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!