Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Using wood ashes and charcoal with poultry and on the farm

In the Coop

We have been enjoying the wood stove a lot this winter.  Every now and then, you have to clean out the ashes.  Then, the question is...what do I do with these ashes?  Luckily, there are lots of uses for ashes on the farm.  

Here is a pic of Beck (cat)...she loves hanging out by the fire...with all the wet gloves, hats, and shoes!

Nutrition and Detox

To begin, wood ash contains important minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. Sprinkling a pinch of wood ash on the feed nourishes the girls, especially egg-laying chickens. They need these important minerals to lay eggs!  Wood ash also works as a detoxifier and removes toxins out of the chickens and ducks bodies.  I usually use a sifter to screen the ashes and remove the charcoal pieces.  (I even have some charcoal pills that I bought and take from time to time to help detox my system.)
I put the charcoal pieces into a small rubber tub and let the chickens and ducks "peck" at them.  Putting a little charcoal in the waterer is helpful in avoiding harmful algae and bacteria from developing. Side note: this will make the water a gray color which is not visually appealing.  

Pest Control

The fine ashes that fall through the sieve are mixed with sand and used to make a dust bath for the chickens.  Dust baths are great for keeping parasites from "bugging" the chickens because the ashes suffocate fleas, lice, and mites.  Ducks prefer to swim in water and preen to control pests so they do not use a dust bath.

Odor Control

Wood ash can neutralize coop odor. I just sprinkle some wood ash on top of the bedding on the floor.  The chickens like to scratch through it and will eat little pieces.  Wood ash reduces the amount of ammonia in manure by preventing fumes from forming. Wood ash is alkaline and mixing it with manure in the coop helps in regulating its acidity.  The ashes are absorbent too so they help to keep the coop dry too.

Natural De-icer

Another use is to put the ashes down on the ice to provide some traction.  There was a slab of ice forming in front of the door to the new coop so I spread a thin layer of ash on the ice and voila! No more slipping!  I wouldn't put ashes on the doorstep of your home because that would cause you to bring in lots of black yuck on your shoes but it is great for this situation because I always take my boots off first thing when I come back into the house...

In the Garden

Ashes are great in the garden for plants that prefer alkaline conditions such as asparagus, beets, tomatoes, and fruit trees.  If we have a bunch of extra ashes then I also add them to the compost bin and mix them in.  

In 2019, we got a new wood stove and it is so efficient that we do not get many ashes!  Luckily, we also have a large burn pile that I can harvest some ashes from in the summer.  I still wish I had more this winter.  I am using them as fast as we create them!  

Have an eggcellent week!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Christmas 2021 and Looking forward to 2022...

 Tis the Season...

Last winter, I decided to get a head start on making Christmas gifts for 2021.  I made hats using a loom.  I don't know how to knit but I watched a YouTube video to learn how to use an e-wrap stitch to make the hats.  It was simple to do and a great way to spend the evenings by the fire in the winter.  I am trying to teach myself a more sophisticated stitch this winter but it is not going so well and I am losing motivation.
Along with the hats, everyone got a mug from ReMARKable Eggs and a little jar of preserves.  Also, the women got Pumpkin seed brittle and the men got Smoked pumpkin seeds.  Mostly homemade gifts this year.  Here is a pic of my brother and his family enjoying some hot chocolate (I am guessing) in their ReMARKable Eggs mugs!

Small Reflection of the Past Year for ReMARKable Eggs

In regards to Mark's egg business, I just wanted to make a couple of notes.  Last summer, we switched from cardboard egg cartons to plastic cartons.  They are not recyclable at our local facility so that is a bad thing BUT we can reuse them multiple times.  When we were using the cardboard cartons, we would have to recycle 3 or 4 every week because they would just break down over time.  Since we have started using the plastic cartons, I think that we have only had to throw out one carton in 6 months of use!  The plastic cartons are also great because they don't fall apart if they get wet.  This just makes the plastic cartons SO much more economical.  Also, it is super fun to open the fridge and "see" all the eggs!

We are working hard to decrease business expenses so that profits are bountiful.  On that note, we are looking forward to 2022 and really getting Mark's egg business to a brand new level!  

