Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome FrankenChickens!

Sorry it has been a while with no updates!  With winter still hanging on, we've been having a rough start to spring.  Sid Vicious is really stepping up and although the girls still boss him around, he's a horn dog and spends much of his free time dancing among his henny's and forcably throwing himself on their backs like an awkward rapist!  hahaha  About 3 weeks ago, I succombed to temptation of the Tractor Supply and came home with some chicks.  Now, you know the broodies have been banned after last year's statistics, so this seemed like the next logical choice.  This year's experiment:  FRANKENCHICKENS!  I purchased 2 'TINTED TETRA' pullets, to add to our flock.  They are a production hybrid exclusively sold by Tractor Supply.  They were cross bred by scientists to be full proof layers, efficient on feed, and an all around bird for cranking out eggs. 

Tetra Tints are defined as:  A light weight bird which is mostly white with at times some brown or even black highlights. The Tretra Tint is a cross between a Rhode Island Red male and a White leghorn female, producing cream colored or "tinted" eggs. She is an excellent producer and adapts well to backyards environments.

By my calculation, we should be seeing our first lovely white tinted egg sometime in July!  Thought it would add a nice contrast to our current egg basket.  The peeps were adorable as well.....YELLOW!  None of our heritage breeds had yellow peeps, so this was a real treat.  They are finally (after 3 weeks) warming up to their humans.  They are very curious, love to eat worms and the little they have been out in the yard, seem to be interested in foraging.  They are all white, however, so they will be a target for predators.  My birds are usually locked up, but on weekends and evenings when we are home, they do roam the yard, so will have to keep an eye on them since they are not camoflauged like the other girls.  Hopefully they still have some good instincts in them!  Anyway, after 3 weeks, they are all but fully feathered.  Hopefully in another week or two, we can think about moving them outside, but they cannot go in the big coop until they are closer to full grown.  Phoenix was about 4 weeks old when Rosa the Murderer pecked him to death.....those old girls cannot be trusted! 

Next off.....we wanted to try some meat birds this summer.  I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to do as far as breeds go.  I was thinking about trying a meat hybrid which is slightly slower growing than commercially grown birds that would allow them plenty of time to live a chicken life foraging in the yard before they end up in the freezer.  Well, the call of Tractor Supply was too good and I hit it on a day when there weren't many chicks left.  SO we ended up with 4 Cornish Cross chicks.

 Cornish Cross (X):  This is the most remarkable meat producing bird we have ever seen. Special matings produce chicks with broad breasts, big thighs, white plumage, and yellow skin. The rapid growth of these chicks is fantastic and the feed efficiency remarkable. Whether you get these Cornish X Rock chicks for your own pleasure or to raise and sell, you can’t do better. If you want to raise capons, buy males and have them caponized at 2 or 3 weeks of age. Females have a fine smooth finish when dressed and reach beautiful roasting size. Buying straight run chicks gives you some of each sex so that you can take advantage of the strong points both ways. We think our Cornish X Rock chicks are among the finest meat birds in America. We should know. We fill our family freezers with them every year! Males will dress from 3 to 4 pounds in six to eight weeks and females will take about one and one-half weeks longer to reach the same size. Please Note: These birds are not recommended for raising at altitudes above 5000 feet.

So as you can tell, there are many features of these birds that make them a health risk.  Keeping them much over the 6-10 week window will cause them to break legs, have heart attacks and die.  They tend to overeat and could blow out their crops too.  They are a liabilty for sure!  One look at these chicks, you just know somethings not normal.  Out the gate, they are twice as big as the layers and the first thing we noticed?  They pant.  Like an obese person.  They are labored all the time, just from moving.  They do not like to stand up and prefer laying on their bellies with their face stuffed in their food.  Even their little drum sticks are already formed.  You can just imaging taking a bite of their little legs!  It's very bizarre!  They are big oafs.  It didn't take long for the little girls to become agile around them.  (They shared a brooder for 2 weeks!)  I kept telling the little girls to run before they got crushed!  Ironically, they all bonded well!  When first separated, they called to each other.  We socialize them together outside and they all stick together well.  What do you think happens when you are bred to be a machine that produces alot of meat?  Well, your metabolism is on overdrive!  These big things radiate some serious heat!  Just to touch them you can feel it!  In order to fuel that metabolism, they eat ALL THE TIME.  The bodily response that results of all that eating?  SHIT.....ALOT OF IT.  Chicken shit STINKS!!!!!  I clean their brooder every day or 2.  I can't wait to move them outside and just tonight, put them downstairs in the basement to start 'hardening' to the colder weather.  The heat lamps have been off and now they can acclimate to probably 50 degrees downstairs.  The littles are still upstairs in the 68 degrees.  They can take a bit longer as there is only 2 of them and they are not so annoying and smelly! 

