Tag Archives: Chicken

Giving Thanks

Early this summer I posted about the busy-ness of farm life in the summer.  Now that we are in late fall there is much less going on but there is still some activity.  Here is a sampling of what happened this week on the farm.

We got a new rooster the other day.  Until now we have only had roosters on a temporary basis.  When you raise chickens straight-run (from eggs instead of buying them at the feed store) at least half of the flock will be roosters.  But, on our farm – when they crow, they go – straight into the freezer!  However, a good rooster takes care of the hens in his flock.  He will call them to tasty tidbits, send out the alarm when predators come around and for natural flock behavior hens need a rooster.  So when Shannon ended up with an extra roo this year we offered to take him.  Foggy (a nod to Foghorn Leghorn!) is a handsome fellow with golden plumage and a dark brown tail.  Perhaps we will have some chicks in the spring if we get a broody hen!

Time for once a day milking!  Alexis has been dried up for about a month now, Ellie is on her way.  We went out of town for Thanksgiving after morning milking so Ellie is now down to once a day milking.  She is still giving almost two gallons a day, most of which is going to Frank.  He is the bucket calf we got last summer after I had a moment of insanity and bought a second cow!  Originally the plan was to just graft him on to Alexis and let her raise him so I only had to milk one cow.  After two weeks of tying up a homicidal and unwilling mother cow twice a day while he nursed to make sure she didn’t kill him outright, I decided that I would rather spend 5 minutes milking her than 20 minutes watching her.  Frank took to the bucket like a champ and is growing nicely.  He is scheduled to go into the freezer with the hogs in a couple of weeks.  Everyone is appalled that I am going to process a veal calf because there has been so much press around animal welfare issues on veal but  Frank is not locked-in-a-box-in-the-dark veal.  He is running-around-the-pasture-drinking-milk-being-a-nuisance veal.  We also need to have fewer animals in our pasture during the winter to keep down the mud and because both cows are going to calve in March, Frank has to go.  Besides, by Christmas there will be no more milk.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving with family.  My contribution was PIE.  I spent the last week making apple pie filling with Shannon.  I put 15 quarts in the canning pantry and I think she ended up with about 12 quarts.  I still need to do some apple sauce but that is it for canning for this year.  I called my sister-in-law all excited about the prospect of bringing an apple pie – only to have her say, “…and I will be making apple and pumpkin so how about you bring something else!”  So, I brought Pecan, lattice-topped Cherry, and Chocolate Silk Pies.  The chocolate silk pie was a last minute addition because I had extra pie crust and have been on a pudding binge lately.  When you have gallons of extra milk you get creative – and a batch of pudding uses 2 quarts of milk!  My recipe is adapted from one I found on Culinate for Creamy Chocolate Pudding.  I make a triple batch with whole Jersey milk and omit the butter (there is a limit to how much fat one needs!)  For pie filling I add a bit more corn starch than the recipe calls for and the resulting pudding is more like chocolate ganache than pudding.  It is dense, chocolatey, smooth and creamy.  Heaven!   I brought home leftovers of the pecan and cherry, but the chocolate was GONE!  Our turkey dinner will be either Sunday or Monday depending upon when my bird is defrosted.  Sooner would be better than later because it is taking up precious fridge space but I am willing to wait for turkey leftovers!

My mom’s firewood is finally done and in the woodshed.  After 40 years of heating with wood I keep thinking that she will give up and get a pellet stove.  After all, she will be 78 this year and doesn’t get around as well as she used to.  But, no!  Last year when her woodstove died she bought – you guessed it – another woodstove.  Because she has a small house she has a small stove – with a 14″ woodbox.  This means that we need to make sure that the wood is cut small enough and the pieces are well split.  Every year we put her wood up, and every year we wait until it starts raining.  This year was no exception.   But, the wood is in and she will be warm this winter.  My kids used to grumble about helping split and stack 3 cords of wood but now they are older and appreciate the chance to help their grandma.  It is gratifying to see my grown kids serving others and reaching out!

Our family is blessed by a bountiful life and at this time of year we are very conscious of our fortune.  We have a full pantry and freezer after a summer and fall of “putting up” from the farm and garden.  Our children are growing up to be generous and capable people.  We are part of a wonderful community of farm friends and others who enrich our life.  We have good health, a comfortable home and stable jobs in a time when many don’t have those blessings.

