Friday, July 11, 2014

Blueberry Tart

Blueberry season has come and gone here on the farm but I still want to share this delicious easy recipe with you.  When we lived in Alaska many, many years ago, my mom and dad would take us to pick wild blueberries, I must say they were the best blueberries I've ever had in my life.  My mother got this recipe form a dear friend named Sue Krazelak while we lived there.   Every time I make this it brings back good memories of picking berries on the tundra, trying to make enough noise so that the bears knew that we're in their territory.  The berries grew very low and thick on the ground and it was like walking on old bed springs.  The berries were very tiny and oh so tart but had a flavor like nothing I ever tasted since then.  Nothing like what we grow here.  That said I'll have to make do with my big, fat not so flavorful berries.  I'm forever ruined since I've tasted the real deal.

1 cup flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon 
3 cups blueberries
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

The first part we're going to make is the crust for the tart.  Mix 1 cup flour, 2 Tablespoons sugar, salt and butter and vinegar, you might need to do this by hand it is very thick and sticky.  Next press the dough into a tart pan if you have one.  I don't have one so I just use a pie plate. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.  Heat oven to 400 degrees.

While your crust is refrigerating, combine your 1/2 cup of sugar (if you have really tart berries you might want more sugar) 2 tablespoons of flour, and the cinnamon.  Stir in the 3 cups of blueberries. Spread filling over the crust and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes.  Sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar and enjoy.   

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day

I had a post in mind for today, but it did not really seem appropriate to post such an "everyday" kind of post when today is such an important day in our nation's history. 

Today our nation turns 238 years old.  The right to celebrate 238 years of freedom has not come without a huge price.  Men and women have been on the front lines of battle defending our rights many times.  Even during times of peace service men and women sacrifice by being away from their families, ready to defend us at a moments notice.

  I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America!  I know that hard work and sacrifice are some of what has brought us to where we are today.  However I do not believe for a moment that we, as mere humans are capable of doing anything without a God allowing us to do so.  So today I am most grateful to God.  He has allowed us to be a great nation.  He has allowed us freedom that some in our world will never know.  Because of these freedoms God's word can be proclaimed freely, and I am most thankful for that!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

May God bless America with many more Birthdays!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Stir Fried Kale And Radishes

I love being able to just walk out to my garden and stand there and decide what's for dinner.  I count it a blessing and I'm very thankful for a mother who taught me how to plant, harvest and preserve the bounty that a garden provides.
This year for the first time ever I planted kale.  I wasn't even sure I liked kale but decided to give it a try and have since discovered we love it!
Every year I always plant enough radishes to feed a small army, well there is only so many things you can do with radishes.  I bet you didn't know they are pretty darn good stir fried.

 Stir frying vegetables is very quick and easy and is actually nutritionally better for you than cooking them for long periods of time by boiling or sauteing.

To begin I drizzled about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in my skillet.  Chopped up 2 green onions, if you don't have green onion any onion will do.  Saute for about 2 minuets.

Wash your kale and radishes.  Chop your kale into bite sized pieces.  Cut the radishes in half. Place the kale and radishes in your skillet with the onion and olive oil.  Stir fry for about 5 minuets, the kale will shrink down to about half the size.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Grilled radishes are also great.  Cut in half, brush with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and grill for about 5 minutes.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Swimming + Sewing + New Chicks = Summer!

Hey friends this is Melissa.  Over the last several weeks things have been very busy on our farm and the Chicken Scratch Poultry Farm.  Thus leading to a quiet blog.  Angie is working like crazy trying to get chicks hatched and shipped out.  On my families grain farm the guys are in full planting and wheat harvesting mode.  That means the girls and I are left to our own, we make trips to see Daddy when we take him lunch or he arrives home right at bedtime.  My sister and niece have also been in Southern Illinois for about a month and a half while her husband is out to sea.  We have been having lots of fun!  Our time has been spent sewing, drinking coffee, and doing a little swimming.  It is soo fun to have her here and while I know she misses her husband terribly, it is nice that we get to have her around while he is away. 

Lunch delivery! 

That's one straight row!

Swimming with my girls!

In the midst of a fun and busy summer a couple of our hens decided that it was time for them to fill a nest with eggs and sit on them.  When I say a couple of hens I mean two, and not only did they both sit on a nest.. it was the same nest.  I had to giggle each time I went to the barn and saw them snuggled up together on it.  I had been counting down to when I thought the chicks would hatch, and that would not have been until next week.  After arriving home from running errands a couple days ago, I went to the barn to check the chicken's water.  It was quite a surprise to see one of the hens with 3 fluffy chicks scurrying around her feet.  The other hen was still sitting on the nest.  Of course I could not resist taking a peek under her to see if we had more chicks hatching.  She was snuggling an already hatched chick and a couple on their way.  The hens ended up with 6 chicks between the two of them. 
Such cute little things!

