Change

The catalyst to our journey for a more self-sufficient life was the summer of 2013, when The Kid asked if we could keep a few chickens. At that point I had already found a passion and peace in growing fruits and vegetables. I had dabbled in canning but that was as far as we had gone, until we discovered the joys of chicken keeping. It seemed, in unison, the idea of homesteading and sustainable living went off like a light bulb for the 3 of us. We looked at our small flock of laying birds and liked the idea of building a flock that could sustain themselves as well as us. Have enough eggs to sell weekly to earn the money needed to buy the feed and supplies, hatch a few to sell and replenish the flock as needed and eat those that needed culling for whatever various reasons.
060
So excited that we were, we talked a great deal, to anyone who would listen, about our grand dreams of one day having land and building a self-sufficient homestead. There were a few who got it, understood the need for such a lifestyle, more who mostly were silent, likely due to the need to stifle the laughter we had invoked with our silly talk, remember, we live in So. California, surrounded by instant gratification and everything within easy reach. More often than not, the response we have come across has been one of head shaking incredulity. It seems as though we speak a foreign language when we talk about baking our own breads, growing and canning produce and the desire to raise the meat we choose to feed our family. The meat raising has been the topic of some conversations that have left all parties involved shaking their heads at the concepts coming out of the other.
SAMSUNG
There is one particular conversation that sticks out in my mind. In the early part of 2014 we had with a couple of our dearest friends over for dinner. These two exude a boundless compassion for animals and their welfare far beyond the average person. The great lengths they have gone to at times to rescue and care for an animal in need could easily be described as Saint like. Out spoken and determined, these two will go to bat for an animal without a moments hesitation. So imagine how the subject of harvesting animals we hand raised went down. Keep in mind, we are all omnivores in this conversation, not vegans or even vegetarian. Travis and I tried and tried with our words to get the two of them to see things the way we see them. We talked about the horrible lives lived by the animals who’s meat we purchase from the grocery stores. Without sounding exasperated we continued to attempt to drive home the concept that animals raised by our hand, for our table would be raised with love, compassion and respect. These animals would have a good life, with only one bad day. As opposed to the factory animals who’s only peace comes with their death. In return we were informed these two animal lovers would rather turn a blind eye to the deplorable existence their market meat animals had suffered from start to finish. They would continue to eat that meat and simply put the thought out of their mind that everything they stood against they were willing to ignore for the sake of meat on the menu. After much debate we all agreed to disagree and leave it at that.
411
Fast forward to Easter, the same two friends, along with my brother and Cousin N gathered at our home for dinner, as we do every Easter. This year we had the added excitement of chicks hatching. This was a first for our guests and the air was filled with wonder and merriment, like Christmas morning with young children. We had chicks popping up under a first time broody and an incubator full in the house. No one was immune to all the fluffy new life.
0427141511b
We all took turns peeking in on the goings on, counting the tiny balls of fluff. As with any birth, not all goes according to the well laid plan. It was soon discovered there was a chick with the broody who was in bad shape. I chose to intervene, carefully removing the chick to a tea cup in the incubator and held my breathe as I checked in on it periodically. It didn’t take long for me to understand this chick was not going to survive.

I had two choices, I could either leave it to die on it’s own or I could end it’s suffering quickly. Normally I would just make the call and get it done. But it was Easter and I was surrounded by people who I felt would not understand my need to handle the situation as I saw fit. After much internal debate I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t just stand by and watch this little creature die a slow, agonizing death. Watching it struggling to live was more than my heart could bare. I talked to Trav, he understood and would do whatever I needed to do. Before I could do anything, I had to have the hard talk with one of the friends. She had to know what I needed to do. It was important to me that she understand why I was about to end the short life of this tiny soul. She told me she could tell by the expression on my face that this choice had not been arrived at with ease. She understood I was doing right by the chick and gave me the go ahead.

