Monday, September 30, 2013

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.

Our marigolds have done so well this year! We're saving the flowers after deadheading so we can plant the seeds in our garden next year.

On Saturday I took my grandma to a local parade to see David's marching band. It was so cute to see her enjoying herself so much, waving at all the floats and clapping along to the music. She forgot her sunglasses, so I let her borrow some of mine. She thought she looked silly but I think she looked adorable.

90 years young!

I posted this photo on the blog's Facebook page over the weekend with the title "The Homesteader's Entourage." It was one of our most popular photos ever posted. If you aren't following along yet on Facebook, click here to like our page!

I've really been enjoying my play time in the woods lately. It brings out the kid in me!

We've been harvesting and using so much butternut squash lately (go here for a good soup recipe). I love the vivid orange color that greets me when I slice the squash in half.

Sylvester photobomb level: expert.

Our sweet little Emma kitty is getting fixed tomorrow morning. It makes me so sad when I have to drop off animals for surgery, but of course I know it's for the best. She has to stay overnight, so I'll be counting the minutes until I can pick her up on Wednesday evening.

Hope you've enjoyed a slice of our homestead.


Shared with Tuesday Muse 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: How We Use Our Eggs

Over the past couple weeks, we've received some comments asking what we do with our eggs. Several readers have wondered if we eat our green eggs, or the smaller eggs that our new pullets lay. To answer these questions, I thought I'd dedicate today's FFF to the different types of eggs we collect here on the homestead and how we use those eggs.

1) "Fart" Eggs - These adorable little eggs are known by many names - fart eggs, wind eggs, dwarf eggs, luck eggs and even oops eggs. They are tiny eggs containing only white and no yolk. A young or older chicken can produce this type of egg (the white fart egg pictured here was actually from a three year old hen). Occasionally there are small glitches with a chicken's reproductive system, but typically it isn't anything to worry about unless you are seeing these eggs on a regular basis. Years ago, some people believed these eggs were laid by roosters since they do not contain any yolk and they called them "cock" eggs. But now we know that is not the case!

With these eggs, we usually just let them dry out and keep them around for displaying because they are so cute. You can actually just leave them on the counter and they will dry out in a couple weeks. 

2) Pullet Eggs - A pullet is a female chicken less than one year of age (hens are female chickens over one year old). Pullets usually begin laying when they are about five or six months old, and their first eggs are much smaller than eggs laid by a hen. The older the girls get, the bigger their eggs become.

These eggs tend to contain a higher yolk to white ratio than older hens' eggs, so they are great for baking. When using pullet eggs, we just double the egg count called for in recipes and it works wonderfully.

3) Guinea Eggs - These eggs are laid by our guinea hens, and they are shaped differently from chicken eggs. They tend to be sort of triangular, with the top of the egg much more broad than the pointy end. Guinea eggs also have incredibly hard shells! You have to give them several good whacks on the counter before they will crack. Since our guineas free range, their diet primarily consists of grass and bugs. This causes them to produce yolks with a deep orange color and a rich, buttery taste. The only downside to guinea eggs is that they are hard to find since the guineas lay wherever they want!

Guinea eggs are my favorite out of all our eggs, so they are prized possessions around here. I mainly like to use them for baking since they have large yolks (like pullet eggs, I just double the count in recipes when using guinea eggs). The yolks are incredibly delicious, so the eggs are also perfect scrambled or sunny side up. My guinea toast recipe is one of our favorites.

4) Chicken Eggs - These are the eggs laid by our older hens, and what nearly everyone pictures when they think of eggs. Of course white or brown eggs are the most common colors you will see at the store, but we have some hens who lay many different shades of brown, and one hen who lays gorgeous green eggs. And yes, we eat the green eggs! Contrary to popular belief, the color of the egg has no impact on the flavor or nutritional quality of the egg. The main thing that makes an egg taste different and be more nutritious is the diet of the bird who laid the egg. More grass and bugs in the diet = a better tasting and more nutritious egg.

