Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From Point And Shoot To DSLR

I can't even begin to describe how excited I am right now. I have been wanting to upgrade to a DSLR for years, and tonight I was able to buy a really nice entry-level Nikon DSLR. I've been going crazy with the pictures already, and thought I'd share a few that turned out well.

These were taken in the automatic dial settings, so I can't wait to figure out how to set everything manually to make the shots even better. I'm sure it'll take me a while to figure it all out, but I'm having so much fun in the process that I don't mind!


Monday, July 30, 2012


I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that we had a shed to transform into a chicken coop, and I am happy to report that the transition is complete!

Thanks to David's hard work ALL day today, it was ready for the chickens tonight. We hung the waterer and feeder and put in some storage crates to serve as nesting boxes. 

David put in two long 2x4s for the chickens to roost on at night, and put in a couple bags of pine shavings for bedding. 

He also cut out a couple holes in the top of the shed for ventilation, and we will probably add lots more. We covered them with hardware cloth just to make certain that nothing could get into the shed.

Since everything was ready to go before nighttime, we decided to move everyone into the new coop tonight which proved to be easier said than done. Catching chickens seriously could be an olympic event. We spent a good half hour chasing the pullets and Cam trying to get everyone into the new coop before dark.

Since the pullets are now out of the enclosed brooder in our carport, we decided to move the keets outside. They were really starting to stink up the garage!

Everyone will most likely be on edge for the next couple days. Chickens don't like change at first; it takes them a little while to accept a new home. It may take a couple more nights of chasing them down and putting them in their new coop before they settle into a new routine. They are definitely creatures of habit!


Friday, July 27, 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.  

Which one of these is not like the other?

If you guessed the middle one, congratulations! Those feathered feet belong to one of our new pullets, a light brahma named Elspeth (Ellie) also known as Michelle Obrahma :)

At first I was kind of freaked out by the fact that she would have feathers on her feet, but now I really like it. She's such a beautiful girl with big bright eyes and gorgeous coloring.

 It's really interesting to learn about all the varieties of chickens and how some have weird and interesting quirks, like feathers on their feet. One type of chicken, the dorking, is a heritage breed that has five toes instead of four.

Photo via Moosicorn's Ranch on Flickr

And then there's the silkie. They also have five toes, but their feathers are far more interesting.

Photo via My Pet Chicken

We do plan to get some silkies when we get a flock of bantam chickens in the next year or two because, aside from being great cuddle buddies, they are known for being fabulous mothers. Apparently when a silkie goes broody, you can put any type of egg under her (duck, guinea, chicken) and she will hatch it and play mom. How cute is that?

For more funky chickens, check out this great article.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

How To Cook Corn On The Cob In The Microwave

I recently came upon the discovery of a lifetime. I really, really love corn on the cob in the summer and eat it as much as I can. I'd always cooked it by boiling, but wondered if there was an easier and quicker method. I was talking to some female relatives at our last Pioneer Women get together, and someone suggested a far
easier cooking technique.

Just throw it in the microwave, husks and all! Microwave for 3 1/2 minutes and you're done. Easy peasy! I was kind of skeptical because it seemed too good to be true. But the next time I cooked some corn I tried it in the microwave, and it was absolutely perfect. We had some corn tonight with our dinner and I loved how easy it was to just throw it in the microwave and butter and salt it when I was ready.

Speaking of butter, here's a great tip for buttering your corn. It's kind of hard to spread butter directly on the corn, so I use a much easier method.

Take a piece of bread (the heel is ideal since most people throw them away anyway) and spread some butter on it. Then just roll the piece of buttered bread over your corn and it will get it perfectly covered in buttery goodness. I grew up using this trick and haven't stopped yet. Thanks, Mom!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I woke up this morning to the sound of huge trees falling in the woods because we are finally moving forward with our logging plans! After about five months of researching and getting several bids, we hired a logging company, signed a contract, and before the crack of dawn this morning they got to work.