Once I had dealt with that heavy task I took a moment for myself, away from the group, to gather myself and shake off the loss. Our friend found me, saw the tears in my eyes and pulled me into her embrace. I briefly wept over this loss, I could still feel the slight weight of the chick in my hands as the life left its tiny body. In this moment between friends, on opposite sides of the line something happened, this friend started to grasp what was in my heart. What I had talked myself blue in the face to explain just a couple months prior. In this one moment her heart could clearly see what was in my heart. This one bit of action had explained what all the words could not.
050
That evening, on their way home, the two talked about the events of the day. When the topic turned to the chick who had been struggling, it was only then that the other friend learned what had transpired while she played dominoes with the girls. The next day I received a text from her. She told me she had heard what I had had to do and that she understood it took great courage and strength. She told me she was proud of me and that I had done what she never would have been able too. I cannot tell you the enormity of the emotions that swelled in me when I read those words. I felt like she too, though not an actual witness, was able to finally get a glimpse at my true heart.
039 (2)
Let’s skip ahead to this past weekend, nearly a year since that first dialog. We gathered for dinner at our place again. Of course the topic of raising meat came up. We were in talks with another friend about possibly raising some pork. Travis and I were giddy with the idea. This time when the subject came up I quietly cringed as I really didn’t want to have another heated debate over this matter. I knew where they stood, they know where we stand. I physically tensed when Trav broached the topic. It was our Friend Christmas dinner, I didn’t want a debate over the dinner table. This just wasn’t the day for that. So I turned away from the conversation that the 3 of them were ensconced in. But then, while sitting at the far end of the table, my ears heard something so unreal I had to interrupt the talks so I could verify that I had really heard those words come out of her mouth. The same person whom a year ago had said they would rather eat vegetarian when visiting us than to eat anything we had raised that had a face and a name had just said “I would rather not eat pork till I was here to eat what you have raised”. Um, WHAT??!!? She looks me in the eye and says “I get it now. I get it Jenn. I get what you are doing.”
031
No words came from my mouth, just tears from my eyes. Tears for relief, tears for joy, tears for success. It is an incredible realization to discover that the life we have chosen to live can have, and is having, a profound effect on those around us. That summer, when we cast our stone into the pond of self reliant living, we never imagined how far the ripples would go and who or what they would reach. We never set out with the intention of changing anyone but ourselves. I am overwhelmed with a profound mix of emotions. As intense as my feelings for why I choose to live as I do. In seeing the change affected in others by our choices it boomerangs right back to me, filling me with immense determination and pride. We have reached this one person. I understand and accept that we won’t ever reach every person, but at least I know we can reach some or maybe even just this one. But it’s one more than there was yesterday and we had a hand in that change.

SUCCESS!!

After months of weekly trials I am finally ready to share that I have successfully baked a loaf of sourdough bread! I’m not sure if sourdough has been or currently is an elusive creature for other bakers, but I for one, have been in pursuit of the perfect loaf for far too long.

Let me take you back a bit. Years really, back to the original Martha Stewart Shows, to a particular episode when Ms. Stewart toured a bakery that created famous sourdough made with yeast from red cabbage leaves. This episode has replayed in my mind for all these years, though I never attempted to recreate this bread. That was, until this year. You all know I strive to bake all our bread products. I have had great successes but have also baked up many a brick, most of which have been in an attempt to create the much coveted sourdough. My first attempt at a starter was using packaged yeast. It never really amounted to much, and suffered a sentence of a forgotten life in a jar in the back of the refrigerator. I eventually came back to that ridiculous idea of sourdough made from red cabbage leaves. After a quick internet search I found Two Sisters Bakery Recipes Blog and this article about their sourdough starter.

Even with the guidance of Two Sisters, I still struggled. Seems I could have a nice, airy loaf OR a great sour flavor but never both in the same loaf of bread. UGH! I nearly threw in the towel, convinced fresh-baked sourdough bread was just going to be “one of those things”. Before I was to fully resign myself to this failure I decided to give it another go, this time I would practice the often recurring skill required in homesteading – P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E. I mean, I have admitted to the knowledge that this is a key homestead skill, as shared in my Slow Down post. I reread the steps I have written down and hanging next to my work space in the kitchen. Opted to let this go ’round rest in the fridge over night and see what would come of it. Well….

1019141605a
This is what came out of the oven! The most perfect loaf of sourdough bread I have ever baked! The crust has just enough crunch, not so much as to be reminiscent of a crouton. The interior is chewy, moist and airy. Oh and the flavor, that delicious tang from a patiently (there’s that word again) soured starter. The ultimate pay off for my persistence, every week pulling the starter from the fridge, feeding it, letting it set 8-10 hours to activate, measuring, mixing, kneading, rising and baking.