Everyone enjoys eggs around here!

Eventually we'd like to have some ducks, geese, and quail to add even more beauty to our egg collection. I am just so fascinated by eggs and love all the different varieties.

Have you ever eaten any "non-traditional" eggs?


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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I mentioned in my post on Monday that we've been harvesting a lot of butternut squash lately. It's our first year to grow it, and I'm so thrilled with how well the squash has taken off. Last year we saved some seeds from an organic butternut squash that I bought at the store and planted the seeds in our garden this summer. I'm so glad we did, because now we are really reaping the benefits.

This pasta is one of our favorite ways to use butternut squash, but since fall is here, I was on the hunt for a creamy, velvety soup using the squash. I decided on a recipe for a vegan curried butternut squash soup with coconut milk, and it was so delicious!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
via Daydream Kitchen

1 medium - large butternut squash
2T olive oil
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
2t curry powder
1t garam masala
1t ground cumin
14 oz full-fat coconut milk
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt & pepper

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Drizzle each half with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 30-45 minutes or until tender (I lined my baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean up). When cool, remove the skin and reserve squash for later.
2) Drizzle a large soup pot with olive oil and add carrots, onion, and a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Saute until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
3) Add curry powder, garam masala, and cumin. Stir well and let the spices heat through for a minute or so, then add in the coconut milk, vegetable stock, and roasted butternut squash.
4) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes, breaking up the squash and stirring the soup every few minutes.
5) Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender in batches) to puree soup to desired consistency. Garnish with sage leaves and serve immediately. You can refrigerate the soup for up to a week or freeze for later.

I topped my soup off with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey, and it was perfect! It is so creamy thanks to the coconut milk, and the spices add a wonderful warmth. The squash lends such a deep golden color to the soup, which completely embodies the comfort and feel of the season.

What is your favorite way to eat butternut squash?


This week in the Homemade Living series, I am joined by Mary and our new blogger Jackie in posting about how we incorporate homemade items into our lives. Next week Daisy, Staci, and Amber will be up. If you have some free time, please check out the other posts in this weekly series!

Shared with The Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog HopHealthy Vegan Friday, What I Am EatingFrom the Farm Blog Hop     

Monday, September 23, 2013

Celebrating Fall

It seems like everyone is celebrating fall earlier and earlier each year, but I just have to wait until the official start to begin my celebrations. I don't know why, because fall is my absolute favorite season, but I feel like I need to wait until summer is officially over before indulging in everything pumpkin. Since Sunday was the first day of fall, I decided to get it started off right and embrace everything the season has to offer.

I harvested some more pumpkins on Sunday, so now our front porch is looking like a respectable pumpkin patch! Sylvester decided to make an appearance in the photo as well :)

The weather was incredibly nice over the weekend, so I spent time outside with the boys while they free ranged amongst some newly fallen leaves.

We've been harvesting lots of butternut squash lately (head's up - great recipe to come on Wednesday) and the squash looks so festive displayed in an old wooden soda crate.

I haven't posted a photo of Duchie here in a while, so thought I'd show you how she's gearing up for fall. Since her big summer shave, her coat has been growing back in thick to prepare for the colder weather. (She was tired of my snapping photos by this point!)

I caught a shot of the guineas doing some morning preening. The one on the far right had just been screaming up a storm and it was a chilly morning, so you can see a little wispy cloud of her breath.

Some of the leaves are beginning to change color already, and there are feathers scattered everywhere on the ground from molting chickens and guineas. I love seeing the bright pops of color here and there.

How did you usher in the first day of fall?


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Friday, September 20, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Pretty Pullet Eggs

Our spring chicks are over five months old now, and nearly all of them have begun laying. We've raised several flocks of chicks, but I always get so excited when I first discover their miniature eggs in the nesting boxes. Female chickens are called "pullets" until they reach one year of age, then they are known as hens. When pullets first begin to lay, around five or six months of age, their eggs are about half the size of eggs laid by older hens. These tiny practice eggs are known as "pullet eggs" and are just the cutest little things!