About a month ago, our local resource forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation came out and helped us determine the best approach to logging for our own forestry management goals. He walked all 20 acres of our property with David and marked each individual tree to be cut down. This ensures that it is very clear for the loggers to see which trees to harvest and which to leave alone.

Certain types of trees are worth more than others based upon the species or the condition of the tree. Those that are not worth much at all but need to be removed are marked with a slash, and those that are marketable get a solid dot.

All in all, we have over 200 trees to be cut down, and it should take about a week or two for the whole process to be complete. When I got home tonight, I saw they made quite a bit of progress today.

They have to make paths in the woods to get their equipment in and get the trees out, but it was kind of a shock to see how big of a path they made today. Our resource forester assured us that everything should bounce back fairly quickly after the logging, so I hope he's right!


Monday, July 23, 2012

Herb Harvest

Our herbs are really starting to take off. Basil, in particular, is growing like crazy. It's already starting to shoot out flowers, so I've been picking them off every evening to prevent it from going to seed too early. I really haven't used much basil yet this year because I didn't want to stunt its growth, but I felt comfortable enough to harvest some leaves today for our dinner tonight.

I pinned this recipe weeks ago for ginger tea lemonade with basil, so I gathered up the ingredients and brewed some of this to drink with our meal (I doubled the batch because David drinks a lot of tea).
I've also been dying to try this recipe for rosemary and basil focaccia, so I baked up a loaf. I've never baked focaccia before, but this was surprisingly easy and quick to make.

For the main dish of the meal, I went with one of our favorites - 15 minute creamy avocado pasta. No joke, it really only takes 15 minutes. It's one of my go-to meals when I want to make something quick that's filling with lots of flavor.

This meal did not disappoint! So many strong, refreshing flavors and everything went together so well. So happy I was finally able to put some of my basil to good use. Hopefully since I trimmed it back quite a bit, it will come in fuller and still produce for a while longer.

After we ate dinner, I thought it would be fun to share some of our yummy bread with the keets. Thought they'd like a little treat, but they weren't impressed.

They pretty much just fell asleep. The white one did eat a teeny tiny crumb from my hand, but then started to fall asleep standing up. Oh well, I'll just leave the focaccia to the humans.


Friday, July 20, 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.

Today's FFF is all about baby guineas (called "keets"). Late last month I wrote about when we first noticed one of our guineas sitting on eggs. We decided to just let her take care of the keets once they hatched, but things didn't go according to plan.

One keet hatched out on Wednesday, so we figured the others wouldn't be too far behind. The guinea mama was still sitting on the eggs with her fluffy little keet under her wing on Thursday morning, so we waited to see if any other eggs hatched.

By Thursday afternoon, she was off the nest and proudly showing off her new baby. It was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen. The keet followed her around everywhere, and mama would make a noise to show her baby what was safe to eat, and the keet would take little bites of grass. The dad wasn't too far behind (guineas tend to be monogamous, unlike chickens), so it was so sweet seeing this new little family parading around.

As cute as it was watching them, we started to get worried that the mama had forgotten about her other babies. She didn't return to the nest all day, so we made the decision just before sunset to bring her eggs inside and put them under a heat lamp to see if they would hatch.

Many of the eggs had tiny holes in them (the hole is called a "pip") which is a sign that the keets will hatch within the next couple days. Basically the keet pokes a hole in the shell with its egg tooth (this "tooth" falls off within several days of hatching) and starts to breathe in the outside air. It continues to poke holes in the egg until it starts to crack open, kicking its way out.

This is a very exhausting process for the keet. After the pip and before hatching, keets absorb the egg yolk to give them energy to push their way out of the egg and to sustain them for a while after they hatch (this is why day-old chicks and keets can be shipped in the mail without starving).

We took a video of one of the keets hatching so we could share the magic. I've never witnessed anything hatch before, so it was pretty amazing to see this firsthand (as you'll hear in my "awwws" and other comments on the video - I couldn't contain myself).

They are pretty wiped out for a while after they hatch, but eventually they are up running around and getting some drinks of water.