2022...the year of the egg!
As you probably know, in early November, the double chicken coop was finally getting close to being completed.  It is finished enough that Mark could purchase some new chicks.  We put the chicks in the east half of the chicken coop.  He purchased 75 new chicks and 77 came and they all lived!  They should start laying in March.  It is amazing how fast these girls can grow...
Along with the current chickens, there is now a total of about 162 chickens (I think there are 85 of the older chickens...it is challenging to count the older girls...about half of the older chickens are 2 years old and the other half are 1 year old).  The older chickens in the barn will be moving into the west side of the chicken coop in spring 2022...probably around March or April.  I may be able to get a better count when they are moved.  Once the chicks start laying, this will double the egg production for 2022!  

There are about 48 ducks and we will use the 4 khaki campbell ducks and the drake (Dudley) to raise some ducklings to add to the duck flock in the spring.  The ducks have been laying well this winter and we seem to have plenty of duck eggs to sell so we don't need a lot more ducks.  We will process the drakes and possibly have some duck meat to sell which is a new venture...
Now...the original plan is to have yet another small chicken coop with another 75 chickens.  It has been just such a struggle to get the duck coop and the double chicken coop built that it is discouraging to think about starting another coop building journey.  Obviously, we are NOT going to use the contractor that we had been using.  Henry thinks that we should just keep using the barn as the 3rd coop but I don't like the set up of the barn for the chickens.  We have just been using it to make the best of a bad situation AND I have plans for that barn for some other type of poultry...to be announced at a later date...

Once the chicks are full grown, in a couple months, and they start eating "regular" chicken feed (they are eating chick starter now), we will be able to source a "big" bag of feed.  This should help with decrease business expenses more!  Currently, we buy 40 pound bags of feed but once everyone is eating the same feed, we can buy a huge 1000 pound bag of feed.  This is where economies of scale fits in to make the egg business more sustainable.  Buying in bulk really helps the bottom line.  So eggcited that we are finally at a level to make this happen!

To wrap up 2021, Mark has just over 200 poultry now and the goal is to have close to 300.  We will get there but it is going to take longer than anticipated.  Mark is turning 21 years old on January 11th so we have time!  Building up his business is a marathon and not a sprint...and we are working hard to make his business profitable and sustainable!

ReMARKable Farms Review and Expansion???

My farm business is mostly selling preserves.  I have also planted sunflowers to sell in the summer.  I am thinking of ways to expand the flower business and I want to plant more perennial flowers.  I know where I want to put them but I just have not had the time to move ahead on that project.  I am always thinking of other "food type" items that I may be able to sell at the Farmers Market that fit within the Idaho Cottage Food Rules.  I have decided to move ahead with making flavored vinegars.  Mostly because I can use items that we are currently growing to do this.  For example, we have a patch of raspberries so it would be easy to make some raspberry infused vinegar.  I could also expand to more "exotic" vinegars like nasturtium or pine needle.  I just need to really ramp up the apple cider vinegar production so I have vinegar to flavor!   Side note:  I also considered making some pumpkin seed brittle to sell.  I may still do this...just thinking it over more...
I know I have listed off these items that I want to do and it seems like a pretty straight forward list but it has taken MONTHS to put this list together...the ideas sometimes come quickly and more slowly at other times...working to have balance in my life!

Last note...we have gotten a lot of snow!  Enjoying the beauty of the season!
Hope you have enjoyed these random thoughts and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Perry Christmas! Making perry and roasting chicory! Cheers!

 In the Kitchen

Tried something new this fall and made perry!  Perry is similar to hard apple cider.  Apple cider is made with apples and perry is made with pears.  I started the perry a couple of months ago when the pears were dropping off the trees and just bottled it up a couple of days ago.  Now, it will age for a few months!  Of course, I will be giving it a taste on Christmas...Perry Christmas!

Here is a brief look at how I made it.  The first step was to make the pear juice.  I used my steamer juicer for this step.  The side benefit of this step is that it also pasteurizes the juice so I don't have to do this later.  Yes, you can ferment unpasteurized juice but I like to start with a "clean" juice and add the yeast in a controlled manner (this is because I am a control freak).

Another benefit of the steamer juicer is that I took the juiced pears and ran them through a Squeezo Strainer (thank you Julie Skinner) and made some pear sauce!  I will use this for baking.  It is great for eating too but Mark prefers applesauce.  Now, I can use the pear sauce for baking and keep all our applesauce for eating.  Win!  Win!