Out to play for the first time!

Diet.  Since I wasn't premeditating this purchase, I had not gotten any food from the Mennonite farmer I buy my feed from.  I bought a small bag of commercially produced chick starter at Tractor Supply and I made sure it was unmedicated, since the big gang will have less time to grow, figured it would be good to stay away from it.  It is about a 20% protein feed which is perfect for the littles, but the meat birds could be on 24% protein.  After 2 weeks, I made it to the farm and bought an 80lb bag of soy free organic broiler feed at about $33 currently.  Price fluctuates on feed due to the price of peas, corn, etc.  I am keeping the layers on the chick starter until it is finished and then getting everyone on the broiler mash.  The littles will stay on a 20% protein feed until July when they get ready to lay, then they can go on a lower protein, higher calcium layer mash with the big girls.  In the mean time, they need the protein for feather production and healthy growth.  Letting them out to graze is helping them learn to forage for bugs, eat dirt when they need some grit in their crops and gives them something to do.  They are enjoying it.  The big gang hasn't gotten the hang of foraging like the littles have, but they will get there.  The more the forage, the more nutritious they will be for us to eat! 

Sex?  I didn't pay attention to the sign at Tractor Supply on the meaties.  I'm not sure if they were straight run (luck of the draw) or sexed males.  So far, I'm certain 2 are males.  Their combs are getting larger and they are starten to redden around the combs and skin around the eyes and I see their waddles coming down and reddening.  The other 2 seem to remain light pink and not enlarging, which makes me suspect they are female.  I have not butchered any females, so that could be an experience!  Not sure what to do with girl parts!  Also, that means, we may want to do the 2 males at 6 -8 weeks, and the femalies 8-10 weeks, as they are slower to get to 'market weight'.  We are at 3 weeks now and let me tell you....seeing them next to our full grown dual purpose breeds....their bodies are almost the same size already!   They have grown so much in 3 weeks!  This is the breed you will find in the supermarket!  This is what you are buying!  Very facinating to see what we eat and watch them live their sad little lives!  It is very sad, by the way.  They aren't as smart as the littles.  Tonight the littles were sheltering themselves in a huge mound of brush that is ready to get burned while the meaties were huddled together out in the wide open grass.  The attack the food dish when I bring it.  Like they are starving.  It is insane.  Anyway, that is what is going on here and I will get some more updates posted as we go along.  We should have butchering in 3-5 weeks! 

The littles in the original brooder

                                                   The Meaties in their new larger brooder.

Keep on clucking!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you cluckers are having a great holiday!  I feel fortunate to be able to celebrate this holiday in the spirit of days gone by!  We thawed out one of the Ameraucana's and smoked it!  I know it was the one I butchered because I did not cut off the 'greaser' which is a little nub down by the tail that creates the oil birds will grab with their beak and spread on their feathers while they groom.  I know Joe cut his off.  Once the feathers were off, I could not tell which bird was which, so I am not sure who fed us tonight, but I must say...5 month old Ameraucana's are pretty fab!  Kenny brined it for about 2 days in water, salt and brown sugar.  Today, he rubbed it with spices and stuffed it with apples, lemon, onions and spices.  It was slow cooked at about 200 degrees on the smoker with some hickory chips.  Amazed!  Very flavorful!  Not gamey at all and we all agreed it was the best chicken we've ever eaten!  Very tender as well!  It was a little salty, so would definitely adjust the brine time, but otherwise PERFECT!  Closing with some photos.  Thankful for the circle of life!  Hatching a baby from an egg, watching the mother nuture and protect it, seeing it grow into a beautiful bird, processing it into something we can eat and enjoying an organic, free ranged bird for a holiday meal (hopefully at a fraction of the cost, but I could not be sure of that!)  Organic Turkeys from a local farm were going for $4.99/lb which for a 20 lb bird is ALOT of cash!  Enjoy and cheers!
After the brining.
Stuffed with apples, lemons, onions and spices

The girls came up for some oatmeal....not sure they knew what was cooking in the smoker!



Genny enjoyed eating her baby.  She said it was the best chicken ever!  :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coq A Vin part Trois: The Dissection.