We really wanted to not get involved with the hatching and just let nature and the guinea mama's instincts guide the process, but of course we ended up intervening. I can't believe I fooled myself into believing I'd just let them be.

Egg tooth still intact.

Right now, we have a total of 17 keets with 5 eggs left. Usually not every single egg hatches due to any number of reasons, so I don't expect these to hatch (but I am keeping them under the heat lamp for another day or so just in case). I really can't believe that this many successfully hatched. Talk about an exciting few days!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Busy Day

Even though David is still recovering from getting his wisdom teeth pulled yesterday, we had a busy day today. The farm rests for no one!

First up - moving a shed from David's mom's old house out to our place. They are selling the house and said we can have the shed, so we jumped on it. We need a bigger chicken coop and were trying to figure out if we should build or buy one, but this shed is perfect. It's 8x12 and 10 feet tall so there's plenty of space for all the chickens. We'll just have to add some nesting boxes and roosts and it'll be good to go.

The rest of our day and night has been taken up by hatching guineas!

Much more to come on these guys in tomorrow's Feathered Friend Friday, but just wanted to give you a sneak peek.

It's been pretty magical to witness several of them hatching. I guess we're grandparents now!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Drink Your Greens

I've written before about green juice and why we drink it. I've really been slacking with juicing lately and I'm trying to get back on the bandwagon. Tonight when I got home from work, David and I had a juice break before tackling the evening chores.

It may be hard to believe, but David is the biggest fan of juice around here. I feel like it's an acquired taste that I'm still getting used to, but David loves it. I'm going to just count my blessings on that one.

The chickens love it when we juice, too, because they get all the pulp that is left behind after the juice is extracted. Nothing wasted here.

I don't feel like it's realistic for us to get a glass of juice every single day, so if I've noticed we haven't had a healthy dose of greens in several days, I'll make some juice. I just want to make sure we get plenty of greens, whether in solid or liquid form!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Cutting Garden

Along with our vegetable gardens, I really wanted a cutting garden this year so I could have flowers to bring inside whenever I wanted. We bought a packet of "wildflower mix" at the store for $0.20, David spread the seeds in one of our beds, and we waited to see what happened.

David usually has the watering duties every evening, so I haven't been over to the cutting garden lately to check for new blooms. When I least expected it, he gathered a bouquet and surprised me.

One of my favorite things to do is arrange flowers in different vases and place all around the house. I have my favorite hand-me-down milk glass vases from grandma that I love, but for these flowers I chose my (also hand-me-down from grandma) blue tinted mason jar.

I love how fresh flowers instantly add such a cheery, bright feeling to any space. For $0.20, some water and sunlight, you can't beat fresh flowers cut from your own back yard. Especially when they're hand delivered by your sweet husband.


Best Brownies With Raspberry Jam

A few years back I found a recipe for brownies that has been my go-to ever since. It wasn't from a fancy cookbook or popular blog, but actually on the back of my container of Hershey's cocoa powder. After many batches (for scientific purposes, of course) I tweaked it just a bit to work for me and haven't looked back.

Last weekend I was craving brownies something fierce, so I pulled out my time tested recipe and whipped up a batch. I decided to try something different with these brownies.

I added in some chopped walnuts and brainstormed what else I could do to jazz them up. I remembered that I had a container of raspberries in the fridge that were getting pretty soft, so I knew they would be perfect for jam. I love jam, and I love brownies, so what could be better than a freshly baked brownie with homemade raspberry jam on top?

I really liked the deep raspberry flavor in combination with the rich, intense dark cocoa of the brownie. I'd say this one is a winner.

Best Brownies (slightly adapted from Hershey's Best Brownies recipe found here)

1 stick butter or margarine, melted
3/4 cup sugar (the recipe calls for 1 cup, but I cut it down and can't tell a difference)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I ran out so didn't add any to this batch and couldn't tell a difference)
2 eggs (I like to use 4 guinea eggs when I have them)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey's cocoa powder (I use the "Special Dark" version)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional - when I add them I prefer walnuts)

1) Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (a great way to grease your pan is to use an empty butter wrapper and wipe all over the pan - there is still butter left on the wrapper so it greases the pan perfectly).

