Thursday, March 31, 2011

We've got a problem...

We've got rats in the chicken coop!!!  Well, this isn't really new, we've known for a while, but they kinda scared me today.  I went out to the coop to tuck them in for the night, and as I rounded the corner, I saw at least two scurrying away.  One of them even ran head first into the door.  It was really funny.

We knew that they were in getting in the first time the coop flooded in November since we found little poops here and there.  We plugged up a hole that we thought they were getting in from and noticed that the feed was lasting longer.  But, over the last several months, we've seen evidence of them here and there, including some poops that we found last time we cleaned the coop due to a flood.  One even ran over Shawn's foot a couple weeks ago when he was in there in the dark.  Spooky.  I can just see my mom squirming right now.

So even though I've known about them for a while, now that I've seen them I'm officially considering it a problem.  I don't really know what to do other than start the ladies on a meal regimen.  When they're free-ranging, they're door is wide open with the food just sitting there, pretty much inviting the rats in.  I don't really like the idea because that means more work for us and we have to make sure to be home to feed them all the time.  I guess I don't really have a choice at this point.  Boo.

Oh, I know what a rotten egg looks and smells like now.  I was snooping around the coop today looking for rat entrances and found a Frannie egg behind the nest box.  I did the float test and it got about a C+.  My sister and her bf told me to open it so I did out of curiosity.  Big fail.  The white had a tinge of green and it smelled really bad.  Some got on my shirt too.  Gross.  Maybe my mom is squirming again... My sis and her bf, even though they were the reason I opened the damn thing, were out of the kitchen in a flash.  Thanks for the support, jerks.

Oh my broccoli has sprouted.  Everything else, well... the spring that showed up for a couple days decided to go away again, so that's leaving the rest of the stuff dormant, even in the greenhouse.  sigh...

I haven't posted a picture of Nikolai in a while...
Hangin' out.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What do Chickens Eat?

The short answer is everything.  I mean it.  If it's small enough to fit into their beaks, soft enough to tear it into pieces small enough to fit into their beaks, interesting-looking, in my hands, moving, slimy, green, in a bowl... you get the picture. 

I've seen them eat little bits of plastic, GIANT worms, toxic rhubarb leaves, and all other things that make me nervous with no trouble at all.  The last people to live in this house had all kinds of stuff and we're still finding small, degrading bits of garbage around the yard.  The problem is they are all about the right size to fit down a chicken gullet.  My mommy instincts are high, so I'm constantly picking up little bits of foreign materials so the ladies don't get 'em.

The fact that they eat everything is mostly a good thing.  Every little bit of something they find to munch on in the yard is that much less chicken feed I have to buy.  It's free food, man.  They also eat things that I don't want in my yard like slugs, weeds, and weed seeds.  They are my own herbicide/pesticide machines.

Another thing that they eat is leftovers and food scraps.  It's awesome to look at a pile of edible materials that I would normally throw in the compost and see it as free chicken feed.  I'll have some leftovers that are getting a little too old for my own consumption, that the chickens see as a gourmet meal.  It's become a bit of a hobby to look at everything and asking myself: "can the chickens eat it?" before throwing it away. 

I make sure to give the ladies a snack everyday.  I've noticed that it really improves their egg production.  The snack varies quite a bit depending on what I have in my 'fridge that needs to go.  Usually I mix a random assortment of things together that would normally gross a human out and they just looove it.  Here is a list of some of the things that they've gotten recently:

* Freezer burned green beans
* Stale rice
* Old apple sauce
* Carrot peelings
* The really hard part of a broccoli stalk (chopped up)
* Carrot tops
* Okara (Leftover soy pulp from making tofu)
* Old crusty raisins
* Gross chewy frozen corn
* Pumpkin seeds (shell and all...)
* Expired kinako (that's a sweet soy powder that Japanese often use in desserts)
* Stale bread

This is all stuff that I would normally toss in the compost, but instead I now can recycle it into fresh eggs and high quality fertilizer.  It feels really good to think of it that way. 

I also bake and crush up their egg shells and sprinkle that on top of their snack to make sure they're replenishing their calcium since they put so much of it into their eggs.  I know there should be enough in their layer feed but they eat so much stuff separate from their feed that I like to supplement it a bit, just to make sure.

