Friday, June 29, 2012

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about my chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here. 

Here in Missouri, we are stuck in a major heat wave. Today's high was 105! That is some serious heat. I've written about how much my older chickens love yogurt on hot summer days, and I wanted to introduce yogurt to our new chicks. I was sure they'd happily gobble it down on a hot day like today.

I had totally forgotten about how wary chicks are of anything new! My older chickens come running when they see me carrying anything in my hands because they think I'm bringing them treats (and that is usually the case haha). But the new guys just stared at the bowl trying to figure out what it was, then finally walked away wanting nothing to do with it!

I picked a few of them up and stuck their beaks in the yogurt, knowing if they just tried it they would love it. That didn't really work too well, though.

I had an idea to combine the new, scary yogurt with something they were familiar with; something I knew they'd scarf up. I sprinkled some of their feed on top of the yogurt, sat the bowl down, and immediately they began to peck at the feed and inadvertently got some bites of yogurt in the process! Once the grain was gone off the top, they were still dipping their beaks in the bowl for some bites of yogurt. Success!

Pretty much everything is old hat to my chickens, but the new chicks are still learning about the world. I have to remember to take it slow and let them explore and figure things out in their own time.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bee Tree

I first wrote about our plans to have the property logged back in February. Since then we have learned a lot and realized it's not nearly as simple of a process as we previously thought. We were just marking trees that we thought looked good and wanted to keep, but there is WAY more behind it!

A couple months ago I called our regional Missouri Department of Conservation office to get in touch with the resource forester in our area. He has been out to our property twice now, and most recently marked all our trees that we will get cut down (more on this in a future post!). He is such a smart guy, and pointed out lots of cool things to David about the types of trees we have out here. In particular, he found one very interesting thing on our property...

A bee tree!

We never noticed it before, but a colony of bees has set up shop in this old, hollowed out tree.

David has been talking about wanting bees for some time now, so he was pretty excited when they found this. We are going to talk to a local beekeeper tomorrow, but from what we understand, it is possible to move the colony from the tree to a different location. We can't harvest their honey as it is now, but if we move the colony to a beehive we can eventually collect the honey. I can't imagine anything better than having my own honey!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Perfect Summertime Drink

There's one drink that I can't get enough of this time of year. When the humidity is up and temps rarely drop below 90 in the daytime, I reach for this.

Iced coffee!!!

And while I'm sure Starbucks is very happy with my summertime obsession, I really wanted to perfect a recipe for making my own iced coffee. Cold brewing is the most popular method and I tried it last summer, but could never get it to come out right. I bought the brew from Starbucks made specifically for iced coffee, but still could not get mine to taste like theirs.

While hanging out poolside with my family last weekend, we started gushing about iced coffee and my cousin Catie said she tried The Pioneer Woman's recipe and really liked it. That blog post has over 1200 comments, so apparently lots of other people like it as well!

The one thing I saw in her recipe that made all the difference was the coffee to start with. I think my issue in the past was not using a strong enough brew, so I used Cafe Bustelo (can be found at WalMart) as she recommended. Her recipe makes a TON of coffee concentrate, so I scaled it down to just try it out first to make sure I liked it. If you want to make an even smaller quantity, just use 4T of ground coffee per 6oz of water.

At Home Iced Coffee

Makes 3 or 4 12 oz glasses of iced coffee

2/3 cup ground coffee
3 cups cold filtered water
Milk (I use unsweetened soy milk)
Agave nectar or simple syrup to taste

Mix the ground coffee and water in a large bowl or pitcher and stir well to combine. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

Strain out the coffee grounds using a fine-mesh strainer and cheesecloth (paper towels also work well). What you are left with is super strong; essentially it is coffee concentrate. Fill a glass half with the concentrate and half with milk. Add agave or other sweetener to taste. FYI - the concentrate should last at least 2 weeks tightly covered in the fridge.