Our Mama Hens Henny Penny and Olive.

White Lightening is doing his part in the chick raising.  He is on high alert guarding the barn!

Both of the hens are doing a good job of mothering the little fluffs.  I love to hear them communicate with the chicks.  They are ferociously protective, myself and the girls have all been hen pecked.  I was unsure about what to do about having two hens in with the chicks.  At first it seemed that they might not both be cut out for being mothers, so I debated putting the Americana hen out.  I gave it a little more time and she seemed to settle down and start mothering the chicks.  Below is a video of the Mamas and chicks.  If you listen you can hear them "talking" to one another.  So neat!  Stay tuned for more pictures and updates as they grow. 


Have you ever had two hens share chicks?  If you have leave a comment and tell me what to expect!

God Bless

Friday, June 6, 2014

Adding A New Brood Box to The Bee Hives.

A lot has happened with our bee hives in the past couple of weeks.  If you remember we started with two packages of bees that we ordered and received back in April.  Of those two packages only one has survived.  When we ordered them they told us it would be best to start with two because more than likely one would not survive.  Well that has been the case.  We noticed  a few weeks ago something was wrong with one of the colonies.   I think the queen died or maybe they did not accept her from the very beginning.  By the time we noticed it was to late to help them. The other colony is growing and thriving in an amazing way.  This past week we discovered they had drawn out the comb on almost all of the frames in the brood box, so we did some studying to find out when we needed to add a new brood box on top.  What we found out was that it was time to do that now.  Once your bees fill out all but two frames it's time to add a new box.  If you over crowd your bees they will find a new home.  If the bees can see the roof of their home they are ready to move.

I also shared with you a few weeks ago about catching a swarm of bees.  Well that colony is doing great!  It's amazing how fast they are working and filling up the box with brood.  When we caught the swarm we were not prepared for the bees, we had a box to put them in but we had no bottom board or top cover.  Larry very quickly made some that day just for a temporary fix and we ordered a top and bottom.  It's now time to add a box on top to give them plenty of room to expand and we also need to replace the bottom board and top cover at the same time.  The only problem do you take their bottom board away and replace it?  I didn't even get a picture when Larry popped off the bottom board because it was a bit frighting and chaotic .  He pried it apart, which took much effort since they had glued every crack and crevice with propolis or bee cocking. As soon as he popped that apart the bees boiled out the bottom of the box, they really did not like that at all.  So we very quickly sat the box onto the new bottom board, replaced the top cover and gave them their space to calm down.  No picture needed was my thought at the time.

It took them a good two days to forget what we had done and they didn't want us to even look at them from afar during that time.  Larry got stung a couple of times just for trying to take a peek. They have finally forgotten or forgiven us for ripping the floor out of their house.
Now we'll need to keep an eye on them to see how quickly they fill this box, the next box to add on will be a honey super.  Bring on the honey!!
Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Farm Happenings

Here on the farm it seems the work is never done.  When we finish a large project we always think, now let's not start any new projects for awhile, well that thought never last very long before we dive head first into the next one.  Our projects often entail trying to make our farm operate easier to get each daily task finished quicker and a little more automated.  There are only so many things that you can automate on a chicken farm though.
Our biggest project so far this spring has been trying to make our pullet shed as automate as possible.  We purchased and moved this shed to the farm last fall.  It set empty all winter and now we're beginning to put it to use.  The shed is used to house young pullets until they are shipped out.  Each Saturday I catch up orders and pen up the birds together for each order.
Then on Monday mornings I can just put the birds in the box and ship them off.  It's really not as easy as that but that's the short version.

Before we got the shed it was used as a dog kennel, so it came with several cages down one side.  Larry has since installed quail cages down the left side of the shed.  They are the perfect size for small pullets.  Really the dog cages are to big, they allow the pullets to much room and they climb and walk on each other which pulls the feathers off of their backs.  So I see another project of revamp the dog cages...
Under each cage there are slanted trays that catch the droppings, each day you can rinse this off.  We still need to install a styptic system for this to rinse into.
Running through each pen is PVC pipe with a hole cut in the top.  Water is circulated through the pipe from a tub with a goldfish pond pump and the water is changed each day.
The young Jubilee orpington rooster  to your left is penned up to grow out his beautiful tail so he can be shipped off to his new home looking handsome as ever.
The pullet shed is working out very well it makes shipping out pullets easier and gives us a place to get birds looking nice before they leave the farm.

