Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Stewed Tomatoes, Free-Range Eggs, Honey Crisp Apples

Around these parts, the upper Midwest, if you're not a Huge fan of summer, you've got to be crazy.  So with the onset of fall I get a little melancholy around here as we know we're into a time where the weather changes to cold for a long while.  As I age however, I've come to appreciate all the seasons and now fall has shown a strong case for itself in it's beauty and the bounty from my yard and gardens.  The fall-time maturing of my chickens giving us eggs. 

This year we saw our Honeycrisp Apple tree finally produce more than 6 apples.  It filled a fruit box.  We've mainly just been eating the apples straight out of the box and gave a bunch to friends.  But I did make some pies last weekend and now I wish I had more than the one box.  Maybe next year.  Husband says I need to plant more apple trees next spring and for sure I will do that.  I got a great tip 2 years ago to trim the apple tree so that it appears to have enough space between the branches that you can throw a cat through it, figuratively speaking, of course.  It did the trick and we've been rewarded after 7 years, waiting on our Honeycrisp.

The tomatoes in the window sill ripened quickly with the newspaper wrapped around them.  And I made stewed tomatoes...a Johnson favorite. Grandma Daisy made this for my husband and his family when there was "nothing in the fridge" he said she would go to the garden , come back with tomatoes and whip this up.  He loved it.  We have ours over homemade garlic croutons and it is fabulous.

I also took some squash from the garden and made this fantastic squash-tomato-coconut milk bisque from this beautiful website.  This gal, Gabi, really knows how to cook and with these ingredients from my yard I feel lucky to have found her website to make a recipe worthy of our homegrown bounty. 
http://honestfare.com/tomato-squash-coconut-milk-bisque-vegan/  Go visit here and make something fresh and divine.

 Acorn and Butternut squash

 Beefeater and Purple Cherokee Tomatoes in garlic, basil and olive oil.

This recipe is a keeper.

Sunny gave us this bountiful double yolker last week.  She's got a few kinks to work out in her reproductive system yet.  But we don't mind.

This week Rosey has began a regular egg for us. Her eggs are small, medium brown, shiny and just a bit elongated.  They are cute if I could say that about an egg.   Now we're at 4 eggs  most days.  Sylvia has been making nests tidy and she could lay anytime herself.  But have not noticed anything.

Sweet Rosey with a full crop before roosting tonight.

The temps this week are in the mid to upper 60's going into 70's for the weekend.  The colors are peaking as the maples are on fire.  My flock has never looked more beautiful in the yard, their plumage complimenting the trees around them. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Crocs Crazy

Inocuous enough you would think.  These shoes that we so handily or "footily"  -- slip on to our feet and take off to the coop in in the morning.  But as of late Roger doesn't like 'em one bit.  We've been walking away from him and all of a sudden we are attacked from behind.  Feathers flailing, capes spread out and at times spur nubbins bared to challenge us in our.....Crocs.  Do the little dots look like bugs to him when they blur across the lawn?  Is he after the holes--or would-be bugs? 

 Last weekend I was away at my sister's house for a visit.  My husband who has very little to do with the chickens kindly agreed to help us let them out and tuck 'em in at night.  All food and water prepped and ready to go I left them in his capable hands which only needed to pull open the cord for the pop door and then let it drop at night.  Saturday morning dutifully he got up and sprung on some shorts over his own chicken legs and popped on my Green Crocs.  "They're fruity as a picnic, but boy, they sure are handy,"  he's touted my crocs time and time before.  I had my theory in mind about the Crocs angering Roger but forgot to mention it to husband to "Beware of Rooster".    Sure enough, not only did Roger see this male stranger among his hens but the fool was wearing the Dastardly Crocs.  Roger came after him and bit him in the ankle.  Two beak holes are still present! Roger ran into the back of my husband's hand next and then decided not to mess with my husband Sunday morning.  My husband shared his story with a few friends and they said to hold him upside down the next time he did such a thing.


Usually Roger is his most perky in the morning shall we say.  He is in charge of 9 girls, and a sneaky submissive Bantam Roo.  To say the least he is on a full 12-14 hours of sleep, with one thing on his mind in the morning.  He is very busy trying to regain assemblence of his clamboring chaotic flock when they exit the coop.  He is at his most volatile self when this chaos is going on and he just wants one thing.  He does what he can by asking first with some dancing

The girls like this and I think appreciate it because they know what's coming next.

