Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Book Bag

I have always been a voracious reader. As a child, I preferred reading to almost any other activity (except maybe riding horses.) I remember one time my father came into my room (which faced the street), pointed out the window and said "Why don't you go out and play with the other kids?"

"But Dad, I'm reading!" I replied. I couldn't grasp how he didn't understand that sometimes there was nothing more absorbing than a good book.

I was lucky in that regard, because I come from a long line of dedicated readers. My mother's family all read, all the time. My Aunt D jokes about how boring we are when we're together on New Year's Eve, because we're all typically absorbed in books, and it takes a real effort to rouse oneself in order to get champagne and drink toasts.

One of the best things my Mom did when I was very small was create two things: The Book Box, and The Book Bag.

The Book Box was a large metal storage box that lived under the bed in the guest room, and which locked. In it were all sorts of amazing books, which she doled out as needed: when one was ill, if one had done well at school; if it was a week of rain on a vacation, that sort of thing. They were always special; perhaps fabulous picture books of Russian Fairy Tales; one of a series of books like the Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, things like that. I was never disappointed with anything Mom gave me from the Book Box.

The other wonderful tradition she created was The Book Bag. The Book Bag was always the very best part of Christmas, and was opened last. Mom was a master shopper, and was able to find a bunch of books that were just the perfect thing for each of us. Fairy tales, SF, and fantasy books for me; mysteries and puzzles for G; history and biographies for B.

It became such a cherished part of my childhood that when I had children I continued the tradition (bolstered by books Mom sent for the girls, of course.) Even now, the girls say it's the best part of Christmas, and we always open our Book Bags last. You know if you picked the right things, because everyone goes silent as they delve into their books, and wander off to chairs around the house to settle in and read.

Or, in the case of my cowboy husband, he and A set up a rope-tying practice session with a set of halter rope and a dining room chair, after he got Ashley's Book of Knots in his Book Bag this year. You know you live on a farm when...

I feel my Mom's presence often, but never more so on Christmas morning as everyone is opening their Book Bags. It's a tradition I know my own girls will pass along to their children, and I am already making lists of books to buy for them (in good time, all in good time.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Year to everyone from us at the farm.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beware: The BYC Owns Your Photos

Yes, that's right. The BYC owns whatever photos and messages you post in their online forum, but it wasn't always that way. I will explain.

I joined the Backyard Chickens Forum back in 2008. At that time, when I signed up, the Terms of Service (TOS) said one thing. Now, it says another. And in the interim, changes have been made to it, which were not sent to members, and which significantly impact how one should post things there.

A little background: I am a professional photographer (among other things.) I have a BFA in photography from Syracuse University. I had my first photo published in 1980, as the cover of a national magazine (National Fisherman.) I have sold my photographs on and off since then, and value the copyright on my images.

I am also a freelance writer, have been for many, many years. Had my first article published in a book in 1990, and I hold copyright on my articles as well.

I would never willingly sign away copyright to any photo or article to anyone for free without some sort of benefit to someone. For a number of years I have written articles (and submitted photos) to Backyard Poultry Magazine (which has no connection to the BYC, by the way), in exchange for a free advertisement for the American Bantam Association. For most of that time, I received no payment for those articles, but I do now due to a change in ownership.

But I digress. The point of this is, as a professional, I would never sign a TOS in which I would agree to turn over the rights to the things I posted, photos or other content, to a forum website. So when I joined the BYC back in '08, I am certain no such provision was in their TOS at that time.

Not long ago I decided to leave the BYC (why is the topic for another blog post.) Before I did, I had asked a Moderator there to just delete my account and all my photos. Here is his reply:

"As for deleting an account, BYC has no delete option.  All photos and content forever remain property of BYC.  Just part of the signing up, user agreement."

You can imagine my surprise and dismay. WHAT?! I emailed back for clarification. No response. I emailed one of the Admins, asking to be sent the TOS as it existed when I joined the BYC back in 2008. No response again, and when I tried to log in subsequently, I found my account had been banned. 

