Funny Cow Breeds Poster…and Why I Want a Devon :-)

6 Mar

Love this cow breeds poster!! Partly because it’s funny because it includes a Cash Cow and a Holy Cow, but partly because it includes a Devon and that is the kind of cow I would reeeeeaaallly like to have as our breed as we are getting closer to starting a farm (after all of the renovations on the house which are still ongoing and our now renovations of the barn).

The Devon is a heritage breed that came over with the Pilgrims. It was a dual purpose breed, for both milk and meat, but sadly they started breeding two distinct lines in the 20th century. :-( Still, from what I’ve read of the breed and its hardiness and size, I think it would be the perfect breed for us (the milk one) and I hope maybe next year cows can become a reality for our attempt at a small farm!

cow breeds poster

Farmhouse Fixes: Using Old Books for a Table

9 Feb
When you live in a little tiny farmhouse, some things have to do double duty, like these encyclopedias that will be with us always.

When you live in a little tiny farmhouse, some things have to do double duty, like these encyclopedias that will be with us always.

With three moves in three years, I have parted with a lot of stuff, mostly games, puzzles, books and furniture, even some artwork. But every once in a while, my daughter would catch me in the act of culling, and accuse me of “throwing away” her childhood.

Such was the case with our set of encyclopedias, which are older than me. (My parents bought them when I was young, as all good parents did back then, never ever envisioning something like the Internet would someday exist!)

We have many times turned to the encyclopedias for answers to questions when, quite frankly, no one wanted to check their phones or laptops for an answer…usually because we were gathered around the table after dinner feeling very non-techy. So I was okay with keeping these books, even as I sold dozens of art books and gave away loads of fiction and cookbooks.

Still, moving into our little 1890 farmhouse, and now married and with a husband’s possessions too (and all of his books!), it’s not like I have a whole lotta room for books. So what to do with these?

Make them into a table, of course! I stacked them somewhat neatly in our office and put a lamp on that stack, and Voila! Emma keeps her childhood. I get a table. And the books are still available when needed. :-)

Another view... you know, my stack looks a lot neater in person than it does in these photos!

Another view… you know, my stack looks a lot neater in person than it does in these photos!

True Meaning of “Hen House”? Our Rooster Needs a Break, It Seems!

8 Feb

With these snowy days, I’ve noticed Rooster Cogburn has a funny habit…one that indicates life in the hen house is hard on a fellow! This photo isn’t very good, but here’s what happens: I open the chicken coop door and the “girls” decide it’s still too cold to go out so they stay inside. But not Cogburn! He’s out the door and under their little rain shelter (an old card table), and there he sits enjoying the peace and quiet. I guess life with 20 females ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when you’re cooped up with them for 14 hours straight! Poor Cogburn! :-)

free range chickens--rooster escapes the hen house

When our free range chickens think it’s too cold to leave the coop, our rooster can’t wait to get a break from the ladies it seems!

Stop with the Sterile Shrink Wrap! How to Cook–and Use–a Whole Chicken

21 Jan
basting the chicken

Basting a chicken partway through cooking.

I am working on an article about why we eat so much chicken in the U.S., and in doing so, thought maybe some people could benefit from knowing how to avoid buying the sterile, shrink-wrapped packages of breast meat so sadly prevalent in the modern-day grocery store and kitchen, and opt for a whole chicken instead. It’s really quite easy, I promise!  And it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

Here’s what I do, and trust me, I am a shortcut cook so this won’t be complicated:

roasted chicken before roasting Aug 2012

Whole chicken tressed, with butter, salt, pepper and sage…ready for the oven!

I start with a whole chicken and roast it for dinner. (You want an easy-to-cook dinner? Roast a chicken!) If you need a recipe, check the Internet and you’ll find lots of choices, from simple to complex. Me? I usually tress it, rub it with butter, and sprinkle it with salt, pepper and stage. Sometimes I stuff it with onions and celery. Then cook it at 350 for as long as it needs (usually 1 1/2 to 2 hours because we usually let our chickens get really big before harvesting!).

roasted chicken

Roasted whole chicken fresh from the oven.

We eat slices of chicken meat as part of our dinner, then I pull off the rest of the meat and chop it into big pieces and put it into freezer bags, usually two or three, so there’s enough chicken meat for a dinner recipe in each bag.

Then I put the carcass and any skin and bones into a soup pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. After that cools, I pull out the carcass and usually find another cup worth of meat on it. I add that meat to the freezer bags I already put together.

I taste the chicken stock and cook it down if it needs to be more concentrated, adding salt as needed. After cooking it down, it goes into the fridge so the fat will solidify on the top. I skim off the fat. Then the chicken stock goes into small containers in the freezer.

These chicken enchiladas were made using the chicken leftover from roasting a whole chicken...a much tastier version compared to enchiladas using just breast meat.

These chicken enchiladas were made using the chicken leftover from roasting a whole chicken…a much tastier version compared to enchiladas using just breast meat.

Now I have chicken for at least two more dinners, and it’s already skinned and deboned and ready to go. It will get used for soups, pot pies, enchiladas or some kind of crockpot creation. Plus I have home-made chicken stock for cooking other dishes.

In addition to being cheaper this way, you get more flavor because you have both white and dark meat. And you’re ready to make two meals in a jiffy with your frozen, chopped up, already cooked chicken meat.

Doesn’t that sound better than the shrink-wrapped and sterile alternative??

Old Fashioned Recipes: Dutch Baby for Breakfast

19 Jan
Try this old fashioned recipe for Dutch Baby, for a very simple, very tasty breakfast.

Try this old fashioned recipe for Dutch Baby, for a very simple, very tasty breakfast.

