Friday, June 23, 2017

Cooking Class & Other Life Lessons

This summer, we asked J to make a meal once a week.  She has risen to the challenge, and prepared 3 delicious dinners so far.  She will research recipes early in the week, and give me a shopping list, and cooks for us later in the week, which frees me up quite a bit.

The first night, she made Chicken Cauliflower Fried Rice.  This was a yummy dish, substituting riced cauliflower for rice.

She prepared Spinach Ricotta Pasta last week, which was another entire meal in one pot.  She thought it needed more flavor, so next time she might add some fresh basil & parmesan, and increase the garlic.

Tonight we feasted on Chicken With Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce and green beans.  It was superb!

We are going to get spoiled with these gourmet meals once a week!

In other news, she has landed herself a summer job at the tender age of 14.  She applied to, and was accepted into a job placement program.  She will be placed at our local public library, where she has the sweet hours of 10-5, Monday through Friday, and will earn more than minimum wage.  She starts in early July, and will work for 6 weeks.  It makes her summer that much more busy, but she's pretty stoked about the chance to earn some money!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bringing in the Sheaves

The 4 of us spent a couple of hours this afternoon bringing in some hay that my Dad cut in our neighbor's field.  We use it for bedding in the chicken house.  I laid in the trailer on the way to the barn on a bed of new hay in all of its fresh smelling wonder.

The garden is doing very well.  The strawberries are almost finished, but the blueberries are going strong.  The next best thing to homemade Greek yogurt on a bowl of fresh strawberries, is the yogurt on a bed of freshly picked blueberries.


I'm also picking lots and lots of sugar snap peas.

The flower bed is becoming more colorful all the time.  I now have red, pink, and peach lilies in bloom, with Shasta Daisies from my friend, T.


In addition to the mauve, pink, peach and white Yarrow, I have red, pink, white and lavender Monarda blooming.

 
Our enormous roosters have been practicing their crows of late.  JP and I decided that it was time to harvest the broiler chickens this weekend.  We butchered the remaining 4 broilers, plus 2 of the old ladies that I had marked during the winter as non-layers.

I do not enjoy this part of sustainable living.  In fact, I felt pretty queasy during the hour and a half that we were working on butchering and cleaning the chickens.  It's part of being an omnivore, however, and I have come to terms with the not-so-nice parts.  The broilers have been either grilled for dinner, or frozen, and the stewing hens have been canned.

Honestly, I am a bit overwhelmed by chickens at the moment.  Until butchering day, we had chickens in 3 different houses, each requiring water and feed on a regular basis.  We still have 20 layers and 24 pullets, which I hope will be weaned down to about 18 good layers by Fall.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Last night JP & I got to cross an item off our "Bucket List."  We went to a U2 concert with some friends.  They are doing their Joshua Tree Reunion Tour, and happened to be in a city nearby.
 

 
I have been a huge fan since their first Joshua Tree tour, 30 years ago (as evidenced by this U2 poster in my dorm room, circa 1988.)
 



We had a fun night, but I have to admit that I'm too old to stay out until 1 AM, and then go to work the next day!
 



This amazing rainbow appeared over the stadium after we had been waiting over an hour for the band to come out:

 
I wish that I could have actually SEEN Bono & The Edge a bit closer up, and I wish the sound system didn't have so much interference, but overall, it was really good.
 
Consider that one crossed off the list!



Thursday, June 1, 2017

One Project Done, 27 More To Go!

I finally finished painting the propane tank today.  It was delayed by needing to purchase paint, and by rain on my days off.

It has gone from looking like this:

 
To looking like this:

 
Big improvement, no?  I even painted the end handles into little inch worms!


It looks like the birds were doing some decorating of their own on the lid of the rain water cistern.

 
I planted 2 more garden beds over the weekend.  Now there are only 4 to go, plus the ones L likes to plant.