Out of all our spring chicks, I was most excited to see our Welsummer's eggs, since I'd heard they would be a lovely dark brown color. I have to say, Summer didn't disappoint! Her eggs are a dark reddish brown color with adorable little speckles all over.

Summer is our first Welsummer chick, and has made me fall in love with the breed. Their eggs are gorgeous, but they are also stunning girls with such beautiful feathers.

I am kind of becoming obsessed with having lots of different colored eggs from our flock, so in the future I hope to add some Ameraucanas (they lay blue eggs) and some black copper marans (they lay the darkest chocolate-brown eggs of any breed). I think a carton of eggs with all different colors is just about the prettiest thing in the world!

Do you have any chickens that lay unusually colored eggs?


Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Trails

Last summer we got our property logged, so the woods are a big mess right now. Before the logging, we made several different trails through our 20 acres of woods and loved to take walks together each evening. Logging ruined our trails, and we were pretty depressed about that and avoided the woods altogether for a while. It was just too painful to see our property in shambles. But recently we decided to begin work on constructing new trails, and I'm happy to say that we just finished up one trail!

I say we loosely, because David did all the work, I was just along for moral support. Last night he was with his band at their first parade of the season (they won 1st place, woohoo!) so he didn't make it home until after dark. I decided to walk the trail after dinner to unwind and get a little exercise. Since David wasn't home to walk it with me, my faithful companion Sylvester joined in for the hike.

I decided to take my time during this walk and focus on my surroundings. I noticed a few things I hadn't seen before. Funny how that happens, when we take the time to slow down and be present in the moment.

When was the last time you allowed yourself to slow down and just live in the moment?


PS - Don't forget to visit Daisy, Staci and Amber today for their posts in the Homemade Living series. Next week I will share my post along with Mary and Jackie.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Year In Review

Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary of this little blog of ours (you can see our very first ever post here), so as we did last year this time, we thought it would be fun to look back on the past year and see what all we've accomplished. Sometimes it seems like we aren't moving fast enough toward our goals, but seeing a list of all we've achieved in the last year is very encouraging and keeps us excited to continue our journey to self-sufficiency. Here's what we've been up to this past year.

1) Expanded our flock of guineas when one of our hens went broody and hatched out her own keets.

2) Got our first big snow since moving to the country and learned about being prepared for winter storms.

3) Tried our hand at making maple syrup (part 1 and part 2) from our own maple trees.

4) Contributed to our first e-book, Farm to Table through the Year.

5) Developed an easy (and beautiful!) method for drying herbs from our garden.

6) Delved into the world of beekeeping when we brought home our first nuc colony.

7) Added to our flock with five new pullets.

8) Witnessed the magic firsthand of letting a broody hen hatch out her own chicks.

9) Rescued two tiny kittens (Gizmo and Emma) who just appeared in our chicken coop one day.

10) Successfully transplanted fig trees from my grandma's garden and harvested our first figs.

11) Had great luck with planting cucumbers for the first time.

12) Opened an Etsy shop to sell prints of photos taken on our homestead.

13) Grew sunflowers for the first time.

14) Built our own reclaimed wood farmhouse table.

15) Tried a new heirloom variety of tomatoes with great success.

We're really proud of all we've learned this past year and can't wait to see where the next year takes us. We hope you'll continue to follow along in our journey!

~Tammy and David

Friday, September 13, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Rough Roosters

Welcome to our "Feathered Friend Friday" series. Each 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     

If you've ever seen a rooster mate with a hen, you know they can be pretty rough if their romantic advances are rejected. At first, when young female chickens are just coming into their sexual maturity, they will instinctively squat if approached by a rooster to allow him easier access to do his thing. (PS - they will also squat if you pat them on the back, which is a great way to tell if they are getting close to laying their first eggs!) But as they get older and have been around the block a time or two, hens usually don't seem so keen on the special attention and try to outrun the roosters if they can. Sometimes roosters have their favorite girls, and that is the case with our head rooster, Cam, who has taken a liking to poor Isis.

