Tag Archives: Chickens

Holy Cow

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Holy cow, it has been a very eventful summer.  My apologies to you for a prolonged absence.

We have had twin grandaughters and a grandson born.

We have also learned of another grandchild on the way, and were saddened by the loss of a grandbaby-in-womb.

Our garden has been prolific lately, but as a result of much tending and watering due to the extreme high temps this summer and drought.

Our bed & breakfast, Amanda’s Bequest Bed & Breakfast, in here in Montague, Michigan  www.amandasbequest.com  has been busy.  Certainly for its opening year!  We operate as a farmstay and guests are immersed in a real working farm-stle home.  They collect eggs and can help churn butter or gather food from the gardens for breakfast if they wish.  We have enjoyed many wonderful and diverse guests from all over the world now!!  (How cool is that?!)  One guest, who was a world traveler, rated us as top two B&B’s in all his travels.  Turns out I’m I’m an ok cook.  He couldn’t decide who was better, a B&B in Scotland, or us.  I have to tell you, I was so dumb-struck at the remark.  After all…we are just..us.

Also busy for us has been our Bygone Basics culinary experiences.  www.bygonebasics.com  People are really wanting to know how to go back to the healthy nutritious foods that were on our predescessor’s tables.  I teach them how to use what tools they already have to get that heritage “kitchen is the heart and soul of the home” healthy foods back into their lives and in their “today” lifestyle.

We have had kitchen guests from 7 countries and 44 USA States now.

To top it all off, I’m now a licensed kitchen and am baking and selling heritage recipe and artisan foods.  All made to order and by hand from natural foods and basic ingredients (nothing you can’t spell or say!).

We have grown our little flock of hens from 6 to 12…plus a duck…but don’t tell Daisy, she thinks she’s a chicken.

My loving husband has been amazing as our journey has brought us to this kind of activity.  He just smiles and builds what I need.  🙂  I wish this kind of a husband on all of our daughters.

Anyway….

My niece Jade is now “apprenticing.”  Leaving me with a few hours at the end of the week to blog and do other things that I’ve been too swamped to do.  I taught her how to hoe the other day.  I told her she was going to be a great hoe-er someday.  She laughed.  I realized what I said.  Too funny.  She’s been learning to bake, make pies, artisan breads, hoe, can, make soap…she’s been a treasure of help to me too!

I will “talk” with you soon.  Just needed to catch you up on my busy-bee “holy cow, what changes!” summer.

Yours,

Valerie Hanson

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Larry is Gone

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Heifer is my most affectionate hen. She is the brown one in this photo. Larry and Darrell follow closely in affection too. Well...not Larry anymore. 😦 Larry's sister, Darrell, is the white Leghorn here.

Last night, I lost Larry.  😦

You might think it an odd name, but Larry is a chicken.  A white Leghorn hen.  One of my best laying hens and one of my two most affectionate and interactive “girls.”

I knew having free range hens was a gamble.

I know I would be furious and out for revenge if Larry was lost to a free running dog that a neighbor should have contained better.

But….Larry was taken by a Bald Eagle…doing what Bald Eagles do.

Now I don’t know how to feel.  Very sad, of course, I love Larry and all her fluffy, happy sisters.  She was a pet to me, like another person’s cat or dog.  But, how can I be furious at the eagle?  I would be a hypocrite if I took issue with nature taking its course.

All of my girls have odd names. Most have barnyard animal names. This is our biggest girl, Dog. She lays enormous brown eggs like clockwork every day.

It seems that I should be angry with myself for not keeping the hens in their little coop and, thus, exposing them to danger.  But…then they would spend their lives in a little pen, eating what kitchen and garden scraps and chicken feed I gave them; rather than running about happily eating bugs and grass seeds, selecting for themselves what foods they needed, with (and I swear this is true) big smiles on their beaks.

So I ask you.

What should I do?  Keep them penned in and safe?  OR Allow them free range in the midst of possible danger?

Here are some of my mixed variety hens. They lay a mixture of brown, blue, green, and white eggs for me.

Do you have chickens? 

How do you handle this problem?

Bunny is a very old Brahma hen. She raised the other's as chicks and really doesn't lay much as she is so excited by all the eggs that she wants to brood them all of the time. She's un pollo loco.

A Compost … Post

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Confessions of a Composter

Most who know me well, have seen me spirit food scraps from restaurants. Yes. I admit. I am one of THOSE people.

I can’t stand to see waste. I think it may be a disease, as it is getting worse as I get older.

My possible disease diagnosis aside <wink> .. I’m getting quite a nicely rounded bio-cycle. Food for human consumption enters the cycle (via my own gardens, grocery, gifts from other growers…and um…restaurant take-away… What isn’t immediately consumable is given to the chickens.

What my free-range feathery little girls who run about the lawns with happy little smiles on their beaks then do, is give me eggs! What chickens can’t eat, goes into the compost. The chickens also produce manure; and that, along with their straw bedding, is regularly put into the compost, too.

The compost eventually gets dumped into the garden. The chickens eat bugs from the compost after random spreading there and further spread it out in the garden with their scratching. And I get eggs.

