Monday, October 29, 2012

Chicken update

[Final post of today ... 3 total]

Well ... here is a chicken update finally. I'm sure you all in blogger world were just anxiously awaiting this moment ... not. Our girls are doing very well except we suspect two of them were stolen. Small town crimes. Yeap. Here are the remaining 8 saying hello. They are still as friendly and loving as ever.


And we have a few more additions to our little flock. Last summer we purchased 3 chicks at the farmers market. The woman said they were silkies, however the grey one looks quite a bit different than the white ones. He/she was from a different batch and was a few weeks older than the white ones. He has distinct feathers on his body while the white ones are more fluffy. Maybe someone can tell me what we have here?!

First I'll put older pictures of the chicks the day they came home. After that I will share a video of them that I took today. If you know exactly what they are, please let me know!!
No names yet ...


2013 Garden prep

[I am doing 3 posts today; feel free to check the other posts if you are interested.]

Last saturday the boys plowed up our new garden spot at Christine's house. Christine is an elderly woman we help out several times a week; she lives in the country and David's brother owns her land. He suggested that as a new place for our garden and we thought that was a great idea. Brianna and I will be able to help more with this garden because of the great location. The boys said the soil was real nice too, so we are thankful for that. A few additional bonuses: she has underground storage for our potatoes and also a big barn for whatever else we might need to store. We are beyond thankful.

Here is the spot ... this picture makes it look a little smaller than it is but I think it's about 60' x 150' but I'm not 100% sure on that.

Do you see the boys in the center of the picture back there?

A nice view
Another nice view
The boys :)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Family fun ...

We enjoy singing together as a family (extended family included of course). This is a very frugal thing to do and you can do it pretty much anywhere at any time. Sometimes we record what we sing and share it with others ... but we cut out all the gaps in between each song. Last evening we had fun singing rounds and Olen taught us a new one. I really enjoyed listening to it today - how many times the boys messed up at the beginning and we all had a good laugh :) - so I thought I'd share a piece of our lives with you all. Maybe you'll laugh too.

Here's the song. Maybe we'll sing it right the next time?!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 Gardening Wrap Up (well, summer garden anyway)

Well ... the gardening season for 2012 is kind of coming to a close around here. What did we learn this year???? A whole lot to say the least.

First, looking back over the gardening posts, I had so many fond memories :) One in particular was of Brian's diagram of our proposed garden in the country (see it here in this post about drip irrigation). He left ONE THING out of his diagram: GRASSHOPPERS. We had a huge plague of grasshoppers. We did all we knew how to take care of them, however nothing seemed to work. David said he'd never seen anything like it. We are guessing it was so bad because there was no hard frost last winter. That theory only goes so far though because not everyone had such a problem ... our spot was just particularly bad (or good if you are a hopper). First they went for the green beans. We ordered Nolo bait hoping that would take care of them. The directions on the bag were for approximately "8 grasshoppers per square yard." Hmmm. We about died laughing. Well, not really, but we did laugh till some of us cried. We had thousands of grasshoppers per square yard. We figure two things we could have done differently to help. 1) Turkeys or guinea hens. I heard they eat a lot of hoppers but pretty much stay away from the garden (with a few exceptions). Since this was not our land and we did not live near it, that option was not really an option. 2) Row covers. We thought of this too late and it would have been quite expensive so late in the year.

So anyway, the beans were gone. None to speak of. Next they headed for the potato leaves. The boys dug the potatoes quite early but we still got a few hundred pounds. I wonder how many we would have gotten had we been able to let them grow?!?! A ton or more? We are still using what we dug up; working on canning them and eating them as we go. So, after the potatoes were gone, they headed for the squash. The boys took the hubbard squash early too once the hoppers ate up all the green vines. I made close to 30 quarts of 'pumpkin' butter with that and it turned out very delicious. Tomatoes and peanuts were left. A tiny peanut harvest that was laughable but tasty. Not very many tomatoes to speak of. That was the end of our garden in the country. Lots of hard work, lots of learning and experience gained, and a little bit of organic, fresh produce. Praise the Lord!

Oh yes, the corn. Our little corn patch in the country was enjoyed by some cows that took advantage of a gate that was left open.

A few weeks ago a family at church let us come pick the green beans they could not use. I canned over a hundred quarts and also froze some. They also had us come pick the left-over corn. They helped us process that and we froze 16 quarts. This same family gave us a LOT of melons! A LOT. We are beyond thankful for their generosity! Here are a few pictures to share of that ...

Brianna and green beans

The work buggy hauling our corn :) This made me laugh.

