Monday, November 4, 2013

Hello, Again!

I am sorry to have neglected you! It was summer and the garden and hills and woods were calling me and I just realized I have not been keeping up on this blog as well as I should be.

I have a lot of great ideas to try out so I will document and post more often. Thanks for your patience and first post will be coming forthwith!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Bounty II - The Pecking Begins!

The largest egg on the right are from my white hens that have been laying for about two weeks now. The smallest egg to the left is from one of the brown hens that just started laying yesterday. It is just slightly large than a quarter!

I wore my flip flops out to grab the eggs and close up the coop for the night, it might not have been the best choice of footwear. I would like to say that I braved a pecking on the large toe from a quite indignant Buff Orpington in order to grab these eggs, thank you very much...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fun Facts about Chickens

I compiled this list about 6 years ago when I worked at Seattle Tilth as their City Chicken Coordinator.  I just found it again when doing some research.

  • A chicken will lay bigger and stronger eggs if you change the lighting in such a way as to make them think a day is 28 hours long!
  • Chickens can travel up to 9 miles per hour.
  • There seven distinctive types of combs on chickens: rose, strawberry, single, cushion, buttercup, pea, and V-shaped.
  • Unrelated to the chick, the male cock-of-the-rock bird earned the name "cock" because of its rooster-like appearance and combative behavior. The female of the species influenced the word "rock" being added to the name because of her habit of nesting and rearing the young in sheltered rock niches.
  • There are four places in the United State with the word "chicken" in their name. Chicken, Alaska; Chicken Bristle; in Illinois and Kentucky; and Chicken Town, Pennsylvania.
  • The largest chicken egg on record was nearly 12 oz., measuring 12 1/4" around.
  • The greatest number of yolks in one chicken egg is nine.
  • The record for laying the most eggs: seven in one day.
  • There are more chickens in the world than any other domesticated bird. More than one chicken for every human on the face of this earth.
  • The longest distance flown by any chicken is 301 1/2 feet. (as the crow flies)
  • Every bird and mammal except the spiny anteater experiences REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
  • Did you know that some breeds of chickens can lay colored eggs? Sure enough, the Ameraucana and Araucana can lay eggs colored in shades of green or blue, depending on the breed and it's ancestry.
  • In 1994, 73,866 million eggs were produced in the U.S. proving once again the U.S. has the best darn chickens in the world.
  • China not only has the most people in the world, but also has the most Horses with 10,000,000 and chickens with over 3,000,000,000 of them.
  • Chickens and turkeys are known to cross-breed, these breeds are known as "Turkins".
  • The term 'Chicken Pox' didn't come from people believing that they came from chickens, it came from the Old English term 'gican pox' - which means the itching pox.
  • Alektorophobia - Fear of chickens.
  • Laid head to claw, KFC chickens consumed worldwide would stretch some 275,094 miles. They would circle the Earth at the equator 11 times or stretch from the Earth approximately 50,094 miles past the moon.
  • There are approximately 450 million chickens in the United States.
  •  Chickens make sounds with actual meaning. They give different alarm calls when threatened by different predators.
  • A rooster will attack anything that he thinks will harm the hens ( that includes humans ). Their spurs (located at the back of their leg ) can cause a very painful puncture wound.
  • If a rooster is not present in a flock of hens, a hen will often take the role, stop laying, and begin to crow.
  • In Gainesville, Georgia - the chicken capital of the world - it is illegal to eat chicken with a fork! [Source: local ordinance]
  • McDonald's in India doesn't serve beef -- only chicken, mutton and fish. [Source: notice displayed in McDonalds Bombay outlet]
  • The closest living relative of the t-rex is the chicken.
  • The waste produced by one chicken in its lifetime can supply enough electricity to run a 100 watt bulb for five hours.
  • The longest recorded flight of a chicken is thirteen seconds.
  • There are more chickens than people in the world.

I am not sure how correct some of these facts are, but some are pretty darn fun!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The First Eggs of 2013

I just went out to check on the chicken's water and feed, and look what I found!

