Monthly Archives: October 2015

Our Chickens Favorite Treats

My chickens love the treats we give them but we don’t give them too many so they will eat the food intended for egg layers.  But since we started giving them treats they now run when they hear the back door open or my husbands truck pull in the driveway.

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We give our girls any vegetable trimmings if I am not throwing them in a soup pot.  The seem to like a bit of sweet peppers, cooked potatoes and cooked onions, carrots, green beans, pole beans, snow peas, tomatoes, and broccoli.

And our chickens adore corn.  This year the corn we planted for our own consumption was a heritage corn and it turned out to be so tough we could not chew it so we have been drying it and feeding it on occasion a cob at at time to our chickens.  Looks like we may be planting two types of corn next year one for us and one for the chickens.

Some of our chickens corn and our black and red beans drying in bags.

Some of our chickens corn and our black and red beans drying in bags.

We also grew kale this year and I think this is one of their favorites.  The kale is so hearty we can cut the plants to the quick and they come right back.   They are still growing and it is almost November.  We will definitely be planting kale again next years if only for the hens.

This is my first year with chickens and I did not really realize that they are truly omnivores. And since they live in self imposed confinement in their safe fenced home I have started supplementing thier diets with meal worms.  You would think it was candy or a drug with how they try to find every last bit of the worms.  I bought a box online dried so I can give them to them whenever I want with out worms living in my house.

I tried cooking some beets for my husband and myself and well they did not go over big.  So we saved them for the hens and gave them a little bit of the beets at a time.

Our chickens ate a bit of summer squash but then decided they did not like it but they do love pumpkins.  I have been giving them some of the seeds and the strings.  When I cook pumpkin for pies and bread and I put it through a ricer so I give the girls the cooked pumpkin that the ricer removes.  I actually went to the store an bought a non pie pumpkin for my hens as I wanted to make sure I had enough for them.

Our Brave Girl.

Our Brave Girl.

I also have been crushing up the egg shells they produce and feeding them to the hens as well.  The rooster does not seem to be interested in the egg shells.  Makes me happy as he is not laying eggs.

I just purchased some wheat and barley seeds to try sprouting.  I will also be sprouting some of the corn we saved.  By Sprouting it indoors we can give them some fresh greens during the long cold winter.  I will let you know how it goes.

Wow – First day that all of our hens laid an egg

Yesterday was the first day that all 5 of our hens laid an egg the same day.  Again today we had 5 eggs.  Tonight we are having quiche for dinner

I took eggs to my sister in law yesterday.  I am not sure how we are going to possibly use a potential 35 eggs a week.  I am in search for wonderful egg dishes.  I may have to put up an Eggs For Sale sign in the front yard.  This is a wonderful dilemma.  I am so grateful for my wonderful chickens.

 

Today's Five Eggs

Today’s Five Eggs

The Chicks are Growing Up

The chickens had been in their coop outside for maybe two months when the first of our girls laid her first egg. I think she was about 17 weeks old and the egg had a very thin shell. It felt like an eternity before that day came. Really not bad time for a Rhode Island Red Hen to lay her first egg. Seems like we added a hen laying every two weeks after. Our last hen “Brave Girl” just laid her first egg yesterday and it had no shell. I hope she has better luck with her next egg. She is now 6 months and one week old. For the past week we have been getting 4 eggs a day. I have been wracking my brain for recipes using eggs. We may have to start giving them away or start selling them.

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“Brave Girl” is the lowest in the pecking order in the group of hens. I did not know this was a real thing. But, she waits to eat the treats we give them until the others are done. Or if she does try the others run her off But since they were small chicks, in our house, we had one that was always brave and unafraid of us. She would come over to us and had so little fear that we started calling her our Brave Girl.   We were able to tell who was laying because the girls developed their combs and waddles about the time they started laying.  We don’t have specific names for the other hens because we can not tell them apart. The look like they were cut from the same cookie cutter. I imagine soon we wont visually be able to identify “Brave Girl” by her looks only by her bravery.

We put a light that comes on in the early morning so they are still laying eggs in October. The way I understand it hens stop laying if there is less than 14 hours of daylight. We will not extend the light to much more so they can take a break when it is very cold.