As we approach the holiday season, I try and keep in mind that the most important things in life aren’t really things at all.  We try and give experiences for gifts but if you are going to give this year, be farm-friendly.  Several local farms offer CSA’s or Farm Share programs and I can think of nothing better than the promise of fresh veggies during the depths of winter.  The local farmer’s markets have extended their season so you can still buy gifts from local vendors.  And for the kiddos on your list there are a couple books that are favorites around here and help children learn more about farm life.

Farm Diary – June 7th (Colonel Sanders would be proud!)

Yesterday I posted about preps for P-day for the chickens.  Several people have asked me “Doesn’t that gross you out to kill your own chickens?” and I have to confess, there is an “Eew Factor” to processing chickens.  But, I have also seen what the industrial poultry processing system looks like more intimately than most.  We have several farmer friends who grow millions of chickens each year for Draper Valley Farms.  While they produce a safe, affordable locally (western WA) product – their birds don’t move around much and they don’t eat bugs and grass.  The meat from pastured birds tastes, well, more like chicken!  As a child growing up we bought chickens from a local farmer and I remember how it tasted.  When I had my first bite of pasture-raised chicken a few years ago it was a blast from the past.  The meat was firmer and more flavorful. So, I can deal with at bit of the “Eew” for the tasty rewards!

5:45 – Alarm goes off and I roll over and hit the snooze.  I do this at least twice more before hubby’s alarm goes off and I finally roll out of bed.

6:00 – Head out to do chores.  There is 40% chance of rain forecast today.  It is no fun doing chores in the rain – processing chickens in the rain is less fun than that!

7:00 – Milking done, hogs fed, chickens fed (the ones we aren’t going to butcher today!), kids off to school, gather up all the hoses and a couple of extension cords and start thinking about how we are going to set all this up.  String a hose from the sink in the laundry room to the scalder to start with hot water.  Chase cat back inside.

8:00 – Cursing because the pilot light on the scalder is taking so long to get lit.  No one likes to spend that much time lying on the ground holding a wand lighter on waiting for the thermocouple to warm up.  Plug it in and hear it make a suspicious popping noises in the electrical box.  Burner doesn’t come on.  Curse more.  Wiggle the cord, more popping noises, burner lights, we decide to avoid touching it since it is working now – and because we don’t particularly want to be electrocuted.  Shannon arrives with extra coolers and another table.

8:30 – Helpers start arriving and we start washing coolers, bleaching the tables, and sharpening knives.  We spend some time sorting chickens, catching escapees and then move the chicken tractors over to the processing area.

9:00 – Scalding water is taking forever to get hot enough.  Curse some more.  Get sheet of plywood to cover scalder to cut heat loss and spend more time visiting.

9:30 – Weren’t we supposed to start at 9:00?  Sigh. Fix the thermometer – tell Shannon to stop laughing about the bonnet.  I can see why women wore them.  They are soft after a couple washings and the brim keeps the sun off!

9:45 – Water is hot.  Time to start.

11:15 – All done but the shouting.  44 birds in the cooler on ice.  The Amazing Donna has the clean up on the plucker and scalder almost done by the time we finish cleaning the last few birds.  We get a few raindrops as we are cleaning up and bagging the birds.  Helpers take a couple home and we put the rest in the fridge.  I will freeze about 10 as whole birds and then cut the rest up into parts for convenient dinners.  Hay helpers come and load up the equipment and head inside to take a shower!

Noon – head out to take back the plucker and scalder.  Have another nice visit with Stuart and Michelle and then go over to the Silverdale Farmers Market to see what is fresh this week!  I need a couple of pumpkin plants, and perhaps a few more tomatoes!

It was a busy morning but many hands make light work.  I am pretty grateful for farmer friends!  Thanks for helping!

We can’t sell chickens from our processing because we don’t have a WSDA Temporary Slaughter Permit.  But if you want to find out more about come to the Kitsap Poultry Growers Meeting on June  14th and meet WSDA Food Safety Officer Kim Hoffman.  She is going to be talking primarily about handling and selling eggs but she will probably answer some questions about processing as well.

If you want to buy pastured poultry in Kitsap and taste some amazing chicken contact a local farmer about buying pastured chickens.  Right now Pheasant Fields, Abundantly Green, Butler Green, Kingston Farm, Dropstone Farm and Blackjack Valley Farm are a few of the local farms I know are selling pastured birds.  Many take orders at their farmer’s market stands so look for them there.  It is more expensive than BOGO chicken breasts at Albertson’s but it is worth it.