This morning I wanted to have something wholesome for my graveyard working husband to eat when he came home, something nourishing to fill his empty stomach but something a little sweet too to send him off to sleep with. I was thinking on old-fashioned recipes and what might fit the bill…

Then I remembered the Dutch Baby recipe in my “Lost Art of Real Cooking” cookbook. Perfect!

Nothing could be simpler to make than this Dutch Baby breakfast. And it’s a great way to cook up tasty eggs if your hens are getting ahead of you! (Note: You  need a heavy skillet for this old fashioned recipe.)

Old Fashioned Recipes: Dutch Baby Breakfast

  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 c. flour
  • syrups, jam, honey to serve

Preheat the oven to 425.

Melt the butter on the stovetop in a heavy skillet, then remove from the heat.

Using a whisk, beat the eggs until well blended. Whisk in the milk, then the sugar and dash of salt, and finally the flour. Mix  well. It will be still be lumpy. That’s fine.

Pour this batter into the melted butter in your heavy skillet. Don’t mix it in with the butter or anything, just pour it in. Then put the skillet in your hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

The Dutch Baby will puff waaaaay up and look fabulous, but it will fall shortly after you pull it out of the oven. So if you want to impress someone, make sure they are nearby!!

To serve, slice into wedges. It serves 4 but today it served 2 because I was hungry! It doesn’t need any more butter, but slather it with jam or honey or douse it with syrup.

Try it. I promise you’ll like it. It is that easy and that tasty!

Old Fashioned Christmas Cookies: Poppyseed Thumbprint Cookies

23 Dec

ImageWe are tradition bound in our family, I admit it. I’d be likely to waver on some things, but Emma won’t let me. So every year, I make the same Christmas cookies, and they are for us traditional simply because I’ve always made them.

These poppyseed thumbprint cookies are one of the traditional Christmas cookies I bake. They aren’t technically old-fashioned cookies, because I found the start of this recipe in a local newspaper 25 years ago. But they meet my criteria for an old-fashioned recipe because they are simple and use common ingredients. And I made them a Christmas cookie because they fit that criteria too: They are a little fancier than you’d make for the cookie jar during the rest of the year. They use a fancy ingredient you’d likely only splurge on at Christmas time. And they have orange juice and zest, another Christmas-y flavor. (Plus if you go the Grand Marnier route, they are even fancier!)

I hope you’ll make them and enjoy them and they’ll become an old-fashioned traditional Christmas cookie for your family too!

Poppyseed Thumbprint Cookies
(makes 2 dozen)

  • ½ c salted butter, softened
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T orange juice or Grand Marnier
  • 1 1/3 c flour
  • 2 T poppyseeds
  • 2 t finely grated orange peel
  • ¼ c red currant jelly

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk and orange juice (or Grand Marnier). Gradually add the flour, and mix until well blended. Add the poppyseeds and orange peel and mix until just blended.

Shape into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. (You should have 24 cookies.) Use your thumb to make an indentation in center of each cookie. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of red currant jelly into each indentation, making sure the jelly looks pretty because it will stay in that shape.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes after you pull it out of the oven. Then move to rack to cool.

The Chicken Tractor at Our Small Farm

18 Oct

When I accidentally killed chickens moving the chicken tractor, I whined about it on Facebook. That led to people asking me, “What is a chicken tractor?” There are lots of types of chicken tractors and I hesitated to talk about ours because it’s not fitting for what we’re trying to do now, but it’s all we’ve got and it’s the perfect setup for someone in the city wanting to raise backyard chickens for fresh eggs!

So I share photo and some details about it here:

chicken tractor

This contraption was built for me when I lived in the city. It was built for six hens and it was perfect for six hens. I’d move it around the yard once or twice a day and let the girls go at a small area of grass or bugs, then move them to fresh ground. It kept them safe while also keeping them moving and wow, did it do wonders for the lawn! Those girls made healthy green grass!

Eventually I started leaving the lid up and the girls would go wherever they wanted, including across the street (which led to many jokes about why the chicken crossed the road plus the one really embarrassing time when my chickens had traffic blocked and I could hear horns honking and I hid in my house waiting for it to all end!). But they always came back to roost at night.

It is portable plus the part that sticks out is the nesting box with room for three chickens at a time, and the lid lifts up for easy access to the eggs.

When I first moved to the country, I brought this with me along with my six hens and it worked great. Since moving to our small farm and building our chicken coop, we’ve used this chicken tractor to transition chicks from the “nursery bin” to outside, before they get moved into the chicken coop with the grownups.

The reason it has gone from chicken tractor to death machine recently is because I had too many chickens in it–fat, slow moving Frankenbabies.

But if you’re thinking about raising backyard chickens for fresh eggs on a small piece of property, something like this kind of chicken tractor is perfect! If you want more photos of it, like with the lids up, let me know. It even has a roosting bar going across the middle, which the girls always loved to use!

Moving forward, once my husband is finally home, we’ll build a more portable chicken tractor with room for more chickens, because we are going to keep the egg layers in the coop, and use the portable contraption for meat chickens only. That will make it much more lightweight because it won’t have the nesting box! And I will insist that it be as lightweight as it can possibly be so I can easily move it by myself, deployment or no deployment! (I’m thinking PVC pipe and tarp!) I don’t know what that looks like yet, because it still has to be strong enough to keep the coyotes out, so it can’t be totally lightweight, but we’ll figure it out. :-)

I hope that answers any questions about chicken tractors, but if not, ask away. I am learning lots about starting a small farm by doing things wrong the first time!

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