Friday, November 30, 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 our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here      

The temperatures have been dipping below freezing overnight this past week, so I have to chip away the ice from the chickens' waterers each morning. And for some reason, the chickens just love to eat the ice!

I guess they think it's some sort of treat? I don't know. But they will peck away at it until they get a good sized piece and gobble it down. Crazy chickens.

They really like it when you hand feed them pieces of ice. Red swiped this one quick.

And of course, if the chickens are eating something, Duchess has to investigate.

Apparently she likes being hand fed as well. I have spoiled them rotten!


Shared with Backyard Farming Connection

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trimming The Tree Frugally

This year we continued our tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree from our woods (go here to see last year's tree). We had one evergreen tree in the middle of the back yard that was really out of place so David gave it the ax this year and brought it inside.

Of course it's not a perfect frasier fir, but I think that makes it all the more charming. This year's tree was quite a bit smaller than last year's so that made it easier to handle and decorate.

Last year at a local antique store we found three boxes of old ornaments for only $0.25 per box, so we snatched them up. We like to go with lots of the same ball ornaments on our tree and wanted to switch it up from the red that we normally do, so these were perfect. They were gold originally, but due to their age (maybe 15 years old?) some of the gold had rubbed off and left a nice patina effect.

I wanted to use a different tree skirt this year, too, as our white glittered skirt didn't really fit the theme I was going for. I remembered a couple of burlap bags I bought at the feed store a few months back just because I love burlap sacks and they were only $1.50 each. I tried them out on the base of the tree and decided it was a go. We normally use colorful retro bulb lights on our tree, but I wanted to go with plain white this year. I got a couple boxes of lights for only $2.50 each and strung them up to complete this year's tree.

The cats like to be around the tree (luckily they don't try to pull off the ornaments or lights) and have been smart enough to figure out how to move the burlap bags to get some drinks of the tree's water.

A couple more shots just for fun...

When added all up, the total cost of this year's tree came out to a whopping $8.75! I love a good deal, especially during the holidays.

Do you decorate your tree the same way every year, or do you like to switch it up?


Shared with Handmade Christmas 2013, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Rural Thursday, Repurposed Ideas WeeklyOld Time PartyLavender Garden CottageBarn Hop Holiday EditionWildcrafting WednesdayFarm Girl Blog Fest

Monday, November 26, 2012

Banana Pancakes

During the week I usually just grab a quick breakfast before heading out the door, but on the weekends, I like to take my time to make a big breakfast that David and I can sit down and enjoy together. Last Saturday I whipped up one of our favorites - banana pancakes.

When we were on our honeymoon in Tulum, Mexico, I had pancakes with granola and honey for the first time. I'd never tried honey or granola on pancakes before, and I loved it. Ever since then we top our pancakes with warm honey instead of maple syrup.

Banana Pancakes
from 100 Days of Real Food

Serves 4-6
*I actually cut the recipe in half since it was just for the two of us, and we still had four pancakes left over. They do freeze really well, though, so that wasn't a bad thing! Just be aware the recipe makes quite a few pancakes.

2 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ¾ cups milk (I used Almond Breeze unsweetened almond milk - soy milk works as well)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted + more for frying (I used dairy-free Earth Balance spread)
2 ripe bananas, mashed

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the honey, eggs, milk, and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Whisk together thoroughly, but do not overmix.
2. Gently fold the mashed bananas into the batter with a spatula.
3. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. Swirl enough butter around the pan until it is well coated. Add pancake batter using a soup ladle.
4. When the pancakes have begun to brown on the bottom, flip them over to cook the other side.

These are some delicious pancakes. They puff up nicely and are very tender and fluffy. The mashed bananas help keep the batter moist and give the pancakes a great hint of banana flavor. I highly suggest you pile them high, top them off with granola and honey, and dig in!


PS - Did you notice the change to the blog? I updated the header over the weekend. Let me know what you think!

