Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Campo Schnitzer Grain Flaker

Ooooh Daddy have I hit the jackpot! After a few weeks of slogging through the 'ol work mill (J-O-B, thank goodness I have one and it pays well) I decided to reward my hard work and splurge just a touch on something I've been wanting for quite awhile: the Campo Schnitzer Grain Flaker.

It arrived just the other day and it is a true work of art. All metal and wood construction from Germany and it is pretty heavy duty. Even the pamphlets included were all in German with just one or two basic lines of English instructions. I had to get Cowboy to translate what he could recall of his days in German class.

For those of you asking, "What the heck is a grain flaker?" Here it is:

 It's the little guy to the left of the grain mill. 

So what does a grain flaker do? It flakes/rolls all sorts of grains: oats, spelt, wheat, rye, barley, rice, etc. This is how oatmeal is made from whole oat groats. You simply load the top hopper with whole grain, adjust the rollers as tight or loose (thick or thin) as you want your flakes to be, rotate the handle, and out comes the flaked grain down the metal chute. It is so stinkin' simple.  Oats can be tossed into the flaker as-is, but the harder grains have to be pre-soaked. All you do is put the grains in a fine sieve, rinse well, then lay out to dry for 5hrs (or overnight) before rolling them. This softens them up so they flake instead of crack.

I didn't have any oat groats on hand but I did have hard red wheat from my grain mill. Cowboy chipped in and pre-soaked the wheat then laid it out on a cookie sheet to dry. Five hours later we took turns (because it was so much fun) rotating the handle to flake some wheat!

 Red Wheat Flakes

Hot Cereal with the red wheat flakes

Wow. Wow. Wow. The cereal was absolutely amazing. The flavor was nearly the same as when we make cream of wheat using our grain mill, but instead of a "creamy mush" the flakes produced a chewier texture. It wasn't like store bought oatmeal, which tends to be more pasty and mushy. It had substance and it was delightful. Toasty homemade wheat bread flavor with a chewy grain texture. I was in heaven. I eat my hot cereal with a bit of milk and a touch of brown sugar (sometimes throwing in some fruit and nuts). This was nearly good enough to not need any sugar and that speaks volumes to me. 

I am excited to try oats tomorrow as I found whole oat groats at our nearby market. Yum....can't wait.

On other news, this was what was for breakfast (adapted from Seduced by Bacon which I borrowed from the library. More recipes as good as this and I will be adding this cookbook to my wish list!)

Applewood Smoked Bacon Caramel Sauce over Pecan Buttermilk Waffles

I purchased the bacon from our local butcher shop and the buttermilk was leftover from making my own butter (yay!) from heavy cream. That was a very cool experience and I was shocked to learn how easy it was to make your own butter. 

Quick instructions: Take heavy cream left out at room temperature for several (6ish) hours. Put it either in a jar with or without a marble (if you wish to do it by hand) or in a stand mixer (cheaters way). Shake or mix for a few minutes until the cream "breaks" into butter chunks. Mix a little bit more then let set for a few minutes. The buttermilk will start to separate from the solids. Drain off the buttermilk and SAVE this for baking. This is the REAL buttermilk, not the cultured stuff you buy from the grocery store. Next use either your hands or two wooden spoons and squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the solids. You can rinse the butter with a little cold water til the butter runs clear. This is important because it is the cloudy liquid that makes the butter go rancid quicker. Once you have gotten it to a consistency you like (remember it will harden significantly in the fridge), fold in some salt and put into a mold or container and store in the fridge. 

That is IT!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Warning: these are addicting and amazingly delicious.

I love fall, especially for one simple thing: pumpkins. I adore all things pumpkin-y: soup, desserts, bread, pancakes! Found from Eat, Live, Run and ever so slightly altered, these pancakes are hands-down one of my favorites.

 Here's my version of the recipe:

Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Chip Pancakes

1 1/4 Cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Allspice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Cup milk (I used 1/2 buttermilk 1/2 milk)
2 Eggs
2 Tbs. butter, melted
1 Cup fresh pumpkin puree (you can used canned pumpkin puree)
1 Cup dark chocolate chips

Whisk together flour through ginger. In another bowl, beat the milk through the pumpkin. Pour wet over dry ingredients and fold in the chocolate chips. DO NOT OVERMIX!

