My youngest son has always had an interest in drawing, particularly super heroes and comics. As you may know, we homeschool our kids, and this year he is taking an art class that has a section of it devoted to drawing comics. I thought I would share the latest one, as it puts a recent event which started as a video in pictures. I hope you enjoy it like I did.
Snow White Egg – Page 1
Snow White Egg – Page 2
Maybe it is just the fact that I am the dad, but I love this!
There’s not a whole lot of new news this week with the birds other than their egg production is really going up. This week we had 53 eggs, with the Rhode Island Reds laying 23 and the Easter Eggers laying 30. That is 5.3 eggs per week per bird, and I am expecting that to go a little higher. Go ladies!
Speaking of birds, check out the Welsummer chicks! They are really growing! It won’t be too many more weeks until we can begin to put them outside, and I think they will be more than ready. By this time the container we are keeping them in is getting a bit crowded for them. I cannot wait until these ladies start laying. They are supposed to lay a beautiful dark-brown egg.
Oh, I shared a picture of the new portable run last week, but I wanted to share another with the birds in it.
Portable PVC Chicken Run
You will notice the ladies checking out the milk crate, which I had hoped would be a good make-shift nesting box in case one needed to lay an egg while in the portable run, but they rejected that idea. We’ll have to find something else today. While you cannot see it in this picture, they love the roosting bars in this run. I added them more for stability, but I am sure glad I did now.
As I mentioned yesterday, you are not going to want to miss tomorrow’s post. My youngest son has drawn a comic which I think you will all enjoy.
What a difference a week can make! Last week we were basking in wonderful temperatures, and this week we have had freeze warnings! I read one person on Facebook who said, “If I knew spring was only going to last three days, I would have made sure to enjoy it more.” 😀
I am running into the same issue I ran into last year about this time. My workload at the office has increased to a point where I can barely get anything done at home, and when I am at home, I am quite frankly ready to rest. I am determined that this will not slow down planting when that time comes this year though.
Oh, speaking of plants, let me share what I saw yesterday!
Ms. T, the tenacious Chocolate Mint
I rarely “name” my plants. In fact, I think it sounds kind of crazy, but this one earned a name. I call her Ms. T., which stands for Ms. Tenacious. I have been growing this mint for a number of years now, and when I first bought the plant it barely survived. In fact, the other mints that were purchased at the same time died. Why? They were potted and didn’t get watered during a very hot, dry spell. She has also survived two winters of very cold temperatures, and a summer of very hot, very dry weather. No matter what is thrown at it, this mint just keeps going. I was happy to see her popping her head up good and strong this spring – a sure sign warmer days are to come soon.
This weekend my oldest son and I spent some time staking out the garden so we would know exactly where to plant things this spring. I didn’t finish it though, as I became a bit overwhelmed with it all. I’m not sure why that is. I may try to finish it this upcoming weekend. Thankfully I have some time.
One other thing I spend some time on this weekend was roasting coffee. This has been one of the better coffees I have had in a while – it is a Brazilian coffee, which is typically one of my favorites.
I sure do enjoy the fresh-roasted coffee. Until you have had it, you can’t imagine how good it is.
Oh, one last thing before I go – be sure to watch this upcoming Wednesday for a post with a great comic one of my son’s created.
Whoa! Spring is here! As I said yesterday, you can tell it in the weather, and the ladies must be able to also. They are really increasing egg production! We now are getting 8 eggs a day most days again. Here, the totals speak for themselves. The Rhode Island Reds laid 20 eggs and the Easter Eggers laid 30 eggs. That is a total of 50 eggs or 5 eggs per bird per week. Not bad!
Speaking of birds, the Welsummers are really growing! It is hard to believe that they will have their feathers in just four more weeks, but I guess that should make sense, as we saw tail feathers for the first time a few days ago. I cannot wait to get them out with their sisters in the pen, though I suppose that is some time away. As I understand it, we will need to allow them to get to know one another first so they don’t get injured by the older hens.