Wow. Just wow. And here's the thing: most websites, when they change their privacy policies/TOSs, send out an email at least annually to their members, letting them know about the changes. Major changes will often get a separate email. So that if a member disagrees with the new TOS, they can remove themselves from the site. The BYC never did this, ever, in my entire time there. Pretty sneaky, IMO.

I actually queried several lawyer friends of mine, and the response was, even if it's a bad agreement, if you agree to it, it will likely stand up in court. So despite me never giving the BYC permission to own my photos and articles when I joined, because they changed their TOS on the sly, now they own my stuff. And they can use it any way they want, for whatever they want.

I will note that the BYC has a calendar they produce, which I presume is made with members photos. And I also presume, due to the TOS, none of the members whose photos are used get compensation for their pics. Which to me is just despicable.

So I warn all of you who are members of the BYC, don't post anything there that you want to retain copyright to, not photos, not articles, nada. Because once it's on the BYC, they own it forever, and you'll never get a dime out of them. And if you ask for clarification on this change, they'll ban your account forever.

Charming business practice by arguably the largest chicken related forum on the Internet.

I will note that the ShowBirdBid forum has no such draconian policies, and is filled with excellent information and knowledgeable people who are more than willing to help folks learn more about poultry. I encourage anyone who is seeking a good online source for poultry info to check it out today. As well, there are a number of good groups on Facebook in which you can participate, not the least of which is the Show Poultry Group, and for those interested in Buckeyes, the American Buckeye Poultry Club group.

And in those places, you'll have no worries that your photos will turn up in a calendar or book or something, and you won't be paid for their use. Just good people and great info.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Color in Buckeyes

The proper color for Buckeyes has been a bone of contention between breeders for a number of years now. A lot of people think that the Standard of Perfection for Buckeyes, as it is written today, is wrong, and hearken back to the words of the founder of the breed, Nettie Metcalf.

In an article she wrote for Poultry Success Magazine in 1917, Nettie stated "The Buckeye should be as much darker in color than the accepted Rhode Island Red as the Rhode Island Red is darker than the Buff breeds. Their plumage should be so dark as to male as to look almost black in some lights, garnet red being as near a description as I can give."

And until now, I had never had any images from that era to go by, to determine the actual color of the RIR's she was comparing them to. But I found one! This plate is from a book from 1912*, by F.E. Wright, and shows a number of different breeds of the time, including the RIRs at the middle right.
(Note this image has not been color corrected in any way, what you see is what was scanned. Just a small amount of retouching was done to remove extraneous dirt.)

It's fascinating to compare the color of those birds with that of the other Buff birds on the page, as they really aren't that much darker!

But then when we look at the BB Red Game bird (yes, in that picture it's a bantam, but shows the accepted color for what were then called "Indian Game" birds, which she says she used to create the Buckeye.)

That color is a darker, glossier red than the Rhode Island Red of the day. And that may be where Nettie got the color she was looking for at the time for her Buckeyes, that "garnet red" color she loved.

Currently, some folks are, in my opinion, going off the deep end when it comes to color. They have pushed their Buckeyes to get so dark that they lose that lovely glow, and turn a muddy brown.

Yes, in some light, properly colored Buckeyes look almost black. The photo at the left (not the best focus, because I took it with my phone) shows a cockerel of mine at a show this past fall. He looks "almost black" in that light. But in daylight he is a lovely, glowing red, just like the garnet Nettie was striving for.

It's also important to note that the Standard of Perfection of today calls for a color that is "rich mahogany bay." Certainly, the old RIR's were nowhere near that color. They were much lighter than the "garnet red" Nettie bred for. And just because RIR's have gotten darker over the years, doesn't mean the Buckeye should go any darker than what the Standard calls for now, despite what some folks say is "Nettie's vision." We can see illustrated above what she was striving for, although bear in mind there are different colors of garnets out there too, all you have to do is Google "garnet red" and click the Images tab to see the different shades available that all fall under "red."