Let the batter rest for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile heat skillet over med-high heat. Add a little butter and cook pancakes for aobut 4 minutes per side until golden. Serve with warm maple syrup.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Improvement on Homemade Shaving Cream

As promised, though it has taken me awhile, I have improved my recipe for homemade mug shaving cream! Here is my original post where I felt the cream was more soapy instead of creamy and became hard pretty quick. The new and improved recipe is creamier, still a bit soapy but I like it better than the original. Super easy to whip  up!

This time I added more glycerin, water, and subbed coconut oil instead of cocoa butter. I halved the recipe of the original to make this new one:

WildChildT's Homemade Shaving Cream 
(adapted from Better Basics for the Home)

4 oz. grated castille soap
~5 oz distilled water
1 oz. coconut oil
3 oz. vegetable glycerine
essential oils

Place soap and water in a container, cover and let rest overnight. The next day, melt coconut oil and glycerin in a double boiler. As soon as they are melted, add to soap and blend with a hand mixer until creamy. Mix in essential oils and transfer shaving cream to a lidded container or mug/bowl of choice.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Farm

Woops, time has gotten away from me and I realized I haven't blogged in quite a while. Guess I need to give a bit of an update!

Firstly, Copper is now at a nice farm North of us where he has plenty of ladies to chase and crow to his little delight. He was starting to really harass the hens and his crow was unbelievably loud for such a little dude. I admit it was really emotionally straining to me to re-home him. I get attached to those I call family, two or four legged, and feel it is a big personal responsibility to follow through with the commitments you make and the consequences involved with taking pets into your home. Cowboy was not getting much sleep with the roo waking up so early and we were afraid of jeopardizing our entire flock over the noise of one bird. Unfortunately he had to go. Thankfully, I am quite positive he is happier now with a bunch of other Silkies to socialize with.

Second, the day after we re-homed Copper, "Agnes" took his place. Yep, our little special needs girl is really roo #2. Dang it all. The good side is that he is a pathetic crower and doesn't harass the girls nearly as much as Copper did. We have renamed Agnes "Señor José" (please make sure you put in a good amount of phlegm-accent to the 'J' in José). We volleyed between Señor José or Inigo Montoya...still somewhat undecided but Señor José is so far winning. We call him that because of his ridiculous rooster dance. It is half flamenco, half Bus-Stop...either way it is "special". He does this scratch-scratch-kick back with his feet then scuttles his butt towards the hen's side. I am going to attempt to catch video of it to post. It's completely hilarious, especially when I have Cowboy standing next to me doing a voice-over play by play of Señor José's actions. It goes something like this (think Spanish Pepé Le Pew), "Wait wait Senorita, don't run. I will dance for you. You will like it very much, eh?"

It cracks me up every single time.

He does treat the ladies well. He watches over them while they peck and scratch in the yard while emitting low warning growls, curious chirps, or happy grunts. He also lets them eat all the good treats first before helping himself. He's a good roo and his crow is very silly. Again, wait for the video.

Third, still sticking with the chicken theme, we purchased three more chickens from a Mennonite family at the local chicken swap. Meet the three new girls, slightly smaller and younger than our big girls (we didn't realize just how big our girls had gotten til placed near these three):

 Pearl: Blue Splash Wyandotte

 Lola: breed unknown (seller said hybrid Americauna but others have said she looks Phoenix)

Amelia: an Americauna

I know we were supposed to integrate the two families slowly but we had a few difficulties managing this. Our temporary "hospital/time out" cage was too small for three hens to be in for a prolonged time, we only have one coop and run so we were unable to effectively separate them, and our work schedules did not allow someone to be monitoring and keeping them apart especially at night. Therefore we were forced into a slightly quick but closely regulated integration. The first night I foolishly overslept and got out to open the run an hour later than I normally do. The big hens had ganged up on Amelia in the coop and bloodied the side of her face. I found her tucked in a nesting box where I scooped her up, gave her some extra loving, took her into the bathroom, patched her up, and applied Blue Kote. She is good as new and fully healed. I kept them slightly separated by locking them in the run and allowing the big girls access only to the coop for two days. There have been no further issues and no signs of any illness. The pecking order is still being established but the little girls are learning to be cautious around the big girls and give them priority. The little girls are skittish and not easily handled but I am finding each day is getting better. Pearl is the easiest to catch and cuddle, Amelia second, and Little Lola is the flightiest of the three.

****Breaking News: Tallula and Ellie Mae just laid me eggs today! That's four layers so far- wooo hooo!****

Lastly, I have been bread baking and reading up on sausage making. This next weekend should hopefully be a very productive weekend of homemade yumminess.