The Dissection.
I don't suspect this part will upset anyone...I mean, unless you are a vegan.
We left off with our defeathered birds.  Amazingly, even though the majority of feathers were removed, there were actually little hairs that did not come out that way.  We used an open flame to singe these little hairs.  The 2 Ameraucana's had more of these hairs than the Welsummer.  I do not know if the hairs differ between breeds, but that is what we noticed.  Just a quick wave over the flame did the trick.  We started using a little torch but it went out and we couldn't get it to fire back up, so we used the turkey fryer and it worked just fine.  I did notice the skin shrinking up with the heat.  It's important to move it around quickly so as not to cook it.

The first part of the dissection involved cutting a small hole just under the belly.  We felt for the bone there and cut under it.  This was just a start, I had to make it a bit bigger after I heard the next instructions.

Another thing we worked on was the neck.  We made afew cuts to the next skin and peeled it off a bit leaving the neck meat behind.  We also got the crop out.  Lila's was small compared to the 2 babies...they must have gorged themselves after the others went to bed!  Their crops were HUGE!  All the food they eat gets stored in the crop until it's ready to move down the digestive tract.  We had to push the corn up the tubes to contain it into the sack.  Still in shock about what was happening, it was a little awkward for me.  Joe was calm and cool and handled this stuff like a champ.  Next I think we pulled out the wind pipe. 
As you can see below, we made cuts at each of the legs to widen our workable space.  Afew times during working with the bird we actually had to 'break' bones at the joints.  It was weird.  This is what the cavity looked liked before we scooped out the innards.  Those 2 red pieces are the liver.

We removed the heart first by reaching all the way to the front of the cavity and feeling it, grabbing ahold and pulling it out.  The 3 hearts below.  Lila's was bigger than the younger birds.

After the hearts were removed.  We gently scooped out the remaining guts.  It took some time to work them all up in one big pile.  I was not as good as Joe was at it.  The lungs in my bird were still attached to the breast and he managed to scoop his up right away.  When I went back to remove the lungs after, I realized that had I just pushed my fingers into each rib space, they would have come out.  I was afraid to really grab down there because I knew there were some things you just do not want to rupture. 
After the guts were brought to the front, we delicately found and removed the liver followed by the gizzard.  The gizzard was fun to play with.  We had to be careful we did not puncture the green little sack of the gallbladder.  That would sour the meat.  We both did a good job avoiding that fate.  The gizzard was an awesome little organ to check out.  It was hard and full of corn, but it was more mashed up that what was in the crop.  We had to gently slice into the side of it little by little until we say the start of the white sack.  Then the whole outer 'meat' peeled off to reveal a little white sack of the corn.  The sack gets tossed and the outer meat is a delicacy for the children (says Mrs. Hoover).  My children would be gagging!  :) 
Once all the usable organs were removed (my gift to Mrs Hoover!), we continued to cut up Lila into pieces.  The 2 young birds we kept whole because they will be much more tender.  Lila will have to be cooked long and slow so he tenders up.  The babies should be fairly tender, but not as much as store bought meat.  We are thinking of thawing one out for Thanksgiving this week and smoking it. 

Clean up was very simple as we did not make a huge mess!  All the feathers went right into the trash can and we were throwing parts away as we make cuts.  I did notice our favorite canibal....the murderer Rosa (see prior post about the demise of Phoenix, our month old chick....) was quick to clean up any bloody morsel that was left in the grass.....chickens will eat anything, by the way.  Don't let those 'my chickens are vegetarian' advertising slogans fool you!

So....what happens next?  Well....I asked Joe if he thought we could process 10 in a day.   To my delight....his reply was....I'm up for 5.  So our next project is to research meat bird breeds, grow time and plan our housing out for spring chicks!  I do believe we are starting a two family co-op and I just LOVE IT!  The kids are looking forward to raising more chicks.  This time, they will have food names.  Fettucine, Picatta, get the picture. 

No, the girls didn't seem to acknowledge the missing boys.  In fact, it was business as usual.  Sid Vicious, the surviving young rooster, is a bit wishy washy on his duties.  He seemed to start to take control of the girls, but quickly ended up on his own letting the girls scatter about the yard.  I hear him making some calls here and there...he's good at warning calls, but has not clucked to get the girls to follow him.  He's in fact being bossed by the girls.  They peck him, and he runs scared.  He sleeps in the nest box most nights, afraid to roost with them.  I see him perched high up on a ledge above the coop scared.  He does crow here and there, but he's not as vocal as Lila.  Some mornings he's quiet, and the next he's making a little ruckous.  I like the crows, so the sooner he finds his manhood, the happier I will be.  :)  He's young.  Hoping he just hasn't hit all out puberty yet and will get over his fear of the women.  I will cheer the day he mounts a hen.  :)

9 birds of all most mature statue really did a number on the food supply!  We were going through lots of feed.  Not sure if it was the hungery teenage roosters, or the fact that we had 9 birds.  Immediately, I noticed that food and water supplies are lasting long without those three.  We will get through the winter with our 5 girlies and re-evaluate adding a hen or 2.  Thinking we should add 2 so they have a buddy.  Those girls are ruthless!  haha  Right now, we are still motling so only getting an egg or 2 per day from the Barred Rocks.  They seem to not be hit as hard by the molt.  The Easter Eggers and the Welsummer have been out of the count for weeks.  Hope they make their way back to egg laying soon!

