Monday, April 29, 2013

The Treasure Hunt

With the arrival of spring comes so many things that I love to do after a long cold winter.  With our busy schedule it's difficult to find the time to squeeze those things in, but so worth it if we do.  One of those loved activities is hunting for Morel mushrooms.  It's like a treasure hunt in the woods and the bounty you find is quite rewarding if you're a mushroom lover.  Even if you don't like mushrooms just going along for the hunt is a relaxing day in the great out doors.  This is an adventure all ages can enjoy and it won't cost you anything, but your gas for the drive to the woods.  This was always something we did as a family when our kids where younger. They didn't always stay on task for the hunt,z but it was more of an adventure in the woods for them.  Never once did you hear the words I'm bored or can we go home.
If your fortunate enough to have a friend give you a tip on a good hunting spot your luck is even better.  Several years ago an old fellow by the name of Jim Carlton took my father, my husband and I out to the woods and showed us some of his secret places to hunt.  I know he didn't divulge them all.  I'll never forget how he walked from place to place in the woods and picked Morel mushrooms from the leaf covered forest floor like he had planted them there himself, he knew exactly where they would be. 

One woods in particular that he took us to only produces the white Morels.  They are pretty hard too spot on a leaf cover forest floor.  My daughter Amanda and I took a moment this week and headed out to this wooded area. I found three white Morels Amanda found 0.  As you can see from the photo I took, they are the same color as the leaves.
Later that day Larry and I decided that 3 Morels would never be enough so we headed out again to one of those secret locations we were in trusted with.  It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon as we walked through the woods with only the sounds of the crunching leaves and birds around us.

The best time to hunt for Morels is early spring when it first begins to warm up and just after a warm rain shower.  You want a woods with not much vegetation, leaf covered, where it's soft and mushy under your feet.

The woods Larry and I went to we always find the dark Morels, they are still pretty hard to find just barley peeking out of the leaves.  I found about 12, Larry found only 2.  We decided that the only way he would ever find any is if they tripped him and he fell into them.

We had such a good time walking and talking and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings.  This little stream ran right down the middle of the woods.  I hope to find the time to do this again in the next couple of days.

My dad taught me to always gather your Morels in a mesh bag, like an old onion or potato bag. Which will allow the mushroom spores to spread as you walk and gather.

This is what our hunt produced that day.  It was like finding a little bit of treasure. Did you know that the Whole Foods Store sell fresh Morels for $45 per pound?!
When we got home I soaked them over night in a bowl of water with a little bit of salt, this kills all the tiny little bugs.  The next day they are ready to slice in half, rinse in cold water and fry.  I'm sure there are many ways to enjoy fresh mushrooms here's how we like them and it's very easy.It's finding them that's the hard part according to Larry.  Apparently you need to be short and close to the ground like me.

Fish fry breading or corn meal
We like the fish fry breading.
Beat 2 eggs along with about 2 tablespoons of milk.  Heat your oil in a skillet.   Dip mushrooms in egg and then dip in the fish fry breading, fry until golden brown. 
 Mmmm I can tell you they were delicious! 
One more picture, maybe this is why he can't find mushrooms, he was standing around looking at fallen trees.  I think he was pondering, if a tree falls in the woods and no ones there to hear it, does it make a sound?  Just kidding honey.
We enjoy hearing from you.  Leave us a coment and let us know if your a mushroom hunter. Maybe you hunt a different kind of mushroom.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Let's get stitching!

When my sewing adventures began I relied solely on tutorials that were provided by very generous bloggers. It was easy to find projects that I enjoyed, and the blogger's instructions were essential to my learning to sew.   Now that I have grown in my sewing skills it is a lot of fun to strike out on projects alone, coming up with my own patterns and ideas along the way.   

You all seemed to enjoy the Chicken Scratch Pillows that I put together, so I thought it would be nice to put out a tutorial.  If you are like me, and enjoy trying to make things yourself then you will enjoy this.  If not, then you can just order your pillow off of Naptime Stitches Boutique page and I’ll do it for you!  This will be a two part blog post, today I’ll give you instruction on how-to applique onto the pillow front.  Part 2 will show how to finish your pillow by sewing and stuffing it.

A few supplies are needed for this project.  You will need:
            Heat n’ Bond iron on adhesive
            Fabric scraps (to cut your eggs out of)
            2 - 12 x 12 inch squares of fabric for the pillow body
            A template for the eggs

Let’s get started!
1.    First you will need to cut out the fabric for the body of your pillow.  Cut out one 12 in square and then use it as your pattern for the second square.  This will insure they are the same size.  For my pillow I am using drop clothe fabric.  You can get painters drop clothe at most any hardware store.  It has a great off white color and is very affordable.  I got a 9 by 12 ft piece of fabric for $18 at Lowes.  You can make a lot of pillows with that!  Smaller pieces are available too.  If you don’t want to use drop clothe any off white fabric will do.