Yesterday I wrote about the new run. I have a few chicken projects underway, this being one of them. The idea was this: a portable run that is lightweight, yet strong. It must also allow the hens plenty of space so they can stay in it for long periods of time without overcrowding. I must be able to move it at least once a week to keep the grass from being destroyed in any one area in the yard. So, here is what I came up with:
Portable PVC Chicken Run
This was made with 1″ PVC pipe, 2″x1″ fencing, and a 14’x14′ piece of bird netting for the top. It is 10’x10′, which is more than enough run room for the fourteen total birds we have. It is best to give them 10 sq. ft. per bird, which this is short of, but combined with what they already have and the movable nature of this, it will work. Once you see the next project, you will understand why I say that. A last minute addition was a roosting bar made of PVC on the inside. This not only gives the birds a place to roost, but it adds stability too. I don’t know what it weighs, but one of my sons and I can move it. It is easier with four people though. I am sure my neighbors are wondering how much more stuff I will put in my yard, but that’s okay.
As I said above, I have a few projects underway. This was one of them. I would also like to extend the chicken run under the coop on the south side, but that is the last project. Before that comes, I have another secret project that I will share as I get closer to doing it. Many of you already know what it is though, as you have seen others doing it and have shared it with me on Facebook. 😀
What a week! We started off and ended with some beautiful spring-like weather, which is fitting now that we have officially crossed over to spring. It wasn’t without a nice brisk few days inbetween though. Even so, my gardening fingers are itching!
Speaking of fingers, both my index finger and thumb seem to be healing up nicely from the pruning accident last weekend. The index finger in particular seems to be doing quite well. The thumb was cut deeper, and I still do not have full flexibility with it. It is improving day by day though.
The big homestead project this week was to create a portable chicken run, which I decided to make out of PVC and fencing. It wouldn’t hold a big dog, but it will hold chickens. 😀 This is light enough two people can move it, though four people would be able to handle it easier. The plan is to move it to a different place in the yard weekly, and then let the chickens have a considerable amount of time in it throughout the day, which should give them a nice addition of bugs and grass to their diet. I’ll show pictures of it in tomorrow’s post.
Oh, one other thing from this weekend is that I opened my winter sowing pots and let them breathe. It is really going so well. All plants haven’t sprouted up in hearty strength yet, but I think all of them have sprouted. The brassicas are looking really good though! It won’t be long until they have their first true leaves and are ready for transplanting!
Winter Sowing – Broccoli
Yes, they need thinned out – ALOT! I didn’t think I seeded that heavily, but obviously I did.
That reminds me of another task I need to complete. I need to stake the garden off so I can know exactly where the planting areas are according to my planting map. Yeah, yeah, yeah – that’s the nerd coming out in this gardener. 😀
The ladies have had a great week this week. The warmer weather and the lack of snow has meant they have gotten to have time out roaming the yard. With the completely saturated ground, the worms are abundant right now, and the hens act like they are starving and at an all-you-can-eat buffet!
Last week I was so excited to post the Unbelievable Egg Video that I totally forgot about the other big news of the week: we have new chicks! As I wrote a few weeks ago, I wanted a couple of more hens. Unfortunately, we couldn’t buy them in quantities of two, so we ended up with four. We decided to go with Welsummers, which sound like a wonderful bird. They are known for being more intelligent than the typical chicken, and they are great foragers. Even more exciting is the fact that they lay a very dark brown egg! I can’t wait to add that to the mix of eggs! We will certainly have no shortage of eggs now. 😀
One of the other interesting things about Welsummers is that you can determine their sex by a couple of feather pattern characteristics, First, a Welsummer pullet (young hen) will have a well defined triangle on the top of their head, and they will also have “eyeliner” coming out from their eyes. If these characteristics are faded or not well defined, it is a cockerel (young rooster).
Back to the topic of eggs, this week was another good egg laying week. The total was 39 eggs, with the Rhode Island Reds laying 18 eggs and the Easter Eggers laying 21 eggs. We are quickly approaching the point where we can start giving eggs away to the neighbors and family. In fact, we gave a few away this week. I really enjoy blessing folks in this way, even though it is something small.
It is often said here, as in other areas, if you don’t like the weather, wait a day. It will change. This week has been a real example of that. Within a one week time period we went from very low temperatures and greater than a foot of snow on the ground to a fantastically warm 72° F. Welcome to spring in Kentucky!