This is the bread book I'm sampling from.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chickens are Pecular Animals

Yet another chicken blog post....but hey, you already knew my life was pretty nerdy right?

As of this past week we had to change our Partridge Silky's name from Penny to Copper. Yep, we have a roo...I'm pretty sure...I think...oh hell I have no idea.

You see, as I was doing my research on hen vs. rooster I came across some very interesting and weird facts on chickens. First, if you haven't had your chickens sexed at birth (usually requires an expert to do this and still isn't guaranteed) you basically have to wait until your chicken either lays an egg or crows.  However, come to find out, hens can mimic rooster behaviors...such as crowing. Oh and fighting, pecking, mounting other hens as if they are mating, and other such dominant behaviors. So really you have to wait until they are nearly a year old to see whether they lay or not. God forbid you own a slew of chickens and are unable to specifically tell who has laid what egg, in that case you're just pretty much screwed unless they have the tell tale spurs and pin feathers. Silkies, on the other hand, go against all chicken rules of feather appearance, crown/waddles, and they have fluff all over their feet making it hard to tell if they grow spurs or not.

If you aren't confused enough already, there's been some findings on the random chicken who starts life as a hen and somehow switches sex to be a rooster and vice versa. What the heck?? This hasn't been well documented but the info is out there.

Two weeks ago we woke early to hear a pseudo crow, broken record style. As soon as we rushed out to witness the guilty all chickens stood there solemn and quiet. No one was talking or pointing fingers. We were stumped although knew it was one of the dark heads we saw bobbing from our window. A few days later, the crowing started up again and we again flew downstairs and outside. Penny, uh hem, I mean Copper had his head held high, proud as shit, neck straining, wings flapping, completely vertical, and crowing as if to sing, "Bitches check me out!!" As soon as I let him out of the run to wander around the yard he quit crowing. He just wanted to get out and strut his manly bits around. Let him out and he shuts up.

That is, until this week. Now he'll strut and crow about three or four times a day, thankfully not for very long periods. He has short-man-syndrome trying to make up for it by stroking his own ego through his voice. I didn't mind it much having grown up in the country and got somewhat of a kick out of hearing him develop, but my better half was not impressed. Copper was earning his way to the soup pot (I had to inform Cowboy that the Silkies are more of an ornamental laying breed and would only provide about a chicken wing's worth of meat if he got the 'ol axe).

Then, last week, I had the very first day ever of regretting my decision to be a chicken lady. It was a freaking nightmare.

Martha had been laying every single day since she started and, soon after, Lucy followed suit. Martha has this, shall we say, "routine" she gets into just prior to laying. She becomes completely bat-shit crazy. She frantically paces and loudly bawlks. It's similar to the "egg song" but on crack and she tries to get places she wouldn't normally venture (lately on the other side of the fence) until she finally finds her way to the nesting boxes and settles down.  I've even tried to pick her up and set her in the coop or nesting box to chill her out but it doesn't work. You just have to let her work it out herself. That day, she was singing her "chicken on crack song"  (causing the rest of the girls to join in which resulted in a complete ruckus) and pacing when, from inside the house, I heard a loud thump as if a bird had flown into the back window. I rushed outside and couldn't find Martha...until I looked up. There she was perched atop of the flipping gutter on the roof of the house! I quickly grabbed the rake and scooped her back down to the ground, scolding her as if she knew exactly what I was saying.

Flighty Martha has now bought herself some clipped wings. We should have named this girl Amelia Earhart, seriously.

Shortly after that fiasco, I heard another commotion coming from the back yard and found Copper and Agnes going head to head UFC-style. Feathers were flying in the air, blood was dripping from their crowns, and each had ahold of the other in their beaks and were not letting go. Around and around in circles they went until one broke loose, with feathers stuffed in his/her beak, only to jump up in the air like Bruce Lee and pounce down on the other starting it all over again. It would have been entertaining to watch if I hadn't been convinced they were trying to kill each other. After trying to separate the two without any success, I finally resulted in punting both of them to separate corners. I had to continue my soccer-ball dribbling technique until I could safely pick one of them up to stop the fighting. Cowboy grabbed the small dog crate we bought for broody girls and tossed Copper in. Suddenly, out of no where, Agnes stretched her neck up, flapped her wings, and gave a scratchy anemic crow!! Son of a.......!?! She or he gave a few more pathetic attempts at crowing and settled in amongst the rest of the girls quietly grazing in the yard.

