Up With the Chickens

Raising children and chickens on a little buffalo farm

An Abundance of Eggs….

We usually do a pretty good job of getting rid of our eggs by selling them to friends.  (See crack-dealer )However, occasionally we get behind and become overloaded with eggs, and I have to find easy ways to use them up.  Here are my top five egg-using ideas.

1.  Egg Salad – Unfortunately, not everyone loves egg salad, but Hal LOVES egg salad.  My recipe is basic.  Boiled eggs, mayo, salt, black pepper, and a dash or two of cayenne pepper.  Of course there are lots of variations of egg salad.  Some people add pickle juice (blech).  Others us mustard or turmeric.  That’s what great about egg salad – it can be different every time.  But mine isn’t.

2. Plain Ol’ Boiled Eggs – When I have extra eggs, I boil up a dozen or so and keep them in the fridge.  The kids like to grab one for a quick snack.  I think The Littles think it’s fun to peel eggs. Not sure of the best way to boil eggs? Try who-knew

3. Quiche of Course – When we started getting a lot of eggs, we naturally thought we’d make quiches to use them up.  Actually, most of the recipes we’ve found call for two to four eggs.  Here’s one that calls for NINE!.. 0,1616,158161-244207,00.html

4. Amazing Chocolate Cake – It’s actually been a while since I made a cake like this, but I am waiting for the right occasion to use this “excuse” to use six eggs in one cake.  Heck, I might need to make two to make it an even dozen. r31.htm

5. Dog Food – Don’t judge me.  When we fix scrambled eggs for breakfast, it’s not really a big deal to throw in a couple extra for our little French Bull Dog, Lily.  However, I’m not above scrambling a dozen or so eggs (in bacon grease) for our two Weimaraners – especially if we’ve run out of dog food.

As long as we are raising chickens, I’ll be on the look out for great egg recipes – especially ones that use lots of eggs.  Feel free to post yours.

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Girls’ Night Out!….

Last night was the first night we let the gals out of their coop. We’ve tried to keep them happy with a variety of treats and snacks, but we could tell they were getting board and restless. They were feeling, pardon the pun, cooped up.  We’ve been afraid to let them out because we have dogs – bird dogs. But finally we decided we (and they) couldn’t stand it any longer. We penned the dogs (oh, how they howled) and let the gals run free.  To add to the festive mood, we fixed a batch of margaritas and spent the evening watching them peck around delighting in the delicacies of fresh bugs and green grass. Who says Saturday night in a small town isn’t exciting?

We plan to make Girls’s Night Out a habit – margaritas included, but our poor dogs aren’t going to like it.  Anyone have any tips helping dogs and chickens get along?

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Peanut Butter Power Balls…

I promise. I do make lots of things that do not involve peanut butter, coconut oil, or flaxseed. And I will post some of those recipes eventually. But this morning Chet and I are making our Peanut Butter Power Balls, and I wanted to share the recipe. These little babies are delicious and packed with nutrition and protein. Also, they are super quick and easy.

Obviously, the key ingredient is peanut butter. For years, my family has been engaged in what I consider The Great Peanut Butter Battle.  I want them to eat natural peanut butter. They act like I’m trying to spread poison on a slice of bread and disguise it with jelly. To be fair, their suspicions are not entirely unfounded- not the poison part but the disguising part. I have, over the years, tried to trick them into eating healthy foods. I’ve baked spinach into brownies, poured healthy cereal into a Frosted Flakes box, and tried to pass off Not Dogs at a cookout.  I’ve also saved empty Jiff jars and refilled them with natural PB on numerous occasions.  Still, they resist.  Finally, I discovered Skippy Natural, and ding ding ding we have a winner. It’s not organic, but Skippy is an Arkansas company, so I’m pretending it’s local produce.  It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it.

Anyway, this is one of those recipes that is unencumbered by exact measurements. You simply combine the ingredients below until your mixture can be formed into balls.

  • Start with about 2 cups of  PB.
  • Add 1-2 cups old fashion oats.
  • Go with 1/3- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed.
  •  Add one or two glugs of raw honey.
  • Plop in 2 or so Tbs of coconut oil.
  • And for an added touch of health and deliciousness throw in your desired amount of dark chocolate chips (a.k.a the new broccoli ).

Mix it all up adding more of whatever it needs to be the right consistecy. Roll into balls and refridgerate for a couple of hours. On busy mornings, my kids will grab three or four of these power balls on our way out and eat them on the way to school.  If the weather is warm, and you want to pack these in a lunch or in your on-the-go snack pack, you might leave out the coconut oil. And if you are watching your weight, don’t make these at all. They are too yummy to eat just one.

