Monday, August 27, 2012

Cats and Chickens

Rocky (RIP 1995-2007)

There are many (especially city dwellers) who believe cats can’t be trusted with a flock of chickens.  My personal experience is that they can.  Now maybe my cats are an exception to the rule.  I don’t know.  But I’m more prone to believe it’s just their being a product of their environment.     
We currently have two cats.  (Always two in our household!)  When you live in the country, you almost need at least one for rodent pest control, ‘cuz even the cleanest of the clean house will start seeing mice when ol’ man winter starts rolling in.  Not much you can do about it except have a cat that’s a really great mouser, put down poison, or use traps.  I prefer utilizing the natural instinct of the hunter over the other methods.    
Josey (RIP 2000-2010)
We’ve had our oldest feline, Smokey, since he was a kitten in 2008.  He made his home with us before we got chickens and after we’d lost our oldest and dearest kitty, Rocky (RIP 1995-2007)...  Smokey was an abandoned kitty found, with his little brother, wrapped in an old rug and tossed into a dumpster.  A neighbor had rescued them one stormy and rainy night and nursed them back to health before finding homes for them.    
Smokey doesn’t go out of his way to be friendly towards the flock, but he doesn’t chase them down to play “cat & mouse” games either.  He’s what we’d call an aloof kitty.  Smokey’s decent at keeping the wild birds, who wish to eat the chicken feed, at bay and he’s a fair mouser.  (If the birds are flying less than 3ft off the the ground, he’s quite the athlete at jumping up and snatching them out of the air!)  

Smokey’s also a shy kitty.  Let a stranger come onto the property and he quickly melts away into the background until they leave the premises.  Then just as suddenly, he’s back.  
Smokey (2008)

The youngest, Tawnta, came to live with us after we got our flock and had lost our best mouser, Josey (RIP 2000-2010).  He was born in the country in summer 2010 and lived with a family with young children until he was weaned.  That’s when he came to live with us!  Tawnta was the runt of the 
litter, but by far the spunkiest of the lot!  
By contrast to Smokey, Tawnta was a well-loved kitty, handled from birth by children who use to coddle him.  You can see it in his personality.  When a stranger visits, Tawnta doesn’t run and hide like Smokey does.  This kitty goes out of his way to get in your face to find out what you’re doing there.  He reminds me so much of the way Josey was!  (While opposite in the spectrum of appearances, their personalities were identical.  More times than not, I’ve thought Tawnta might have been Josey’s reincarnation!)    

Being young and naive when he first arrived to our home, Tawnta occasionally chased our chickens and tagged the hens in the butt with a little swat, then would run off in the opposite direction as quickly as his little legs could carry him.  Hens started giving him the wide berth as a result.  But the older he got, the less he did this and eventually the game ceased altogether.  He now walks nonchalantly in their midst, seeking their company.  
Tawnta laying on some eggs in a planter (2011)

Chickens circling Tawnta while he's eating a mouse
- they're looking to steal it from him! (2012)
One of Tawnta’s favorite past times is to snap a nap in the hen house.  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve found him sleeping on a clutch of eggs when a broody hen gets up for a quick meal and a drink of water.  Keeping the eggs warm for her so she can enjoy those little moments in life without worrying about her eggs getting too cold, perchance?   
Let Tawnta kitty see a rodent tho’?  Well, it just doesn’t stand a chance!  He’s an excellent mouser and mole catcher/killer.  I’ve lost count of how many half-eaten mice or moles he’s brought me on our back door threshold (gross!!) - an “alter” offering to the God’s or Goddess of the house!  More than once, I wished he would just eat the whole thing or just leave it out in the field!  LOL  

                                                                                                      If the chickens have decided to jump the fence into our little sanctuary yard and find the alter offering, they’ll actually snatch it up and make a run for it.  (They like leftover mouse.)  The flock has even been known to circle Tawnta in hopes of stealing his catch out from underneath his nose!  Poor kitty can't have a fresh kill in peace!  

We enjoy all of our critters here at the Wet Hen.  There's far more entertainment than you can shake a stick at!  

After a long hiatus....

I return.  Sorry for being away for so long, but we had some personal family business (on each side of my hubby's and my own) that needed to be attended to as soon as school let out for the summer... When bad news rains, it seems to pour!!  I think we have most all of it sorted out by now, but there's still a potential that we may have to leave again for (this time) a much shorter spell.

I have a recipe for you today, but no pictures!  Sorry about that... I haven't made this one in so very long.  Will try to get it done later this week and post the pics for your enjoyment!