 After a few hours I un-jailed Copper, watched closely as they played nice with each other for a total of five minutes then went back to their Chicken Kung Fu. This usually ended in Agnes running frantically away from a Copper hot on her tail. I continued throughout the day to alternate the Silkies in their "time out" sessions until finally they started behaving. Copper and Agnes kept a respectful distance from each other and pecked around the yard with a few hushed grumbles and growls in each others direction.

I seriously was about to tear my hair out. Do I have two roosters?? My sweet little "special needs" girl Agnes who loves bubble baths is really a boy? It can't be! And Martha- what an obnoxious day with her trapeze acts. That day I contacted a lady I knew who owned a chicken farm up north and asked her advice. A few emails later along with another farm lady (who owns several Silky roos), none of us were totally convinced Agnes was a "he" but I do have a home for Copper if he keeps up this unacceptable attitude. They also meekly suggested Copper may still be a Penny, simply a dominant hen acting out and trying to be leader of the pack. (eyes rolling) For Pete's sake...

No one knew where Martha's annoying behavior was coming from but one theory was that all the fussing between the two Silkies were messing with Martha's hormones and wrecking her laying Chi.

Yesterday held no exciting events. All the children were well behaved and calmly grazing around the yard as Argos stood guard (okay he was lazily napping next to me in my chair outside). Today, they grazed then nestled in a lump together under the lawn table like one big happy family....and Copper continued to crow his song. I'm back to loving my chickens.

Things my chickens LOVE: watermelon, cooked beans, yogurt, blueberries (pretty much any berry), grapes, meat, scrambled eggs, oats, tomatoes, corn on the cob...

Current egg update: 2 eggs every single day (Martha and Lucy are our superstars....the rest are slackers and know it)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Wonderful Family

My parents are in town and we are having so much fun. Almost a month has gone by and I seriously couldn't be happier. We have picked Italian plums, Niagara grapes, apples, and pears from the yard and processed them into yummy canning goodness! Jams have been made along with multiple variations of apple butter, and fruit sauces to drizzle over ice-cream. The house has been either buzzing with canning activity or sleepy calm with reading books. We play games in the evening, usually Rummikub, and chat until the wee hours of the night. I took them up Pike's Peak (driving this time;)) where we noshed on chocolate covered eclairs we purchased at the French bakery "La Baguette" (their french onion soup is deee-vine!!!).

Best Kiss Ever.

Making Niagara Grape Jam: Our jam went from disgustingly green prior to cooking to a deep maroon fruit spread! The guys even joined us and we all had some great family time discussions.

This is what happens when I'm put "on call" from work. Jam right! No time is wasted!

My parents are still wetting their pants laughing after this one. These are my "onion chopping goggles". Seriously, they work. I pulled them out when the scalding Orange-Plum jam started splattering like crazy when adding Grand Marnier right before canning. You can laugh, it's alright.

Apple time! We were taking a mini break with 100% fruit popsicles. As my mom said, "Canning isn't work when you're doing it with others."

That's 24lbs of apples cut up right there. And we still have 2 more bins full! What is awesome is ALL canned fruit mentioned in the blog is 100% off the land. Nothing store bought. 

After a terrible episode trying to use my KA strainer attachment with the grapes (later I read slip-skin type grapes are not to be used with this attachment, oops), I was hesitant to experiment with the apples. I psyched myself up then chunked up 18lbs of apples: uncored & unpeeled. When I cooked them with a little water until soft then ran them through the KA it was like magic just happened. Right there in front of me. Just happened. It was truly beautiful. Easy-Peasy. The apples got fed into the hopper at top (with added extra large tray), pushed down lightly with the plunger and out came the pureed apples on one end and the other end spit out the core, seeds, and skins. Fabulous!!! The applesauce went into two crock pots to simmer for the day and the next day we canned Spiced Maple-Apple Butter and Honey-Ginger Apple Butter. 

We also took my parents to our local LDS canning facility and let them have fun canning a bunch of rolled oats, wheat, and sugar! Over the years I have shared our knowledge of food storage and they are really understanding the fun and benefit of it. The other day Cowboy made them some cream of wheat after grinding some fresh wheat on our mill. The looks on their faces were priceless as they said, "this tastes just like Ralston growing up and we can't find this stuff anywhere!". We are already in the negotiation phase of grinding them up a bunch to take back home.