 

 

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Baby Bunnies!….

Yesterday, our beloved Claudia had a new batch of baby bunnies!  This is the third litter in the history of our little farming adventure.  So far, the excitement of new babies has not worn off.  Here’s how it works.  We put the lady bunny in the man bunny’s cage – never the other way around because the girls are very territorial and do not like to have their space invaded.  I guess they know the man will just come in, leave his socks around and hog the remote.

Anyway, after a brief courtship – of oh, about three seconds –  the loving couple consummates their union…again and again and again.  We usually give them about three days of intimate bliss then it’s time for the lady bunny to go home.  We learned that the reason we can’t leave them together indefinitely is because a female rabbit can get pregnant WHILE SHE’S ALREADY PREGNANT!!!!   Since I had ten pound babies, I am so happy this is not true for people. It’s not so great for rabbits either.

Once the Mamma-To-Be is back in her own space, we wait. It takes between 28 to 30 days.  In the meantime, Dad goes back to just hanging out and nibbling hay and waiting for the next conjugal visit.   At about day 25 we put a nest box in Mamma’s cage.  Here’s where it gets fun. A day or two before she gives birth, Mamma Rabbit does this cute little thing where she hops about the cage gathering hay in her mouth and transferring it to her nest box.  She’ll spend all afternoon doing this.  That night she’ll pull out tons of her own fur to add to her nest.  The next day the fur pile is so big that it looks like she should hardly have any left on her body, but  amazingly she looks none the worse.

After the nest is made it’s just a matter of days.  Claudia made her nest Sunday.  We checked the next box on Tuesday after school and behold – a mass of wiggling new life. That’s it. No muss. No fuss. I’ve heard of rabbit birth trauma – most of it involves the mother eating her young, but so far we’ve been spared this horror.  We’re cautious how much we mess with the nest and handle the babies in the first few days, but we think there are about five kits (baby bunnies).  I won’t post pics because, frankly, baby bunnies are gross looking at this stage. In another week, they will be unbelievably adorable.

I hope the excitement of new bunnies never wears off around here.  It’s so much fun to see The Littles’ enthusiasm.  They get a real sense of pride from having livestock that has actually reproduced – something cuddly, not just eggs.  Last time we sold a few rabbits, gave a few away, and even had a Name That Rabbit Giveaway contest on our rabbit Facebook page. We didn’t even make enough money off our rabbit sales to pay for a much rabbit food, but it was great fun!  And that is, after all, what our farm is mainly about.

And stay tuned for further adventures.  I’m asking for goats for Mother’s Day.  I know I’ll find lots of good information at homestead-barn-hop-60.html

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Super Lazy Sunday Mornings and Guilty Pleasures…

We went to Mass last night which means we have a whole beautiful day stretching before us with no place to go, and I don’t plan to get off the farm.  Also, Hal and Jack are out of town, so I’m feeling particularly lazy and a little self-indulgent.  I’m not sure why it is that when Hal is gone, I relax my “rules”.  They are, after all, my rules.  Well, we both strive to eat healthy and live naturally, but I think I’m more of a stickler. (Don’t tell him I said that)

I have no real explanation for why we eat more junk, watch more T.V., and leave more dishes in the sink  when Daddy is away, but we do.  I also know he does the same thing when I’m gone.  In any case, on the way home from church last night I stopped to get some natural peanut butter so I can make a batch of my very healthy Peanut Butter Power Balls (recipe to come).  On a whim, I picked up a couple of packages of canned crescent rolls – well, not really a whim.  I agonized (briefly) because canned crescent rolls represent all that is wrong with America’s eating habits.  They are loaded with fat and preservatives and are void of nutrition.  However thanks to Pinterest, I now know they are also delicious when slathered with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar then doused with a powdered sugar icing.  I mean YUMMO.  Include a side helping of bacon, and you have a breakfast fit for a Queen – a lazy, unhealthy queen.

As I said, I agonized over my decision last night and again this morning.  I almost made banana bread instead, but that takes time and creates a bigger mess, and I just wanted to sit with my coffee and enjoy having no place to go. In the end, my laziness won out, and the kiddos were thrilled.