But I think it's important for folks not to get lost in what they think Nettie wanted, after all, no one has a Ouiji Board they can use to talk to her and get a photo of an exact bird she'd like. But we can use illustrations from the time she was creating and breeding the birds to guide us, so we don't lose our way.

*Note, the original of this image is no longer under copyright, but my retouched version now is under my copyright. Please do not right-click or otherwise "share" this image. Thanks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What it really costs to hatch chicks

I was in an online forum today, responding to a comment someone posted about thinking she might start hatching chicks to make some income.

It reminded me of my grandmother, who quipped about the "$10,000 eggs" my grandfather produced (based on the actual costs of getting those eggs into his hands.)

So I ran some numbers, and came up with some interesting info, which I am re-posting here in my blog.

I don't know that I would consider hatching as a source of income, per se. Unless you can sell all the chicks you hatch right as day-olds, you're going to have to put feed into them. And most people aren't generally going to want mixed-breed chicks (just because you see ads for same on Craigslist doesn't mean those folks have run the numbers and are actually making money hatching.) So you need to start with some purebred birds of good quality, which will cost anywhere from $20 to $50 per bird.

I hatch between 400 and 500 chicks per year, all one breed (large fowl Buckeyes) and I ship most of them. I charge $6 per chick, which includes the cost of the shipping materials and the postage (Express Mail.) And a bunch of other stuff.

I have seen a number of different figures on the amount of electricity needed to run an incubator for a hatch, of course, which one you use will have a bearing on that. I've seen figures that run between $5 per hatch to $15 per hatch. So assuming you have a smaller incubator (I have a cabinet, so I can hatch more than the smaller ones), and you can hatch out 25 chicks each time, that's 40 cents per chick.

That doesn't take into account the feed costs for the hens who lay the eggs, oyster shell, or other supplements. Those are other figures we could calculate to determine the cost to produce each egg.

An average hen eats about 1/4 lb of feed per day. The feed I use costs me $19.99 per 50 pound bag (I'm going to call it $20 to make the math easier on myself, because I have dyscalculia and numbers give me fits sometimes.) That breaks down to (if I am doing the math right) $36.50 per hen for feed each year.

The average Buckeye lays between 150 and 200 large eggs per year. I'm going to call it 200 (again, to make the math easier.) So each egg costs me roughly 18 cents to produce. I'm going to add in about another 2 cents for things like oyster shell, probiotics and so on.

Then there's the cost of de-wormers. Let's pull a number out of our hat (based on what I just paid to de-worm the whole flock) and call it 63 cents per bird, x twice a year (at least) for $1.26.

Then you have to consider mite treatments. Not going to get specific, let's just say my numbers are 83 cents per bird, twice a year, give or take, to make $1.67.

That doesn't include things like bedding, hay, and labor! You have to pay yourself, you really do. If you don't factor that in, there's no point in doing it to "make money."

So without even including those three things, it will cost you $3.51 per chick to produce each one.

That's $3.51 per chick to produce them, without including your labor.

Now, if you're shipping chicks, you have to add the following costs in:

You have to use a special box, which costs $3.59 each.
I use a heater pad when shipping, those cost $3.34 each
Then put in some Grow Gel Plus, that costs only about 10 cents per batch.
Postage for shipping across the US can run between $45 to $65, let's call it an average of $55
Gas into town (one gallon there and back for me, I am in a very rural area) we'll call $3.35 (which is what it was yesterday.)
Total just to ship those chicks: $65.38

Divided by 26 (I always put in at least one extra) and that works out that it costs me $2.51 to ship each chick. Add in the cost to produce and hatch the chick, and that comes out to $6.02 per chick. Oops. I'm losing money shipping chicks to people. But I'm ok with that (I do this for the love of the breed, not to make money. But don't show my husband these numbers!)