This choice isn’t for everyone – but for us it is the right choice.

Farm Diary – June 6th

Before we start the Farm Diary a bit of explanation about tomorrow.  Tuesday is P-day for the chickens – as in processing day!  Seven weeks from hatch to fry pan.  We raise broiler chickens in “tractors” on the lawn in a method popularized by Joel Salatin in his book “Pastured Poultry Profits”.  Far be it from me to suggest that Mr. Salatin may be making as much on his books as he does on his farm, but chicken tractors make it easy to raise chickens.  Ours are smaller than his – 4x8x2 feet tall with a hinged cover on one end.   They typically house about 40 three-week old chicks or 15 mature broilers, have a hanging feeder and water and are moved daily.

6:00 – Up but not really at ’em.  I burned the midnight oil getting a grant application submitted.  WSU Kitsap Extension is working to find money to do some research on raising chickens on pasture.  We got to the final round last year – perhaps we will make it all the way this year so think happy chicken thoughts.  Kiddo #3 has an early dental appointment this morning so I need to be up early and get chores done.  Wake up the kiddos.

6:30 – Gorgeous morning to be out and about.  Head into the barn and have a surprise – there is a dead barn owl on the floor.  Probably came in the load of hay that arrived last night but it is still sad.  They are beautiful birds with soft, tawny feathers and distinctive feathering around the eyes.  Reassured to hear our resident barn owl hooting in the trees I get back to chores.  Milking goes smoothly, give the extra milk to the happy hogs this morning as the fridge is full of milk and a gallon (!) of draining yogurt.  Alexis the Princess Cow is in heat again.  Depressing that she isn’t in calf.  Feed the chickens, stick my head inside and holler at the kiddos to wake up again.

7:00 – Show everyone the owl and daughter puts it in a bag to take to the science teacher at the school.  Kids out the door.  It is nice having a teenager driving at times like this!  Grab some nice fresh Greek-style yogurt topped with strawberry jam for breakfast.

7:30 – Clean up, check email and get the ‘puter loaded up and head into town.  Pick up the kiddo at the orthodontist, commiserate about the pain and suffering associated with braces, sympathize about her father’s crooked teeth genes and drop her at school with the barn owl.

8:00 – Work.

3:00 – Home.  Fill waterers for the chickens and move the tractors.  On hot days they drink A LOT!  Shannon let’s me know that the plucker and scalder can be picked up today!  This is very good news!

3:30 – Put dinner in the crock pot.  Italian meat gravy with a couple leftover pork chops, some bacon (lacking pancetta), a bunch of hot Italian sausage and the left-over pesto from dinner the other night.

4:00 – Hay delivery out.  Start getting things ready for tomorrow.  Gather up a couple of hoses, set up the tables and locate extra 5 gallon buckets for the inedible bits.  Looks like we also need propane to run the scalder.  Convo with Shannon to make sure we aren’t forgetting anything for tomorrow.  We probably will anyhow!  Take the sad, collapsed loaves of bread from the other day and cut them up and make bread pudding.  Bread, eggs, half-and-half, sugar, cinnamon.  Who knew that such simple ingredients would yield such a yummy dish.  The kids will eat it for breakfast tomorrow – if it lasts that long.

5:00 – Dinner.  Spaghetti or polenta with meat gravy.  Time to go grocery shopping as we are out of frozen veggies from last year and the garden is late this year.  Three stalks of asparagus won’t cut it.  Clean up – send crew off with another hay delivery and kiddos off to band practice.  Tomorrow is the end of year concert.  It is a favorite of mine because the 6th graders come up to the high school and participate in a mass band.  About 200 kids grades 6-12 playing “Louie Louie!”  Then the marching band does their schtick and we turn in uniforms for the summer.  The end of the school year is bittersweet as we wrap up activities and get ready for summer fun.

6:00 – Head into town to get the plucker and scalder.  Have to stop and get propane.  Yes, the tank probably needs to be replaced but please fill it anyhow. Thanks!  Stop at Home Depot and buy some tie-down straps.  Apparently the last person to borrow the pick-up decided we didn’t need the old ones any more.  Pick up the plucker and scalder at Stuart and Michele’s.  He is president of the Kitsap Poultry Growers Cooperative and they raise turkeys and broiler chickens and sell eggs at the Poulsbo Farmers Market.  Because farmers can’t really just pick up stuff and run we have a nice visit.

