May 10, 2013
We're harvesting radishes, peas, spinach, lettuce, arugula, and endives from our garden these days, which means we're eating salad for dinner almost every night. For our salad, I like to make my own croutons and dressings. Most salad dressings don't take very long to make, and can be prepared only moments before serving. Ranch dressing, on the other hand, is best if prepared a few hours in advance so the flavors have time to develop.
Still, despite the fact that it takes some thinking in advance, homemade ranch dressing is worth the effort. It's one of my favorites, so I thought I'd share my recipe with you so you can try it at home. Enjoy!
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 to 1 cup mayonnaise, depending on desired consistency
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1-2 tablespoons chives, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Freshly cracked pepper
Salt, to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and pour into an airtight container. Refrigerate for 3-5 hours before serving to let the flavors meld. Serve over salad or as a dip for vegetables, chips, and breads.
May 9, 2013
This week's chicken update is short and sweet. We've been too busy to work on the chicken coop, and there hasn't been much physical change with the girls, so there's not much to report.
The weather has been uncommonly nice here, so I've taken the girls outside for an hour or two per day, and they seem to really enjoy it. I'm tempted to let them roam free in the backyard (under my supervision, of course), but they're still a little too small for that, so I generally confine them to a small area in the yard while I sit close by with a book.
Amelia Pond's comb is turning a nice, bright pink, and she's always been the most aggressive and curious of the flock, so I posted the above video on the forums at backyardchicken.com to get some opinions about her gender. It seems she is indeed a girl, so I'm almost certain we won't have any roosters to give away this year. What a relief!
Because of our schedules, we're hoping to finish the chicken coop by the beginning of June, so I'll keep you updated as we make progress. My weekly updates will probably become less frequent now, but I'll still post anytime something exciting happens. For instance, the girls are just now starting to display some pecking order-type behavior. So far, I think Starbuck is top dog because she's the largest, but with Amelia Pond's personality, I wouldn't be surprised if she ends up boss. Then again, you can't discount little Olive Snook. She's feisty. The only chicken that will remain out of contention is Seven-of-Nine. She's seems content to be assimilated.
Here are a couple more helpful chicken-related links I've run into that may be of use to you if you're just starting out with backyard chickens:
Best Treats for Backyard Chickens
Types of Chicken Poo (don't read this if you're eating something)
May 8, 2013
The nearly 90°F temperatures from the weekend have caused my vegetables to explode. I almost wish I had planted tomatoes back when I was sticking my radish and turnip seeds into the ground. Oh well. Our Willamette Valley weather can be hard to predict sometimes.
At first, it seemed like my Dwarf Gray peas were going to start producing long before my Tom Thumbs, but when I went out to water my plants sometime last week, I noticed that my peas had been tampered with. Perhaps it was a neighborhood cat, or a negligent mailman. Either way, the damage seemed to stall my peas long enough for my Tom Thumbs, which were unharmed, to pull ahead. My Dwarf Gray peas have only sprouted their first tiny purple flower yesterday, so hopefully we'll see pods growing in their place in the next week or two.
Meanwhile, I'm making lots of radish fridge pickles, radish green pesto, and eating tons and tons of salad. Good times.
May 2, 2013
The girls are getting huge! I try to be consistent, and take pictures of them every Monday to get an idea of how much they're changing week by week, but I don't think these images really capture their growth as well as I'd like them to. I guess you'll have to trust me when I tell you that they're starting to look like 'real' chickens now.
I recently discovered the Vine app for my iPhone, so I thought I'd share a video of them exploring their new surroundings. We finally moved them down to the basement over the weekend, and they seem to be doing really well now that they have more room to flap their wings. I think this video gives you a better idea about their size, too.
Vine is awesome, by the way. I can't stop playing with it.
The basement brooder is approximately 42"x 42"x 3', with a stationary top made of hardware cloth. We get in and out through a door on the side that makes cleaning much easier because you can just reach in with a rake and sweep or shovel everything out. We had to add another heat lamp to keep things warm, and even with two heat lamps, the cool side gets down under 60°F. I forgot to include photos of their perches made by 2 x 4's, but they are attached right under the heat lamps, so the chicks stay nice and warm while they sleep.
As for the coop, we're almost finished with the hen house. I'll go into further detail about that next week (hopefully), but things are really coming together. As for now, we're supposed to have 80°F+ weather for the next few days (in May!), so I'm planning to build a temporary run for the chicks outside so they can dig in the dirt for worms and bugs.
So that's it for chicken-related news this week. I'd love to hear how the rest of you are doing with your chicks this year, so feel free to chat me up in the comments. Have a happy weekend!
April 30, 2013
April 29, 2013
I wrote about these cupcakes over on My Own Labels recently (thus the awesome labels), but I had to share them with you here, too, in case you want to bake something sweet for Cinco de Mayo this Sunday. These might be my favorite cupcakes of all time. They're so good, and so worth the effort. Enjoy!