I don't put sugar in my iced coffee because it doesn't dissolve and just sinks to the bottom. I like to make a simple syrup by putting equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, heat to boiling, stir until the sugar dissolves, then cool. This syrup will incorporate well into any cold drink. You can also add spices (like cinnamon sticks) to flavor the syrup if you wish. The syrup will last for about 2 weeks covered in the fridge (beware - it is VERY sticky!). If you don't drink your iced coffee right away and want it to stay cool for a while, a great tip is using ice cube trays to freeze some of the concentrate to put in your glass so your drink doesn't get watered down with using regular ice.

I haven't calculated exactly how much I'm saving, but I know it's a huge savings over buying from Starbucks. And I'm very happy with this recipe, so I'm sure I'll be making it all summer long!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Feathered Friend Friday

I thought it would be fun to start a new series called "Feathered Friend Friday." The plan is that every Friday I will write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about chickens. I'm a bit obsessed with my girls, so this is a good way to share my love of all things chicken! If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here.

It appears that we have a broody guinea. A VERY broody guinea.

On Tuesday of this week, David noticed one of the white guineas sitting in some of the taller weeds behind the chicken run. When we fed them for the night and they were adequately distracted (go here to see why we have to distract them), we decided to inspect and found a huge clutch of eggs.

36 to be exact. We decided to take 8 of the eggs and bring them in so that hopefully the guineas would still lay in this nest. This way we could mark the ones that are out there and only bring in the newly laid ones each day so we'd know they were fresh and good to eat.

It appears that the guineas had other plans! The next day we noticed the white guinea sitting on the nest all day long. That night when we fed them, she didn't come out to eat - we found her still sitting on the nest protecting the clutch of eggs. Guineas (especially white ones) laying on nests are prime targets for predators, so I was a little worried to leave her there all night. The nest is pretty close to the chicken run where Duchess is, so we hoped that she would scare off any predators that came near. We decided to let her be and hope for the best.

Tonight when I got home, I tiptoed into the weeds to see if she was still on the nest. Yep, there she was, and I didn't want to get too close to her, but it didn't look like she was moving at all. I started to walk closer and she still didn't move, so my first thought was that something killed her. I threw a stick over in her direction and still no movement. I got right up next to her and poked her and she puffed up and made this horrible noise!

Once she saw how close I was, she spread her wings out over the eggs and hissed at me so I backed off! Guess we won't be eating these eggs after all. We're kind of playing it by ear, but I think we'll let her stay on the nest and see what happens, doing a lot of research in the meantime since we've heard guineas don't make the best mothers.

Who knows, in 3 weeks we may have lots of little keets running around!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vintage Bathroom Cabinet

Remember my recent post on our Bollinger Mill day trip in which I cryptically gushed about a fabulous piece of furniture I found at an antique store? Well, today I brought it home!

I know it may not be everyone's cup of tea (Dad, I'm looking at you!) but I'm pretty much obsessed with it. The store owner said it would be a great piece to restore, and I kind of shouted, "No! I love it how it is!" It was painted many years ago and the effect of the paint chipping off and rust underneath has given it a great patina.

It has glass sliding doors on the top with two adjustable shelves inside and two pull out drawers on the bottom.

And I got a deal! After watching lots of Cajun Pawn Stars episodes with David's family last night, I was inspired to test my negotiation skills. I scored it for $65 instead of the original price of $80 (which I still think is a steal - truth be told I would've paid well over $100 for it).

Many thanks to David and Ramon for getting it safely from the antique store to my bathroom!


How To Stop Birds From Eating Your Tomatoes

Our tomato plants are finally starting to take off! They are growing so tall that we've put cages around them to help them grow straight. We're starting to see lots of flowers, and even have some tiny tomatoes growing.

We know the first few years of gardening out here will be trial and error, but we really don't want any birds (or guineas!) to eat our tomatoes once they get nice and big. I read a very interesting tip in a magazine a few years ago on how to keep birds from eating your tomatoes while they are ripening on the vine. It seemed crazy at first, but once I thought about it, it really made sense and seemed like a great idea.

