Sunday, September 25, 2011

The First Egg!

Today was a big day!
While Whitney was busy canning salsa and plum preserves in the kitchen, one of the hens was hard at work in the chicken coop. I  was outside at the time splitting wood and started hearing the tell tale noises coming from the coop. I got Whitney and we went out to investigate. What we found out there was pretty amazing. One hen, a little barred rock, was sitting in a nesting box. Her beak was open and she looked more than a little upset. She was clucking loudly, but even louder was the rooster, pacing and squwacking in front of her. Ridiculous as it sounds, it really looked like a nervous father waiting for a birth! This show went on for quite a while, so after a time we went back to what we were doing and left the chickens in peace.

After a while things got quiet and we went to take a look. At last there it was! Our flock's first egg!
It's pretty small, and may not be good to eat, but it's an egg and our first. Whitney figured it out and the chickens are 18 weeks old now. Seems amazing that just about 4.5 months ago these little fuzz balls showed up in the mail, and now we have laying hens (well, one at least).  We're pretty dang excited.

So much so in fact we decided to open a bottle of Mead (honey wine) to celebrate the occasion. If you've never tried Mead, I highly recommend it. Mead is a very old drink that is made primarily of honey water and yeast. The website says that mead predates grape wine by one thousand years! This bottle came from a Montana mead maker and features Montana honey. Check out 
And there they are, the happy chicken farmer and not quite as happy hen. Soon all the other hens will follow along and have eggs, but for us this hen will always be special.
That's all for now, I hope you all had a wonderful day. KJ 

Feeding the Bees, and Making Salsa with Help in the Garden

The first of our pumpkins and squash.
With the first day of Fall this week, it's time to harvest and start thinking about the coming cooler weather. I've been reading a lot about honey bees these days, and I learned it was time to check the honey in the hives. Bees make honey for food to survive the winter, but if they have enough, we can harvest some for ourselves.

The other day, we opened up the hives to check on the girls and see what was going on in there. While we did get to see one of the queens, mainly what we found was a not a lot of honey. It looks like they have been focusing on increasing thier populations and so have not packed away much food stores. This is a problem since they will need the honey for the winter, so I now have to feed the bees.
Generally from the frost until the bloom, I'll be feeding the bees a syrup of sugar water so they can make honey and survive the winter. Old honey works well too though. I had some old honey comb sitting in a bowl from when we vacumed the bees out of the house, so I decided to feed them that in the mean time. The bees went nuts for the honey, as you can see, and had all that old comb cleaned up in a few hours. Now the comb is clean wax that I can melt down for another project.
Salsa Time! Whitney's tomatoes, peppers and onions all did pretty well this year. While this is only some of the harvest, this bunch will be enough to make several gallons of salsa that we'll can and use throughout the year.
Our garden did well this year,  but we did add some Jalapeno peppers and cilantro that were grown locally.
Since canning cooks the salsa, this first jar of fresh salsa went to a Griz game party and was a real hit (though, sadly the Griz lost). The rest of it will get canned and put away to be enjoyed later.

While we were at work in the kitchen, the chickens were also at work in the garden. My corn as you can see didn't amount to much, the potato bed is turned under, and the peas and herbs in the far bed are dead or gone to seed. So, we decided to give that part of the garden to the chickens for a while. I put temporary fencing up to keep them where we wanted them, and then turned them loose. The hens were in heaven and clucking happily as they explored this new area. They especially liked getting into the pea trellises and over grown cilantro and basil.

That's all for now.  KJ

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pickling Beets and Waiting For Eggs

To our surprise, our hens who are now four months old, have yet to start laying. Some of our friends who got their chickens at the same time as us have already been getting eggs but we have not. So in the mean time were just waiting on eggs, a blessing in disguise I bet, because soon there will be a flow of eggs we'll have to deal with ready or not.
That's not to say that the hens aren't working, most evenings they are out in the yard foraging for grasshoppers and other goodies and our sociable rooster Colonel Sanders is never far away when we are outside. 

One of this weekend's jobs was pickling beets. These beauties are Detroit Kings and Wonder Talls. Whitney planted them after the last frost and by planting in two rounds we got two harvests. This is the last of them, about 16 LBS. So while the UM Grizzlies took on the E. Washington Eagles, we set about harvesting and washing beets.

 To many it seems just the mention of the word Beet is enough to induce an upturned nose and ideas of bad flavors, but these people I'd say have never tried home made pickled beets. One of the most picky people I know (Bailey) tried them this summer and after a sniff and a doubtful look, deemed them quite good!
After the initial washing and trimming, the beets are boiled skinned and sliced.

The pickling solution is boiled while you are preparing the beets, then the beets are packed into jars and the solution poured in. The jars are placed in a hot water bath and boiled. After about 30 min. the jars come out and are set on the counter. As they cool, the jars seal and complete the canning process. 

I just love the color, and knowing we have beets for a year!
About this time the Griz were beating the Eagles, a nice topper to the day and no small feat: the E. W. Eagles were the FCS National Champions last year!
After all that it was time to eat something, so we turned to the zucc's and carrots we had also picked, and added some new potatoes from the spud box.

These got chopped and roasted in the oven and together with some antelope dogs from the freezer made a delicious home grown meal.
Sadly, that was about the end of our antelope.  I'll miss enjoying the sweet, tender meat and remembering our hunting trips to get them. In the end it is a good thing really because they were nearly two years old, and meat shouldn't be kept any longer than that. And, now I get to plan our next trip to Antelope Country!!
That's all for now.