Monthly Archives: September 2012

Soft-Boiled Egg, Anyone?

Yeah…so that happened.  And apparently, it’s something that does happen.  For anyone who cannot tell, this is an egg without a formed shell; the guts are all intact and held together by the thin membrane that usually lines the inside of the shell.

This circus-sideshow of an egg was in the bottom of the roost box when I let the ladies out for the day.  I have found one once before: right after Millie first started laying, there was one in the roost box, like it accidentally slipped out while she was sleeping.  Hey, it happens to the best of us.  So to whom did this fine specimen belong?  Sure enough, Gertie, Millie, and Eloise all laid a normal egg at their designated squat-spot times throughout the morning.  All signs point to Clementine, as she left no egg in the squat-spot.

A nice, solid Gertie-style egg up against the abomination of nature.

Shell-less eggs can, apparently, be indicative of a couple of different chicken-situations.  Chronic shell-less eggs can mean that you have a very stressed-out bird, or that there is some repeated environmental stress being inflicted upon her (extreme heat, cold, house-music being piped into the surround-sound in the coop).  It can also mean your bird needs a little more calcium in her diet; a deficiency that is pretty easy to fix with oyster-shell supplementation.  But an occasional rubber egg is, I guess, not something to be too concerned about.  I’ll have to keep an eye on her and make sure this doesn’t become a habit, but I think Clem is just getting her egg-mojo going.  She’s allowed a bum egg or two.

But maybe I am jumping to conclusions.  Maybe Clementine is being falsely-accused of the rubber-egg incident.

Yep. That’s a guilty face, if I ever saw one.

Garage to Studio, Phase III

My apple butter bribery worked….the Texan and I got back to business on my art studio this weekend.  It’s a big moment….the front of the garage is the part we see from the house and the view has been a bit too deep-woods distillery for my tastes (if it was actually a distillery you know my feelings would be different).

Front of garage before.

In addition to pure aesthetics, we needed a strong dose of function.  Those old barn doors (though lovely with their eons of peeling, different colored paint) were so gap-toothed that full-sized tumbleweeds could blow in through them (in addition to a lot of dirt and dust).  Additionally, we had a frightening wind storm last winter that actually ripped one in half, and, as a quick fix, we screwed support boards to the inside that rendered one whole set of doors inoperable. In a nutshell, those doors needed to go (though I am keeping all that glorious chippy, painted old wood for other projects).  In order to use this space as an art studio, I need to be able to shut the dirt and debris from the outside world out, and shut the mess I make in.

Oh man….those hinges: a study in every kind of bad bolt and flathead screw known throughout history. All painted into place.

Jonathon removes each bolt by hand and loses quite a bit of knuckle in the process.

Jonathon, mid-curse, as he deals with the dreaded flathead screws.

After he frees one side of one hinge (of ten), we get a close-up view of the layers of paint.  Am I the only one who thinks this is pretty?  Jonathon doesn’t.

WHY!? Why do these exist?!!

This project is flushing a lot of these out to play.

Finally! One door is off….but the hinges defy logic.

Millie does quality-control on the trim for the new doors.

At the end of the day, the doors are off…but the hinges are still taunting Jonathon.

Abbie weighs in on the hinge. She decides we’d better bust out the reciprocating saw.

Millie manages the job site.

Routing out plywood for the new doors.

The router is my new obsession in life.

I am starting to regret allowing chickens in the construction zone.

Millie rocks the catwalk. Then she and the rest of her cohorts get banished to the back garden. I don’t need chicken**** on my freshly-painted doors, thank you.

The good news is that, since Phase IV is the interior of the studio, I’m not going to wait until after that to reveal the outside of the garage/studio.  The bad news is that Phase III took a lot longer than we anticipated, and it still isn’t ready for the big reveal either.  :-(  I know I am really dragging this out (not intentionally!).  So for now, how about a glimpse at the ‘after’ of the doors to tide us all over.

New weather-proof (hopefully), easy to operate, snazzy-looking carriage doors on my soon-to-be art studio.

What paint color is that, you ask?  It’s called ‘blood, sweat, tears and four-letter words’.  Exterior semi-gloss.

Clementine is Official

Clementine, you saucy minx, you!

This is me breathing a huge sigh of relief.  Officially, all four of my girls, are bonafide, nest-squatting, egg-laying girls.  Clementine, my not-so-little late-bloomer, really knows how to drag out the anticipation.

Yesterday, I noticed this:

Clem tries the squat-spot on for size.