Green beans, rice, kinako, and egg shells
Green beans, raisins, okara
The really funny thing about this whole chicken snack business is how obsessed they are with it.  They see us coming with the blue or green bowls, that have now become the official chicken bowls, and those ladies come running like they haven't eaten in days.  They've gotten so used to me feeding them snacks that when I go out back without one, they look confused and try to bite my fingers.  It kinda hurts.  It's also a super easy way to get them back into their run when we need to get them in before it gets dark.

They eat SUPER fast.
I'm currently in the process of making a funny video that shows how awesome they look when they run.  Hopefully it will be done soon, so you all can see it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


We just waddled home from a romp to Seattle Vegfest where we ate until it hurt.  For those who don't know what that is, it basically a mish-mash of a ton of vegetarian and vegan food companies that are brought together by Vegetarians of Washington for an awesome food sharing extravaganza.  99% of the tables are giving away samples and a lot of them also give away free packaged samples to take home.  It's 8 bucks to get in, but there is soooo much food that it's totally worth it.  We made sure we were hungry when we got there, and within an hour of walking through the doors, both our stomachs and our bags were full of free vegan/vegetarian food. 

I tried non-dairy cheese for the first time, which was actually much more tasty than I thought, and we got to try a lot of attempts at creating imitation meats.  Of course, they generally taste nothing like meat, but if you eat it with an open mind, most are pretty good.  I tried some almond yogurt which I thought was totally disgusting, and I just stayed away from the chalky-looking protein drinks.  Gross. 

Some of the free sweet take home goods we got were a tub of vegan butter (coconut oil, pretty yummy), some tofu, several odwalla bars, a dozen or so tea bags of various flavors, some Lara bars, honey sticks, and some granola.  All those look like this:

Pretty good huh?  Totally worth the 8 dollars.  But seeing all these crazy foods got me thinking, how healthy is all of this?  I know there are a lot of reasons behind vegetarianism:  health, animal rights, environmental, taste, etc.  Most of which I share in my personal choice to generally stay on a vegetarian diet.  I think there is a general thought that vegetarians are eating healthier, more wholesome foods.  But I can't help but think that some of the food at Vegfest today is not only unhealthy, but sometimes even worse that "mainstream" foods. 

Take all those meat substitutes.  Some of them have such long ingredients lists with words I've never heard of or don't understand, that it makes me feel uneasy.  We talk about how processed foods are terrible for you but forget that a lot of these foods are totally processed.  So many of them contain preservatives and various corn products (don't get me started on our problematic dependence of corn-based ingredients,) that at times, I feel like we're going too far into vegetarianism.  I get it, people want to eat "meat-like" substances to replace what they give up, but why eat something that is more foreign to our bodies than just plain meat?  And some of it is just gross.

I could go on for a while about this, but I digress.  Let me end by saying that there were a lot of food products there that were more whole foods-like, that don't fall into this gross processed-with-chemicals category: kombucha, fruit leathers, veggie patties, lentil curry, kelp salad...  All pretty delicious.  This whole conversation is super complicated and controversial, I know, and I'm sure I did not do it justice.  I'm reading a really good book right now that's talking about all this so I guess it's on my mind...

On a completely different note, we've decided to get two more chickens.  We don't know the details yet of when or where, but it's gonna happen soon-ish.  Oh, and Abby laid her 100th egg today.  Congratulations Abby!  Tomorrow Frannie should do the same.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Helllllooo Spring!

The day that I've been waiting several months for finally arrived.  Planting day!  And could the weather on Saturday have been any nicer?  My seeds arrived in the mail 2 weeks ago, and the greenhouse I ordered came last week.  The last thing I needed was some time and a nice day and that is what I got.

The first thing I did was move some soil around.  To the chickies' delight, that meant digging through the compost pile, exposing tons of slimy, delicious worms.  Apparently a mixture of straw, wood shavings, newspaper, and chicken crap is a magical concoction that is paradise for worms.  We're constantly adding to it, but the worms have no problem keeping up.  We've been adding to it for about 10 months now, it really showed.  Underneath the thick layer of new stuff, was a nice pile of black, decomposed, beautiful chicken manure fertilizer.  Awesome.  We added a couple bucketfuls into each bed and turned most of the large planting area.  Well, Shawn did anyway.