7:00 – Home to milk and do the rest of chores.  Ellie Belle convinces me that she REALLY needs to eat some of the grass in the yard so I follow her around a bit until the mosquitoes get too bad.  Fed the pigs, watered the chickens and removed the feeders from the broiler pens.  We want the birds to have a chance to digest all of the feed before morning. If they are full of feed while we are processing them it increases the chance of contaminating the carcasses.  Mow the lawn and feed clippings to the cows.

8:00 – Clean up after milking, wash and sanitize the bucket, load the dishwasher, wash some eggs and get them ready for sale tomorrow.  Sit down to blog about the day.

Farm life is busy, eventful, interesting and always entertaining.  Hopefully chicken processing will go smoothly – I have been telling everyone “Rain or Shine” and there is a threat of showers in the forecast but here’s hoping that they hold off until we are done with the chickens!  When things don’t go as planned and farm life gets “busy” (cursing malfunctioning equipment), “eventful” (chasing escaped chickens) and “entertaining” (butchering in the rain) it loses its charm and might not be appropriate to blog for a family paper!  I am sure it will be fine as experienced helpers Donna and Cindy are coming to help Shannon and I.  Our novice, Beth, will catch on quickly enough and it will be done in no time.

Check back tomorrow and read all about it!

Farm Diary – June 4th

Okay, so people ask me “What do you do all day on the farm!?”

Farm and Ranch Living Magazine invites a farm family to keep a diary every month so you can get a taste of farm life through their experiences.  There are also a plethora of blogs out there chronicling life on the farm – if you look off to the right side of the page you can see our blogroll and check out what we read!  I have decided to give it a shot as well because then when people ask I can just sent them to Farm to Fork!

We have a small farm with chickens, hogs and a couple of cows. The cows (mainly Ellie Belle) dictate much of the chore schedule because milking is a twice a day, EVERY day activity! This morning went something like this:

7:45 ish – Assemble the milk bucket from bits washed last night in the dishwasher and grab the extra milk for the hogs, fill the wash bucket and head out. Hubby is already outside fixing the pull cord on the mower. It came off last night when I was mowing the lawn to feed clippings to the cows.

8:00 – Radio on, cow in the stanction eating grain, milking machine chuffing away nicely, getting grain ready for the hogs and Ellie kicks of the milker. Investigate a bit and find a sort spot on the end of one teat. I guess I would kick a bit too!

8:15 – Toss hay to the cows and head back inside to strain the milk and make more yogurt.  Think a gallon will be enough?  Hay customer was here early, thinking that we started at 8:00 rather than 9:00. We are early risers but there is lots to do before opening the doors!  Arnold had started on breakfast but went out to load hay so I finished making it.  We do a big farm breakfast on Saturdays because we typically don’t get done with hay until 2:00 or later.  On the menu this morning:  Fried red potatoes, fried eggs, toast with a choice of peach or strawberry jam, and milk.

8:45 – Doors to the shop open, lawnmower bits assembled and put away, kids feeding the hogs, I move the chicken tractors and fill the feeders and waterers.  Cindy comes for hay, visit for a minute, she offers to come and help butcher chickens on Tuesday!  Awesome!  We can use the help, she knows what she is doing and she will bring her knives!

9:00 – Go back inside and start a batch of bread.

9:15 – Outside, cows see the lawn mower and start bawling.  Mow for half an hour in the orchard and around the berries to make them happy.  Memo to self – pick rocks more carefully!

Quick story here – we always give grass clippings to the cattle.  They have a small pasture but it never has enough grass to keep them happy.  We have set up electric fence to give them more pasture (see the “Lawn Moo-ers” post) in the past but I have a “disrespectful” member of the herd right now that makes that a challenge.  He seems to think that fence posts are for scratching on so rather than staying inside the electric fence he requires something a bit sturdier.  Once he goes on to “greener pastures” we will be able to do that.  One day I could hear the cows bawling and wondered what was the matter.  In the past, if one was out or something was wrong the other cow would usually bawl and fret so I was concerned that we had a breach of security or similar.  I looked out and there was nothing the matter – they were just standing at the corner of the pasture looking expectant.  I couldn’t figure what was the matter until the neighbor’s lawn mower started back up!  I realized they could hear the mower from next door – behind the trees you couldn’t see it! – and figured it was dinner time!  I had to laugh.

