Adventures in quail raising
An Early Springtime Flower Pictorial
This first week of Spring has called forth a lovely assortment of flowering fields and trees. I thought I’d share a few pictures from our land and down the county roads. Enjoy!
In the right conditions, these flox that grow in thick patches of the prairies and valleys of Central Texas, can produce an optical effect like no other flower I know. They pop almost fluorescent on cloudy days. Seen here with invasive, but beautiful sweet peas, these flowers usher in a season of constant bloom.
I have an expectancy date for bluebonnets, based on my firstborn’s birthday. He was born March 3rd, and Texas was born March 2nd, with the battle of the Alamo ending March 6th, so I fully expect to start seeing bluebonnets, our beautiful state flower, anywhere from the 2nd to the 6th. Due to the lengthy, bitter and un-Texas-like winter we experienced, the bluebonnets waited a…
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There’s a rapid pace to farm life that seems to pick up speed during the transition from winter to spring. Preparations and planting of new garden rows as well as maintenance of winter rows begin. Taking advantage of the warmer days by cleaning cages and built-up coop floors. Between a few bugs, plain lethargy, and extreme busyness, I’ve neglected my blogs.
Since I last shared our farm animal news, Daphne and Phoebe have each given birth to seven kits, boosting our total rabbit population to 31. That includes Daddy Buck, Father of all 24 rabbits, including Chloe’s last (and incidentally, first) litter of 10, as well as Checkers, an old retired buck who, well, is just here. We have mated Chloe and Buck again, as Chloe’s 10 kits are completely weaned, getting fatter by the day, and about ready for new homes. We are going to be selling several of our various chicks and pullets, as well as our bunnies, come Good Friday.
I’m also excited to announce that we will be selling two products my Mama and I have been busy formulating and tweaking, as well, on Good Friday. If these items are well received at the farmer’s market, you may be able to purchase them online in the near future. Cross your fingers for us. As a lady with hard-worked hands, I can say I have reaped the benefits of being the co-creator of our all natural lotion sticks and chap sticks. I am giddy about our debut!
Our Leonardo, the prize winning Ameraucana-Maran Roo, took 2nd prize at the first ever Chicken Costume Contest, in that particular county, at least. My Dad likes to say that he couldn’t keep his pants on, because he was pinned in between two lovely brides (hens dressed as brides). I like to say he had a major wardrobe malfunction. Either way, I have a much simpler idea if Dad decides to enter another wild and zany chicken contest that requires the chickens to be dressed for success…this year, Leonardo went as a Mexican Cowboy from the Chicken House in La Grange…I’ll post his grand tale soon. Yes, Dad wrote a nine page handwritten story to go along with his prize roo. I even monogrammed his boots!!
Dad won several prizes for his eggs at the La Grange Poultry show, including best in show. We do have a lovely assortment of eggs, from whites, tans, browns, and greens, our girls pump out a nice stream of vitamin rich jewels for us to enjoy in so many different ways, from boiled to fried, to baked in a cake. What a joy to be able to enjoy such fruits of our labor!
Every so often, the tree trimmers drop off a load of mulch in our far field. Three days ago, they dropped off more than just mulch. Six newborn kittens were found mewing among the mulch, by my youngest son. My first instinct was not pretty. I really wanted him to just put them back and forget he ever found them and let nature take it’s course. But I always get this prick upon my heart when I harbor such thoughts. I know we are to be stewards of the earth and if my child is going to grow into a loving man, and potentially a husband and father, I could not in good conscience follow through with my initial thought.
We are now bottle feeding the screaming brat-pack, and I intend to find homes for them as soon as they can eat on their own! There are already three resident cats, two dogs, countless chickens, and quail, a pig and what was it, 31 bunnies? I think we have enough mouths to feed around here. Here’s to hoping for a short-lived kitten-stewardship! I never said I was perfect…or purrrfect for that matter!
