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

EGG-cellent 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).  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chicken math!


People who've never had a chicken just never seem to understand how much like potato chips they really are... you can't just have one or even two!  They're addicting....  Then there's this  whole thing called "chicken math" and it seems to sneak up on you out of the clear blue sky.
5 of our original starter flock
Let me explain:  we started out with a half dozen chickens in the spring of 2010.  Once we were on a roll of acquiring our flock, it grew to a bakers dozen.... 
Remind me not to take my youngest child to the feed store with me when they have baby chicks in stock.  Little man gave me those big ol' hazel green eyes, that sweet innocent smile, and said, "Please!?!"
That's all she wrote.  Twenty five new chicks came home with us from the feed store that very day and wa-la!  Our flock grew to THIRTY-EIGHT laying hens and TWO roosters before the end of summer 2011.  (sigh)  
Chicks hatched from the Green Mile coop (summer 2011)
I had some hens and a rooster separated from my main flock for awhile.  They were in what we referred to as the Green Mile coop - for us, that was equating to hens who were no longer producing and a rooster we didn't want.  My brother was supposed to take care of them (as in wringing their necks and sending them to freezer camp) in exchange for the eggs he received.  Well, almost a year later, and this group was still there.  To our surprise, the hens that were no longer producing ended up giving it one last ditch effort and laid some eggs which were fertilized by the rooster.  Out of twenty some odd eggs, we had SEVEN hatch and added to our flock as a direct result!  

Uh huh.  That’d make 47 birds now.  (Although we ended up losing some to predators such as the likes of raccoons and hawks, so we’re down to “just” forty now.)  
This, my friends, is the "chicken math" in which I referred to earlier....  After awhile, you cease to be able to count them because they refuse to sit still long enough for you to do so!  Twenty-five can look at lot like forty and forty can look a lot like a hundred when you're trying to count them.
I kid you not.  It happens.    
2 Frizzles (we lost one to a predator)
Honestly, we don't NEED forty chickens!  We're just a family of three, but they're just so darned cute and offer so much entertainment!  It's better-than-TV.  Plus, you get the incredible, edible egg, natural bug control, fertilizer for your garden, and if you're so inclined one can produce their own homegrown meat.  Multiple purpose birds!
With our flock, we get far too many eggs for just us three to consume and there's only just so much you can do with them all, so I sell to our neighbors (covers most of the expense of our chicken feed) under the on-farm sales program that doesn't require us to have a license in our state.  I also give a couple of dozen to my brother and his family.  When we have some extra eggs leftover from all that, I boil them up and feed them back to the flock.
"Cannibalism!", you protest?  Yes and no...  If you can get past the fact they're possibly eating one of their own kind, eggs are not only a great source of protein for us humans, but also to the poultry (they need at least 16% protein to maintain their health and laying abilities).  I also give them the crushed shell of the eggs back into the fray which gives them much needed calcium to produce hard shells.  Plus, it can cut down on my feed bill...
At any rate, I enjoy having my flock.  Yes, they can be a lot of work, but they make up for it on so very many different levels!  And after much discussion with some members of our local food co-op, I have taken the next step to start selling my eggs through them.  I’ve formed this “Limited Liability Corporation” (LLC) and have now officially acquired my egg handlers license through the state!!  YIPPEE!!!!!  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dynamics of natural pest & predator control


Trigger, security

What does an organic establishment do for pest & predator control?  


I can’t speak for others, but here at Wet Hen, LLC we utilize as many natural means as possible without ever resorting to poisons and, so far (knock on wood) haven’t had to use our .22 LR Rutger on the bigger threats. 

Our dog, Trigger (adopted from the Humane Society just over 7 years ago), is our main line of defense against large predators.  He chases off coyotes, raccoons, ‘possums, and more!  He also marks his territory, which can be a deterrent for many others.  Trigger is the ever-stoic watch dog.  Not a barky dog, but more of the strong silent type.  We rarely hear him bark unless someone’s on the property that he doesn’t know or there’s a predator (coyote pack, neighbors dog, etc) setting foot on his territory.  


Smokey, pest control


We have two cats on our premises for mole, mouse, and rat control.  Smokey is our oldest feline (adopted him as a kitten from a neighbor who had rescued him from a dumpster in summer 2007) and Tawnta is a bonafide bred, born, and raised farm cat (adopted in summer 2010 as soon as he was weaned from his momma).  Both are mainly outdoor kitties, but when it gets cold out, they’re allowed access to our utility room for the warmth and safety.  