10:30 – Run one of the kids into Silverdale.  I need to go to town today but I am not ready so I will have to make another trip!  So much for doubling up to save gas!  Before I leave I think – ooohh.  I needed to take care of the bread about now….

11:30 – Home – bread has risen nicely but it got left a bit too long and when I put the loaves in the oven they deflate a bit.  Bummer!  It will taste fine but it isn’t a picture perfect loaf.  Visit with Alice and Lori about raising chickens, the price of feed, protein content of broiler feed, chicken tractors, butchering chickens, 4-H projects, and trying to share the road with the Kitsap Tri-Babes during the summer!  They train at the local lake and bike on Holly Road most weekends beginning now.  Prepare for some slow downs on Saturday mornings by leaving a bit early!

12:00 – Bread out, and yes, it deflated.

1:00 – Hay crew in for lunch.  Leftover pesto chicken and pasta with green salad and deflated bread.  They don’t seem to care that it is ugly and eat half a loaf while it is still warm.  Need to bring up more jam from the downstairs canning pantry now!

2:00 – Post the blog, check the chicken water since it is so warm, move the tractors (too many chickens, not enough tractors, problem solved on Tuesday!) Then, run errands in town, get a few more bulb onions to finish the row, run to the church to photocopy something for tomorrow.

Tonight finds me doing chores again, prepping a Sunday School lesson, and maybe going on a date with hubby!

Don’t know about you but just thinking about all this has me worn out!  See you on Tuesday for a recap of the chicken processing and more of the Farm Diary!

Hanging out!

It has been a busy couple of weeks for the farm girls.  The garden is getting going and last week we started a bunch of pickling cucs in the green house over at Pheasant Field Farm.  Thanks to Farmer Nikki for sharing a bit of space with us!  In addition to the plants we have started we are raising some chickens at both my place and Shannon’s.  A couple of my birds were ready for processing and I had been putting it off!  So, yesterday Shannon came over and helped me butcher the four chickens that were ready to go.  There are another 40 in the chicken tractors that will be ready some time next week and she will also help with those!  That is a true friend!

Yesterday we butchered Old School without the plucker and scalder.  Hand plucking birds is not my idea of fun and it takes much longer than if you have processing equipment. The four birds we processed today took about an hour … and as a point of comparison working with a crew of 5 or 6 people at Abundantly Green Organic Farm last week we did 45 birds in an hour once we got rolling.  Typically I rent the equipment from the Kitsap Poultry Growers Cooperative, but for smaller batches it isn’t really worth it – though I was rethinking that yesterday!

Sharing labor and helping each other is a long-time tradition in farming communities.  Barn raisings, threshing bees, making hay.  As a child I remember my father sharing labor with four other farmers to make hay and silage.  Each farmer had a tractor and separate pieces of the machinery necessary to harvest the crops – but none of them had ALL the equipment.  This type of cooperation allowed them all to save money on expensive equipment.  However, it was a long relationship based upon trust and mutual respect.  A while back I was talking to someone about the process of borrowing a piece of equipment from a Kitsap farmer.  I had asked the wife if she thought it would be okay but my husband had to go over and make the deal and demonstrate he was capable of using the equipment.  When someone commented about how sexist and old-fashioned that sort of negotiation was I pointed out that for some farmers they would rather let you borrow their wife than lend you their tractor!

I value the relationships I have with other farmer friends.  They are a resource when I have questions, they share their time and talents freely, and they will even help take care of your animals so you can go on a vacation in the off-season!  Here are some shots of the good folks over at Abundantly Green last week!

Farmgirl friend Shannon!
Farmgirl friend Shannon!
Cliff Wind
Cliff Wind
Donna on the scalder
Donna on the scalder

At the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Franklin said: “We must hang together or assuredly we will hang separately!” and while he was alluding to the threat of charges of treason from the crown, I think about this statement often when working with other farmers.  We need to hang together so that we all succeed in this challenging business!  And frankly, farmers are really fun people to hang with, even when you are processing chickens!

