Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicken Update and a Quick Poultry Overview

It has been a little while since I did an update on our chickens. Which is doubly odd as they actually consume more of my thoughts than anything else really at Stoneyhaw right now... I guess part of me thinks no one else would really care about them...but this is my blog. Suck it haters.

Our current chicken count is 13:

One of the 4.

4 are slated to not be with us much longer (and whoa, that'll be a post!). They should have been harvested* about 2 1/2 - 3 months ago, but alas we run behind here. So now I have 4 monster roosters separated from everyone else (more about that in a minute) awaiting space in the freezer. The man and I just don't have the same days off from work, and building/winterizing our living space just takes priority over chicken butchering unfortunately.

Why are they separated? Mostly because they're getting older and getting kind of brutish. 7 roosters was too many. We knew we didn't want these guys around for that reason, and even if we were into breeding our chickens, they don't really have anything genetically to offer. They are incredibly healthy and large and have done a remarkable job of lessening the overall number of ticks and creepy crawlies this summer.  It's time for them to continue earning their keep by feeding my family.
Always a wondrous sight!

Another effect of them being separated is our egg count has gone from about 6 eggs a week, to 2 or 3 eggs a day. The main flock is noticeably happier, and it is definitely a good thing.

But I digress....

The main flock (9 in all) can be broken down into the Rhodies (really Production Reds, but it's fair to assume no one will ever know), the Hampies, an Australorp, and a Dominique.

The Rhodies:
Henrietta getting her daily snuggles.

Cindy and Big Bunny. Pretending to investigate the damage done to the box by little puppy, but really sneaking off somewhere, I think...

This group includes our favorite Big Bunny (our resident rooster, back from his injuries and strutting around like a champ), the Prodigal Hen Henrietta, Mystery, and Cindy.

The Hampies:
The Hampies and the Rhodies are IDENTICAL - the second from the right is our unnamed Hampie hen. L to R: Henrietta, Cindy, Mystery, Hampie hen, Hampie cockerel

Are as of yet mostly unnamed. We have one cockerel, one unnamed hen, and a hen we call Henny Penny. For two reasons. All flocks should have a Henny Penny, and she looks identical to Henrietta right now with her comb all flopping around ridiculously and 'Henrietta 2' seems insulting to the parties involved.

The Australorp:
Dexter - it's tough to see in this picture, but in the sunlight his feathers have a beautiful green sheen to them. Can't wait until his tail is done coming in!

Dexter came to us from a good friend at work. She is an inspiration in of herself, and I hope she will let me showcase her and her amazing horses and farm on here at some future date. She had an Australorp cockerel that was the result of an incorrect sexing (more on this here), was supposed to be a hen and isn't. To make matters worse, the poor guy was getting picked on (ha!) by her hens and was pretty much miserable. He started out pretty miserable here, too - he got out of the brooder on his first night, and spent a night and a day on his own in our woods. The third night we had him we found where he had roosted for the night, got him down and put him in with everybody else (you can do just about anything with a sleeping chicken. They're like small children and are really difficult to wake up completely). He spent a few days cowering in the back of the winter coop, and the aggressive roosters wouldn't let him get to the water or the food. We put him alone in the chicken palace for a few days with dog food to fatten him up again, and we paired him up with our remaining Dominique so he could bond with someone and not be alone. He has since been integrated into the flock with everyone else and is turning into a real rooster!

The Dominique:
Wanda, the Dominique who wandered.

You may remember I got 3. Alas all 3 got out and were feared loss (one loss was confirmed by me - I found her and spent a good 2 days crying off and on and convinced that all living things under my care were condemned to die...dramatic, but dammit if you pull an animal out of its natural habitat, you're responsible for its life AND its death. It's a big deal to me). A few nights later after all the chickens were closed up in their various coops (yup. We've got 4 containment devices of varying sizes at this point), and the little puppy let off his run, I heard a chicken squawking in distress. I thought maybe a predator was trying to break into one of the coops, or worse, and succeeded in doing so. The manfriend went out into the night and found one Dominique hen cornered by little puppy. We took her and paired her up with a then alone Dexter, and the two have bonded. The same friend that gave us Dexter gently suggested we call her Wanda because she wandered, and it stuck. Although even now after being integrated into the flock and them being in the main coop with everybody, she rarely ventures out with everyone during the day.