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Friday, November 23, 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 our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here     

It has been one month since I found the guinea surprise in our back yard, so I thought I'd share an update on how the keets are doing. As you may remember, we managed to catch 11 keets to bring inside and left three with the mom. Every morning for the past few weeks I observed the outside keets closely following their mom around so I figured, against all odds, that they would pull through. But earlier this week, I found only one keet trailing behind the mom.

I searched for the other two babies but didn't find anything. I don't know what happened to them. I watched the mom and remaining keet for a while that morning, and noticed the mom had lost interest in her baby. I saw her lead him into the chicken run while the door was open for just a moment. They ate some of the chicken feed, then the mom jumped over the fence and went about her business, oblivious to the fact that her baby was still inside with no way out. The tiny keet tried his best to fly over the 5' fence to rejoin his mom, but he could only make it halfway up. After the frustrated baby chirped loudly for a while, the mom came back and coaxed him through one of the holes in the fence, visibly annoyed at his inability to fly.

I decided I had to catch the keet and put him with his siblings in the brooder if he was to survive. Catching a quick little guinea baby is much easier said than done! I managed to trap him in a corner and snatch him up just before dark. I put him in the warm brooder with his siblings and he seemed to fit in right away.

In his last morning outside with the mom and dad, I was able to get some video of him following them around. I'm going to miss seeing the cute little guinea family parading around the yard.


Shared with Camera CrittersBackyard Farming ConnectionDown Home Blog Hop, Farmgirl Friday

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How To Ripen Tomatoes Indoors

A few years ago when we still lived in the city, we started a vegetable garden in our back yard with about four or five tomato plants. We heard great things about using chicken manure as a fertilizer, so we covered the soil around the tomato vines with pine shavings from the chicken coop. It worked incredibly well and the plants took off like crazy giving us a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes.

At the end of the season, we had many green tomatoes still on the vine that would not ripen. I asked my mom if there was anything we could do to get them to ripen indoors, and she told me about the newspaper trick. Have you heard of it? I just picked the green tomatoes off the vine, wrapped them loosely in newspaper, and stored in our dining room. I checked them every few days to see if any were ripe because if left wrapped too long, the ripe tomatoes started to rot. I was really surprised that it actually worked!

We had some green tomatoes still on the vine from this year's garden, so we're trying the newspaper trick again. Last Sunday I picked the remaining tomatoes off the vines and sorted them into the newspaper pile for wrapping, the chicken treat pile if they weren't suitable for ripening, or the eating pile because some of them were already ripe and ready to go. I hope it works for us again this year!

When I was pulling the tomatoes off the vines, I found this one cute little cherry tomato that had a star pattern on top. I guess from the stem? Not really sure what caused it, but I thought it was so cute!

Have you tried the newspaper trick? Or do you have another way of getting green tomatoes to ripen indoors? We'd love to hear any other methods you'd like to share.

And last but not least, we'd like to wish all of our American readers a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. We are so grateful for each and every one of you (American or not!) who reads and takes the time to leave a comment. It is so nice to feel validated and encouraged and we truly appreciate it.

~Tammy & David

Shared with Country Homemaker Hop, Farmgirl Friday, Food On Friday

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nesting Boxes

Back at the end of July when we integrated our new pullets in with our first flock of chickens, we needed to move them all to a bigger coop. We really lucked out when David's mom gave us her huge 8x12' garden shed. After adding roosts and making a few other minor tweaks, it has been the perfect chicken coop.

The only issue with the new coop has been the nesting boxes. We added a shelf with some crates, but the girls really never took to them (see the nesting boxes here). Instead, they lay in the old small coop or in what we call the hay room. Recently, Isis has even taken to laying her beautiful green eggs on top of the keet brooder where they are nearly impossible to reach!

A few weeks ago, my aunt told me about some old metal nesting boxes she and my uncle had at their farm and asked if we could use them. I was excited to check them out, so over the weekend I went to see if they might work for what we need.

I had the choice between one with open square boxes, or one with rounded entrances to the boxes. I thought the round one was so cute so I happily took it off their hands in exchange for four dozen eggs.

