Thursday, December 27, 2012

Goldies don't get their feathers ruffled over a little thing like a Blizzard

Hello I know it's been a while. I was able to get out this afternoon and take some pictures of the Goldies in their new pen! They've been in for a few weeks and today they came out of their coop for a little fresh air. We have Mom and Dad's remaining two goldies so we are back up to four. Two of our Goldies succumbed to a mysterious illness this fall. So here is a picture taken from the side of the garage to the back forty. You can see the trail made down by me and Andrew walking back and forth to the pen.
And here is a closer look at the pen:
At this end you can see the back door to the chicken tractor. I still have to get it painted. Anyway, this allows me to take care of the tractor without going into the pen. It came in handy on the 26th when the weather was so bad that the goldies got room service.
On the 26th they didn't want out at all and I couldn't blame them. Today though, they had cabin fever. So I shoveled out a little path from the front of their tractor to an area in front of the door where I am putting their food and water.
They really need a space clear of snow. So much so, that they didn't want to even step on the snow at the bottom of the ramp before getting on the path, so they flew over it instead.
One Goldie is reluctant to come out, so I hand feed the other three "scratch" from my hand to lure her out.
"Scratch" is a slightly less decadent mix of seeds and grains than "Harvest Delight" The chicken magazine (that reminded me that chickens need a clear path in deep snow) suggests feeding scratch in the morning and evening to help boost their metabolism, but not so much that they don't eat their regular food. Pictured here are some of the supplements I feed the Goldies. Grit is important now since they can't range. Grit is important to help chickens digest their food. Not pictured is Oyster Shell which helps make egg shells stronger. They aren't laying so it's not as important now, neither is the omega three supplement which I feed them mixed in their feed all summer. There is also a bag of harvest delight, but I am not using it as much now, and a bag of scratch.
And look, the fourth goldie has ventured out for her share of Scratch. It doesn't hurt at all to feed them and their beaks make a typewriter key sound against my palm.
Here is a view of the opposite end of the chicken pen from where I was feeding Scratch. Lots of space for them to roam when snow is gone.
There is a piece of metal roofing over the far end, as is over this end too, shielding the tractor from the elements.
And here is the chicken tractor extension re-purposed into a feeding annex. Later when the weather is better, the water and feed stations will be moved in this area to keep mess down to a minimum.
Here are some close up shots of the Goldies, you can see their feathers are all grown into their fluffy fullness, and not a moment too soon!
Water is going to be the biggest challenge of winter care. They need fresh water everyday. On the worst days I can put the water dish in their tractor, but if quickly fills up with shavings. There isn't an electric source to keep it heated, so I just have to give them water everyday and hope they are smart enough to get it while they can.
Golden comets are cold hardy, and the tractor is built so "tight" that even on a night like this that gets down to 17 degrees, they will be toasty. I pull up the ramp each night to keep most of the cold air out, but there is a little space between the ramp and the doorway to allow for some air in. It's important for there to be some air circulating to keep the chickens from sweating (I know it sounds crazy but it's true) and to keep condensation away, which can lead to frostbite. Remember too there are lots of shavings in there for added insulation. Now that the chicken pen is done (more or less, I have a feeling though that it will be something I'll always be tinkering with) Andrew will be pruning the grapes later this winter.
And here is the lavender. Let's hope those baby plants were able to take root. They've been in the ground over three months though so here's hoping.
And here is the herb garden under all the snow. So far I've been able to keep that rosemary in the tub, and here I've pulled it out of the garage to get some sun. Can I keep going till spring? We'll see. I lost all the ones I tried to keep in the house. That's all for now. I'll try to post more regularly.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cauliflower and Cheese recipe, because I love my readers

