Sunday, August 14, 2011

Upheaval and Chaos?

Yup, upheaval and chaos wins the day!  There are changes afoot.  And I don't like it.  We are moving.  Not to the Broken Badger in Bickleton.  Waaaah!

I feel the need to be honest to ya'll about this. (I have always believed that it is easier to tell the truth than to work your way out of a lie.  Unfortunately, that seems to also apply to censoring myself, revealing my emotions, and simple omissions of fact.  Yes, I'm sure I should see a doctor about this, but that's not on my list of things to do right now.)  We are not moving because we found a better location, or a better deal.  It is simply because of the economy.  The big, bad, sucky economy.  We cannot afford to stay where we are anymore.  I feel a bit better talking about this because the more I talk to my friends; the more I realize that there are a lot of people in the same situation!  I think we are conditioned to not reveal the negatives to people, so we feel very isolated and alone; but by being honest with others, we can find support and understanding!  Through these conversations I have found people that have moved all the way across the country to move in with family, people that are selling belongings (artwork, motorcycles) to just try to get along, and a friend that has a family living in a travel trailer in front of her house.  I seriously endorse talking about things that make you uncomfortable (with people you trust); you might be surprised to find that you are not alone.

So anyway.  We are leaving our little 2 acres on the outskirts of town.  And having to pack up 3 ½ years of accumulation. (How do two people get this much STUFF?)  Two weeks of packing and garage sales have left me tired of things.  I just want a loin cloth, a knife and a pot to cook in and I'll be fine.  My new neighbors may not approve though!  Yes, we have found a new place, which was a huge concern for us.  In the Portland Metro area, there are not many places that will take a dog, a cat & 19 chickens, have space for our trucks, trailer & flatbed, and that are basically free.  Nope, I checked Craigslist under "Free" and there really aren't any places to live.  We lucked into a friend that has a house not too far from where we are now.  The house has been empty for a couple years and is a pretty bad state of disrepair, so my husband's labor and a smidge of cash will cover the rent.  I have to say we are lucky because of the little things – we get to keep our chickens and there is a dry place to park the Jeep.  We don't get exclusive use of the property (the barn and outbuildings are completely full, it is used as parking for the construction business rigs and the kids use the property to ride their dirt bikes), but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?!?  I really just thank God for giving us a little break.  With some luck and hard work the next move we make may just be up to the Broken Badger!

So cross your fingers for us and I'll keep you posted.  Feel free to share your chaos stories – I won't judge you!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A quick update

The chickens are still locked up - they hate it and won't lay any eggs.  The egg business (which basically just makes the chickens support themselves) is in the toilet.

We went out of town!  Up to the cabin, aka The Broken Badger!  Husband did quite a bit of work, including one more window and caulking it up so the wind isn't so intense inside.  I verified the hammock still works.

New window and cedar shakes done

We had a coyote siting!!  It was checking out the trap but did not take the bait.  I would have shot it, but we had just gotten back from being out of town and the guns were all locked up.  D'oh!

The chicks are getting feathers and are out of the cute poofy phase.  If they could only stay small forever!  This one's pretty cute though:

Cammie exhausted on ride home

I'm working on a new guest post for Suzanne over at Farm Bell Recipes... I don't want to give it away, but it includes:

Okay - off to go hunting in my back pasture!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How many chicks does it take... screw in a heat lamp?  No, but really, how many times can I go visit the new chicks without taking my camera?  Evidently every time.  Luckily Chicken Auntie posted a pic of the new babies.  Here they are with their temp mama:

And here are the little ones that we got from the feed store:

They are Gold Sex Links (2) and Speckled Sussex (2).  We tried to stick them under the mama, but she really wanted nothing to do with them.  So they came home to the brooder.  Their 'siblings' will join them in a couple weeks, once mama has gotten tired of them. 

