Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Clever dog

I caught my old man dog, Gunnar, working on a sewing project yesterday morning. Although I miss having house cats, I don't miss them messing with my stuff, and putting things up high keeps the dogs out of them.....until now.....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Growing chicks

We've had 4 hens go broody so far this year....that is, they decided it was time to hatch eggs and hunkered down with determination.  When this instinct, bred out of most modern hens, kicks in, the hen will stop laying eggs of her own and just work hard at hatching the eggs she is on.  Her body temperature goes up, and for about three weeks she will leave the nest only about once a day to eat, drink, and eliminate....and what an eliminate it is!  Broody poo is a huge, stinking pile that has been accurately describe as "epic."

Twenty chicks have been hatched so far, with only one loss in the first day.  Two hens hatched six chicks each, and the other two hatched four each.  The last hen to hatch was the one that lost a chick.  There could have been something wrong with it, or she could have stomped on it.  I saw her stomp another chick clumsily and she is a big girl, a Buff Brahma purchased last year at the local feed store as a week old chick.

It seems like a different hen went broody about every three weeks or so, so each family of chicks is a different size, from teensy fluffballs to almost full grown.

 This foursome was abandoned by their mother weeks ago.  They are very independent.
Mama is still watching over these six, teaching them to forage and keeping them safe under her wings at night.
I love, love, love having so many broody hens raising chicks for us.  No mess, no fuss, she does all the work, and really teaches them to find their own food.  The hen above, with the six, rarely comes in for grain morning and evening.  She is finding plenty and teaching her young 'uns how to successfully find their own food.  This is the best thing about broody raised chicks!
I have one more hen hunkered down in a nest box, and tonight I will move her to a safe, isolated spot so she can safely sit on the eggs I'll give her tomorrow, once she's settled in and recovered from her move.  Both of these tasks will be done at night, since chickens are night blind, so she won't fuss too much and won't realize until morning that she's been moved.  At least it will seem like she doesn't know.  She'll accept it, at any rate.  She would be more likely to frantically try to get back to her original nest if I moved her in the daylight.  And the silly thing is sitting on nothing, trying desperately to hatch....air!  I'll give her some real eggs, fertile ones from our flock, and she'll be very content.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Remember our grape arbor project last year?  Look what happened in just one year!

 Grapes!  Glorious grapes!
Free grapes!  Organic grapes!  MY GRAPES!
Can you tell I'm excited about this project?  I can't believe how this one little neglected vine has almost covered this 16x4' arbor in just a year.  And is producing many pounds of grapes!
What will I do with all these grapes?  I'm not sure yet.  I'll let you know this fall, barring any fungus or insect or bird damage, when I harvest and taste and decide what they will become.  Eat with some lovely home made goat Gouda?  Make into a grape pie?  Seed and freeze for future pies?  Make into wine?  We will see!  Stay tuned, and meanwhile, look around your yard....can you squeeze in an arbor?  They can be simple, like ours, or add an architectural and artistic element to a more formal, suburban yard.  Add a table and chairs or even a hammock, and you also have an outdoor living space.
I even hang laundry on the small section that is not yet covered with vines when my lines can't hold all my wash for the week.  I took the hubsters undies down for this photo, however.....

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bats in my belfry.....or.....

Frogs in my cellar!

I found the first tiny frog in our unfinished, wet-with-a-sump-pump basement over 11 years ago when we first moved in.  It was so beautiful, I thought it was a ceramic frog.  I was so enthralled that I'd found this beautiful piece of art, left by a former owner.  As I reached out to carefully pick it up, it jumped and stuck to the side of the freezer.

It was a wet summer and the frogs in the cellar multiplied this year, so I have to be careful where I step and how I pick things up, lest I accidentally squish a little beauty.

Sometimes they jump and land on my bare feet.  It always startles me and I shake them off before I have time to realize that it is not a bug but the little rubbery frog feet.  One day I'll have the control, I hope, to take a moment to enjoy the little critter on the top of my foot.

I know they eat bugs, so the little guys can stay forever, creating a little joy for me whenever I see them.  Anyone know what kind of frogs these are?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Healthy Potato Chips

Yes, healthy potato chips do exist!  You just have to make them!  This is a worthwhile project, because these are so delicious, you'll never want old, cold, purchased 'tater chips again.

Colorful chips made with organic potatoes from Eddy Farm in Newington, CT

Making potato chips is sinfully easy.  Just wash them well and trim off any spots....or peel them, if you prefer.  Slice them on a mandolin, or as we do, on the slicing blade on our box-style cheese grater.  Watch your fingers!  You can save the last chunk that you can't slice and cut it into French fries.

Put the raw chips in a large bowl and run cold water into it.  Stir gently with your hand.  Change the water and repeat until the water is clear, then soak them for a couple of hours or more.  Stir and change the water periodically if needed, if it is ever cloudy again. 

Then drain in a colander, and pat them dry carefully.  I then spread them out on kitchen towels, layering them on top of each other to save space on my counter.  The longer you let them dry, the crispier your chips will be.

Heat some tallow or lard just until it starts to smoke a little, then add a couple of handfuls of the chips, and stir to spread them out in the fat.  Don't crowd them too much.  Use a splatter guard if you are not using a frying machine.  I use my big Dutch oven, but before I had it, I'd use my biggest cast iron frying pan.

Let them cook for a few minutes, until you see them start to brown lightly.  Scoop them out with a skimmer (large flat "spoon" made of wire mesh, or just a big flat metal spoon with holes) or use a couple of slotted spoons to get them out and onto layers of paper towels or crumbled and smoothed brown paper bags, cut open and using the unprinted side.  Salt well.  Add the next batch to the hot oil and try not to eat all of the ones that are cooling!