Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Two Lone Rangers

I don't often post about our chickens, and I definitely don't post multiple times in a week, but I thought I would share a quick snippet from the lives of our two "lone rangers".  
Broody Piggy in the nesting box- notice how she is puffed up.

We have had our three Buff Orpingtons for several years now.  When we moved to the country and incorporated eight more chickens to the mix including one rooster, they all lived happily for a short while.  Then, the rooster, wanting to be the boss that he thinks he should be, began trying to mate with the three Orpingtons.  One of them, Rosie, took to it well enough.  She is quick and can usually get away from his advances, but when she doesn't it's not the end of the world for her.  Another chicken (Piggy), however, was used to being the ring leader among the three, and she did not take well at all to big Al (that's the rooster).  She would escape him each time, and he did not like that one bit.  So, to make a long story short, Al attacked Piggy several times to the point of drawing blood at which point we moved Piggy and her chicken buddy, Chippy, to live on the other side of the coop separated from the others.  One might think they get lonely, but they don't.  They are perfectly happy without the antics of the other chickens and the "leadership" of a male.  In fact, they probably have the best life of any of the chickens.  While the other chickens are enclosed within a portable chicken fence, Piggy and Chippy free range all day.  They don't travel far, but they travel together. 
She is puffing up to tell me to leave her alone.
The problem is that Piggy has a tendency to go broody.  This means that she wants to sit for several weeks on eggs in hopes of hatching chicks (which of course will never happen since she and Chippy do not have contact with Al).    She has been prone to broodiness all her adult life, and in the past we have tried to break her from being broody without much success.  Now that we get plenty of eggs each day and don't miss it if she isn't laying, we leave her be for the most part.  We do try to coax her out of the nesting box when it is extremely hot, and these days we try to get her out at least a few times a day to be with Chippy.  

Chippy camped out under the table saw.
I feel bad for Chippy roaming around on her own.  She has gotten to the point where she just camps out in the shed with the tractor or on the other side under the table saw during the heat of the day, and she will roam a little when Piggy is out.  

The bad thing is that Piggy is nesting in Chippy's favorite box which has led Chippy to lay several eggs under the table saw in the shed.  This is not a habit we want to stick as we don't want to have to go in search of eggs each evening.  So, here's hoping that the broody chicken snaps out of it quickly this time and the two lone rangers can keep doing their thing (together).  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Non-Stop Summer Week

The garden has been going crazy!  Buckets of tomatoes, loads and loads of zucchini and squash, and melons ripening on the vine.  We had several pumpkin plants at the edge of the garden and we pulled 3 pie pumpkins off of them last week.  At this point, we have preserved almost everything we wanted, and therefore, we are letting the zucchini and squash plants fend for themselves from here on out.  

A pan of produce- we are getting this much every couple of days
We will continue to maintain the tomatoes and melons, but other than that we will buy corn and lima beans to freeze, and we'll call it quits until we plant fall crops.  I have been so pleased with the garden this first year.  I have spent very little money on produce to can and freeze, and that makes it all worth it.  

These were cut in half, and roasted, and then the puree was frozen.
I spent last week canning roasted garlic and herb pasta sauce (our favorite), roasted salsa verde, pickled corn and pintos, sweet pickle relish (more on this to come), tomato salsa using this recipe, and freezing lots of stuff as well. 

I froze 10 quarts of shredded zucchini to use for zucchini bread, and I made 3 batches of zucchini bread and froze those as well. I also froze zucchini in chunks to use in Chicken and Veggie Tostadas and casseroles. Is there any plant more resilient (or annoying) than zucchini?  I swear every time I walk through the garden I come in with an armful of summer squash.   

I did not plant cherry tomatoes, so when I came across a gallon of them at the farmers market for $7, I snapped them up.   I definitely need to add this to my list of things to plant next year.  

I enjoyed some of them on a BLT salad to which I also added fresh corn kernels.  Yum!

The rest I cut in half, tossed with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and dried basil.  I then spread them on sheet pans and roasted them in the oven on 200 degrees for a couple of hours until they were chewy and most of the moisture had evaporated.  They are so sweet like little tomato candies.  I packaged them in pint containers and froze them.  I will use them in pasta and sauces throughout winter.   

I had a half row of basil plants in the garden which gave me enough to use in my pasta sauce and plenty to make pesto.  I ended up making about 4 batches using this recipe with each batch being quadrupled in volume (I used slivered almonds instead of pecans this year).  I froze some in 4 oz containers because one container is perfect for a pizza or pasta meal.  The rest I froze in ice cube trays. 

My projects for the next few days involve canning crushed tomatoes.  I already have them peeled and in the fridge waiting on me.  I also have a peck of peaches in the fridge waiting to be made into jam and maybe a few jars of peaches in syrup.  

We also (finally) took a trip somewhere. We have not been on vacation since moving to the country, and I was dying to go somewhere if only for a day.  We went to Valle Crucis and spent the day browsing antique shops, general stores, and eating at a fabulous restaurant.  I snapped a picture of the flower beds in front of the restaurant.  They have winter squash and melons planted among the flowers.  I just love that! 

Next week, I will pressure can some of our potato harvest.  Some of them are not storage quality, and I will peel them and can them to use in mashed potatoes and soups.  I will also put up 2 bushels of corn, and pressure can a batch of chicken stock.  After that, I hope to be done for a while. 

We had the potatoes on the counter to let the dirt dry a little while we found a large enough washtub to store them in temporarily.

Preserving foods is a lot of work but so worth it.  It makes meal planning and prep so much easier later in the year, and most importantly we know where our foods come from and how they were grown.