The article suggested putting unbreakable red Christmas ornaments on your tomato vines before your tomatoes start to ripen. Birds will peck at the ornaments, thinking they are tomatoes. When they realize they aren't edible, they forget about the plants for good. Then when your tomatoes actually do start to get red and ripen, the birds won't eat them because they still associate the fruit with the inedible ornaments.

We figured it was worth a try!

They actually do look like tomatoes from far away, so maybe it will really work. Only time will tell!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Barani Farm Guns & Ammo 2.0

Last Christmas when most of David's family was in town, we had them all out to shoot guns. This week his family is in town to celebrate Father's Day and his grandpa's 80th birthday. We had a party at his grandpa's house on Sunday, and decided that we'd have everyone out on Monday afternoon to hang out and shoot guns.

We even blew up some stuff....

It was a blast!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Natural Gardening

When planning our vegetable and flower gardens this year, we wanted to use as many natural (and free!) components as possible. To section off our vegetable beds, David used wood from trees that he cut down to get more sunlight to the plants. We're also making walls around the whole area using small stacked logs.

When we replaced the tires on our Jeep, I saved the old tires so I could plant some flowers in them. If that's not country, I don't know what is! :)

A while back David found a big tree in the woods that was hollowed out in the middle. He cut it into smaller sections and we used it as planters for bulbs and sedum to add some visual interest to our beds up next to the house.

A great free way we enhanced our garden was to get plants from our relatives! My grandma, and David's grandma and aunt happily shared with us some of the overflow from their gardens.

The great thing about all the plants our relatives shared with us is that after they grow in our garden for a while, we can share them with others as well. Paying it forward!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Feathered Friend Friday

I thought it would be fun to start a new series called "Feathered Friend Friday." The plan is that every Friday I will write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about chickens. I'm a bit obsessed with my girls, so this is a good way to share my love of all things chicken! If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here.

One interesting thing I've learned about chickens is that to keep their feathers nice and clean, they take dirt baths!

Dirt bath buddies Penguin and Aster - sadly no longer with us, but I have many happy memories!

At first it really scared me because they writhe around in the dirt and kick it up on their feathers. I thought they had fallen over unable to walk and were struggling to get back up, but of course that was not the case at all. Just taking a bath! It really is the funniest thing to watch. They lay down on their side and kick dirt all up in their feathers. After a while, they stand up and shake out like a wet dog and dirt goes everywhere! It really is beneficial to them because it helps to keep their feathers clean, gets rid of any bugs or mites, and cools them off when it's hot outside. It's just a natural, instinctual chicken behavior and a sign that they are happy. :)

The guineas love to dust bathe as well. Unfortunately their favorite place to do so is in my herb garden!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heirloom Figs

One of my grandma's favorite things about her garden is her huge fig tree. One day I asked her about the history of the tree, and she said it's over 50 years old! Back in the late 1950s her brother moved into a new home and his neighbor had this amazing fig tree. When talking to the neighbor, Grandma commented on his fig tree and said she'd love to have one someday. Right then and there, he dug up part of his tree and gave it to her. She planted it in her back yard and it just took off!

I got a call from her last week that she had some figs already ripe and ready to eat. Usually they don't ripen until late in the summer, but with this year's crazy warm weather they were already prime for picking. She told me they were huge, some as big as lemons! I didn't believe her, so I had to see them for myself.

They were HUGE! Grandma said she has never seen them get this big before. I was more than happy to take a few off her hands!

Of course they are delicious eaten as is, but I wanted to try something different, so I found a recipe online for grilled figs.

I grilled them on my indoor grill pan, then drizzled with local raw honey and spread on some dairy-free cream cheese. It definitely hit the spot.