On a slightly different note, we have rented a live trap to catch the coyote.  Wish us luck.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


And now for something on the less-sour side of life.  The eggs that we took up to our "Chicken Auntie" are hatching!  4 out of 7 so far.  We went to visit them yesterday and managed to forget the camera (will get pics tonight!).  Two of them look Cuckoo Maran-y, one looks Amerucana-y, and the last looks like a White Leghorn.  Of course, they are only half these breeds.  Daddy was half Road Island Red Banty and half Amerucana.  I think the technical term for the breed is 'farm chick'.  Kind of like 'barn cats'.  We're so happy Cuppa-Soup's genetic line is carrying on.  Here's hoping for a rooster!  (That is probably the last time you will ever hear me say that!!)

We're also going to trick that poor little broody mama.  We're going to run up to the feed store tonight and buy a few more chicks.  Then we'll slide them under her when she's not looking!  Since the chicks from the feed store are only a few days old as well, there shouldn't be any issue, she should just accept them as her own.  Yay for chickens that can't count!!

I'll get pics up as soon as I can!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The D-List

I am full of D-words.  Disgusted, depressed, dismayed, devastated, displeased, dejected, demolished, dispirited, defeated and downright despondent.

I was planning on talking about some of the other wildlife challenges we've been having.  Our egg count is really low, and it's more than just lazy chickens… We've been finding eggs with holes.  At first we thought the chickens were stepping on them or possibly egg-eating, but they have TONS of calcium and the shells are fine.  Then we realized it was Blue Jays.  They figured out that they could sneak in the coop and mess with the eggs, solely to drive me crazy, I'm sure.  Then, a couple days after that discovery, I was mowing the grass with the perfect view of a crow carrying an egg off in its beak!!!  ACK!

That is what I was going to talk about.  But I'm not.  We had ANOTHER coyote strike.  We've lost 7 chickens in 16 days.  And they got our baby, our Silky Sue.  So now I'm full of D-words.  I guess these are the days that really make a farmer.  I really don't even want to go on.  I'm tired of having my chickens be a smorgasbord for this opportunistic skudge (that is probably not a word, just how I feel about them right now.)  We can't afford to buy a live trap, and our state wildlife folks aren't willing to help, even though the 'yotes are considered a nuisance since they are taking livestock – and they are striking in the middle of the day!   Our only option is to hang out for hours on end, hoping they don't smell us, hoping they come back, then shoot them.  But seriously, who has that kind of time?  So the chickens are in lock up again, also displeased, wanting greens and bugs.  Any thoughts on what we can do to empower ourselves against these wildlife violators?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

And then there was one…

Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  We have more than one chicken left.  But I find it ironic that on the day we go to pick up 5 new chickens, we have a coyote strike that takes out four chickens – in the middle of the afternoon!  So we have a net gain of one chicken.  And I'm not sure what it's like in your neck of the woods, but full-grown laying hens are expensive here!  So we spent $100 bucks for one more lousy chicken.

The really traumatic part is that the coyotes got our rooster.  Cuppa-Soup was the best rooster ever!  (Obviously, he was originally meant for the soup pot, but the other roosters that I thought were in the running for the flock sire position turned out to be jerks, so Cuppa's gentile attitude saved him from the pot.)  Cuppa was a home grown chicken, brooded by our nasty little Cochin (who is a wonderful mommy) and was the result of a Road Island Red Banty and an Amerucana.  He had the best colors and was a very noble looking rooster.  He always watched carefully and proudly over his harem.  Cuppa would make the cutest noises to call all his ladies over when he found food, and would always make sure all the girls had eaten before he had his share.  He NEVER challenged us!  He really was the bestest and I don't think we can ever replace him.  I never thought I would be in mourning over a rooster, but here I am.

Young Cuppa

Desperate to carry on Cuppa's bloodline, we pulled a handful of eggs from that day (7 of them).  Also ironically, all of the chickens that had been broody just 'broke' during this week. That cochin seriously wouldn't get out of the boxes for months!  But now?  Can't get one to stay on the nest for love or money. 