I  was just a bit curious about our sweet boy's quick switch in behavior  and googled.  It seems he is going through a hormonal imbalance and changes as well, much like the girl counterparts in his flock with their eggs.  Roger is getting an influx of male hormone that makes him more aggressive at 5-6 months old.  He will even out in couple months.  The best way to deal with him is to carry him around on your hip and do a few chicken chores with him.  He'll get sick of you not challenging him and being carried around like a fancy feathered oat-bag, and find you not worth the effort of a challenge.  The back of Husband's hand would not be the way to deal with him as this will reinforce his "Bring it ON!" behavior, which makes for roosters "mean as a snake".   Thankfully my dear husband took this encounter with a grain of salt and when he rehashed the story for us he had a look of amusement  as he told it.  He knows Roger is vital to the girls being able to free-range.

Another thing I found helpful is a little scratch grains in my pocket dropped in front of him right away before he even thinks about dancing and attacking me.  He likes to show the girls as he is a big fancy show off.  As for the advice from my husband's friends, holding Roger upside down is a no-no.  He becomes more docile when hung upside down because he can't Breathe!  With no diaphragm muscle to hold his organs back the load compresses his lungs and it could potentially kill him.  Okay, so for my future needs chooky-sitting I will discuss these finer points with my own chicken legged, beaked ankle, Croc wearing Rooster Wrangler of a Husband.

No-No Roger.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Foster Easter Eggers

It's official.  I'm a foster chicken Mom.  To 3 beautiful Easter Egger chicks.  They are about 3 1/2 months old I believe.  I am helping out my work place which is a summer camp for kids.  They teach a little about permaculture and there's nothing I want more than for the kids to see these blue or green eggs next summer.  And for these beautiful hens to have a nice place to spend the "off-season"  Here are my Foster chooks.

This is Marigold.  We'll call her Mary for short.

This black and white one is Fleur.  Her markings are so neat. 

And this orangish/reddish one we are calling Iris.

So all three have beautiful plumage.  We just love them.  They are a bit on the skiddish side but I think my crew is accepting them and it's just a matter of them becoming more brave.  They ate with everybody earlier today, finally without much problem.  They are smaller yet than everybody else.  Easier to pick on.  I built a small caged in area within the coop so they can escape away if it was too much.  But the first night they wanted to roost up high with everybody else...so we let them.  The next morning Roger must have got a hold of Marigold (I saw a pile of feathers)  and I found them all in the coop at noon on the roost.  They are survivors, though.  They've survived predator attacks in which 5 other brooder mates did not.  They lived with 4 "spent hens" who were set in their ways and not very accepting of them.  They can go all day without food and water and wait until everybody else is on the roost and then go eat and drink.  My new little survivors.  Tonight we drug them up the hill into the gardens with the others.  They remained in their tight little group however. 

Duke, my submissive Roo, is loving them...obviously.  He cracks us up.  What do you suppose he's thinking?  "New Meat."  Haha.

He's always an opportunist.  But my new Foster Survivor Girls know all to well  about aggressive behavior.  Rosey seemed to hang out with them the most up on the hill.  She got her pecks in to show them that she at least out ranks them.  Or maybe she's just giving them a little direction too. I don't know for sure.  But we are so excited to share our coop with you Marigold, Iris and Fleur.

      Rosey sharing the last of the Evening's Scratch with the new girls.

We look forward to the fun adventures they will add to our flock, green & blue eggs, and will Duke finally get a Harem to call his own?  Tune in next time.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Necessity, The Mother of Invention.

George Farquhar an Irish Poet, who I never have heard his name but his quote has stuck with me over the last couple days.  He coined the title of this post.   So here it is:

A Portable Free-Range Chicken Nest Box.

Yep, you've got it.  A Portable Free Range Chicken Nest Box.  Not a mailbox although I check it everyday for special deliveries.  After Sunny's dramatic first egg episode in which she tooled around our landscaping and nearly wore herself out looking for a good nest, I thought I could probably give her and the others a great set up near where they want to be.

The very next day my Black Australorp, Holly wondered around aimlessly, but she was smarter than Sunny in that she went to the coop for her first egg.  She didn't like being all the way down there by herself though, I could tell.  I saw her in there and she saw me and then she proceeded to follow me back up the hill.  I then picked her up and took her over to the Portable Free Range Chicken Nest Box and she started her nest making and laying, giving us a nice small brown egg.  Sunny went checked it out herself and left another one of her large eggs. Lily, our Easter Egger also likes it and left a beautiful green small egg.   We did have a mystery layer this morning.  I have no idea who left a small more rounded brown egg in the coop but I do surely appreciate they left one. Such a good girl.