Straight into the ground went the potatoes, peas, and kale seeds.  I made my own potting soil by mixing some of the fresh compost, soil from the beds, and a tiny bit of organic fertilizer I had left from last year.  I don't actually know what makes a good potting soil, I just made it up.  Into several 4 inch pots went kabocha squash and zucchini.  In the quad pots I planted broccoli and heirloom tomatoes, and into the pear discs went some sweet peppers and artichokes.  I also planted a half a flat of onions and some carrots.  These are all resting in our newly acquired mini-greenhouse.

Cute, huh?  I feel a bit guilty for buying this brand-new and not looking for something used or even making one myself, but we had a gift certificate to from our trip to a coinstar machine, so I treated myself.  Thinking about making one myself, though I know I could have figured it out, just made me feel really tired for some reason.  Sometimes I get burned out of being creative, I guess.

Another thing we had to do was chicken-proof the beds.  We've come to find that those little ladies can really do a number on the yard.  Their big clawed dinosaur feet can destroy a lot of ground and they'll eat almost anything green too.  We've also found, however, that chickens can be really stupid.  They have no sense of what their bodies can do, and will not venture into any space that isn't bigger than the width of their bodies.  We found this out several weeks ago, when Shawn went to go tuck them in for the night.  It was already dark out, so he expected them to be up on their roost.  What he found were three frightened-looking ladies stuck out in the darkness in their run, unable to get into their coop.  The little door was open, but not wide enough to let them through.  Even though they could stick their heads in, they had no concept of just pushing their way through, which kept them stuck outside.  Silly, right?

We had some old fencing... but not quite enough.
 Anyway, we used this knowledge and created a makeshift fence out of sticks that we had leftover from when we trimmed the apple tree.  After the ladies were through clearing out the beds of slugs and earwigs, we just stuck the random sticks in the ground close enough together so that the spaces were skinnier than they were, and voila!  Chicken proof.  It looks hilarious, but it was free and it works.  I think it looks kinda good too.  I didn't think chicken-proofing would be so easy.
A little bit of pink string to hold it together...

The side bed where the sunchokes and potatoes are planted.
I still have a lot more planting to do, which is most definitely not a problem.  Next up, some lettuce and carrots, maybe the cucumbers... who knows?  This is very exciting.  Homesteading for real!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making Tofu: It's Science!

I've had the urge to make tofu for a little while now, and with my spare time in between quarters, I found the opportunity.  Tofu, a delight for many vegetarians, non-vegetarians, and most Asian cultures, is one of my favs.  It's such a simple staple that can go into virtually anything and take the flavor of everything.  It's a really nice blank slate to start with that can be transformed in many dishes.  Some don't care for it, but I think that's like saying you don't like bread.  Tofu itself comes in various forms and textures and you can even get it flavored both sweet and savory.  mmmm...  I love it.

Tofu is in many ways really similar to cheese.  You start with a milk, add a chemical to it to separate it into curds and whey, and then squeeze most of the liquid whey out.  The curds squished together make tofu or cheese.  The biggest difference is that tofu has no live bacteria in it and you eat it right away.  Oh and when making tofu, you also have to make the milk first... from soybeans.

The website that I got the directions from is this one, the same one that gave me the so-far-yet-to-successful Kasutera cake.  Even though you could read it there, I'll explain what I did here anyway.

Ok, so first you start with a pound of dried soybeans.  NOT edamame.  The dried white ones you can get in bulk.  I started with organic, hoping that means they were not involved with Monsanto. (Boooooo!)  I washed them and left them to soak in water overnight.  In the morning, they were nice and soft (not cooked soft, but not rock hard anymore) and back to their original size.  I rinsed them out again.

Then I threw them in a food processor with just enough water to cover them and pureed them.  I would recommend using a blender for this, but our blender sucks balls so I had to use the food processor.  It was kinda messy, and I had to process them in 4 separate batches.  But that was ok, because you have to make the soymilk in two batches, unless you have a giant stockpot.  I mean really giant, like one that could hold 2 gallons of liquid easily.  Who has one of those?

So take half your pureed soybeans (about 4 cups), which now look nice and white and gooey, and put them in the stock pot with about 14 cups of water and set it on medium low heat.  (It helps to have the water already hot when you throw the white goo in, just for time's sake.)  You're going to want to cook this for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, but you can't leave it.  It will foam over.  Several times.  Each time it threatens to do so, you can either take it off the heat each time to let it simmer down, or add a half cup of cold water by sprinkling it over the foam.  I did both. 

