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Friday, August 31, 2012

DIY Wine Barrel Nesting Box

Sometimes it's nice to have a portable nesting box.  If you free range, you can put it out in the yard where your flock has decided they are going to lay their eggs to try to encourage them to lay in the box instead of under a bush or on the ground.

In the summer our coop is sometimes just too hot inside for our hens to want to lay their eggs, so I have some baskets and wooden boxes out in our run where its cooler. Maybe you have an injured hen or one who needs to be separated for some reason, so she doesn't have access to the coop nesting boxes. A broody hen needs a safe nest away from the general population where she can hatch her chicks and raise them. 

In all of these cases, it's nice to have a nesting box that you can move to where you need it.  You can make this cute 'box' in about ten minutes out of a wooden half wine barrel.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

French Copper Marans - The Chocolate Egg Layers


Did you know that the French breed of chicken called the Marans (named after the French town Marans where they  originated) lays some of the darkest brown eggs of any breed?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bruleed Vanilla Bean Custard in Eggshell Cups

For a fancy dessert that looks difficult to make but really isn't hard at all, try this homemade vanilla custard with a brulee topping served in eggshell cups.  If you have never made custard using your own fresh eggs, you are really missing out on something truly inspiring.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Cold Season Crops - Planting a Garden in your Chicken Run



Born and bred in New England, since moving to Virginia it's been hard for me to get used to Southern planting schedules, but this year I am determined to plant a fall garden - one that we can share with the chickens, of course! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grass - A FREE Nutritious Food Source


Several years ago, Mother Earth News published an article with the results of nutritional analysis done on the eggs from true grass-fed, pasture-raised chickens compared to store bought eggs.  Read the whole article HERE.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Abigail's (or Amy's) First Egg! It's Olive Green!

~our first Olive Egg~
As soon as I heard about the new breed called an Olive Egger earlier this year, I know I wanted some.  A black chicken (my favorite!) with cheek puffs and feathered feet that lays olive green eggs? What's not to love!

For more on the breed, read Marans + Ameraucana = Olive Egger.
~our Olive Egger rooster, John Quincy Adams~

I was thrilled to get some hatching eggs from Chicken Scratch Poultry in March.  We hatched our very first chicks from those eggs. Follow along day by day HERE.   

We have two beautiful Olive Egg hens named Abigail and Amy and a regal rooster named John Quincy Adams. 
~Abigail, Amy and John Quincy Adams~
I've been patiently waiting for the first olive egg from one of the two girls.  And waiting...

Several days ago, I caught Abigail checking out one of the nesting boxes and got my hopes up. But nothing.
~Abigail checking out her options~

Then just now when I was in the coop collecting eggs, look what I found!
~today's bounty~

Our first Olive Egg!
~it sure it olive-colored~

Twenty-one weeks old today, Abigail (or maybe it was Amy) laid her first egg!

Just when you think this chicken keeping is old hat, something exciting like this happens and it's all new and exciting again!
~neat new color to add to our assortment~
Have I mentioned how much I have been looking forward to olive green eggs?
Doing a happy dance!


This post is featured here: The Homestead Barn Hop

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Steak and Eggs with Basil-Mint Chiffonade

Steak and eggs is a pretty frequent dinner for us. There is nothing better than a rib-eye grilled to perfection and fresh eggs from our chickens fried in a little olive oil.   No way to improve upon this quick, easy, delicious dinner.

Or so I thought...

I decided to kick last night's dinner up a notch with some fresh basil and mint.  It sounds like an odd combination, but I love both mint and basil and we have loads of both in our garden, so I really wanted to give it a try.


Steak and Eggs with Basil-Mint Chiffonade
(serves two)

~Ingredients~
1 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 fresh mint leaves
8 fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 rib-eye steaks

~To Make~

Pick fresh basil and mint from your garden and chiffonade.


(Chiffonade, while sounding fancy, is really just the French word meaning 'making rags' and all you are doing is cutting your herbs into thin slices.)