Obviously, selling locally and being able to sell chicks for $5 each means you will make some money.

But none of this takes into account the initial investment to purchase all the equipment needed (feeders, waterers, brooders, grow-out pens and so on. And the depreciation of said equipment. And the cost of the incubator! (Please, don't buy one of the cheapest ones, they really aren't worth it and you'll just get frustrated. Buy a Hovabator at least.)

So. Still want to do it? Go for it! I personally find it lovely work, very satisfying and good for my soul to raise chickens. But I, and my accountant are here to tell you, you're not going to get rich doing it unless you do it on a huge scale, which then would (IMO) take all the fun out of it.

Just some thoughts...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What to do with juice pulp? Make bread.

Since I got my juicer, I've been working on ways to use the pulp left over from juicing. I've given it to the goats, to the chickens, put it on the compost pile, stirred it into vanilla yogurt (as long as it's more fruit-based), and sometimes just tossed it (I always put it in the fridge with the best of intentions, but sometimes it just doesn't get used.)

So today I did some research to find out what other bloggers do with their leftover pulp. I found Plan To Eat's post about 101 Ways to Use Juicer Pulp (Okay, Actually Just Ten) and decided to try the recipe for Whole Wheat Fruit/Veggie Pulp Bread which is actually originally from Food.com.

First, I juiced some stuff: a Macintosh apple, a navel orange, quarter of a lemon, about a half a cup of blueberries (have I said lately how much I absolutely adore blueberries?), a knob of ginger, some alfalfa sprouts (don't tell J or A I put those in there), about a cup of pineapple (fresh, please!) and about a cup of carrots. Here's how the juice looked (and it tasted even better than it looked!)

After I drank the juice, I scooped the pulp out of the juicer and into a bowl. It looked like nowhere near as pretty as the juice, but oh well. It still tastes good (I have been known to just eat the pulp with a spoon right after juicing, but today I didn't.)

Then I pulled together all the ingredients called for in the recipe above, except I swapped out Kamut flour for the whole wheat flour. I did this because I am an extremely virtuous foodie/hippie, and I love the idea of using Kamut. (Ok, I also did it because I had some of the stuff on hand and was out of whole wheat flour, so sue me.)

I am sure my friend Mark Scarborough would be proud of me, (Mark and Bruce Weinstein are the Kings of Grains, among other things.) Their cookbook Grain Mains is what got me started buying such oddities as Kamut and Teff and so on. But enough digression.

So I mixed the pulp into the rest of the recipe (using eggs from our very own Buckeye hens, what else?) and added some chopped pecans (I do not care for walnuts in my quick breads, nope) and raisins.

Popped it into the oven for about 50 minutes (it was ever so slightly undercooked, probably should have gone five more minutes) and went off to do other things. The finished loaf looked very dark (likely those blubberies adding color), and was left to cool a bit before cutting.

The finished product was really rather good. A little plain, could have used some more spice, perhaps more ginger or cinnamon, not sure which I'll add next time. But a really good use of the pulp, and now I won't feel so guilty about tossing it in the compost, but will make a loaf of this instead! I don't juice every day, but for those days I do, this will make a nice compliment to the juice itself, and use the pulp up nicely.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Safe Egg Handling

This topic seems to keep cropping up, so I am blogging about it again.

With all the "keeping chickens" craze that seems to be exploding, there come questions of all sorts. Two common ones are:

  • Should I refrigerate my eggs?
  • Should I wash my eggs? If so, when? Before or after refrigeration?

There are as many answers to those questions as there are bloggers in the blogosphere. Here is my take on the topic, based on my many years as a 4-H poultry leader, longtime breeder of poultry, and farmwife for more than a decade now.

If you are raising your own chickens and want to know if you should wash/refrigerate your own eggs, or if you're buying eggs from a local farmer, the answers are the same.

Yes, you should refrigerate the eggs. They'll stay fresher longer that way, and taste better.

