Chickens and Brooder Design

Ready for Birds–Almost

Even though we are down to four hens, after two of ours were killed by the neighborhood Bloodhound, we still can’t eat all the eggs they produce. At last count we had 27 eggs, and the number expands daily. So naturally, we are going to buy more baby chicks, four Rhode Island Reds, as an insurance policy against any more dog attacks. Excess is the American way.

My brooder design is the product of some research. It consists of a plastic storage container, a lid made of scrap wood and chicken wire, a couple of commercial feeder/waterer devices, some perches, and a heat lamp. Each was chosen for a reason.

After I stopped laughing at all the experts on the internet who said that plastic boxes were more of a fire hazard than cardboard boxes, I quickly decided the real fire hazard was the heat source, which is usually an infrared heat lamp bulb. I went instead with a ceramic “lizard light,” which is a standby for reptile owners. Mine has both a heat control and a digital thermometer, and it emits no light, so the chickens do not lose their ever important circadian rhythm. The ceramic socket on the lamp is also a must, as those lamps get roasting hot, and melted plastic socket is a disaster. The chicks stay plenty warm with this lamp.

Warm and Safe

The waterer and feeder are both Little Giant brand, made by Miller in the US. They are superb, and all you need are some mason jars to go with them.

The last part of the chick’s crib are the two perches. The long one is some drift wood of Mountain Laurel. The big practice one I made from scrap trim. Waste not, want not.

The bottom will be lined with newsprint, then paper towels, then pine shavings. The chicks will be able to scratch, perch, eat, and drink. Kind of like me. And then I had a McGyver moment.

Extra Insulation

If it gets really cold, I just pull out this old countertop piece to keep the heat in. Now Melanie Jane and I can sit in the basement and watch Law and Order, while the chicks grow up next to books such as History and Class Consciousness, A Southern Renaissance, and The Savage Mind. That last one was written in French, and the title is possibly the greatest pun in history. La Pensée Sauvage can mean either The Savage Mind, or Pansies for Thought.

So we will have chicks chirping behind us, while we are entertained by the semi-fictional mayhem of NYC. Another favorite book of mine is The Country and the City. I’ll take the country, and the city can remain an image on the TV.

Planting Asparagus

Spargelzeit

This will be the fourth time I’ve planted asparagus crowns, aka roots, and these are two years old, which will give us a good decade of Asparagus spears every spring. This year, however, I have the secret weapon that my family used when I was very young, and that would be well composted chicken manure. We had the finest patch of Asparagus in several counties.

As the temps are to be in the upper 50’s F this weekend, it will be a good time for a labor intensive project. The crowns need to be planted fairly deep, around six inches, and spread out properly. My garden is mostly sand, which means they need to be planted even a little deeper than usual.

I bought these crowns from Amazon for a ridiculously low price, and to my surprise, they shipped from Shanghai, China. Amazon has even outsourced vegetables. I was amused to learn this week that our corporate overlord Bezos had his phone hacked by the Saudi royal family. That will teach him about dealing with other royalty.

I’ll soak my crowns in water tomorrow, and plant on Saturday. To quote the great Wendell Berry,

“Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth.”

Then I will try to find out the Chinese term for Spargelzeit, which is German for Asparagus time.

Lard Help Us, Part Three–Rendering Lard

Liquid Gold

We must have been particularly good last year, as we received $125 of gift cards for Christmas to our two best local meat producers, and then a real kicker, a giant cooler full of meat from cows and pigs grown by my brother and sister in law. We probably have about a six month supply of meats.

The first to go were some pork chops, which were the finest I’ve eaten since childhood. I made two into schnitzels (take that, Deutschland), and the other two are now marry-nating. And that was one fat hog, so I trimmed the chops and rendered down some lard from the fat.

Low and Slow

The key to proper rendering is to melt the fat at the lowest possible temperature, so I set my 6000 BTU burner at its bottom level. The lard is rendered when the fat turns into rinds, and stops sizzling.

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever

After a night in the fridge, the lard congeals and is ready to use. Never make any beef dish without it, and never buy commercially produced lard, if possible.

Lard Help Us–Again

Everyone should read the article from the website Raw Story with the following link, about how hydrogenated cottonseed oil replaced good old lard. It’s a perfect story about the decline of American food, funded by the industrial food industry.

