Tag Archives: eggs

A Week on and off the Farm – June 14, 2014

This week, two of our grandchildren celebrated birthdays.  Our eldest, son of our eldest turned 9, our first granddaughter, daughter of our youngest, turned 3.  Though we didn’t actually get to spend their birthday with either of them, they are special.

The garden is growing.  The garlic looks like it is ready to harvest and cure.  Agree?

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I never did make garlic scape pesto.   Oh well, there is always next year as it is a crop we plant annually in quantity to share with our kids.  The peas are or so close to being ready for the first batch of lightly steamed or sauteed fresh peas.  My mouth is watering at the thought.  The raspberry patch is starting to ripen.  It is really going to be a challenge to bring enough in to make jam or smoothies with as I graze as I am in the garden, they are so delicious fresh.

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A few weeks ago, while in Lowes, I purchased two new garden implements, a hoe with a two tine rake on the other end and a loop hoe.  The loop hoe is an okay tool in bare soil.  The other implement bent the very first time I used it and it will be returned to Lowes along with a wire brush they sold us for our new grill that has coated cast iron grates and specifically says DO NOT USE A WIRE BRUSH ON THE GRILL PLATES.  A few days after I purchased them, I received a copy of one of the only two magazines to which I subscribe and they had an article on must have garden tools, one of which is a new Rogue Tool Hoe that has a tapered, sharpened end, flat at the end and a 3 tine rake on the other end.  It is American made, forged and solid.  I ordered one and was notified that they were backordered and it would be several weeks.  I okayed that and two days later, was notified that it shipped.  It is a great tool, well worth the money and the wait.  Used on its side, it cuts right through the weeds.  The end cuts deeper for heavier rooted weeds and the rake grabs even young tap rooted plants and pulls them right up.  The wooden handle is thick and well balanced.  They aren’t paying me or giving me anything, but I highly endorse their products.

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This is the first week of the summer that we have had house guests.  Jim’s cousin and his wife spend Thursday night with us on the way to Pennsylvania to pick up his youngest son from college and will spend tonight with us on their way home to Georgia.  They brought us two bags of Georgia peaches to enjoy along with pecans and a lovely loaf of bread.  Some of the peaches were very ripe and after they left yesterday morning to finish their trip north, I prepared about half of them for peach jam.

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In 25 or more years of making jam and jelly, this was my first experience with peaches and it didn’t set up properly.  Last evening, we went to town to purchase more fresh pectic, new lids and while there, I bought another case of 1 cup jelly jars and reprocessed it last night with a bit more lemon juice and a new package of pectin.  It turned out perfectly and they will get to take a jar home with them tomorrow along with a couple of jars of berry jams from last season, some of the cured garlic still left from last year and a dozen of my fresh eggs to enjoy once they are home.

I subscribe to a delightful magazine called taproot.  It comes out 4 times a year, contains no advertisements, often contains a gift, such as a small notebook or some notecards with artwork from one of their many artist contributors.  It always has wonderful recipes, craft ideas and generally a knit, crochet or sewing pattern in it.  This issue has infused vinegars and three fermented mustard recipes that I want to try.  Today while making a vinaigrette from it for our salad tonight, since I already had the small blender out, I made the Horseradish mustard to sit and ferment for three days before adding in the last two ingredients.  Once it is completed, I will divide it into 4 oz jars and share the finished product with our kids that want to try it. (It tasted delicious even without the fermentation and last two ingredients, so I bet it is going to be great.)

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There are two more recipes for other mustards in the magazine, but I bet it will be hard to beat this one.

I must have been born in the wrong century.  I love preserving, growing a garden, spinning yarn, knitting, and cooking from fresh ingredients.  As we await their return for the night, I am preparing a meal of roasted radishes, turnips, yellow squash, garlic, spring onions, rosemary from our garden and the Farmers’ Market.  Local grass finished beef kabobs with Monterey seasoning that I make.  Shrimp with mustard basil marinade.  Salad with local vegetables added and the vinaigrette from taproot magazine with fresh from my garden thyme.

Life is good here on our mountain farm.

 

 

Questions answered

My favorite local organic farmers harvested a bumper crop of salad for their local restaurant and natural food store deliveries and I scored a pound of their “extra” that was delivered to my door for the same price I would pay if I went to the farmer’s market for it.  Two of my hen gems are boiling, a few chunks of cheese are cut, some leftover cooked asparagus and I am about to have a late lunch fit for a tired queen of the castle.