Four little, white eggs!

I was just planning to close them into their coop for the night! 

I am so happy! They are little eggs, but they are gorgeous. The shells are not quite as thick as I would like but for the first try they did great (meaning: they have shells)! Just means I will have to add some calcium to their diets.  

They might not lay anymore for the next few days, but hey these are some beautes! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Laundry Day

Sunday is laundry day.

It always has been for me. It always will be. Sunday mornings, I do all my laundry and clean the house while it splishy splashes away in the laundry room/ larder / guest room.... I have a small house.

Today, half way through the pile of clothes that needed to be washed, I ran out of laundry detergent. I still had another couple loads to do and I was in a groove, so instead of putting on a bra and heading to the store, I made my own.

Ok, that isn't quite right, I made a batch of laundry detergent about 2 months ago. I actually like how it cleans our clothes so I have all the ingredients to make another batch.

I found the "recipe" at and went to town.

Pretty easy actually

1 Bar of Fels-Naptha (you can use Ivory too)
1 Cup of Borax
1 Cup of Washing Soda (you can actually make that yourself by baking Baking Soda!)

So you take a bar of soap, preferably a laundry soap like Fels-Naptha or Zote, you can also use a soap like Ivory. Each bar cost me .99 cents.

I've heard you can use soaps like Dove, but I think I will stay away from moisturizing soaps for laundry.

You grate the soap using a cheese grater. I had considered using my food processor, but I love it too much to take a chance on breaking it. So hand grate it is and there is only one or two slivers of my flesh in there!
 Once grated, you add a cup of Borax.  A box of Borax cost me $3.89.

Borax is used as a water softener which, in turn, helps the detergent to work better.

Next you add a cup of Washing Soda Powder...

I didn't have washing powder...

So I made washing powder by cooking baking soda in the oven at 500degrees for 30minutes. Basically, if you evaporate the water molecules out of baking soda you get washing powder.

But this giant bag of baking soda cost me 12 bucks at Costco and I have used it for both uses. Win!

By the way, washing powder is caustic, poisonous and no longer edible so don't try to use it for cooking after this process.
 Baking my baking soda into washing powder!

Easy peasy, take baking soda, stick it in a pan, bake it at 500degrees for a half hour, you can see the difference in consistency when you take it out of the oven.

The powder is a finer consistency than when it went in a baking soda.
Then you mix everything in a big bowl and mix well for a few minutes. Make sure that everything is mixed together very well.

Avoid breathing in the powder, it doesn't feel too good inside your nose.

Then store it in a air tight container.

You only need to use a tablespoon of detergent per regular load. I take that to mean a tablespoon for medium fill in a normal size washing machine.

For the boyfriend's grease covered stuff I tend to use two. But that is just because I have issues.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

25 Pounds of Strawberry Love!

This is what 13 and a half
pounds of strawberries looks like.

I loves me some strawberries!

I loves going out to Harvold's Berry Farm every June and picking a whole bunch and making them into all sorts of nummy things!

This year I took the boyfriend's daughter with me and put her to work toiling in the hot sun!  Ok, I wasn't quite that cruel, but I did threaten to throw slugs at her...

But those tiny tween fingers picked 12 lbs of strawberries on their own! So in total today I came home with 25 POUNDS of strawberries. For get this... TWENTY-FIVE BUCKS!!

Now I know you are saying, "Holey strawberry shortcakes, Angelina! What are you going to do with 25 pounds of strawberries?!"

my cool hulling tool..
an old grapefruit spoon
And I will look solemnly at you, shake my head and say, "EVERYTHING!"

First thing I did when I got home was wash and hull 12 pounds of strawberries. I spread them out on wax paper covered baking sheets and they in the freezer as we speak.  Once they are frozen solid I will separate them into gallon ZipLoc freezer baggies and those babies will keep me in smoothies and cold snacks for months!

Next I took 5 lbs and made Strawberry-Lemon Jam.  A new recipe from a book my boyfriend's mother gave me for Xmas. Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. There are quite a few interesting recipes in there so I can't wait to give it a try this harvest season!

Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry

I am canning another 5 lbs for strawberry cheesecake, shortcakes, ice cream topping and whatever else I want to cover with canned strawberries.

I will go into more detail in a separate post on how to can strawberries as opposed to making jam!

I still have some strawberry jam left from last year, 3 pints, and those go to the front of the shelf to be used first.  I don't use pectin in my jam and last years batch was a bit runny, but it is awesome over pancakes and ice cream so it goes pretty quick.

Lastly, I have about 3 lbs of strawberries to send home with Trinity for her and her mother, for all her hard work at the strawberry patch and there will be a few for dessert tonight!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Soakin' It In

Earlier today, as I was procrastinating by walking the boyfriend's dog, Olive, I wandered over to visit with my friend, James. James is married to Sandy who runs Urban Land Army (which she needs to update sometime soon.. hint, hint).  Anyways I caught James just in the middle of laying in his soaker hoses in the garden. Something that I needed to do myself... But I decided to walk Olive another half mile instead.

But when I got home, I noticed it instantly,the glaring omission of soaker hoses in my garden and I was ashamed. So, I pulled up my big girl pants, changed out of my running shoes and got down to the nitty gritty of laying down 75 feet of hose.

 For those of you who might not know why gardeners might use soaker hoses, it's mainly because they conserve water, they get the water directly to the roots and they are much cheaper than putting in a drip hose or underground water system.

There are many different kinds of soaker hose; some are made of recycled tired, some are made of neoprene, some are made of high density fabric and some are simply hoses with holes drilled in them in intervals. All do the same thing, they water the roots of the plants which is where the water needs to go.

They are also good for reducing the amount of water that you use.  You are not watering the sidewalk or the neighbors yard or the side of the house, which might be the case if you use a sprinkler.  The water goes directly to where it needs to go.

Also with soaker hoses you water deeply which encourages the roots of your plants to spread wider and more deeply making them stronger and healthier. This again then conserves water as those wider, deeper roots are able to locate more water and drink deeply, which makes the need to water less frequent.

Soaker hoses are cool.

I am currently using the fabric flat hose by Gilmour. (No, I don't get a kickback from them for saying that, although I wouldn't mind.) These hose are AWESOME!

I've used the recycled rubber ones and the neoprene hoses, but these are flexible, light weight and pretty freaking durable. I have cut through one too many rubber soaker hoses with my shovel and those are a bugger to put back together...  Also they fold up small and store well for the winter, which can't be said for the rubber and neoprene hoses.

I already had one and needed a couple more for my project today so off I ran to the hardware store. I could only find the 25 foot soakers at the local giant box hardware store so I grabbed two. And headed home.  They are inexpensive, ten bucks at the local box hardware store  and you can screw them into each other in order to make them longer.

You can also find them on Amazon: Gilmour Weeper/Soaker Hose 25-Foot 27025G

Slightly more, but you can find the 50 and 75 foot lengths which has been hard for me to do locally. But I am a lover of instant gratification so I just grab the 25 foot lengths and screw them together.

Now one garden bed and my tomato bed are hosed. I need two more 25 or a 50 footer for the second long bed and a 25 footer for my herb bed. I'll get to that tomorrow... Although I admit I do enjoy standing outside in the morning before I head to work water my garden, at least now I can stand and stare at my garden lovingly while cradling a cup of coffee. Win-win!

Caw! Caw!

This morning a baby crow came into the yard.
Her parents are watching, vigilantly
I fear my eyes will get pecked out....

There is currently a baby crow in the yard.  I like crows, I find them entertaining. They make sure that the squished bits of squirrels are cleaned from the streets. They are smart.

Crows are in the Corvid family and that includes, magpies, ravens and jays. They are very smart critters and some can  even learn to speak.

This time of year, the young are kicked out of their nest and become fledglings. They cannot fly yet, but the parents are always close and they will continue feeding them for about another month or so.

So, currently, I have to keep my eyes to the sky while the parents protect their little one.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Meet the Cockadoodleoodler!