Hi, this is just a quick post and no pictures (sorry) after a long and busy and fun Thanksgiving weekend. We had some family in from out of town and we got good eating, good shopping and just good company in. The weather drop is a sharp reminder that winter does eventually come though isn't it? I am raising the chickens coop door up and night to keep the cold air out and their feathers are starting to come in. I'm having to keep on chicken water-er in the garage or house over night to carry out in the morning to keep them in fresh water. The chicken pen is going along at a good clip. We have the roof pieced up, the entire pen about 3/4 chicken wired, and the door framed out. The hens are snug enough in their tractor and I'm feeding them treats like leftover rolls to keep their spirits up. Below is a recipe that is a classic holiday side around the house. For the past several years I haven't been able to have it, but with Lactaid cottage cheese and cabot aged cheddar, I can have it once again. This is screamingly simple and super delicious! Preheat oven to 350 degrees Chop up on head of cauliflower into it's florets and boil until it is fork tender. Mix: one egg (preferably free range and delicious) 3/4 cup cottage cheese 1 tablespoon of flour 8 0z of shredded cheese Drain the cauliflower and mix into your cheesy mixture. Mix until it's coated, and all kinda melted together then spread in a 9x9 glass pan and bake for 20 minutes. Yes, this is a "would you like some vegetable with your cheese?" Kind of dish and it is yummy! Disclaimer: I did not make this recipe up. I got it from my Mom, who has had this recipe for like forever. I'm sure she got it from somewhere, I don't know where. I am not claiming to have any credit for this recipe. If I knew the culinary angel who came up with this I would credit them. Give it a try and leave a comment if you do. It's just as good reheated. I'll try to post some planned projects soon. thanks for checking in! PS I wish I knew how to put spaces between all these paragraphs and lists of ingredients. Sorry if it is hard to read. If anyone knows how to but spaces between paragraphs in, please let me know. thanks

Monday, November 19, 2012

Out and About the Garden

I'm toying with the idea of cutting off a ton of dill that's cropped up in the herb garden the past couple weeks and trying a cheddar dill bread recipe. A lot will hinge on time, but it hasn't been that hurt by the frost so I am tempted to give it a shot. On Sunday the 18th the late blooming monster of a mum was a bee magnet, and well, you know how much I like taking pictures of bees.
That orange you see on her leg is pollen that she will carry back to her hive to be mixed with honey and enzymes to make a "bee bread" that is then in turn used to feed the baby bees. I confirmed this with Honeyrun farm The Barnes family has a great operation going and you can find their honey products at North Star market, Smith's Farm stand, and online at I also like this picture I got because even though the bee is blurry, check out the shadow!
Speaking of a garden update, make sure you swing by I know I haven't posted in forever, but here is one, probably the last until spring.

Harvesting Rosemary

Well, with my three potted rosemary's still lingering between life and death in the guest room, I bite the bullet a couple Sundays ago and cut off all the rest of the plants in the garden. I do still have rosemary in one tub I am going to try to over winter using a cloche and some hoop greenhouse plastic so we will see. According to the Reader's Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs, Rosmarius officinalis is the wild herb most commonly found on sea cliff around the Mediterranean. There are both blue flowered and pink flowered varieties and Rosemary if kept in an appropriate place to over winter can be cut in topiary like shapes and in warmer climates, grows tall enough to use for hedging. Maybe you will notice the recently popular rosemary trees sold at grocery stores this time of year. As I write this blog I find out that two of my rosemary plants have root rot as they are browning at the tips of the leaves. My gardening friend M was right, I am over watering them (sigh) okay, no more water and we'll see if they survive. Fussy things. Maybe next year Andrew will make me a nice cute mini green house with salvaged windows and I can try to overwinter them in the garden. Rosemary is also known as "Mary's Mantle" It is said that when Mary and Joseph were fleeing from Herod's men, she draped her blue cloak over a rosemary bush to try, and the blooms, previously white, were blue when she picked her cloak up. Rosemary has also been posted on doors to prevent faeries from kidnapping infants. Rosemary has a number of culinary uses but also medicinal. It's good for stimulating the nerves (rosemary is known as the herb of remembrance) and can clear one's head and help focus after inhaling it's resinous scent because rosemary increases blood flow to the head. Rosemary is also good for circulation , fatigue and sore muscles, which is why I rely on Elder Forest's rosemary salve for the aches and pains of gardening...or too much yoga with weights and Rosemary salve is especially good for cold nights as it has a warming effect and I've found that it helps me sleep. According to RDigest, rosemary leaves and juniper berries were burned in French hospitals to kill germs. It may have also helped medical staff on less sleep perk up a bit...but that's just a guess of mine.
Here is some rosemary soaking in water with a tiny bit bleach to kill germs. The salad spinner is one of those OXO pump action ones. Very durable and really gets the water out once it's been rinsed thoroughly.
After I have "spun" out most of the water, I line up the rosemary on a clean dish towel and then roll them up for further drying but I am careful not to add any pressure, as that would bruise the leaves and release oil.
And here are the sprigs tied with jute string to dry in a closet.
I'm hoping later this week to have the time to take the rosemary down and strip the leaves away and store in a jar but we'll have to see.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Autumn Sunday