The compost improves the soil, helping grow abundant good food in the garden…and the cycle revolves. Did I mention I get eggs out of the deal too!? So I have learned that the more organic resources I can introduce into this little bio-cycle, the more powerful the food growing cycle is.

Now please note, I live within CITY limits…in a neighborhood. But fortunately, I also have a few acres of space for gardens!  (yay me!)  This style of healthy living is possible even with small patio gardening. (you should fore go the chickens if there is no room for them to be happy) You can compost in small places and keep vigorous plants in that soil in containers on your deck even. I’ll tell you how:

There are some really nice home use and commercial composting equipment you can pay a pretty penny for and if you want to go that route, that’s fine. I prefer to look around first to see if there is something I can reuse or recycle before I go buy new things.

Let’s call it creative composting.  You can have a compost bin made out of just about anything.  Look around, what have you laying about?  Some cinder blocks?  An old tarp?  Old wooden pallets (these work great because you can stand your rakes and hoes, even Shepard’s crook flower holders to prettily screen your pile, in the outer wall).  Old unused small dog kennel?  A few 5 gallon plastic pails?  Discarded window screens (just wire them together).

We use the big bulk food plastic barrels that would be discarded by huge food processors and go to a landfill to never break down.  They are great for rain barrels too.  Since turning your compost is important, you need access into it with a pitchfork…or in the case of my compost barrel…John has made a lid that fits tightly on the top and I just knock it over and roll it around a bit and stand it back up.  When the time comes to put it on the garden, we just roll it there.  He did drill some small holes in the sides and bottom for proper drainage and aeration.

Essentially, you just need something that will contain your compost, give it some aeration and drainage, and allow you to turn it in some manner.

Start your compost with brown matter.  No…not poo.  Lawn clippings, leaves, even cardboard/newspaper.  Yes…paper is organic and will return to the earth as nutrients instead of a landfill if you mix it in a compost pile.  You can even toss in some soil to introduce the microorganisms that break down matter into soil.  Then you can begin tossing in your household scraps.  Keep throwing on the brown matter.  But there are somethings you shouldn’t put in your compost:

  • used cat box litter (could spread disease)
  • bones (won’t break down)
  • large quantities of fat in one glob (add shredded newspaper with it and stir the pile)
  • Meat (just be cautious as this may attract unwanted interest in your compost…I have never had a problem)
  • non-organic items (plastic, heavily glossy mailings…)

Definitely add your coffee grounds; paper filter and all!

See an earthworm after a rain?  Put him in too, to help break things down.

It works well to have two barrels as it takes about three to 6 months for a good compost to do it’s job.  I fill one and let it sit for a month or two (still need to roll it around once in a while) while I start to fill the other.  About the time the second one is getting full, it is time to put the first one on the gardens.

We have two kitchens at Bygone Basics/Amanda’s Bequest.  We keep two small compost buckets in the kitchen and dump them daily into the larger one out doors.  We just use a bucket we’ve found to re-use for this purpose, but you can purchase kitchen compost containers that are specifically made for this in many home-improvement stores.

Composting is a great way to boost your plants and food output, reduce your trash bill, keep a lot of paper and waste out of the landfill, take care of livestock manure, and of course, get eggs!  

(did I mention I LOVE eggs?)

If you haven’t already, have a look at our websites:

Bygone Basics:  www.bygonebasics.com

Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Farmstay Bed & Breakfast:  www.amandasbequest.com

CRAZY INSANE, ALMOST THOROUGHLY, AMAZING WORLD

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Squash in the Bygone Basic's garden...before it snuck out of the fence.

Just letting you know that I’m still here.  I’ve …well…you read the title of this Blog….a bit overwhelmed by life.  It is truly amazing, but gets crazy too, doesn’t it?!

Lately, I’ve been putting by everything that doesn’t run faster than me.  And if I can find someone who will do a bit of hunting for me…well then…all bets are off on that too.  Smile  We also have had a lot of Bygone Basics guests come to learn how to make these heritage recipes themselves, while immersed in old-farmhouse style atmosphere and tools…they are always surprised how easy old-fashioned baking and home canning really is.  Especially when I show them (if they wish to know) how a few of today’s tools can speed things up with out reducing the quality of the food.

I’ve also added pies to my line of baked goods that you can order through the Bygone Basics pantry.  Right now a lot of various types of apple pies are going through the ovens.  Pumpkin pies are following in popularity.

I’ve submitted an application for a Special Use Permit to turn our old manse into “Amanda’s Bequest – A Heritage Immersion Bed & Breakfast.”  More on this in the future.

As the season changes into autumn and the weather is colder, so is my house (because when I’m the only one in it I can put on a sweater and I hate high fuel bills). 

Did you know that in the past, home baking served a dual purpose?  Food was baked, not only for the table, but also to keep the house warm. 

I follow that principle as well.  Lately, I’ve been baking squash for pies, breads, and savory dinners.  Squash is such a nutritious and versatile fruit.  It is just as tasty in desserts as it is in the main meal.  It is surprisingly cheap and easy too.  Here’s my simple treatment of it:

Cut the squash in half or smaller if it is really large (by squash, I refer to pumpkins and other winter squash such as acorn, Hubbard, and butternut).  About 4-5 inch chunks are good.  Don’t worry about peeling, just wash and cut up.  Remove the seed portion with a spoon easily once it is cut.