It can take weeks before you realize you have a rooster. You go through the stages of grief in losing a potential egg layer...

Denial - No... It can't be a cockerel. It's just a dominant hen... They wouldn't have sent me a rooster...

Anger - You gotta be kidding me! The $&%^ rooster is crowing at 5 in the *&$^ morning!! McMurray's is going to get a earful from me!

Bargaining - C'mon. You can be a quiet rooster... I'll give you extra feed if you don't start crowing until 7AM.

Depression - What the heck am I gonna do with a rooster? That is potentially 7 less eggs a week... Why even go on...?

Acceptance - Well... Maybe I will get a few chicks out of the deal and if not I can make a nice stew with him.

So the boyfriend named him Herb. Herb Cockadoodleoodler. But the neighbor named him Jasper and so that is what stuck.

Jasper Cockadoodleoodler
So, meet Jasper. Jasper Cockadoodleoodler.

Yes, I live in a neighborhood in Seattle. No, roosters are not allowed. No, I will not tell you where in Seattle I live.

Now, keep in mind I talk with my neighbors and I ask them to tell me if there is a problem with my birds and their sleep cycles. If there is an issue, Jasper will sleep in my stew pot.

But otherwise, he is sweet. And he is a good looking bird. I believe that he is an Ameraucauna, he's got the blue grey feet and, hopefully, he will be a good sire of many baby chicks. And again if not, he will be delicious.

I have come across many people who have tried to give away their roosters in the romantic and naive hope that they will live out their life on some farm somewhere and never even have an inkling that there is a pot out there that, potentially, cooks chickens.

I admit I tend to look on those people with a slight bit of disdain. Do not get me wrong, to each their own, but I believe that if you are going to raise farm animals you should know how to dispatch a unwanted rooster or an injured hen, quickly and efficiently. I would say the same about goats, pigs, rabbits and other small farm animals allowed within the city limits.

I don't mind having a rooster, even one who crows at 6AM, but if it becomes a problem with my neighbors, I will not try to push my responsibilities off onto someone else and will take Jasper... Out, so to speak.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I blame it all on Laura Ingalls Wilder.

As a young girl I loved the Little House on the Prairie television show. I watched it every week and yearned to be friends with Melissa Gilbert's Laura Ingalls.

I read the Little House books over and over until my copies were tattered and dirty from reading in the tall grass of the field by my house in the hot summer sun. I wanted to be a pioneer girl. I wanted to run through fields of tall hay and milk cows and draw water from the well and climb hay stacks and make maple candy and sugar.

I just re-read the books after 30 years. They reminded me of why I am so enamoured by self sufficiency.  It's all Laura's fault.

I still want to live in a little house on the prairie. I still want to be a pioneer girl and make my own bread and tat my own lace and churn my own butter. I want to give these books to every little girl I see and tell them, "Read this. It's about a strong woman in a strong time doing strong things."

Bubble, Bubble, No Toil or Trouble

A few weeks back I culled about nine meat birds. We have been enjoying lovely roast chicken dinners almost every Sunday since. I love roasting a bird on Sundays because you have a yummy dinner with the one you love and you have left-overs for the rest of the week.

I try to roast them whole, so that I can take advantage of the whole bird. Once we are done with Sunday dinner, I pick off the rest of the meat, put it in a storage container to use for dinners later in the week and freeze the carcass for broth.

I don't like to waste food, and I find it much more cost effective to can my own broth for future use. Store bought broth can be a couple bucks a can,

So I decided to do some math... I purchased the birds from Murray McMurray's and spent $97.33, including shipping for 25 birds. This came up to $3.89 per bird, what it would have cost me to purchase them from a local supplier or farm.

In the 9 weeks that I had the meat birds I purchased 10 bags of feed at $18.00 a bag.  I had 25 birds including the meat birds, this came up to .72 cents a bird per bag. Each bird cost me approximately $7.20 to feed. (We will gather that the meat birds ate a larger share of this, but I am not going to try to calculate how much more...)

Cost of bedding was another $9.00 a bale and I purchased five bales of shavings. This would come up to $1.80 a bird.

