Monday, March 26, 2012

The "He" and "She" of it all

So the chicks are now about 2.5 weeks old and I have realized some useful information: When buying chicks at the feed store~ $1.99 means "Straight run". For those of you who are not knee deep in wood chips, who don't revolve your life around cleaning pop off a feeder because someone likes to be higher than everyone else (which means feeder sitting)~ who have not yet discovered the joys of chickens...Straight Run means you takes your chances. Boys and girls, hens and roos all in the same bin- what they scoop is what you get.
I am now the proud momma of 3 little red hens and possibly 3 obnoxious Buff Orpington roosters. We won't know until someone crows. Alas if menfolk they happen to be, a friend who has lots of Buff Orpington hens needs a man around the Orpington I got that goin for me- which is nice.
Here's their latest class pics.
 Maisey in all her glory. She's not one of the possible roos but she is so my fav chicken.
This is Wilma or possibly Willy, we'll see if she starts to crow soon...

As you can tell, Alice or possibly BIG Al is scrawny and squawky.
This is Pruda, a little freaked out...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chicks Gone Wild

 The girls are here! I am no longer barren, chickless, without peeps!
After several months of pouring over chicken catalogs, websites and magazines, I had made up my mind to get chickens. Team Chicken, my effort to obtain some feathered friends was not a totally smooth campaign. Mostly due to my husband who would not only have to become a supporter of Team Chicken, but a financier as well. Eventually I won him over- well pestered him to death until he relented is more accurate.
 The problem became how to bring the future egg providers into my home. Do you order, then there's the minimums. Do you find a local provider, try finding one that has the breeds you want. Feed store? In the end, the Tractor supply won out. Of course that was after my coop got sold out from under me and I entered into what can only be described as the Land of Poo Poo Face. Unattractive and terribly distraught. My husband has no defense against this and I try not to use it as a weapon to get my way. As fast as the lower lip pooched, Jim had the car keys in hand and off we went to see what TSC had delivered that day.
 We came home with 6 chicks, 3 Buff Orpingtons, 1 New Hampshire Red and 2 Production Reds (most likely Rhode Island Red and NH Red mixes). Currently all are healthy and happy, eating, pecking and generally being chick-y. Each already has a personality and name. Maisey is shy and sweet, Alice is small but plucky, Wilma is large and round, Leila has a beauty mark and a fiesty streak, Pruda is sort of the middle child with a pretty blonde head, Bea is confident and always has first pick or peack of the food. 2 Americanuas should be added to the mix shortly to round out the flock to 8.
I'm sure this is just the start of an interesting adventure. Animal care has never been my strong suit, and livestock intimidate me, but I look forward to many fresh eggs and days watching Chicks Gone Wild.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Change is good, right?

Currently I have pine shavings in my spare bedroom, basil seeds in my purse, canning jars pretty much everywhere and Tractor Farm Suplly's number written on my palm (couldn't find paper).
I have never been what you call an "outdoor-sy" kind of girl. As a matter of fact my mother often times punished me by making me go outside~ without a book! Agony. I didn't like sitting in grass because it poked my legs. I hated having anything dirty, sticky, dusty, slimy or smelly on my hands. How did I get to this place in my life? A place where I can my own veggies, make my own bread and today- await the arrival of my first baby chicks?
This week as my birthday came and went, I started thinking about all the things I assumed I would do- but didn't. Graphic Artist/Lawyer, world traveler, single and childless living in LA has become SAHM volunteering full-time at the local church, living in a rural log cabin in North Georgia, canning, quilting and now farm animals...ok it's just chickens, but I'm also considering a goat at some point. What's wrong with this picture?
Nothing. Although it means consistently stepping out of my comfort zone- a place I really don't like- it also means adventure and a chance to see where God can take you. This week it's taking me into owning my own chickens- who knows what the week after will bring.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bread Dough 101

I sometimes wonder if there is a pioneer gene- or perhaps it's all those Little House books I read in the 70s. Whatever the cause, doing "it" the old fashioned way has much apeal for me. Now don't misunderstand me, as much has I love quilting-I do it mostly with the help of a machine. As much as I like canning, I'd be less enamoured with the process minus my wonderful 5 burner gas stove. And bread making wouldn't happen without my Kitchen-Aid stand up mixer.
I got my cobalt blue, stainless steel bowl friend about 20 years ago as my first Mothers Day present and since then we have been inseperable. Shortly after she came into my life, I decided I would learn to bake bread. At that time, classes in things like bread baking were limited to large cities, where the "foodie" movement was but in it's infant stages. I taught myself. Taught might be a mis-nomer because what I really did was make a whole bunch of mistakes until the only thing left was somehow right. Being the quilt machine, gas stove, industrial mixer kind of girl that I am, my bread recipes tend to be a little mechanical and basic. On the flip side, once the basic bread is assembled then I can be creative in the outcome. My pizza dough become Foccacia, Garlic Butter Knots and Bread Sticks. Yeast Roll dough transforms itself into my Cinnamon Roll recipe.
Most people think bread is complicated- it isn't. The ingredients are as basic as they come. Flour, liquid, flavoring, levening....and time. It's the last ingredient that throws most people into dispair, and dough into trashcans. Bread needs time, and for some it's the one ingredient in such short supply that they dare not spare it. I get that. I love a good short-cut, but some drives are better taken at a slow pace. Bread is one of them. The following is my basic yeast dough recipe which can become Big Fat Yeast Rolls or with a few additional ingredients and a technique called a jelly roll you can have Cinnamon Rolls.

6-7 cups Bread Flour
2 cups milk warmed to no more than 110 degrees (bathwater temp)
2pkgs yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
pinch of salt

In large mixing bowl (I use my beloved Kitchen-Aid with the mixing paddle) add warm milk, yeast and sugar. Begin mixing together. Add melted butter and egg, more beating. Lastly the pinch of salt.
After all ingredients are mixed, start adding the flour about a cup at a time. Make sure to give it time to incorporate. Before you add the last cup or so, change to dough hook attachment. Add the rest of the flour or as much as needed to make a SOFT dough. It should just be pulling away from the sides. "Knead" the bread using the dough hook for about 10 min.
Place dough in a large bowl that has been greased with either a little oil or the leftovers of melted butter from the paper or glass. Cover the dough with a towel or I use a plastic grocery bag and let rest and rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Place risen dough (lovely and spongey) on a floured surface and begin to knead it by hand. This is a great work out and not as complicated as it looks. You are simply working the dough- giving it some energy and preparing it to rise again. Simply push, roll and pull back for 10 minutes or until your arms drop off- which ever comes first.
Grease your baking sheets, loaf pans or whatever pan you will use to bake your rolls or bread. Remember to have plenty of room for the rolls/bread to rise. They will double again after shaping. Shape the dough and place it on/in baking pans. Cover with a towel or plastic. HINT: I always spray my rolls with cooking spray, roll them in butter or somehow "grease them". It will prevent sticking to the covering surface and give them a nice sheen in the baking. Let rise in a warm spot 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and bake uncovered for approximately 20 min. for rolls. Watch them the last few minutes- NO BURNED ROLLS! While watching them, do it up right and melt another couple of tablespoons of butter and brush it on the tops. Serve warm- YUM!