I hesitated to write about this.  After all, I recently posted  ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living .  I didn’t really want to out myself.  But if you haven’t read my article on natural living, please do.  Perhaps it will redeem me a bit, but take note that I mention I choose my battles.  In the article, I’m referring to choosing my battles with the kids, but the truth is I have to battle myself too.  I like to think that as I’ve gotten older and become more aware, my tastes have changed.  I choose healthier foods not only because they are good for me, but because, unlike so much of the junk that is marketed as food today, healthy foods are real foods.  And it’s true.  As a rule, I do prefer real food to the plastic, boxed alternatives….most of the time.  Unfortunately, there are (and I’m not proud of this) junk foods and convenience foods that I have not outgrown – that I still crave.  In my estimation these foods are, on occasion, worth the fat and worthless calories.  Below is my list:

1. Velveeta cheese – Maybe it’s just a southern thing. I have a friend from Canada who married into this culture, and was initially horrified by our love of Rotel dip.   She, of course, has come around to our way of thinking.  It is delicious.  

2. Pop Tarts  – Again, I’m not proud, but I love them.  I’d take I couple of brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts and a cup of coffee over a fresh egg omelet any day (but I don’t).  And I’m a chicken farmer.

3.  Hog Dogs – Seriously, who doesn’t love a hot dog especially with…

4.  Nacho Cheese Doritos – Really, yummo.

5. Coke – In fact, I hardly even count Coke as a junk food.  Of course it is loaded with sugar and empty calories, but at least it’s all natural.  It’s Fiengold (ten-baby-steps-to-natural-living ) approved.

6. Captain Crunch, Frosted Flakes, and several other varieties of sugar coated cereal – My mother didn’t let us have these when we were little, and I still long for them.  I guess that’s an argument for all things in moderation.  Maybe.

7.  Frozen Pizza –  Any brand  – I think I can eat a whole one by myself although I’ve never tested this hypothesis.

Okay, I went there.  Of course I’m not suggesting that these are the only “treats” I ever indulge in, but they are the worst of the worst, the junkiest of the junky. Now I hope some of you will share your list of favorite guilty pleasures.  Seriously, please share. I need to know I’m not the only healthy eater with a dark side.

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Rooster Woes…

Have I mentioned that all of our poultry have saints’ names?  I wanted to give the rabbits saints names too, but The Littles always  insist on naming new rabbits cute bunny names like Petal or Blossom.  Personally, I like names like Boniface or Francis Xavier for a bunny, but it is two against one.  So, I’m resigned to naming the chickens and roosters instead. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible for me to tell all 25 hens apart. Fine. The hens are all Brigid  and the three roosters are all Isidore, after two great saints and patrons of famers.

Anyway, this was a bad week for the Isidores.  The fact is, I never wanted roosters.  I’m afraid of them.  I’ver heard horror stories of rooster attacks.  But last fall, our “summer nanny” and chicken guru, Kenny (I’ll have a whole post on Kenny later, but he isn’t really our nanny. We just pretend he is) gave us three beautiful little banty roosters.  I couldn’t turn them down partly because they were a gift from Kenny and partly because he put them in my hen house when I wasn’t home, and I was scared to try to get them out.

They’ve been fine.  They make a wonderful cock-a-doodled-doo sound, and they strut about so prettily that I really have enjoyed having them.  At least I did until a week or so ago. That’s when one of them (we’ll call him Isidore I) started becoming aggressive.  I am sure there are more effective ways to deal with an aggressive rooster, but my method is to run out of the hen house and shut the door fast behind me.  Unfortunately for Isidore I, I closed the door a little too fast last week and caught his leg.  He seemed okay at the time, but I guess he went downhill slowly.  By Monday night, the Brigids and the other Isidores had turned on him in his weakened condition.  I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that those Hunger Games Tributes have nothing on my gals.  Hal managed to rescue him before they pecked the poor fella to death, but he did die later of either his leg injury or injuries inflicted by his coop-mates or both.  It was really sad.

That being said, I am ready to be rid of my roosters – not because of what happened with Isidore I, but because I think they are the reasons all the Brigids look so awful.  I’ve read up on feather loss, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason my gals are so feather bare on their backs is aggressive roosters.  There is a thing called a hen saddle (believe it or not) that is designed to protect hens from the effects of overly amorous roosters. And at only $10 each, that is a mere $250!   Ummm no thanks.  The roosters have got to go.