Sorry my screen shot is so small.  Here is the crew just before we started dissecting!

Peace out cluckers!

Friday, November 15, 2013


If you do not want to see images of my chickens about to be killed, just killed and in the process of being gutted, you may want to skip this post!

D day has arrived.  I had about 2 hrs to finish gathering what I needed after my kids got on the school bus....all the while scurrying to do normal Friday chores...trash day, clean the bathrooms, do some dishes and some wash.  My invited guests arrived right on time and I heard a baby crying and knew it sounded too young to be our neighbor's, who is now 2 years old.  Mrs Hoover pushed a double stroller containing her 2 little girls, Jolene and Priscilla and her baby boy (the 2nd boy in 7 children!), baby Lee a mile to our home from their farm.  First stop, Baby Lee was a little gretzy, so mama stopped to feed him (from the tap).  Gretzy is a great word we folks of PA Dutch (or Deutsche) heritage use to describe a child (or person) who is irritable and cranky.  My guests today are fluent in PA Dutch, much like my father's parents.  It was a real treat to watch them all speaking Dutch to each other. I haven't heard that in many years as my father and his siblings never really learned the language.  We all have some things we know.  Swear words, of course, top the list of things most people learn.  After that, it's just a language your grandparents use when they don't want you to know what they are talking about or arguing with each other!  :)  These guests are of the Mennonite faith in the Old Order.  They drive a horse and buggy and dress plain.  They do have a phone, unlike the old order Amish, but I would guess alot of their practices are similar. 

Clash of the 1800's.  New school plain vs old school plain.

The 2 younger neighbor kids, also Mennonite, however they are of the modern sect and drive cars, have computers and cell phones, but do not have a television, came over just in time for the killing.  I am not sure if the two sects interact.  Personally, I would think the Old Order folk would not like the defected sect, who live much more modern lives, dress with bolder colors and prints but still claim to be 'plain'.  I did send word with the kids to see if their mother wanted to pop over to watch as she had mentioned at one point that she was interested.  Needless to say, Callie (4) and Evan (2) came over for the fun.  I thought they'd want to play with the girls, but they were more interested in the chickens.  I hope they aren't scarred for life!  They watched the killing and then quietly crept back to their own yard and that is the last I saw of them. 

First task at hand was the kill.  Mrs Hoover brought a feed sack and she had cut out on of the corners just enough so the birds heads would fit through.  The idea was to cut off the head with her shearers and then the bird would flop out the blood in the feed bag.  No muss, no fuss.  My birds were in boxes all ready to go.  Lila was by himself and the 2 babies were in another box together.  We started with Lila.  Mrs Hoover put the sack up over the box while opening the flaps, grabbed Lila and forced him into the bag.  Once secure, she used her fingers to feel for his head and coaxed it out the hole she made in the corner.

Then she stretched the head and neck out and we clipped the head off with the clippers above.  She had the bag secured and after the head came off, the bird went through his involuntary flop phase, which actually serves a purpose.  It helps get the blood out and is important in the bleed out phase.

This girls giving Lila a pet before his demise.  Someday they will be doing the butchering for their family!

One snip, and the little bastard is an oven stuffer roaster.
After all 3 birds were killed and done flopping, we got on to the next task.  I had a turkey fryer set up with water boiling.  The key to the defeathering, is opening the pores so the feathers remove easily.  If the water is too hot, the pores will close.  We added some cooler water to the boiling water.  Then one by one, submerged the birds in the pot for afew minutes.  After all were wet, hot and ready to go, we tied each to a rope over a beam by their legs and pulled all the feathers.  They just came right out!  It really was neat how they just pulled out.  We worked quickly as this needed to be done before the bird cooled up again.

Here we are!  All Naked and looking almost like supermarket chicken!

We still have a long way to go until we are ready for the freezer.  The killing and defeathering stages were not too bad.  Really.  I was a little sad when we killed them, but we had so much work to do that there wasn't time to lament.  When you choose to raise chickens, you need to get over the fact that these are pets and realize you have a job to do to keep your flock safe, healthy and fed.  Culling birds is what is necessary to achieve that.  My organically fed, ranging boys will hopefully taste great and blow away Frank Perdue.  We shall see!