This may seem a silly celebration, but it is mine to celebrate, and celebrate I shall, with another gratifying slice of my homemade, from scratch, with my organically grown red cabbage, sourdough bread!
1019141606a
Tell me, what homestead skills have been more trial than success for you? What was that elusive “thing” that you nearly gave up on?

6 Things I Learned from Raising Meat Birds

Last week I started to write a post about the 10 things I Learned from raising meat birds that was more about the specifics on what it takes to raise them and just never made it to completion. That happens from time to time when I am writing. I think I have an inspired post, then, somewhere along the way the message gets lost, or the enthusiasm wanes. Whatever the case was this time, I just don’t see that post making the cut. I do want to tell you a bit about this, our first experience raising and processing meat birds. However, I do not plan to give you a blow-by-blow how-to. There are plenty of videos and blog posts already dedicated to that information. I, instead, would like to share some discoveries, both self and production based, that were made along the 10 week journey.

So here goes, What I learned from raising meat birds.

005 (2)

1 – Cornish Cross are an incredible bird. Fast growing and docile. Completely misunderstood. Yes, they are eating, drinking and pooping machines, but that is not their fault. These birds are programmed to be fast growing, food inhaling, water guzzling little tanks. Sure they seemed to be constantly starving, but they were in no way lazy. We housed our 8 in an 8ft x 4ft tractor that we moved daily to fresh patches of grass. Once on a new patch, every one of these little high-production machines eagerly ran about hunting bugs, gobbling up the green grass and discovering the perfect dust bath location.

SAMSUNG

2 – The fast growth rate of this hybrid (not to be confused with GMO) broiler gives a family the promise of healthy, humanely raised meat in as little as 2 months, from start to finish. Chicken may not be the most cost-effective meat to produce, but hatch to freezer in 8 weeks means a family can have meat on the table through the months, and years, it takes to raise the larger meat animals.

SAMSUNG

3 – In regards to the how to raise meat birds, I have discovered the tractor raising is geared for much larger, acreage, homesteads. In our little yard, it made more work and mess. We all agree, we want to raise more meat birds, in the spring, but would prefer to integrate the chicks into our laying flock to allow them the freedom to forage and be part of the “whole” for the extent of their lives. This set up would allow all our birds, both the layer’s and the meat birds more space and a cleaner environment. I say meat birds since we are toying with the idea of doing a mix next time of the Cornish cross and Freedom rangers. Raising a combination will allow us to compare the two varieties side by side to become better informed of the pros & cons of both.

4 – Teamwork is key. From teaming up, co-op style with folks who understand and appreciate what it takes to raise meat, from the cost to the time, labor and emotional commitment to the combined effort of hands, helping with the daily feeding, watering and general care to eventually sharing the burden of the final days labor, both emotionally and physically, having a team in place is crucial when raising your own meat. While we housed and cared for the birds, another individual supplied all the feed. Once completed, the birds were split 50/50. The Hubs, Midge and I shared the burden of the daily care, which for Cornish Cross was a daily, and often times twice daily, especially in the tractor. The water was refilled often, the feed was poured twice a day, the tractor took two sets of hands to relocate and during that last intense heat wave, all three of us were required to bring a pullet back from the brink of death from heat stroke.
SAMSUNG
Processing day was a whole other entity. Having not ever processed a bird for eating, we were all more than a bit apprehensive. Of course the toughest pill to swallow was the taking of a life. Not EVER to be taken lightly and ALWAYS to be given the utmost respect and gratitude, this step must be swift and humane. This is where a newly kindled friendship, discovered via my Cluck & Hoe Facebook page, came in to play. Never had we met in person, as we do not live within an easy drive, and yet when that first conversation was had via a phone call, It felt oddly like I was speaking to a person whom I had held a decades long friendship. She, we’ll call her Kay, volunteered, no, insisted, that she would make the 2 hour drive in to help us on the final day. With her, Kay brought a wealth of knowledge, experience, compassion, patience, generosity and community. Having her there, guiding us through each step of the process helped make the weight of the day, just a little lighter. Guided by her patience and encouragement, I found my hand growing steadier, my heart filling with appreciativeness and a confidence in the acknowledgement that I can, and will, live this life I daydream of so often.