Chet (who is clearly way braver than I am) captured Isidore II, and we put him in an empty rabbit cage until we could find him a could home.  Bad idea.  The dogs could not stop obsessing over this one lone rooster, and poor Isidore II was a nervous wreck.  Today he flew the coop – literally.  I opened the cage to feed him and he flew out before I knew what was happening.  I somehow managed to get the dogs put in the house before they snatched him up.  But with all my men folk were gone.  I was left to face my rooster fears alone.  So of course I did what any seasoned farmer would do, I called my mother – my elegant, refined, city-raised mother.  As she always does, she rose to the occasion. We managed to wrangle Isidore II back into the hen house.  It was a proud moment for us both!

When Hal gets back we will catch him and Isidore III and take them to the Madison County Livestock Auction.  From what I hear, that is an adventure all its own. I can’t wait.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to tell.

 The official Hen Saddle.  Who knew?

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This is What We Get for Boycotting Homework…

Today I suffered a great humiliation. And since this is a small town, and this is the kind of story that tends to get around, I might as well share it here too. No I did not get caught in a compromising position or walk out of the ladies room with toilet paper stuck to my shoe. But I was busted being a bad mother.

It’s really a long story that started with an unidentified funky smell in my Suburban and ended when I realized Chet’s backpack was source of the mystery stench.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize it before Chet’s teacher had to call maintenance to locate what she wrongly assumed was a dead mouse stinking up Room 116.

Of course I’m mortified that my son’s backpack emmitted an odor so foul that professionals were brought in.  But the real humiliation lies in the fact that now it is common knowledge that I do not often (in fact rarely) check Chet’s backpack.  Yes, this is the backpack that contains the daily homework assignment that we do not often (in fact rarely) do.

In my defense, I told his teacher at the beginning of the year that unless his homework would have a serious effect on his ability to progress, then we’d probably be opting out of homework this year.  Jack, a sophomore, did not get the same option.  The girls are also required to do (most) of their homework.  But Chet is in the 1st grade.  After a full day of doing worksheets, sitting in his seat, and standing in line, I’m not willing to subject him to one more minute of school.  Note that I did not say learning.  We read. We talk. We play. We do not do worksheets.  Chet’s teacher, Mrs. B, is a wise woman who gets kids and, more importantly to me,  gets Chet.  She gave us her blessing to make our own choice about homework. So, for Chet’s first grade year, we’ve kept homework to a rare minimum.

I’m not ashamed of this. I take pride in the fact that I’m making a conscious decision about my son’s education and that I’m taking a stand against the  over-emphasis on quantifiable learning, at the expense of more natural hands-on learning. I’m proud of this, but I would have preferred a more quiet, confident kind of pride.  I’d rather not have to explain that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation why I was unaware that there was a six week old ham and cheese sandwich rotting in Chet’s backpack. I’ve already had one teacher impertinently ask, “How could you not have noticed?”

Easy.  Just boycott homework, read, talk, play – and ignore the funky smell in your Suburban.

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This is EXACTLY How if Happened at Our House Too…

ImageI know these R.G. memes have been going around for awhile.  I don’t know why, but I think they are hilarious.  I couldn’t resist this one.

 

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A Blessing of Eggs…

We pray Thee, O Lord, may the grace of Thy benediction come down upon these eggs, that they may be healthful food for Thy people who eat them in thanksgiving for the Resurrection of Our Lord JesusChrist, who liveth with Thee and ruleth for all eternity. Amen.

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Ten (Baby) Steps to Natural Living…

Like all wise mothers, I choose my battles.  That’s why when Cat was four, I let her wear fairy wings, a tutu and snow boots all summer. It was weird, but in the big scheme of things, it didn’t really matter.   With four kids I’ve had to weigh the importance of hundreds of conundrums over the years.  Should I let Jack wear his dinosaur t-shirt again today?  Should I let Mary Michael get her ears pierced at seven or make her wait until she’s ten, like I had to?  Does Chet really have to wear clothes?  (He was only two when we faced that battle of wills.) But even now that they are older, still everyday it’s something.

When it comes to living naturally, the battle is sometimes with my kids – what I think they should eat versus what they want.  Sometimes it’s with my budget – is organic milk really worth $8 a gallon?  Sometimes I struggle with convenience issues – do I have time to make my own laundry soap, baby wipes, or taco seasoning?  I admit it. I sometimes find that happy children, a balanced grocery budget, and a little extra time outweigh the healthier alternative.  Still, I do what I can.  Of course if I could live in a perfect world, we would eat only locally grown, organic food, nothing artificial would ever touch our skin, and our carbon footprint would be negligible.   As it is, I’m just looking for ways to live more naturally that won’t make my family or me crazy.  Here are a few that I have found:

1.  If you must have sugar (and I must) choose wisely.   Here are 10-healthy-sugars-you-can-enjoy-today

2. Replace at least one commercial beauty product with a homemade, natural alternative.  If you saw my earlier posts, you know that I’m using egg yolks for a facial mask and cleanser and coconut oil as a moisturizer.  Here is a great article on why you should make your own beauty products.  This site  also has loads of great recipes for making your own beauty products.