Should we get an incubator?  Try to buy a broody chicken and hope she stays setting for the next 21 days?  Wait – one of our egg customers has a couple hens that are usually pretty broody, let's try calling…

Such a good watchman

We are so lucky!  Our dear friend has a broody hen, so we ran the eggs over to get them cooking under the hen.  Hopefully in 21 days we will have 7 little Cuppa offspring running around!  Farming is not easy.  There's as much drama on the farm as there is on a daytime talk show!

Cross your fingers for us and wish for high fertility!!!

RIP Cuppa-Soup

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Desperately Seeking….. Chickens!!!

Over the past few weeks, our flock has been slacking off on the egg laying.  A couple girls are broody, we've had a couple go missing, and the rest…well they are either hiding nests or just being lazy.  We are now getting 4-6 eggs a day from 15 chickens.  That just ain't right!  So we have been patrolling Craigslist looking for laying-age hens.  There seems to be quite the market for them. 

The Portland area is huge for backyard chicken enthusiasts, and it seems that people are always looking for or getting rid of chickens.  But it's usually one here or one there.  We are looking for about 5 little ladies (Portland proper limits you to 3 hens only, but we are out in the outskirts of Happy Valley, and we have customers to support about 20 chickens, so darnit, that's what I'm gonna have!!!)  I'm also finding that backyard chicken enthusiasts have a tendency to have fancy, exotic pet chickens as opposed to heavier layers.  We don't need commercial, production varieties, but we need at least a 'very good' layer.  The breeds I'm finding either lay tiny eggs, go broody a lot, or lay an egg every three days if you're lucky!  We'll keep working on getting some layers, but I want to show you some of what I've found that doesn't work.

I'm getting much of the breed information posted below from Henderson's Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart.  Pics are all from Feather Site.)

The Silkie -  We actually have one of these.  Her name is Silkie Sue and she was a stray that wandered into our flock and never left.  (She is also the one that got all tore up by the neighbor's dog, growl.)  These little chickens are the stuffed animals of the chicken coop.  Basically, a walking toy.  But they still lay okay (smallish eggs), and have a tendency to go broody and be good mamas.  Their feathers are 'hair-like' and they have a poof on top of their heads.  Too cute.  They come in several colors: Black, White, Blue, Buff, Partridge, Gray, Splash to name a few.

The Cochin -  Another poofball, but this time with feathers as opposed to 'hair'.  We have 2 cochins, both of the bantam size, but they come in standard as well. They go broody often and make very good mothers (we've used ours to hatch eggs before and they lived up to the reputation!)  They lay a small egg every few days. They also come in many colors, such as Buff, Red, Blue, Barred, White, Black, & Partridge.  Cochins can be found in pretty much any color chickens come in.  Each should be named "foofy pants". 

The Polish – A very ornamental bird, with a huge tophat of feathers.  The birds may have difficulty seeing due to these feathers, and really don't do well in bad weather.  They are really neat looking and I would love to add one to the flock, but egg production varies quite a bit.  They will lay white-shelled eggs and do not have the broody tendency.  I've seen a couple after being in the rain, and they look like rock stars.

The Frizzle -  I love this chicken and want one (or ten).  It looks like it is permanently stuck in a tornado.  Talk about a bad hair day!  The frizzle quality of the feather is actually a genetic mutation which causes the feather to curve outward and towards the head.  They can be standard or banty size and tend to go broody.  Every time I see one of these I think of The Wizard of Oz – they must have been in the tornado that picked up Dorothy and Toto.

This is just a sampling of the 'fancy-pants' breeds.  Even though they don't work for me, I still love them all no matter what.  If we were a pet-only setup, I'd be all over these fun little girls, but I have families to feed! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tangible Legacy

I miss my Granma.  She was such a kind, gentle soul and I have only sweet, happy memories about her.  I will always have those memories, but I am also coveting something quite tangible that I have from her.  Cookbooks.  And not just any cookbooks, but the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.  The whole set, all 12 volumes. 