Smokey is the quiet, shy type who melts away into the background as soon as 
someone he’s not familiar with arrives.  The second the strangers are gone?  He’s back roaming his territory for birds who don’t belong to our flock or mice who are attempting to sneak a morsel from the chicken feeders.  

Tawnta, pest control
Tawnta is by far our in-your-face, friendly, outgoing personality of the bunch!  He is #1 at hunting his prey and catching it.  We’ve watched him numerous times patrolling the the fields looking for prey of the furry or wild feather kind.  He’s a site to see!  Gives you some idea of just how a mountain lion might do it.  (We’ve even caught him stalking a deer or two over the years!!  LOL)  
Just a few of our feathery friends
Then there’s our 40 feathery domesticated friends who have their own house painted to match the main manor.  They will eat insects, 




slugs, snails, weeds, and (yes, even) mice.  
They also aerate the lawn and provide natural fertilizer.  

It’s interesting to watch the dynamics of them working together, balancing it all out.  Doing their part to ensure we all live naturally.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snow, Ice, Floods, & Wind Storms!!!

Pine tree covered in ice (19 Jan 2012)
We have been experiencing some pretty wild weather here in our neck of the woods!

Started out with a major dump of snow.  Directly after, we had freezing rain which caused a major ice build-up on all the vegetation.  This caused trees to snap like twigs, tearing down power lines in their wake.

From there, sudden warm temps and torrential rains caused a quick thaw of snow and ice.  This, in turn, caused low area flooding.  (We even have standing water on our small acreage and we've only experienced that once before in the 9.5yrs we've owned it!)  And while we still have many trees precariously dangling over our power lines across the Puget Sound, we now have 30mph wind gusts trying to finish the job of bringing them down!

Our kids were out of school on Monday due to the holiday, but never made it to school the rest of the week from the weather cancelations.  At first, it was fun for them.  Snow day!!  Go out, play in it.  Build snow men and snow forts.  Rejoice!!

Neighbors fence line (19 Jan 2012)
Now?  I've heard many kids grumble about how they wish school were back in session.  They're done with all this and, truth be told, so are the adults!    

We were without power for at least 51 hours in freezing cold temps.  We're relatively "lucky" compared to some tho'!  There are still thousands without it... and with these winds, those of us lucky enough to have power back after days without it, might well be back living in the dark ages again shortly enough.  (sigh)

We've been relatively well prepared for such moments.  Pantry and freezer are well stocked.  Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Both propane tanks for the gas grill are always full (so when electric goes out, I have a source to boil water or cook meals).  Bottled water.  Winter wear (coats, gloves, boots, long underwear, etc).  Extra blankets (I buy these at the end of season when they're on sale up to 75% off).  Extra firewood for the fireplace.  Gas for the generator (to keep the refrigerator, freezer, and water pump running).  Rock salt for the walkways.  Extra dog, cat, and chicken food.

Icy trees (19 Jan 2012)
I've tried to dot my "i's" and cross my "t's" as much as one possibly can when anticipating disaster.  I sometimes get teased by my hubby, family, and friends for my efforts in preparing for such a potential event.

Well, they aren't laughing now!

At this point, I'm glad I don't use artificial light or added heat to my chicken coop.  Why?  For one thing, it has prepared my flock for the inclement weather and freezing cold temps.  They have their proper feathering in to keep them nice and snug inside their coop.  They're still laying eggs.  I believe they're surviving this better than we are!  LOL

With the exception of two days this past week (when I only allowed them in the run due to a neighbors dog running lose), they've been happily clucking about the pasture, scratching through the snow for tasty treats and doing their best to find a great dust bath underneath it all.  They are a determined lot!

Crazy birds....  (and I honestly say that with much affection!  LOL)

Me?  Well, I'm a sun worshipper.  Prefer the heat over the cold.  I don't have a feathery winter coat and can't stand to be wearing layers unless it's an absolutely, positively, no-way-around-it necessity.  (Well, this past week it's been a necessity!)  I prefer to stay inside in front of the fireplace, reading a good book, and a hot cup of cocoa.

I cannot wait until spring, when the winter chill fades and it starts to warm up again.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Quiche


I missed a day of blogging yesterday, so I thought I'd toss in an extra one this evening.  This time adding in another recipe for eggs.

What can you do with a little bit of this and a little bit of that?  Especially if it’s just a bit of left over ham or turkey with a smidgen of vegetables de' jour (not quite enough to feed the whole family leftovers, but too much to just toss out) after a holiday meal?  

Wet Hen, LLC uncooked Ham & Swiss Quiche
Make a quiche!