To accomplish this, stack your leaves into a pile and then roll lengthwise into a cigar shape and cut at a 90 degree angle to create long thin strips.  Viola! Chiffonade!


 Chop the garlic finely and add both the herbs and garlic to the olive oil in a shallow bowl and let sit at room temperature to marinate. Do this several hours before dinner to allow the flavors to meld.


When you are ready to eat, cook your steak. I usually just season the steaks with salt and pepper and 'grill' them in a bit of olive oil and butter in a cast iron frying pan to medium-rare.  Remove the steaks from the pan and set in the oil mixture, tent them with foil and let them sit for five minutes, turning once. 


 Fry two eggs in a bit of olive oil in the same pan, season with salt and pepper and plate.  

Plate the steaks and drizzle some of the basil-mint chiffonade marinade over the top.  Serve with garlic bread and a nice glass of red wine. 


Bon Appetit! as Julia Child used to say.

~Verdict~
 The flavor of the fresh herbs really worked with the steak.  I am going to try this on lamb next time. I think the addition of basil to my normal mint and garlic marinade will be really complimentary.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Easy Lean-To Makeover: Our New Coop


We needed a new coop. Our flock had just continued to grow over the last few years but, sadly, our coop hadn't.  I love the little coop that I built three years ago for our original six chickens, but it was now literally bursting at the seams.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

DIY Homemade Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap


Let's face it, life on a farm while often idyllic is messy.  There's mud, dirt and dust, chicken and horse manure.  I am in and out of the house all day long and most times my hands are dirty when I come in the house.  And much as we love our furry and feathered friends, the reality is that germs and disease can be easily transmitted from them through poor hygiene, so I am always washing my hands.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Monte Cristo Bread Pudding Recipe

Today has been gray and drizzly.  Although I generally don't like to bake in the summer, it just seemed to be the perfect day to make one of my favorite egg dishes - bread pudding. This Monte Cristo Bread Pudding is unique in that is a savory bread pudding instead of a dessert.  A perfect rainy summer evening meal.

~The ingredients~
4 Fresh Duck Eggs (or 5 medium chicken eggs)
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Tablespoon Deli-Style Mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Loaf French Bread, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 lb. Turkey, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 lb. Ham, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 lb. Swiss Cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme
1/2 Stick Butter

~To Prepare~ 
Whisk eggs, cream, milk, and mustard, salt and pepper in a 2 Cup measuring cup and set aside.  Butter two 8" square casserole dishes (or one 13"x9" dish) and arrange half of the bread cubes in each dish, dividing evenly. Layer half of the meats and cheese in each dish on top of the bread. Sprinkle thyme over top, then cover with the remaining bread.  

Carefully pour the egg mixture over the top, making sure to moisten all the bread.

Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down to soak the filling and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, remove from oven, brush top with melted butter and return to oven for another 25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and top is golden brown.  


Serve immediately with a nice cold glass of crisp Chardonnay, light a few candles and enjoy the rain! 

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This post is featured here: The Country Cook.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Straw vs. Shavings - My Choice for Coop Litter


In the past, we have always only used straw on the floor of our coop, but in our brand new chicken coop, I decided to try pine shavings instead.  When the topic has come up on Facebook, people seem pretty evenly split on whether they use shavings or straw, so we decided it was time to give shavings a try.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Faux Enamelware Milk Pail Makeover


Enamelware pitchers, pots, pails and other cooking utensils have been around since the mid-1700s. Demand for an enamel or porcelain coating for pots, pans and utensils to prevent rust led to enamel-lined metal cookware first in Germany and then Scandinavia. Popular colors were cream and white originally with navy blue, black or green trim.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

10 Practical Uses for Eggshells


I normally crush up all our eggshells and feed them free-choice to our chickens as an economical way to provide them the extra calcium they need to lay eggs with nice hard shells.  But there are so many other practical uses for eggshells.