Category Archives: Chickens – Chooks

Free is Never Free

It has finally warmed up and i moved my laying hens out of their winter abode in the garden into their new safe haven of a fenced lot in the pasture.  I then move them about once a week, depending on forage availability during the growing season.  Now, warm weather, sunshine, lengthening daylight, and out on pasture make happy hens lay oodles of eggs.

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To keep these Welsummers safe, i must use an electrified netting or every critter in the country will kill them.  Even the hawks and eagles circle above, but chickens can be smart and they’ll spot an aerial predator immediately and take cover in their eggmobile.  
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Winter abode

When i posted these photos on Facebook, one fellow suggested, ‘ Eggs are hard to come by at some of the big city grocery stores these days… you might wanna put those up on Amazon (:’

Given the expense and logistics of shipping a very breakable commodity, it’s just not worth the cost, so i end up giving away extras to people who help me throughout the year and will never accept a payment.  Plus, nobody is going to pay what it actually costs to produce them.  Springtime provides a lot of eggs, but the supply will dwindle as the daylight hours are shortened and as hens get older.  Prime laying is only through their third year of life (max!)

Please know, however, that i don’t just give them away willy nilly (i do like to give them to people who do things for me but will never take payment) because it harms those who are trying to make a living at it. In a similar fashion, when US Aid sends tons of grain as a ‘help’ to other countries, it drives down the market price for the local farmers scratching out a living. Much the same happens here when our markets are opened to meat that is produced overseas for far less than what we can produce it here. Free stuff is never free.

Philadelphia Scrapple – My Version

Philadelphia Scrapple

Philadelphia Scrapple

Cooking time: about 4 hours   Servings: 12-24 servings

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-3 lbs stewing hen (you’ll need about 6 cups of ground meat)
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Slow cook stewing hen until tender.  Remove meat from skin and bones and cut meat into pieces.  Place meat back into cooking water with sage and cayenne pepper and simmer 2 to 3 hours.  Drain and reserve stock.

Chop meat with a knife or food processor, being careful not to grind it too fine. Set aside.

(Note that i had already done all the above and just froze ground meat separately from plain chicken stock – i only add spices when ready to make this recipe)

Measure 5 cups of stock and return to pot.  Bring to a simmer, add meat, cornmeal, salt, and peppers, then stir constantly until thick and smooth – about 15 to 30 minutes.

Pour mixture into 2 loaf pans and refrigerate until completely chilled.  Un-mold scrapple.  Slice and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides.

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Whilst stirring, you may need to break up clumps of corn meal
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Whilst stirring, you may need to break up any clumps of corn meal.
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The mixture needs to be thick to hold together once you’ve removed from pan.
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Refrigerate or cool outside like i did here since it’s colder outside than in the frig anyway!

 

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No need to grease or butter the loaf pan, but definitely sliding a knife around the edge to loosen really helps it ease out of the pan.
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I’m using beef fat here for frying, but butter or olive oil works just as well.

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Fry on low-medium heat, then carefully flip to reveal this crispy brown side, fry the other side, then ready to serve.
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Philadelphia Scrapple with egg – this is just a terrible photo, but you get the idea.  Notice the pale yolk on our farm egg – that’s a winter egg.  No green grass out there now.
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Despite the savory aspect of scrapple, you may enjoy just a smidgen of syrup on this.  Try it on just a corner.  We are so fortunate to buy pure maple syrup from our neighbor – Coyote Orchard, Purdin, Missouri.
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Almost all gone! Yum!

Farmers Are Obsolete – Joel Salatin

I don’t always agree with Joel Salatin, but he seldom fails to inspire critical thinking.

Reblogged from The Lunatic Farmer  Joel Salatin

FARMERS ARE OBSOLETE

            A major article published in The Guardian last week by George Monbiot, producer of the film Apocalypse Cow, reports that very soon we won’t need farmers any more.  I know, the tendency for us reasonable people is to just laugh this off and dismiss it as idiocy, but believe me, this is the serious narrative driving food policy around the planet right now.

             The article is about a Helsinki, Finlind company named Solar Foods that uses modified bacteria and supercharged hydrogen from water to brew proteins in giant vats.  Supposedly the energy comes from water an sun.   The plant-based fake meat movement, of course, uses either soybeans or field peas as a protein base.

             In this Finnish process, the feedstock is simply water and manipulated microbes.  According to Monbiot, the yellow froth created by this process can be arranged into meat, milk, eggs, fish–virtually anything.  Leftover carbohydrates can of course be made into crackers and pasta.  With complete faith and obvious enthusiasm, he claims that “all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming:  brewing microbes through precision fermentation.”

             A huge sector of the planet now believes we are all going to die by 2040.  I’m more than 60 years old and I’ve been hearing this all my life.  Paul Ehrlich said we’d be out of oil by the early 1980s and he was quoted like a god in the 1970s.  I well remember watching documentaries in grade school that said by the 1990s we’d be in an ice age due to atmospheric carbon dioxide buildup.  Or we’d be bombed by the Russians first, or we’d all be crispy critters in a nuclear holocaust.