It was warm enough today to hang the sheets on the line, but I didn't get into that. We had some kids swing by Saturday night and bash our mailbox in, along with a couple dozen others in the neighborhood, but other than that it was a pleasant Sunday. So what did I do, well, a few things. I finished painting the chicken pen, as it is framed up now. Andrew still has some framing to do, then some special features that will make this pen a cut above the rest, and of course there is still the chicken wire to put up but here is where we are at now.
The goldies ranged about in the grapes, bathing in the dirt and scratching around for bugs. I caught a giant grasshopper and fed it to them. That smartie Goldie, whenever I crouch down and call the hens, she always races over. I think she remembers the cutworm treats of earlier. Here are some goldie pictures, they are still molting. You can see here around pretty goldie's neck, where there are gaps in the feathers, that is where she is molting.
Molt is important because is allows chickens to grow new, fluffy feathers that help keep them warm for the winter. Here you can see where some of the wing feathers are patchy on Goldie.
I finished cleaning out the vegetable beds today, pulling out the last of the peppers and tomatillos, and as soon as I put them on the compost, the Goldies came over to investigate, plucking at the pepper plant leaves and scratching around for bugs.
And here is smartie goldie, looking for another grasshopper.
Speaking of cleaning out the garden, here are the last of the peppers.
And here is the herb garden in fall:
From left to right we have rosemary, lavender, parsley, and oregano. The parsley is doing especially well, and will need cut and dried soon. Below are the blooms from the garlic chives. The bees have been paying more attention to these than the lavender.
Overseeing my work in the garden were Molly and Maxwell, taking turns sunning themselves in the late afternoon sun. Maxwell
And Molly here, lounging.
Once the gardening was done, I went out and about to look for some deer, and I found some!
I'll keep you updated on the chicken pen and when I get back into the cookies. See answers to submitted questions below and you can always ask a question in the comments.

You're Q and A answered...all two of 'em

Time, time, time. Yeah, everyone asks me that all the time. There are a lot of factors. 1) longer days mean more daylight = more energy and feeling like I have time. I think I'm pretty much solar powered. I can already feel myself slowing down, watching a little more tv, and delegating things to do over a couple/three days. It's good, we all need to rest, but don't worry I'll still post my baking experiments, news on the chicken front, and of course maybe some photos from the archives this winter. 2) I don't watch a lot of tv. I think I've watched more tv (the presidential debates) in the last three weeks than I have since April. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and I listen to NPR and music of course, but with the exception of the Amazing Race on Sunday nights and watching dvds when I am sick, that's pretty much it. 3) I do what I am in the mood for. Honest to God, I think I've only made one batch of basic chocolate chip cookies in the last month. When I get in a mood to do something, I do a lot of it, until something else comes around. It makes for some variety. Speaking of cookies, I just got the best cookie book ever at the library so stay tuned. 4) Andrew does a lot of stuff too. All of the canning this summer was done by Andrew, I just post it. A big home project by Andrew is coming may have to do with the chickens. 5) This is the biggie. We don't have kids. No games to go to, to parent's nights to schlep in at 7 p.m. no dinner for three or four to cook and way less to do in the way of, well everything when you have little folks in the house. It also means peace and quiet to putter about and a flexible schedule. 6) Even though I have a pretty flexible routine at home, it is still a routine so when I come home from work, my night is set up basically by three factors: the weather and my blood sugar and is Andrew home and what is he doing? Do I need to eat dinner now or can it wait an hour or two hours? Do I still need to take care of chickens for the day? Does the weather dictate I stay inside or would I be a fool not to be outside when it's so beautiful out? I mean, if it's 98 degrees outside, why not stay inside and make a lemon bundt cake right? Sometimes when Andrew is home he has a delicious food network recipe'd dinner waiting for me, sometimes he's chin deep in his own projects. It just depends. And you know, there's things I want to do that I haven't gotten to. I have two refinishing projects in the garage that will have to wait till spring. I still haven't tried out my jam maker I got for my birthday and that's high on my list. But that's okay, having things like that don't overwhelm me, they give me something to look forward too. That's the upside of being hyper, I am rarely ever bored!

Favorite Herb?