I still have so many figs that I don't know what to do with them! But of course that's a good problem :) Next I'm going to try my hand at drying them in the oven and maybe making some fig jam. Thanks again, Grandma!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Bollinger Mill

The last time David and I took a long vacation was in July of 2009 when we went to New Mexico to visit his parents. We were there for about a week and had a blast. Our first flock of baby chicks arrived in August of 2009 and we have not been on a long vacation ever since! It's really hard to get away because if we are gone overnight we have to arrange for someone to take care of our menagerie of animals.

The solution - day trips! These tend to work out better for us anyway because it can be a spontaneous thing, requires no time off from work, and of course is way cheaper.

This weekend I was feeling a little adventurous and wanted to do some exploring. David and I hadn't been to Bollinger Mill since we were kids, so I thought it would be fun to check it out again. It's just a short 30 minute drive from our place, so it was a great afternoon getaway.

Inside the mill, there are a lot of great displays featuring old equipment. I loved these old grain bags and the huge grain cart!

To me, the best feature is the covered bridge next to the mill - it's one of only four remaining covered bridges in the state.

Taken through a hole in the wood from inside the bridge.

If you want to, you can go down and take a dip in the water. After seeing this, though, I decided I'd stay on dry land. Unacceptable bacteria levels? No, thank you!

This would be a really great getaway for families because there are lots of picnic tables outside and there is plenty of open land for kids (or adults!) to run around and play. Just stay out of the water! :)

After checking out all the mill had to offer, we went to the cutest little antique shop just up the road.

I got an adorable chicken platter and David got a game called Dragonriders. So predictable, I know!

He couldn't wait until we got home to check it out!

I also found the most perfect piece of furniture ever. I want to put it in the bathroom for storage, so we took the measurements and are trying to figure out if it will work. I'm so obsessed with it! So obsessed, in fact, that I'm not going to describe it or post a picture for fear that someone else will swipe it!

If you've never been to Bollinger Mill or haven't been since you were a kid, you should definitely check it out. It's worth the drive!


Friday, June 8, 2012

Feathered Friend Friday

I thought it would be fun to start a new series called "Feathered Friend Friday." The plan is that every Friday I will write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about chickens. I'm a bit obsessed with my girls, so this is a good way to share my love of all things chicken! If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here.

After I get home from work and play with the animals for a bit, it's time for them to go to bed. When it's getting close to dusk, the guineas stick around the house because they know I'm going to feed them!

They go crazy for their food! Feeding them in the evening is a good way to make sure they come back close to headquarters to roost so Duchess can keep them safe by scaring away would be predators overnight.

The chickens tend to go in for bed really early lately. Our rooster, Cam, encourages his girls to go in early to make sure they are all tucked in and safe come nightfall. Of course they have to get a little snack to tide them over until the morning.

Once the feeding frenzy is over, things calm down and they all settle in for the night.

I gave the chickens a little bit of yogurt when I got home, and after I locked them up I was looking for the container to put in recycling. It was right by their coop when I fed them, but for some reason I couldn't find it. I figured I'd just look again in the morning until I stumbled upon it...

Duchess! She must have swiped it when I wasn't looking and licked it clean. She reminded me of that funny dog Denver!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Slow and Steady

I've never been a runner.

I have very vivid memories from my childhood that pretty much ruined running for me. My earliest is in 6th grade when we had to sprint across the soccer field for play day in front of TONS of kids and parents. I was so nervous because I knew I was slow. Palms sweating, pit in my stomach, I ran as fast as my short legs could take me across that field and realized about halfway through that I was dead last. And not by a nose. It took me a good 15 or 20 seconds after everyone else was across the finish line for me to make it. I was humiliated and vowed that I'd never run again.

Of course I had to run many more times throughout junior high and high school with equal measure of embarrassment. I distinctly remember my high school gym class teacher lining everyone up to run a mile. Most girls got pretty good times, between 7 and 9 minutes. 12 1/2 minutes later, here I was stumbling through my last lap. I despised running. I associated it with humiliation, embarrassment, and failure.