More news on the farm is that our pair of Japanese or Sumatran Bantams are apparently a pair of flaming roos… Dad said, “It’s no wonder we could never find out where she was laying her eggs! Turns out, she’s a he!” We’ve recently separated another pair of bantams to find out which is the male and which is the female of that pair. One or both are laying eggs! Usually, spurs give away the sex of the chicken, even before their feathers fully develop. But until the spurs develop, it’s anyone’s guess…unless one wants to start counting wing feathers, that is. We don’t have that kind of time!
Our ducks have become free-rangers along with many of our pullets. The ducks have their own hut, but they prefer to retire with the rest of our chickens in the main coop. All three turned out to be daffy hens, so we look to add at least one male duck to the group before we’re done. We’ve added several more bantams and Ameracaunas to the mix, as well as 50 plus new Texas A&M quail. We’ve probably already got 20 adults, so the additions will allow us to retire some of the older quail to the freezer. They are quick growers and great egg producers, laying after only 6-8 weeks of age, and are also excellent eating…so I shall soon find out.
We finally got around to operating on and removing Mr. M’s Bumblefoot plugs. It was icky and Mr. M was an amazing patient. He’s recuperating in a cage out in the sunlight. This morning, Dad put him back on the ground, and I hope he doesn’t wind up having to fight his way back to the top of the cockerel-hierarchy. He was king and head-honcho, the position currently shared (?) between Leonardo and Mr. White. They are both just chicken enough that I don’t think Mr. M will need to put up too much of a fight to regain his position. We shall see in time.
And until NEXT time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios
When my Dad and my Son captured the wild hog, and set it up to live on our land, Mama got excited about the possibilities. She immediately declared Spring Break’s end to be a time for family and pulled pork. We called everyone up, and luckily, our Spring Breaks ended on the weekend Mama chose for the Luau.
We enjoyed Chaca and made her useful, while we also fattened her up for our first luau. My son built her a round pen and set it out in the garden, and she began rooting the plot as well as fertilizing it, for our spring/summer veggies. At first, she would charge at anyone who came near her pin…well, except for the young male cardinals, whom she seemed to enjoy. She would allow them to weave through her pen and land on her rooted earth, without even so much as batting an eye. And after time, she would allow us to feed and replenish her water, without charging, but instead, she would simply step outside her little dog house and observe.
My son took care of her with a single shot through the head, and then cleaned her alongside my father and put her on ice to bleed out. They added ice as needed over the following week, after her demise, and let some of the gamey blood drain.
Friday night, they pulled Chaca’s carcass out of the cooler and we laid her on some thick gage plastic, over our utility sink and counter, and I picked the last of the wild hairs from her fat, washed her up one last time and gave her one last one over, before Dad put her in a salt and ice brine overnight.
Early Saturday morning, he fired up the pit, stuffed Chaca’s chest cavity with a large assortment of onions, garlic, and peppers, and set her to char. Once both sides were nicely charred, he wrapped her in foil and let her slow cook for 6 hours or so. Once she cooled, and we all were ready to dive in, I unwrapped her and the family went hog wild! It was like they were in hog heaven, lickin’ their chops and snortin’ like little happy piglets.
I admittedly get my biggest thrills from feeding people (and chickens…and rabbits…and well, whatever else looks hungry!). Mom and I decided on several salad side dishes, to keep with the luau theme and springtime celebration. She gathered cabbages and carrots from our garden to make a lovely fresh cole slaw. She also made our personal new favorite, Sweet and Tangy Green Bean Salad. I added my all-time biggest hit and secret recipe, German Potato Salad, as well as a fresh cucumber/tomato/onion/pasta salad. Complete with Hawaiian Rolls, grilled mango and grilled pineapple, our spread was a hit with both the young and the not so young in the family.
We are blessed to be able to get together more often than just the holidays, and we know it. We love watching our children play together, and as they’ve grown, we’ve enjoyed more time in conversation, while just watching them from a distance. No one comes crying to us anymore. They can make their own plates, they rarely spill a drink…it’s rather nice, this fleeting stage of life. So we try to enjoy each other as often as possible, because nothing beats family; especially one that prays together.