While he was here, I asked about the mystery weed

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that was threatening to overtake the garden.  It is Smart Weed and it does have pretty little flowers a bit later in the spring.  It does spread, but is relatively easy to pull.

This morning I went out to finish mulching the garden with the spoiled hay.  There is now a good thick layer in the paths, around the grapes and around the berries.  Hopefully this will keep the lambs quarters, smart weed, henbit, deadnettle, horse nettle and oxalis at least reduced.  For now it looks neat and tidy and I am still picking splinters out of my hands.  Yes, I know that I could wear gloves, but I never garden in them.

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A few days ago, when I was away from the house and Jim had been off on his motorcycle.  He had left the garage door open as it is difficult to close headed up the gravel driveway on his bike.  When he came back, he passed two adolescent males walking up our driveway and we wondered why they had been down here.  The house is secure with the two big beasts that live inside and I saw nothing amiss in the garage or the chicken pens.  Today, I think I discovered what mischief they wrought.  The end of the big round bale of spoiled hay that was going on the garden and had been used in the chicken coop until it molded is charred on the end away from the house.  Fortunately it didn’t catch, I guess they left it smoldering and it went out, thank goodness.  It does make me a bit concerned as we don’t know who they are or where on the mountain they live.  None of our close by neighbors have kids or at least kids that age.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

“Uncle” already

Will it never end?  Winter that is.  The predicted winter storm has already started, several hours before anticipated and it did not start as rain as predicted, but rather a slushy mix of precipitation.

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When I went over to check egg production progess for the day, I don’t want them to freeze as the temperature falls, this is where I found all of the hens.  Huddled under the coop wondering when this cold white stuff is ever going to end.  At least with the lengthening days, their production is up a bit, getting an average of 6 per day instead of the 4 from mid winter.

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The newbies are now a week and a day old and are starting to show signs of tail and wing feathers.  The more feathers they grow, the less I worry about the loss of power killing their heat lamp.

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I didn’t get around to my laundry and dishwasher detergent making session a couple of weeks ago, just made my lotion bars, but this morning, I realized that I was seriously low on laundry soap and out of dishwasher detergent, so I pulled out the recipes and went to work.  I was surprised and pleased after finishing it and calculating the cost, to find that it will cost me less than $.06 per load for laundry and about $.07 per load for the dishwasher.  Since I make my own soap, I know what goes into it and added to it only washing soda, baking soda, and borax for the laundry powder, I have an economical product that lacks any of the sketchy ingredients and it is safe for the front loading HE washer.  The dishwashing powder costs slightly more per load as the citric acid is a tad pricey, but that mix is only borax, washing soda, citric acid and salt, again an economical product without the sketchy ingredients and safe for the dishwasher and the septic tank.  Yes, the process takes about 10 minutes because I have to hand grate the bar soap, but I have a huge jar stored on the mudroom shelf, plus a small container on the washer and one to take to my son next month and I only made half of the recipe.

As the temperature is falling, the stew is simmering, I’m going to light the woodstove and fireplace and sit back and see if I can finish the second sleeve of my Estelle sweater that I am knitting of Quince and Co. Lark yarn.

I can’t spin as I packed up my wheel and shipped her off to her new home in Michigan and my new one won’t be in until late in the week.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

 

 

Easter Egg Hunt

The cold winter has taken a toll on egg production and on the cleanliness of the coop.  I use the deep litter method.   For you non chicken raisers, that involves starting with a very clean coop, putting down a few inches of pine shavings or fine straw, then piling dry straw, leaves, etc on top and stirring it up every day or so like compost, adding more straw or leaves as necessary.  If this is done correctly, there is no odor and in the spring, you have a coop full of hot compost to add to your pile for further decomposing.  Because we have hay fields and they are mowed and baled each year, I squirrel away 2 round bales that are stored near my coop and covered with a tarp for use in the coop.  I know, you aren’t supposed to use hay, but so far I haven’t had any problems.  Because hay generally isn’t as dry as straw, I do have to fluff and turn it daily and keep all ventilation holes open whenever the temperature is above freezing, but because of the cold and snow this year, the birds are spending more time indoors than I would like.  As a result, it has been harder to stay on top of the turning and fluffing.

It isn’t spring yet, but I was beginning to detect odor and knew that something needed to be done.  Leaving the compost part in place, I removed most of the hay from the coop and threw it in their run.  Pulled out the last of one of the big bales that had gotten very dry and added a new thick layer in the coop.