             May I go on record today as saying we will have farmers in 2040?  Monbiot, quoting a group called RethinkX predicts that by 1935 we’ll see a 90 percent collapse in the beef industry and the dairy industry will be all but nonexistent.  And I suppose we’re all going to eat the same thing planet-wide:  fermented proteins.

             Oh, and get this, because of the efficiency of these vats, all this microbial slurry will be produced in the desert since that’s where the best solar energy is, and it’ll be so cheap we’ll all eat “handsomely” (his word).  No hunger.  Everybody eating only what’s good for them, on pennies a day.

             And the snow only falls in the fields and not on the roads; the leaves fall into neat little piles, and it only rains at night.  Camelot here we come.  And all of us on the planet will be grateful to dine out of a microbial slurry that surely will be democratically arranged socially so big companies and governments will not be able to control the new food supply.

             Monbiot’s anger at current orthodox farm policy, animal treatment, ecological destruction, nutrient deficiency and all the other dysfunctions of the food and farming system are real and correct.  I say “amen.”  But the answer is not hydrogen-infused microbes in slurry vats; the answer is correct food and farming.  We know how to do it.

             Just imagine if Monbiot’s exultant vision of this vat-froth future came into reality.  Every single food morsel would be identical.  No terroir.  No breed differences.  No cultural heterosis.

  That anybody thinks we can distill soil intricacies, plant and animal intricacies, the human micro-biome intricacies into a single manufactured microbial hydrogen-infused froth is simply living in la-la land.  This whole message would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.  I can tell you that some scientists and politicians actually believe this kind of stuff and make policies accordingly, like taxing beef as if it is a hazardous substance.  Whenever I read this kind of stuff, I sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that 500 years ago the planet produced far more food than it does today–with no waste.  People didn’t eat it all, but the pounds of animals on the planet was far higher 500 years ago than it is today.

             Do you think we’re all going to be dead by 2040 unless we eat microbial froth and eliminate livestock?

They’re Laying!!!

Back home and starting to get settled into regular chores and a few moving ahead projects.  Despite coming home to sub zero temps, 1/4 inch ice, and swirling snow, just two days later it is starting to melt and at 33 degrees F (headed to 44F just before dark), it’s not too bad outside.

While i was gone, my silly Welsummer hens began laying – thank goodness – they are about 7 months old and until this past week had laid not one single egg!  Apparently, they had not read the book that they are a breed which starts laying at 5-6 months.  Granted, i am willing to give them a pass because i did accept them after June 8 (because of Nathan and Heather’s wedding and knowing we would be gone, i didn’t want baby chicks around), so that put them going into the shorter days which is typically when hens start laying fewer eggs.  And these gals are truly pastured hens and never on a high powered ration.  But when 6 months rolled around, i’m thinking they ought to be laying something!  I  checked them and most had developed the visible and measurable signs of being mature enough – yet no eggs.

Here’s the lovely dozen eggs i found this morning!  In the photo, the lighter colored one is from a purchased dozen of eggs from the store which say they are on pasture.  Here’s the interesting part, that store bought egg is considered a large egg yet is very similar in size and weight of these first eggs laid by my hens.  In other words, my hens didn’t start with pullet sized eggs, they started in with mediums and larges!  And beautiful shell color.

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Remember that the color of the shell has nothing to do with the quality of the egg nor does it tell you anything about how the hen was raised. The color of the yolk can be darkened by the ration fed to a caged hen  (marigold and/or corn).  Anyway, my hen’s eggs were all frozen, so these first ones will have to be thrown away since they could be contaminated because of cracking.  But maybe we’ll get some today to collect.

Stay warm and have fun!

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Welsummer pullets hard at work keeping spiders and crickets from getting into the house last fall (2019).

 

Garbage Disposal

In the United States, many of us automatically think of an InSinkErator, which is a brand of electrically run mechanical grinder of food which then flushes it all down the drain for someone else to deal with.  It is attached to a kitchen drain and mounted underneath.

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This old one no longer works and leaks!  Thus the bucket underneath because we haven’t found someone to disconnect and remove it.  I’ll figure it out and get it done sometime.  In the meantime, we put a note in the sink so water won’t be poured in accidentally.  It’s not at our house.

I remember when i was growing up, we had one.  There was always a good respect for its power – keep fingers and spoons out of them!  However, as an adult, i’ve never had one and honestly never missed it.  Now, i wonder why one would ever need this type of garbage disposal.  Natural processes are excellent at garbage disposal – especially food scraps and other organic stuff.

But, garbage disposal is actually just a term that describes various ways to dispose of garbage.  Your location and occupation often determines your definition of garbage and how you may dispose of it.  If you have too much; it might be time to make a plan to reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, repair.

In my world, food scraps are not garbage – either they are composted, (i’m lazy and just throw them out on the garden spot to break down over time, or if i’m really energetic, i may get a spade and bury them) or i feed them to our pastured laying hens (chooks), but chicken scraps go to the dog – (i never feed chicken bones and such to chickens – it just seems wrong).  Fruit from fruit trees almost always produce far more than i’m willing to preserve in some fashion, so the extra is allowed to fall, rot, and provide fodder for soil microbes which in turn provides fertilizer for the tree.