Kids Need This

My nephew recently spent some quality time on the farm with Aunt Diane thanks to the earthquake and tsumani.  He is a first grader – which in my opinion is the PERFECT age for a kid!  They are capable of putting on and taking off and putting on and taking off boots and shoes as many times a day as it takes.  They can put on their own seatbelt, and remind you when you forget yours.  They are big enough to pack a bucket of grain to the hogs, gather eggs, wrangle chickens, give farm tours, climb the hay stack, stomp in puddles and ride a bike!  As adults we get totally caught up in the things that we “need to do” and tend to forget that tasks like hunting for eggs laid in the raspberries by the “sneaky chicken” or pausing in a sunny spot on a dewy morning are opportunities to experience joy and to be relished.  It seems to me that no one relishes the day quite like a child – with a chicken!

A few days ago a friend came over to get a load of manure for his garden and brought his three boys along to “help”.  Knowing they were coming I saved up some of the chores and they fed the pigs and gathered eggs while dad loaded up the moo poo.   After some oohs and ahs over the number of red wiggler worms they got bored and my nephew took them on the  farm tour (complete with instructions on petting the cat and cautions about him being “scratchy when he acts like that!”)   Dad and I spent a few minutes chatting while they climbed all over our mechanical jungle gym (the bulldozer and tractors) and I noticed one of the boys had something in his hand.  It was a red wiggler worm, looking like it had seen better days.  He informed me he was taking it home to show his mom (she will be thrilled I’m sure!)   After washing off their boots (twice) and loading and reloading into the car a couple times they were ready to leave.  As he got in the car my friend looked around and said, “Kids need this.”

Reflecting on my experiences as a child filled with long hours of exploring the woods, swimming in the river, working on the farm, picking green beans and turning golden in the sun I know that while we were always financially strapped we lead a rich life and my childhood was a gift.  My husband also grew up on a farm and we agreed it was important to offer our kids the same gift. There are times when they are doing chores they don’t necessarily feel quite as blessed – yet.  But watching my nephew galloping around the farm for the last couple weeks I would agree with my friend, kids do need this!

Culinary adventures

A while back I posted about the “Dark Days Challenge” and said I was going to share our progress … and then NOTHING.  So much for being a Food Blogger!

So, what are my recent culinary adventures?  Tonight, motivated by Ann Vogel’s trip down memory lane with the Egg and I (great book!) and having an excess of eggs, I made the Chiffon Cake.  For the record, the recipe must be calling for large eggs – not extra large – and 12 eggs might be a bit too many!  I made it with 11 farm eggs and it still spilled over the top of the pan.

It was definitely a lofty cake – perhaps a bit too much.  We will have it with berries and a bit of creme anglais tomorrow for dessert!

Tonight for dinner we had clams with pasta.  My sister-in-law was coming through Shelton yesterday and stopped at Tom Farmer Oysters (which should probably be called Tom Farmer Oysters AND Clams) and picked me up 5# of steamers!   After much debate (eat them plain – all by myself(!) – dipped in melted butter or do something with them??)  Weighing my alternatives and knowing that I was going to have six for dinner tonight I opted for pasta and used a recipe of Emeril’s and made it with bowties rather than linguine.  Very tasty indeed but no pictures because we ate it before I thought to get out the camera.  This brings up the the biggest problem I have with Food Blogging – the only time I think to take pictures is when the crew is late coming in for dinner and I have a couple extra minutes to set up a shot.  The other problem? Remembering to take a BEFORE picture to document the process.

Tomorrow Karen Olsen of Blackjack Valley Farm will process her first batch of broilers for the year and she is going to drop off a couple for me!  I guess that we will be having chicken in the next day or so.  Shannon and I have a batch of Red Rangers in the brooder right now and I will have about a dozen roosters to butcher late in August, but that is a long time to wait for chicken dinner!  I don’t have any definite plans for those chickens yet, but I do have a before shot!

And a possible after!

I promise, I will work on the photo thing!

If you want to learn more about raising chickens there are two upcoming opportunities to learn more about keeping feathered friends!

  • Backyard Chickens – Tuesday, May 10th, 2-3 pm at the Port Orchard Library.  Shannon and I will be giving a free presentation on backyard chickens.  Free to the public.
  • The Kitsap Poultry Grower’s Cooperative Meeting.  Also on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 6:30pm at the Kitsap Humane Society Training Center, 9167 Dickey Rd. NW in Silverdale. There is no cost to attend and non-members are welcome. More information is available at the KPGC website at http://www.kitsappoultry.com/.  This month’s special guest is Fred Berman, WSDA Small Farms and Direct Marketing Program, who will discuss current state regulations for raising, marketing and selling poultry and poultry products for farmers and other’s interested in raising poultry.