2. You will need to make a template for your egg.  I drew out an egg shape on card stock paper.  If you have trouble drawing out the shape you want then head over to google images and look for egg clip-art, it should be easy to find the perfect template there.

3. Take the fabric you selected for eggs and iron on the heat n’ bond.  The package will have instructions as to how to do this.  Basically you just place the heat n’ bond rough side down on the wrong side of the fabric.  Press with a hot iron until it adheres. 

4.    Using your egg template trace your egg out-line onto the back side of the prepped fabric then cut it out.  You will need to trace and cut out 9 eggs.  I enjoyed using a different fabric for each egg.  Since all eggs are different shapes and colors none of mine are quite the same.  If you don’t have lots of scraps laying around like me you can use the same fabric for all the eggs and it will be very cute.

5. Peel the paper off of the heat n’ bond prepped fabric cut outs.  Place them on the pillow fabric like so.  Turn the steam off on your iron and press them into place.  I gently move my iron around on top of whatever I am ironing for about 30 seconds.  Sometimes it is hard to tell if the fabric has adhered properly until it has cooled off.

6. After this you are ready to stitch around the edges of what you have ironed on the pillow.  I used my sewing machine to do this, but if you don’t have one or prefer hand stitching you can do this very easily by hand.  Stitching around the eggs can prove a bit tricky.  Just remember that imperfections add to the cuteness of this project!

This is what your pillow front should look like.

 I hope that you enjoy and take part in this little project!  If you have any questions or would like to share your experience in making this leave us a comment and I will be sure to read and respond when necessary.  All of the comments will be entered in a drawing for some scrap fabrics, just enough to make some cute scrappy eggs.

 I'll be back in a few days to show you how to finish up this little pillow. You better go get stitching!

God Bless

**  We will do the drawing for the scrap giveaway on Monday April 22 at 4:00 pm.  Don't forget to leave an email address in your comment.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Down On The Farm Spring Photos

I love spring on the farm. It's a time for birth, growth and rejuvenation. What an exciting and busy time.  Most of all it's beautiful!
The following photos are taken here at Chicken Scratch Poultry. I hope you enjoy.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8

Monday, April 22, 2013

Growing Up Beautiful Pullets

Chicken Scratch Poultry is a very busy place this time of year.  Something that we offer to our customers is young pullets.  It takes a lot of time, work, and effort to raise young birds up and get them to the perfect size before we ship them out to our wonderful customers.  I have a lot of great folks out there waiting on their pullets at this time and I know they are wondering what is taking so long.  Here's a little peek into the process of getting that beautiful bird from our farm to your back yard.

Back in February we began filling the incubator with eggs every Monday evening.  We put about 500 eggs in each week.  We don't get a great hatch rate in February due to the cold weather.  Our incubator is in our Morton building and it's difficult to keep the temperature from fluctuating.  It's necessary to begin hatching the pullets early before we start filling the chick orders, once we start filling the chick orders the only pullets we get to grow are the chicks that are left over after filling the many orders.  This is one reason it can take extra time to get your pullets to you.

Every Friday night eggs are moved from the incubator and into the hatcher.  I know it looks like a giant dyer but it's a hatcher.  It is actually an ostrich egg hatcher.   The incubator we have was also for Ostrich eggs.

Once the chicks are hatched, dried and fluffed they are moved into the brooder cage.  Each level of the brooder cage has heat, food, and water.  Youngest chicks are kept on the top levels, older chicks are kept on the lower levels.  The upper levels seem to stay much warmer than the lower.

Once the chicks reach about 3 weeks of age the oldest ones are moved from the first brooder cage into the next, due to their fast growth they are separated and given extra room so as not to over crowd them.  Over crowding can be a very big problem at this time and all measures are taken not to do so.

Once again the chicks out grow the brooder cage and the next phase is to move them out doors into the large grow out pens.  They love it when they are finally out and on the ground it's quite a site to see as they run, leap and explore every nook and cranny of their new living quarters.

While chicks are being moved out doors all leg bands are checked and replaced if it looks like they are going to out grow them soon.  The only breed that we band is the Olive Egger.  They are banded at the time they are removed from the hatcher.  Olives can look just like the Marans or the Ameraucana breeds so we make sure of no mix ups.  Chicks out grow leg bands about every 2 weeks so this is a constant task of catch and release.

No I'm not catching butterflies I'm chasing pullets, we are beginning to fill orders and shipping them out.  This is a very time consuming task.  At this time I'm trying to distinguish between hen and rooster.  We choose the best of the best to send out.  This is a  very stressful time, I make every effort to send out the highest quality birds to my customers.  When I'm choosing a bird for my customers I do it as if I were choosing for myself.  The pullets are between 6 and 8 weeks old when we ship them and they aren't fully colored out at this time so it's a difficult job. 