Having an entire encyclopedia set on cooking and entertaining must have imbued her with a deep wealth of knowledge, truly making her an expert in all things domestic.  I look at the set on my cookbook shelf and think back to the days when she originally got them (I’m not really sure of the circumstances, but this is what I imagine in my head.)  A fairly young housewife, still trying to figure out how to balance everything, kids and toddlers in tow - cookbooks of the era (1966) must have held so much promise - to help keep it all together, keep mealtime interesting and how to maintain the appearance of domestic excellence.

 Not only does this set include a variety of recipes (casseroles, 3 pages of spaghetti, gumbo, poundcake), it includes cuisines from various countries and cultures (Jewish, Polynesian, Finnish), definitions (“Orangeade – Fresh, frozen, canned, or dehydrated orange juice mixed with sugar to taste…”), different types of cooking methods (canning, broiling, panfrying), information on how to entertain (what to cook for picnics, how to make garnishes, intimate luncheon for 6), and what should be prepared on holidays. 

Of all the wonderful things about this set, I have two favorite things. The first is finding handwritten notes or recipes from Granma.   Oh, what a treasure!  I know that my memories of her are most important, but seeing her words written down are like she’s sitting next to me, sharing her tips and knowledge. 

The second is the smell of the books (Is that weird?  Okay, I’m weird.)  There is just the slightest aroma of my Great Granma’s root cellar.  I just love the smell of a root cellar and the fact that it is G-Granma’s makes it even better.  (That makes me super weird, I know.  I’m just going to embrace it.)

I wish I had more time to go through these books more often, either looking for recipes, or just basking in their excellence. Who knew there were so many things to do with onions or frankfurters or aspic or toast!

Because everyone needs a Frankfurter Cookbook!

There was a totally different idea of what was healthy back in those days…some of the recipes we only use occasionally, due to the (yummy) fatty ingredients.  Here is an easy casserole from the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery:

Crusty Beef, Cheese and Noodle Casserole:

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 pounds ground beef
4 cans (10 ¼ ounces each) meatless mushroom sauce (for spaghetti)
1 tsp. salt
1 pound fine noodles, cooked and drained
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated or shredded
Seasoning salt

Heat oil; add onion and cook until golden.  Add meat and cook until meat loses its red color, stirring.  Add mushroom sauce and salt, heat.  Arrange in casserole half of noodles, half of sauce and half of cheese; sprinkle with seasoning salt.  Make another layer of noodles; add sauce and top with cheese.  Bake in preheated moderate oven (325°F.) for 1 hour.  Top should be nicely browned.  Makes 8 – 10 generous servings.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

I guest-blogged!

I am pleased to have guest blogged over at my most favorite site ever, Chickens in the Road.  Suzanne is a West Virginia farmer with a sick obsession with chickens (gal after my own heart) and an awesome farm life that I envy every day.  She regularly invites guest bloggers on her recipe site, Farm Bell Recipes.  So, without further ado...

Tangible Legacy

(I'll post it here later, but for now I will force you to venture down to Suzanne's!  Watch where you step, you know how those chickens are!)

History of the little town of Bickleton

I just love this article about Bickleton:

Maybe one day we will have a movie theater and butcher shop again!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


We will have challenges when we finally settle up at the Broken Badger in Bickleton.  We plan to try to produce the majority of our own food, but our weather is extremely unpredictable.  I've looked into the history of the weather in Bickleton and there is a possiblity of freezing temperatures at any time during the year.  Yes, it can freeze even in July and August! 

January or July??

While that is a rare event (the average lows for summer are in the 50's), since we are going to be self-sufficient we need to plan for the worst case scenario, if we can.  A lost harvest means a winter with less food than we should have.  Right now if my garden fails, I can run to the grocery store.  Up there it will mean stone soup and pine needle tea.  Yikes! 


I need a greenhouse.  I need a greenhouse with a footprint the size of Texas.  I may need multiple greenhouses.  I actually love the earthy smell and ambient warmth of a greenhouse, so this really doesn't hurt my feelings much.  But then there's the other challenge... the wind.  Part of what we love so much about the area is the fact we will be able to generate power from the wind.  Part of my challenge is the wind loves to destroy poly film structures.  I'm worried that polycarbonate sheets will be too lightweight as well.  (We can get some serious gusts up there!)

