Backyard Chickens & Ducks: Adding to the brace

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River, front, and Jayne, back, in their pool, while Joe tries to look without looking.

Brace. Did you know that a group of ducks on land, especially domesticated ones, is called a brace? Yep. See the interesting things you learn when you become an urban farmer?

As the headline asserts, we’ve gotten a couple of more ducks. We’re really fortunate to live where we live and we have a great “farming” resource in a place down the road called Baxter Barn.

We went there after running errands just because we were passing by and thought we’d “shop” to see if there were some adult ducks to be had. We only planned on gathering research, but before we knew it we were bringing a crested duck and magpie duck home.

Vera wants to know who these new chicks are.

Vera wants to know who these new chicks are.

We quickly took over a space in the chicken’s day run to keep the new ducks close to Joe and Vera (our original resident Pekin drake and duck), but also keep them separated. Separation seemed confusing to me at first, but Joe stuck his head through the fence and got a hold of the crested ducks tuft almost immediately. He hasn’t “attacked” them since, trying only to woo them, obviously. Vera, at times, seems jealous, but still “talks” to her new roommates.

River and Jayne are becoming fast sisters from different mothers.

River and Jayne are becoming fast sisters from different mothers.

The gray crested has been named Jayne and the magpie duck has been called River. We’ve had them now for two weeks and in another two we can begin to give them some time with their new family. They are more skittish than Joe and Vera ever were/are (even after the predator attack and the daily dose of human medical attention). But this morning I noticed they were less worried when I brought their feed and freshened their water.

Vera is laying regularly again after the predator attack and our evenings are cooling off a bit more. The new ducks have not lain yet; but they are just settling in. So, we’re patiently waiting. The idea of having 3 duck eggs a day will be fabulous. I love using them to bake with and making Frittata. They make my breads, cakes, and other desserts so moist and fluffy and the frittatas are so light and airy.  When Vera wasn’t laying my baking wasn’t the same.

Vera's first egg after her post-predator attack break. The chickens tried to out do her. But she's back in the swing.

Vera’s first egg after her post-predator attack break. The chickens tried to out do her. But she’s back in the swing.

It’s going to be interesting to see how Joe & Vera and River & Jayne get along once we can let them all hang together.

Stay tuned to see/read more as we get them bonded together as a whole brace.

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Harvest Creations: Gardening to Do for August

This is what the front of my home looks like, Aug. 6, 2014.

This is what the front of my home looks like, Aug. 6, 2014.

I have been so busy that I nearly missed that a new month was upon us. I’ve been harvesting something nearly every day. I’ve weeded the garden two times over now (and the north-facing south flower bed along the outer property reaches is screaming for my attention in that department now). Such a flow will continue, harvest, weed, water, pest control, harvest, weed, and water again. However, I also get to start planting some of the fall veggies, like another row of broccoli (we eat whatever I harvest almost immediately, and I’d like to be able to freeze some for the off-season), and some winter lettuces, and more carrots, and parsnips, and whatever else I can think of before it’s too late.

The original raised bed that started this crazy Grow Food Not Lawns effort. Now ready for successive planting.

The original raised bed that started this crazy Grow Food Not Lawns effort. Now ready for successive planting.

How did I do on July’s list? I amazingly got it all done, save the two rose bushes. It’s just not rose bush season. But I have cuttings from a friend’s rose bush and I hope they actually begin to bloom. If it takes until next spring to get the others in, so be it.

So far I’ve canned peppers, salsa verde, rainbow salsa, blackberry jam, strawberry jam, and vegetable broth. I need more jars to get me through August.

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Lessons learned:  I need to make a planting plan for next year that reflects our resources here and where to plant what. The northeast corner of the big Grow Food, Not Lawns bed is overcrowded. Although, if you look at the photo from June, it seemed there was lots of space. Nope. Also, I need to keep plants that need lots of water on one side and those that need less on the other, so I can target water. I also learned that I likely won’t plant leeks again, at least without making more of an effort to plant them. They were an impulse plant, and I got marginal results. The strawberries are doing great this year and we’ll give them an even larger plot next year. Also, we are very much sold on Uncle Ian’s pest control. We had elk come to the property the other night and they seemed to be deterred. We put more Uncle Ian’s down to make sure they don’t come back and will do so for the next five nights. I would like to find out either how to make this myself or buy it in bulk, especially given since my land has no fences (much to my chagrin, but my spouse likes the “open” feel to no fences).

Sir Elk came to visit. He didn't nibble. I keep putting Uncle Ian's repellent down (dried blood and red pepper) to keep them away and/or just keep walking.

Sir Elk came to visit. He didn’t nibble. I keep putting Uncle Ian’s repellent down (dried blood and red pepper) to keep them away and/or just keep walking.

