Monday, December 21, 2015

Open Roasting A Turkey

With Christmas just days away I though I would write blog on open roasting a turkey.  Just cooking a turkey once caused me great anxiety let alone open roasted.  The first time I tried this, all I could hear in the back of my mind was my mother saying "It'll be dry!"  Well thank goodness she was wrong and now I always open roast my turkey.  It's easy, don't be afraid, just do it!

Begin with a completely thawed turkey, you can also do this with a turkey breast.  You don't need a special rack like I'm using, actually I think I like it just as well without the rack.

You will need whatever kind of herbs you would like, I'm going to use some homegrown sage, Thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. 

Begin with brushing your turkey with olive oil.

Sprinkle with Sage, Thyme, salt, pepper and garlic.  In the pan around the turkey, I like to put, turnips, onion and carrots.  This really works better when you aren't using a rack.

Refer to the cooking instructions on your turkey for the weight and cooking time.  Stick to the amount of time that it suggests and your turkey will not be dry.  If you over cook it will be dry.
Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Luke 2:7
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the Inn. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Game Cameras - What's Lurking Around Your Barns

Having a game camera is a good way to keep an eye on what's lurking around your property.  If you have livestock it's a good idea to keep a watch on potential predictors whether they be human or animal.  A game camera can give you the ability to spot a problem before it becomes an issue just by keeping a check on what's hanging around when your not around.
This summer we noticed that some kind of varmint was digging under the wire on our chicken pens and decided it was a good time to set up the game camera and see what's hanging around the barns.   We don't think that any hens were missing but we knew a problem was beginning and we needed to put a stop to it before it got out of hand.
Predators are more likely to come at night but that's not to say they don't come in the day time.  Our biggest day time threats are hawks, our biggest night time threats are raccoon and opossum.
After setting a trap in the spot where the critter was digging under the pen we discovered it was a skunk.

 It's kind of hard to determine what this critter is but I think it's a fox.  We've not seen him during the day but if he's hanging around at night he's surely here during the day.  They don't call them sly for nothing.
We didn't even know we had a fox around until we seen this photo.

We actually started watching the game camera early in the spring, just to keep an eye on things.  It's really fun to check it each morning to see what it captured.  I've saved the pictures all summer long and thought it would be fun to share with you all what's hanging around our backyard.
This doe decided she would get an up close look at the camera.

Here's the doe with one of her fawns,
she has twins.  We've watched them all summer as they play, run and jump through the yard.  She has raised twins here now for the past two years maybe longer.

This is the only picture I have of the three of the together.  They're getting so big now.

This is the buck who's been stripping my Christmas trees bare!  They're beautiful animals but they're sure hard on my trees.

Game Cameras are also good for catching that fisherman sneaking in to fish at your pond. Smile dad your on candid camera.

Catching a glimpse of a wild monkey in your backyard is always fun to see.  The granddaughters have figured out the camera and always leave grandpa a cute picture.
Sometimes the only picture we get is of the farmer checking the game camera.

Just thought I would share what's lurking in my backyard, aren't you curious what's in yours?
Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Guest Blogger And Visitor To Chicken Scratch Poultry, Leslie McEwen

Today we have a guest to the blog, my niece Leslie McEwen from North Pole Alaska.  She and her brother Klye came for a visit back in October.  I asked Leslie if she would like to share from a teenagers point of view, visiting the Chicken Scratch Poultry farm. 

Kyle, Leslie and Brody (Brody/chicken whisperer wasn't able to come on this trip) 

Hi all, My name is Leslie McEwen and I am Larry and Angie's niece. I am going to be the guest blogging for Aunt Angie today, so a little bit about me first. I am an 18 year old born and raised Alaskan. I love living in AK and enjoy the outdoors and all my family’s animals, which includes chickens (of course), goats, rabbits, and sheep-my personal project. I am involved in FFA and 4-H, and I love meeting new people and learning about agriculture in different places because it differs wherever you go. Here in Alaska we do Ag. very different from everywhere else in the world so it is interesting to see the “normal” side of Ag.
Anyway enough about me. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough with my younger brother, Kyle and my grandma to visit the chicken farm. I had visited the farm before about five years ago. I knew it had grown, I mean I followed the blog and everything and talked to my uncle and aunt so I thought I knew how big it had gotten…..

But Chicken Scratch Poultry is so much more amazing then I remember! Maybe it is because I was much younger 5 years ago when I visited, but the important reason is because of all the hard exhausting work that my aunt and uncle have put into their business. In structures alone, they have grown so much just in the last year. While I was there my brother helped Uncle Larry with adding on to the new barn, this was the real reason they let us come in the first place :), and it was amazing seeing the growth just over the couple of days we were there. They have also added the brooder shed and a pullet house (those are my names, I hope they are right) recently, which I can’t imagine them doing without.