5 – Midge. This girl of ours.
SAMSUNG
Just the thought of her and her strength, courage and compassion overwhelms me with pride, respect, and honor. I had mentioned early on the importance in all of us having a hand in every step of the process. This was talked about, but not pressed. Once we began Kay and I turned to Midge and asked her to take part in step one, at least once. Although hesitant, this girl young woman stepped up and bravely, graciously and gently did what was to be done. Like a right of passage, as her tears rolled, mine began. Dad had paused in all his tasks long enough to bear witness to this moment. It was a bittersweet experience, a palpable moment in time when a bit more of her childhood innocence was replaced with a hardened piece of the reality we talk of on a daily basis. As a whole, our family believes in the importance of reconnecting with our food. With that belief comes the responsibility to raise the animal, from start to finish, in the utmost humane, compassionate and respectful manner. To watch Midge walk the walk and still stand tall, knowing however hard it may be to take the life of an animal raised for meat, it is the path we should all be on. To be witness to the greatness which is my daughter is, and will forever be, my greatest source of joy and gratitude.

6 – I can do this, I can grow our food with compassion, humility, respect and a grateful heart. I can show these animals that are destined to be a source of sustenance for me and my family the same love and respect all beings deserve. I can hold my head high knowing the food we raised was done so in a humane manner. I can take pride in knowing the life these birds, and any other animal I raise, is a quality life, not taken for granted. A life not thought less of, but rather, more, knowing the immense role they will have on the lives of those they will provide for. I can grow what I eat and eat what I grow. I can put meaning and appreciation back into the food that nourishes our bodies and souls. Whether its man animal or produce. We know our farmer and we are our farmer and that is the most empowering knowledge I have gained thus far in my life.

finish

One Pot Cookbook Review

SAMSUNG
One Pot from the Editors of Martha Stewart Living

The moment I received this cookbook I poured over it and nearly dog-eared every page. The immediate draw to it was, of course, the idea of one pot cooking, this translates into less clean up and that makes for a happy cook as I tend to also be the dishwasher, I know, I know, sounds completely off-balance, but I assure you, we all shoulder equal and full responsibilities in this house.

With our days full of chores, homework, honey-do lists and work it is easy to fall into a rut of un-inspired dinners. This One Pot cookbook is loaded with fresh ideas on some great classics that have readily available, easy to find ingredients. I immediately started incorporating the recipes into our menu. I started with the Chicken-Tomatillo Stew.
tomatillo chicken
This is a picture of my finished product, it turned out just as fancy as the image in the book.

That is the other thing I love about this cookbook, full-page, full-color images with every recipe.

The stew was so good that I used some of the halibut the Kid and Brother brought home from Alaska and made the Roasted Tilefish with Potatoes and Capers. My cousin was over for dinner that night, turns out she isn’t a big fan of fish, but didn’t say anything when I had proposed fish for dinner. After she nearly licked her plate clean she said “I’m don’t really care for fish but that was really good.”

Sunday I put Midge to work on dinner, she whipped up the Minestrone with a side salad and fresh sourdough bread.

All of the recipes thus far have been delicious and easy to prepare with the steps clearly laid out. With basic ingredients and little effort we can put out top-notch dinners that will surely impress any guests. Perfectly timed with the cooling of the weather, I will no doubt be working my way cover to cover through this cookbook. It would make a perfect gift for that foodie in your life.

Disclaimer
“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Seasonal Tug o’ War

Oh my goodness, this past weekend the weather cooled to low 80’s for daytime temps that dipped a toe into the 50’s overnight with a deliciously cool breeze. Days when it is almost too cool to linger in the shade, stepping out to feel the sun wrap around your shoulders like a comforting hug. The kind of weather that awakens the desire to light candles, drink heavily spiced warm beverages, bake loaves and loaves of bread and create dinners of soul comforting warmth with rich flavors, slow cooked ingredients and leisurely enjoyed. When windows can be thrown open to let the cool night temps seep in so you can once again snuggle under the covers and warm your cold toes on the hubby’s heater of a body (only me??)
sunrise
There is just something about this time of year, the crisp mornings fragrant with fresh dew, taking longer to shake the cloak of night off as the sun lazily rises over the horizon. Sunrises and sunsets both aglow with the warm hues of Autumn. The evenings growing darker earlier, urging everyone inside just a bit earlier each night.