2) Stir together butter, sugar, and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs, beat well with spoon. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir in nuts if desired. Spread batter evenly in greased baking pan. The batter will be very thick.

3) Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of the pan. Cool completely and cut into squares (I find that a plastic knife works best for clean cuts).

Raspberry Jam
6 oz raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)

Crush raspberries in a bowl and add sugar (I used an immersion blender to quickly chop up the raspberries). Place in a pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer the jam for 5 minutes. Add in the chia seeds if using and continue simmering for about 5 more minutes, or until it has reached desired thickness (the chia seeds help to thicken the jam). Let cool then store in the fridge. Will stay fresh for up to a week.

I have some jam left, so I see a peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwich in my future. I've always wanted to try thumbprint cookies, so I think that would finish off the jam nicely. Having extra jam to use is definitely not a problem for me!


Friday, July 13, 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.

Four of our hens will be turning three in August. Everything I've read says hens lay best in the first 18 months or so then it's a gradual decline from there. Lately, things have become a little unpredictable with their laying schedules, and Chickabod is the most recent one to have some issues.

She has laid tiny little eggs before (people in the know refer to these as "fart eggs") with no yolk just a little bit of white, so when I got one of those from her last month I didn't think much of it. But after that tiny egg, she stopped laying altogether for over a month. I was really worried because typically that is the first sign that there may be something wrong. I watched her closely and she seemed to be healthy and normal, so I just waited it out. I've heard of hens going on "egg strikes" before but it had never happened to mine.

Finally, she started laying again a couple of weeks ago, and I breathed a sigh of relief. She had to lay a few practice eggs before she got it just right.

Fart egg on the left, normal sized egg on the right.

The tiny eggs are so cute I don't want to crack them open! But I am curious if there is yolk in any of them, so sooner or later my curiosity will get the best of me.

It also appears that one of our new pullets is laying. We've found four smallish cute eggs in the nesting box over the past week or so (normal sized egg on left for comparison).

Not sure who is laying them, so I've been doing some investigative work to get to the bottom of it.

They wouldn't talk, so I'm off to explore other potential leads.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Like Us On Facebook!

After several requests from friends and family, I made a Facebook page for Our Neck of the Woods. I will link all new posts to Facebook so if you like the page, you will see updates right in your news feed. This way there's no excuse not to read! :)

To follow us, you can go here and hit the like button, or simply click the like button in the right sidebar here on the blog.

See you over on Facebook!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Duchess, One Year Later

It's hard to believe, but we've had Duchess for over one year. June 18 was the actual anniversary but somehow I missed it. Lately I've been remembering the past year and thinking about how far she has come.

When we first brought her home, she was absolutely terrified of us and everything around her. She always kept her head down but would constantly keep her eyes on us to make sure we weren't getting too close. If we got in her personal space, she would run the other way.

It literally took her about 3 months before she would let me get near her. In those first months I just tried to provide a peaceful home for her. I talked quietly to her and gave her some space. I didn't push her too hard.

Eventually she started to open up a little bit, meaning she didn't run away at the sight of me. It really was baby steps with her. I just kept trying to prove to her that she was safe here and no one was ever going to mistreat her.

After about 4 months she would let me get close to her and I started giving her hugs. She would not look at me, but would stand still while I hugged her and talked to her. I was determined to turn her around and show her a happy life.

From about 6 months on she really started to open up. She became more playful and trusting with me. She was still terrified around David, though. He didn't spend as much time with her as I did, but I also started to suspect that maybe she's had bad experiences with men in her past.

Lately she has really been blossoming. She will go on walks with David and she always gets so excited and jumps around when we grab the leash and ask if she wants to go on a trail. She even takes treats from him now! She's become quite the master at digging holes, too.

I'm just so happy that she's finally comfortable here with us and knows that she is safe. More of her playful personality keeps coming out everyday and I can't wait to see where she is next year.