Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Chickens in the Garden

Blue Maran Roosters

Blue Maran's lay beautiful dark chocolate brown eggs

I got this idea for the individual chicken hutches from Mother Earth News; simple but efficient. My roosters are nearing adulthood (learning to crow...hilarious). As I do not want them in with the hens creating fertile eggs, I decided this would be a good idea as they would be separated from the hens and be a partial solution for the bugs that are trying to eat the entirety of my garden. Initially it seemed like a home run; they immediately started to eat weeds and bugs like crazy and I felt like the smartest person on earth. That is until the dogs noticed them and started to bother them from the other side of the fence.This panicked the chickens and caused them to find a way under the fence thereby practically putting them in the dogs' mouths who we already know from experience to be proficient chicken killers. We narrowly rescued the chickens and spent hours putting boards along the bottom of the fence to hold it down. So, now I think that the chickens are contained and safe. Silly me. They were content and seemingly contained for a few hours after which, when we checked, they were nowhere to be seen. Evidently, they stood on top of their hutches and used them to get to a height that enabled them to fly over the top of the fence. After a group effort chasing them through the woods, we returned them to temporary quarters and have decided to have them in the garden only when we are in there working. I haven't given up though. . Next year......better, chicken containing, garden fence.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yummy Stuff

First pit the Cherries
Time to do some canning. On the menu for today is Whole Cherries in Balsamic Cracked Pepper Syrup. I can tell you, this stuff is delicious...and, it gave me a reason to buy a cherry pitter. Being the kitchen gadget junkie that I am, this was just a little added joy to my day. I adapted this recipe from one in Robin Mather's book, The Feast Nearby. She made it with strawberries. Her book has many really good recipes in it.
 Very easy recipe. You pit the cherries, Then layer them in 2 cups of the sugar. Cover and let sit over night. That draws the juice from the berries. The next day, drain the cherries over a pot and set them aside. To the juice in the pot, add the balsamic vinegar, the remainder of the sugar and the pepper corns. Bring to a boil and bring to a temperature of 220 degrees. Add the cherries and bring back up to the same temp. Turn off the heat and let set a few minutes. Prepare your jars and canner and process for 10 minutes.

The trick to successful canning is to keep everything spotlessly clean and process for the time specified: don't cut corners. Wipe the lips of the jars with a clean cloth before putting on the lids. The rings should be snug but don't over tighten. You'll hear the jars sealing after they are out of the canner, they make a popping sound. If you push down on the lid and they don't give, you know they sealed. The flavor of home canned food is so much nicer than store bought. It's easy....try it!

Whole Cherries in Balsamic~Black Pepper Syrup

 5 pounds of fresh cherries
5 cups of sugar
3 cups good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns

Pit cherries, spread half in a shallow pan and sprinkle with 1 cup of the sugar.  Add the remaining berries and sprinkle with another cup of sugar. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature. The next day, transfer them to a colander set over a good sized pot. Let them drain. Set the colander with the berries over a bowl. Add the remaining 3 cups sugar, vinegar and peppercorns to pot with juice. Bring to a rolling boil stirring often till it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Add the cherries and any remaining juice from the bowl and bring back up to 220 degrees. Remove from heat and let set a few minutes. Fill clean, hot jars and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Old Stuff



Old glassware
Recently went to an Estate auction. It was as much fun as I remember. We were driving through town and it was in progress so we stopped and I stayed all day. (with no sun screen.....stupid....ouch) Got a ton of stuff with plans for craft projects, resale and some to keep. Got another iron bed, this one is plain but a good one. I'm going to have it sand blasted like the last one but I will spray paint this one and let my daughter borrow it until she moves in November. The old croquet set was something I really wanted and will probably keep it. I didn't get it as cheaply as I had hope. Seems every time I wanted something, there was one other person that was bent on having it as well. That's how auctions go. Pay too much for some things and very little for others, so it evens out. The croquet set had about 30 years of crud on it and all I did was clean it with a wood cleaner and then apply liquid gold wood treatment on it a couple of time. I looks great but keeps it's aged look. Oh if only I had more room for glassware.........you can never have enough! (Mark (my husband) would beg to differ........

Friday, June 1, 2012

Around the farm

Second stories added

Strong Colonies
Bee Chic
Chickens are growing up
Quails are starting to lay
French Breakfast Radishes

Isa's booboo is better

Been a busy couple of weeks around here and yet, haven't even begun to catch up. But, I've made a dent in it and there is hope yet. After being laid up recuperating from two surgeries and a year and a half of physical therapy, I am finally starting to feel whole again. I removed Isa's (my horse) sutures and it looks like it will hold together. The vet's suture job left a pretty nasty scar but I'm hoping in time it will fade and her hair will grow back to cover it up. She's happy to be off "stall rest" and be back in the general horse population. She was really good about the whole thing. The garden is starting to produce. The first batch of lettuce was pretty much a loss due to what I think are sand beetles. Carson the bunny has been enjoying it though. I bought two large bottles of vinegar and need to get out there with mulch and see what I can do. There are two kinds of weeds taking over my garden and no amount of weeding seems to conquer them. One is a type of grass and the other is a small plant; no idea what either is. The chickens are nearing their full growth. Should start getting eggs soon. We've found several quail eggs already. Need to get going on the coop. I finally got the special fittings yesterday so hope to start that today. Been canning today. Have another bed to redo and lots of other things in the works........stay tuned!