Like a total freak, I sat there for a good half an hour (bumping back plans like an even bigger freak) just to be able to document her first egg.  When she finally hopped off and went on her merry little way: no egg.  Silly me.

Today, she went to the spot on two separate occasions, and I managed to keep my excitement in check, until finally, finally late this afternoon, she hopped off, ba-gawked her triumph, and lo and behold:

The long-awaited egg (surrounded by decoys).

How could I have ever doubted you, Clementine?

It’s a good day at Farmhouse38.  Happy Friday!

Cheers!!!

Endeavour!

It was brief, but amazing!  We could see it from the back deck.  The chickens were not impressed.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Apple Butter

So many apples, so little time!  Because the Texan loves him some apple butter, I decided to whip up a batch….and then use it as collateral.  We need to get back to work on my art studio, and he might need some incentive.  I like to stack the cards in my favor.

Ingredients:

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup apple juice

1 tbs. cinnamon

1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise

10-12 apples (I used a mix of all different types, because it was what I had), chopped into bite-sized pieces, skins left on

This calls for my trusty apron.

Combine all the ingredients in a dutch oven and put it on the stove-top over medium-low heat.  Let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally, until the apples are good and squishy.

Yes. Yes, it is.

Abbie waits patiently on her kitchen bed for apple butter that she will never get. Poor Abbie.

Skins on!

After the hour simmer is up, strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a separate bowl, using the back of a big spoon to really squish that pulp through the strainer.  Whatever lands in the bowl, pour it back into the pot and back on medium-low heat to simmer, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.  Pour into sterilized jars and refrigerate.

Abbie officially gives up on the apple butter.

This stuff is to-die-for-yummy with cream cheese on whole wheat English muffins.

Weed Garden Changes

The back garden was once what I like to refer to as the ‘Weed Garden’.  It was so named because, well, I let the weeds kind of do their thing–as long as they weren’t choking out the actual flowers that I put in, then all was as it should be.  The Weed Garden is also a subtle reference to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (my most very favorite book), and subsequently, there are lots of wonderful little Wonderland-y touches back there.  However….in recent months, my little garden has fallen into a bit of disrepair.  It is suffering from a fluffy infestation of chickens.  To be fair, the chickens actually do a fantastic job of taking the weeds out of the Weed Garden.  But they also do a pretty decent job of creating vast dirt holes where they can dust-bathe and sun themselves.  As charming as they are when they are lolling about in the dirt, these bare patches are not the most aesthetically pleasing.

It is long past time for me to take back my garden.  In my experience, so far, the best deterrent against chicken-scratching is a good, sturdy ground-cover of some sort.  If they can’t easily scratch it up and fling it aside like a rag doll, then they move on to somewhere else (by the way, I also find that it is good to actually give them a designated dirt pit where they are allowed to wallow).  I find, also, that strategically-placed obstacles, such as statues or garden art, thwart the chicken’s efforts.  Sometimes these obstacles get moved around a bit (my little ceramic mushrooms get uprooted and tossed about sometimes), but for the most part, I think they do a good job of impeding the destruction….or at least slowing it down.

The first bit of the garden to get a facelift is a little section off to the left as you first enter.  This was a notorious dust pit, care of the chickens.

Clem and Millie inspect the patch of dirt in question.

I knew that this would be the perfect spot to display my little Mad Hatter’s tea party; a collection of teacups, saucers, pots, and other little odds and ends, drilled for drainage and planted with succulents.  First and foremost, I wanted to put down a good layer of ground cover to anchor the dirt.  Blue Moneywort seems to stand up to chicken feet nicely, and it has lovely foliage and the sweetest little violet-like blue flowers in the spring and summer.  A couple little curly tufts of blue ornamental kale, and some purple pansies round out the ground plantings (we shall see if these survive chicken-inspection….I have my doubts, but did it anyway).

Succulent-filled teacups, teapot, and jewelry box sit atop a mirrored tray.

Succulent-filled vintage jewelry box.

A ‘white rabbit’ stands guard against the chickens.

A Wonderland garden would not be complete without a ‘drink me’ bottle or three.

My favorite quote.

This has nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland. It’s just cute. So there it is.

1/32 of the garden is done!  Now on to the rest!

I’m going right now….in just a sec….this is me going out to the garden….lemme just….ooooh!  Pinterest!….