At the melon patch taking a walk and enjoying the sunset.

Our city garden did well all summer except the tomatoes. We're not quite sure what happened there but we assume it was the excessive heat. Next year we hope to have some sort of green house for the tomatoes so we can start them earlier and have them growing and ripening in the cooler part of the summer. Lots of beets, spinach, kale, onions, etc. Also, the sweet potato experiment went very well. Corban started those from store-bought sweet potatoes. He only did a few this year just to see how they worked out here in SW MO ... and now we think it would have been nice if we had planted more! We are very thankful for what we got and will try again next year. Here is a picture of Corban with one of the larger ones:

Corban saved several different seeds as well, including kale, beets, lettuce and spinach. We have even sold some!

Who knows what next year will bring? Plans are already in the works ... and of course there is a fall garden still going. I know I slacked a bit on updates. We were extremely busy this summer!! We'll try again next year.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to pressure can chicken with bone

(for a basic "how to use a pressure canner" video, see this post: Pressure Canning Beans -- it shows beans but the canning procedure is the same)
Here are the basics ...

First, get yourself some chickens. We got these for free from a friend; they were former laying hens (broilers of some kind ... I don't know my chicken breeds yet) past their prime and thus rescued from being shipped off somewhere else. We had them in 'rehab' for about 4 weeks (organic feed, lots of fresh veggie and fruit scrap, etc.) till their droppings and their bodies looked healthy. These things didn't even know how to eat grass at first. Seriously. It was sad. Before we butchered them, they were somewhat relaxed around us and acted like 'normal' chickens.

After butchering the chickens, store them in the fridge or other cool place for 8-12 hours before proceeding. Why is this? I'm not sure really! Maybe it helps with the flavor or the tenderness of the meat? Now you are ready to cut the chickens into 8pcs. If you do not know how to do this, do a quick youtube search for "how to cut a whole chicken" or something of the sort. A few tips I can give you in writing that might make sense: feel for the joints and be sure to cut the tendons first. I like to cut the skin away from both thighs, grab both and twist them under till I hear or feel the joints pop on both sides. Cut off the leg quarters. Next cut the thighs from the legs where the bones meet. The wings can be a bit tricky too ... I lift up one wing till the whole (or what's left of it) chicken is suspended in air. I then cut the tendon on the underside of the arm/wing - this seems to free it up well enough to easily cut the arm/wing off.

By now all you should have left is the breast. If it's a smaller chicken, leave the bones on. Cut the breast and rib cage portion off the back portion and then cut the breasts in half, right down the middle of the breast bone. As was the case today, my chickens were much too large for me to do this with so I just cut the meat off as best as I could. Here you see a picture of the breast meat and the tender meat which is right under the breast.

Here is another picture ...

I chose to skin most of my chickens; I left the skin on the wings and some on the leg but took off what was easy enough to pull off without much trouble. The last chickens I did must have been younger ... the skin was easy to pull off. These chickens were a bit tough so I had to use scissors to help cut it away.

Brianna got me here ... slimy hands and all :)

Place the meat in quart mason jars - bone side in if you can. Add a tsp of salt if desired. Do not add liquid; it will make its own. Pressure can at 10lbs (weighted gauge) or 11lbs (dial gauge) for 75 minutes (65 for pints). If you choose to do boneless, the time changes to 90 minutes (75 for pints). Be sure to adjust pressure for higher altitudes - if this is you, do a quick google search of something like: high altitude canning pressure adjustments.

The finished product. 6 good sized hens yielded 12 full quarts.

Now you should have a bunch of skin and bones left over right? And probably a decent amount of meat left behind on the bones, right? And feet? (this is the first time I'm trying it with the feet - I heard they add a very good flavor) Make chicken stock. I will use two large pots for my 6 hens, dividing up the remnants between the two. I like to add water several inches above the carcasses. Throw in a chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, salt, whatever ... or nothing at all. More often than not, I'll just add a little salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or till the meat can be pulled easily off. Simmer longer if you'd like - can turn the heat up, leave off the lid and boil off more liquid for a stronger flavor. Remove carcasses from pot(s). Pick off the meat ... freeze this for chicken pot pie, chicken pizza, or whatever else you need chicken pieces for - or use it for supper tonight. Strain out everything else till there's only liquid remaining. Pour into clean quart or pint jars. Process times: dial gauge 11lbs pressure, weighted gauge 10lbs pressure for 25min (pints 20). Again, be sure to adjust for higher altitudes.

There you have it. Your very own chicken AND chicken stock. Nothing added except what you have allowed.