Rocker Chicks

See that nub on her beak? It's called the Egg Tooth. It is how the chicks poke a hole in their egg when hatching. It will fall off in a few days.

See that nub on her beak? It’s called the Egg Tooth. It is how the chicks poke a hole in their egg when hatching. It will fall off in a few days.

Spring has sprung! What does this mean for The Little Reds? It means orange blossoms, baby chicks, and lots of maintenance. We were slated to have a Hell Niño for the record books. Meh. We had more than no rain. Which was very welcome, but not the onslaught we prepared for. Our citrus tress LOVED the extra water! We have had what seems like billions of blossoms and the scent is intoxicatingly heady. The bees are abuzz and the ladies are treating themselves to blossom baths.

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We have a different group of ladies than when I last posted. Only Florence and Henrietta remain from our original eight. Henrietta is going through the change, and has taken to crowing in the morning. Obviously, we have taken to calling her “Hank.”  One of our newest hens, Cloris Leachman, went broody about a week into her first laying season. Apparently this is what bantams do. Who knew? She is a stubborn gal and was not about to be broken of her broodiness, so off to Trader Joe’s we went.

Cloris Leachman incubating her brood.

Cloris Leachman incubating her brood.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg babysits whilst Cloris dust-bathes and grabs a snack.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg babysits whilst Cloris dust-bathes and grabs a snack.

Did you know the Trader sells fertile eggs? Yep. So if you’re not down with eating embryos read those labels. Last year we managed to hatch 3/7 of the eggs we put under Gertrude (RIP, btw).

Sadly, the only female of the three was attacked by a raccoon one afternoon, and the two dudes were invited to no longer live with us. I think I need a sign on our coop that reads, “Roosters: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

Two of the three TJ’s eggs under Cloris, are still viable and should hatch next week! Additionally, we found a breeder nearby who just hatched adorable chicks crossed between a Cream Legbar (like our Pat) and a Bielefelder. They are auto-sexed, which means you can tell right away if they are male or female. Hallelujah! So we hopped in the Space Ship and drove down to Bonita to pick up our babies. They should be hearty lasses and lay jumbo key- lime green eggs! Welcome to the backyard Alice Cooper, Bernadette, and Cecilia!

#entourage #bodyguards

#entourage #bodyguards

Our plan is to let Cloris hatch her two eggs and then sneak these gals underneath her her as she sleeps. Wish us luck!

Life Gave Us Lemons

Meyer Lemons.  MMMMMMMeyer Lemons.

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Our First Crop of Meyers in 2011

That tree sold me on this house. I grew up in the desert and seeing three full-sized, mature citrus trees in the backyard did me in. I love the Tangelos and Parent Navels. I really do. But Meyer. Lemons. In case you didn’t know, Meyer lemons are a cross between lemons and Mandarin oranges. NPR has an interesting article explaining the history of Meyer lemons, and I think the author may be almost as in love with them as I am. If you’ve never experienced the joy that is a Meyer, let me put it like this. Lemons (aka Eureka lemons) are wonderful. Meyer lemons are the Eureka’s sexier, cooler, sweeter, classier cousin. If a lemon is a bicycle, a Meyer lemon is a Vespa. I don’t know why I personify Meyers as Italian. They aren’t. They are Chinese. But considering they make the best limoncello ever, I think we can reclassify them, no? Let’s just make up a story about Marco Polo and the Silk Road or something and call it a day.

The Dude Playing With Lemons.  8 months old.

The Dude Playing With Lemons. 8 months old.

When we moved in, our tree was nice. It gave us a hearty crop of fruit after the last cold snap of the year (or as cold of a snap as one gets in San Diego.) But then we noticed that our citrus trees had black mold and leaf miner and white flies. Or more accurately, we noticed our trees were yucky, and we called The Tree Doctor, Nalani, to come check them out. She’s a wizard. Seriously. Our trees had been ignored for 10 years. Now, after about 18 months of Nalani’s juju under our belts, our trees are the envy of all the land. We just hauled in half of our first crop and we have another 5-10 pounds of fruit on the tree. Better yet, our second crop of baby fruits are already growing! If we are lucky we will get two or three crops per year. But what exactly does one DO when life gives you lemons? Meyer lemons? And lots of them? You start by making Limoncello, Lavender Lemonade, Candied Lemon Peel, and Lemon Sorbet. Welcome to Round One of Lemalicious.

Limoncello ala Frankie

Frankie Working HIs Magic

Frankie Working HIs Magic

This recipe is not exact. In fact, I don’t know that you can call it a recipe. Frankie is a Naples native and he learned the art of limoncello from his mom. It goes something like this: Buy three bottles of Everclear. Not vodka. Pick a bucket of lemons. Wash them very well with a vegetable scrub brush. Using a veggie peeler, carefully remove just the thin yellow skin. Do this until you have enough peelings. Pour the three bottles of booze on top of peelings. Let sit, covered, out of sunlight for a week. Or more. Until it is the right color. When it is good, strain the peelings. Make simple syrup equal to the amount of lemony booze. Cool the syrup. Mix the syrup and booze. Strain into six bottles. Like I said, not exactly a recipe. But you only need to see him make it once to know that it’s about tasting as you go and rolling with it. The end result is pure majesty.