Back to the perry...after collecting the juice, I checked the specific gravity with a hygrometer.  This is a measure of the sugar that is in the juice.  The yeast will eat the sugar in the pear juice and turn it into alcohol.  One thing of note: the yeast feed on fructose.  Pears contain sorbitol sugar in addition to fructose.  The fructose is "eaten" but the yeast cannot eat sorbitol.  Therefore, perry should be naturally more sweet than apple cider because of the sorbitol.  I love this about pears!
I added the yeast and let it work...
After a couple of weeks, the ferment calmed down and I racked it into another gallon jug.  I left it for another couple of months.  Then, I added a small amount of sugar to each bottle and let it go through a secondary ferment so that it will be bubbly when it is opened to drink!  I did make some hard apple cider a couple of years ago and you can read more about that by clicking HERE.  I have also made apple wine and I really like it even better than the hard cider!  Here is the perry all bottled up and going through a second ferment...I will put it in the fridge on Friday!

In the Herb Garden

When the temperatures get cool, I pull up the chicory plants in the food forest and herb garden and process the roots.  I wash them, dehydrate them, roast them and then grind them.  I had read that chickens like chicory greens and that is why I planted them initially.  I didn't even know that the roots could be used!  Chicory is a caffeine free coffee substitute.  It brews a rich dark roast with a robust flavor and a slightly woody, nutty taste.  I like to put a little cinnamon, sweetener and milk in mine.  I wrote a blog post about making chicory coffee a couple years ago and you can find it HERE.

I gave the ducks the tops of the chicory to eat and they just LOVED it!  Here is a picture of before they ate it...
Here is a pic of the chicory after they were done.  They pretty much stripped all the leaves off.
Here I tried to get a pic of some of the roots...this is a perennial plant so it produces a large tap root!
Some benefits of chicory:
CHICORY INULIN POWDER (Cichorium Intybus) – Extremely high in inulin, an important prebiotic fiber that supports gut health
HIGH DIETARY FIBER | SUPPORTS DIGESTIVE HEALTH – This dark roast coffee with naturally occurring inulin fiber, helps boost fiber intake, and promotes the growth of key gut bacteria essential for healthy digestion
CAFFEINE FREE COFFEE SUBSTITUTE – Features a delicious, roasted coffee-like taste, and supports a healthy alternative to hot caffeinated drinks. Perfect for coffee lovers!  You can also mix some chicory into your coffee grounds to lower the caffeine and acidity of your coffee.

It is fun to make drinks from plants that we grow and forage for on the farm.  I also dry some peppermint leaves for making peppermint tea and lemon verbena makes a lovely hot lemony drink.  There are so many great herbs to grow and use in the kitchen.  The possibilities seem limitless!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Egg bound chicken?

 In the Coop

Well, here goes another "never say never" story...

On Friday, November 26th, I went to go put the chickens up for the night and one of them could not walk straight.  It almost looked like she had been drinking a little too much and was staggering around drunk.  I picked her up and put her in the quarantine cage.  I was in a hurry so I didn't give it much thought.  In the past, I have put chickens in there that looked a little "off" and in the morning they are just fine.  BUT...I was a little worried about this one and prepared myself to come out and find a dead chicken the next morning.  

Saturday morning I went out to the chicken barn and she was still standing upright!  Yeah!  I had a busy day so I just left her in the cage because she still didn't seem totally right so I didn't want to let her out of the cage.  Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I had some time to start googling.  Almost immediately, I found a picture of an egg bound chicken and I knew this must be the problem.  She is standing with her tail down and her feet wide apart and kind of walking like a penguin (which is not natural).
She was also lethargic, puffed up and squatting like she was trying to lay an egg.  All these are symptoms of a chicken being egg bound.  Egg binding can happen when a chicken is trying to lay a particularly large or misshaped egg.  Also, if there is an internal infection in reproductive tract, this may cause a hen to be egg bound.  

Now that we have diagnosed the problem, what can be done?  The first thing that was noted on many websites is that a chicken that is egg bound can die if the egg is not expelled with 24-48 hours.  You see, a chicken has a vent and everything goes out that vent...the egg and the feces.  Chickens don't pee so they lay some pretty soft, squishy poop out of their vent.  If a chicken is egg bound, it also means that they cannot poop.  This is not good and time was not on our side because she had already been in the quarantine cage almost 48 hours!  

Side note:  Because chickens are prey animals, they hide things quite well.  Chickens won’t show their symptoms until they are really, really sick.  Also, since they live in a pecking order, they don't want to show to the other chickens that they are weak or they will get bullied.