Yes, we stepped away from the pork, long enough for each one to say a prayer of Thanksgiving, in March, for we have so much to be thankful for everyday. I am so glad that God comes to our gatherings. They are richer for it, and we, richer still.
Until Next time, This is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios
I am constantly experimenting in the kitchen. Moving to the farm only enhanced such experiments, and I want to share new recipes that I create here, with you all. This summer, we baked, pureed, and froze a lot of butternut squash. Aside from yummy spice cakes and other baked sweets, butternut squash is also a great accompaniment to savory dishes, from stir-fry to casserole. Below is a casserole I created where butternut squash is the harmonious star of the dish. It is delicious and quite easy to make.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 chub Jimmy Dean Sage Breakfast Sausage
2 roasted gypsy peppers, diced
3-4 cups butternut squash puree
6-8 slices of bakery-style jalapeño cheese bread
1/2 red onion, diced
Salt/pepper (about 1/2 Tbsp ea.)
1/4-1/2 c. savory bread crumbs
I started by cutting the bread slices into cubes and toasting them on low heat while browning a chub of Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage in a skillet on the stove. ( It’s my favorite breakfast pan sausage, so as time goes on and I share more of my recipes, you will note that I enjoy cooking with JD’s sage sausage.) The bread serves as a binder in the dish, and adds a nice surprise burst of warm heat.
After the sausage is broken up pretty well and almost completely browned, I added the diced roasted gypsy peppers. You could roast a red, yellow or orange bell pepper, if you cannot get your hands on a delicious gypsy pepper.
In a separate bowl, you can fold the toasted jalepeno croutons (what they have become, through toasting) into your butternut squash puree. Add the diced red onions, salt and pepper and continue to fold until everything is evenly coated with the puree. You can use a white or yellow onion, if you do not have red onions on hand, but I prefer the flavor of the red onion in dishes like this. The red onion counterbalances the sweetness of the butternut squash, taming it into a nice savory bite.
After the sausage/gypsy pepper mix is thoroughly browned, drain any excess grease with a strainer, and then add the strained meat mix into the puree mix and stir until nice and mixed. Pour mix into a greased rectangular casserole dish, cover evenly with thin layer of bread crumbs, spray with coconut oil spray (or olive oil spray), and bake at 375F for 45-55 minutes.
If you notice the top is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil over the dish to protect the top.
Let dish cool for 5-10 minutes, cut and serve. Great with a side of purple hull peas.
I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy this delicious dish with the ones you love, very soon!
Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!!
Vaya con dios
Another weekend is history and March is less than five days away! I never fail to question where the time went, but I can see through progress, that time is being spent well, here on the farm. We do piddle slower than some folk, not in too much of a hurry that we can’t enjoy a few minutes here and there just admiring the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it is well known that slow and steady wins the race, and though this human race is a long one, I’m sure the finish line will be sweet to happen upon one day.
Life is precious, in all it’s forms, and when it ends, suddenly, whether at the beginning of life or after much time on earth, there is reason to mourn. On the farm, we’ve experienced some failed incubating, and some peepers just weren’t strong enough to recover from the hard work of breaking free from their shell womb. We’ve lost a few heads of cabbage to a horrid pest that has to be uncovered, before the damage is realized. The same garden pest eliminated a few of our cauliflower heads as well. Alas, death is an avoidable part of life and serves it’s mysterious purposes as well.
Our 10 bunny rabbits are still hoppin’-happy. They are such a fabulous distraction from chores that I have accidentally added about 30 minutes to my daily rounds, just cuddling and giggling with the sweet babies. SuperMama is back in her own cage and getting geared up to be mated again. With Daphne and Ms. Bunny No-Name still expecting…note to self: It doesn’t do any good to mark the calendar if you’re going to mark it wrong!
We’re hoping for plenty of chicks and bunnies to sell at the local Farmer’s Market for Easter. If all of my equipment comes in, I will also be selling a very special product that my Mom and I have been working on and honing. I’m still keeping this a secret, until I test a few markets, but personally, I have never had better! Ooooh, the mystery!!
