Home the Bacon

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

For the two of you that have been following my blog for the past 3 1/2 years (thanks My Dear John and Mom) you may remember that when we moved to our homestead just over two years ago, Bernie quit his job, and I began working from home. And we’ve never looked back.

When we moved here, the agreement was that Bernie would take care of everything on the homestead and my primary job would be to bring home the bacon. And, as agreed, Bernie would get groceries and run all the errands. This particular part of our agreement actually terrified Bernie and, quite frankly, ME. Bernie didn’t know how to shop. He’d never done that before. The fact of the matter is that I believed Bernie would starve and run around with no underwear without me to buy his food and clothing.

But Bernie surprised me. He became an excellent shopper. Not only does he makes lists for shopping, he has even learned to bargain shop. I’m really quite proud of him and the truth is, he has ended up to be a better shopper than I ever was.

A few weeks ago I had a day off from work, and it happened that it was the day the Bernie usually goes to town and does his shopping and runs errands. I decided to tag along with him. He had several stops to make, and at each of them the person behind the register knew him. He proudly introduced me as his wife, and without exception each exclaimed “We’re so happy to meet you!” Store after store, the reaction was the same.

As we were driving home Bernie said “Thanks for coming with me. Now everyone knows I really do have a wife.”

This afternoon I got a call from our insurance company. They informed me that I would save money by mail ordering my prescriptions through them. I quickly agreed and we got everything set up. When I hung up I proudly announced to Bernie “Well, I’ve just made your life a little easier. Now you won’t have to include the pharmacy on your list of errands when you go into town.”

His face fell. Clearly he did not understand what I had just said.

“Your list of places to stop when you go to town is smaller now. The insurance company is going to mail my prescriptions, so you don’t have to stop by the pharmacy.”

I thought Bernie was going to cry.

“What’s wrong?” I asked him

“I like stopping by the pharmacy. They know who I am and why I’m there. The minute they see me they grab the prescriptions and start ringing them up. They talk to me. I know about their puppies and work mates and all the pharmacy gossip. I like going by the pharmacy. What will they think when I stop coming by?”

I had never considered that. I thought I was doing him a favor. I guess I never really stopped to realize that not only does Bernie have a job, he takes it very seriously. He makes sure our homestead is cared for – from meals to firewood to out-buildings to groceries and everything in between. And he likes it. He really likes it. That not only surprises me, it makes me very happy.

Maybe I should just focus on bringing home the bacon. I no longer know how to fry it.