Contrary to what may be popular belief, quiche is not a prep time-consuming meal to make for your family.  It really is quite simple to throw it together in a handful of minutes and then toss it into the oven to bake.  Once in the oven, you can get those few chores out of the way or even just sit to relax until you hear the timer go off.         

No ham?  Use pork or turkey bacon.  If you’re not big on broccoli, you can switch it out for fresh spinach or even sauteed asparagus.  Not a fan of green peppers?  Omit them or even substitute them with zucchini.  (Personally, I’m not a fan of chunky green peppers, so I just finely chop them and they’re not so noticeable.)
   
I use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil to saute our veggies.  If you’re looking to trim fat in a meal, you can always use light cream or milk (your fat content preference) instead of heavy cream and/or even a “light” Swiss cheese.  Since we cut fat corners in so many other recipes here at home, I use the full-fat heavy cream for my quiche!
Lots of different things you can do to make this recipe your own!  It’s all about preference... or even just what you may have on hand for a quick meal.....  The only true limitations with this meal are in your mind.  

HAM & SWISS QUICHE

1/2 cup chopped fresh broccoli
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cups chopped fully cooked ham, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1 (9 inch) unbaked pastry shell
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:
Heat oil in a saucepan, saute the broccoli, green pepper, mushrooms, onion and garlic until tender. Sprinkle half of the ham and cheese into pie crust. Cover with the vegetables and the remaining ham and cheese. Combine eggs and cream; pour over ham and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If needed, cover edge of crust with foil to prevent excess browning.

Oh baby, it's cold outside!

First snow day of the year! (15 January 2012)
Yesterday, we got our first spit of snow of the winter!  We had more snow overnight (at least 3" on my van windshield when I got up) and yet more snow throughout the day today.

Bbrrrrrrr

Thankfully, it doesn't seem to be sticking around for very long, but this still means we'll have "slicker than soap on a brass doorknob" roads in the mornings!  

Personally, I'm not a cold, wet, icy winter fan.  If I want snow, I prefer to go visit it up on the mountain than have it in my front yard!  LOL  I'm all about the sunny get-warm-to-the-bones weather.  Barring that?  I'll take sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa and mini marshmallows.

Regardless, my flock doesn't seem to be bothered by it much.  I've opened their coop door to let them out to free-range both days.  They found the snow interesting - pecked at it a few times before they discovered there wasn't much too it.  Then they just scratched through it to find the little tasty morsels underneath.  (not that there's much to be found at this time of year!)  When they got chilled, they'd head off for the coop, sit on the roost for spell, and tuck their feet under their feathers for warmth.  When they got their little tootsie's warmed up, they'd be off again peckin' and a scratchin' through the snow.
Snow doesn't sway them in their efforts!  (15 January 2012)

I followed them around with the camera the first day.  Managed to get several pics.  (if you've noticed our hen, Ms. Fussy Britches, in the snow filled tree branches, that was taken November 2010 when we had just over 20" of snow on the ground!)

Today, I didn't have the opportunity to snap pics as I was doing my volunteer work at Mountain Community Co-Op.  However, I let them out before I left for my shift.  Hubby said they pretty much stayed outside all day while I was gone and some hung out under the row of Douglas Firs that border our property and a neighbors place.  Other's just stayed out in the open field.  Several were still outside when I made it back home even tho' the temps were dropping.  My gals always raise a fuss of initial greeting when I pull in the driveway.  This brings the hens in the coop outside and they come a runnin' for me too.  Then they make chucking and clucking noises as if to tell me about their day while I walk to the coop to check for eggs or to see if they need a water refill or food in the feeder.

Egg laid 16 January 2012
Despite the cold, I seem to be getting more eggs than usual for this time of year.  Bonus.  I have even gotten a couple of 82g sized eggs!  (Jumbo sized eggs are 70g or greater)  Double bonus!

As always, I made my 'rounds again this evening when the flock went to roost.  I rechecked the nests for eggs, checked their feed, and checked their water.  I stroked a few feathers, giving thanks for the bounty they provide, and said "goodnight".  I then locked them up, all safe and snug with a promise to see them in the morning to let them back out once again.

    

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hard "Boiled" Eggs (farm fresh style!)