Yes, you should wash the eggs. But here's the thing, do it after they've gotten cold in the fridge, and just before use. 

Why, you ask? When a hen lays an egg, she deposits this lovely mucoidal coating on them called the "bloom", which gives the egg a seal that prevents most bacteria from entering, and yet which allows the egg to breathe. Eggs are porous, and do need to breathe, otherwise the developing embryo (assuming the egg has been fertilized) can't grow. That's the point of a hen laying an egg, to hatch a chick, so all hens do this.

However, the bloom isn't airtight, it's not made of plastic, and as such it does breathe. And if left out on your kitchen counter, an egg will slowly get stale, because it is absorbing air over time. They also lose flavor if stored at room temperature on the counter, and can absorb whatever odors are in the air (if you cook onions a lot, in theory, your countertop stored eggs could absorb some of that odor.)

So you should really put your eggs in the fridge. But don't wash them before you do so, because once an egg is washed, the bloom is removed, and the evaporation process speeds up and they get staler faster, and will also absorb odors from the fridge faster.

The thing to do is, collect your eggs, gently wipe off any excess dirt/feces with a dry piece of paper towel or cloth, put them in a clean egg carton, and put them in the fridge. Then, once they're good and cold, and just before using them, wash them in very hot water with a little dish soap.

The hot water on the cold egg prevents germs and dirt from being sucked into the egg, and allows it to be washed off. And the egg will be fresher because you've kept it in the fridge and delayed the evaporation process. I posted this picture before, but will do so again, because it demonstrates how the air cell in an egg increases over time. If left on the counter, that process accelerates, putting the eggs in the fridge delays the process.

I have heard the arguments about "When I lived in Europe (or South America, or wherever) we never put eggs in the fridge." Well, I live in the US (as do the folks I am targeting this blog post to), and here in the US we have different issues with regards to disease - Salmonella that is carried by wild birds and rodents that can get into your chicken coop and infect your birds without you even knowing it.

So when someone tosses that argument at me, I say, it's not germane to discussions about chickens in the US. There have been a number of outbreaks of Salmonella in the US this year (and previous ones), I was even asked to sit in on a conference call earlier this year with the CDC regarding same. It's here, and we have to deal with it using safe handling measures for our chickens and their eggs.

Bottom line folks: put the eggs in the fridge, and wash just before use. They'll stay fresher, and you'll stay healthier. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

So I bought a juicer

It's something I've been meaning to do for a long time. Finally bit the bullet and ordered one from Amazon the other day, after doing a lot of reading and comparing reviews. I got a Breville, which I didn't know until after I opened it up, is the juicer the guy used who made the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. All I knew was, it had great reviews and was good value for the money. (What I really want is a Vitamix, but those suckers are huuugely expensive.)

So here's how it looks out of the box, rinsed, and set up:


















I started with some cut up fresh pineapple, a sliced and peeled Gala apple (couldn't find any organic ones at our store, bleh), some frozen blubberies (no, I didn't have fresh, more's the pity), and half an organic cucumber:




















Then, a generous handful each of baby spinach leaves, romaine, and baby kale leaves (although I swear that's a piece of arugula in there too): 


















Then I juiced that all up, and when I saw how much (or how little) it made, I tossed in a handful of red grapes and little carrots. Yes, those stupid commercially bagged ones, which we actually buy at this point to feed to the dogs instead of biscuits because Jethro is a fattie. But that's a post for another day. Maybe.


















And here's what I wound up with:


















Gave it a stir, poured it into a glass, et voilĂ . My first "juiced" drink. 


















I drank it. It was good, but too sweet for my taste. And I forgot the damned ginger. So next time I'll tinker with the ratio and add in more greens and less fruit (I think I'll leave out the apple.)

Then I went back to clean the machine. Here's what I saw:


















Uffda! That's a lot of pulp. I gingerly tried a bite. Not bad! I ate a couple more bites. Hmm. This makes me wonder, is this a silly thing to do, taking all the (hugely nutritionally valuable) fiber out of those fruits and vegetables and just drinking the juice? Isn't that a total waste? (#firstworldproblems, I know.)