August’s List:

Keep up rose cuttings for spring

Move flowers from north-facing south bed to south facing driveway bed

Weed

Harvest

Water

Pest Control

Get more canning jars

Plant fall veggies (Parsnips, broccoli, winter lettuce, successive carrots, maybe cabbage)

Mulch as necessary

augrhubarb

Been a bumper-crop year for rhubarb.

augcukes

The cucumbers are finally taking off.

Well there’s much to do gardening wise. Tell me what you’ve learned from your own efforts? Have you started a small plot? What are you interested in knowing about growing your own food? Comment below and we’ll talk some dirt. ;)

augwildgreenbed

My Wild Green Bed is still holding on.

Peppers going gangbusters.

Peppers going gangbusters.

 

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Backyard Chicken Keeping: 5 months old

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We have benches now for the humans to relax and just be with our hens and ducks. It’s a great meditation spot.

On July 26 The Girls will be 5 months old. Currently five out of the seven (RIP Angel) are laying eggs daily. Since on an average day our egg consumption is about a half-dozen, this works out well. I barter for other eggs with other keepers and that keeps us in eggs so far. Once all are laying, I may not need to barter as much anymore.

Recently I toured a few other backyard-chicken keepers coops and set-ups and am validated that we have a pretty good situation for our hens. One night last week, I forgot to close the door to the roosting dormer and yet they were safe. Of course, I won’t make that mistake again.

Five of our seven hens are now laying.  Huzzah!

Five of our seven hens are now laying. Huzzah!

We still have a dust bath in the corner below the roosting dormer, but they have created their own dust baths. The created dust bath only gets used on rainy days. That’s fine because it saves me on construction-grade sand purchases.

We’ve also switched to organic, soy-free, corn-free layer feed. They are gobbling it up. They may still get some soy and corn from our farm, but those harvests are far down the summer road yet.

As hinted above, the chickens continue to be a great complement to our urban farming efforts. Daily I weed one five-gallon bucket of weeds for the chickens and one for the ducks. In addition, things like Brussels sprout leaves that must be trimmed to push the sprout growth are given to my poultry and they love it. Also, kitchen scraps when we’re creating our harvest creations. The chickens love harvest day, take a look below at the video link…

I recently harvested a huge haul of peas and they got all the pods. They loved it.

Willow, the first of my hens to lay, (Red Sex Link) has become a bit broody. She will squat over and on even eggs that aren’t hers. Because she’s one of the Girls that bonded with me, I can shoo her off and she’s only mildly disgruntled. I may use this to our advantage if folks with different breeds have fertilized eggs that need hatching. But, I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. We’ll see.

I’m fairly certain that there are no roosters in the bunch. The one I suspected the most was killed in our recent predator attack, so all is well.

Try as we did, we had to trim the flight feathers of our chickens. They seemed completely nonplussed by the whole haircut process.

Try as we did, we had to trim the flight feathers of our chickens. They seemed completely nonplussed by the whole haircut process.

After the predator attack, several of The Girls kept flying out of the day-time pen/run. I was lucky to catch them all and not lose them or worse, but I knew it was time to clip their wings. I tried and tried to not do that; but, hopefully as they mature more and their feathers grow back, they lose interest in flying the coop. Hubby helped me with it and it went pretty fast and no more escapees.

Next up in poultryville, beyond getting our ducks, Joe & Vera, completely healed up, is an outside water system for the roosting dormer. My Girls are definite Washington birds and don’t mind the rain, but they do spend more time in the covered run part of the Coop D

Vera in one of her three watering spots. We upcycled this sink from a historic site in Seattle.

Vera in one of her three watering spots. We upcycled this sink from a historic site in Seattle.

eVille when it is raining. We still also need to get a third duck. Our predator attack hammered home the need for better odds of making sure Joe & Vera never are put in a situation of being alone. Buying an adult duck has proven to be difficult, however. We persist, regardless.

Well it’s time to gather eggs. My Girls normally don’t lay until mid-morning (I have no idea if this is usual or what….) and it’s almost lunch. Don’t want Willow thinking she has a brood to nest on.

See ya around the coop!

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Harvest Creations: Stuffed Poblanos

Poblano peppers from our land. July 2014.

Poblano peppers from our land. July 2014.

Last year our tomatillos and jalapenos did great. We turned much of that into salsa verde and green enchilada sauce. The latter required that I procure Poblano peppers. They can be expensive for as many as I need for my “That-S#*&-Takes-All-Day enchilada sauce. Therefore last year we had decided that this growing season we would include Poblanos in our Grow Food Not Lawns efforts.

Goat cheese and duck egg are the secret ingredients here.

Goat cheese and duck egg are the secret ingredients here.

 

The Poblanos have been doing well. I’ve frozen a batch already to be used with the T.S.T.A.D. sauce when the tomatillos ripen. The most recent harvest I decided I wanted to try to do something fun with them – diversify its holding in our food preserves, if you will.

 

Use a rock glass to help hold your pepper up while you stuff.