These nesting boxes have been unused for many years, so I gave them a good cleaning and washing when I got home to prepare them for the coop. Sylvester couldn't resist the urge to check them out.

We placed the nesting boxes on top of the existing shelf in the coop and it was a perfect fit! A few screws to mount it in place and they were good to go. I added pine shavings in each box, golf balls to show the chickens this is where they need to lay their eggs, and some marigold blooms to hopefully coax the girls to check out the boxes.

There was a lot of activity in the boxes yesterday, but no eggs laid in them yet. Chickens can sometimes be stubborn when presented with changes to their daily routines. Soon enough I'm sure they will come to love their new nesting boxes.

Too bad we don't get eggs from Sylvester! I swear, he must have been a chicken in a former life.

Do you have any tricks to get your girls to lay their eggs where you want them to?


Shared with Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Backyard Farming Connection, Country Homemaker Hop, Farmgirl FridayFarm Girl Blog FestFarmhouse Style Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop

Friday, November 16, 2012

Feathered Friend Friday

Last night I did a quick headcount of the chickens before I locked them in their coop for the night. I came up with 12. We have 13 chickens. So I counted again and still got 12.

"Ok, so who am I missing?" I thought. I checked everyone over and noticed Liliana was nowhere to be found.

Liliana is the one in the middle. This is where she should have been last night.

She is our smallest pullet and can fly really well. A couple times in the last week I had seen her outside of the run walking around. I got her to fly back inside and took a mental note to clip her wings. But I just never got around to it. She always stayed close to the run when she flew out, so I figured she would never stray.

Night was beginning to fall, but I walked around calling for her. Maybe she had gotten a little too far away from the run and was trying to make her way back but it got too dark? Of course a more likely scenario was that she was taken by a predator. I searched for feathers or any trace of her but came up with nothing.

I went inside feeling guilty and sad after calling off my search. I tried to make myself busy by preparing the pizza dough for dinner. But with each knead, all I could think of was her out in the woods by herself.

David finally made it home around 8pm after a very long day. I told him what happened and he could see that I was upset. Without hesitation he put on his heavy coat and boots, grabbed a flashlight, and headed outside to look for Liliana. This is why I love this man.

I stayed inside to finish dinner and tried to think of anything other than Liliana. After about 20 agonizing minutes later, David came back inside.

"How many chickens do we have?" he asked.

"13. Why?" I replied.

"Because there are 13 chickens in the coop."

What?! I had checked the coop and Liliana was nowhere in sight! I didn't believe him, so I grabbed my coat and headed outside with the flashlight. I eagerly ran to the coop and flung the door open. The chickens shuffled around a bit and voiced frustration at my interruption of their sleep.

I shined the light on each chicken, scanning every face, and there she was. Snuggled up next to our rooster, Cam, on the highest roost. Looking sweetly at me right in the eye, seemingly curious as to why I was bothering her so late at night.

I don't know how I missed her in my count; all I know is I'm so thankful this story has a happy ending. Early this morning as I watched the blazing sun slowly rise over the tree line, I did so with a grateful and very happy heart.

First order of business tomorrow: clipping Liliana's wings.


This post shared with Farm Girl Blog Fest, Farmgirl Friday Blog HopFarm Photo FridayCamera CrittersYour Sunday Best 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fresh Flowers

Last summer, we planted a cutting garden so we could have fresh flowers in the house all season long. We bought a packet of "wildflower mix" seeds for $0.20, threw them in the ground, and were rewarded with gorgeous zinnias and cosmos for months.

Now that the wildflowers are long gone, I miss having bright pops of color all over the house. Luckily, our local grocery store sells pretty bouquets for less than $5 so every once in a while I'll indulge.

I always end up choosing either white or green mums. I guess I just like the simplicity! I love to pull out my milk glass collection and put a stem in each vase. This way I can have flowers in multiple vases rather than just putting the whole bouquet in one big vase. One of my favorite places for fresh flowers is in the bathroom. It just brightens up the space and makes it feel instantly fresh and pulled together.