This year, Autumn has new meaningful signals added as we prepare and plant our second fall garden, this time with more thought and planning in place.
SAMSUNG
The beds have all been cleared, turned and refreshed with nutrient rich, organic garden soil.
SAMSUNG
Our first solely heirloom planting of seeds and transplants have been nestled within this generous gift from a new farmer friend, soil that smells rich with the promise of bountiful harvests for the coming season.

There is a new, weight in the air of this particular fall,
SAMSUNG
as we near the end of the season for our first home-raised meat birds
2014-09-29 17.31.34-1
and watch as the turkeys continue to grow, mature and introduce us to their calm, and sometimes comical, character.
IMG952272
(Strutting for his first time at 3 months old, both the bronze turkey and the meat birds were less than impressed. We humans, well, let’s just say it is a new day when you hear a turkey call from your backyard flock for the first time)

this past weekend was just a taste of my favorite season as it continues to struggle to grab a foothold against summer and it’s blazing triple digit temperatures. A tug o’ war of sorts as we now bounce between the two seasons. One can only hope Fall will eventually out muscle the ever-increasing strength of Summer, pushing it back so we can enjoy more than a few weeks of this, my favorite season of the year.

A Triumphant Weekend

SUCCESS!!!!

This weekend was absolutely filled to the brim with rewards.

From tackling new canning recipes for the pounds and pounds of green tomatoes harvested last weekend as we prepared our garden beds for fall planting.
SAMSUNG

Salsa Verde with green tomatoes in place of the more traditionally used tomatillos
SAMSUNG

All canned up, salsa and pickled green tomatoes (YUM!)
SAMSUNG

To finally overcoming the (irrational) fear of the pressure canner. YES! I finally triumphed!
SAMSUNG
Now let me explain, the first time we, Hubs and I, tried the pressure canner things just didn’t go as they should. It struggled to reach 11 pounds pressure, the pressure gauge steamed up so we could hardly read it. Then, just as it reached pressure it let out whistle so loud that, if we had crystal in the house it would have likely shattered. The dog hightailed it to the farthest point away, as we were left standing there with our fingers in our ears, trying to make sense of what was happening and wondering if it would ever stop. It only quit once we turned off the stove. So we hung up our pressure canning hats till a later date, removed the plugs and had since been using the canner solely as a water bath canner. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you should know all to well the volume of pickles (tomato, cucumber, zucchini) that I have been putting up.

I finally found my resolve to win out over my nerves and set about giving it another go. Did it go swimmingly? Nope, the first attempt the lid didn’t seal tight, leaks appeared in a couple of spots and the pressure refused to rise. After conferring with the Handsome Hubs I took it off the heat, wiped all the seals and edges down, and tried again. What a difference. The steady steam started almost immediately, the lock popped up and once the weight was in place the pressure steadily rose. It took some serious hovering to keep the pressure ‘just so’ but, after 75 minutes, plus cool down time, I was giddy as I heard the sweet pings of the lids sing, one after another, until all 7 pints sealed. (Insert Happy Dance)
SAMSUNG

It hasn’t been just pressure canning that has proven to be taxing. I have also spent many a week trying to create a good working relationship with my sourdough starter. Now, you all know I can bake a loaf of bread as seen here and here and even, here. But sourdough has been my Sasquatch, remaining elusive. Giving just a slight promise of being proven attainable but never seeing 100% actual proof. This starter was created with the wild yeast from my organically grown red cabbage. I used a method I found on Two Sisters Bakery Recipe Blog. Creating the starter has proven to be the easy part. Turning that starter into the perfect loaf of sourdough bread, well let’s just say there have been plenty of door stops, literally. Each week I would attempt to bake up a batch. Some weeks the bread had a great tangy taste but was so dense it was better suited as a bat, door stop or chicken feed (after being soaked). Other weeks the loaves would rise and be light and airy yet the flavor was reminiscent of plain ol’ white bread and while palatable, it just wasn’t what I was after. Until this past weekend when this is what I pulled out of the oven
SAMSUNG
Not a huge rise, but at least something that resembled what it actually was and not a weapon.
SAMSUNG
That crust; thick and crunchy. The interior; chewy, tangy and fluffy. Oh it was so good we (truth, mostly me) nearly ate an entire loaf still hot from the oven. Still too small to make a decent sandwich but perfectly worthy of soft butter and soup soaking.