Case in point: I went down to check on them during the day when everyone but Dexter and Wanda were up eating kitchen scraps and having a good time in the sun. I found Dexter sunbathing in a wallow in the dirt right next to the winter coop, and didn't see Wanda anywhere. I got kind of scared that she had taken off, but thought it was strange as chickens really do learn where their home is after being there a few days. When I got closer to Dexter he moved, and there was Wanda, napping under his wing!

We love our chickens, as you may have gathered, and I could have a whole separate blog devoted to them and their antics. But there are enough chicken blogs out there, and I'll spare you. You just have to put up with a post like this every once in a while :)

*that's right, I said 'harvest'. Everyone who has chickens has their own thoughts on whether or not to eat their culls, and all that good stuff. Everyone also has their own opinions on their kids' involvement in the process. I read a blog (that I won't link to - I don't want to slander, I just severely disagree with her) about a flock of chickens and the writer didn't tell her kids how many chicks she ordered, nor did she let them be in the room when the box arrived as she didn't want them to see/know if any of them arrived in the mail dead. I saw this as a great opportunity to teach kids about death, and the important lesson that when we order animals through the mail, we are most likely condemning one to die. And that is an important lesson (neither I nor said blog writer lost one through the mail, btw - they all arrived in good health). We don't hide death out here - the Spawn is 7 and is fully aware that things die. Fully aware. I believe that it is a natural part of life and I don't believe in hiding it, sugar coating it, OR making it out to be worse than it already is. My personal belief is that our chickens that we don't keep (read: egg layers, and potential future fathers of more chicks) are food. I do not name them because I am only human and naming them humanizes them to a degree that I really have a tough time killing them. They are treated as best we can while they're here, and will be killed in the most humane way we can. And like our other foodstuffs that come from here, no part of them will be wasted; what we don't use will be fed to the dogs or composted and eventually fed to the garden. In that way I feel that their life is honored and respected.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I used to be crafty. I used to make stuff ALL the time. And then North Carolina, The Manfriend, The Spawn, The Waddle Brigade and The Dogs happened. Also I got employed. And now I find myself wanting to still be crafty, but I have no time. Inspiration (and materials!) galore, but no time (or energy if I find some).

Wah. Wah. Wah.

So with the boys gone yesterday and today, I decided to make the following sampler for the manfriend. Hope he likes it.

Yes. It's not quite centered in the frame. Adds to the charm, dude.
I can't take credit for the design - I saw it here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

All I Wanted Was Some Cake!

Seriously. I don't have a sweet tooth per se, but a bittersweet sense of nostalgia seems to accompany autumn every year, and now that my universe revolves around a 7-year old (as well as a man, 2 dogs, and 12 chickens...oh and me) I have been thinking about my parents a lot. My mom worked (still does!) full time, and somehow managed to raise 3 kids while making everything from scratch. Everything! (remind me to tell you about not knowing what an Oreo was upon entering kindergarten. Thanks mom!) And she managed to make good stuff. As in tasty.

And every year for my Dad's birthday, she would make a pineapple upside down cake. My Dad's birthday is on St Patrick's Day, so why it comes to mind along with all the autumnal reflection makes no sense, but it didn't seem to matter. I have been craving a pineapple upside down cake.

On one of my days off from work, when I was all alone at the 'house' (my days off RARELY coincide with the boys' days off - it's a sensitive subject thankyouverymuch), I decided to 1) insulate the new space, and 2) make a damn pineapple upside down cake.

Oh. You noticed the lack of photos in this post? Keep reading.

I made the cake, and went and picked up the spawn from daycare while it was cooling in the pan. Then I flipped it out and put it on the table in the airstream while I went to insulate the other space.The perfectly candied pineapple slices nestled in their gooey goodness atop their spongy thrown glistened and beckoned in the afternoon golden autumn light...

We both went inside a while later - him to do homework, and myself to do the dishes. While doing the dishes, I popped outside to the fridge for THIRTY (ok, maybe 45) SECONDS to put something away, leaving the screen door open behind me. I came back inside and the little spawn looked TERRIFIED. Not "the Bogey man just came in and threatened to throttle me I'm gonna pee in my pants" scared, but "holy shit the hippie's gonna kill me" scared. I looked at the table. And I saw it.