I think good ole fashion glass will be the way to go.  I suspect they will mostly look like these:

Tomatoes, peppers, melons... all these warm weather crops will need to be protected from chilly nights, but also need to kept from frying during the heat of the day in the greenhouse.  It will be a delicate balancing act.  My goal is to have a system to open the greenhouse during the day, moving air through, then to close back up at night.  I have not come up with an actual design yet.  But this one comes close... I like that upper row of windows, so easy to crack open, release the risen heat and create a low to high air flow.

For some of the 'medium' crops (not really needing the warmth, but not happy with a freeze either) I will most likely use some type of cold frame.  Something that can be closed at night to keep warmth in and cold at bay, yet fully opened during the day as long as it stays above freezing!!

Of course, we'll also have to build an orangerie to house our tender citrus trees.  It will problably look something like this:

I wish!!!  But seriously, I'm hoping to keep some more tender trees and plants from dying in the winter.

What are your thoughts on the challenges ahead?  Any interesting building materials or structures for the garden?  Scary experiences with wind destroying all your hard work?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Learning Curve

I'm still new to this blogging thing and am taking all of you with me through this torturous learning curve.  I haven't had much time the last few weeks to blog and what time I have had, I was working on a specific post that I've had in mind for a while…. Which ended up becoming a much larger project than I thought it would be.  What I have learned from all this is that if I have a post that cannot get posted within a day or two, it must be put into a project pile and I will post an 'easier' entry.  Otherwise it becomes a quagmire!!!  So now I'm digging my way out.  And we've had to dig our truck out of quagmires before and it takes some time!!!  Hopefully this is one of those times where I learn my lesson the first time.  Keep your fingers crossed and stay tuned for my looooong project post.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring has sprung

Well, it's sprung alright.  Technically today is what I consider our last freeze date here in the greater Portland area.  But we have had 2 hail storms in the past week and just a few days ago it was well below freezing (about 27 degrees).  Last year we had a miserable spring and summer, and I am rather concerned we are headed in the same direction.

Up at the property, we had several inches of snow a few days ago.  And it has been warmer up there then down in the valley.  Typical crazy spring.  I've come to the conclusion that if we have any hopes of growing successful crops we will need substantial greenhouse setups.  I'll get Woody right on that!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gelatinous goo

AKA chicken stock.  A really good stock should gel up when chilled like this one:

Sometimes I get it right, sometimes not so much.  But I keep striving for goo.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Canned Vacation

A couple weeks ago, the husband and I had plans to go up to the property and work on the cabin.  Our plans were thwarted.  The neighbor's dog decided that he wanted to play with chickens, and no coop was going to stop him.  Apparently, the neighbor wasn't going to stop him either, as I had warned him several times about the dog being on our property and told him that if I found the dog in my coop again, I would shoot it* (maybe not so bluntly, but I was holding a BB gun and the owner was asking me not to shoot his dog, so I think he understood what could happen).  Three days before our planned trip, the dog got into the coop AGAIN – this time we had missing chickens.  As responsible animal owners, we didn't feel safe leaving the chickens alone with a ravenous beast on the loose.  (We do have someone check on the chickens when we are gone, but she only comes by a couple times a day, so it wouldn't be a constant presence.)  So our trip was cancelled.  Ah, but what to do with all that extra time?  Sleeping in wasn't an option, since we had to be up at daybreak to watch for the inbred mongrel to come and try to forage our livestock.   (OMG - Really?  The dog comes over every day for a month, but when we cancel our frigging vacation, the owner finally puts him in lock down and he didn't come over once.  Aaaaggggg!)  Well, since we are up, and at least half awake, let's can something! 

*(Per animal control, we have every right to defend our livestock, including putting down the offending animal.  So if this offends you [hell, it offends me], yell at my neighbor, not me.)