Okay Wendy, thanks for writing in. I'm pretty sure you mean, "what's your favorite herb other than lavender? And I would say...rosemary of course. I love the smell, I love the shape, I love how potentially you can topiary a little rosemary plant into a tree. I love rosemary in shampoo and soap products. Rosemary is especially great for sore muscles and I always keep some rosemary salt scrub in the fridge. I love all the little rosemary plants M gave me this year for the garden. And I am trying, with very mixed results, to keep some of them over the winter. It seems like I'm always over watering one and under watering the other at best.
I'm hoping next year I can get an adorable white windowed built cold frame from Andrew's handy skills. Rosemary when protected (or in a warmer climate) can grow well over 5 feet tall and what a delight they are. A short hedge of Rosemary would be a lot of fun, but not doable here. Rosemary is like lavender, another strongly scented herb. Whenever I try rosemary in something (like rosemary peach lemonade) I'm never disappointed whereas lavender, and you know how much I love lavender, does nothing for my in the edible department.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's a Country Q & A

Hi, while I gather some more material (lots going on, just need a chance to get it together) I thought if any of you out there had some questions, about chickens, foxes, lavender, herbs, gardening, or country life in general, please drop me line through the comments. If I don't know the answer, I'll make something up, you won't know the difference anyway right? More news next week, Jules PS Someone delivered egg cartons to my place at work. Whoever it was, thanks, they are great!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Rules for the Country Living Fair

Rule Number 1 Do not wear a pink tutu over your jeans. You are not whimsical. You just look crazy. Rule Number 2 Do not wear thigh high, thousand dollar english leather riding boots. You are not in England, you are not riding, you are not Martha Stewart, and you at the County Living Ohio. Rule Number 3 If you are over 40 and you break either rule number 1 or rule number two, you should be banned from the country living fair. Rule Number 3 Do not haggle at the Country Living Fair on Friday morning. If it is 3 o clock on Sunday, haggle away, the vendor does not want to lug unsold item back home. But on Friday morning? Look, these vendors come from all over the country, they have highly reputable stores and galleries. They have paid a hefty, hefty fee to get in, and there are people from all over the country here to buy, buy buy. You want to haggle, do it at your local antique shop/auction. Okay, now, on with the fun report with pictures! So this year Andrew was off and he went to the Country Living Fair with me and my friend M. Andrew loves crowds and is continually baffled by how at this one event crowds and the heat do not bother me. He sees a hardiness in me that cannot be replicated at the state fair, the columbus arts festival, the yellow springs street fair. So what's the difference? A purpose! It's not just that I'm shopping, it's that I'm shopping for my favorite kinds of things. AND I know where all the vendors are that I like AND I know what I am looking for and it's all very targeted. The weather was breezy and cool this year, and I think it was more crowded than I have ever seen it. My big find was a couple very reasonable priced galvanized tubs. Remember the spring project where I spray painted tubs for herbs (see May, Spring Project Number One in the sidebar?) Well I found a square one (don't know if I will paint it as square ones are kinda rare) and a nice big round one that I can plant more herbs in next year. I also bought something else along those lines, but you will have to wait to see it when it's in action for this idea I have. Anyway... Andrew made two notable finds...carboys for his wine making.
The one on the right is especially interesting as it holds 8 gallons, has a slight aqua color. I've never bought a lot of big stuff at the Country Living Fair, stuff I couldn't carry around in our little two wheeled grocery cart (like the use in the city) but we used the bag/check porter service a lot this year. M and I found those garden tripods we liked so much last year and picked up one each and then I found the usual smattering of smaller objects I like.
From left to right: A large, clear wiretop jar without marking that I'm going to make into a special gift-giving project this holiday season, so you'll have to see. The brown milk bottle with stopper is in impeccable condition. It has a detailed relief of a dairy cow being milked and it says "absolutely pure milk, Thatcher's Dairy Bottle Patent 1884." Then on the bottom it says, "Crawford China Company 1965 Bottle made in Italy." It is just so cool, I can't wait to use it. On the far right is some skin toner bottles in a little carrier, easy to take to work and share. The tablecloth was another find.
Collecting ironstone can be addicting, but I was a sucker for the delicate pink lines of these set of 4 Homer Laughlin cups. I've been using them for fruit cups at home.
And here is Maxwell modeling a tablecloth. And it wouldn't be the Country Living Fair without stopping at the 200 Acres Homestead Bakery from Arthur Illinois. My God that bread is good. A loaf of honey wheat and a loaf of dill went home with us and both got eaten pretty quickly. Lazy Bee Studio (excellent, excellent soap) made and appearance this year and I stocked up. Pictured below is two baskets I bought at the Rural Society show in May. Another M friend, made the linings for me out of a French ticking style stripe. One is a the oval one is a laundry basket, we can never seem to have enough around here, and the one with handles holds my yoga props in the family room. I'm so lucky to know some good sewing folks. The book is Randy Florke's "Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle." This is only his second book which is a shame, every page is a delight to look at. We need less Shabby Chic books (Sorry Rachel Ashwell, but really, they are all the same.) And more Randy Florke.
I hope to have a chicken update soon, and I've got some new recipes lined up and I may have some fun fox pictures so stay tuned...!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brown County for Our 9th Anniversay