Limoncello Complete

Limoncello Complete

 

Lavender Lemonade Concentrate

Bottled Up Lavender Lemonade Concentrate

Bottled Up Lavender Lemonade Concentrate

This recipe is more precise. I don’t mean to brag, but I totally nailed it. I’ve been trying to replicate Cafe Chloe’s recipe for 4 years, and I could not be happier with the result.

1/2 cup of dried lavender flowers

4 C. boiling water

1 1/3 C. Sugar

2 1/2 C. Lemon Juice

First, make lavender tea. I did this by using a long-forgotten french press. Add flowers to the carafe and pour boiling water over them. Let rest for 15-20 minutes. Gently press. In a saucepan over high heat, combine sugar and lavender tea. Stir until all sugar crystals are dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat and cool to warm. Combine lemon juice with warm lavender syrup. Watch the magic happen. After four years, I finally managed to get the delightful pinkish purple (shall I say lavender?) color that I so desired. The lavender tea must be warm when you combine it with the lemon juice.  Voilà! What you do with your finished concentrate is your business. You can do a 50/50 mix with water for refreshingly crisp lemonade. You can do a 50/50 mix with sparkling water for a French lemonade. Or, you can do what I did.

Lavender Collins

Happiest Hour

Happiest Hour

Fill a tall glass with ice. Fill glass halfway with lemonade concentrate. Add an ounce or two of Hendrick’s Gin. Top with lime sparkling water.  There you have yourself a treat!

Finally!

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Perhaps a bit dramatic, but FINALLY!  We can have hard-boiled eggs again!  I love eggs.  Obviously.  But once we started getting farm-fresh eggies from the ladies, I became a wee bit of a snob d’oeuf.  Scrambled eggs at our favorite breakfast place?  Nah.  Mine are better.  Omelette bar?  Eh. Deviled eggs?  Ok, I’ll always eat a deviled egg. Especially because hard boiling day old eggs is IMPOSSIBLE. We tried everything. I read the definitive guide to boiling eggs a la Bon Appétit but no luck. I tried every secret amazing trick. Crack ’em in the pot!  Add salt!  Add vinegar!  Boli them cold. Boil them hot. Add eye of newt!  

Didn’t matter.  I’d lose half of the white every time I peeled them.  It made me grumpy and frustrated and sad.  I ruined more than one nail. What’s the point of having 4 million eggs per week if you can’t hard boil them?  Hashtag firstworldurbanhomesteadingproblems! But alas, Farmer Bob stumbled upon a new and improved, sure fire, absolutely foolproof tip!  (Me: Um, it won’t work.  The eggs are just too freaking fresh.  Him: Let’s try it!  Me: Knock yourself out.  Don’t waste too many eggs.)  Holy guacamole peeps.  It works.  EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  We are crushing some eggs around here.  Dude loves the whites, but not the yolks, which is great for me because I’m all about that fatty fatty goodness.  No one in our house has been hangry in a week, which is a bloody miracle.

As I am not a photographer, and I’m not so great at writing instructions what with my tangents and ADOS (Attention Deficit OOH! Shiny!) I will direct you to this post by Nom Nom Paleo*.  She has adorbs pictures and step-by-step get it done directions.

Now, come buy some of my surplus eggs and go devil them up!

*Disclaimer: I do not eat nor do I promote the Paleo lifestyle.  I do not do CrossFit.  Blame my contrary nature.  Nothing should be all or nothing.  Except for that statement.  But this lady is cute and her foodstuffs look super yum.  Enjoy!

 

Dirty Dozen


Sweet sweet baby chicks.  We treated ourselves to three Easter Eggers/Aracaunas/Ameracaunas a few weeks ago.  Why?  As I mentioned, our sweet Lavender passed away unexpectedly.  Then a few weeks ago Fat Rosie started walking funny.  And she wasn’t fighting all of the other ladies for every.single.scrap.of.food. Which was very out of character and somewhat worrisome.  Then one day I saw that she had been in the nesting box for a very long time and that she seemed to be struggling a bit.  I assumed that she was egg bound and decided that once Rob got home, we would take the plunge and help a lady out.

Whoa.  Chicken insides are weird, man.  I gloved up and provided Rosie with some Aquaphor.  To my dismay, there was no egg.  Like, at all.  But there was a whole bunch of jiggly water-balloon happening.  I turned to the ever helpful Backyard Chickens Forum and it would appear that Rosie was suffering from ascites.  Which is no bueno.  I gave it a few days hoping an egg would magically appear, but her belly became more and more swollen and she was forced to sit down every few steps.  After further researching, I was confident that our poor girl was really suffering.  What happened next is Farmer Bob’s story and I do not wish to go into detail.  Let’s just say he’s still a little worse for the wear.  To help ease the trauma, we picked up these three sweet chick-a-dees from a guy in Mount Helix. They are feisty!