I really enjoy our eggs with their bright orange yolks.

Valenciano Pumpkins a Dud Three Years in a Row

We have had a beautiful garden these past few years.  But we have had one failure three times.

I really wanted to grow Valenciano pumpkins, they are a beautiful white pumpkin with great edible thick orange flesh inside.  Not to stringy, so wonderful for making pies.  Three summers ago we had just bought our home and really did not have a garden but I wanted a Valenciano so bad we planted some in a raised bed very late in the season.  Well in Maine that is a bad idea as frost comes early and Valenciano pumpkins take 110 days to mature.

Year two the soil was to wet and the seedlings failed.

This year we planted the in mid May, they sprouted and started to grow but did not flourish until mid September when they finally set a few little pumpkins.  We were lucky to have a long season this year.  October has been beautiful.  The pumpkins were growing, just not fast enough.  We brought them in yesterday when a hard freeze happened.  I think our biggest one is about 6″ across and clearly not ripe.  So the 110 days until maturity may be a bad estimate for Auburn Maine.

This is a picture of a few of the NE Pie pumpkins and one of the unripe Valencianos

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Luckily we also planted some New England Pie pumpkins as well this year and they did well.

In California and Nevada I could always buy Valenciano pumpkins and they were the best pumpkins for pies and seeds.  White pumpkins are not just for display.  Next year I am going to try starting them indoors to give them a head start.  I have faith that next year I will be successful.

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie – with Praline Crust

Liz Hitt’s Pumpkin Pie – Spicy and wonderful

3 cups pumpkins (preparing fresh pumpkin for pies)
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons mace
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
4 eggs Or 8 egg whites
4 cups skim evaporated milk Or 1/2 and 1/2 if you prefer richer
Praline Crust for Moms Pumpkin Pie

Mix together pumpkin and spices, Add brown sugar.
Beat egg whites until frothy and add to pumpkin mixture.
Add skim milk or 1/2 and 1/2 and mix well.
(Fill the three pie crusts, while they are on pulled out oven rack, using a soup ladle.
I put them on a Cookie sheet because I dribble a bit. Its easier to clean)

Preheat oven to 450″. Bake 10 minutes at 450″, reduce to 350″
and bake 45 minutes or until custard is set.
Test about two inches away from center of pie.
Pie should still giggle in the center.
If you do not use the praline mixture on the crust, brush it with fork-beaten egg white and refrigerate while preparing filling.

Praline Crust for Pumpkin Pie

This is my Mothers Praline Pie crust recipe she was given by her friend Barbara Butler.

For each crust:

1/3 cup Finely Chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened butter
1  9″ Deep Dish pie shell

Make a high edge on pie shell. Blend pecans, sugar, butter.
Press gently into sides and bottom of pie shell with fork or back of spoon.IMG_2270 (2)

My Mom

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Filing

Preparing Fresh Pumpkin for Pies

This is my Mothers method for preparing pumpkin for use in pumpkin pie recipes.

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Her favorite pumpkin variety was  the white pumpkin with lovely orange flesh the Valenciano.  I have not been able to find a Valenciano pumpkin for sale in the market in Maine.  I have asked more than one fruit stand and market to open a bit of a white pumpkin so i could see if the flesh was orange. There are many other white pumpkins with white or green flesh and I tried cooking with one once and realized the are only ornamental.  If you are buying an orange  pumpkin from the store look for ones label for Pies.

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I take off the top as thought I were going to carve the pumpkin,  Then I cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.  I save the seeds for roasting and I give the strings to my chickens.  They really love the seeds but I like them too so we share.

Put the pumpkins flesh side down on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 60 – 90 minutes.  One way to tell when they are done is when the pumpkin shell collapses in the center.  Take them out and let them cool.IMG_6308 (2)

When cool trim off the skin and throw out or save for your critters.  Take the pulp and put it through a ricer to take out any additional strings.  My Mom as she got older tried whirring it up in the food processor but the texture of the pie was not the same.  After you have put it all through the ricer put in a bowl in your refrigerator and put the pumpkin on one side and tip the bowl a bit so the water will collect on the side and remove water with a turkey baster.  Do this for up to two days until the water stops collecting.  Some types o pumpkin have very little water  If so no need to drain.