On top of my vintage cabinet - read more about that amazing find here!

I also love to put flowers in the living room so I can see them all the time. We use an antique wooden chest I scored from my grandma as our coffee table.

Of course once I put the flowers out the cats aren't too far behind. 

Thankfully, they aren't too bad once they get a couple sniffs. They will pretty much leave them alone after the initial excitement of having something new to smell. I feel very lucky because Jasper used to be horrible and always knock flowers over and eat them. I guess he's settled down a bit in his old age!

Do you like to keep fresh flowers in the house?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Potato & Leek Soup - Just Add Water

I recently found this recipe for potato and leek soup on Pinterest and was so excited to give it a try. Up until I made this soup, I had never cooked with (or tried) leeks before and I was eager to see what all the fuss was about.

Leeks kind of look like giant scallions and have a much milder taste than regular onions. There is often dirt trapped inside the layers, so you need to make sure to clean them well before using. The easiest way to do this is to cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4" half moons (only use the white and light green part - the dark green part is very tough and dry). Put the sliced leeks into a big bowl of cold water and shake around a bit. The leeks will stay at the top while all the dirt and sediment sinks to the bottom of the bowl. After a few minutes you are left with clean leeks ready to go.

Potato & Leek Soup
via Kitchen Riffs
Serves 4

3 cups cleaned and sliced leeks
3 cups scrubbed and diced yellow or yukon gold potatoes with skins left on
4-5 cups water
Salt & pepper to taste

Add leeks and potatoes to a large soup pot and add just enough water to cover. Add several pinches of salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. 

At this point, I like to use my immersion blender to blend the soup slightly. It breaks up some of the potatoes and gives the soup a really great creamy texture.

Honestly, it is hard to believe how good the soup tastes. I was very skeptical because I thought with only adding water, the soup wouldn't be very flavorful.

Boy, was I wrong! I think it was even better reheated the next day. If you've never tried leeks before, I would highly recommend this recipe as an introduction to the wonderful world of leeks. I predict many more bowls of this soup in my future!


Shared with Mix It Up Monday, Meatless MondayShow Me What You GotBackyard Farming Connection, Tiny Tip Tuesday, Hearth & Soul, Tasty Tuesdays, Share It, Worthy Wednesday, Down Home Blog Hop, Eat Make Grow, Country Homemaker Hop, Rural Thursday, Healthy Vegan FridaySunny Simple Sunday, Thursday Favorite Things, Food On Friday

Friday, November 9, 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 our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here   

In our neck of the woods, most of the trees have succumbed to fall and dropped their leaves. Each morning I wade through a deep blanket of crunchy brown leaves as I head to the chicken coop to let everyone out to start their day. Our chicken run is not covered, so leaves fill up the fenced in area. A few years ago I discovered a fun activity for the chickens once lots of leaves have fallen and dried in their run.

Of course Duchess had to get in on the fun as well :)

Wearing my boots, I just kick a big pile of leaves together (of course you could use a rake, but I'm usually too lazy to pull it out, plus this gives my legs a work out!). I fill an old plastic cup with scratch, black oil sunflower seeds, and layer crumbles then sprinkle the mixture on top of a pile of leaves. I sit back and watch while the chickens go at it!

They love to jump on top of the pile and kick through the leaves to get to the yummy treats. I usually make 3-4 piles so everyone can get in on the fun, otherwise the older girls push the young ones out of the way. They had pretty much flattened the pile by the time I got a video, but I thought this was cute and wanted to share it anyway. Isis and Jobin seem to love the spotlight!

I usually save a little of the treat mixture so I can feed the chickens out of my hand. I love how they all crowd around and gently peck for the treats.

I also learned that playing in the leaves isn't just for the chickens (and Duchess). Sylvester also likes to roll around in the leaves. Silly boy!


Shared with Weekly Top Shot 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Clearing The Camera

Here are some recent photos I've taken that I wanted to share. Go here if you'd like to see more photo posts.