So the idea is that I will move this thing around to a particular place in the yard, if they find better locales to range about.   I also thought come winter, when I imagine we'll have a run set up and more coop time, this will help out in the Run for egg depositing. 

Special feature for easy cleaning is the lower board on the opening flips down and you can just scrape out the nesting materials and put in new.  Although it seems it's down most of the time anyway, as when it's up, the hole is smaller to get through for them.  I didn't do my homework there.  I've already tweeked it some.  As most "inventions" I'm guessing get tweeked.  I've put on a strip of red fascia, left over from our house trim over the peak of the roof so rain doesn't slide between the two panels of the corrugated steel roof and leak into the nest inside. My son has made a ramp and dremelled grooves for traction to help the girls get inside, also.

So far this little necessity for my girls has already proven itself, until it proves itself useless or otherwise, I have a dog house for a chihuahua,then. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Sunny's Egg in my Big German-Norwegian Hand.

"When are your chickens going to start laying eggs?"
"Do you get lots of Eggs?"

These are the questions I hear all the time when people ask me about my chickens.  Don't they know that the birds themselves are just special in and of themselves?  Probably not.  They just want to know about the eggs.  So I become quite  boring when I tell them:

"I don't know.  They're not mature enough yet."  or,
"Nope, not yet."  My husband says teasingly,  "So how much is that first egg worth, $300 or $400 dollars?"  Ha-ha! 

Well after today.  It was priceless.

I came home for lunch and Sunny, my Buff Orpington was rooting around the deck behind my son's Tonka Trucks and toy bin.  She was more busy or more diligently poking around every nook and cranny.  She flew up on my dog's Kennel fencing although not seeming frightened.  She was panting but not drinking.  When I finished lunch I found her rooting around on my husband's tool bench in the garage.  Meandering around bags, ski ropes, power tool cases...  I got her back down backed out my car and closed the garage door.  Once back at work I started thinking about this "searching" behavior.  Roger, her best friend seemed worried about her, more alert for her.  Even he knew something wasn't right.  Is she ill?... was my first thought.  Is she having an earring complication a week later?  If you know what I mean...

Is she a free range chicken looking for a good nesting spot to lay her egg?!  DUH!    I got on Backyard Chickens and put Sunny's odd behavior out there on the world wide web for confirmation.  A very kind lady from the United Kingdom assured me that this is the case indeed. My excitement could hardly be contained from that point on.  As soon as it was time I  finished my work, grabbed my things, got the kids off the bus and told them what was going on.  All of the flock greeted us in the drive way.  Except Sunny.  I told the kids, "Go find her." Heidi found her on a retaining wall section of Russian Sage and a Honeycrisp apple tree.  Still panting, still searching.  We gently picked her up and carried her to the coop. Offered her fresh water and her feed.  She took some.  I then got her more pine shavings and Long Grass from the woods to use as nesting materials in one of the nesting boxes.  She went to work immediately.  Her comb and waddles bright red.

She turned this way and that. Scratching the nesting materials outward, trying to make a bowl of sorts--a nest suitable for her first egg.

Still she worked.  The whole nest process taking about 1/2 hour or so.  We sat mesmerized by her work and our anticipation never waivered.

She made 3 strange squawks we'd never heard before, her body slowly rising and the subtle sound of an egg landing gently onto her carefully made nest.
She let Heidi pick it out.  Still panting.  Poor girl.  A gigantic egg exceeding our expectations.  I had told the kids don't expect much.  A small one or deformed as her system is just learning and is young.  But here a monster egg that could quite possibly be a double yolker!

We sat cuddling her and making sure she was okay.  We re-opened the coop door and Roger came in, like a worried expectant father of sorts.  It was sort of neat.  His worry for her.  He looked relieved to see her.  Bock-bocking outside the coop during the whole process had him stressed out.  Such a good friend to Sunny.  We stared at her in wonderment  and in a new light.  Sunny no longer a "chick"  or a young immature teenaged pullet.  She's graduated into a motherhood of sorts.  We regard her with a reverence as a provider. 

Somebody suggested we keepsake the first egg and blow it out and others want to know if it's a double yolker.  I'll talk to the kids tomorrow Morning and see what they want to do with it.  Egg shell ornament for an Easter Tree or Scrambled Egg.

In the meantime, Roger roosted and is sleeping right next to Sunny on a lower peg of the roosting ladder, when they usually are on the more choice higher roost.  So Sweet.