In total is cost me $12.89 a bird. At this price it was still cheaper than buying a organic bird from my local Co-op!

I have chicken livers in the freezer to make pâté, as well as, gizzards, hearts and feet in order to get the most bang for my buck. I use the carcasses for broth and I can get one or two more dinners from the left overs. The other week it was chicken enchiladas.

When I have two or three carcasses in the freezer I make broth and can it. I use the broth for gravies, pastas and soup base. It tastes better than the store bought stuff and, again, it is cheaper.

The broth isn't all that exciting, veggies and chicken bones. I keep onion skins and carrot peelings in a bag in the freezer and use that in making my broth. Throw in some celery and today I found a great deal on leeks, so I threw those in too.

Bring to a boil then drop it to a simmer for an hour or two. Strain it with cheesecloth and can it. With broths you do have to pressure can them and process them according to the canner instructions. I processed my cans at 10lbs for twenty minutes.

I now have a dozen pint cans of broth for use ready to go on my larder shelf. When you take into consideration that some stores carry chicken broth for $1.50 a can, I find that canning it myself is cost effective.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Meat is Murder... Tasty, TASTY Murder

This year I got Cornish X Rock meat birds from Murray McMurray Hatchery. I've never raised meat birds before and have found there are quite a few differences.

They grow amazingly fast. They are triple even quadruple the size of the egg laying birds I got at the same time. They are lazy and are content finding a spot and lying there the whole day, especially if they can lie down with their face in the feeder so they can eat at the same time.

They are not as fastidious as their egg laying cousins and will lie in their own poop, they are not picky about this.  I have found I need to keep the coop regularly cleaned as it does cake on their breast feathers and will make for an unpleasant job at processing time. I ordered 25 birds in total 15 of which are meat birds and this was a bit tight for my coop space until it got nice and I was able to let them wander a bit more.

They are greedy and will push all other birds out of the way of food and water, they are much more food aggressive so if you are able to keep them in a separate coop that is a good option. But not necessary, they are not overly violent to the smaller birds they just want to get to the food first.

Did I mention they grow FAST?  They are 9 weeks and ready to be processed this upcoming Saturday. I believe that most will probably dress out at 5-6 lbs. Some might even be larger! I believe there will be a few nice roaster/broilers in the bunch.  I've already processed 6 and have another 9 to go. The ones I processed a couple weeks back were 3-4 lbs, perfect for fryers.

I like to roast a chicken every Sunday as it makes for a very nice Sunday evening meal and leftovers for the boyfriend and I all week long for lunches and easy dinners.  It will be nice to be able to roast my own homegrown birds, knowing they led happy lives and ate good food and bugs.

I make a simple roast bird

1 large roasting chickens, trussed
Salt and pepper and fresh thyme from the garden

I rinse and pat dry the chicken sprinkle salt and pepper and thyme generously all over the bird and stick it in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for a hour and forty-five minutes to two hours. It is always good to put the bird over a bed of sliced potatoes and let them roast in the schmaltz. YUM!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Chick is in the Mail

 I received my order of Murray McMurray chicks in the mail today!

They were boxed very securely and all look very healthy and were quite vocal about their dislike of being shipped in the mail. All but one survived.

I had to pick them up from the Post Office and since my back is killing me, I am home from work and was able to do so. I could hear them peeping as soon as I walked in.

I had the nice lady at the post office help me carry the chicks to the car(not that the box was all that heavy, it is basically full of fluff) and brought them on home to their coop. Light was already set up and ready for them. Filled their water, I made sure they all got a sip and now they are exploring their little pen.

 I have 25 chicks. I purchased the Meat-N-Egg combination from McMurray's Hatchery and the meat birds will be slaughtered at about 7-10 weeks old.  Approximately fifteen of the chicks should be meat birds and the rest should be egg layers.

Because the meat birds are a young age when slaughtered they are much more tender than the old hens I had culled to get the coop ready for this shipment.