She is an Easter Egger and is a little weird anyway, but she always freaks out when Cam gets near her and tries to run away. Maybe he likes the game, I don't know, but he has to get rough with her to have his way. He will bite her neck and hold her down to the ground while he mates with her. If it sounds bad, it definitely is, but at least it only takes a few seconds. But since Cam has an affinity for biting her neck to make her comply, she is becoming quite bare. Her remaining neck feathers have sort of curled up, so she is looking like a hot mess right now.

Isis: "It doesn't look that bad, does it, Jobin?" Jobin: "Uhhh, no comment."

She gives me a perfect green egg every couple days, so Isis holds a special place in my heart. She is pretty flighty and isn't one for cuddling, but there is something so endearing in her eccentricity. I just hope her feathers will grow back soon and Cam will give her a little break!

Do you have any scraggly looking chickens in your flock?


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Homemade Living: Black Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are my absolute favorite type of tomatoes, so we always make sure to plant plenty of them each year. Early this season when we made our order for seeds, one new type of cherry tomatoes really caught my eye - an heirloom variety known as black cherry. The description of this tomato promised that the seeds would yield highly prolific, bushy plants that produced juicy, sweet, full-flavored tomatoes. Sounded great to me! And I have to say, these plants have really delivered. I don't even remember how many we ended up planting, but they have gone crazy and each day we harvest loads of their little gems.

They are delicious fresh as a snack or tossed into salads, but my all-time favorite thing to do with my cherry tomatoes is roast them. I just cut them in half, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, then cook at 400 degrees F for about 20-30 minutes, checking at 10 minute intervals to make sure they don't burn. When they are roasted, the flavors intensify and the juices transform into the most savory, full-flavored sauce you could ever imagine (I like to call it "tomato jam").

Once roasted, if not used immediately, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week or you can freeze for up to 6 months. But I have a hard time not diving into them right away! My favorite way to eat them is to toast some sourdough bread, slather on plenty of homemade mayonnaise or goat cheese and top with the roasted "tomato jam" and fresh basil from the garden. It is the ultimate summer meal!

What is your favorite variety of tomatoes?


This week in the Homemade Living series, I am joined by Mary and our new blogger Jackie in posting about how we incorporate homemade items into our lives. Next week Daisy, Staci, and Amber will be up. If you have some free time, please check out the other posts in this weekly series!

Shared with Tuesday Muse 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Clearing The Camera: Gizmo Edition

We haven't even had Gizmo for three months yet, but I wonder how we ever got along without him.

It has been fun (and a little sad) to watch him grow so quickly. Sometimes I look back on photos from just a couple months ago and can't believe he was ever so tiny.

A couple weeks ago he really gave us a scare. He had a freak accident getting his toe stuck in the leg of a chair and had to undergo emergency surgery to remove the toe. I was a nervous wreck leaving him at the animal emergency center while they put him under and repaired the injury. Thankfully, we got a call just about 45 minutes after we left that he was ready to be picked up and did just fine. He had to wear an e-collar for a while so he wouldn't pull out his stitches, and at first he hated it but eventually got used to it.

Sometimes he can test my patience when he plays with the tomatoes, attacks my feet, and gets into everything, but when he cuddles up on a lazy day and purrs loudly until falling asleep, I know he is happy and completely content and there is no better feeling in the world.

I have always loved animals, especially cats, but there is just something extra special about Gizmo. Maybe because I was wishing for a kitten and he just showed up in the chicken coop one day like an answered prayer. Whatever the reason, it doesn't really matter because I am just so happy he's in our lives.


