Friday, November 26, 2010

Hens, and Chickens, and Kittens, Oh My!

Okay, so obviously this post is quite dated. Some of you may have heard that we got chickens waaaaaay back in the summertime. And then I mentioned in passing on Facebook that we got some baby chicks, and that kittens decided to adopt us. Here's more to the story.

First, the cats. Here they are, making a mess.
Beginning of October, a mama cat and her four kittens came onto the porch and decided to stay. We later discovered they were from the neighbor's. The mama cat has since left, and one of the kittens is no longer with us (I ran over it...I felt so awful!), but we have Smoky (grey and white), Sharpy (calico/tabby mixture), and Creamy (cream colored).

We feed them with scraps, leftover deer pieces, etc. They're doing alright in these sub-zero temps, since they have a shed to shelter them. They like to try and come inside, but then they never know what to do once they are inside.

And of course the boys love them.

Next, the hens and chickens.

We got 16 laying hens back in June and kept them at my husband's grandma's house till we officially moved into the log cabin in July. Then in about August, we had to butcher three of those hens, one had a goiter, and two had leg problems.

September 10 we got 50 baby chicks, 25 broilers (a faster-growing chicken with white feathers that is supposed to be ready to butcher in about 8 weeks) and 25 laying hens (that will be ready to start laying eggs in the spring).
Here you see what box they came in through the mail. You need to dip their beaks in water mixed with apple cider vinegar when taking them out of the box. You could do plain water, but the ACV is good for them.

Due to our complete lack of knowledge, we lost a lot of chicks. It didn't help that the chicks arrived, via USPS, on one of the coldest and wettest days we'd had. One thing you don't want to expose baby chicks to is cold and wet.

We also had some rat problems. And because the genetic make-up of the broilers is to grow very quickly, I think they're a less hardy bird, more prone to sickness. At least that's what it seemed like with ours!

We've had to keep one of the white broilers inside with us for at least a month because it had gotten one of its toes slashed by what we think was a rat, and so it couldn't walk properly. One thing that chickens do is pick on those that are hurt. So the others were pecking on that poor chick's leg till it was bloody! The chick's leg has since healed somewhat, but we've come to call it "Peg-Leg" because that's what its leg is like: a peg leg. We were finally able to return Peg-Leg to the coop with a bandaged leg, and it seems to limp around well enough without getting picked on too much.
Do you see Peg-Leg's bandage?

So the final count is 9 white and 16 black, I think. That is very poor for the amount we started with!

These are our laying hens. Their feed trough is in the middle. See the deer carcass in the background? They like to peck at that. During the warmer months, they are free-range and love pecking around for bugs, worms and frogs. Hens have their own personalities, and it's funny to watch them run around. Now there's snow everywhere and so they stay inside. We just lost another one due to poor health, so we're down to 12.
It's mid-December now, and we are planning on butchering the broilers in the next couple days. We've had them for over three months now, we probably should've butchered them sooner, but for whatever reason, just haven't. To be continued...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Fav Sourdough Bread Recipe

I got this recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Healthy Choices, put out by Keepers at Home. I haven't taken any pictures of the process yet, but hopefully in the near future I can get some added... just wanted to get this recipe up here for the local Weston A. Price chapter meeting tomorrow!

My Fav Sourdough Bread Recipe
adapted from "Sourdough Bread" in Healthy Choices, p. 104

1 c. sourdough starter
2 T. molasses (originally 1/2 c. sorghum)**
1/2 c. oil (I use melted coconut oil or olive, or a mixture of the two)
1 T. salt
1 1/2 c. warm water
6 c. flour (if I use flour from Natural Way Mills, I tend to use less)
**I first subbed 1/2 c. molasses, which was good, but for some, it could be a little overpowering, which is why 2 T. is a good amount. I'd imagine you could also use honey, which I haven't tried. I think I maybe should add a smidgen more water to make up for using less liquid sweetener.

Mix first 5 ingredients and half of the flour. Beat vigorously for several minutes. Knead in the rest of the flour. (I usually knead it for about 10 minutes or so, sometimes giving it a 5 minute rest period, and then an additional minute of kneading. Also, I do the "windowpane test" to test for readiness.) Grease bowl and let rise until double. (I usually put in the oven with the pilot light on to give it a favorably warm environment, and let it go for about 4 hours.) Punch down and shape into loaves. Let rise until almost double (usually another 4 hours). Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes. (I put the loaves in the oven, then turned it on, which gave a nice rise.) Grease tops with butter. Yield: two 1 1/2 lb. loaves.

What I do is refresh my starter at night before bed, then in the morning I mix up the dough, and let it ferment for a total of about 8 hours, and is usually ready by supper. It fits well into my day. It actually doesn't take that long, most of the time spent is waiting, during which time you can do other chores around the house.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sourdough Resources

I love everything about sourdough. The way it leavens dough with a "wild" yeast that I caught myself, the way it makes the flour you mix with it more nutritious and digestible, they way it makes me get all excited about practicing science experiments in the kitchen, and the way it tastes.

My first experience with sourdough was in 2008, following the recipe in Nourishing Traditions for making your own sourdough starter and rye sourdough bread. Let's just say I needed more practice! I tried a couple times, but finally vowed to get a sourdough starter going beginning of 2010.

While I'm definitely not an expert at this, I am constantly learning and trying out new things with sourdough. I'm going to be making some sourdough bread to take to the next Weston A. Price meeting, and bringing some starter to share, so I wanted to do a post to help the novice sourdough user.