The three chicks put us back at our max of 10 birds.  Our full grown egg-laying ladies are Agnes, Prudence, Millicent, Florence, Ginger, Henrietta and Gertrude. The new babies are Olive, Elliemay Elmer, and Beverzulene.

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Elmer is leggy.  And has some big ol’ feet.  After our experience with GoldaLee/King Midas, I’m pretty sure Elmer is a dude.

 

But here’s the kicker.  A friend of Rob’s thought she might need to get rid of her chickens.  Rob offered to adopt them about a week before we bought chicks, but she thought she would keep them. And so we got the chicks.  And then she changed her mind again.  And so we have 12 chickens. Ophelia nee Oreo and Babette nee Butterscotch joined our flock in April.  Within 24 hours Ophelia had literally flown the coop.  A tale which probably deserves its own post. Welcome to the club, ladies.

 

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I think, for now, the flock shall be known as The Dirty Dozen.

The Golden Touch

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Oh GoldaLee.  We should have known.  Perhaps the ankles?  The feet?  The exquisite saddle and hackle feathers?  No.  No.  Dr. Google, our top notch veterinarian, assured us that ALL of those things could be the sign of a dominant female.  Once you grew about 50% taller than Ginger, we were more skeptical. Maybe Ginger was just a runty lass.  But oh my.  That brazen COCK-A-DOODLE you let fly, well…that happened.  Sorry old chap.  The city statutes on backyard chickens clearly state that you could not stay.  So back to City Farmer’s Nursery where Farmer Bill kindly arranged for you to move out onto a farm in Lakeside. You are such a handsome fellow, we know those lucky lady chickens will appreciate the eye candy.  Cheers to you, King Midas!

A Fond Farewell

Farmin’ ain’t easy.

Alright, we aren’t exactly farmers.  In fact, we don’t even really have a garden since I let it fall to shambles last summer.  (I was really really fat.  And swollen.  And hot.  I never claimed to be a graceful pregnant lady.)  

Being the research-driven types, we knew that raising chickens would involve some less than pretty aspects.  Like cleaning up lots of poop.  And dealing with vermin who want to share in the chicken feed.  And finding those vermin dead in rat traps before 7am. We knew that our chickens would die. We (the Royal we) just weren’t prepared for how sad we would be. I’m just saying, four months post-partum is a rough time to lose one’s favorite hen.

Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly passed away on January 23, 2014. It shouldn’t have been so hard, but it was Lavender.  Of all of our ladies, it had to be my Lavvie.  She was gentle, beautiful, and a joy to watch.  I’ve already waxed poetic about her beautiful blue eggs. They were divine.

On the 22nd she was lethargic.  On the 23rd she was dead.  Just like that. I was lucky enough to have my cousin visiting when it happened and he heroically offered to remove Lavender from the coop.  Did I mention he’s 17 and has no experience with chickens or dead animals? A hero I tell you.  And then lucky for him another friend came by who DOES have experience with chickens and dead animals and she heroically removed Lavender from the coop and spared me from having to do the dirty work myself.  Am I a wimp? Yes. In my defense there were a lot of hormones involved and I was more than willing to take on the task of diverting the kids’ attention away from the coop.  I spent the rest of the day being sad and thinking fond thoughts of my lovely lady. With time I’ve come to realize that as far as the chicken life goes, she had it pretty good.  But I still miss her.

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R.I.P. Lavender Blue

 

Red Velvet, If You Please

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Back to hippie-light.  If you bring me, say, a fresh red velvet treat from Sprinkles or Nothing Bundt Cakes, I’m not going to turn it down.  I might even deep mouth kiss you.  But when it comes to actually baking red velvet cake, I get all like, Wow! That’s a lot of red dye #40.  I mean, chocolate taste-ez good when it’s brown so do I really NEED it to be all red and stuff? Then I start thinking about the armadillo groom’s cake from Steel Magnolias and then I think of road kill, so no.  I don’t make red velvet at home.  Until now.

You know why?  It’s because I grew beets.  And I roasted a few.  And then they got HUGE and I had to pull them all at once and it was 103° outside and maybe I was a little fat and tired and lazy and maybe they sat in the garage in Dude’s mini-wheelbarrow for a couple days and got less than firm.  Which led to beet puree. SO. MUCH. But that’s cool.  We have a chest freezer and beets are yummy any way you slice ’em.  I went to the trusty land of Pinterest and started a search for recipes with beet puree. Smoothies.  Smoothies.  Oh look!  More smoothies.  And then there it was.   A variation of red velvet using beets from a lovely blog called In Sock Monkey Slippers.

Yes please!  I whipped these babies up and used a fraction of my puree in the process. I love baking, I just don’t get around to it all that often.  Let me tell you- these are a keeper recipe. This is my new go-to chocolate cake recipe.  (I just skipped the orange.)

Here is the mediocre photo of the delicious cake.  Trust me.  It’s better than it looks here. I will figure out that damned Hipstamatic.  Later.Image