So I thought, well, I could compost the pulp. But then, because I am a farmwife with livestock, I thought, I'll give it to the goats. So I did. They loved it. A lot. So ok. I'm not wasting the pulp. But hmm. It still seems like pretty high-end goat food, regardless of how much Stanley and Zoltan liked it.

And here's the other thing. I made the juice for breakfast at 9:30. I started being hungry again by about 11:30. Two hours? Grump.

So I am wondering, perhaps I'll use the juice to make some sort of protein powder smoothie, with some organic milk? Not sure. It was delish, yep. But I am not a total convert yet. And I still wonder if I shouldn't have saved my pennies and gotten the Vitamix after all (which apparently do a much better job incorporating the pulp.) But it's not bad for a start. I'm sure I'll do a follow-up post down the road, when I've used it more. I'm not sorry I bought it, but I'm not a raving convert at this stage either. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Layers of time

I am sitting at the desk in the living room of a cottage by the sea. A cottage which I first came to as an infant, with my parents, as they came to visit my mother's parents, who had purchased it just the year before I was born.

My maternal grandfather went to this particular beach on the Outer Banks when he was a young man, visiting his relatives in Elizabeth City. He came here before there was a bridge, when a ferry deposited people on the Sound side of the island. When this house, one of the original 13 in Nags Head, came up for sale, he snapped it up, to no small consternation among the locals, no doubt, as he was a "Yankee." But he made it their, and our own, and I am incredibly blessed to have been able to share this house with my extended family over the years.

I figure, since I am now 55, I have been here roughly 50 or so times in my life, give or take. There were some summers I missed a trip here, for one reason or another. But as I sat on the front porch the other night, about to have my picture taken with my daughters, it struck me with great force that time falls in layers, and I could feel them settle on me as I sat.

I can remember when there was only one stoplight on the island. No MacDonalds, no "French Fry Alley" as we call it, no big grocery stores, just the little mom and pop store down the road where Mr. Harris ground his own beef, twice! When the dunes across the road weren't covered with timeshares, and you could walk all the way across to the sound and dig clams to bring home to eat. Can't do that now, oh no.

As I walked upstairs this morning, I thought about how many times my feet had trod those wooden stairs, how many times I had looked out the windows at the sea, how unchanging it all is, despite all the change that has gone on around it. When I drive down here, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the development I see, and it makes me feel a little sick inside. But when I make it to the house, and put my feet up on the railing as I sit in one of the wooden rockers on the front porch, all that slips away, and I am back where I need to be.

This place, more than any other, has the sense of "home" for me. It has lasted longer than any other place I have lived, and in the later years of her life, I spent more time with my mother here than any other place. I feel her presence around me everywhere; in the shells I pick up on the beach, in the simple task of hanging laundry on the line (Mom was famous for her Herculean devotion to doing laundry here), in the country store she loved to visit when she was here. She's all around me here, and I hope, one day when I pass, my spirit will, in a small way, linger here as well. For this place, more than any other, is truly Home.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Orange Chickens? Not Really...

I’d like to address a topic that has been tossed around a lot elsewhere, and that’s the concept of “orange” Buckeyes. Now, some folks use this term with great derision, and the fact that they do so is really just demonstrating a lack of understanding of the breed on their part, and of the mechanics of poultry feathering and color in general.

Some lines of Buckeyes have a tendency, especially in the female lines, to fade if they are exposed to sunlight, especially after the first molt. In my experience I have found that one line I used to work with when I first started with the breed is particularly susceptible to this problem. Of course, if you keep your birds cooped up inside all the time, you won’t have this issue. But I let my birds range outside, and as such I have found that some of my older females do tend to bleach out in the sun after a while.