I was on the road for my job last week, and was anxious to get back home for a number of reasons, one of which being to check the winter sown vegetables. I am very excited to report that many of them have sprouted! Check these pictures out:
Calbrese Broccoli Sprouts
German Chamomile Sprouts
So far I see sprouts in the Romanesco Broccoli, Purple Broccoli, German Chamomile, Purple Cabbage, Calabrese Broccoli, Early Jersey Cabbage, Forage Kale, and Russian Kale winter sown containers. Woot! Now to see if they survive the coming cold spell, though I suspect they will.
One thing I am excited about this year is my Back to Eden garden. While I can’t speak to the success of the garden here yet, I can tell you that I will be able to get my garden out much sooner than I would if I were planting traditionally. Our ground is absolutely saturated. Even so, I can walk all over these woodchips and not feel as if I am sinking in at all. This is wonderful!
Despite the rain on Saturday, I decided to go ahead and plant some brassicas and lettuces:
Kale, Cabbage, and Broccoli
Lettuce in the Raised Bed
I also decided to spend some time pruning my fruit trees this weekend. I received some nice pruning equipment for Christmas, which I have been wanting to use, and I am several weeks behind the latest date I wanted to do this, but the weather has not been cooperating at all. Here are the tools:
Let me tell you – that saw is sharp! Don’t ask me how I know that. However, if you see me over the next few days, you will know how I know. 🙁 If you want to see what happened, you can check it out, but don’t click on the link if you can’t handle seeing pruning wounds. Seriously, it’s not that bad, but you still may not want to click on it.
I pruned two apple trees and a cherry tree, and I am extremely pleased with how it turned out. Here are a few before and after shots of the apple trees:
Apple Trees – Before Pruning
Pruned Apple Tree
Pruned Apple Tree
So the point in pruning back so much is to shape the tree as I want it to be shaped, and to limit the height to something usable/reachable for me. I also want to provide plenty of air flow and sunshine. While they look a little bare right now, I am expecting them to fill on out as the spring and summer move forward. If I have done the job right, we should see better apples this year off these trees.
As you can see, I still need to clean up the branches, but that can wait. I plan to cut up that wood to use for smoking food later in the year. There are also still a few branches on the second tree (the last picture) that need trimmed, but I need my pole pruner to reach them. I will hopefully get to that today.
As I wrote yesterday, this has been a hard week. The weather has been far less than desirable, which has meant that our chicken coop has had the tarp over it all week long. That usually takes a toll on the Easter Eggers, but they actually had a pretty good egg laying week. The totals ended up being 20 for the Rhode Island Reds and 20 for the Easter Eggers, but that is not the big news for the week. The toughest part of the week may not have been the weather, it may have been the day a hen had to lay this egg!
The Giant Egg Compared to a Quarter
The Giant Egg in an Egg Carton
Look at the size of that thing compared to the others! It is monstrous! In fact, it was nearly 3 times as large as a typical egg. If you are like me, you want to know what is inside of that thing though. Well, you get to find out. I videoed the cracking of the egg, revealing something you may not be expecting. Check it out!
Candidly, I hope that is the last monstrous egg I see, but if nothing else, it made for an interesting video. 🙂
Have you ever seen the photography projects that capture people who look the same, but are unrelated? I find this stuff totally fascinating! The most recent one I have seen is one of the best, and is being tagged as human templates. Enjoy!
Will this winter ever end‽ The bitter cold temperatures have continued this week, though they have been sandwiched between some warmer days. That means we have had some rain, some melting, some freezing, some snow – sheesh. While some of the country is used to many days of snow-covered ground, we aren’t here in western Kentucky. What makes this worse is that it seems we are going to have a wet few weeks now, which will make the ground an absolute mess. Candidly, this makes me thankful I have went with the Back to Eden Garden type this year. Those wood chips are going to be a lot easier to work with than mud, that is for sure.
The two things I have worked on this week is finalizing what seeds and plants I need for the spring and making homemade yogurt for the first time. I’ll spend much of this post on the latter of the two. The seed ordering had to be done though – we are nearing time to start planting peas and other spring crops, yet with the snow on the ground it isn’t happening just yet. Perhaps this week I can get some seeds out. I could probably wait up to two weeks and still be okay, but it is time.