How Crisco toppled lard – and made Americans believers in industrial food

Nutcracker v. Nutcrackers

Nutcracking Season is Here

Here are two classic nutcrackers. One dances every Christmas, and fights the Mouse King. The other one only cracks nuts, and doesn’t dance at all.

The military looking fellow did come from the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) in Deutschland, but he is mainly decoration, who could crack some hazelnuts, maybe, but not much more. That hundred year old fellow is another story. Archimedes himself would have loved this design. “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” Or crack some nuts.

A Pecan was Harmed AND Eaten

I put the old fellow on a nice piece of oak, and made a spot for the pickers, as pecans are bad about sticking in the shells. And then there is the thing to bust open the pecan’s relative, the notorious hickory nut.

Hammer Down

Yes, that is a California made Vaughn 23 ounce framing hammer, and be ready to swing it to bust open a hickory nut, or a black walnut. Cooking can be a lot like work. Just don’t break hickory nuts on a nice countertop.

Mildewed Eggs and Other Hoya about Chickens

Eggs not molding

I have been amazed by the number of stories about mildewed eggs on the interwebs, about eggs that have mildewed both on the inside and outside of the shell. While I am certain that could happen if you left the eggs out for six months or a year or so, I have this to say about that–Hoya!

As a teen, I gathered upwards of a thousand eggs, literally ever day, as we had ten thousand chickens who laid hatching eggs. We were forbidden from washing the eggs by our corporate masters, as that would have affected the hatching rate. We never had a single egg with mildew, and I am guessing that I personally gathered tens of thousands of eggs.

Now that I have downsized to a flock of six happy chicks, I read a quote from a chicken prof who said that eggs taken out of a fridge and then stored in the kitchen, would mildew. Hoya! Anything will mildew if you leave it out long enough.

Just eat the eggs, the fresher the better.

Traditional Farmer’s Omelette with All Local Ingredients

Bauernomlett

To celebrate a drought busting two inches of rain, and to challenge myself, I decided to make a Farmer’s Omelette the traditional German way, using only local ingredients. In fact, they were so local that all but one ingredient came from within a hundred feet of our front door.

The brilliance of this recipe is that it only calls for three main ingredients–bacon, potatoes, and eggs. Everything else is optional, and subject to improvisation. This is a jazz recipe, and I always follow my use what you have rule. Here is today’s version.

Ingredients

One slice Bacon

One skillet full of Yukon Gold Potatoes, cubed

Four Eggs

Two small Tomatoes, chopped

One sweet Banana Pepper, chopped

Garlic Chives, chopped

Salt and Pepper

The only ingredient we didn’t grow ourselves was the bacon, which came from just across the Mulberry River, from my home county of Cullman. The county happens to be named after its founder Colonel Johannes Gottfried Kullman, though he was actually a Colonel in one of the failed German state revolutions of 1848. Hence his removal to the United States.

This is also no ordinary bacon

Marinated Fresh Bacon

The bacon is so large that eight slices made a pound, and I had to cut one slice into three pieces just to make it fit my omelette skillet. These slices of fresh bacon were marinated for six days in a Saumure Anglaise.

The German method of cooking this is to fry the bacon while simmering the potatoes in water for eight to ten minutes. The bacon is then removed from the skillet, and the potatoes are browned in the bacon fat. I added the peppers as well. Chop up the bacon, and mix the eggs. I put my tomatoes and garlic chives in with the eggs, and then the bacon. When the potatoes begin to brown, add the egg mixture, and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.

I did depart from the norm, and finished the omelette in the oven at 400 degrees F. While I cooked, Melanie Jane turned on Beethoven’s Emperor Piano Concerto. We ate while listening to one of my favorite recordings, the Bavarian State Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, conducted by the incomparable Carlos Kleiber. We also had a Bavarian flag hanging off the balcony above our dining room table, in honor of Oktoberfest. One of our semi-domesticated wolves, aka a dog, ate the leftovers.

As the salt was not mined, nor the peppercorns picked, anywhere locally, I will admit that this was only ninety nine percent local. But that is still ninety nine percent better than food that has been trucked across a continent.