Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chicken Chat – The “wind” egg

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Someone layed a “wind” egg today aka a “cock”, “dwarf”, or “fart” (hehe) egg. The only one I can rule out is Betty, who’s ginormous egg is on the right. The rest of them all lay similar colored eggs, so it’s hard to rule anyone out. The one on the top is a bit deformed which is in line with a Nike egg. The small ends of her eggs are a little wonky, like she gets disturbed mid-lay. She’s started to lay in the egg box, but she’s still nervous about it.

A wind egg happens when a piece of egg white gets the whole egg treatment in the hen’s system. It goes through the whole process of being wrapped in a membrane and then a shell, all without a yolk. They are not too common of an occurrence. At least in our little flock.

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Hmm…wonder who the culprit is.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Those Things. Ya know. Those Things.

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“Those Things” are an old family recipe that lost their name long ago. We just call them “things”.  The recipe came from my great grandmother and has been passed down. I don’t know if it’s any older than that. My grandmother taught me how to make them when I was a teenager. She doesn’t make them anymore due to the issues that develop in old age. An aunt has taken the role of official holiday “thing” maker. Someday, I think it will be my turn. It’s always good to practice.

Ingredient wise they are simple, shortening, sugar, flour, eggs. But, they take some time and effort, so I don’t make them too often. I have been spending a lot of time at work lately and Husband has been so helpful around the house. He’s been tending to the animals and making sure we have something for dinner. I had some time tonight and made some just for him.

P1040357The first layer is like a cross between a piecrust and a sugar cookie. It gets patted down and evened out to make a good solid first base.

The second layer is chocolate chips and sometimes walnuts if I have them, but don’t tell granma.They have to get squished into the bottom layer evenly.

The third layer takes the most time. It is a meringue of egg whites and brown sugar that if done right melts on the tongue when baked. Today it was a bit cloudy out. The meringue was crispy and airy just not as lofty as it could be.  

Does anyone else have a name for these? I have seen similar recipes, but just like the chocolate chip cookies, never the same one.

Husband will be very excited in the morning when he sees these waiting for him :)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wandering Wednesday – Rome – The Villa Borghese

The Villa Borghese is one of the main parks of Rome. People come here to bike, picnic, rent boats in the pond, relax, promenade, and do the Roman jog. It’s the perfect place to stroll with it’s wide shady lanes and a new fountain or sculpture around every corner. There are also several museums and galleries on the grounds, the most popular being the main villa which is filled with beautiful marble sculptures and paintings by the classical masters. It is a must see. 

There’s a replica of Shakespeare's globe theater they hold performances in and a classic roman amphitheater. For the kids there is also a whole childrens museum, zoo, and play area with kiddie rides,a playground, and pony rides. It is truly a lovely spot of culture just northeast of the Spanish steps.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed our Wandering Wednesday :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

To celebrate the first day of spring the chickens had their first five egg day. Yep! That’s right! Nike finally realized she was a hen and at the age of 11 months (yes you read that right. She was born the third week in April last year!).

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Of course she couldn’t lay in the nest box, no that would be too normal. She dug herself a big hole in the leaves around the chimney and layed there. I think the nest box intimidates her. It will be like an Easter egg hunt everyday :)

It seemed all of nature was heralding spring today. I saw the first oystercatcher. He is a couple of weeks early I think. The songbirds were boisterous all day and all the summer birds will show up soon. I took advantage of the balmy weather and sat outside this evening absorbing the smells of spring, the songs of the pinkletinks, and the low moan of the fog horn.

Happy Spring.  

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Great Rock Bight

Great Rock Bight is a nature preserve on the west side of the island. It’s located down a long, windy, easy to miss dirt road and has a few paths to hike that meander through the woods and one that goes down to the beach. For those that don’t know, a “bight” is a curve in the seashore. Not quite a cove or harbor, but somewhat sheltered. Great Rock Bight is just that, a beachy area that is a little sheltered by cliffs and rocks.

It is a beautiful spot, but to go to the beach, one has to be in good shape. The beach is down a big hill, which doesn’t seem that bad until after you’ve hiked down there, walked the beach, and then are ready to return. The whole way back is uphill. Up a steep hill. Bring water and know your limits. Stop for breaks at the conveniently positioned benches. I really can’t imagine families go there in the summer with the heat and all the gear, spend the day at the beach, and then climb that hill.