After more googling (here is a link to a great article about How to Identify and Treat an Egg Bound Chicken), it looks like you are supposed to give the chicken a warm bath.  The warm water works as a muscle relaxer to loosen things up in there and to get the egg to pass.  I put some warm water in a tub and added some Epsom salt too.  Several articles I read said that you could massage the abdomen to encourage things to start moving.  The first time I gave her a soaking bath, she did not want me to touch her belly area so I just left her in there to soak for about 20 minutes.  I also crushed up some Tums and put them on top of her food and in her water.  I had read to try and give her calcium.  I guess calcium induces contractions and will help to get that egg out.   

We dried her off and put her into her quarantine cage and kept her in the house.  We wanted her in a warm spot since she had just been in a soaking tub and was wet.  On Monday morning, she was still alive (yeah again!) but no egg or poop had been expelled...back into the tub for an early morning soak.  This time she let me massage her abdomen and it felt kind of squishy.  She was really not eating much so I gave her a bone from a steak that we had eaten the night before.  She really liked that.  

In the early afternoon, I gave her another bath.  We could see her vent working but nothing was coming out.  It was then that I made a decision that I said I was NEVER going to do...take a chicken to the vet.  I called over to the WSU Veterinary Hospital and they said to bring her over...
Unfortunately, the vet did not think she could be saved.  She said there was more going on that just being egg bound.  She said that she may have had some internal infection (remember that "squishy" stomach).  We let them put her down and some of the students will get to cut her open and see what was going on.  I hope the vet students can learn something...a silver lining?  So grateful that the vet was super nice and did not charge us an emergency fee for bringing her in.  

This is sad but unfortunately, it just happens sometimes.  I can think of at least 2 other times when I walked into the barn or coop and just found a dead chicken and one dead duck.  I think this chicken was in a lot of pain so it was best to just have her put down than to suffer.  We tried our best to help her.  You win some and you lose some.  The best part is that we learned about what an egg bound chicken looks like and we know what to do to help in the future.

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

In the Kitchen

Many years ago I started to make our own apple cider vinegar.  It was my first attempt at fermenting something.  Then, when we bought the farm, it was fortuitous that there are 50 apple trees on the property!   AND the apples from those trees were picked and taken to a vinegar plant in downtown Moscow in the mid-1900's.  Here is a pic of the vinegar plant at the corner of Main and C Street in the 1920's.  It was demolished in the 1950's or 60's...my sources were not precise on the demolition timing...

The neighbor said that the trees are mostly Ben Davis apples.  These apples were popular in the the late 1800’s because they had good storage qualities and could be transported successfully over long distances.  This means that most of the trees on our property now are over a hundred years old...no wonder they are so tall!  One interesting fact that I found is that the Ben Davis apple was crossed with McIntosh to make the Cortland apple.  I think you probably will not find a Ben Davis apple in your local grocery store but you may be able to locate a Cortland and McIntosh.  Her is a pic I took a couple of years ago showing some of the different apples on our property...the first apple in the pic is what I would consider a Ben Davis apple.  I am not sure about the other apples.  The third one could be a McIntosh.  There is only a couple trees that produce these more red colored apples.  There are about 3 crabapple type trees (last apple).  Crabapples bloom early so this is to make sure that there is plenty of blooms available for pollination in the spring.  

It is easy to make your own apple cider vinegar.  You just need to get some apples and it helps to start with some vinegar to inoculate the batch and get it fermenting.  The sugar and pectin in apples reacts with beneficial yeast and bacteria to make the "mother".   The mother is what holds all the nutrition and healing properties.  If you buy some ACV from the store, make sure it says "raw" apple cider vinegar.  Braggs is a popular brand that contains living mother.

Here is how I make Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Fill a half gallon jar about half full of warm (NOT HOT) water. MUST BE UNCHLORINATED WATER.  If you only have chlorinated water, boil it or let it sit for 24 hours so chlorine can dissipate.

2. Add 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.

3. Add 2 cups of chopped apple.  You can also use scraps, like peelings, to make the vinegar.  I would stick to using organic apples, if possible.

4. Add 1 cup of vinegar mother.

5. Fill the rest of the way up with warm water and then place a lid on so that NO PIECES OF APPLE ARE ABOVE THE WATER LINE.  I use a smaller jar as a type of lid to push the apple pieces under the water.  Do not use any metal or it may corrode.  