You might wonder why bother with all that work when you can just ship out chicks.  I have so many people contact me who want a hen or two in their back yard but can't have roosters.  They live in big cities and small towns and want the ability to have fresh eggs.  These folks have expressed they don't want just any old chicken they want a beautiful bird that lays a pretty egg.     

So to all of my customers out there waiting on your sweet birds.  I Just want you to know I'm working on growing them up beautiful and healthy for you but this isn't a process I can rush.

On shipping day, large poultry boxes are filled with shavings, sliced apples, packed and ready to go.   Pullets ship very well at the age of 6 to 8 weeks old, younger birds at the age of 2 to 3 weeks do not ship well, it seems they don't have enough body weight at that age to survive long travel.  
If your waiting on a pullet order to be sent out, drop us a comment and let us know why you chose pullets and not chicks. 
Well I better get going I have birds to feed, water, move, band.....

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sweet Vanilla Crepes

In March my first niece was born and I got to fly to Seattle to meet her and spend some time with my mom, dad and sister.  This was the first time I had ever left my girls for more than one night, but they did great and I had a fantastic trip as well!  It was nice to get away and have some time off from mom duties.  I love being at home with the girls but everyone needs a break from time to time.

While there, I got to love on my niece and go out and about too.  One afternoon we went to Bainbridge Island, a quaint island with neat shops and some great places to eat.  For lunch we tried a little cafe which serves only crepes.  The cafe had savory and sweet crepes and of course we had to have one of each.  It was the perfect setting and the crepes were delicious 

The six days we spent in Seattle flew by and soon after I got home I was thinking of my sister and the tasty crepes that we had on our day out.  I couldn't help but make some at home. Crepes are pretty easy to make and when filled with fresh fruit and whipped creme they are the perfect spring time treat!  When I made these my oldest daughter Ella said, "Mom you are the best cooker ever".

Sweet Vanilla Crepes

4 eggs  ( I apologize for the use of boring white eggs.  I am all out of Chicken Scratch Eggs.  Oops!)
1/2 cup of melted butter
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp of vanilla
dash of salt

In a blender or food processor combine your eggs, butter, sugar, milk, water, vanilla and salt.  Pulse these ingredients a few times and then slowly pulse and add in the flour.  Blend until no lumps remain.  Most recipes say to let the crepe batter rest for at least an hour before using.  I am impatient and didn't wait at all, and the crepes seemed perfect to me.  Cook the crepes over medium heat in a non stick skillet.  Pour in about 1/3 cup of crepe batter, swirl the pan so that it evenly coats the bottom of the pan.

 As the crepe cooks it will begin to loose its shine and pull away from the edges of the pan.  Flip it and it will cook on the other side.  Then fill with whatever you would like.  In my opinion you can't go wrong with strawberries and whipped creme.  If you like a little chocolate with that combo add a smear of Nutella and you will be in heaven.

Each time I make these it brings to mind fond memories.  I love when food does that!  Try these and let us know how they turn out.  What recipes do you make that bring up great memories?  Leave us a comment with your story.

Enjoy and God Bless!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Rabbit Hole

This week while moving mulch to my flower bed I discoved we had dug up a rabbit's nest in my very large mulch pile. It seems the mother rabbit dug pretty deep down into the mulch to make a nice nest for the babies.  We sheered off the front half of the mulch pile shoveling it away and made her nest exposed and hard for her to care for the babies properly.  When she would feed the babies they would fall out and couldn't find their way back into the nest.  It's hard to see in this picture but the hole is right in the middle.

Each morning when I go out to open the barns up I walk past this mulch pile.  On this morning I noticed something squirming around on the ground, my first thought was yuck rats!  With further examination I see that it is 3 baby rabbits.  I had always heard not to touch them or the mother wouldn't take them back.  I have no idea if this is true, but in any case I didn't touch them with my hands.  Even though I would have loved to!

They couldn't have been more than a couple of days old, their eyes are still closed and they can't move around much.  I knew they needed to get back into the nest since our nights are still getting pretty cold and our dog would love to find them.

 So I got my garden spade and scooped them up.  I held them up to the rabbit hole, they sniffed around at the hair in the nest and climb right in.  This is what I've been doing for 3 mornings now. The mommy feeds them, they fall out, I put them back.

Today was a little different, they now have their eyes open and  have grown so fast!  Today they were scared of me, but I still managed to get them back in the nest.  I bet this will be the last time I get to help them.  I count it a blessing being able to do this simple little act of kindness even for only a few days.  It's never a dull moment around here.  Now stay out of my garden little bunnies.

The Life of every living thing is in his hand, as well as the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:10