So why, years later, did I pick up running?

I've always been jealous of runners. I've always wanted to call myself a runner. It was something that most of my friends were naturally good at and it really got under my skin that I was not one of them. I don't like to fail. I always imagined myself picking up running at some point in my life just to prove to myself that I could do it, but whenever I tried I always failed.

I came across the Couch to 5k program several years ago and thought it would be a good way to ease into running. I guess there was just a perfect storm of events 9 weeks ago that led me to start that program. I really wanted to challenge myself. So I began and stuck with the program diligently. I gradually noticed, even though I was very slow, that I could jog for longer each week without feeling like I was going to die.

And this morning, I can't even believe I'm typing this out, I ran for 50 minutes straight! Even at my slow pace, I ran a full 5k. That's 3.1 miles!  

I don't know if I will run the rest of my life, but I like to think that I will. Aside from being a fabulous workout, it proved to me that I can meet a challenge head on and succeed. And that is worth more than I can say.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Reunited...And It Feels So Good!

Our outdoor cat, Baby, is a free spirit. She has always lived strictly outdoors on this property and clearly enjoys her independence. When we bought the house, the seller asked us if we wanted to keep her since this is the only home she's ever known. Of course we said yes!

I've never had an outdoor cat before, so I didn't know what to expect. She basically came and went as she pleased, and sometimes was gone for 3-4 days at a time. This made me nervous, but I tried to forget about it because she only ever disappeared for a few days before making her return.

Over the past 6 weeks or so, one of the neighbor's cats has been coming over here. At first I thought he was a stray so I began feeding him. Of course once he knew there was food over here, he basically made this his home. Baby didn't like him at all. This is her territory and she didn't want him here. They would hiss and yell at each other a lot, but I never saw them get too physical.

I guess Baby had enough, so she went away. I started to get nervous after the 5th day or so because that was a little longer than she'd ever been gone. Then a week passed, and today was the 10th day she had been missing. I was getting pretty scared and thinking of the worst case scenarios. I had a dream two nights ago that I went outside and there she was and I started crying. I have this weird thing where a lot of my dreams actually come true, so I was hoping that would be the case with this dream as well.

Today when I was at work, David called and said, "Baby greeted me when I got home." I was caught totally off guard and I started crying hysterically! My reaction really surprised me. I guess I'm a lot more attached to her than I'd like to admit.

We actually kept her in the garage for a little while to make sure she ate because she seemed like she had lost weight. She didn't like it much, and being the free spirit that she is I knew I had to let her go. We went outside and she hung out on the picnic table with me for a while, then got up and walked off into the woods.

I hope she doesn't go away for that long again. I don't know if I could take it!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Feathered Friend Friday

I thought it would be fun to start a new series called "Feathered Friend Friday." The plan is that every Friday I will write a post with interesting facts, photos, or funny stories about chickens. I'm a bit obsessed with my girls, so this is a good way to share my love of all things chicken! If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here.

It's usually no shock to people when I tell them that my chickens loooove treats. However, most people are shocked when I tell them what their favorite summertime treat is...


It seems to cool them down and is very good for their digestive systems. And it's hilarious watching them eat it! I've learned to put the bowl down and step back immediately. They go crazy and the yogurt usually ends up all over them and me if I stand too close.

In the wintertime, they absolutely love warm oatmeal (yes, they are somewhat pampered!). Of course they eat up bugs and worms, but I have to admit I was shocked the day I saw them tear apart a tiny mouse. It was kind of traumatic, actually! On several occasions I've seen them with frog legs hanging out of their beaks. That's not a pretty sight to see, either. Takes them a while to swallow. Ewwww.

They also like corn on the cob (I give them our cobs after we eat the corn and they peck at them all day long), cooked pasta, sunflower seeds, cabbage and lettuce, beans, strawberries and blueberries, and bread. They also enjoy scrambled eggs oddly enough. Really, there are very few things they don't like!