Watch out! Here it comes!
Here it is, threatening to boil over.  It's ok, the foam will go away eventually, I promise.  Here's proof:

After it has cooked for about 30 minutes, the foam will go away, and you'll be left with soy milk that's ready to be separated from the soy pulp.  I lined a colander with cheese cloth and placed that over a large bowl to catch the milk.  I repeated this whole process again with the other half of the soybean puree and was left with about a gallon of fresh soymilk. 

 The pulp that you're left with is called okara and can be used for cooking.  I'm sure my next blog will be something about a cool thing that I did with it.  It's not good to eat on it's own, though the chickens love it.  (Don't worry, Mabel got to try some before she died.)

250 degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
I dried half of the okara in a low temp oven and threw it in the freezer, because I knew I wouldn't be able to use it all before it went bad. 

Back to the milk.  You can save some to drink if you like soy milk, but I don't, so we're moving right along.  The milk went right back into the rinsed stockpot and back onto the stove.  (Now there technically was an intermission of a night here since I took two days to make this, but we'll pretend this all happened in one day, k?)  For the next step, you want the milk to be 165 degrees.  This may mean you need to wait for it to cool down if you just made it or heat it back up slowly.

I love science!
Now this is where the science part comes in and my nerd comes out.  The coagulant you need for the next step is called Nigari.  It's actually magnesium chloride with some magnesium sulfate.  (Said with a nerdy lisp while pretending to fix your glasses, of course.  Just do it, you know you want to.)  Just for you nerds like me, here is the Wikipedia link that explains what it is nicely.  I got this little bottle for $5.99 at Uwajimaya.  It comes in both powder and liquid, but they only had the liquid kind there.

Once the milk is around the 165 temp (it doesn't have to be exact, tofu is more forgiving than cheese), you're gonna add the nigari.  Since I can barely read the label on the bottle, I just started adding the stuff in, a half teaspoon at a time, stirring well in between each addition.

Ricey milk?
Pretty soon, the curds will start to appear.  When it looks like there are a whole bunch of little ricey-looking curds floating around, you can stop adding the nigari.  You want to add as little as needed since the nigari is really bitter and you don't want that flavor in your tofu.  I think I ended up using about 4 teaspoons.  Cover the pot with a lid and leave it for 15 minutes.  During this time, you can get your molds ready. 

These molds are the ones my parents used when they made tofu many moons ago.  They're made of plastic, and made to look like wicker baskets.  Very classy.  They both have a wooden block that is sized to each one to use as a press.  You can really use any container with drainage holes in them, or even a small colander or strainer and use a bowl full of water to set on top as the press.  Look around, be creative!  Maybe Goodwill has something you can use.  I hear they have all kinds of cool stuff...

Anyway, I lined each mold with some damp cheese cloth and set them in the sink to await the curds.  We're getting close, people!

Kinda looks gross, but it's soooo not.
When you come back after 15 minutes, your pot should look like this, with the curds a little bigger and sinking to the bottom.  Now seive off some of that liquid by resting a strainer in the pot and ladling out some of the excess liquid.  You can save this liquid, I don't know if there is any nutritional value to it, but I saved a yogurt tub full... who knows what I'll do with it.  Anyhoo, now you're ready to ladle those curds into your molds!  I had just enough curds to fill my two molds comfortably. 

Once the molds are filled to your liking, fold the cheese cloth carefully over them so they are nicely covered.  Set your press onto the cheese cloth and place a weight of some kind on top.  It really doesn't have to be that heavy, as you can see, a full water bottle was enough.  Leave it be for 15-30 minutes.  You can check for firmness by poke testing it to see if it's to your liking.  This is where the various firmness ratings of tofu come in.  Obviously, the less water in it, the firmer it will be.  When you're happy with it, carefully drop the tofu into a bowl of water and unwrap it.

The wicker grooves make it classy.
Ta daaaaa!  Tofu!  As fresh as it gets!  You may want to taste test for any bitterness, which can easily be washed out by letting it rest in a water bath that is changed a couple times.  You can store this tofu in the 'fridge for several days, but you want to eat it ASAP.  It has no preservatives, so it will go bad quickly.

So how to eat it?  We ate it fresh.  We just cut it up into cubes, grated some fresh ginger, and chopped up some scallions.  Put these three things together with some soy sauce and bonito fish flakes and we were in heaven...

Sooooo gooooood...
In conclusion, tofu is fun and easy to make.  It's like a science experiment in the kitchen with tasty results.  If I had time, I would never buy it again and just make it whenever I wanted it.  We'll see if that happens...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mabel Update

First off, huge thanks go out to everyone who offered their condolences yesterday and today.  Thank You!