A plate with a prefect ring of pineapple slices on it. Sans. Much. Awaited. Cake....

The spawn had been in his own little world (he has an extremely active imagination). I hadn't noticed in my putting things away in the fridge. The Waddle Brigade had descended upon the camper, eaten every crumb of the cake part, and left. We hadn't even noticed. Not only that, but nothing was misplaced. Not a crumb or a speck of anything out of the ordinary anywhere. And chickens (mine, anyway) are super messy eaters. I have CIA level covert chickens.

I still love them, but dammit I wanted that cake!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anniversarial State Fair

I love state fairs. North Carolina has a good one, and after going last year I knew I had to go again this year. Had to. Especially now that there's a seven year old in my house/life....

Turns out that the only day the manfriend and I both had free that coincided with no school for the spawn and the state fair happening was Sunday, our anniversary. So. With my friend J from CA (who now lives in NY and does so so very glamorously) on a surprise visit in tow, off to the state fair we went. Woot.

It did not disappoint.

Traditional "this is where we parked" picture.

The Pink Flamingos were at it again!

As were the Jesus donkeys.

Ribs were among the many, many things we ate.

I was so excited about my Elephant ear, I only took an "after" picture.

So bright!

What did YOU get? I got a wet willie.

The manfriend is entirely too pleased with himself.

Mesmerized by blacksmiths

The second best ice cream I have ever had.
All in all, the fair was so much fun. SO MUCH FUN! Again we managed to miss the goats and pigs (they're in the second week, unfortunately), but we did get to see the rabbit and poultry barns and that made me happy. The manfriend and I keep toying with the notion of keeping meat rabbits... we'll see.

Also kind of excited as Alamance County (where I live) has in recent years moved the county fair to the spring. YAY!! I get fair action 6 months apart. Awesome.

But that day of fun didn't stop there. After getting back to the homestead, J politely inquired if she could take a picture with the manfriend's shotgun. Needless to say the manfriend was delighted to show her around his said gun (I am less than enthusiastic on the subject), and this is what happened.

You take one beautifully carved pumpkin:

Beautifully carved pumpkin.
Add a redneck/hippie combo and a gun:
Redneck/hippie combo
And end up with pre-minced pumpkins for the chickens!

Happy chickens!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

To My Love

I told the manfriend I wouldn't write about him (too much). He gets squirmy when I get all mushy and, as he puts it, 'engages Koala mode'.

And this is our one year anniversary. I have been itching to tell the story of how we got together in its fullest for ONE WHOLE YEAR.

But... I'm trying to be good. And I'm having a tough time finding an anniversary gift for him that's not somehow tied to his having to fix/do stuff for me/Stoneyhaw. So I won't get into the gushy details of the wonders of eBay and how it managed to bring two people 3000 miles away, and from completely different upbringings, together ... Happy Anniversay my man! (you do have a gift pending)

8 or 9 months of the last year was a long stint of trading back and forth between our two places every weekend. In that time I think we only missed one weekend together (and that sucked). When I had major water issues and thought I was going to lose it, I packed up and went to Mike's for a week. I spent another week at his house over Christmas and had one of the best ones I can remember. He got to actually rest (wrangling water heaters and whatnot is a form of rest, right?) when he came out here, and when my Mom and Dad left to go back to Canada in December he and the Spawn came out to visit even though he was sick as a dog. He muscled through driving out here, having dinner with my parents (they actually get along great, but he doesn't remember much - his eyes were glassy he was so ill), and consoling a near inconsolable me that night. I cried my eyes out, and he just held me and told me he loved me for the first time. I had known since the first night I spent at his house after the DC trip that I was falling hard for this guy, and I have been continuing to fall hard ever since.

We're now in the next phase - living together and sorting out our lives together as a unit of sorts. Now our plans are intertwined, and working on getting them figured out is so extremely rewarding. And exhausting.