Now, on to yogurt making!
This is something I have wanted to try for a while, but I have just been a little intimidated by doing something new like this. However, I am eating clean again, which for me is very low carbohydrate. This means I am avoiding anything low fat, and most storebought yogurt is just that – low fat. So, I decided to make some of my own. Basically, the recipe that I used is as follows:
While some would say it is not required, it is advised that all utinsils you are using to make yogurt be boiled beforehand and allowed to air (or oven) dry. This is to reduce the chance that other bacteria will get into your yogurt mix, thereby ruining it.
1 quart of milk (or substitute – see below)
1/4 cup of a plain commercial yogurt that contains live cultures (I used Dannon)
Heat the 1 quart of milk to 185° F, constantly stirring. Once it reaches 185° F, remove it from the heat. Some folks say you can speed cool this by placing a container with the heated milk in cool water, but others say to let it cool on its own. Once it reaches 100° F, you can add the yogurt. I recommend two things though. Wait until it cools to room temperature. This leaves no room for error. If your milk it too hot, it kills the live cultures in the yogurt. Second, I mixed the yogurt in with some of the milk, 1/2 cup, before mixing it into all of it. It seems to help it mix better.
Once you have mixed the yogurt with a small amount of the room temperature milk you just heated, then mix it in with the rest of the pan. Stir well. Now, pour the mix into a container (I used 1 quart canning jars), cover the jars (I used plastic wrap and a rubber band to hold it on), and place them in a place to allow the cultures to grow. This could be in an oven with just the oven light on, or you could use a yogurt maker. I chose to put them in our Excalibur Dehydrator on 100° F. The key is keeping it between 95° F and 110° F. Outside of that range it may not work.
The yogurt is technically done after 8 hours, but you can let it continue to ferment for up to 24 hours. Going longer than 24 hours is playing with fire though, as the bacteria will run out of food (sugar) soon after that and begin to die. Why would you choose a shorter or a longer time? The longer it ferments, the more tart and thick it will be. It also will have less sugar left, as the bacteria continue to eat the sugar until it is all gone, at which time the bacteria die. Ideally, I am trying to achieve just this: as little sugar as possible. As such, I let mine cook for 24 hours.
Once you remove the yogurt, place it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken. It may or may not be as thick as what you get in the grocery store, as most of the grocery store yogurts have thickening agents added. You can do this too with pectin or another thickener. I chose to not do this.
Now, let’s share some pics and I will share what I did different than noted above.
First off, I made three batches. Now one thing to realize is that you can make yogurt with many things, it doesn’t have to be just milk. As long as it contains sugar, the bacteria will grow. The three mixes I chose are as follows:
three cups of coconut milk and one cup of heavy cream
two cups of coconut milk and two cups of heavy cream
one cup of heavy cream and three cups of 2% milk
Technically, if you just use heavy cream, you will end up with sour cream, but I wanted some of the thickening that the heavy cream would provide.
So, I started with these two ingredients for the first two batches:
Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk
Once mixed together, this stuff looked pretty nasty. 😀
Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk Mixed Together
While cooking, I used a candy thermometer along with constant stirring to be sure it didn’t stick and that the temperature stayed correct:
Once it was done, I place the jars into the dehydrator to ferment:
The milk and heavy cream ended up being the most thick – check this out!
Thick Yogurt (3 cups of 2% milk and 1 cup of heavy whipping cream)
That is not a table behind the yogurt – it is a door! That is being held sideways! It smelled somewhat of cream cheese.
The other two looked good too, though the one made with the most coconut milk is the most thin, and it could not be held sideways at all.
Coconut Milk (3 cups) and Heavy Cream (1 cup) Yogurt
Candidly, it was milkshake thick. Here is the one with half coconut milk and half heavy cream:
Half and Half – Heavy Cream and Coconut Milk Yogurt
Finally, here is a jar held normally:
Yogurt – Finished Product
Okay, I am sure you are all interested in how it tastes. I decided to do a taste testing video for you. Here goes: