Meet Dinky

Those of you who follow my blog regularly know that hubby and I raise backyard chickens.  And every now and then I’ll throw a chicken post into the mix; this happens to be one of them.  I  couldn’t resist sharing one of our newest additions with you.  We hatched this little chick in a incubator.

A runt (and Silkie breed) for sure, this little chicken has been dubbed Dinky.  It is one of the friendliest and most photogenic baby chicks we have raised yet. 

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Sweet Corn and the Deep Freeze

If you live in climates where fresh fruits and vegetables are practically unheard of during the winter months than you might appreciate this post.  You know what I’m talking about, it’s that time of year when the only things that you’ll find  green are misletoe or Christmas trees.  *Disclaimer – if you can’t associate with this type of winter season than send me your address I’m coming to visit!

To help myself feel as if I have some, even if it’s just a little, control over the situation I typically think ahead.  I pick fresh berries and freeze them, make an abundance of sweet jams and jellies, and if the conditions are right – I load the freezer up with some veggies too. 

Our neighbors always plant a Goliath of a garden which they share with their family, friends, and neighbors.  This year, thanks to their generosity, they offered us sweet corn to freeze and to eat fresh. 

Have you ever froze corn?  It’s not hard.  You just have to blanch it before freezing it. I usually pull out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book to refresh my memory on blanching times before I freeze anything.  In the case of freezing sweet corn, here is what to do. First, put a big pot of water on the stove and set the heat on high temperature to bring the water to a full boil.  Then husk and wash the corn. Once the water is boiling  drop the corn into the pot one ear at a time.  The size of the ears of corn depends on your blanching time. For example, the cookbook recommends 7 minutes for small sized ears, 9 minutes for mediums sized ears, and 11 minutes for larger sized ears. Start timing your blanching process the minute you drop the corn into your pot.  *If you live 5000 feet above sea level add another minute to your blanching time.

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Once the corn is blanched plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process.  When the corn has cooled enough so you can handle it cut the kernels off of each cob and package it in freezer bags or containers. I use freezer bags and press them flat so they take up less space in the freezer. 

I know there will be many a winter night that this home grown corn will taste great smothered in butter and salt and pepper.

Picking blueberries and my mood

I love picking blueberries.  There is something therapeutic about it.  You start out thinking you’re never going to fill your (rather large) pail and before you know it, your mind wanders off and suddenly your pail is full of ripe, fresh berries. 

I  made a trip to Glenhaven Farm  to pick some berries today.  It was nice to enjoy the farms beautiful and quiet country setting and sample a couple of their delicious wines before heading home to make an old-fashioned blueberry custard pie (more on that in the near future).  I took my camera along for the ride, took some pictures while I was at the farm, and played around with it once I got back home.  A perfect afternoon in my book. 

I’ve notice that my mood dictates a lot of my posts.  Sometimes I feel more like writing, sometimes I feel like spending more time on my photos, and sometimes I’m just very concentrated on baking a perfect treat.  Today was definitely a photo day but I have to admit the reason I picked blueberries was for the sole purpose of making an old-fashioned blueberry custard pie.  The pie turned out delicious and we had it for dessert.  It was very hard to refrain from going back for a second piece.

 

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These gals were waiting for me when I got home.

 

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To be continued.  Stay tuned for more on the old-fashioned blueberry custard pie….

Bring on the berries

A few years ago I planted a couple of strawberry plants in the corner of our garden.  I loved the idea of having fresh berries at my fingertips. The berries seemed to like it there because they have multiplied significantly, and last year I got tons of berries to eat fresh, freeze, and make into jam.

I use to think the biggest problem with raising strawberries was the weeds associated with them, but this year the biggest problem turned out to be our beloved chickens.  It seems as if the chickens have as much love for those bright red, sweet berries as I do.

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Initially, it started out as a race to the garden, with me always coming in second place.  Shoeing the chickens away didn’t work because they always found their way back to it the minute I turned my attention to something else.  Dried out stems, along with green and half-eaten berries were the only proof that big, fat berries once flourished there.  Tired of the constant aggravation of patrolling the garden and always coming in second place, I threw in the white flag.  And let me tell you defeat is bitter, especially when our dog doesn’t even seem to care.

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A trip to our local berry patch helped ease the pain (a little), but the thought of having to pay for berries didn’t set that well.   I guess we sacrificed my berries for their fresh eggs – I’m not sure I like that deal.  Next year I will be ready for the berry invaders – you can count on that!

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If there is one thing I can’t live without, it’s homemade jams and jellies.  Honestly, there is nothing like them.  Sure, store-bought jams and jellies are okay, but they aren’t as tasty as those you make yourself.  For those of you intimidated by making jams and jellies don’t be.  They really aren’t that hard. 

I prefer to make strawberry freezer jam because it takes less time to prepare than cooked jams and jellies.  It also sets a bit softer, and the fruit flavor is amazing since it’s not cooked out of it. First, I start out by stocking up on two key ingredients.  Sugar and Sure-Jell fruit pectin. 

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Of course, you can use any brand of sugar and fruit pectin but I prefer to stick with brand names when making jams and jellies. 

You will also need clean containers and lids for your jam.  I have always used jars (even for the freezer) but you can use plastic containers if you’re leery about putting glass jars in your freezer.

The recipe for a single batch is as follows:

2 pints of fresh, ripe berries

4 cups of granulated sugar

1 box of Sure-Jell fruit pectin

3/4 cup of water

Wash and dry berries; remove stems, and place berries into a large bowl.  This recipe calls for two full cups of crushed berries.  Add sugar to berries and let stand for 10 minutes.   In a saucepan, add water and pectin.  Bring to full boil, and continue to boil for one minute – stirring constantly. Add pectin to berry and sugar mixture.  Stir for about 3 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved.  Immediately pour into containers.  Leave about a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar for expansion in the freezer.  Leave out for 24 hours and then freeze.

* Tip – when making jam or jellies make sure your measurements are exact.

What is your favorite flavor of jam or jelly? 

 

Time flies

I haven’t been blogging much lately.  My computer has been giving me grief.  I just finished another article for publication, and I’m in the middle of planning a huge yard sale.  I forgot how much work is involved in having a sale.  Sorting, pricing, and lugging – is it worth it?  I’ll let you know.  In the meantime here are some of my recent pictures to hold you over. 

 

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Our turkeys have grown like weeds.

 

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Here is one of our chickens trying to dry off after a rain.

 

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Daisies and more daisies.

 

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I promise I’ll bake soon!

Lemon cheesecakes with black raspberry glaze

Today, it snowed again. Very un-welcomed after a couple beautiful 60 degree days. My mind is focused on spring. I really need to get out in my flower garden and do some serious work. It appears that our chickens love my flowers as much as I do. Of all the places they can roam. Guess where they end up? Yes, in my flower garden. I’m actually worried they may have dug some of my perennials completely out of the garden. Maybe I could teach them to weed the garden and leave the flowers alone. Did I tell you I’m a realist?
  
Since I couldn’t work outside today I took to the kitchen instead. I decided lemon cheesecakes with black raspberry glaze were in order. You can’t get much springier than that. Can you? I’d love to hear what your idea of a spring dessert is.These little desserts are sweet and tangy. Because of their size they are a nice finish to a big meal.  If you’d like the recipe please email me.  I’ll be glad to share it. 
  
Oh, one more thing.  This week my blog will turn one year old.  Pay close attention because I’ll be celebrating with a great giveaway!! 

 

 
 

A bad place for the chickens to be hanging out

This afternoon I felt like taking a few pictures of something other than food, but then I found a couple of our chickens wandering around on our deck. If you were a chicken would you be hanging around this very long?

  

I didn’t think so…  Funny how my mind reverts back to food isn’t it? 
 

 

Meet Goldie

Goldie

When my husband told me he was getting 14 chickens to raise this last spring I thought he might have fallen off his rocker (as they say).  My response went something like this –  “14 chickens!  Why do we need 14 chickens?”    

Well, I have to say this has been an enjoyable learning experience.  Chickens, as I’ve found, are quite social and curious.    Aside from one of the hens disappearing in the middle of the night, we are graced with 5 roosters and 8 hens.  Two hens have started laying fresh, brown eggs, which I’m finding I can’t use fast enough.  The chickens amaze me because they roost when it gets dusk, and crow when it starts to get light, proving they are equipped with an internal alarm clock.      

The chickens are actually more like pets than farm animals, greeting us when we arrive home, crowing at us when they hear our voices, and following us around the yard like the dog does.