While we were there, I was able to help box up chickens to ship. I got to see and participate in the process from beginning to end folding the boxes, putting in the cucumber for chicken snacks, catching the correct chickens, putting the labels on, and delivering a truck full of chickens to the post office with my cousin Heather. It was a blast, and I loved every minute of it.
I think the thing I appreciated most was how well my uncle and aunt take care of their customers. They respect their customers loyalty and try to give their customers the best experience by their commitment to sending quality birds.

Thank you so much for listening to my ramblings and thank you Uncle Larry and Aunt Angie for letting us come visit you and participate in Chicken Scratch Poultry’s daily operations. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I am willing to come work for you anytime. Next time, I might even bring the real chicken expert in the family, my brother Brody.


Brody/chicken whisper       

Monday, November 16, 2015

Molting - Look Out I'm About To Get Naked

Her face is hidden to protect her identity, this a is Chocolate Orpington in full molt.   Molting is the process of shedding the old feathers to replace with new.  During this time they will often completely stop laying eggs and the reproduction system takes a rest.    This process can take a couple of months and usually happens during the fall.   If you are new to raising chickens and your wondering why your hen is naked and no longer lays eggs, this very likely is your problem.  A hen will have her first molt at the age of 18 months.

I have several half naked birds running around the farm right now.  Our pens look like there's been a massive feather pillow fight.
I often notice that the hens that are the most naked tend to hide in nesting boxes and are a bit more shy than usual.  I guess I'd hide too with such a sudden transformation.

 Roosters also go through the molting process.  This gentle giant has nice new feathers coming in on the neck area.

You have probably heard that during this time you should feed your poultry higher amounts of protein for faster feather growth.  It never hurts to give them more protein but your not going to make feathers grow any faster.  Just like the hair on your head, your not going to cause it to grow any faster than what it already does.

I shared this photo on face book a few weeks ago and had several responses from people saying they had thirty or more hens and getting only one egg per day.  It seemed as though maybe they didn't understand why they're experiencing a drop in egg production.    
Don't get discouraged with your flock at this time of year, they're just taking a break and getting geared back up for another year of egg laying.  
Although if your hens are three years of ago or older, egg production slows after two years and can severely decrease after three years.  If you depend on your hens for the eggs it's a good idea to add in new stock every couple of years.  
Happy Molting!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Alaska Visitors Come To Chicken Scratch Poultry

This week we had some special visitors stop in for a few days while on their way to Louisville KY. Our Niece Leslie and Nephew Kyle from Fairbanks Alaska are traveling to the FFA convention in Louisville KY.  They are both interested in Agriculture and what the future holds for young men and women who wish to have a career in Ag.  What better way for them to begin their journey than right here on the Poultry farm.  Leslie and Kyle were privileged to get a small peek at what a typical shipping day is like here at Chicken Scratch Poultry.
You would think our day would begin bright and early with a big country breakfast of bacon and eggs, sorry to disappoint but it begins with a snatch and grab whatever you can, eat fast and head out the door.
Normally my daughter / employee starts the day off by putting together large postal approved poultry boxes, fills them with wood savings and sliced cucumbers.  Sorry I didn't get a photo of this happening, I was off taking care of other tasks.  Today's shipment will take 15 large boxes.  Leslie helped  my daughter Heather assemble boxes while Kyle and I started catching pullets to fill the orders.

Kyle is a lean, mean, chicken catchin machine!  I'm in the back ground of this photo using a net to catch pullets, Kyle just snatches them up.  We caught up 36 birds for shipping today.

I turn my back for a second and suddenly it seems it's break time and everyone is standing around laughing and having a gab session.  Get back to work people we have 36 birds to get in boxes!
Once the birds are in the boxes, the boxes are weighed and we're off to print labels.

The Labels are printed and the girls are putting them on the boxes.  Make sure you get them on the correct box girls.  Heather and Leslie work very well together.

Once the labels are on the boxes, into the truck they go and off to the post office.  I then call each customer to let them know that their new feathered friends are on the way.

Kyle was a really big help to Larry while he was here visiting.  Larry is in the middle of a barn addition currently and is doing the work by himself.  Kyle was able to help  Larry get a lot of work done on that project in the short amount of time that he was here.  He's a good worker and was happy to help. 

They were able to get all the siding hung on one side of the barn plus they also hung all of the electrical wiring and light fixtures. 