Someday I will be all caught up on projects, right?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chicken Research

After losing one of my cockerels, I discovered that my other 3 cockerels had similar, albeit not so severe issues.  I did some online research, and determined that they were all suffering from "pendulous crop".  Since chickens have no teeth, their food is ground in the crop, a specialized part of their esophagus that grinds the food, along with grit (dirt & tiny stones that they swallow) before it moves on down the digestive system.  In some chickens, the crop can become impacted with food, or conversely, stretched and filled with liquid that doesn't move through.  In some cases, this liquid can develop a yeast infection, called "sour crop", that can cause all sorts of digestive and malnourishment problems.  This is what apparently happened to my 1st cockerel.

I realized that although the TSC chicks have been pastured on lovely, green grass, and moved every other day to a clean area, they do not have access to any grit to eat.  In addition, I learned that although they get fresh water every other day, adding a smidge of apple cider vinegar to it can be very helpful in alleviating and preventing the yeast infections.

I immediately added ground oyster shell to the feed of all my young chickens, and vinegar to the water of the TSC chicks.  Since then, 2 of the cockerels are greatly improved, and the 3rd, the one with the gimpy leg, is no better.  It appears that we may need to butcher him sooner, rather than later.

I also researched meat chickens, and although I am still unable to identify the breed of chicks that I bought at TSC, I am convinced that they are meat birds.  It is recommended that they be butchered between 5-13 weeks of age, usually at 6-8 lbs.  I am working on a method to weigh them, but it may soon be time to have fried chicken, as they are 9 weeks old and quite large.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I'm THIS Close to Crazy

There have been an insane number of things going on in the past week.  J visited Fallingwater with the rest of the 8th Grade, and she sang 3 solos in front of a packed house at the local Sandwich shop at an Open Mic the other night.  L had her last ever Art Day at school (all art, all day, fun, fun, fun!)  I spent 2 hours before work on Thursday, and all day Friday at the Elementary School helping out with said Art Day for the last time.  Just to name a few...
 
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I forgot to mention that they finally took the well rig away a couple of weeks ago!
 

New things are blooming in the flower beds.



These peonies are currently blooming.



The Creeping Thyme and Yarrow are in bloom as well.
 
The pullets are getting bigger all the time.  Here they are next to my old ladies.
 

Sadly, we've had a few casualties with the TSC chicks.  They are ENORMOUS, which makes me think that they are broiling chickens, and not layers.  In any case, 2 of my cockerels have developed large, fluid filled sacks in their chests that hang down to their scrawny chicken knees.  One has since expired.  Another one appears to have dislocated his hip today, so I suppose we will be eating him soon.
 
Speaking of good eats, the strawberries are in full force.  I have picked about 2 gallons of them.  There is nothing better for breakfast than homemade Greek yogurt on a bed of homegrown strawberries, and topped with homemade chocolate-peanut granola!
 





I've been letting J's rabbit run around with the chickens.  He has a grand old time!  You can tell that it's high time that we mow in the chicken run.
 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Blast of Summer Sun

The cool rainy weather stopped as abruptly as it began, and summer arrived overnight.  We have had sunny skies and temps in the high 80's - low 90's for the past 3 days.  That has made it much too hot to do much outside, although I did finish planting potatoes on Monday, put in a bed of onions, and broad forked another bed.  I was hoping to plant the tomato plants today before it rains tonight, but I just can's get myself outside into the heat!

Poor L was out in the heat all day today!  She and the rest of the 5th graders went to Pittsburgh and took a tour of Heinz Field and the locker rooms (where the Steelers play.)  After lunch, they went to a baseball game.  One of the teachers has been sending updates and pictures all day.  The last I heard, they left the game a bit early to try to miss some of the traffic, but the Pirates were winning.

I spent several hours in the cooler parts of the past couple of days painting the propane tank.  Right now I am painting on the shapes of rocks.  I have a few more "rocks" to paint, then I need to do some highlighting/detail work, and I'd like to add a few flowers growing up in front of the rocks.  It already looks better than it used to!

 
I also finally edited the video from J's duet a few weeks back and posted it.  You can see it here.

Keeping all of the chickens in water and food, and watering all of the outside plants has kept me busy too.  In fact, I need to go water everything/everyone again!

Some more things are blooming, and it's looking lovely!

Columbine

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Peony 'Sarah Barnhardt'