This is not peculiar to just Buckeyes, it happens in many breeds of poultry, and is one of those things that if one is going to let one’s birds range, one accepts. I choose to allow my Buckeyes to live as natural a life as I can, because that’s just how I am. 

Now, there are certain lines of Buckeyes which fade less than others, Urch birds in particular I am finding hold their color better than other lines. Which is part of why I added Urch birds into my breeding pens several years ago, and have been slowly culling out the last traces of the older line that I am seeing (getting rid of those hens who faded the most, and who had the terrible black body speckling I was seeing in that line.)

But for some folks to make a huge big deal about “orange birds” is really rather silly, and to also claim that dark feather color comes from an abundance of slate bar is incorrect. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I’ve had light birds with more than adequate slate bar, and dark birds who were totally lacking it. So that’s a red herring, and utter nonsense when anyone makes that claim. 

And above all folks, I’ll also reiterate, make sure you’ve got your type down first before worrying overmuch about color. Make sure you have read the current Standard of Perfection for Buckeyes (not some old version from 1918 or something), which can be found here: http://www.americanbuckeyepoultryclub.com/Standard.html and get your birds correct with type: proper stance; correct wing carriage; rather long, broad, sloping backs; tight combs, etc. Then you can worry about color. 

And if you show your birds, you can always keep them inside if you’re worried about them fading in the sunlight. It’s just that easy. And the next time you hear someone making a hue and cry about “orange birds, orange birds”, you’ll know they’re just blowing smoke, and don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Please put those eggs in the fridge

This post is in response to a host of stuff I've been seeing lately about how folks are keeping eggs they've been buying from local farmers on their counters, thinking that because the eggs come from "pastured" hens that it's ok to keep them unrefrigerated.

Um, no.

Yes, when a hen lays an egg, she deposits this lovely mucoidal membrane on the egg called the "bloom", which does indeed prevent a host of bacteria and other nasties from entering into the egg under normal circumstances. Yes, that means the egg from a local farmer will, generally, stay fresher than an egg which has been washed, as your supermarket egg has been, assuming the local farmer hasn't washed the egg (some have, you'd better ask, because some states require even the small local farmers to wash their eggs before they sell them.)

But just because the bloom is still on the egg doesn't mean you should keep it on your countertop for weeks folks. The bloom is not made of plastic. It is not airtight. It is not going to keep that egg fresh forever. Let's think about this.

The hen laid that egg, in theory, because she wanted to raise a chick. If the egg were coated in an airtight membrane, the embryo inside the egg would never be able to develop, because it wouldn't be able to breathe. And embryos need to breathe in order to grow. It's part of what they do. See the chart below. It's how we chicken farmers can determine the age of an embryo, by how much air has entered an egg!

So folks, please. Put the damned eggs in the fridge, would you? You're making the old chicken farmers like me, with your neo-hippie back to the land eggs on the countertop nonsense, a little crazy. You really will be glad you did.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Guide to Nutrient Deficiencies

I saw this on Facebook, but it had tiny writing, so I dropped it into Photoshop and added some larger text to it. Please note, if I am infringing on anyone's copyright, please let me know and I'll take it down asap.
Note, this will look awkward once I publish it, as it will bleed over into my avatar, but I want the pic large enough to read, so just ignore that, I did it on purpose.

Here ya go folks:

















Healthy: Leaves shine with a rich dark
green color when adequately fed.

Phosphate: Shortage marks leaves with
reddish-purple, particularly on young plants.

Potash: deficiency appears as a firing or
drying along the tips and edges of lowest leaves.

Nitrogen: hunger sign is yellowing that starts at
the tip and moves along middle of leaf.

Magnesium: deficiency causes whitish strips
along the veins and often a purplish color on the
undersides of the lower leaves.

Drought: causes the corn to have a grayish-green
color and the leaves roll up nearly to the size of
a pencil.

Disease: heminthospoium blight, starts in small
spots, gradually spreads across leaf.