I will stop the tale here and continue with the next post after I digest some more.  The actual butchering was a little tedious.  I was not a great biology student and we were finding all sorts of body parts.  Fascinating to say the least.  My great friend, Joe, was on his way over and made it just in time to join us for the butchering.  It worked out perfect since we had 3 birds and 3 butcherers!  I'm so glad he joined me on this Goonie adventure as I have been on a few of his so it's always nice to return the favor!  Although he said he wasn't too into the butchering, he was actually much more of a natural than I.  I took afew pics during that sequence, but I filmed the whole thing.  So, I will work on trying to pull some stills out of my footage and maybe afew clips.  Bear with me on this as it may take a bit of time for the update!

Thank you for sticking with me through this as I know it makes most queasy!  I can also add for your amusement, that when ordering dinner tonight, I ordered only pork products and skipped the chicken!  :)

Shouting out a fond farewell to Lila, Matilda and Raven.  You were all lovely birds and so glad we had the opportunity to raise you up so that you can nourish our bodies as nature intended.  We will miss you all but your stories will be told for years to come!

Nighty night, Cluckers.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Coq au Vin

Some thoughts as I prepare for tomorrow. 

The time has come to learn how to kill, gut and prepare our birds to use as food.  Yes, the sound of this is grusome and repulsive, but knowing my birds have had a great life here compared to a factory farm makes me feel good about it.

A wonderful Old Order Mennonite woman, Rachel Hoover, who lives on a dairy farm just down our road, graciously agreed to teach me the fine art of killing and dressing chickens.  She is a mother of 7 and most of the time I run into her, she is in the barn tending to their cows.  Last night, I stopped by the farm to confirm our project details and was greeted by the gaggle of kids all smiles.  They are definitely less creepy and suspicious of 'fancy folk' as our more modern car driving plain neighbors.  Go figure!  After all was confirmed, I set out to get my head together planning what I need.

I found afew blogs/web sources on small scale chicken processing.  I will continue to review tonight so I make sure anyting we could possibly need is on hand as this will be messy.  Mrs Hoover is mainly looking for me to provide a table, boiling pot of water and an open flame for burning off feathers and fuzz after we pluck them.  I have seen other items that will help- bucket to catch blood, ice bucket, clean and soapy water buckets and trash can for feathers/guts.  I have also seen pics of what to expect in the gutting process.  I was never a great biology student, but it is kind of cool to check out guts!  Also, will be able to find out some clues on the health of our birds which will hopefully help with the other birds and future birds! 

The plan is:  The kids will help me box Lila in the morning.  We've been saving a large box just for him!  They can say their goodbyes.  Raven and Matilda (2 of the young roosters) will also be contained as they are a bugger to catch!  All 3 birds will be oven stuffer roasters by the time the kids return from school and we will be planning our pen design for some Cornish Crosses in the spring if all goes well!  We cannot keep the meat birds with the flock for various reasons.  But we have plenty of space left on the acre we pay out the butt for so here it goes!  Wish me luck!  Hope to document the process with pics, video and the steps we took. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mid-Century Madness

Today's post will have absolutely nothing to do with our feathered friends.  Rest assured, everyone is fine and I have some fresh leg gashes and bruises.  :)  Throughout the better part of this year I have been collecting mid century items.  My addiction started with inheriting my Grandmother's Heywood Wakefield China Hutch (premature to her death).  Of course I bought a book to learn more about the furniture and realized that what my Grandmother had, although a quality piece, was of their Colonial line.  It was not as sought after by collectors as their STREAMLINE MODERN blonde.  I aquired my first piece this year....followed by a second...and a third.....and the other week I doubled my collection in one purchase.  I'm hooked, needless to say.  In my quest for all things mid-century, I've been checking out the local used furniture shops.  You can tell the economy sucks....they are popping up everywhere.  I don't mean little boutique places.....I mean HUGE warehouses full of stuff!  Every period imagionable is covered...victorian...queen anne...colonial.  You like it, you can find it.  There are 3 of these places in my county alone!  My experience has been that the prices are lower than typical retail at antique shops, but you really need to look the pieces over as they will require elbow grease and possibly refinishing.  Now the real deals, they just sneak up on you!  Take, for instance, the lovely Heywood Wakefield twin bed with footboard and rails.  A complete bed...add mattress and boxspring.  Immaculate shape, no refinishing required and not a scratch on the thing.  $30!!!!  Found this at a newer local antique shop.  I'm sure they had no idea what it was worth.  It could have gone for easily $150---and more like $200-300.  We did not need a bed, but decided it was too good to pass up.  Genny has fallen in love with it and it is now hers.  It's in the Wheat finish, compared to our other pieces which are in the Champagne finish.  The wheat reminds me of the old wooden school chairs we had in elementary school, which were most likely also made by Heywood Wakefield! 
Genny's new 'vintage' $30 Encore Twin Bed in Wheat finish.
Next up, the gentleman who hooked me up with the china hutch and dining table was coming to the area.  I had agreed to purchase 3 tables from him for $100 each.  Delivery day came and I was so excited to see the pieces. 

This fabulous table is a LAMP table.  It is a Heywood signature piece in this era and line.  I've seen them selling for as much as $400 fully restored.  This one needs some TLC as the finish on the top is rough.  It will be a future project for me and I hope I have the ability inside me to do it justice!

The TWIN end tables date to the early 1950's and were only made for 3 years.  There were many other step end tables made in this line, but this is the only one with a drawer in the front.  They usually sell for more than the standard step end tables.  The storage drawer is huge!  They are not immaculate and one is better than the other.  Future projects, but usable in the mean time. 
Here's one of the tables all set up in the living room.  I picked up that sweet pottery base lamp with 3 tier fiberglass shade for $60 at the Extravaganza in Kutztown.  It's ugly and screaming mid century!  Looks great in my otherwise bland living room. 
We are having a fun time sourcing these pieces.  I look to find some matching dressers to Genny's bed at some point.  We will be heading to Philadelphia in the morning to check out a place called Mid-Century Furniture Warehouse.  They have afew pics of coordinating pieces to Genny's bed, but I do not know their finish.  Prices are higher than I'd like, but looking through a place like that full of teak, walnut, blonde and other atomic finds just makes me giddy!  :)  I figured it was worth the trip to check it out.  Ikea's MDF based melamine furniture is definitely not heirloom quality as this stuff was!  If you find any of these pieces in your family heirlooms, please take care of it!  A little scrub with Murphy's Oil Soap followed by some beeswax polish is all you need to bring it back to life!  I'm done with cheap modern furniture! 
 Poppin' Tags.   I'm sure by now, especially if you have older children, you have heard Macklemore's rap THRIFT SHOP.  If not, click on the link and check it out.  Warning....there is swearing but the song is hysterical and the video is well done.  It plays in my head every time I'm walking around Goodwill!  Yes, I admit it.  I check out the Goodwill when I am in the area!  I hit 2 stores in one day yesterday.  I made a trunk load donation and found a rockin' vintage pottery dish for $8.  Now, if you see anything in Goodwill marked more than $2 or $3, you know it's worth something.  I'm sure there is an employee that has the challenge of valuing the junk that is given to them.  Someone is looking this crap up on ebay and saying....oh hell no....we aren't selling this fine piece for $.97!   So be skeptical when you find something that looks like it might be old and has a higher price tag.  Lucky for me, my ghetto pay-as-you-go cell phone plan has internet access.  As I waited in line to buy, I quickly found my piece selling for $20 on ebay.  That was a pretty good score!  I knew it would look good on my new tables too! 

The piece was signed so it was easy to find.  The markings underneath said Cal Orig 895 USA.  I searched for that and found one fast.  Can't find any info on California Originals Pottery, but they made lots of stuff in this vintage from ashtrays to candy dishes and serving pieces.  Love the paint and glaze!  They aren't worth tons of money, most likely because it seems they put out alot of them.  But the piece will add the vintage look I was going for to my room and that is worth the $8 I spent! 
The second Goodwill of the day was a SUPER SCORE!  I found this tin contraption with a metal carry handle that wrapped around to keep the compartments together.  3 layers....pie on bottom, cake in the big middle and a small layer up top.  Pretty neat.  The illustrations on the side were sports themed and definitely had a retro vibe going on.  No markings, though so not sure who made it.  No rust either!  We had recently found a tin plaid cooler from the 50's and it had some rust going on.  This was in pretty fab shape.  Then I thought, what if it isn't as old as I think it is?  Well, for $4.97 it was worth the risk!  I bake ALOT.  I camp ALOT.  I will definitely use this piece!  So I purchased and when I looked it up, they go from $30-60!  The triple tiered ones seem to be the most expensive.  SCORE!  I'm very pleased with this awesome piece.  Very sad that there was also a silver tin cannister set there and I glanced at it, but did not jump on it.  I found 2 today at vintage shop for $25 each set.  That would have been a good score too, but then again, I didn't really need one.  You have to draw the line somewhere I guess!  Maybe some day I will try to get in the antique game of buying low and selling high.....would be fun but not sure how profitable.'s the J L Clark (still in business by the way and made all sorts of tin packaging from band aid tins to mint tins!) Picnic Pal or Triple Decker Food Carrier!