After a call from the vet yesterday afternoon, I was put at ease to find that Abby and Frannie have nothing to worry about.  It turns out the leading cause of death was liver failure.  The Dr also said that there were some issues with her reproductive organs, and she had a broken egg inside of her, which caused an infection similar to pyometra in female dogs.  I asked what causes these two things, and the vet was really unsure.  My guess is she came to us with an already weak liver and who knows what caused the broken egg.  I was glad to hear that there was really nothing that could have been done for her, I didn't do anything wrong, and Frannie and Abby are going to be ok. 

Speaking of which, they are doing fine.  They stood by each other extra close yesterday and went to bed early, but overall, don't seem to be too affected by the sudden loss of their sister.  They might know something is off, but that's the extent of it.  They're free-roaming the backyard now, doing their usual chicken thing.

Some people have asked us if we're going to get more chickens.  Part of me says no, that two is enough, but part of me is really worried what would happen if we lost another one.  Chickens are super social little beings, and need company.  They lose sight of each other for just a second and they're calling out trying to get back together with their flock. 

I know that getting just one more is out of the question.  Introducing a hen to an already established flock, (even if it's a flock of two,) is really hard.  There is an established pecking order, and often times the old hens will beat up on the new one, and sometimes even kill it.  Once the new pecking order is established, things are fine.  I just really don't want to cause any stress on all parties by introducing new members.  BUT, just seeing the two in the backyard is really sad.  Looks like I'll be doing some research.

So there you go.  Mabel was put on this green earth to live ten months.  I'm just really glad that those ten months were with us, and we were able to give her the very best ten months that a chicken could have.

This is the last picture that I took of her.  You can tell she's already not feeling too well, but she's lovingly sandwiched between her sisters while they hung out under the eave during the crazy thunder hailstorm on Tuesday afternoon.  She died sandwiched between them on the roost too. 

Moving on.  Tomorrow, the blog will be back to normal.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rest in Peace, Miss Mabel

Dear Mabel-

You went so quickly I don't know where to begin. 

Strut your stuff, girl!
You were the second one we chose.  Sitting on top of your feeder, you stood tall in that box above all your kind and called to us like you knew we were there to pick you.  Even as a wee one you were definitely a fashion super star.  That fluffy feather boa you danced around with and those extra voluminous pantaloons were the reason we labeled you "pretty but dumb."  The dumb part came from the fact that you would occasionally get lost alone and scream out until you realized your sisters were around the corner, just out of view.

Even as a big girl you didn't fail to impress with your beauty.  Those pantaloons stayed extra fluffy, and your markings were those of a painting.  The feather boa turned into a head of beautiful hair that flowed down your neck like silk.  You definitely stayed kinda dumb too.

I believe you were also the first to discover the tastiness of grubs in the grass, but the last to trust us with lettuce.  You were also the last to lay, and the only one on a 26-hour cycle, but your giant, beautifully flawless light brown eggs were worth the extra wait.  You were also the slowest, maybe not because of your intellect, but because that was the way you rolled.  Most things were not worth the rush, and you enjoyed every second of every day at your own pace.  You made everyone laugh when you "helped" Abby lay her egg.  You weren't a big dust bather, but that's probably because you were too pretty to roll around in the dirt.

The only one with brown hair as a baby.
I'm sorry I couldn't tell you were sick.  I thought your comb and wattles looked a little pale, but Abby's do that sometimes too so I guess I didn't think anything was wrong.  Yesterday's egg was just as big and beautiful as the rest, and you ate your snack with your usual laid back enthusiasm.

I guess I should have been more concerned when I found you sleeping on the floor last night.  I thought the sudden darkness of the light turning off just caught you by surprise and you just got stranded on the ground. 

I guess I should have been more concerned when you didn't seem excited to be back up on the roost with your sisters.

I guess I should have been more concerned when you went straight to sleep and let me stand there petting your pretty hair.  I'm glad we had that moment together though.

I'm sorry I had to take you to the Dr. before we let you rest in peace.  I just need to make sure that what got you doesn't get the others.  I hope you understand.  I promise we'll get you back home to be with your sisters, back to the environment that you made so much more fun, entertaining, and fulfilling with your presence.