Meat chickens are bred to grow fast and provide a lot of breast and thigh meat. In fact, some breeds grow so fast and get so heavy in a short amount of time that their legs break. In order to attempt to mitigate or avoid this, you can purchase a vitamin booster. I had the Broiler Booster included with my order as well as a package of Quik Chick. I haven't tried these supplements before so this is a test run for me. I will see how it turns out!

The meat birds that are included in this combination is Cornish X Rocks and/or Cornish Roasters. Both are big breasted, big thighed birds. They remind me a little of me... Anyways, they are bred to grow fast and big. The Cornish X Rocks (Cornish Cross Rocks) should hit their  mature weight 3 to 4 lbs and be ready for slaughter anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks.  While with the Cornish Roasters you have the option of using them as Fryers at 8-9 weeks and they will be 3-4 lbs at that point or you can slaughter them at 12 weeks or so and they will be Roasters at 8-9 pounds!!! That is a big bird!

Meat birds are bred to be much more appealing in looks once dressed, meaning they have the common yellow skin you see in the grocery stores.

I am not sure what egg layers I have in the bunch since with the Meat-N-Egg combo you do not get a choice, but they should be from their batch of rainbow egg layers, so this means they can be just about anything!

Only one bird did not survive the shipping... McMurray's credited that amount for my next purchase. Which was more than fair and very good customer service.

In the past I have always purchased birds from the local grange or feed store, but they never carried meat birds. I think this might be the best option for future orders!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hurry! Hurry, Murray McMurray!

(had a bad case of insomnia last night which brought on an anxiety attack this morning, so I decided to stay home from work since I am pretty much worthless at work today. Gives me a chance to work on the blog!)

My chicks are on order from Murray McMurrays Hatchery and should be here the first week of February!

I've ordered the Meat-N-Egg Combo. This is a combination of 15 meat birds and 10 egg-layers. It was the best deal, in my opinion, for what I wanted; enough meat birds to last me several months and then the egg-layers to last a couple of years!  Yes, yes, I know that that is over the amount allowed in the city, but since the meat birds will be culled at 7 to 10 weeks. I am justifying this decision.

I have been slowly culling the birds I currently have, a couple every week in order to make room for the chicks on order. The boyfriend is more attached to the birds and I don't make him help me. Once the chicks come, I get the feeling he will be out in the coop cuddling baby birds every chance he gets.

There was an online discussion recently concerning culling (killing and butchering) versus giving the birds away. I am personally of the culling ilk and I have been called a chicken murderer on a regular basis. I feel that all you are doing by giving the birds to someone else is shuffling the responsibility to another person, potentially a kind-hearted person who does not necessarily realize that the birds will not lay regularly. They will then either have to decide to cull the birds themselves, give them to another kind-hearted person who will then have to make those decisions or let them loose, which is illegal.

I tend to believe that if you are going to go into keeping chickens you need to consider what you are going to do with them once their egg production slows to the point that it is not economically feasible to keep feeding them. If you want pet chickens, then you need to know that birds can live upwards of 7 to 8 years and only lay eggs regularly during the first couple of years. Like most female animals, chickens have a finite number of eggs they can produce.

Chickens are also extremely territorial and adding chicks and hens to a flock can be a traumatic experience, full of maimings and fights to establish pecking order. Chicks might be killed outright be older hens if introduced directly to a flock and will be constantly beat up if introduce when older, which may subside or it may not.

If you are fine with this and just want a pet chicken, then go with them. Chickens do make wonderful pets. They can be sweet if properly socialized, just like any pet. They are smart and can be trained. They are funny and can provide hours of entertainment. They have personalities. But they do have relatively long lives.

But if you just want them specifically for their eggs, you need to consider your plans for them when they are no longer laying as often as they once had. You get approximately two good years of regular laying, after that it tapers off significantly each year. If you plan on giving them away, ask the person taking them what their future plans are for the birds. Or if you are interested in learning how to cull the birds, there are classes available on how to dispatch your birds humanely and quickly, and to butcher them for your meal.

There is a class coming up in February through the Seattle Farm Co-op. Contact them for information on this.