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Friday, September 6, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday: Rooster Ratio

Now that Ellie's chicks are several months old, it is becoming apparent that we've got some males on our hands. It looks like four of the five chicks have turned out to be boys!

For now, we're keeping them in a separate coop and run area. We do let them out in the evenings with the main flock for free ranging, and they seem to get along fairly well. The boys' run is attached to the main run, so all of the chickens can see each other all day long.

I had read before that if you keep roosters together without any hens, they will get along and not fight because there is nothing for them to fight over. Usually when roosters squabble, it's because they are each trying to claim rights to the hens. I have seen this with Cam and Roosty in our main flock, so I knew that adding in more boys with the number of hens we have would definitely not work. I know most people would get rid of the roosters (either by giving them away or eating them) but I just can't bring myself to do it.

I have a soft spot in my heart for roosters because typically they are unwanted. The dark side of the backyard chicken craze is that everyone wants hens for their eggs, but no one wants roosters. So at the hatcheries, baby chicks are sexed and the boys are simply disposed of in ways that are far too upsetting for me to mention here. They are thrown away because no one wants them, and it breaks my heart that just because they happened to be born as males they meet such a cruel fate.

So even though it's not economically prudent, and it's not the hatching outcome we had initially hoped for, these boys will have a safe home with us. I will never be known as a typical farmer, and even though sometimes it's hard, I hope I will always stick to my guns and follow my heart. To me, each and every animal I care for is someone, not something, and I will protect and care for them to the best of my ability.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Strawberries & Cream Freezer Bars

Since Labor Day marked the unofficial end of the season, I wanted to give summer one last hurrah with a yummy frozen dessert. I had pinned this a while back, and knew that it would be the perfect way to say goodbye to ice cold desserts and make way for the warmth of fall.

Strawberries & Cream Freezer Bars
Recipe from Sweetsonian

1/2 cup pecans, toasted
8 whole graham crackers broken into pieces
1 cup butter, melted (2 sticks)
2 cups AP flour
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream (I used full-fat coconut milk)
1 lemon, juiced
4 oz. cream cheese (I used Tofutti dairy-free cream cheese)
2 cups diced strawberries (organic preferably, since they are on EWG's dirty dozen list)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a food processor, combine the pecans and graham crackers. Pulse until crumbly. Then, transfer to a large mixing bowl with the melted butter, flour and brown sugar. Mix with a fork, and spread out onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Pat down with your fingers to make one giant cookie (you’ll be crumbling this later). Try to keep it about 1/4 to 1/2-an inch thick.
3) Bake for 15 minutes, then remove to cool. Crumble into a bowl.
4) In a large bowl, or using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until you have soft peaks. Then, gradually add the sugar and heavy cream. Beat for another 4 minutes, until the mixture is light. Beat in the lemon juice and cream cheese until evenly mixed, and then fold in the strawberries.
5) Line a 9×13 cake pan with parchment paper. Spread half of your cookie crumbles into the pan, coating the surface evenly and pressing down lightly. Then, pour your strawberries and cream mixture on top of the crust, using a spatula to spread the cream all the way to the edges. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs over the top, coating the cream entirely.
6) Freeze overnight. When fully frozen, slice with a very sharp knife, and wrap individually with plastic wrap or parchment paper.

I love the fact that you can individually wrap these bars and store them in the freezer so they are ready to go when you need a quick treat (ps - they are pretty hard when frozen, so I like to let them sit out at room temperature for about 15 minutes before I devour them). The homemade cookie crumble is so delicious, and I had to stop myself from eating handfuls of it after it came out of the oven! I might even use the crumble recipe for other desserts; it really is that scrumptious.

Are you still filling up on summer staples or have you already moved onto fall foods?


PS - Don't forget to visit Daisy, Staci and Amber today for their posts in the Homemade Living series. Next week I will share my post along with Mary and our new blogger in the series, my good friend Jackie!

Shared with Down Home Blog Hop, What I Am Eating