Two weeks ago we were in Brown County Indiana. The weather was fine and the food was good and the bed and breakfast we stayed at, Oak Haven was a delight. I was able to do yoga on the back deck under the stars, breakfast was good and our room was comfortable. With Bloomington only 16 miles a way, we had a good mix of things to do. So what's so special about Brown County? It is just a nice mix of beautiful scenery, art galleries and antiques, good independent restaurants and misc activity. We went to four wineries, including Oliver, and you might recognize that from the grocery store. Their best wines though were from their independent label. Their tasting room was bright, airy, lots of woodwork and wonderfully landscaped. Below are some pictures of their chambourcin grapes, right before picking. We were allowed to stop, take pictures and sample a few.
Beautiful countryside, whether it's Ashville North Carolina or the west coast of Michigan, attracts artists. We saw a lot of great art and visited the permanent gallery of the work of Marie Goth and Veraldo Giuseppe Cariani. Google Maris Goth and learn more about here. I loved both styles of paintings, but loved her story. She went to a local technical school (we are talking 1915-ish and won an art scholarship to a New York. Her parents didn't want her to go, they wanted her to marry a local boy, but she went and there she met Veraldo or "VJ" they became great friends but then he enlisted to serve in World War I. He saw a lot of action and came back to New York with such severe PTSD (shell shock back then) that Marie persuaded him to come back with her to Brown County Indian, where they, her sister and brother and law basically hung out in the quiet wooded hills and painted and painted. They never married, in fact, it sounds like we aren't sure how their relationship was defined, but they remained lifelong friends, living into their nineties. I'm so bad at posting links that work, just google Marie Goth, I think she was a woman before her time. If you go to Brown County I recommend eating at the Hobnob Restaurant in Nashville and Farm in Bloomington. It's just called Farm, not "the farm." And we did a bit of hiking. Brown County State Park is the largest in Indiana, and only has four venomous snake species, so you know, super...
We heard lots of woodpeckers and saw lots of holes, but none of the big pileated ones revealed themselves to us.
I had never seen so many chipmunks in my life, which is handy for the eastern timber rattlesnake that snacks on them. The eastern timber lays it's head and...neck, or first half of its body across the many fallen trees on the forest floor as both chipmunks and squirrels use these logs as express lanes. The rattler blends into the bark and uses the vibration on the log to judge when to strike.
We did see a handful of deer, but the real fine was made by Andrew, who spotted this "five line skink" on a tree. We hiked to this lake, and I thought it was a good idea. I forgot that with the lack of rain that the lake might be, um, less than impressive and it was a long trail to get there...going downhill on the way there of course so it meant uphill on the way back. It was a bit deserted and reminded me, of a lake that lost hikers would come across, you know, before the axe murderer comes out. But I got a picture of these little ducks, they aren't mallards but I haven't had time to identify them.
When we hiked around the far side of the lake, there was this jumble of limbs and brush along the bank and Andrew said he thought it was the work of a beaver and I blew it off, then twenty feet down the trail we found this.
...and I had to eat a little crow. Can you find the little toad in this picture?
We went to the Nature Center and it was pretty cool. They had lots of lovely displays including a transparent honeybee hive (we couldn't find the queen) a live turtle and a live timber rattler (that scared the beejeesus out of me when I turned around from the turtle he was slithering up his case at near eye level to me) and an awesome, awesome bird feeding area outside. We sat on benches in the center surrounded by identification posters and watched the activity. It was mesmerizing. Here are some shots.
All in all it was a great trip! Speaking of trips, the Country Living Fair post will be next so stay tuned.