Always in the background.
We'll miss you Mabel.  You were the prettiest.  You laid the biggest eggs.  You were the loudest, the slowest, the dumbest (but sometimes the smartest), the fluffiest, and the calmest. But best of all, you were Mabel.  We loved you more than we thought we could ever love a chicken and promise to remember you forever.  The trio is down to two now, and that just doesn't seem right.  The backyard seems a little lonelier, but your sisters will definitely keep going where you left off.

Rest in Peace Sweet Miss Mabel.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Thinking of Japan...

I'm sure all of you have heard the devastating news coming from Japan in the last couple days.  I've been watching both American and Japanese news in excess and am heartbroken when I see the videos of entire villages and large expanses of farmland being washed away.  Luckily, all my friends, family, and acquaintances in Japan all live in Tokyo or south of Tokyo, so they were able to get out unscathed, mostly.  Some had trouble getting home that evening due to transportation issues, but all in all, they are much better off than others.

This event and my excitement of finding my Baachan's house on Google maps the other day and seeing her street on Street View has made me very nostalgic of Japan.  Whenever I think of Japan, the first and generally only thing that I miss is the most delicious food.  I think whenever people think of Japanese food, they don't really get beyond Sushi and Teriyaki.  Oh, but there is so much more!  (First of all, Teriyaki is barely Japanese and Sushi is great, but not something that people eat everyday.)  I just start thinking about the food markets in the department store basements that sell fresh croquettes (deep fried mashed potatoes), gyoza (pot stickers), fancy cakes and cookies, various meats on sticks (I'm not a vegetarian in Japan), and all the other delicious, fresh food that you can take to go.  Then there are the bakeries that sell the most delicious pastries and breads and... the rice.  The rice just tastes better in Japan.  Trust me.  Couple that with Baachan's home cooking and I'm in heaven.

Which is a perfect segue into what we had for dinner last night.  Reminiscing about Japan made me hungry.  So, despite the cold I've been fighting for the last few days, my sis and I went all out and made Tempura.  mmmmmm...

For those of you who don't know, tempura is a pretty quintessential Japanese food where you batter and deep fry food items like prawns and various vegetables.  You can pretty much tempura anything (I don't know if you can use tempura as an adjective, but I just did) and it just makes it all more yummy.  I don't have a recipe for the batter, but for it to be considered tempura, it has to be a very light, airy batter that doesn't fell greasy.  I used a Just-add-water kind of batter from a box because I found it in my pantry.  We tempura-ed sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and sliced sweet onions mixed with chopped up shrimp.  We also boiled up some soba (buckwheat noodles) to go along with our tempura.

The dipping sauce for both the noodles and the tempura is a mixture of dashi stock (a basic stock made from dried bonito flakes and kombu, a type of kelp) and soy sauce.  You can also add grated daikon radish, but we forgot.  This sounds really complicated, but you can buy a concentrated liquid of this so you don't have to make it yourself.  For the dipping sauce for the noodles, it's also good to add some wasabi and shichimi (a spicy mixture of seven different ingredients) and some nori.

Sometimes, you just have to feast.

Don't worry, we didn't eat all the noodles.
And what did we have for dessert?  Well I tried my hand at Kasutera again, and this time beat the hell out of the eggs until they were soft peaks.  Turns out that might have been the problem.  It didn't fall nearly as much as the first two times, though this time I had to take it out of the oven mid-bake, for about 30 seconds, to adjust the oven racks because the top was burning and that caused it to fall a little.  Slowly but surely, I will conquer this cake!

Japan Pride!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dirt, Food, Hens, Friends

It was a good weekend, this one.

Yesterday, we spent all day outside.  The chicken coop flooded again thanks to a stopped up downspout so we had to do a whole clean-out of that.  It needed to be done anyway so I wasn't too annoyed.  Luckily the rain held off and we actually had some sun to help dry stuff out so it really was a nice day to be outside.  And the ladies didn't mind, they looove being outside doing their chicken things with us nearby.  They just hang around, scratching here and there and putting their noses (or beaks and claws) into whatever we're doing every once in a while.  We even turned the compost pile which exposed tons of big wriggly worms which they happily slurped up like spaghetti.  Even though they were standing on a gold mine of worms, they still had to fight over them.  Silly girls.

We also did a major pruning job on some bush that was getting a little overzealous and taking too much space.  I did leave enough bushiness for the chickadees and junkos to hang out in.  I also gave one of the oregano bushes a haircut and noticed that the rhubarb is already showing signs of life again.