But what do you can in the winter/spring, before all the good summer produce comes on?  Stuff in the freezer!  Part of our self sufficiency goals include decreasing our dependence on the freezer for food storage.  While we eventually plan to have solar and wind power at the property that will power appliances, the freezer is still a big energy drain, and we would just prefer to minimize the need.  In the spirit of living more self-sufficiently, even while on the grid, we are cleaning out our big freezers. 

Vital component of stock

Our canning projects over our vacation include jam (from berries frozen last summer), ground beef (from grass fed cows, bought on sale!!), lard (this is a new food preserving experience), beef stock (from the half-cow we bought from Woody's buddy's parents – he helped dispatch the animals, therefore decreasing their butcher costs, so we got a great deal!), and chicken stock (from our boy chickens that should have been girl chickens).

Cammie helping
Wow, that was hard work.  So much for a relaxing vacation!  Here are the results:

Chicken Stock: 15 Quarts, 20 Pints
Beef Stock:  7 Quarts, 22 Pints
Dog Food:  Various quirky sized jars.  21 jars total equaling 208 ounces, or 13 pints.
Ground Beef in Broth:  14 Pints
Ground Beef in Tomato:  13 Pints
Lard:  2 - 12 ounce jars Pie Lard plus 12 ounces Savory Lard
Marionberry Jam:  9 ½ Half Pints
Blackberry Jam:  9 ½ Half Pints
Blueberry Jelly:  6 Half Pints
Blackberry/Marionberry Mix Jam:  6 - 12 ounce jars plus 1/2 half pint.

There is still a lot more to do.  We have strawberries that are destined for a special "Essence De Provence" jam, beef stew meat for beef stew, and I think some extra venison that would make a great stew, too.  We'll get that done next time the neighbor's dog runs free!

I eventually will be posting instructional posts for various food preservation techniques (probably starting with lard in the next couple of weeks), but for now a list of completed projects will have to suffice!  Also, I will be keeping a running tally of preserved food on the Food Stores page.

Simmering for hours

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Take Off!

I love that it is nice and breezy in Bickleton.  I think Cammie likes it, too..

Cammie, ready for take off

Thursday, March 31, 2011

So why "The Broken Badger?"

When we first bought our property in Bickleton, we went exploring.  We had fallen in love so instantly with the property when we first saw it, that we bought it before we explored it much (shoot, 3 years later there are still areas I've never seen....)  We travelled all the roads and walked some of the property lines.  Traversed the fields and crossed the draws.  Wait... what is that?  We found 3 large holes.  Two in the forested draws and one ontop of a mound in the field.  They were burrow like and about 8-10 inches across.  I have no idea how deep they were, as there was no way I was getting close enough to find out!!  Who knows what could be down there.  Well, after some research and talking to the locals, we have come to the conclusion that it must be badgers.

Badgers are mean.  I mean, they are just trying to get along, just like the rest of us, but they happen to do it in a rather fiesty way.  Which is exactly why we will try to give them a wide berth.  Luckily, they tend to have a very wide range and will go from burrow to burrow as they range.  Unless this guy spend winter in one of the burrows on our property, s/he will probably only be with us a few times a year.  Our biggest badger concern revolves around the dog.  As fate would have it, we have a dachshund.  They were originally bred to go after badgers.  Great.  Of course, our little baby is a mini-dachshund, so she is much smaller than the standard 20 plus pound dog that is the true badger dog.  But don't tell her that!  She thinks she is a 300 pound guard dog - and a hunter.  She will stick her nose into any little hole in the yard trying to get ahold of whatever rodent may have been in there.  It's her job, it's in her blood, it's what she does. 

On to the name "Broken Badger."  Since badgers are always on our minds when we are at the property, it should come as no surprise that I would start naming things after them.  We have been periodically working on a cabin up there for the last couple years.  One of the times that Woody was diligently banging away on the cabin, I went a'wandering.  When I looked back at the cabin, it just struck me - its name is The Broken Badger.  (Yes - I often have these random "this is how it is" thoughts.)  I began to have images of our friends from town saying, "Hey, let's go see Shae and Woody up at the Broken Badger!"  Okay, that might be pushing it, but still, the cabin has a name!

The Broken Badger