Like father, like son :)

Guinea hanging out on our back porch swing.

Baby's gotta keep herself looking beautiful of course.

Roosty trying to decide if he wants a bite of roasted cauliflower.

Our marigolds are still blooming!

Evil Ellie giving me the death stare just before bed (I broke her from being broody once and she won't forgive me).

Ol' blue eyes, Jasper (again - like father, like son).

Hope you've enjoyed a slice of our homestead.


Shared with Weekly Top ShotClever Chicks, Barn HopSunny Simple SundayYour Sunday BestCamera Critters, Rural Thursday

Monday, November 5, 2012

Maple Brown Sugar Granola Cookies

I'm usually pretty boring when it comes to breakfast. My go-to is a bowl of granola with banana and milk. It's quick and delicious and keeps me filled up until lunch (most of the time anyway). I do like to try different types of granola, and lately my favorite is maple brown sugar. It just tastes like fall! When I got my last box of granola, I saw a recipe on the back for cookies and thought I'd give it a try.

Maple Brown Sugar Granola Cookies
from Cascadian Farm
Makes 4 dozen cookies (I halved the recipe to get 2 dozen)

1 cup butter, softened (I used margarine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 t vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
4 cups maple brown sugar granola (I used Cascadian Farm* brand)
3/4 cups raisins (optional)
3/4 cups chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

1. Heat oven to 350 F. In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs on low speed until light and fluffy. Beat in flour, baking soda, and salt until well mixed.
2. Stir in granola, raisins and pecans. Onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls (I simply used my fingers to smash the dough into balls).
3. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet and place on wire rack to cool completely.

I may be biased because I love granola, but these cookies were amazing! Soft and chewy with just the right amount of crunch from the granola. And the maple flavor really shines through. I highly suggest a cup of strong coffee to go along with the cookies (don't forget to dip the cookies in the coffee!). It would make for a perfect breakfast or afternoon snack.

*This is not a sponsored post.

 Shared with Handmade Christmas 2013, Sunny Simple Sunday, Mix It Up Monday, On The Menu Monday, Clever ChicksMeatless MondayShow Me What You GotHearth & Soul HopShare ItTasty TuesdaysFall Harvest Link UpDown Home Blog HopCountry Homemaker HopTiny Tip TuesdayThursday Favorite ThingsNewlywed MomentsTumbleweed Contessa Cookie ExchangeCreative Things Thursday, Eat Make Grow, Home Sweet HomeFarmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Sweet Saturday, Farm Girl Blog HopFood On Friday, Barn Hop

Friday, November 2, 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 our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here    

When the weather turns cold, I like to treat my chickens to some warm oatmeal. They go crazy over it! Sometimes I just give them plain oatmeal; other times I add in whatever I have on hand to increase the nutritional value. This time it was oatmeal with leftover crumbled falafel, pepitas, and chia seeds.

I mostly wanted Jobin to get some extra protein for her feather production, so I made sure she got a good helping. And I was hoping the oatmeal would warm her up a bit since she's pretty bare at the moment.

I gave Jobin a little bit in a bowl to herself, then put several more bowls out where the other chickens were. But I couldn't fend off the others for long after they finished their share.

I swear that Sylvester thinks he is a chicken! He tried to sneak a bite, but the chickens wouldn't allow that. 
So he was fine with just hanging out while they ate.

When I take a treat out to the chickens, I've learned that I had better bring something along for Duchess too or she will push the chickens out of the way and steal their treat. I've never seen her turn down any food (she eats weeds and leaves for crying out loud), so I figured I'd just make an extra big batch of the oatmeal treat to share some with her as well.

I love giving my animals treats, but I try hard not to overdo it. I usually just bring a special treat like this once a week, if that. It is important that chickens get plenty of their feed so they are getting adequate protein, calcium, and other important nutrients, so I don't fill them up on other stuff.

Do your chickens like oatmeal? What is a special winter treat that you give to your flock?


Shared with Backyard Farming Connection Hop