6. Cover with coffee filter and wrap towel around jar and set in a dark area that is about 70 degrees.  This allows it to breath but keeps fruit flies out.  Leave for 3-4 weeks.

7. Strain off vinegar.  Give apples to your chickens!  Save 1 cup of the vinegar to start your next batch.  You should have harvested about 1 ½ quarts of vinegar BUT IT’S NOT READY YET…  

8. Pour freshly harvested vinegar into new jars and let sit another 4 weeks to age.  Again, no metal lids (I know the middle jar in this pic has a metal lid but I was gifting it to someone that was going to use it right away and I was out of plastic lids!)  Now, after aging 4 weeks, the ACV is ready to use!

I just read that you can put an eggshell into your ferment and this will add a little calcium to your ACV.  I would add it in when you make the initial batch with the apples.  I have never done this before but I am going to give it a try.

Some tips to make your ACV fermentation successful

Keep your ACV ferment in a different place than other ferments in your home i.e. I keep my kombucha in a closet downstairs and my ACV in a pantry upstairs.

The longer you give the vinegar to ferment, the stronger the taste and tang will be.  When the vinegar is to your liking, you can put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermenting.

The length of the fermentation process will vary based on the temperature in your home.  During summer, the ACV will take less time to ferment. In winter, it will likely take longer...however...we use a wood stove in our basement in the winter and it gets crazy hot down there in the winter so it just depends what the air temp is in your home...

If you see a gelatinous blob developing in the ACV, this is a “mother” and you can add it to your next ferment to get things going even faster.

Uses for ACV

Drink it!  ACV is a great probiotic.  It may not taste the best, but it is generally considered safe to add 1 Tablespoon of ACV to a cup of water to drink.  Beware…can erode tooth enamel…I am not going to go into all the health benefits associated with ACV in this post but if you are interested in reading more, here is a link to an article by Dr. Axe that is very thorough on this subject.

Use ACV as a substitute for plain vinegar in any cooking recipe; Use ACV instead of lemon juice in homemade mayonnaise

Homemade Broth – add a tablespoon of ACV to your bones to help get the minerals out

Make salad dressing:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Store in the refrigerator. Just before serving, shake dressing again.

Water Bath Canner or Steamer Juicer – I add a tablespoon of ACV to the water in my canner/juicer to keep the minerals from building up inside

Fruit Fly Traps – I just pour some in a small dish and keep it near my composting container on my counter.  I also add a couple drops of dish soap to the dish.

Vinegar is an acid and is great for cleaning because it kills microorganisms...Make your own all-purpose cleaner with one part water and one part ACV.  Use it to clean hard surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, including countertops, hard water stains, and drains.

Daily Shower Cleaner
1.5 cups water
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
1 teaspoon liquid dish soap (I like this kind– affiliate link)
15 drops lemon essential oil (these are my favorite essential oils ever)
15 drops melaleuca (tea tree) essential oil
Mix all the ingredients together in a quart-sized spray bottle.
Shake well, and spray onto shower surfaces every day after use.
Remember–this is designed as a maintenance spray, so I would suggest starting with a clean shower first. It won’t remove built-on grime by itself, it’ll just slow down the process.

Homemade Hair Rinses
After shampooing, just mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, massage into your hair, and rinse off. It helps remove buildup, it also works as a natural detangler and general scalp revitalizer. Best not to use this hair rinse if you have color treated hair.  Due to ACV's antimicrobial properties, it can help with alleviating dandruff.

Foot Soak
Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water with a tablespoon of Epsom salt. Soak your feet in the bath for 20 minutes. After soaking, rinse off feet and coat your feet in a hydrating cream, put on a pair of socks, and let the lotion sit on them overnight.

I love our old apple trees but, to be honest, they are not that pretty to look at...a lot of them have a bunch of dead wood in them but it is way up high to where we cannot reach it to trim it out.  When there are strong winds, a few branches get blown out.  We pick them up and save for the wood stove.  Apple wood is amazing for the fireplace!  It is a hardwood and burns crazy hot!  Also, our trees are infected with codling moth and so a lot of the fruit has little bug holes in it.  Luckily, we get so many apples that we can pick around the insect damage and still get lots of apples for making sauce and apple pie filling.  Once the chicken coops get finished, we are hoping that we can let the chickens out under the apple trees and get them to clean up some of the debris to keep the bug population under control...we will see...I could go on and on about apples...we just love them and feel so blessed to have these old trees on the property!