I mulched and watered our fruit trees and roses and all our greenhouse greenery, and anticipate pulling them all out very soon! We need room to start our tomatoes and peppers! Dad and the boys did more work in the garden, preparing the ground for corn and squash, tomatoes, melons and much more. Even though this weekend was best for weeding and pruning, they planted a long row of purple hull peas and I planted mesclun, spinach, and romaine lettuce. We weeded around the onions, and hilled around the cabbages. I still need to do more hilling of the broccoli and cauliflower. There is always more work to be done, but nothing is more rewarding than reaping the rewards of gardening.
The past week was filled with dishes inspired by our garden and chickens. I made a divine butternut squash casserole, and will post the recipe very soon. Keep your eye out for it. We’ve enjoyed our broccoli and carrots and chickens in a delicious pasta bake, and salads, complete with boiled eggs and fresh lettuces, carrots, broccoli and radishes, also from our garden. And as usual, our chickens, rabbits, pigs, and ducks have reaped many healthy benefits from our greens and scraps, as well.
I see buds on the redbud trees and our flower gardens are beginning to burst with color, ah the signs of spring are always such a welcome sight. As I write, it is rather gray out, and it is definitely cooler than yesterday, where I noted many a drops of sweat falling from my brow, while weeding. The free birds are just singing non-stop, such joyful odes to the return of spring.
My Dad scored several free cedars for posts. These posts will flank the long chicken run. He has taught me that it doesn’t take much to cut costs. All you have to do is be observant and bold. Always be on the look-out for resources, and if they aren’t on the side of the road for trash, then just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. Our neighbor cut down many trees, clearing their land, and all Dad and the boys had to do was clean the cedars up and move the logs out.
He has a system going now that started soon after our arrival and my interest in working the garden with him. He has a carpenter that bags saw dust for him to pick up, he has tree trimmers dump mulch in our outer fields to season, and he then trades with the saw dust for other necessities…and/or extra chickens. This is the same man who bartered with the doctor who delivered me. The doctor was paid a nice smoker-grill for his services. That doesn’t happen anymore!
I realize not everyone is as skilled as my dad is in selling his perspective and goals, but I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him and learning from him, as he pursues lofty dreams and visions of grandeur—farm style. If only everyone were on board, we might actually take flight sooner, rather than later. But there’s that pesky little element, called time, that has a way of changing and re-arranging things, so I’ll just go with the flow and learn what I can in the process.
Dad will pick up anything that he thinks he might one day utilize. I used to scoff at him, especially as a teen, when he’d make me wait in the truck while he jumped in the dumpster after a piece of lumber or scrap metal. But in getting the garden together, last fall, I began to see the method in his madness. He pulled out some rebar from one of his piles to use in mounting the low tunnels. I used to get in trouble for trouncing over the piles of those long metal rods, as a young child. He would warn me of snakes, and of the dangers of getting hurt or sick with tetanus, but mostly, he would get frustrated that I was going to somehow mess up his treasures. Fast forward 30 years, and he finally found the perfect use for a few of them.
He’s the tidiest of hoarders, and has running inventories, just as he had of his fittings and pipes during his plumbing days. I truly hope my boys learn all they can from him. He’s a big reason I moved my family to this farm. I knew he was just what the doctor ordered for my boys. It’s a messy world out there, and it is my hopes that my boys will be fully equipped to not only survive, but thrive, as grown men. So many skills are being lost in the wind. I want more for my boys than what a city could offer them. As a gal who started life in the country, I valued my upbringing, as it has served me well.
I’ve seen some progress in my sons’ growth and maturity, in the five months we’ve been here. A lot of resistance, but I think they’re wearing a little. It’s starting to sink in that the decision I made was made out of love and hope. One day, I believe that they will look back on this time in their life with nothing but gratitude. But until then…pray for us all! Ha!
And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!
Vaya con Dios