Line a large pan (cookie sheet or 13×9) with foil and spray or wipe with oil.  Place the squash cut side down.  Place in oven (as many racks as you can fit for maximum energy use) at 325 F.  Bake until fork slides easily into squash to shell.  This may take two or more hours and is dependent on ripeness, variety, and cut up size of squash (smaller pieces cook faster).  Really easy right?  I must warn you, it will start smelling really good towards the end and you will want to serve some of that for dinner!

Once soft throughout, take out of oven and cool for 15 minutes.  Use a knife or spoon to scrape the flesh from the shell.  At this point it is perfectly useable in recipes and for dinner.  I take it one step further.  I press it through my cone shaped food mill with a wooden pusher (that is ages old, but works like a charm!).  That takes all of a few minutes.  You can use any type of food mill you have.  Voila!  Yellow Gold! 

Make pumpkin pie using eggs from your free range chickens (I do anyway); serve it with butter (or bacon grease) and salt/pepper for dinner; can it for future yums!!  It makes great sweet breads and even baby food.  You can even add brown sugar and butter for a great “Thanksgiving sweet potato” taste…

I promise to look the other way if you decide to add marshmallows to the top.

Squash we grew for the sense of humor in its name...Great Warty Thing. It is true to its name!

If you didn’t have the space to grow squash, it is incredibly reasonable to buy this time of year and stores until you have time to bake it.  I’ve even been known to bake the flesh of my jack-o-lanterns on Halloween eve.  Why not?  I’ve already gone through the work of removing the seeds and since I carve my pumpkins the day of Halloween, it is still fresh.  Waste not – Want not.

Bunny Laid an Egg!

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I know.  It isn’t Easter but it almost seems that way here.  Bunny worked magic and laid an egg last night.  I should mention that Bunny is a chicken.  Bunny’s story is humorous and inspiring.   She came to us on Easter morning this year as a practical joke.  A friend learned that we had aquired a chicken tractor and had ordered chicks.  He thought it would be funny to toss one of his old used up hens into the coop with some plastic easter eggs.   “She wasn’t good for anything but the frying pan anymore.”  She was rough looking and a bit dirty.

I woke up on Easter morning to one of my daughters at my bedside telling me that my chicken had scared her.  What?  A chicken?  Yes.  She said.  In the coop.  Of course I had to go look into this.  Sure enough.  There she was on a nest of pink, yellow and blue plastic eggs.  Angry as a wet….well…hen when I reached in to love her up a little.  As it turns out she believed she had laid all those eggs and when I removed them the next day.  She was ornery and wouldn’t get off her nesting spot.  When we figured out who put her in there, I asked him if she was lonely.  He laughed.  OK.  Evidently not lonely

As all of her drama was occurring, my baby chicks had arrived and were immediately put in a box in the shed under a heat lamp.  Bunny might have heard their cheeping as they where nearby her, gave no indication of it.  A few weeks later.  The weather was warm and the 8 little chicks had out grown their box.  Bunny seemed ornery still but I had finally gotten her flushed off her nest and wandering about the yard each evening. 

My baby “girls” were introduced to Bunny in her tractor.  I worried she would peck them to death.  I needn’t have

These little chicks couldn’t have known a better mother. 

Bunny took them under her proverbial wing.  She taught them what to eat as free range chickens.  Those little ones learned how to consume kitchen and garden scraps with relish.  I barely have to buy food for them.  She marches them into the coop every night to bed.  All I have to do is close the door.    

As summer has progressed, Bunny’s little girls have grown to tower above her.  She is a little white Brahma hen.  She has filled out and is a plump smooth sturdy little lady, but little she is.  The other chickens are a mix of leg horns and other large egg layer breeds….well there is one anomoly…but that is another story.  One chicken at a time.  She still ushers them about as the senior member of their little flock.  When a dog or cat happens through, she flaps and screeches and runs AT the threat to chase it away.  Pretty good for an old bird. 

Bunny is the little white hen in the rear at the coop doorway.

Guests at Bygone Basics have come to to love feeding the chickens as part of their visit.  Everyone loves Bunny’s uniquely feathered feet.  Her red comb and pure white body are even the colors of the Bygone Basics logo.  She became quite a pleasure to have, and a character too.

Last night, Bunny laid an egg. 

She went from a washed up old chicken who was no longer laying to a vibrant, healthy, contributing member of her society.  I wish I understood fully how this transformation happened.  We women sometimes find we have to move on and rediscover ourselves at various phases in our lives.   Bunny did it.  She was old, terrified, tired and useless….or so the people in her life thought.  She was tossed aside.  And landed in a strange environment.  She didn’t just lay down and die.  She transformed herself.  She made a community and gave herself completely to it.  She is now a beautiful and valued senior member of my little society of girls. 

In many ways I relate to my little fiesty Bunny.  Transformations are hard, but if a chicken can do it……

Bunny is the little white hen with the very red comb.