Will hope to have some more stories of fabulous finds after tomorrow's road trip.  Not sure if I will actually come home with anything, but spending the day out browsing will sure be fun!  And to make it more fun, we are going to be taking the Vanagon! 
Thanks for listening to my non-feathered friends update! 
Peace out cluckers....

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Harvesting, Canning, Broodies and Roosters!

Been a while since I've updated and apologize for getting caught up in life!  Our 3 babies are getting very large.  They have been in the coop with the big gang for over about a month now.  They are petrified of the big gang!  They sleep in a nest box together and during the day, they stay in the coop on the roost bars while the gang is in the run.  Here's a look at them:

I posted these pics on the chicken boards to see what the folks though their sex was.  More than one person feels that all 3 of them are male!  Mama Grun is 4 for 4!  Geez, I'm not taking her up on her broodiness again!  I was told that they are probably surpressing their 'male' behavior at this point because there is a dominant male in the flock (LILA).  Well, Lila is on his way out at some point this fall.  I have arranged to get a butchering lesson and he is the guinea pig.  I was going to take Rosa with so she can do one and I can do the other, but now that we don't have another hen to replace her with, I will take one of the babies.  The kids and I collectively decided to keep Sid Vicious.  He is part Faverolles and they are mild mannered and usually at the bottom of the pecking order.  He's smaller than the girls, though, so not sure how that will affect his love life!  He is beautiful as well.  Genny must have had a conversation on the bus with one of the girls afew houses down the street.  They got chicks this spring and have been having issues with hawks picking them off.  Genny said they are down to 3.  She said the girl said they would like a rooster to have babies.  I told Genny if that is true they are welcome to one of ours!  They can pick Matilda or Raven and whoever does not get picked will be chicken nuggets. 
Meanwhile, I've been busy trying my hand at canning.  I've done some peach jelly and just today some jalepeno jelly and some apple sauce.  I was highly disappointed with the amount of applesauce I got out of like 9 lbs of apples!  I decided pint jars were just too small so I used quarts and only got 2 jars and a small amount of left overs to eat now.  Apple season has just begun though, so there will definitely be more!  I did not use a single smidge of sugar and spiced it up with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  I was very pleased with the flavor.  We are fortunate to live near a nice orchard.  I buy the 'seconds' and they are super cheap.  The old couple who has owned the orchard forever always is ready to help select varieties for what you are doing with them.  She picked me a big bag of mixed varieties just for my sauce.  They are not organic, because she told me once that there is no way they could not use chemicals and get a decent product.  Farming is hard work no matter how you look at it!  You can pick up nectarines, peaches, apples and pears right now at Hoberts Orchards right in the tiny (don't blink) town of Landis Store, PA.  They usually have apples until January. 
Still waiting for the applesauce jars to seal.....first time I tried quart jars!  If they don't seal I will have to reprocess them.
Another cool fact.  The jars I used for the applesauce were from Kenny's grandmother!  She is in an assited living home now.  She used to be an avid canner and I'm sure there were some tomatoes in these jars at some point from Kenny's late Pap Pap's famous garden.  Wish I could have spent some time with her learning the ropes while she was still in better health!

Keeping the jars and lids warm prior to filling with goodness.  There is a whole science to this! 

Finished Jalepeno Jelly.  I got 12 jelly jars full!  Will be sharing some with my friend who grew some of the peppers!  Some were from our garden and some were from his.  This jelly is yummy warmed and poured over cream cheese as a dip.  I found another recipe where you can use cranberry sauce and mix with the jelly and pour over cream cheese.  The possibilities are endless but all will have heat!
One last thing that has been going on out in the coop........we've got another broody!  Flower has taken to the nest box.  We keep taking the eggs from her.  Was thinking yesterday we could always let her hatch some of the barred rock eggs since we'll know their sex at birth.  The moral of the your chicks sexed and forget about those who want to be mama's!  Apparently there is less than a 50% chance of getting a female chick! 
This clucker is glad the children are in agreement with the eating of said roosters.....I'm glad they have not started crowing or I would be subject to a crow off at 5am!  :)  Cock A Doodle....CRAP!!!


