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.