Carbonara with Bacon (or Pancetta)

4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz of your favorite pasta or gnocchi
1 Tbsp olive oil (or bacon fat)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 lb sliced pancetta or bacon, chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped (optional)

  • Whisk together the eggs, cream, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Blend thoroughly, and set aside.
  • Cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta, then return to pot (off the heat), and cover to keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook pancetta or bacon over medium heat until browned, tossing with nutmeg.  Drain on paper towels.
  • Using the same skillet, add the onion and (optional) mushrooms and cook until onion is transparent, about 8 minutes.  Remove onion from skillet; place in a bowl, and cover to keep warm.
  • Combine pasta / gnocchi, onion, pancetta / bacon, pine nuts, salt, pepper, and (optional) spinach in the same large skillet over low heat.  Slowly stir in the egg-mixture, tossing gently so the eggs don’t scramble.  Cook until just heated through.  Remove from heat and toss with parsley, and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately.

    Serves 6

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shirred Eggs

I’m a bit lax in my blogging duties, but to be fair, we’ve been dealing with that wicked storm clean up and life in general.  
Uncooked shirred eggs (7 Feb 2012)

I volunteer three days per week at our local food co-op, have a standing horseback riding date in the middle of the week, and errands to do for the family and farm at the end of the week.  Weekends are pretty much reserved for my family and/or puttering about the farm getting chores done.  I’m also a Cub Scout leader (although I don’t do much leading as my main duties are to drive to the Boy Scout store all the way in Tacoma to pick up the badges and other awards our boys have earned over the past month, and I’m assistant treasurer for the pack.  But I do attend almost all the Friday night pack meetings as well as one leadership meeting per month).  
These are some of the many reason’s my business hours are so weird (3pm-7pm, Monday thru Friday and by appointments on weekends).  
But enough rambling about my life! 

I’ve been looking for egg recipes to share here with you here.  You know the ones... they feature the egg as the main object of desirability, wets the appetite just looking at the ingredients or even just gazing at the pictures, right?  But before I post them, I want to make them for myself in order that I can give our seal of approval.  (for all that’s worth....)    
Cooked shirred eggs (7 Feb 2012)

I also enjoy taking pictures of the end product so that you may have a general idea of how it’s supposed to turn out.  Admittedly, sometimes this takes a few tries to get the end product just right for it’s photographic debut.  In the meantime, my family has to “suffer” through the concoctions I make until it comes out just perfect enough for my viewers. 

What can we say about shirred eggs?  Divine!  Until recently I’ve never had them before.  Have never even heard of them even!  Crazy, huh?  Wow...  Where have they been all my life?!?  How could I not have known about them sooner??  Boggles the mind.  
Shirred eggs are almost bewitching in their ease of baking them up,  with a custardy texture even many discerning picky eaters will enjoy.  One can even sprinkle the top with cooked crumbled bacon or diced ham before baking!  Oh YUM!
Cooked shirred eggs (7 Feb 2012)
For single serving:
1/4 tsp softened butter
2 tsp heavy cream
2 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp minced fresh chives
1 tsp grated hard cheese (cheddar, swiss, parmesan, etc)

For six servings:
1 1/2 tsp softened butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
12 eggs
salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives
2 Tbsp grated hard cheese (cheddar, swiss parmesan, etc)
Cooked shirred eggs (7 Feb 2012)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Gently warm cream either in microwave or on stovetop.  Do not boil!
  • Rub the inside of a 6 oz ramekin or muffin tin with butter.  Pour cream into ramekin/muffin tin, then crack 2 eggs on top of the cream without breaking the yolk.  Position the yolks towards the center of the dish, then sprinkle salt, pepper, chives, and grated hard cheese on top.
  • Bake in preheated oven until the whites of eggs have set and yolks are still soft, 12-15 minutes.  Remove from oven, and allow to rest 2-3 minutes before serving.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grandpa's scrambled eggs

UGH!  Broke a yolk.
(not something grandpa would've done)

When I was growing, my maternal grandparents were an important part of my life.  Even more so when I was a teenager and had to go live with them!  When grandpa passed away in 1992, I lost an integral part of my heart.  But he lives on in my memories and in the stories I tell my children (grandpa knew my firstborn and they bonded well, but he never got to meet my second born who’s named after him).  
Now technically, grandpa’s eggs weren’t scrambled in the sense that most people understand scrambled eggs to be.  His were actually just sunny side up and partly cloudy (not over easy, fried right side up and then hot grease is spooned over the top to make the yolks cloudy) and then smothered in pepper.  At all times, the yolks are runny, not firm.    
Flipped these eggs so you can see how
crispy they're getting on bottom.
It’s what he did with them after they were fried with a crispy egg white and yet creamy yolk perfection that got me and my siblings to refer to them as ‘grandpa’s scrambled eggs’! 

My grandpa wasn’t much of a cook, nor was he big on any seasonings beyond salt or pepper!  Once his eggs were on his plate, he’d smash them up until the crispy egg whites and yolks were co-mingled.  (minus the extreme pepper saturation for me? YUMMMMMMM)  

(almost) Grandpa scrambled eggs
Pure decadence!