And in other wonderful news: Martha, our "Miss Personality" Americauna, laid our very first egg yesterday! It was such an exciting moment for the entire family. Mom came running in the house from hanging clothes on the line, exclaiming the good find and wouldn't allow anyone else out of the house to witness it until we all were downstairs together as a group. We cheered and whistled and gave Martha a few extra treats in celebration. It was a small little blue-green egg but we were as proud as if she just laid the notorious golden egg!

Blue-green and speckled

 Martha's egg among the "dairy farm" eggs. She's tiny but a mighty flavor bomb!

 Martha's vibrant orange yolk on left. 

Nom Nom Nom!

That night I sat on the living room floor and read sections of my chicken book to re-familiarize myself with the whole laying process. The book stated that although it takes 25hrs for an egg to be formed, it could take 3-4 days for the "new-laying" chicken to lay another egg. Surprise, surprise Martha laid a second one today! 1.8oz and just as pretty blue-green pastel as the previous one.

Life couldn't be better!

Dad pretending he's a pirate with Martha

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Clucking Around

The weather was wonderfully cool today for the first time in a few weeks and I jumped on the opportunity to get things done around the house.

I did:
1. touch-up paint on the coop
2. installed our new "poop board" (a tray that sits underneath the coop's perch to collect chicken poo which keeps the general insides of the coop cleaner and easier to maintain)

3. mucked out the old shavings which I added to our compost pile and then added fresh pine shavings sprinkled with Diatomaceous Earth (the old shavings weren't really that dirty but with the poop board in, I wanted to start fresh and witness the effectiveness of the tray)
4. raked the dirt in the run, put that pile of chicken waste in the compost, and sprinkled down DE in anticipation of getting a few truckloads of sand tomorrow for the run floor.
5. mowed the lawn- the chickens, who were free ranging, loved the fresh cut grass and plethora of bugs that jumped around because of it. They were running to and fro, chasing the grasshoppers and such down.
6. washed the laundry and hung it all out to dry on the line. Love that smell.
7. went to water the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs I planted around the outside of the run...then gave up because the chickens had plucked every single baby bud off the plants. Oh well, at least they enjoyed themselves. Now I know when time to plant my big garden next year to put a nice high fence around it!

 Mmmm freshly mowed grass and hopping bugs!

I had a great time watching the chickens swagger around the yard, clearly very happy with their ability to roam wherever they wish. I let them out of their run whenever I wake in the morning and let them range all day. They stay in our yard without any issues. Well...except one.

Last week a hawk came to visit us. There are three in the neighborhood that don't live to far away.  One swooped onto a telephone post and took a look-see at the chickens. I stood there all "Protective Mama" with my hands on my hips and giving it my best stink eye, just daring the bird to come any closer. The chickens sensed the hawk as its shadow swooped overhead and they ran immediately to the cover of the grape vines. The hawk stood there gawking for a minute or two then must have thought better of it and flew away. That or he decided to wait until the flock wasn't so heavily guarded. I have now placed my pink Daisy BB gun at the back door for quick access if the need arises. Which I hope it doesn't. I don't want to have to spank a BB in a hawk-butt to have it learn a lesson or two but a Momma Hen has gotta do what a Momma Hen has gotta do. I have also allowed Argos to mingle with the birds more while watching him very closely. He is getting better with them every day. Today, he was very much a sheepdog to the flock of girls.

Just today, the girls learned to jump and perch on the very top of the heap of vines. They squatted down and got cozy as if they were sitting in a nest just for them. So much for us human-folk getting any grapes...

Lucy- shimmering blue-green feather tips against her black

Ellie Mae (the heavyweight of the flock) and Buffy

The Two Silkies: Is one a Roo??

 Anges- the round butterball, smokey blue-gray feathers, less pronounced (colorful) comb

 Penny- brighter blue earlobes, ring of brown around neck and copper colored feathers, much brighter maroon comb than Agnes.  When they square off, Agnes is usually the first to pounce, but she gives up and gets bored quicker. Penny is usually left staring her down as Agnes turns her butt toward Penny and walks away.

 Protecting the flock


Martha- by far the most friendly and winner of Miss Personality Award

 Slowly working their way back to the coop for last minute grain snack before bedtime. They put themselves to bed without any help from me (except for my small part of closing the main run door and securing the latch. I leave the pop door open for them to let themselves out to breakfast in the morning). 

Almost 2000 and time for bed. They take at least half an hour to jostle around for the the best perch position before snuggling down and trilling soft happy sleepy notes.