April 27, 2012

Introducing "The Upcycled Chicken"

As if I don't have enough endeavors already, I've opened up another Etsy shop, this one featuring the tote bags I make out of empty feed sacks, mostly from my chicken feed. Check it out at "The Upcycled Chicken" . I'd appreciate any feed sack feedback (haha!) anyone has to offer.

April 25, 2012


I've mentioned before on this blog how I've discovered a good use for those pesky stink bugs that invade the house in the fall - capturing them and feeding them to my chickens! For this use, we always have a "bug catcher" nearby, and I've found that an old prescription bottle does the job quite well (leftover from the antibiotics I had to take after contracting Lyme's disease a couple of years ago, an unrelated tidbit of information but an additional connection to the peskier side of the insect world). Often, the last thing I do before heading out to work in the morning is to take the previous day's captives to the chicken pen, and because yesterday I was in too much of a rush to toss the pill bottle back in the house, it ended up in my purse and went to work with me.

A few hours later, I was sitting in a doctor's office with my boss' mother, waiting on the doctor to make his appearance. Even in this sterile environment, I heard a very familiar buzzing noise, and moments later a stink bug landed right on me. Luckily, I had my pill bottle stink bug catcher right there in my purse! I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure the doctor wouldn't mind my stealing his stink bugs, so I captured the bugger and put him back in my purse to take home with me. Stink bugs are not your ordinary prescription to be leaving a doctor's office with, but they are going to be turned into fresh delicious eggs for me to eat, and as it has been said before...

"The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison." - Dr. Ann Wigmore

"Let food be thy medicine...and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates

April 18, 2012

Let the Sunshine In!

Wow, it seems like forever since I have been able to post anything. I'm not sure what my excuse is. Life is just flying by with very little computer time in it for me these days. I have been trying to funnel what energy and free time I have (assuming those two things are both available simultaneously) into gardening. We are in that delightful time of year where we can have a bowlful of fresh salad greens whenever we want. Also, the chickens are laying an excess of yummy, golden-yolked eggs. Joe and I often comment that "we sure do eat good around here!"

I've been thinking a lot about food, and sunshine, lately. Joe and I have been without a refrigerator for 4 years now, but we've recently been experimenting with the use of a small 12V cooler to keep a few items cold, on sunny days. By early to mid-morning on sunny days our photovoltaic system (sounds so impressive, doesn't it?) is in "floating" mode, meaning the charge controller is letting the maximum amount of electricity into the batteries for recharging purposes, and any extra that is coming in from the panels is floating off into some electricity black hole, unless put to good use. When we see that red floating light come on, we switch on the cooler and take advantage of that extra electricity (this is also a good time for recharging other batteries - power tools, computer, electric lawn mower, etc. - and doing other electricity consuming tasks). The cooler pulls too much electricity to run it full time, so we only use it during periods of extra sunshine and turn it off once the sun goes away and it starts drawing from our battery bank. Hopefully by that time, the cool of the evening will help keep things stable until the next day.

It's not a foolproof method, but it has allowed us to keep making yogurt, keep a block of cheese around and store the occasional leftovers. I like systems that require some planning and adaptation, keeps you on your toes. Today, for instance, is very cloudy and rainy, so we won't turn the refrigerator on at all. So, we ate up all the rest of the yogurt for breakfast and took all of the remaining leftovers for lunch today. That only leaves some carrots, ketchup, a small chunk of Parmesan cheese and a small jar of yogurt starter in the "fridge". Carrots and ketchup don't really need refrigerating anyway, and there are several partially frozen water bottles in there that I brought home with me from work yesterday that will keep the yogurt and cheese cool. I'll be buying fresh soymilk during my grocery run today, and turning it into yogurt in the morning. Luckily, tomorrow is forecasted to be "mostly sunny", perfect for a fresh batch of yogurt.

At the same time that we are using the sunshine to cool our food, I'm often simultaneously using the sunshine to cook my food mere feet away in our solar oven. There is something so satisfying and beautiful in the irony of that. Even on days when I'm not forward thinking enough to actually plan out what I want for dinner before 10 a.m., I'll take advantage of the sun by putting some pots of water in the solar oven and having HOT water for dishes, or maybe a bath, by late afternoon. Thank goodness for sunshine! And on days like today when clouds cover the sky and no sun is to be seen, well I'm very grateful for that other natural resource - water - falling as rain, watering my garden, and "recharging" my rain barrels.

April 04, 2012

The King Has Lost His Crown

You may remember a little while back I posted this photo of our young Salmon Favorelle rooster, Elvis. Notice his nice, bright, spiky comb. Well, somehow in the midst of the mildest winter in decades, this bird managed to get frostbite! When we close up the chicken pen at night, we just assume that all of the chickens have put themselves to bed and don't bother opening up the coop to do a headcount. One night, for mysterious reasons, Elvis did not end up in the coop. We discovered him the next morning waiting outside the pen for his peeps to be released. This happened to have been THE coldest night of the mildest winter in decades. A day or two later I noticed a faint black line appearing about midway down his comb, and over the next few weeks, the black line got darker and spread to engulf all of his little spikes. I wasn't sure if I should take some kind of action, and online research gave me two options, 1) perform comb surgery and "trim" the blackened areas off or 2) do nothing and it would fall off of its own accord eventually. I opted for option two, and sure enough, nature took its course and Elvis now looks like he's had a crew cut.
For the record, it is very hard to take a picture of a chicken. They do not want to pose for you.

The loss of his "crown" has not affected Elvis' demeanor at all. He is now almost a full year old, quite the accomplished crower, and has recently discovered his amorous side (much to the dismay of the hens, it seems). Courting is not his strong point. He prefers the unannounced pounce on the nearest available hen. He's not very discriminating either, much to Chickadena's dismay. Whereas our previous rooster definitely viewed Chickadena (our asexual rooster?) as a rival male and treated him as such despite there being no competition, Elvis seems to view Chickadena as one of his harem. I watched Chickadena narrowly escape one of Elvis' unannounced pounces, protesting loudly the whole time, and then led Elvis on a futile chase around the yard. Poor little fella. It's a tough world for an asexual rooster who just wants to be left alone.