Posts Tagged ‘no references at all’

The sad side of things…

Ri-Ri is missing, and we lost the chicks to the cold. Some people would say “they’re only chickens,” and I know that when you involve yourself in any kind of animal husbandry on any scope, you will lose stock. But it just plain makes me sad, and the speculation on what happened to Ri-Ri is killing me. Rob said a minute ago, “I hope he just turns up out of nowhere.” We’ve seen far too many stray dogs in the area.

We are reinforcing the fencing soon.

Damn, I love those chickens.

Big images, little sheep

My apologies for the hiatus. Things have been a little hectic. I’m in my final semester of computer science. Because I basically did my degree inside out, right now I’m taking the intro classes (which are mostly easy, thank goodness, though I might have to rekindle my love for Bucky, the computer genius YouTuber, to get past C++). I’ve also been making a lot of soap. My specialty seems to be grapefruit lavender, and it’s been going like gangbusters to the ladies at work. They, however, mostly seem to be buying it for their husbands. Funny, that, because that’s how I got into soapmaking: hubby wanted fancy-schmancy soaps, but we didn’t want to spend $5 a bar. And that price is from years ago. So…new hobby-turned-part-time-job.

I have a new camera! This means I can give you much nicer images of the lambs. They are getting large, let me assure you. When I show up out there, they do their creepy Japanese ghost thing in which they’re across the yard and then very suddenly in my face for green kibble. Here they are, watching me very intently. What is it with them giving me these album-cover poses? All we really lack to make a band is for the white one to be looking disinterestedly off to the left.

“Baaaand on the run.” …You’re welcome.

Come at me, bro!

Come at me, bro!

But really, ladies and gents, there’s not much to tell. I can give you some lovely shots of the sheep and one of Shadow’s butt. He’s very good at showing me his south side, with a few notable exceptions. In this particular shot, I think he actually meant to attack my camera.  Yes, I’m giving you this shot in all its blurry glory just to show you what I go through to provide you with images. Chicken attacks are not to be taken lightly, friends. One in some number of people endures–or knows someone who has endured–rooster rage.

So, check out his little wattles and comb. What you’re seeing is his head tipped downward, and that red thing above his beak is his comb, though it’s still small and not fully formed. Shadow is a little under a foot tall now. Goldie, to the left, is considerably smaller. We’re still trying to look up under their little skirts to figure out who’s a rooster, but I think Shadow and Kuzco are our manly men.

This shot highlights the chaotic darkness and speed of chicken butt. Note the frenzied background and lack of composition, which displays the juxtaposition of the--oh, I have no idea what I'm talking about. It's blurry chicken butt.

This shot highlights the chaotic darkness and speed of chicken butt.

Here, we have Shadow against a backdrop of chickens, scratching for morning bugs. Note the frenzied background and lack of composition, which displays the juxtaposition of the–oh, I have no idea what I’m even making up right now. It’s blurry chicken butt.

At any rate, the new camera is so much better. It has a wide screen for viewing shots, so I can hold it down near the ground and get pics that I am otherwise not willing to get for you people. I mean, this morning my toes got wet. That’s a sacrifice! It was all dewy and brisk out there, and you gotta remember, I think the whole “outside” thing is highly overrated.

Below are the lambs. They’re beginning to get their winter hair. Remember, these don’t get woolly, they just grow longer fur, and then in the spring they’ll rub it off against trees or make the chain link fence look all gross and hairy. Shudder. That’s something to look forward to.

Well, anyway. Happy Saturday! If I were a real blogger I’d come up with some catchy little daily thing like “Snazzy Saturday” or “Super Sunday” or “Frowdown Friday.” I don’t know. Blame recovery from C++ homework.

Things 1 and 2 with green kibble.

Things 1 and 2 with green kibble.

 

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Chicken Butts

The silkies are of laying age, or at least one of them is. A couple of days ago, hubby brought in an egg. At least it was roughly the size of an egg (a bit smaller than my ladies lay), and

The robot chickens in WoW lay no eggs and are impervious to predators. I want steampunk chickens now.