Have an eggcellent day!


Sunday, November 7, 2021

New girls (and a BOY!) on the farm...

In the Coop

Have you heard that saying that goes "Never say never"?  This kind of falls into that category.  When we were planning Mark's egg business, we had an idea to raise our own birds to replace the older girls in the flock.  I did a lot of research and decided that Welsh Harlequin ducks would be great because they autosex.  This means that you can tell the male hatchlings from the female hatchlings.  You could separate the ducklings after they hatch and raise the males for meat and save the females for egg laying.  Well...then, I started doing some research on incubating eggs.  It is expensive because you need an incubator (that costs several hundred dollars to get a good one).  AND it is actually quite challenging to make sure the heat and humidity correct.  If one thing goes wrong, you can lose the whole hatch.  I realized that maybe this was not going to be an efficient way to start the egg business.  This is when I started looking into egg laying breeds and found the Golden Hybrid 300 ducks that we ended up purchasing.  The "300" means that these ducks are to lay 300 eggs a year.  We have gotten 2 batches of these ducklings and we like them just fine.  HOWEVER, I don't think we are getting close to 300 eggs a year from each duck.  

I recently saw a post in a homesteading Facebook group of some Khaki Campbell ducks available.  The mother of the drake laid 335 eggs in her first year!  SOLD!  We purchased 4 ducks and a drake.  BTW:  I saw someone else post that they had some of the Golden Hybrid 300 ducks and they did not think that they were getting that many eggs/year either.  They are great ducks but I just don't believe they are living up to their namesake.

In September, the new ducks came to the farm.  (There is a video at the end of the post of when we got them.)  They are about 8 weeks old in this pic and they all look pretty much the same.  

The big question is how do you sex them when they all look the same?  The lady that I got them from said she can voice sex them.  I did not really know what she was talking about.  I knew that drakes do not quack but I didn't know what noise they made.  One day I was out with the ducks and I heard a frog.  Then, I realized that it wasn't a frog...it was the drake!  Here is a short video of the drake.  He is 16 weeks old in this video and his head had turned a beautiful green color so it is pretty easy to tell him apart at this point.  He speaks at the 16 second mark in this video and again at the 1 minute and 5 seconds mark.
The Khaki Campbell ducks look very similar to the Golden Hybrid 300 ducks.  I have read that the Golden Hybrid 300 is a cross between a Khaki Campbell and a mallard duck.  The plan is in the spring to move the 4 ducks and the drake to their own shelter and fencing.  Then, we will let the ducks raise their own ducklings.  I think this may be a more successful way to raise ducklings than using the incubator.  Then, when the ducklings are around 7 weeks old, we would process the males and put the females back into the big flock of ducks.  This is why you need to be able to sex them at 7 weeks, it is easier to process ducks before they put on their pin feathers after 7 weeks of age.  
I just bought this portable shelter that we will use for the Khaki Campbell ducks and drake in the spring.
Here is a video of when we got the ducks.  I went to get them in the evening and had put them into a cage.  Then, we put the cage into the coop that evening but left the new ducks in the cage for the night.  I came in the next morning to let them out.  They were pretty high strung!  Of course, the mature ducks also picked on them because the pecking order is a real thing.  Please know that no ducks were hurt badly.  I watched them for quite a while and after the first day, they were pretty much assimilated into the flock with no problem.
I put fancy little yellow band on the new ducks but their feet were so small that the bands fell off!  I actually put new red bands on them a few weeks later.  They mostly hang together in a little group within the larger flock.  Here is a recent pic of the drake...I think he is quite handsome...it is a little difficult to see in the pic but he has his curly tail feather now!  This is another identifying characteristic of a drake...
I just gathered these eggs yesterday and we "may" be getting some eggs from the new ducks!  The egg in the middle is a regular sized duck egg.  The first egg is a double yolker.  When the ducks (and chickens) first start to lay, they give a lot of double yolkers as their little internal egg system is working out the kinks of how to lay an egg.  The third egg may be a pee wee duck egg.  It is about the size of a chicken egg.  So, the double yolker and the pee wee eggs may be from the new ducks!  
These are not the only new poultry to come to the farm.  The chickens are getting ready to molt.  When they molt, they lose their old feathers and grow new feathers.  This takes a lot of energy and they quit laying eggs while this happens.  To make sure we have enough eggs for Mark's delivery route, he bought some 10 month old pullets to add to the chicken flock a couple of weeks ago!