Saturday, July 20, 2013


It's been a while since I've checked in and I apologize for that!  We have been very busy this summer with the kids just about finished up with swim team season and getting ready for our vacation in afew weeks!  About that vacation......we are facing having my mother come up to feed/water and collect eggs daily.  My mother has seen and heard enough about Lila....I think it's stressing her out.  So with that said, I have been trying to come up with solutions to the Lila problem.  How mom can get where she needs to be with minimal interaction.  The only solution I have come up with is to integrate the chicks with the big girls, remove Lila to the babies run/shelter and hope mom can fill a pan with water and add food to the trough without any issues.  The issues will be cleaning the pan gets filled with straw or chicken poop and need to be removed.  How can she bend in there without him getting near her?  If it rains and the trough fills with water it will need to be cleaned out and refilled.  So problems are not solved....but in an ideal world they may be. Well, since we are around this weekend and will not be next, I figured we could start the process so we are here to supervise.  Tonight before chicken bed, we had Grun and Flower in the big coop with the babies....the rest were in the small run.  I was hoping that if they get to know 2 of the big girls, we can slowly add the rest over the next few days.  I was HOPING that Grun would help protect them.  Yeah right.  She starting pecking at them and pulling feathers!  Out she went.....with the rest of the gang.  So as night fell, Flower was on the front roost bar and the babies were on the back bar and then had jumped down to eat and drink before settling down.  It's still very hot and the birds have been panting alot.  I hope this heatwave gets out of here soon!  They all run around together in the yard when they are out, so it's not like they are not 'friends', but the babies still stick together and being in a confined space, all bets are off.  I just hope tomorrow morning there are no incidents with Flower and the young ones.  We will let them out tomorrow and try tomorrow by adding another gal to the coop.  Prissy tried pecking them earlier and she was ousted before Grun.  Social hierarchy of chickendom SUCKS!  The babies seem terrified when the big girls start pecking them.  And we can never get Phoenix out of our minds, but they are much older than he was then. 

As far as sexes.  I'm convinced we got 3 females.  Although Brownie, who we now call SID VICIOUS or Sidney, has started developing waddles, they have not enlarged much since the start.  The comb is still very wide but has stayed flat.  She does not hold herself like Phoenix of Lila did and certainly is not as curious as the roosters we have had.  She holds herself just like her sisters, so I'm hoping that I am correct.  Lila's life may be spared for another year!  Blackie has been renamed RAVEN since she reminds us of a black crow or raven.  Her feathers have a beautiful green iridescent sheen.  Mouse has been renamed MATILDA.  Sid Vicious is quite a beauty with her light patterned head and brown patterned feathers. Her patterning reminds me of Prissy and Flower, but much different in color combinations.  I did catch Raven clucking like a hen, but they still all revert to their peeping especially when they are upset or calling out to their baby gang.  The baby days are almost history.....looking forward to being able to relax when they are all integrated!!! 

Here's a look at the gang this week! They all have beautiful beards coming in!  We love the pouff faces!

Matilda and Me

Raven and Genevieve

Trent and Sid Vicious
Think cool thoughts, cluckers!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Back to the Grind!

We noticed today some changes in the dynamics with the chicks and their mama.  Grun has been hanging in the coop when she gets the chance.  She also does not seem to be clucking to them like she had been.  Today, we left for afew hours and left her with the big gang in the main coop and enclosed the chicks in their little run.  There was no trauma, no squawking or calling by Grun.  The babies were calling, but quickly went about doing their chick business of eating and scratching.  After we left everyone out for the evening, Grun also stayed away from them.  She's not avoiding them per se, but doing her own thing.  They will sometimes follow her, but they have been scurrying around together in their own baby flock.  Genny just brought in another surprise from today! 

Grun laid an egg this evening!  It's not as dark as usual, but she has had a almost 2 month hiatus from egg laying due to her broodiness.  When she was young, they had slowly darkened over a period of a month or so.  I expect after seeing this egg, it will be the same.  You can definitely see the dark specks, which none of the other girls have in their eggs.  Here's hoping she won't decide to take up residence in the nest box again!!!  We have enough babies......for now!!!! 

I did have a moment with her today.....let her know that she has been a wonderful mama to those eggs we brought home and put under her.  The chicks are still afraid of us, but we are working on handling them so they trust us.  Made us miss Phoenix even more as we can really tell now how fond of us he was whereas these babies are all about the mama! 

Glad to see her first egg looked perfect!  She's been off layer feed since the chicks have been born, although the last few weeks she's been pretty much free ranging all day, so I'm sure she is picking up what she needs.  We also give her yogurt treats. 

The gang enjoying a snack of yogurt and oatmeal this hot afternoon.  The babies are with the big gals!

Flower full of yogurt!  Grun is behind her.
Enjoy your weekend!