No outside work is complete without playing in the dirt.  I moved some soil around to different planting areas and added some compost to a bed that I'm using for the first time this year.  What did I plant in this bed?  Sunchokes!  I just bought some from the store, cut 'em up and threw 'em in the ground.  We'll see what happens.  The biggest thing is going to be keeping them safe from the chickens while the plants are still babies.  I hope it works!

For dinner we made a hundred or so gyoza (japanese pot stickers) for a Karate Kid movie watching night with some friends.  We watched the original and the new one.  I'm sure everyone agrees on which is better.  We made three flavors of gyoza: kabocha/corn/cheese, shrimp/cilantro, and beef.  They were delicious.  If you want more info on how to make 'em, lemme know.  I also did a really cool baking experiment, which of course I forgot to take pictures of, so I'll just have to do it again and then tell you all about it.  It's a secret... But trust me, it was really cool with fantastic results.

We did something else cool today, but I'll tell you about that later too.

aaaaand today's picture:

His name is Albus.  As in Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Put an egg in/on it!

Some of you may have noticed that a lot of my recent food posts I've done include eggs.  It's not an accident.  Considering I have a pretty reliable supply of eggs, I'm always looking for new ways to use them.  There are only so many egg-salad sandwiches one can eat.  I'm not complaining, egg-salad is awesome, and I have yet to get sick of any egg dishes.  I just need to keep varying recipes so that they always stay new and exciting.  And of course, I make sure I thank my ladies everyday for their hard work. 

Yesterday, I was thinking about what to make for dinner and asked this trusty foul-mouthed website.  Now some people may not find this funny, but it makes me chuckle (or even laugh out loud) and they actually have links to great recipes.  Anyway, it led me to a pizza recipe with eggs cracked onto them before baking.  What a great idea, I thought, and proceeded to take the idea and run with it.

I first started with the dough.  I used a pretty simple recipe:

2 cups flour
1 packet yeast
1 cup warm water (maybe a fraction less)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of salt

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.  Then add olive oil, honey, and salt.  Mix in the flour really well, and let stand for an hour in a warm place to rise.  After it has grown to twice its size, roll it out into whatever shape you'd like for your pizza.  I chose a random blobular shape that would fit onto the sheet I was using.  Make sure you dust the pizza pan with corn meal before you put the dough in it.

I then spread a thin layer of a roasted tomato and olive pasta sauce on the dough and covered that in fresh baby spinach leaves.  I sprinkled this with about 1 teaspoon of thyme and 1/4 tsp of nutmeg.  I then grated about 2 cups of cheese, (a mixture of colby jack, medium chedder, and farmer cheese) and spread it evenly over that.  Then I cracked two smaller Frannie eggs over the top and put it into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

It was really good.
Another everyday thing that I always add eggs to is oatmeal.  Yep, when I know I'm going to have a busy day, I'll take a 1/2 cup of oatmeal, mix it with 2/3 cup or so of water, crack an egg in it, mix it up and microwave it, mixing every minute to 45 seconds, until it's cooked.  It definitely changes the consistency of the oatmeal, but it gives it a heartier flavor.  I sometimes mix in a little butter, cinnamon, and maple syrup or brown sugar.  Delicious.  And it keeps you fuller for longer.  This is what I usually eat before my triathlons.

Wondering what you can do to spice up that dish?  Crack an egg on/in it!  Well maybe...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Uh oh....

Emergency!  My beloved blog is in jeopardy.  Well it's name is.  Read on:

My friend Susie brought this to my attention.

What do I do?  I haven't gotten a threatening letter yet, but I'm worried.  I doubt that my tiny little blog with less than 20 followers would be a threat, but these people scare me.

And what's wrong with them anyway?  How can these people, who say they are all about stewardship on this earth and joining the fight to save the world trademark stuff like this?  They say on their website that they aren't suing bloggers, tweeting that "Despite recent internet publishing, we are NOT suing bloggers. This is a false and unfounded claim."  O...k... but how did this all get out?  They must have done something to start the rumors, right?

Even if they don't come after me now, what if I write a book about my blog?  Their trademark makes it virtually impossible for me to ever have any monetary gain from this blog or whatever comes from it.  I'm not really planning on making this a living, but what if?  Should I change the name now before it becomes anything?

We homesteaders need to stick together.  These people are making it really hard.

Stewardship.  Look it up people.
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