Sunday, July 31, 2011

Update on our May chicks

I figured it was time to do a quick update on the "surprise" chicks I got while Jason was out of town in May (detailed here). They are now 12 weeks old. All 7 are healthy and seemingly happy. Our initial plan to keep just three has now ballooned into keeping 6. In early August we were going to give some good friends 3 of the birds. However, they have decided to wait until mid-Fall to build a coop, get chickens, etc. So, we will keep the three Cuckoo Marans and three of what were supposedly Araucanas, but what I think are in fact Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers (because they have tails and true Araucanas don't - and ours definitely have tails).

The three Marans are carbon copies of each other physically, though there is always one that is much more trusting of us and more pet-ish than the other two. Of the Ameraucanas, we're keeping the white one (the "Blonde Snuggler" Jason referred to in his earlier post), the one that has kind of leopard-like markings (just because she's really pretty), and a more plain orange one. It was a toss up between the two orange-colored ones because personality-wise there is nothing that distinguishes one from the other. I'm choosing to go with the plain one because the other has markings similar to the "leopard" one, and I want the three Ameraucanas we're keeping to be completely different.

The leopard-print one we're keeping

We're keeping the more plain orange one in the back right of this picture

As for the white one - I think we're going to call her Dove. She is still just as sweet as pie. I told Jason today that if I were a European queen from the 1700s, I wouldn't have a lap dog - I'd have a lap chicken! And Dove would be the lucky hen. I'd go down in the history books as that crazy chicken-loving queen. It seems that at this rate I'm heading in that direction anyway. Not the queen direction - the crazy chicken lover direction! A friend on Facebook recently called me a Chick-onista for figuring out that one of her hens was a certain rare breed. I could get used to that name! -Carrie

Sweet Dove - what more can I say?

Friday, July 29, 2011

What's Another 35 Chickens?- Why we do what we do

In the words of Mr. Potato Head in the movie Toy Story, "HE'S AT IT AGAIN!!!!" You may remember an article I posted a few months ago in the dead of winter, Moving Chickens- A tale from Tuscany, where we describe the nuances of moving chickens around in the winter to keep them safe and sound. The other day I had a flashback to that day and the one that followed, Loco Diablo el Pollo, and told myself that I really didn't want to do that again. (The headache stemmed from trying to manage baby chicks through the cold of winter.)

Another dynamic that developed over the past few weeks as some of our Black Sexlink clutch started laying was really trying to figure out who is laying and who is not. As it stands now, two or three could stop laying altogether and we would never know it. Some level of knowledge was desired. We decided that if we wanted 12 layers for ourselves, then what we needed were 3 white layers, 3 tinted layers, 3 light brown layers, and 3 dark brown layers.

The suggestion was made to Carrie that if we were going to raise another clutch of chicks, this was the time to do it, as it's a bazillion degrees out, which little chicks like, and they would be hardy enough for winter when it got here.

So the wheels got turning and we discussed this decision with the kids in case they wanted to put an order in for a particular pet chicken that they wanted. Kristen took us up on the deal, Will decided to pass. One of the kids, and I don't remember who, asked why we're doing this again. We already had more than enough chickens. Why order 35 more?

In short the answer is this... This has turned into a hobby of sorts for us. We've gotten so much pleasure out of watching our chickens grow and watching their antics. There are days when it's been a headache, sure, but the joy outweighs the pain by ten fold. Additionally, there's a good feeling when I open my fridge and see food in it which traveled 50 ft. total to be there. We believe in the local food/clean food movement. By raising chickens and selling them to others, we enable them to participate in this movement and we've made some friends with like minded beliefs along the way. I'll take a friend like that any day! -Jason

FYI - The chicks should arrive next Thursday - 8/04. Will post soon thereafter with some pictures!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Compost Update (Way-Belated!)

While I've written about the compost efforts on our property before, I wanted to give you a belated update on our most recent (i.e. May) batch of chicken-run compost. Now, keep in mind this beautiful compost started out as free hardwood rough-cut mulch from our local tree trimmer. We also added a slight sprinkling of free straw now and again for kicks. Unfortunately I don't have a before picture, but the after pictures are a testament to the power of deep littering your chickens. This large compost pile is the result of our chickens pooping, dust-bathing, scratching, and just doing their inherent chicken-things in and amongst the mulch for about 6 months. This is what it looked like the day we took it out of the coop! The ultimate amendment for the gardens. -Carrie

Isn't she the cutest chicken-poop compost model you've ever seen???

Hats off to .o9 Acres!

Please enjoy this article from the Newport News Daily Press on one of our favorite bloggers from .09 Acres, Dave Krop. -Jason

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Could Pearly Believe it: Gleaning from a neighbors fruit tree

Last year while biking with my son, we passed by a house I had passed a thousand times before. This time, however, I noticed a hundred little green and red orbs attached to the limbs of a tree on the side of this house. Pears! I love this fruit like a squirrel loves nuts. I found one that had fallen from the tree already and took it home to identify the variety. Turns out, it's a Seckel. From what I read, these small fruits pack a lot of flavor and are said to be one of the sweeter pears.

I approached the home owner and obtained his permission to pick the tree. He didn't want them and as a matter of fact, they were creating a mess for him. Alas, it was not meant to be last year, as we waited too long to harvest and only took home seven, which had a poor texture. This year I was on my game and we got to the harvest on July 13th. Seckels have an early harvest compared to other pears, and I was pleased to find all pears passing the pick test: Lift and turn slightly, if it comes off, keep it. Twelve pounds was the final total... FREE! Into the fridge they went, save one or two for testing.

The question kept looming in our heads though, how are they going to taste? Will they be as good as everyone says? They come off the tree hard as rocks, will they ripen like we want them to? The taste may develop, but how will the texture be? Did we pick too early or too late? I swear, we were like expecting parents. I know,you're right.... I was like an expecting parent.

One week later Carrie handed me one of the test pears, and the firmness had declined. It was a bit softer. But how would it taste? AWESOME! Perfect texture and truly amazing flavor. My only regret is that we had just a small one to share between Carrie, myself, and our youngest son. Since we can't share with you the taste, I'll leave you with a picture of testament to the flavor. You can see Carrie above attacking the carcass of the pear like a Cajun on a turkey leg at the state fair. It doesn't get much better than that! -Jason