Farm Chick Chit Chat

I am so happy and humbled to be asked to be part of Farm Chick Chit Chat, a community of farm-minded ladies blogging about….wait for it….farms!  This fine selection of hobby farmers, homesteaders, chicken keepers, urban farmers, farmer-farmers, and at least one wannabe-farmer (guilty as charged) is a pretty little pause on the interwebs for all things farmy and fun.  I am truly grateful to be included, because these Farm Chicks….they know how to get things done.  If you haven’t visited yet, please do–it’s apple pie season over there! Farm Chick Chit Chat

You Ever Get That Feeling….?

….that you are being watched?

As I was folding laundry downstairs, I happened to look up and see this:

Eloise.

And then, stepping into the next room over, I saw this:

Clementine.

Different door, different bird.  Does anyone else hear the theme from the Twilight Zone, or is it just me?  Okay, then.

Egg Rations

Well, it seems we have already reached egg-overload at Farmhouse38.  Jonathon and I are but two measly egg-ivores who (apparently) cannot keep up with the twenty-something eggs we are getting a week (though, I intend to get at some fall baking that might make a decent dent).  This is happy news for our friends, families, and neighbors who have been curiously assessing my sanity since I acquired my chicks in the spring.  Let them eat eggs!

Subsequently,  I have noticed some interesting resulting phenomena.  Despite everyone’s complete enthusiasm for the idea of acquiring free fresh eggs, there is a brief moment when all these city-slickers balk (or ba-gawk, as it may be) at suddenly eating something that came out of one of my pets.  They all seem to get over it–but they all have a little moment.  I think it may be the whole food-source desensitization that we’ve succumbed to for most of our lives–we (most especially city-folk) are very used to thinking that food comes from the supermarket, and that’s it.  Suddenly, you are looking at this little egg, and knowing that it dropped out of that chicken right over there.  When you put a face to your food, it’s a little mind blowing.  For a moment.  Furthermore, I mark the lay date and chicken name on each egg (if possible), a control-freak habit that formed out of my initial need to keep track of who was laying and who was not.  But then I got kind of used to doing it, and I think it’s kind of funny.  That being said, multiple people have expressed to me that it makes them feel guilty.  That, as they crack open an egg marked ‘Gertie’, they feel personally responsible to her for swiping that precious egg.  I find this extremely funny, as well.  Hopefully, as they enjoy their delicious eggs (which, by the way, are most definitely more delicious than store-bought eggs), they pardon themselves from the egg-guilt and ponder the inherent beauty of locally-sourced foods.  By the time I give these eggs to my people, they are a couple of days old or less, sometimes not even a day old.  When compared to the 100-day-old+ eggs they might buy at their local market….there just really isn’t much comparison.

So here’s to my sweet little girls and our locally-sourced breakfasts!

Miss Eloise

Miss Mildred

Oh, my darling Clementine.

Miss Gertrude T. Featherbottom

Candied Bacon, Apple Butter, and Gruyére Grilled Cheese

Yum.

Yep.  It’s what’s for lunch today.  Because it’s totally normal to have some gruyére, homemade apple butter, and bacon sitting around just begging to be mashed together and melted.

If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you might have picked up on the alarming fascination I have with my kitchen torch.  I really like to brulée things.  A lot.  So anytime I can whip that fun little weapon out, I do.  Enter candied bacon into this recipe.  Cook your bacon as you normally prefer to (in small batches I do it in a pan, in larger batches, I do it in the oven), and maybe even leave it a little more under-done than you prefer it.  The brulée-ing cooks it a bit more.  When it’s done, spread it out on a piece of tinfoil, spoon granulated or baking sugar (I prefer baking sugar) liberally over the top of it, crank up the torch and caramelize those puppies!  Once they are good and golden brown and shmelty, let them cool, flip them over and do the same thing to the back side.  By the by, an awesome side-effect of the brulée torch is that no one seems inclined to bother me while I am using it.  Funny, that.

To build this sandwich:  smear the insides of your bread with a thin layer of sweet apple butter, then layer your gruyére and candied bacon however many layers high you feel like daring (today, I was feeling like only one layer of glutton).  Smear both the top and bottom sides of your sandwich with butter (I used french butter because I am pathologically obsessed with it), and grill it as you see fit.  My grill method is a bit high-maintenance, but I am going to share it anyway.  On a grill pan over medium-high heat, I grill both sides of the sandwich just until there are those lovely brown grill marks.  Then I pop the sandwich onto a pan and stick it in a 350 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes or until that cheese gets good and gooey.  Crack a little sea salt over the top of that thing, and then put it in your face.  Immediately.

So good.  I do have a mild case of eater’s remorse right now, though, but….I’ll get over it.

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