Makes around 1 quart
1 cup long grain rice (I used brown basmati)
2 cups slivered almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 cups water
1. Wash and drain the rice.
2. Pour ingredients together into a large jar or pitcher and let soak overnight.
3. Pour half of the mixture into a blender, and blend well.
4. Strain with a metal strainer.
5. Strain again using a double layer of cheesecloth.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 with the second half of the mixture.
Once you’ve made your Horchata, you’ll need to reserve 1 cup for the cupcakes, and another ½ cup for the frosting. Sweeten whatever you have leftover with a little simple syrup for a tasty cold beverage.
Makes 24 cupcakes
1 stick butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh Horchata
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350◦F.
1. Soften butter in the mixer on high speed.
2. Drizzle the sugar in with the butter and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
4. Mix the Horchata and vanilla together.
5. Add the flour mixture and Horchata mixture to the butter/sugar in three parts, alternating between the flour and Horchata.
6. Set aside incorporated mixture.
7. In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
8. Fold egg whites into the cake batter until fully incorporated.
9. Scoop batter into the prepared cupcake pans until they are 3/4 ‘s full.
10. Bake in a 350◦F oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of your cupcakes comes out clean.
2 sticks butter, softened
½ cup fresh horchata
½ teaspoon vanilla
7-8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1. Soften butter in the mixer on high speed.
2. Sift confectioner’s sugar.
3. Add horchata, vanilla, and 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar, and beat until combined.
4. Add remainder sugar 1 cup at a time until desired consistency/sweetness is reached.
1. Wait until the cupcakes are completely cool before frosting.
2. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
3. Serve and enjoy!
Adapted from Chockylit's Cupcake Bakeshop.
April 26, 2013
Last Monday, little Olive looked like this, and then literally grew up overnight. I'm not kidding. I went in to check on their food and water before going to bed, and I thought to myself, "Why are you still so tiny?" The next day, she wasn't so tiny anymore.
Don't get me wrong. She's still the little one, and definitely the cutest, but I'm glad to see that she's feathering out. I know I say this every week, but I think we're finally ready to move the chicks to their big brooder in the basement this weekend where they'll stay until their coop is ready, and the weather is nice and warm.
To supplement their medicated chick feed, I've been experimenting with various treats. At first, they seemed to shy away from anything too wet or sticky, but now they're a lot less picky. So far, they'll eat (with enthusiasm):
-hard boiled egg
-greens (lettuce, radish greens, spinach) - they love their greens
-bits of corn tortilla
I usually try to chop or crumble their food for their tiny beaks, and almost always mix whatever I feed them with a spoonful of yogurt to make a mash. I read somewhere that the bacteria in yogurt is supposed to help their digestives, and they seem to really like it.
If I haven't mentioned this before, backyardchickens.com is an incredible resource for chicken owners. I refer to the site for almost everything nowadays, from chicks to coops. Here are just a few things I've found myself typing into the search bar this month:
"Chick with lopsided chest."
"Chicks collapsing to one side under heat lamp."
"Chick poo, clear liquid."
"Are my chicks going to die?!"
Above are a couple pictures of said chicks collapsing sideways under the heat lamp. At first, I panicked, and thought they were dying from heat exhaustion. Luckily, I found a few posts from people who had the same question in the forums, but were told they just like to sunbathe. Now I just think it's funny to watch, and use it as an opportunity to examine how their feathers are growing in under their wings.
Oh, and the lopsided chest thing? That really freaked me out until I read it was just their crop where they store food until it has a chance to digest. I knew they stored food in their crop, but I had no idea a full crop would make them look so crooked.
Honestly, for the first week or two, every little strange thing I witnessed about my chicks had me convinced they were going to die, so I'm really grateful for the resource.
As for the coop, we're making progress. Over the weekend, Matt hacked, sawed, and hammered away at scraps from our ugly bathroom remodel, and was able repurpose some of the material for a new nest box for the girls.
Also, to help make our coop as safe from predators as possible, we've dug a trench in the yard for the hen house and chicken run. We're hoping to protect the perimeter with about a foot of underground hardware cloth to deter unwelcome diggers. Unfortunately, we had to deal with an old tree stump that was right smack-dab in the way of our trench, which, as you can see, was quite an accomplishment to remove.
Then hen house is almost done. We've actually got all the windows and doors installed, and are in the process of priming, painting, re-roofing, and lining the floor with vinyl. Once that's finished, we'll pop it up on a stand and stick it in the ground. Hopefully I can show you that process in next week's post, and we'll be well on our way to constructing the chicken run. So far, we've spent less than $200 ($100 was Amazon gift cards) on materials, but I'll give you a total once the whole thing is finished.
Here are a few more shots of the girls. Anyone else notice how difficult it is to photograph a chicken? Sigh.
Have a great weekend!