If all that weren’t enough, our Easter hatch girls have begun to Join the Layer’s Club! Bubble the Marans/Orpington mix started laying a week ago and has laid an egg everyday since.
SAMSUNG
Sunday, the Olive Egger, BamBam joined the club with our first ever olive-green egg. We are stoked (too So Cal??) to finally have a new egg color in our basket and hope she lays as faithfully as Bubbles.
2014-09-28 11.58.56-1
Bunny, the other Marans/Orpington mix is acting like she will be rounding out the new layer’s membership sometime this week.
triple trouble

Pressure canning, delicious sourdough, olive colored eggs, all add up to a happy, happy homesteader.

A Hot Topic

Last week we here in southern California were waddled tightly in a heavy woolen blanket of stifling heat. The kind of heat that makes it difficult to catch your breath, let alone complete any task at a rate too slow to be counted as productive. Temperatures soared and records crumbled from their decades old pedestals. While it was difficult for us to ride the wave of heat with short brief ventures out from our air-conditioned house, our poor poultry were left to muddle through the intense heat. Even the dogs and cats chose to hide in the cavern of a house as the temps soared close to 110F.

We did what we could think of doing for them. The big windows on the coop were propped open 24 hours a day, our large 12 foot square canopy still stands erect as a barrier against the blazing sun. A mister ran sun-up to sundown, waters were changed daily and cold and frozen treats were given as often as we had them. There is no thermometer inside the coop but I image what an awful week it was for the laying girls to be forced in to the nesting boxes to sit for an hour or more as they laid their eggs.

Worse yet was our broody who tried in vain to maintain her clutch of 2 dozen eggs at a consistent 100F degrees.
313
The sweltering temps finally took their toll near the end of the week-long stretch. One by one, her eggs rotted, day after day until we were left with 6. By hatch day our broody girl, Beatty, was so spent from the heat and extended sit (we had held her broody for a few weeks before eggs shipped in for this hatch) that she crushed to 2 chicks that did manage to hatch. After the death of the second one, she hollered “Uncle” and was happy to return to the flock, not giving another thought to the weeks of solitary confinement or her desires to be a mom. Relieved to be back to scratching around with the girls and her rooster. The upside, we had a dozen eggs in the incubator and managed to get 6 new fuzzy butts from this hatch, including my friends first in-house Serama baby.
SAMSUNG
That’s the Serama on the left and a Marans/Barred Rock mix from our flock.

Then there was 8.
SAMSUNG
Our meat bird flock had the toughest time coping with the suffocating temps. They grow so fast and their little frames hold so much weight it is akin to sporting a sauna suit all day and night. I had heard the Cornish Cross have a hard time with the heat, the made sure the mister was directed at their pen and that they always had fresh water, but alas, we lost one and almost lost another.
SAMSUNG
It took an evening after work, through the night and day in the air-conditioned house to finally return the little bird back to her former self.

We are only a couple of weeks away from the date set for our meat birds. To lose meat we have worked so hard to raise for 2 families is a hard hit to take. We are all grateful that we live in a time when we are not dependent on growing our own food and that we can easily bounce back from the loss. But the loss of life, no matter the purpose it was to serve, is still a difficult pill to swallow. Knowing there was more we could have done to prevent the loss but not realizing it until it was too late, that has left a bad taste in my mouth that I will not soon forget.

Being in the beginning stages of journey into homesteading and learning to live a more self-sufficient life I am thankful for the opportunity to learn these hard lessons on a smaller scale. With each success and failure we learn something new and with each season we grow wiser for both the highs and lows. We will be able to take this education with us as we continue to grow and branch out farther toward our dreams.

Turkey Math?

If you have chickens you likely know all too well about Chicken Math. If you are not familiar with this numerical conundrum, it looks a little like this 2+2=More. I started with the promise of just small flock of 4-6 birds, a year later and, well, you can read about my lack of math skills over HERE.
SAMSUNG
The turkey prefers the company of the Cornish X.