The robot chickens in WoW lay no eggs and are impervious to predators. I want steampunk chickens now.

roughly the shape of an egg, but it felt like it was made out of thin leather instead of encased in a shell. This is a phenomenon that happens when a hen lays her first egg, maybe even her first couple. Their bodies are learning how to produce something they’ve never done before, so the reasonable explanation (from backyardchickens.com) is that it takes a while for their little egg producing selves to get with the program. First eggs have been known to come out without a shell (as this one did), encased only in the protein lining that is made between the egg itself and the shell. Some farmers have reported first eggs found in the nest in absolutely nothing–no pouch of any kind, no shell, they just looked like they were cracked right into the nest. Our egg was perfectly edible, just strange. (That said, I did toss it, albeit sadly, because I didn’t know how long it had been sitting out or how long it took hubby to find it, and I don’t know how porous that protein lining is). We have, just today, found our first solid silkie egg.

Chicken eggs (as do all bird eggs) come out of the hen coated in a substance (called bloom) that seals the egg, preventing its porous shell from allowing bacteria inside. If you have access to farm-fresh eggs, don’t wash them when you get them! Even if there’s a little poop on them. Set aside your sense of “ohgod, ick” while you store them. That substance in which they’re coated prevents spoilage (otherwise the egg would simply rot before a chick could hatch out of a fertilized egg). Farm-fresh, unwashed eggs can actually sit out on the counter for up to two weeks. I’ve heard. I don’t do that, because, well, at this point, it’s ingrained. I have a need to put the eggs in the fridge.

When you’re ready to eat them, that’s when you wash them (because even though chicken anatomy prevents waste from coming into contact with the egg as it’s laid, chickens really do let it out anywhere and everywhere, even in the nest, so don’t make me explain what you’re inadvertently doing with that bacteria when you crack the egg over your frying pan). Use hot water. Soap is optional; if you use soap, rinse thoroughly. Wash your hands after handling chicken eggs, because you just indirectly touched chicken butt. There. You can have your “ohgod, ick” back.

scarlett3

She looks like she could laserbeam that little dog right in half.

Completely unrelated: Kelsey came in the other day completely freaked out because she had to fight her grandma’s little shih tzu off of Scarlett. Okay, before my mother-in-law (or her friends, or anyone) sees this as a kind of indictment, it’s not. I’m not blaming Priscilla. I’m not even blaming the dog (though do not take that to mean I’m not very annoyed with him, and he is now banned from our yard for the foreseeable future). Dogs who have not spent their lives around chickens see them as prey. Chickens are small and fast, but not too fast. I mean, this little dog goes with us on our walks in the park, and you can see him thinking longingly about the pigeons there. What he saw the other day was a big, fat pigeon who was walking instead of flying. That’s the stuff dreams are made of in his little brain. The stuff of which dreams are made.

Luckily, Teebo is a small dog. Unluckily, he went straight for her head. She has a minuscule amount of blood that has come out of her eardrum and dried up, but she obviously did not bleed for very long–to be honest, he probably grazed her with a tooth by accident. These chickens are actually a little bigger than he is, so he got a mouthful of feathers from around the side of her neck and not much more. What she’s suffering from appears to be a flesh wound.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when chickens are attacked by a predator, they are very slow afterwards for a good while, and they tend to keep at least one eye closed if the predator got anywhere near their faces. I’m sure that’s a protective measure. When Ri-Ri was attacked, it took her days to even come up out of a crouch, and she was probably sore. Imagine if something as big as you  are (or many times bigger), something you knew wanted wanted to eat you, threw you to the ground and started pulling your hair out before going for your throat. At the very least, given your survival, you’d feel violated, exhausted, and achy. Scarlett is going through exactly that.  She’s been in the henhouse for two days, quiet and uninterested in frolicking with the other hens, and doesn’t want to come out. When I petted her, she didn’t freak out, but she isn’t exactly in a position to do a lot of flailing and yelling.

Chickens need time, gentleness and extra food to get over stress (which is why chicken factories are horrible, horrible places). Scarlett will be all right. She will get extra mash and extra scratch and lots of fresh water, lots of time in the cool of the henhouse and grass and bugs when she’s ready to come out. I will spoil her well again. Poor chickie.

I love those birds so much.