3.  Buy an eco friendly dish soap, or better yet, make your own.  The benefits of eco-friendly dish soap are two-fold.  Obviously soaps free of phosphates are better for the environment, but my sister-in-law pointed out to me that many soaps, especially the ones for dishwashers, are harmful if ingested.  While most of the soap is rinsed off in the rinse cycle, surely residual amounts remain on our plates and glasses.  A lifetime of continually ingesting trace amounts of these harmful chemicals can’t be good.   Check out this recipe for homemade dish detergent.

4.  Ditch the plastic water bottle.  From what I’ve read, the jury is still out on whether or not the plastic from water bottles leeches into the water, but why take chances?  Besides, why fill up landfills with any more plastic than we have to?  Instead, invest in a stainless steel water bottle like one of these Klean Kanteens,  or my personal favorite the Life Factory glass water with bottle with the silicon sleeve.

5.  Control pests the natural way.  I have used diatomaceous earth on my chickens to prevent mites, and Big Hal has used it for the buffalo. I’m not sure what’s in it, but it’s all natural and safe for people and animals. Check

6.  Go Feingold.   A few years ago my girls had eczema that kept them up nights and made our days miserable.  I tried a program called the Feingold diet.  When you purchase a membership, you receive your choice of  a paper or PDF list of foods sold in your area grocery stores and menu items for area restaurants that are free from artificial additives, preservatives, and dyes.  It’s not a cake walk adhering to the Feingold Program – it takes discipline.  But you might be surprised how many brands you are already using that are artificial additive free and how many aren’t – apparently the label does not tell the whole story.  The easiest part about this program is that following it does not require you to shop at a natural foods store. It might not be for everyone, but if someone in your family has special needs, the Feingold Program claims to relieve symptoms of a multitude of problems including ADHD, depression, headaches, seizures, and asthma.  Check it out at www.feingold.org

7.  Reap the fruits of other people’s labor.  I love my chickens, and raising my own eggs gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.  Thanks to Big Hal, we’ve got buffalo meat too.  So we’ve got protein covered.  But, unlike Jill, I am a hopeless gardener.  I haven’t thrown in the trowel yet, but in the meantime I have to rely on the skills of others.  When the children were little, I made weekly trips to the Farmer’s Market, but now soccer, sleep overs, and laundry keep me tied up most Saturday mornings.  Fortunately in our area we have Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA).  Last year was our first year to subscribe, and it was thrillng to have fresh, locally grown vegetables delivered each week.  Here’s a link to find a CSA near you.

8.  Use some scents.  For years, I’ve been on a quest to find my signature scent.  I’ve tried perfume after perfume.  Recently I found one I really like and was tickled to find it also came in a roller ball.  I kept it in my desk at school so I could re-apply throughout the day – then one day I dropped it on my floor.  It literally ate the wax off the linoleum.  Yikes!  I don’t think I want that seeping into my skin day after day.  I’ve ordered some roller balls online, and I’m going to try to make my own perfume using lavender oil and vanilla.  Or maybe I should try out some of these cool perfume recipes. Just be sure to read up on essential oils, not all of them are suitable for direct application or for pregnant women.

9.  Use (or make) a natural sunscreen.  I thought I was doing the right thing dutifully applying sunscreen to my children every hour on the hour – then I read some scary stuff about sunscreen. (Google it for yourself.)  Who knows? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there.  But again, better safe than sorry.  Here’s a list of affordable, natural sunscreens.

10.  Stock up.  Start small.  I try to use baking soda and vinegar to clean my kitchen naturally, but this summer when I have some free time, I plan to get serious about natural cleaning. However, I know myself, and I tend to jump into things with both feet and then get in over my head.  Instead I will try only one new homemade cleaning product at a time.  Once I’ve got the recipe down, and I’m using it regularly, I’ll add another natural cleaner to my arsenal.  There are a lot of websites with easy recipes for homemade natural cleaning products.  Here is a list of thing to have on hand to get started.

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