Eggs for Easter

Or:  How come we have the “Easter Bunny” instead of the “Easter Chicken?”

Today the Kitsap Sun listed the local Easter Egg hunts. However, when you have free range chickens, every day is an egg hunt.  My nephew William loves to visit the farm and his main job (one he takes very seriously!) is gathering eggs.  At 7 years old it is still fun for him and it is a pleasant change from nagging the teenagers to do the task! He has even figured out where the sneaky hens hide their eggs and knows where to look to find them.  My hens lay a nice assortment of colors so he always has colored eggs to take home.  He is heading back to Japan next week now that the Navy has lifted the voluntary evacuation order and will miss the farm fresh ones!  We haven’t colored eggs for a number of years since the hens provide plenty but we still do hard-boiled eggs for Easter.  Just seems like the thing to do!

A few years back when the kiddos were still into egg hunt mode we loaded up and traveled to visit the cousins for Easter.  The adults and older teens hid the eggs all over the yard and the younger kids came out with baskets and we had a splendid time finding the hidden treasures.  After the “Big Hunt” was finished, we snagged about a dozen of the eggs to make the potato salad while the kiddos took the remaining ones and re-hid and re-found them a couple times.  At some point dinner was on the table and we went out to bring everyone inside for the meal and I realized that the kids weren’t the only ones participating in the egg hunt!   It didn’t take long for the 3 or 4 farm dogs who were hanging around the porch to figure out what was going on and to get into the spirit of things.  Every time the eggs were hidden, fewer and fewer of them were found!  By the time we had dinner ready the dogs had whittled the number of hard boiled eggs down from about six dozen to a handful!  For the rest of the afternoon they laid on the porch. bellies bulging with eggy indulgence.  According to my brother-in-law the odor on the front porch the next day from the doggy egg farts was “darned near toxic!”  At this point Shannon would say, “Cue banjo music!” but these are the things that memories are made of on the farm!

If you are going to be coloring eggs for a hunt this weekend, might we suggest a more natural approach!  From the crafty and creative gals over on “Old Fashioned Living

  1. Put raw, white-shelled, organically-raised eggs in a single layer in a pan. Cover with cold water.
  2. Add a little more than a teaspoon of white vinegar.
  3. Add the natural dyestuff for the color you want your eggs to be. (The more eggs you are dying at a time, the more dye you will need to use, and the more dye you use, the darker the color will be.)
  4. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Quickly check the eggs for color by removing them from the dye liquid with a slotted spoon.
  6. If the color is as desired, pour off the hot dye liquid and rinse the eggs immediately in cold water to stop the eggs from cooking. Continue to change the water until it stays cool in the pot because the eggs are no longer releasing heat. Drain and allow eggs to cool in the refrigerator.

If you wish a deeper color, strain the hot dye liquid into a container, then rinse the eggs immediately in cold water to stop them from cooking. Continue to change the water until it stays cool in the pot because the eggs are no longer releasing heat. Drain the last of the cold water, then cover the eggs with the strained dye liquid. Add more water if necessary so that the eggs are completely covered. Put into the refrigerator immediately and keep eggs in the refrigerator until the desired shade is achieved. Overnight is good. Longer than about twelve hours some of the colors just get muddier instead of deeper, and the lighter shades are more vibrant.

Try these foods to dye your eggs:

  • Red – Pink — lots of red onion skins, cranberry juice, or frozen raspberries.
  • Orange — Yellow onion skins
  • Brown — Red beet skins or grape juice (produces a beautiful sparkling tan), coffee.
  • Yellow — Saffron, tumeric or cumin, orange or lemon peels, or celery seed.
  • Green — spinach, or carrot tops and peels from Yellow Delicious apples for a yellow-green.
  • Blue — Red cabbage leaves make the most incredible robin’s-egg blue.
  • Deep Purple — Red wine makes a beautiful burgundy color

Tips for successful results:

  • Use filtered, distilled or soft well water. Chlorine and other chemicals will work against the dye, making it less intense. Buy distilled water or use your own filtered water.
  • For deeper colors, use more dyestuff or let the eggs soak longer.
  • For even coverage, cook eggs in a pot large enough to hold enough water and dyestuff to completely cover the eggs, even after some of the liquid has evaporated during the 15 minute of boiling.
  • Again, for even coverage, if you continue to soak the eggs in the refrigerator after cooking, make sure the eggs are completely covered with the dye liquid.
  • Blot the eggs dry or allow them to air dry, as for some colors the dye will rub off while still wet. On the other hand, if you wish to make a white pattern on the egg, you can rub off some of the dye for some colors immediately after cooking.
  • Make sure eggs of different colors are completely dry before piling them up in a bowl together, as wet dye from one egg can transfer to another.