Chemicals: may sometimes burn tips, edges of leaves
and at other contacts. Tissue dies, becomes whitecap.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Ramp to the Past

With one brief blog post, a friend took me back in time to my childhood today. She's a foodie, a writer, and television host, and she put up a post about ramps, an amazing leek-like vegetable that grows wild in the woods of western KY and WV and southeastern OH. As a child I often went on walks with my grandfather in the woods around the family farm.

My grandfather was, among other things, a naturalist, a botanist, and a conservationist before there even was such a word.

Some of my best childhood memories are of time spent with him. He taught me to ride at a very early age. I spent countless hours on the trails with him, and each one was a lesson. He knew every tree, every flower, every bird and animal we came across.

On some of our walks, we hunted the elusive morel mushroom. And ramps, oh just the word brings back that smell! The deep dark soil, the earthy oniony smell, the pungent taste. And today my friend gave me a source for ramp seeds and bulbs, and in doing so turned back the wheel of time and I was that child once more, tagging along behind my grandpa, holding the canvas bag as he foraged. And now I can grow them here on our own farm, and I know my grandpa would love that. Thanks Joyce, I owe you one.

Laura and her grandfather, circa the 1960s.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Avian Haiku


Wren sings full-throated

Hawk sits silent in the tree
Jay screams a warning





Sunday, January 27, 2013

Short, but not very sweet

I am creating this post mostly to link to another blogger's blog post. She says it the best, I am just hitching a ride on her wonderful words, and basically linking to it so I won't lose it. 

See this great post by Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist titled:

 "The Four Steps Required to Keep Monsanto OUT of Your Garden"


Read it. Bookmark it. Pin it. Digest it. Don't lose it. Absorb what she's saying here. And when it's time to buy seeds for your own garden (and it's almost time!) use the links she provides to ensure you're buying seeds from The Good Guys. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Too Many Eggs

This is for E & S, who have too many eggs. Normally I post these recipes in the spring, when my poultry peeps have hens who are laying like mad, and who are overwhelmed with eggs. But E knows why she might need these. So here they are. Hope you're feeling better soon.


Egg Recipes for Spring,
when the chickens are laying up a storm!
(or for other circumstances, when you find yourself with
three dozen eggs you don't know what to do with.)


These two recipes will use up a dozen eggs, whites for the angel food, yolks for the sponge cake:

Golden Sponge Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

12 egg yolks
3 cups cake flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp lemon extract
1 cup cold water

- Sift cake flour and sugar (separately) once before measuring.
- Sift together three times: flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In mixing bowl, beat egg yolks on No. 8 speed until very fluffy and thick.
- Gradually beat in sugar.
- Beat 2 more minutes on #8 speed (high) and scrape bowl.
- Turn to #2 speed (low) and add vanilla, lemon extract, and cold water.
- Then gradually, but quickly add sifted flour mixture while beating on #2 speed, scrape bowl. Beat only enough to blend, about 2 minutes.
- Pour batter into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan.
- Bake 1 hour or until golden brown.
- Invert cake to cool.
- Loosen sides with spatula or knife and remove from pan.


I make the sponge cake first since the yolks don't have to be room temp.

Angel Food Cake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups egg whites brought to room temp
1 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 ½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp almond extract

- Sift powdered sugar and cake flour separately once, measure for correct amount and sift together four more times.
- Place egg whites in a large bowl, add salt, cream of tartar, vanilla, and almond extract.
- Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
- Gradually add sugar 2 Tbsp at a time.
- Beat on #8 (high) speed until stiff peaks form, but not dry peaks.
- On lowest speed add powdered sugar and flour.
- Take off of mixer and finish mixing by hand with a rubber spatula folding over easy.
- Pour (spoon) into an ungreased 10 inch tube pan.
- With a knife or spatula, carefully cut through batter in circular motion 6 times to release large air bubbles.
- Bake at, on lowest rack in oven, for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Invert pan until cool. Loosen with spatula and remove from pan
.