They are a Rhode Island Red and are known to be great egg layers.  They are a darker red color than the other girls so they are pretty easy to tell apart.  The chicken in the upper left is a new girl and the bottom right is one of the existing flock.
The contractor has come and parked his utility trailer at our property.  He said that he does not have a lot of other projects now so he will be finishing up the chicken coop (FINALLY!).  I am hoping he is correct and then we will be able to order some more chicks in a couple months and put them in the new coop!

So where does the "never say never" part come in?  After researching about incubating eggs, it just seemed like too much variables that might not work so I just thought we would never actually try to raise our own ducks but now we are!  We are going to try and let them raise their own babies and not do the incubator.  Hoping this works!

Have an eggcellent day!

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Smoking seeds!

 In the Kitchen

I love seeds!  I love planting seeds, saving seeds and eating seeds!  Seeds are so healthy.  An egg is similar to a seed.  It has everything in it to grow a new organism!  Because of this, they are extremely nutritious (both seeds and eggs!).  Seeds have protein, fiber, healthy fats, and important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  When consumed as part of a healthy diet, seeds can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, boost digestive health, and fight free radial formation.  Here is a great article about seeds and how they are different from nuts, grains and beans.

I really enjoy putting both sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds on my salads.  Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E, thiamine and manganese. Pumpkin seeds are high in healthy fats and protein and rich in manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.  

A couple years ago I learned that you could grow hulless pumpkin seeds inside a pumpkin.  They do not have the harder, tan seed coat.  They are the green seeds.  I see them for sale in the grocery store as pepitos.  Well, this year I had a bumper crop of the pepito pumpkins!  Here is a pic of our barn cat, Apple Jack, sitting on the deck with the pumpkins in the background.  I think I had about 40 of them!
They are small pumpkins and the flesh is not really that good for eating.  I have learned how to scoop the seeds out, wash them and then put them into the dehydrator to dry them down for storage.  This year, I decided to try smoking some!  I also decided to try smoking some sunflower seeds.  This was actually a request from Joshua.  One day he asked if he could eat the sunflower seeds so I figured...why not?  This is what we did to smoke the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  

First, I cut the pumpkins in half and scooped out the green seeds.  
I roasted the flesh part of the pumpkins and we fed that to the chickens and ducks!  Joshua enjoys feeding the ducks each afternoon when he gets home from school.  Here is a video of him feeding pumpkin and sunflower seeds to the ducks...
Here is a pic of the sunflower heads that we harvested seeds from...  
We were able to get gray colored seeds, some black seeds and striped seeds.
The next step is to boil the seeds in salt water.  I put 8 cups water in a pot and then added 1/4 cup salt. and boiled the seeds for 15 minutes.  When I boiled the sunflower seeds, they all turned black...but then when they dried back out, the color dissipated and you could see the different kinds again.
Then, I strained off the salt water and put them on metal trays.  I put them into the smoker at 230 degrees F.  I used hickory smoke for 2 hours and then continued to bake them in the smoker for a couple more hours.  I wanted to make sure they were nice and dry.  I also stirred the seeds every 30 minutes.  Let me reiterate, for long time storage, the seeds have to be bone dry or they will mold.
Finally, once they were dry, I gathered them up and put in a jar!  
They both taste amazing and I am happy that I decided to try something new with the pumpkin seeds.  This will definitely spice up my salads this winter!  Or they will be great just as a healthy snack!  The seeds in this jar are from about 5 pumpkins so I am going to have about 8 times that amount when I am done!  I am not going to do anymore of the sunflower seeds...I think these will keep us busy for a while!

One last note:  you can totally do this with the seeds you get out of your Jack-o'-lantern pumpkin!  Or seeds from you butternut squash!  Or any winter squash!  You know, the seeds with the shells!  They will be crunchier but we always roast some pumpkin seeds in the oven each year.  I really liked boiling in salt water because I can never get the salt to stick well after they have been roasted so this is a great hack to get nice salty seeds.  If you don't have a smoker, you can add some liquid smoke to the seeds before you roast them in the oven!  I usually put some butter/olive oil on the seeds before I roast them in the oven so you just add about a tablespoon of liquid smoke to the oil and mix it all together well and then roast in the oven.  Yum!!!

Have an eggcellent day!