Oh! Rob said that the other day, the day he found the silkie egg, he heard a wee rooster crow! Somebody got laid, and it wasn’t an egg.

In other news, still no lambs. Stupid, stubborn, overly pregnant ewe.

It’s not a food blog…

…But this is some seriously good food.

Rob and I are a little sad right now. Our two children, Kelsey 17, Garrett 15, are in England right now visiting their aunt, uncle and cousins. Oh, and Paris. And some other stuff. Anyway, for six weeks, the lights of our lives are gone. We can Skype them, of course, and they’re having a blast; this is a golden opportunity I would never, ever deny them. But they’re not here. And I mean, Rob and I are the lights of each others’ lives, too, but I’m not an ebullient, amazing little singer with pink hair, and he’s not a super-witty gamer nerd who flails his arms when he gets excited. The house is lonely.

What do I do when I’m lonely? Or stressed, angry, sad, bothered by anything?

I cook. I cook a lot. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter, and my mother’s child. I love food. I love to present it. I love it when people go “Oh that’s good” and their eyes roll back in their heads a little. I think I love seeing people’s reactions to  my food more than I love eating it. Maybe. That could be a toss-up.

And though this recipe has never had an egg (or lamb, damn it–though it could, oh yes, absolutely it could) anywhere near it (until the end; you’ll see), it bears posting because it’s one of our favorites. It’s creamy, melty and smoky, with just enough meat to satisfy. It’s also NOT diet friendly. I have puttered with low-cal adaptations (fat-free sausage, low/nonfat cheese, skim milk), but if you’re going for comfort food, this is the stuff right here.

Notes: If you’re going to use bacon, I’d fry it up first and drain the grease. If you want a hit of extra umame, fry up whatever you’re using for meat first. Anything you get golden brown and a little crisp is going to add to the flavor. I was lazy, so no browning for me.

You could cut this recipe in half, but it wouldn’t feed the entire National Guard that way. Besides, this makes amazing leftovers. Also, I always forget there’s half an onion I didn’t use and then it goes bad.

Scalloped Potato Dinner:

2-3 lb (about 6-8) yellow potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 pound of your choice of pork and/or beef product (kielbasa, smoked sausage, bacon, those large Eckridge franks with the cheese inside, that stuff from Canada that is called “bacon” but is really made of lies, prosciutto, pancetta, ham), thinly sliced

Cheesy white sauce:

4 tbsp butter
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk, heated almost to boiling
1 1/2 lb (that’s right, POUNDS) of good, sharp cheddar (about 6 cups), shredded
salt and pepper to taste

Oven preheated to 300F or slow cooker

Melt butter in a largeish pan until the sizzling stops. Stir in flour to make a paste and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Kill the heat and whisk in hot milk slowly. Continuing to whisk, heat sauce to a simmer. Slowly incorporate 3 cups of cheese, a small handful at a time, until melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper to

Random picture of a cat

Random picture of a cat

taste.

Into the bottom of your hopefully very massive slow cooker or dutch oven, ladle about a cup of sauce. Add a layer of potatoes (they can overlap a little at the edges, it’s not rocket science), a layer of onions, a scattering of meat, and a sprinkling of cheese. Continue layering in this way until you’re out of ingredients. I ended up at the top of my slow cooker with one more ladleful of sauce. Onto that I laid some prosciutto I had to use up; woe is me, and a final layer of cheese. Lid that bad boy and either set your slow cooker on low forever or on high for about 4 hours. When it’s done through, take off the lid and pop your cooker’s pot under your broiler for about 2-3 minutes. If you’re using the oven, be prepared to wait about 2, maybe 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid the last 30 minutes and allow cheese to brown.

When you can easily push a butter knife all the way down through the potatoes, your cheese and meat bomb is done. Serve with some kind of vegetable or a salad, for Pete’s sake. Or do what we do and eat it with fried eggs for breakfast.

Oh, and the sheep still don’t like me. I sat out there the other day with a little scoop of grain about five feet from me. The b– er, Sarsaparilla had the nerve to actually stamp her foot at me because I wouldn’t go away. I could see irritation in her eyes. She wanted to kick me, but she was too much of a chicken–har–to try.

Next time, I will let the hens eat it in front of her face.