Thank you Kyle and Leslie for all of your help while you were visiting us.  We hope you had as much fun as we did.  
Angie & Larry

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bottling Honey & The Clean Up

Last week we pulled the honey from our bee hives and began the task of processing.  We pulled about 3.75 gallons of honey from four hives.  This really was not a lot of honey considering the amount of hives that we have.  We started with two hives in the spring and both hives swarmed, I was able to catch both swarms and put them into new hives, which made us four hives.  When a hive swarms this puts them behind for the seasons.  So if they had not swarmed we would have gotten much more honey.  We hope to prevent swarming next spring but only time will tell if we're able to do so.
In one of our hives we put in about four frames with just wax foundation, that way we are able to cut the comb from the frame and leave the honey in the comb.  I like to cut it into pieces to add to the jars of honey, I think it looks pretty and the comb is good to eat.  The honey comb is suppose to also be good for arthritis.

This year we purchased a five gallon bucket with a honey gate for filling the bottles and jars, the honey can also be stored in the bucket until you have time to work with it.  A honey gate makes filling the jars and bottles just a little easier.  There are many more products out there to purchase for honey bottling but this is just a little more economical for our needs.
Here's a little tip if your new to processing honey.  The day before you are ready to fill your jars, sit your honey in a warm place.  The warmer the honey the fast it flows, the colder the honey the slower it flows.  Guess how my honey was flowing....

After we had extracted the honey from the frames, strained it with a strainer and filled our jars and bottles we had a lot of sticky buckets, spoons, strainers and bees wax that needed to be cleaned up.  The best way to clean up the sticky mess is to take it back to the bees.  Not one drop of honey will go to waste that way.

We laid some ply wood down and spread the wax out.  I want to keep the wax to make a few candles but wasn't sure how to clean it up all the stickiness.  Well the bees knew just what to do, it was really pretty amazing to see how clean they got it.

Within just a couple of hours they had licked every drop of honey from the spoons, buckets, strainers and wax.

Now that the wax is all cleaned up, it weighs just over two pounds and it looks like confetti.  I don't think it will make very many candles.

My sweet daughter made me some honey labels for my bottles.  We're calling it Birds & The Bees Pure Honey.  It's so delicious, the bees did an awesome job!
Stay tuned for some candle making.
Have a great day!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Harvesting Honey

Three weeks ago we checked the progress of the bees, knowing that we're very quickly coming to the end of the honey season.  As of three weeks ago the frames still were not full nor capped.  Three weeks time apparently made a huge difference for the bees.  The weather was nice and warm during that time and the field behind the hives were full of  awesome wild flowers.
Last year was our first time to pull honey from our hives and we've learned a few things from that experience that we don't want to repeat.  Last year we took the honey frames from the hive, trying to smoke and brush the bees away and take the frames to the house.  By the time we had all the frames at the house, we also had the entire bee colony at our front door eating honey as fast as they could and taking it back to the hive.  It was very hectic, crazy, honey harvesting.
Before we began the process this year we did a little research on how to get the bees out of the honey super the day before the harvest. We looked at several different options and the one that sounded the easiest with good results was to use a bee escape.  It works like a one way door to let the bees out of the honey super but won't let them back in.
Place the bee escape on the inner cover, place the inner cover under the honey box that you want the bees out of.  The bees go down the little hole but can't come back up.

The bee escape worked very well and we're able to take the honey supers with out much resistance.

Just in case the bees decided to follow we had a plan this time.  Larry was to throw the box on the four wheeler, at break neck speed take it into the Morton building and shut the door behind him.  The plan worked well, we got all the honey into the building without a swarm of bees.

We don't yet own a honey extractor so we scrapped the comb and honey from the frames.  This is not the best way to extract honey because it destroys the comb that the bees could just refill if  we had used an extractor.  It essentially makes more work for the bees, they will now need to rebuild the comb.  I will be able to use the comb in soap and hope to make a few candles.  
We used a food grade bucket and a strainer to catch the honey and comb.
As we pulled the frames from the box we began to notice the difference in the honey colors from frame to frame.  It was so interesting.  

This particular frame had super dark honey, that looked like molasses right in the center and very light yellow honey all around.  That's when I decided we needed to keep the different colors separate.  Men really love it when you suddenly change up the process in the middle of what they're doing.  You women know what I'm talking about.  So we began the process of scrapping dark honey into one bucket and light yellow into another.  In the long run he thought it was probably a good idea.

Look at the difference in the colors.  We're straining the honey into the buckets.  We left it over night, it's a slow process but works well.

The next morning it was ready to strain one last time.
  All I can say is yum! 

I think the dark molasses colored honey is from a field of Goldenrod just behind our house.  It sure makes some good honey! 

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are like honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

Have a Blessed day!