Since my 9 year old is a huge fan of eggs, he frequently has them for breakfast with a side of whole grain toast.  We go between the choices of “daddy’s scrambled eggs” (the more traditional version) or “grandpa’s scrambled eggs”.  He almost always chooses grandpa’s tho' and sops up all the golden goodness on his plate with his toast.

Many times over breakfast, we talk about this grandpa he's never met.  How he was a good man, a hard worker, and full of love for his family.               

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Egg-cellent Egg Noodles

Rolled our egg noodle dough

Did you know the worlds oldest known noodles were found along the Yellow River in China back in 2002?  They were approximately 4,000 years old at the time of discovery!  Incredible shelf life, if you ask me!  
According to the research completed on these ancient noodles, they were made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.  They didn’t say what else was in the mix.  Would be interested to find out tho’. 

One of my very favorite noodle is the egg noodle.  They are a very easy and versatile dish.  Not to mention, most everyone has all of the ingredients in their pantry or refrigerator!  
The longest step of this recipe is in the waiting for them to dry... you need to plan at least an hour for this process.  
You can use these noodles in chicken noodle soup, in stroganoff, turkey tetrazzini, in casseroles, kugel, salisbury steak, and more!  Your imagination or even Google can come in handy in creating some culinary main or side dishes of these tasty morsels.   
Air drying egg noodles

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the beaten egg, milk, and butter. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let rest in a covered bowl for 10-15 minutes.
  2. On a floured surface, roll out to 1/8 or 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired lengths and shapes.  They don’t have to be perfect!  
  3. Allow to air dry one hour before cooking.  You can use a cookie sheet to do accomplish this.  If you need the countertop space and you’re not using the oven, put them inside to oven (no heat) until you need them.  
  4. Homemade chicken egg noodle soup
  5. To cook fresh pasta, boil salted water or broth in a large stock pot, add noodles and cook until al dente.
If you want, you can easily double or even triple this recipe.  Dry as directed and then place cookie sheet in freezer as is to keep the noodles from sticking to one another.  After they are frozen, transfer them to a dated & labeled freezer bag to use on another night!  No thawing necessary.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Uncle Sam Expects You To Keep Hens and Raise Chickens

Once upon a time, Uncle Sam used to encourage everyone via published ads like this to have backyard chickens (including a rooster!)!  Now, you’re hard pressed to find a local community in which you’re allowed to even just keep the laying hens alone.  If they don’t have an ordinance against chickens, they do about roosters.  There are even some communities who are trying to tell people they can’t grow a garden
 on their own little plot of land!  
1918 - Uncle Sam EXPECTS you to keep
hens and raise chickens

It’s sad, really.  The facts in this Uncle Sam ad from 1918 are as true today as they were back then.       

But, alas, too much government has gotten involved in our private lives.    We’re becoming a nanny-state.  Leading lives in which we’re being watched so we don’t “bump our heads” or “fall out of a tree”.  Soon we’ll be bubble wrapped for our own protection.    
Now, I understand that raising chickens or a garden isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea” as you will.  But everyone should still be able to have that option if they change their mind for whatever reason prevails them!  (i.e. job loss, household budget cuts, finding their way back to the simpler life, etc)  In these economic times, more and more people are finding their way back to our immigrant roots tho’.   Good for them!  I applaud their efforts.        

In my humble opinion, depending on other’s to raise our food for us sets us up for failure in self-sufficiency.  We, as a nation, are allowing others to make choices for us.  This includes adding dangerous chemicals (i.e. pesticides, dyes, artificial flavors, etc) to our foods that we wouldn’t normally consider serving to our families.       
Honestly, I’m not a conspiracy buff.  (But don’t they all say that?? Hhmmmm)  But I have taken a look back at the times when I was a child vs current affairs.  Food used to be FOOD back then.  Generations of today may have never seen the real stuff before!  I have and it was glorious and beautiful and just full of nature’s natural flavors.  REAL FOOD.  Not this processed junk you find on our store shelves they pass off as the legit stuff.  It's not.             
I’m not much of a gardner myself.  Seems like I can’t keep a plant alive to save my soul!  Even my silk flowers turn brown....  It’s a real bummer ‘cuz I love plants!  But I can manage to keep animals (and my children alive) with relative ease.  I do, however, support our local farmers who do have this talent and buy our fresh produce from our local food co-op.  It's all organic and 95% of it is grown right here in my state by local farmers.  How cool is that?!?  I find it very cool indeed.  
So, chickens it is for us with a goal of a fresh fruits and veggies garden someday.  I’ll work on that... starting with some native WA fruit plants/shrubs/trees which will take less maintenance by me and have a chance at success!  LOL  I ordered these plants through the Pierce County Annual Native Plant Sale (due to inclement weather, this sale has been extended until January 27th).