Use a rock glass to help hold your pepper up while you stuff.

I love Chile Relleno. I order it just about every time I go out for Mexican food. It’s not something I make myself ever, because it is a very complicated recipe that takes a long time to make. But I wanted something similar to Chile Relleno. That’s where this recipe was born. Straight up made from our own imagination, tested, and heartily enjoyed.

Be very gentle when you stuff the peppers.

Be very gentle when you stuff the peppers.

 

I made these for out-of-town guests and they were gobbled up. The little tortilla cheese-stopper was a nice mini-quesadilla on the top. It certainly helped to keep the cheese deep inside the poblano, too. The goat cheese with the spice and sharpness of the other cheese blended nicely with the pepper and was definitely reminiscent of Chilie Relleno without the complications of that recipe.

If you have an extra large tortilla, you may need to cut the wedges in half horizontally.

If you have an extra large tortilla, you may need to cut the wedges in half horizontally.

 

We’ll definitely be making these again.

Stop up the cheese with the tortilla wedge before you put the pepper cap back on.

Stop up the cheese with the tortilla wedge before you put the pepper cap back on.

 

The recipe below will serve six people (two peppers per person); I ended up only doing six and freezing the remaining stuffing for another harvest of Poblano peppers.

The tortilla acts as an anchor for the cap as well as keeping the cheese in.

The tortilla acts as an anchor for the cap as well as keeping the cheese in.

 

Ingredients: 

12 Poblanos, with the caps sliced off and reserved, de-seeded

8 oz. of creamy goat cheese

8 oz. of grated Mexican mixed cheese

1 duck egg (you can use an extra large chicken egg if you don’t have duck egg)

1 Tbspn of ground cumin

1 Tbspn of dried cilantro

1 Tortilla cut up into small triangles

Be sure to let rest in the foil for five minutes before unwrapping.

Be sure to let rest in the foil for five minutes before unwrapping.

 

Tools:

Grill & Tongs

Aluminum Foil

Rock Glass

Small spoon

Toothpicks

Dig in!

Dig in!

Directions:

Once your peppers are prepped (washed, dried, caps sliced and reserved, and de-seeded), mix remaining ingredients except the tortilla in a medium bowl until well-mixed. Take one of the peppers and stand it up in a glass. Gently stuff filling into the peppers.

Each of my peppers took about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of the filling. I was very gentle and pressed down the filling into the deepest recesses of the pepper’s depths. (We thought that perhaps you could use a frosting bag for this, but I was in too much of a hurry to eat to drag that out, but you might want to try it.)

Then I took one small triangle of tortilla to use as a “cap” for the stuffing. Gently work the tips of the triangle into the pepper between the pepper wall and cheese. Then replace poblano cap and toothpick together. Wrap in foil and grill on ready grill for about 20 to 25 minutes turning every seven minutes or so. (You could cook in oven at 400 degrees F for same amount of time if you don’t have grill.) Let sit for five minutes (set the table, open a cerveza…). Unwrap foil, eat, and enjoy!

The cheese just oozes out and blends with the pepper very yummily. Enjoy!

The cheese just oozes out and blends with the pepper very yummily. Enjoy!

 

 

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I’m Sold On Sugaring

I love how my brows look. We're nearing the two-week mark and they still look fabulous!

I love how my brows look. We’re nearing the two-week mark and they still look fabulous!

I’m no beauty queen. I spent too many years in combat boots, in fact. Now I live in slippers, sandals, sneakers, and muck boots. But, I still like to look nice.

Because my life has been so varied, and I traveled lots, I always was a do-it-yourself beauty routine person. My hair is simple, so haircuts could even be done at the barber. When I colored my hair, I did it on my own. I did my own pedicures, manicures, and plucked my own brows.

When I turned 45, my eyesight started to diminish. I now walk in the world of the farsighted. That made things like plucking my brows nearly impossible to do on my own. I had to start having someone else pluck my brows. I tried waxing. It hurt, burned, and made me break out. Plus it didn’t last long. I tried threading, it was nice just once. The other times, it hurt very badly, gave me ingrown hairs, and was located at an inconvenient place. I tried going au natural on my brows…YUCK!

Then I discovered sugaring. It didn’t hurt. I haven’t broken out. It didn’t burn. I haven’t suffered any ingrown hairs. And here we are nearly 10 days later, and my brows still look lovely.

In short, I’m sold. I’ll never wax or thread again. I also don’t have to worry about letting my brows go all shaggy, either. Sugaring is my go-to brow maintenance treatment from this point on. I’m sold.

I seriously will look at giving up my razor soon here, too. Legs, Underarms, meet the wonderful, sweet world of sugaring!

If you haven’t tried sugaring, I urge you all to find a body sugaring professional in your area today.

Hair removal has never been so sweet.

How about you? Have you tried sugaring? What did you think?

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