Here at Chicken Scratch Poultry we have two part time employees.  The young lady to your right is my daughter Heather, we call her the inoculater.  She has many jobs here on the farm but she is the only one who vaccinates the birds.  All chicks left over after orders are filled each week receive the Marek's vaccine. You can also pay to have your chicks vaccinated before shipment.  It's a good idea to vaccinate chicks for Marek's and it has to be done the first three days of life.

It looks painful but by the time they are back in the box they have forgotten all about it.  The needle is very tiny and it happens very quick. She holds them by the scruff of the neck, insert the needle into the flap of skin, pull the trigger and that's it.

This is my niece Melissa, she is my right hand blogger, I can't really call her an employee sense it is not a paid position.  She is a great help to me and she always has something great to share on the blog.

The young man to your right is Lane, he's worked on the farm now for about two years and is such a great help!  I don't know what we would do without him.  He has several jobs.   Feeding, watering, strawing the laying boxes, scooping out pens and changing out poopie papers under the brooders.  I told Lane a few days ago I would see if I can get him on the show Dirtiest Jobs.  He really does have a sticken, dirty, hot job and we never hear him complain.  Maybe he complains to the chickens.
If you ever happen to look on Facebook at the Chicken Scratch Poultry employees, you will see about eight people who claim to be employees at Chicken Scratch Poultry.  I'd like to know where these employees were this past winter when the water system froze in the barn and I needed their help.  Or when it's 110 degrees out side and all the birds need a fan.  I guess on Facebook you can claim to be anyone and work anywhere.
The people pictured here on this blog are the only true employees we have on the farm and they do a great job!  I'd like to says thanks to Lane, Heather and Melissa, without you the farm would not run nearly so smooth.
Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Cinnamon Braid Recipe

It has been a while since I have shared a recipe with you all.  I thought I would share this one before the weather is too hot for much baking.  In the last couple months this Cinnamon Braid has become a favorite in my immediate and extended family.  It's presence is often requested at our Sunday dinner.  The Cinnamon Braid is made up of ingredients I always keep in my pantry, is easy, and it just looks soo pretty!

First we will start with the dough.  My favorite dough to use is this recipe, that I shared with you all last year.  I almost always keep homemade pizza dough in the freezer and have used it too.  The first option is my favorite but, I don't think anyone will complain if you make the braid with pizza dough. 

When your dough is ready and you start to roll out the cinnamon braid try to achieve a long and narrow rectangle.  The rolled out dough needs to be about 1/2 in. thick.  Now you are ready to spread your filling onto the dough.

To make the filling you will need:

1 cup of brown sugar
4 TBS of melted butter
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 TBS of flour

Melt the butter, then add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour.  Stir until combined, then spread it onto the dough. 

Now comes the braiding.  Do not let this step scare you.  Hopefully my pictures will be a good aide.  Use a pizza cutter to cut strips down both long edges of the dough.  Start at one narrow end of the dough by cutting off the first strip on both sides.

Cut of the first strip on each side.

Then fold the end over like seen in the picture below.  Now starting with either long side fold in a strip and then go to the other side folding in that strip.  If you look at the picture below you can see that the strips of dough partially over lap each other so it looks braided, when it is really not.

 Continue this until you are two strips from the end.  Now you are going to cut of the last strip off each side.  Fold the end over and then finish by folding the last strips over the folded end.  ( I know that might sound more confusing than it is.)

Fold the end in and then the last strips over that.

Ready to bake.

  Now that the Cinnamon Braid is ready to go, it will be baked at 400 degrees for about 15 min. or until golden brown. 

The last step in this recipe is to add the glaze to the Cinnamon Braid.  To make the glaze you will melt 3 TBS of butter.  Then add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla to it.  Stir this up and then SLOWLY add hot water to the mixture to make it the right consistency.  The glaze needs to be drizzled over the braid.  If you get the glaze to thin leave it alone for a few minutes and it will thicken up.  I usually add the glaze when the Cinnamon Braid has cooled off and is just warm.  If you add it too soon the glaze will just soak in and not sit on top. 

Definitely a crowd pleaser!

I know that this recipe seems to have a lot of steps.  Do not let my mile long post deceive you.  This is one of the easiest deserts I have made.  Once you make it a few times you will see how easy it is and discover how fun it is to be creative.  I like to try new things and have made it with cherry, strawberry and apple cinnamon fillings and taken it in the savory direction by adding cheese and pepperonis for a quick dinner.  I enjoy making recipes like this because it allows me to experiment.  Hope you enjoy it too!

God Bless