Post Script 9/10/12  Sunny's egg was a single yolk.  I did blow it out and saved the shell and we made the yolk that came out into a scrambled egg which was the most delicious egg we ever tasted. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Too Shall Pass.

Sunny.  Buff Orpington. Cute. Fuzzy. Earring Stealer.

"Grandma?  You want to hold Sunny?  She's your favorite I'll bring her over to you."  Heidi brings her up on the deck for a cuddle.  Grandma loves her "Sunny Dew".  She's got an extra fuzzy bottom and charming little face.  She's friendly and mild mannered.  She's got personality.  She's my boss hen out of the works.  So Grandma gets a cuddle and .... her pretty earring snatched right out of her Ear lobe~!

I've had gold hoops pulled right out by Roger before when he was a bit younger and smaller and they were much more than he could swallow at the time.  Not so much for these that Grandma was wearing today.  She held them in her beak momentarily and as Heidi went to remove them from her mouth she greedily swallowed it to her gizzard.

 Rosey kindly demonstrates how Sunny was paying Grandma her visit. 
Sunny is under the deck and won't come out.  I suppose afraid she'll
have to give back that earring somehow.

So being the chicken nerd I am.  I googled this problem and it seems Grandma is not the only one nor is Sunny with her fettish for earrings.  Gizzards galore have hoovered diamonds, pearls and other exotic gems.  Rifle bullet casings, bolts!, you name it it's been swallowed.  The general consensus is that the Gizzard  with its pebbles and sand will grind a pearl into much needed calcium (like oyster shell supplements)  and depending what you love more you'll need to decide on chicken dinner and your prized family jewels OR prized family chicken and well...processed family jewels.  Being a nurse I've considered a perforated digestive tract but given the amount of food these birds get in a day I'm thinking Sunny will be just fine and this bit 'o resin and nickel will pass with oat, corn, clover and tomato by-product.  Cheers Sunny.  We owe Grandma a new pair of earrings!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Harmony? ~

Mink-colored Hans as a Baby in April
Rest in Peace Hans.  It was an August Sunday morning.  I awoke with quiet resolve and after some silent prayers and much thought to the task and the process of that task.  I did it.  He died peacefully.  He was afraid as is usual with him.  But he closed his eyes as if knowing this was it and relaxed... I stayed with him and held his chest as he drew his last breaths... spoke soothingly to him.  I had a chance to take him somewhere where he would have been taken care of for a while-another farm- but ultimately his future would have been uncertain there as well.  I felt I didn't want his demise botched in any way.   I knew how to do it quickly for him without the trauma of a car ride and foreign place. To do it on territory that was recognizable to him in the warm morning sun:   hopefully calming to him. With someone who cared about him even though delivering him to his creator. It was not any easy decision to make with my children.  But ultimately they agreed it was for the better good of the flock.  To find Harmony.   They had an overnight at Grandma and Grandpa's and when they came home Hans was a "Job Well Done"  per Grandma Ruth.  All were in agreement with this even the sensitive animal lover Grandma Ruth.  Grandpa Ken (and former farmer)  said, "Well...  Now you're a farmer."  Hardly. But a hint of what  it's like:   I surely experienced.
Adolescent Hans in his New Digs.

A rare moment: Heidi Holding Hans.

Mr. tooling through the Holly Hocks and Bee Balm.

Hansy just after he took over as Head Roo and
when the chaos was beginning.

The rest of that Sunday I felt melancholy.  Perhaps pennance from God I decided for taking one of his creatures.  Just a little something for me to live with that day.  

 I thought, "I'll let the kids be mad at me today if they need."   And as I put his 4.6 pound dressed-out  Hans carcass in the freezer,  I started to feel different about the whole thing.  Then confirmation from the kids, about a week and a half later, that Hans deserved to be cooked as something Grandiose and  delicious, and glad that he just wasn't returned to the earth in a shallow grave.  Although, only when they were ready for it.  So Hans has some freezer time yet until he becomes Coq au Vin.  And when all is harmonious with the Johnson Children having a Chicken dinner.

The Flock is quieter.  There are 8 now.  Roger has been reinstated.

Happy Boy.

My tomatoes are being unharmoniously harvested by the flock one by one just as they are about to ripen.  So now my kitchen window sill is loaded with Green Beefeaters and Green Purple Cherokees as I've just decided to harvest them all before the Chicks get them.  So much for the Garden Zen-ness.

 Harmony on a level I've been looking for:   The yellow lab is going outside where the chickens are free-ranging and leaving them be...  I am so pleased.