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Then package the pumpkin in 1 1/2 cup portions stored in zip-lock bag in the freezer until ready to make pies.  they should stay good to use for 1 – 2 years.

 

My 3 Greatest Fears with Writing this Blog.

I find it hard to believe that I have decided to do a blog as one of my lifetime greatest fears has always been a fear of writing.  When I think of writing now or in the past my stomach gets tied in knots.

My second fear is not really a fear but rather I have never shared much with friends or family.  I am a big talker as those close to me can attest.  But I rarely share the important things.  My strong feelings and emotions go unshared for fear that I will be judged or because I do not like to impose my ideas on others.

My third fear with the blog specifically is that I will be talking only to the wall.

But regardless of my fears I have decided to do this and in a effort to learn to be forthcoming I am sharing my fears with you.  I plan to prod ahead even if it makes me queasy.

Thanks,

Martha

Our Chickens

This last spring we added some chickens to our family. It was the first time I had had anything other than a dog or a cat. I ordered them online and we waited impatiently for the two weeks until their scheduled delivery.  It was still very cold outside so while we waited my husband built a box and we put it on two saw horses in our dining room (our converted into Chick nursery). We covered it with chicken wire in case the dog or kitten got too interested in them.  They arrived via USPS when they were one day old on April 15th.

We ordered 5 hens and 1 rooster.  We couldn’t tell for the first month or so who the rooster was.

According to the Chick supplier we needed to keep the temperature between 90-95 degrees the first week and 5 degrees cooler each week after that.  Our house was a glow every night with the heat lamp we used to keep them warm.  From the road we looked a bit like we lived in the red light district.  By the fifth week we moved them out to the coop my husband built in our shed. Inside it has 4 boxes for the hens to lay in and bars to roost on in front of the boxes  Later we added a long branch up quite high in the coop and they like that best of all.  Our shed already had little doors that slide open so we put a ramp to the outside for them.

We fenced it in to keep them safe when they were young.  Now  they don’t like leaving their fenced in area.  And my dog Abby, a heard dog, tries very hard to make sure they don’t leave either.  We may add a chicken tractor or other portable coop so they can move around the yard without them being scared.

This is a picture of them a week ago.  You can tell it is fall in this picture with all the leaves.

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This is how they looked at  maybe 2 weeks old.

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And of course this is our proud rooster.  Ruben Cogburn a John Wayne character  in True Grit.

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More on our little family another day.

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Welcome

A few years ago when my Father in Law was getting older, my husband, Brian, and I decided to move back to my husband’s home state of Maine. We kept our Las Vegas home in case I could not tolerate the cold. But as it turns out I have adjusted pretty well.

After we had been here through 2 winters we purchased a home on 5 acres that was built in 1920. It has 2 acres of house, garden, lawn, barn and 3 acres of trees. What I did not know when we looked at our house on a snowy Sunday morning in January was that it is on a very busy road. And by the time I found out that it was I was already in love with our very dilapidated home. My husband and I spent the next 15 months fixing it up enough to be habitable. More on that later.

Over the years I have come to realize that I am sensitive to smells, they give me migraines. So slowly we have tried to simplify the foods and products we use. Now that we have a bit of land we are starting to do a few more things to become self sufficient Over the past 3 years we have had a small garden and this spring we added 5 hens and one rooster. We are hoping to add rabbits this winter and maybe a milk goat in the spring.

This morning I decided to make some lasagna and planned to make the mozzarella for it. I have made mozzarella once before and it was great.  But today it tuned into something more like runny ricotta. That got me thinking I should find a place to keep track of my successes and failures at learning to be more self sufficient. A place to store my recipes, concoctions and which seeds have given us great vegetable. And a place to keep track of those things that did not work.

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This is a picture of my Mozzarella failure.

So I decided to start this blog as a place to share.  Please feel free to comment or ask questions.  .It will make me feel like I not just talking to myself.