And to Mike (who I know probably didn't make it through this whole post without wanting to throttle me, and definitely didn't make it without squirming and thinking of ways of getting back at me for it): I love you and all that you continue to do for me and us every single moment of every single day. Nothing on this property would be in current working condition if you hadn't have had a hand in it somehow; my batshit self included. Nothing that you do for me is taken for granted, and I am so grateful that it was too damn windy that day for my Dad to haul Melvin back himself. I love you I love you I love you, and your little spawn, too.

This is still one of my favorite pictures of the two of us. It's just so representative of our relationship.

Mike and I don't go out too much (except to Lowe's). But this is a picture from one of the most memorable nights we've gone out - we sat inside our favorite food joint and watched people stare at my car. It should be noted that we looked like that, too, from the knees down.

I love Mike. My dog loves Mike. And I'm pretty sure that's the prodigal hen, there - that would explain a lot of her current behavior!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

*please note I never liked Mr Rogers, I do not condone the watching of said show, and he creeped me out as a kid. That said, dude had a damn good catch phrase!

October is officially my favorite month in my new adopted home state. It has its rainy moments (and fabulous thunderstorms!), but it's also got beautiful glorious clear sunshine with no oppressive heat or humidity at times - when being out in the sun is hot and being in the shade is cold. Like it should be! When jeans and flip flops is perfect attire, and you can never decide between a light long sleeved shirt, or a short sleeved one...

And October carries fabulous reminders of why I moved here (harvest season!), and why I love to stay (it's beautiful!)...

And October brings on that feeling of fall and with fall comes nostalgia...something I borderline OD on in general, and pair that with the fact that I arrived and set the Stoneyhaw adventure into full swing in October, and you've got a fatal combination culminating in...


Classified as 'invasive'. Not this little guy. The flower is maybe an inch in diameter... in the leaves on the ground among the blueberry bushes...

Post exercise.

"I am cute. Give me food."

New Stoneyhaw residents as of today - Dominiques! Finally!

One of the Hampies.

Upper (or 'big') Meadow - if we can get the irrigation thing sorted out, the garden will make up part of it next year.

More of the upper meadow.

Lower (or 'small') meadow as seen from the big one. Future home of goats.

Golf ball. Egg.

We carved a pumpkin. Woot.

Damn idiot chicken on the outhouse. Err, deer blind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Thing Just Leads Into Another - Butter!

Working at a co-op means I basically work at a grocery store. (Basically). One of the perks of working in such a place, is that expired food is often up for grabs to the staff - and grab it we do (it also helps to be nice to the guys in grocery. They're nice guys anyway, but it's nice to get the headsup when stuff goes out of date and becomes available to us vultures).

A few weeks ago 6 pints of Organic (co-op!) Heavy Whipping Cream went out of date. One of the grocery guys who I've become friends with came up and off-handedly asked me if I wanted them. Umm. Yes. He looked at me like I was insane, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to make butter with the spawn. Besides, homemade butter is SUPER tasty, and unless you've got farmer friends, get a realy good deal at a farmers' market, or you come into some out of date cream, who's gonna spend the money on cream just to MAKE butter?

It's totally worth it, mind you.

But I digress. Back to butter.

First: get a butter churn. You can also use a mason jar and shake, but let's face it. This is tiring, and not nearly as fun as this:

The Modern Butter Churn. Or a stand mixer, if you will
Then pour in the cream, turn that puppy on, and stand back. I also drape a towel around the bowl as I have a tendency to skip the low and medium settings and go straight for high, thus sending cream all over everywhere.

I might have to interject that you really can't screw this up - in fact, if you've ever screwed up whipped cream and gotten a dry mass, or worse, a broken mass, then you've already embarked upon the journey of butter making. Relax. You got this.

Whipped Cream.
 If, at this point in time you remebered that you have some berries, fruit, cake, or some such item that may need a whipped embellishment then feel free to scoop some out and take a tea break. Otherwise hold your horses, you're not done yet.

And now the Whipped Cream is starting to look dry....
 Keep going.

You can kind of see liquid pooling up...this is buttermilk.
You'll see yellow clumps forming up here and there amongst a pool of white liquid. This, my friends, is what you've been waiting oh so patiently (yeah - like 5 minutes if you've used a mixer) for. The yellow clumps are butter. The white liquid is buttermilk. This is NOT the cultured buttermilk that you can buy, and unfortunately is an uncommon item here in the west. I love it. I use it in all sorts of baked goods. Umm. Yum.