Now my friend and I (we really just nurture the chicken crazy in one another) have gone and done it again. It appears chicken math is not specific to chickens. We talked turkey, and the idea of a pasture raised bird appeals to her just as much as it does to my family. So we headed out Saturday afternoon to collect a turkey from the same hatch to be a companion to our Broad Breasted Bronze. Then the guy offers a 5 month old Black Spanish/Eastern Wild cross and talks about the difference in flavor, drops the word heritage and it’s done.
0914141312a
We now have a mini flock of turkeys hanging out till November. The original Bronze, the wild/heritage mix (hopefully the wing clip will keep it around) and a Broad Breasted White. I had better find land fast.
SAMSUNG

Fluffy Butts

Remember last week when I broke down the crazy numbers of poultry happening at our little homestead in The Power of Poultry? Well, we’ve had a hatch over the weekend! We candled 12 eggs and set 9 in lockdown on day 18.
SAMSUNG
I am excited to announce, we had 8 of the 9 hatch!
SAMSUNG
The first to bust out of it’s shell was the backyard mix of Blue Copper Marans and Barred Rock.
SAMSUNG
Staying true to the forward nature of Rocks, this chick made it’s appearance on Friday, while the others waited until Saturday. It is a cute little grey (blue) chick with feathered legs and feet. There was only one in this go ’round, but we set a few more for the final, big hatch set for next weekend.
SAMSUNG
I am anxious to see this mix grow out, what color will the eggs be, will we get any barred babies? It should be a good dual purpose bird since Marans and Rocks are good sized birds.

We are all the most enthusiastic about 6 of the 8 chicks.
SAMSUNG
They are the Langshans. Last time we (and by we I mean my crazy chicken friend and I) tried hatching Langshan eggs the hatch rate was miserable. Of 18 eggs, only 3 hatched out. Of the 3, only 1 was a girl. We sold off the pullet and later we sold one of the 2 boys, keeping, who we felt was the best of the 2 for breeding. This go round we only purchased 8 eggs and of the 8, we had 6 hatch.
SAMSUNG
Of the 6 we got a 50/50 split of blue and black and they are all so uniquely colored, even at this point. Their little legs are heavily feathered with white feathers, making them look like little Clydesdale horses (ok, that might be a stretch) Maybe fancy, feathered leg warmers?? You tell me…
SAMSUNG
Fingers crossed there are at least a couple girls in there!
SAMSUNG

The 8th little fluff ball came from my friends flock, the hen lays the prettiest spearmint green eggs while the two roosters who could be the father are both of blue egg genes.
SAMSUNG
So we shall see what this little round baby grows up to be, hopefully a pullet so we can see what the egg color combination will create.

An update on our broody who we gave 24 eggs to,
313
unfortunately that proved to be too many eggs and we suffered a lose of 5 under her. What an AWFUL stench that was! We lost 2 of the 5 Welsummers, 2 of the 6 Olive Eggers and 1 Super Blue Egg Layer. Aw well, you live and you learn, Beatty will get no more than 18 eggs for any future hatches.

I just love day old chicks and their adorable little fluffy butts. It is a short lived stage that just doesn’t get old.

Creamy Chilled Cucumber Soup

This soup is perfect for using up those sneak cucumbers that missed being picked in time for pickling. I have not always been a fan of cold soups, but this really is delicious. One note, make sure you keep the salt to a minimum until after chilling. The first time I made this, I used canned broth and salted butter, the soup turned out so over salted it was like licking a salt lick. Even for folks like me who LOVE salt, it was a total loss. Now I use my homemade bone broth and I don’t salt that very much.
SAMSUNG
When it comes to the yogurt, you can substitute sour cream or probably even crème fraiche. You can also swap the mint for dill, but I just love the bright flavor of the mint with the cucumber.

Ingredients:
2 pounds cucumber – peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons Unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons flour
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I use my homemade bone broth)
1 cup Greek yogurt (I use nonfat)
2 Tablespoons fresh mint, minced
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Toss cucumbers with 1 tsp. salt in a colander over a bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Rinse cucumbers with cold water and drain well.

2. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, stir constantly, cook for about 2 minutes, this cooks the raw flour taste out a bit.

3. Stir in the cucumbers and broth. Turn heat up to high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, making sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, to gently simmer, covered partially, until the cucumbers are very soft, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from heat and let cool till a bit.

4. Using your immersion blender, carefully blend the soup smooth. Of course you can use a counter top blender, working in small batches puree the soup.

5. Once your soup is blended, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

6. When ready to serve, whisk in the yogurt and mint. Check seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper to your liking.

7. To make things pretty, after ladling into the bowls, add a little dollop of yogurt and spring of mint.

It’s just that simple.

ENJOY!