Just about all chicken owners know you cannot boil a farm fresh egg and expect it to peel like a store bought egg.  The rule of thumb is that your eggs must be at least 7 days old or older (and store bought eggs are most definitely "older"!) for this method to work properly - especially if you wish to have something presentable for guests.  Boil a farm fresh egg and you'll end up making mincemeat out of the end product when it comes time to peel the shell off.  
But fear not!  There is hope for the farm fresh egg to be used as deviled eggs suitable to serve to the most discerning of in-laws and party guests... 
STEAMING!  That's the ticket.  I've done this myself with our straight-from-the-hen eggs with great success!
It is strongly recommended you use a proper steaming pot with fitted basket (2 quarts or bigger).  If you use a colander that fits inside a regular pot, you may not be able to keep enough boiling water going at the right temperature to get the job done.  The object is not to submerge the fresh-from-the-chicken egg into the boiling mass, but to keep it above it.  Also, your pot lid may not fit tightly enough and this is essential to the process.  

1.5 quarts of water

1 dozen FARM FRESH eggs

1 steamer pot with fitted basket, at least 2 quart sized and preferably one in which the basket nests into the top portion of a the pot
  • Fill pot with 1.5 quarts of water, set streamer tray into the pot.
  • Put the eggs in single layer (do not pile them on top of one another!) into the steamer tray and turn on the heat to "high".  Be sure to put the lid on securely so your steam doesn't escape.
  • Bring the water to a boil, and then turn down the heat to a simmer for 18-20 minutes.
  • Allow the eggs to cool enough for you to handle – you can peel them immediately or whenever you are ready to eat them.   If storing them for use on another day, leave them in the shell.  
  • Store your steamed eggs in the refrigerator for up to a week or use them in your favorite egg recipe that calls for "boiled" eggs.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Unexpected treasure bounties of the free-ranged flock!


Know what happens when you free-range your laying flock on 2-acres of pasture?  Sometimes you have to look for the eggs in some very unusual places!    
Unexpected cache of hidden treasure!
I thought my flocks lower egg count was due to the seasonal change from extended periods of sun with some warmth behind it to limited sun and downright C-O-L-D mornings (it was 23-degrees here at 8am).  While that may still be the case, I stumbled across this cache of hidden treasure while working on another project on the property 
                                   --------------------------------------------------->

What an unexpected bounty!  

Most of my gals will take the time and effort to head back to the coop to lay their eggs.  This is evident in the egg count I get in the nests provided.  I guess some of them just can't make it back in time or maybe their favorite nesting box is "busy" when they go in and instead of waiting in line, they decide to go somewhere else.  Who knows their reasoning?  I sure don't!  

Unfortunately, I’m not sure just how long these eggs have been here and while it may be perfectly safe to eat them ourselves (eggs can keep for months at a time according to this Mother Earth News  article), I’m in the business of selling the end product.  Why take unnecessary risks?  So, I will do the float test on these eggs and if they pass, I will boil them up and then feed them back to the flock.  They need the extra protein for egg production anyway....  

My loss, their gain.  

But now that I know their secret hiding place (at least one of them!!), I will have to be sure to check it every day to see if they're sneaking back in to lay while they're loose.  


Introduction

Ms. Fussy Britches @ Wet Hen, LLC
Wet Hen, LLC is family-owned and operated in rural Eatonville, Pierce County, Washington.  

Our family of three got it's first initial laying flock in spring 2010 and under the on-sale farm statutes of our state, started selling our extra bounty of farm fresh eggs to our neighbors.  

Over the next two years, there was an expressed interest for our eggs to be made available in our local community food co-ops and farmers markets.  

Fast forward to the beginning of 2012 and we have decided to take the leap to branch out!  We are in the process of establishing a "Limited Liability Corporation" (LLC) and getting our egg handlers license in order that we may sell our eggs to the local area food co-ops and at the farmers markets.      


Our flock are allowed to free-rang on 9+ years chemical-free 2-acre pasture throughout the day, regardless of weather conditions!  We open the door to the coop each morning and permit them to decide for themselves if they'd like to brave the great outdoors or say inside.  


However, to ensure they get optimum nutrition year round, we supplement them with certified organic layer feed, fresh fruits & vegetables, Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (aka BOSS), flax seed, and oyster shell calcium.


When we water our flock, we add raw and unfiltered organic Apple Cider Vinegar (aka ACV) with the "mother" in every other refill.  ACV is utilized as a probiotic to help build their immune system, lowers the PH balance in their digestive system, kills germs that cause respiratory illnesses, keeps the harmful bacteria down in the watering system, and is a good source of potassium, calcium, and vitamin C.


We have decided to forgo the official "organic" certification process due to the expense of obtaining it.  The license alone would run us over $700/year!  Way too rich for our small operational budget...  However, we will continue to maintain our flock in accordance to the organic traditions.