The chickens are very curious whenever I am doing anything inside their coop and they always come to supervise.  They lean out the open doorway, peck around in the corners, and get just where I need to be.  As soon as I put an armload of hay down, one would push it around and make a bowl shaped nest in it.  I would shoo one away to put hay down and another would be there.  By the time I finished layering new hay in the floor of the coop and under their perches.  Removed and replaced the old hay from their nesting boxes, I had about half of them in the coop making “nests” in the floor of the coop and trampling down the fluffy new hay.

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I’m betting that today’s egg collection will be an Easter Egg Hunt throughout the floor of their coop.  Funny birds.  I just wish spring would come so that the egg production picks up.  At least I have gotten eggs all winter.

Live is an adventure on our mountain farm.

Back on the Farm

The return to the farm has brought with it the return to Virginia winter weather. Today’s high occurred early this morning with a chilly day and frozen night in the forecast. With dusk last night came rain all night long, creek flooding rain and snow possible as the day wears on. The ridge behind us shrouded in low thick clouds.

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Last week when I was babysitting in Northern Virginia and available regardless of the weather, it was sunny and warmed to the 40s and 50s, today they are on the rain/snow line of this storm and likely having to deal with another weather closure or delay. That problem, I remember well, having three children and both of us having professional level jobs that were difficult to miss.

It is good being home, watching the antics of the dogs. Ranger the English Mastiff romping with the German Shepherd indoors and out, but having much less stamina and collapsing on his back outdoors, or into this position next to Jim when he is spent.

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The only place he is allowed to do that in beside hubby in his oversize worn out recliner.

When I got home yesterday afternoon, I went out to check on the chickens and do a bit of coop maintenance, I don’t ask that of Jim when he is chicken sitting for me and finally caught a Buff Orpington sitting on an empty nest, so now I know which eggs to set aside for brooding when one of the hens gets broody this spring.

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I don’t know which breed is laying the pinkish tan eggs far left, the Olive egger is obvious, the nearly white tan eggs are the Buff Orpington (at least one of them though I think the pinkish ones might be the other one. The darker brown even colored ones are the Red Stars, nice sized consistent eggs with good yolk structure and flavor, and then there is the girl with the faulty sprayer that lays a brown egg, sometimes speckled always with a color distortion on the wide end and the girl that lays extra elongated pointy eggs. I may never know though, because as soon as there are 14 Buff Orpingtons including Cogburn or his descendant, the rest will go to freezer camp and my eggs will be boring, but my flock self sustaining.

 

 

Egg hunts

Do you remember the excitement of an Easter Egg hunt? Each morning brings that momentary thrill when I walk over to the chicken’s coop area, laden down with a bucket of water for their dish, another of feed pellets for their feeder and whatever leftovers they are getting as a treat, today it was sauteed cabbage and a few green peas with the last piece of cornbread crumbled into the dish.  Once the waterdish is filled, the feeder hung outside the coop for sunny days and under the coop on bad weather days, the treat dish placed somewhere in the run, just for variety, I open the pop door and greet each hen with a back scratch as they exit and a good morning. Cogburn only tolerates being touched when terrified like the day recently when the dogs charged and everyone scattered amid yells and barks.

After the feeding and greeting chores are done, the straw in the coop must be forked over and freshened with new straw on top about twice a week.

Then, I get the thrill of peeking into the nesting boxes. There are 6 boxes, but generally the hens only use one, adding their egg to the clutch that has been started. Sometimes a hen can’t await her turn and will use the next nest over, or lay her egg just outside the boxes, probably while the box was occupied. Some days, there is only one egg when I let them out, or none, but as the day progresses, several more will appear, always in the same nest. Last thing at night as they are being closed up, one last check is done and sometimes there is a late treasure.

This time of year, there are generally 4 to 6 laid during the day, one day last week there were 8 and yesterday after being on strike since October then molting in late November into December, the Olive egger left us a green egg (no ham on the menu today.)

The hen gems are all varied in hue and shape. One hen lays a nearly round egg, one hen’s eggs are sharply pointed. One hen lays eggs that are lightly speckled with darker brown confetti, one hen’s dyer is faulty and she leaves a darker brown spot on the wide end. One hen’s eggs are rough textured and others so smooth that they are difficult to remove from the deep reusable cartons they are stored in once the counter bowl gets too full to use in a couple of days. I have tried to figure out who is laying what so that this spring when one hen gets broody, I can tuck a collection of Buff Orpington eggs under her and raise babies the natural way and not have to buy chicks this year, but I just can’t be sure. Perhaps I will have to buy pullets this year, then next year when all I have are Buff Orpingtons and Easter eggers, I will know. Until then, the egg hunt continues to delight me each day.
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Life is good on our mountain farm.