If you received a bit of sourdough starter from me, put it in a quart glass jar, and do a 1:1 ratio of flour to water, maybe start with 1/2 c. of each and let it set out overnight, or a few hours anyway. You should start to see bubbles form through the side of the jar. At this point, it's active, and you can start using it!

If you don't have any sourdough starter and want to try making your own, read-on!

Starting a sourdough starter. There are several methods, but I think simpler is better. Try and follow a method that uses just water and flour, like in Nourishing Traditions. Here are a some sites that do that.

Feeding a starter.
  • Here's what I do: add a little flour (rye or whole wheat) and a little water (filtered or well water from tap) and mix with whatever starter is left in the container. The consistency I go for is thicker rather than runny. It will last longer in the fridge if it's more "sponged". I rarely measure what I put in there, but try to shoot for a 1:1 ratio of water to flour. And I try to replace the amount that I used, at the very least.
  • The Naturally Knocked Up link above advocates changing jars. Here's what she says: "Upkeep on a starter is very simple. If you do not use your starter for one week, transfer to a new jar, feed it a 1:1 ratio of flour and water, and set it back in the fridge. OR After you use it for a recipe, feed it the same 1:1 ratio and let it sit out again for just a couple hours before storing in the fridge. (transfer to a clean jar about once a week) If your starter starts getting a bit too thin, go ahead and pour out the watery layer that settles at the top!"
So what do you think? It's really not too difficult. And it's fun! If you're interested in learning more about sourdough breads, I enjoyed the books below. Even if I don't follow everything an author says, there's always something to be learned!

Books I have read:

And here are some favorite recipes of mine, either that I have already tried, or plan to try in the future.

Recipes I use/have used:
  • My all-time favorite pancake recipe
  • My Fav Sourdough Bread Recipe
  • Everyday Sourdough Bread--A great step-by-step with pictures
  • Sourdough Blueberry Muffins--I modify this recipe a bit. To me, the whole point of using sourdough is to impart more digestibility and nutrition by soaking the flour, and this recipe doesn't incorporate that. So, I take the flour and sourdough amounts and add just enough water to make a medium thick paste. Instead of sugar I use honey. And I drop a few blueberries on top of the muffins. I find that if I mix them in, they all end up in the bottom of the muffin. And if I ferment the dough overnight, to be ready in the morning, this recipe makes about 10 muffins.
  • Sourdough Chocolate Cake--I used this in a bundt cake pan that I greased really well, turned out great!
  • Rustic Sourdough Noodles--Love these. Don't ever use regular noodles anymore. I just roll them out and cut with a pizza cutter. If you had a noodle press, that would work too.
  • Buckwheat Sourdoughnuts--I've only made these once so far, but I definitely want to make them again, maybe with all whole wheat. Also, I think I cooked them a little too long, so some of them got a little crunchy. But still, we were in love when we ate these hot out of the palm shortening, which, by the way, is a great use for palm shortening!
  • Staititai--an ancient kind of pizza that I found to be super easy and yummy!
  • Sourdough English Muffins--don't always have success but when they do work, they're awesome! It depends somewhat on the temperature in my kitchen.

Things I want to try:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Homemade Deodorant

I've been using homemade deodorant for three months now, and I truly LOVE it! It works better than anything I've ever tried before, and believe me, I've tried quite a few of the so-called "natural" deodorants out there.

I stopped using deodorant/anti-perspirant about four years ago, because I was tired of all the chemicals. I remember writing a speech in college about the aluminum in anti-perspirant being linked to Alzheimer's, and it got me researching that topic quite a bit. Plus, deodorant/anti-perspirant never worked very well for me at keeping the stink and sweat at bay, no matter what I tried.

Then I moved on to the deodorants at the health food store that supposedly had fewer chemicals in them, but was never real happy with how they worked. And I still didn't know what all the ingredients were!

Finally I decided to make my own. I wish I had taken the plunge YEARS ago! Since I'm really into DIY stuff, I found this recipe at the Naturally Knocked Up blog. It uses only four ingredients: coconut oil, cornstarch (or arrowroot powder), aluminum free baking soda, and tea tree oil (or another kind of essential oil, but the tea tree oil is used for its anti-bacterial properties, and helps with any smell issues you may have). Keep your old deodorant containers to put your homemade deodorant in. I need to have three old containers to have enough space to put this recipe in!

I use coconut oil a lot (we buy it in bulk and wait for specials to get a good price from Tropical Traditions... if you buy small amounts at your grocery store, it can be pretty spendy) so I always have it on hand. I don't recommend substituting another kind of oil. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat, so it is in the solid state up till 75 degrees F. when it starts to melt. So you may need to keep this in the fridge if you are somewhere that gets warmer than that.

Make sure you read the tips listed on the above link for using the deodorant. One tip is letting the deodorant soften with the warmth of your skin before you smooth it on. It doesn't rub on right away like your typical deodorant. I find myself sort of dabbing it on.

Also, I like how the blog's author talks about this deodorant allowing the body to work the way God intended it to. Sweating is a way to remove toxins from the body, and when you block the toxins from coming out, that means they move somewhere else in the body. Ick. Personally, I'd rather let the toxins come out, rather than letting them hang around.

Both my husband and I have been using this first batch of deodorant exclusively for three months, and I only now had to make a new batch. We both love it! We're normally pretty sweaty people, but when using this deodorant, even when it's been hot out, we've had great success.

If you're looking for a different deodorant, give this recipe a try!