There are some amazingly attractive kitchen sized compost bins available.  Here are some on Amazon, but i’ve never tried any of them.  Do some research before purchasing – you sure don’t want smell and/or flies in your house!

But, by and large, we have very few scraps.  Leaves from broccoli and cauliflower, for example, make awesome replacement for celery or other similar greens.  This goes for nearly all greens attached to vegetables.  The core from tomatoes go to the chooks; they love them!  Beef fat goes to the chooks for extra protein they need when bugs are in short supply outdoors.  (As an aside, if you are buying eggs that are labeled as vegetarian raised chickens, the label is either a lie or the hens are in confinement – either crowded in a floored building or in a cage.)

There is a lot of hue and cry about being ‘green’, but as is usual, the ones crying the loudest are often the ones living the least ‘green’ and the biggest wasters of natural resources.  They are the crowd who shout ‘do as i say, not as i do’ while they manipulate regulations to suck cash out of your pocket and put it in theirs.

We can all do better at managing resources – we are, by and large, a wasteful country because we are blessed with so much abundance.

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Nabbed this poster from Mountain Top Cattle Co Facebook Page.

 

Sunn Hemp in the Garden

There was just a couple pounds left over of the Sunn Hemp and although it was a couple years old, i just threw it on my garden spot and expected it to do nothing.  HA!  Not only did the seed sprout (it was not even inoculated) it thrived, then took over!  Needless to say my garden production suffered, but i’m just gonna let it grow and see what it will do.  It is not supposed to mature and make seed in our environment.  Otherwise, it could become an invasive species and though it is not native to the US, it is being promoted as a deep rooted plant which will bring up minerals as well as provide some grazing when it is much younger.  The stalks now are up to an inch in diameter and quite sturdy.  I plan to chop them down and let them lay as a cover to the soil.  The chickens will have opportunity to winter in the garden plot and they will scratch it around and maybe eat a few leaves all the while adding manure out the back end.

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Those middle cattle panels are 8 feet tall.
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The flowers on Sunn Hemp are really lovely.  It is a native of India and is extremely heat tolerant.

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New Version Eggmobile

Oh my goodness, i’ve lost track of the number of eggmobiles i’ve built these past two decades.  The first one was large and on an ancient wagon running gear.  It was part of daughter Jessica’s Missouri Department of Agriculture sustainable ag grant she wrote for and received being the youngest ever at age 9!

Anyway, done bragging now and on to the newest plan.  My favourite ‘look’ is that of a Conestoga Wagon and this one is no exception although much smaller than the traditional real Conestoga.

The one i replaced was just worn out and had some issues which of course i corrected with the new version.

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This one was several years old and just dilapidated.  Wood was deteriorated and wasn’t a well balanced design making it awkward to pull around.  Also, as you can see the old wagon pull broke, the pop door was too short and manual, not enough nesting boxes or roosts, and overall it was simply too heavy.
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Moved it home and the old hens gave it a complete check out, then had no hesitation going back in.   Note this new version has an automatic pop door.  Should have done that on the very first one.  A very good investment even for my small flock.
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Had to come up with a new way of holding the ‘hoops.’  My previous eggmobile, i used 1 inch schedule 40 pipe and it has too much spring to it and i had it attached very securely.  This time, i raided the water pipe supply and chose 3/4 inch black HDPE pipe and it is much easier to handle.  Here i’m cutting short pieces of 1/2 inch PVC pipe.
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After drilling a hole to receive a longer 1/4 lag screw, i installed the screw with the plastic tube topped with a 1/4 inch flat washer.  Powered it in and it makes a sort home made sort of shoulder bolt.
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This view shows the nearly finished eggmobile.  I built it in separate pieces so that it can be disassembled if needed.  There is the floor which i reused (newer lumber).  Don’t use anything less than 1 x 2 inch welded wire.  It’s a little big for small chicks, but is perfect for grown hens because their poop will go right on through.  The second section is framed then sided with old corrugated plastic.  Except for new hardware, everything is reused on this.
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i installed a door on one side just in case i need access.

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See how the black pipe forms a nice hoop to hold the standard sized white tarp using the makeshift shoulder bolts.  Roosts are cut from old electric posts.
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The translucent panel is cut from an old solar panel cover.  Not sure if you could find those used.  My father-in-law had a couple left over from a business he tried starting about 40 years ago.
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Lift the lid and inside is the top level of the nesting boxes.  I may or may not end up dividing these.  If i do, it’ll probably just be little curtains.
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Lift the floor of the first level to collect eggs on the lower level.
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Ador1 battery powered automatic pop door.   Note the ladder like roosts – i have to change the supports to wider stance because if a hen edges to the outside, it will tip.  I also had to take off the green corrugated bit above the door and attach boards to secure the canopy.  i used more of the solar panel stuff to make it match the front.  At the front here, you can see that i built double decker nesting boxes – there are 6 now vs the 3 before.

This is the coolest ever.  It comes preset to automatically open at dawn and close at night.