Next up: strain the buttermilk out from the butter. (and save the buttermilk!). I put a strainer over a (usually too small bowl), line it with a floursack towel (traditionally butter muslin or real cheesecloth. Do not use 'cheesecloth' bought at the supermarket. We will no longer be friends.). Then instead of patiently waiting for most of the liquid to strain out, I gather the corners and squeeze, getting all of the buttermilk out of the butter, and a fair amount of it all over my counter.

Strained, unwashed butter
You still have another step before you can devour said butter. You gotta wash it. That sounds weird, but when you've just strained it it's still got pockets of buttermilk here and there, and they'll make the butter go rancid rather quickly and you don't want that.

What I do is put the butter in a bowl, run cold water into it, knead it a few times with my hands, rinse, repeat. After 2 or 3 times the water will run off clear - and then you're done!

Washing, washing.
 Then strain. Again.

 At this point you can add salt if you want. Or herbs, if you feel the need to really go for it. I love salted butter, but have a tendency to leave this stuff unsalted - so I can put a big pat of it on warm bread and srpinkle some salt on top. (OK. Wishing I had some now!)

One thing tends to lead to another, and now that you've made tasty tasty butter, and you have tasty tasty buttermilk, you gotta make tasty tasty bread.

I make cloverleaf rolls out of the Joy of Cooking, but this recipe is similar. The main difference seems to be that JOC uses butter, not shortening (butter!). Regardless, you're replacing the milk in the recipe for the buttermilk you just made. I ALSO highly recommend making pancakes with said buttermilk. Awesome.

I am one of those people that insists on making everything from scratch once. Be it bread, soap, pickles, whathaveyou - so I urge you to try making butter once, if you aven't already. And if you have - then revisit it! So much fun!

Oh - and I ended up making the butter myself and without the Spawn, although he and the Man both thoroughly enjoyed the final product. I did tell the little guy all about the process, and much to his boredom and my surprise - his class ended up making butter at school the next day. Hehe.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

When Disaster Strikes Someone You Know...

...what do you do? This has been such a crazy and tragic year for many... and for those of us who have been fortunate enough to get missed by disaster (knock on wood), it's tough to know how to respond to those we love; those we both know and don't. My fellow blogger and friend (who has been featured here before) was recently in such a disaster. And she wrote a how to for the rest of us. I am extremely grateful to her for putting together such a candid post, and while I don't wish any kind of disaster on anyone, I feel that I need to pass it on. Just in case.

Go here for the full post.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A Year and a Day

Today is the day after my one year anniversary at Stoneyhaw. What's that? You're surprised you didn't get a big long sappy dripping with nostalgia post yesterday on THE day? Sorry. I had other things to do. Like work. And be dripping with nostalgia in person (kinda) via and phone and massive Skypage with the fam.

But yes. I have been out here in my beloved Melvin for one year. Lucky for you I already did a 'year in review' post, and I will not bore you with another one. But I am absolutely ensconced in thinking about all that I have acquired in the past year - the Manfriend, his Spawn, and Luke the Puppy. Also the chickens (most notably Henrietta), and the Garden (which it turns out, fully has a personality itself).

A big thank you to all who have sent tools, supplies, money, gift cards, and who have spent numerous hours working, laboring, toiling (yes - they are similar in meaning, but I can not stress the amount of hard involved in the hard work involved enough) as well as fretting, worrying, and being concerned. No part of Stoneyhaw could be in its current state of existence without you.  Mom and Mike, you know who you are.

Even though I sometimes go on a rampage that's somewhere along the lines of "dammit I don't want to put my shoes on to pee/to have construction crap everywhere/to have chicken poop everywhere/to have mud everywhere", I am immensely proud of all that has been accomplished in the past year. So. Booya to all you naysayers (oh - I have not forgotten you, don't you worry), and on to year 2!

Luke the Puppy!

Henrietta, Queen of the Waddle Brigade

Prodigal Chicken & Child (as always, guarded by the Zora puppy)

Best. Manfriend. Ever.