Read more about natural dyes for Easter eggs at www.debraslist.com/food/aboutcoloringeggs.html.

Chicken Stew with Ricotta-Chive Dumplings

Chris Henry posted my recipe for Chicken Cacciatore over on Peninsular Thinking as a follow up to her story on our Chickens 101 class.  That is my favorite recipe for stewing hens, but Harley suggested his favorite was this chicken stew and dumpling recipe.  It is pretty good too.  It is from Chefs on the Farm featuring the Quillisascut Farm School with photographs by Harley.  Check out the review here.  This is a “spring” stew because it features chives.  Winter variations can feature dried herbs or sage or rosemary as well.

Place a large (or two small) stewing hen in a pot with 1 onion, 3 stalks celery, 3 large carrots, two bay leaves, sage, thyme, parsley and 1 Tbsp pepper corns.  Simmer 2-3 hours on low.  Strain stock, discard vegetables, shred chick off the bones and reserve.  This can also be done in a crock pot on high for 4-5 hours or 8-10 hours on low.

For the Stew:

  • 2 Tbsp chicken fat or olive oil
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 1 pound carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk green garlic or 3-4 cloves thinly sliced
  • 4 c stock
  • 4 c shredded chicken
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme (1 Tbsp dry)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Saute veggies in oil or fat until onions are tender, add stock, bring to simmer and cook until vegetables are tender.  Add shredded chicken and time.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


  • 2 cups ricotta cheese (make your own)
  • 1/2 c fresh chived, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c corn meal
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 3 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together, do not over mix.  Drop by spoonfuls into the simmering stew.  (Tip: use an ice cream scoop for nice round dumplings.  Cookie-sized for small ones, regular-sized for big ones).  Simmer small dumplings 4 minutes or until tender, larger dumplings will take 7-9 minutes.  Turn them over and simmer for 2-3 minutes longer.  Serve hot.  You will be tempted to lick the bowl. Winter Variation:  Potatoes, with sage in the dumplings instead of chives is also good.

Barnyard or Backyard?

Where are chickens happiest??

Give you a hint…on Harley’s Kingston Farm it is definitely the barnyard!

Join the WSU Small Farms Team and Harley Soltes as we host Chicks 101: Barnyard or Backyard! Whether you are raising farm chicks or city chicks this class is for you!  Learn about breed selection, incubation, hatching, brooding chicks, raising pullets, housing options, feeding and managing layers, managing breeding flocks, and marketing fresh eggs and broilers.   Harley has a pastured poultry operation, sells fresh eggs from the farm and at the Kingston Farmers Market, and also breeds and sells purebred Delawares and Marans.

While I hesitate to post one of my pictures with this blog post (Harley is a Pulitzer nominated photographer for his work at the Seattle Times on the WTO Riots) here is one taken last fall at processing class we hosted at his farm.  Harley will share tips and information on raising birds on pasture and Shannon and I will have materials for City of Bremerton residents who want more information on raising chickens in Bremerton and the new chicken ordinance.

Join us from 10:oo am to Noon on April 9th at Kingston Farm, 27691 Lindvog Rd. NE, Kingston, WA for Chickens 101.  The cost for the class is $35/person or $50/family.  $25 for Kitsap Poultry Growers Members and as always, our classes are FREE to 4-H and FFA youth! This class might be of special interest to youth because for the first time at the Kitsap County Fair poultry will be eligible for sale at the 4-H and FFA Jr. Livestock Auction!  I will have copies of the rules for any interested youth!

Online registration and more info is available on the WSU Kitsap Extension Website at:  http://kitsap.wsu.edu/ag/index.htm.  You can also email Diane at dfish@wsu.edu or call (360) 337-7026 for more info.  We are very excited that Small Farms now has our own phone number!  Give us a call!