I digress, the songbirds were all in full song today and as I approached the beach the breeze picked up a bit and the sounds of gently crashing waves and seagulls joined them to complete the symphony of island sounds. 

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I eventually made it back up the hill after some huffing and puffing and resting on the handy benches : )

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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  St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He died on this day in 461 AD. The people of Ireland typically go to church on St. Patrick’s day and have a nice dinner.

In America, people use this day to celebrate and remember their Irish heritage. Some more exuberantly than others. There are parades, dances, dinners, political roasts, and green beer. I made cupcakes.

I’m not a fan of green beer, corned beef and cabbage, or Michael Flatley and his twisting of traditional dance, nor those weird groups they have on PBS. Ok getting off the soapbox. 

My grandfather was Irish. There was nothing his daughters would enjoy more than needling him into singing McNamara’s Band. My favorite Irish song is the Unicorn song from my childhood about Noah and the Ark and the stubborn unicorns. When I was a kid, my aunt would take me out to the flea markets and yard sales on Saturday mornings and we would listen to the Irish music program “The Irish Hit Parade” that was on the radio.

When I was in grade school we went to an Irish Catholic private school for a few years. Every St. Patrick’s day we would go to church and then have a scavenger type hunt around the school looking for the leprechauns. Nobody ever found any, but at the end was always some soda bread. I do love soda bread. Some of the fellow students would then do a performance of Irish step dancing in beautiful embroidered dresses. P1040211

For our wedding, my aunt who took me out on Saturdays when I was a kid, gave us this small porcelain horseshoe to carry in my bouquet on our wedding day. It was then hung over the main door to our house to bring luck to our marriage as tradition and superstition warrants. The horseshoe is points up to hold the luck. If it was the other way the luck would pour out.

We have visited Ireland and enjoyed it very much and hope to return many times. There aren’t many people of Irish heritage here on the Island, which was a big change from the south shore of Massachusetts where I grew up. There are dinners (corned beef and cabbage :P) and there was a small parade this year which hopefully will catch on. It was only two blocks long. Maybe next year they can shoot for three. 

We live in America, the great melting pot, which I enjoy very much. I am a symbol of that melting pot with many countries and people contributing to my heritage. Today we celebrate the Irish ones and I miss papa singing McNamara’s Band.

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St. Patrick, Dublin Castle

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chicken Chat - Composting

Our compost pile is not all that organized. I tried once but the chickens had other ideas. We now have a willy nilly system of adding to it frequently, chickens scratching through it everyday, me raking everything back into a semblance of a pile once or twice a week, and them promptly going through it again. Somehow with all the scratching and piling things breakdown and we end up with beautiful dark soil to add to the garden areas.

We throw anything that will breakdown in the pile. Kitchen scraps, coffee, weeds, grass clippings, and leaves. I was worried at first about putting onions and garlic out there, because I had heard they would make the eggs taste funny. However, we have never had an issue. I don’t think they eat them. An onion will roll out now and then and they don’t give it a second look. I also put eggshells in there but I crush them first at least to the point they don’t look like eggs anymore. They eat the shell bits for extra calcium.

Some people say their pile smells, I can’t say ours does. Sometimes on the really hot steamy days there is an aroma, that’s an indication perhaps that it is too wet or humid and this is when I will throw in some dry ingredients such as dead leaves. It’s just like controlling the aroma in the chicken run. If it fairly clean but smells there’s too much humidity, add some shavings. I will talk about the deep litter method for the covered chicken run another day. Aeration, breakdown by chicken, and lots of good bugs seem to work for us.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wandering Wednesday – Rome – The Depths of the Coliseum

Every once in a while they open the bottom floor and the top floor of the Coliseum to small escorted tours. You have to call ahead and reserve, and there’s a big chance they will close it without notice. Last time we were in Rome we got to go on the one english tour of the day. It was quite an experience. We’ll start at the bottom and end at the top.

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From what I can find, the tour is not running at this time due to flooding during the winter. The water gets into the cracks and crevices and they need to stabilize the area before they let people in again. It is this way with a lot of the treasures of Ancient Rome. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t always have the money or the ambition to save and protect them. I hope you’ve enjoyed our Wandering Wednesday today :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

New England Weather

The old saying goes “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute, it will change”. The weather was spring like today, even for here. The stiff spring “sea breeze” was blowing and while it was almost 70 degrees on the mainland, here it got to the upper 50s or so. It will go that way, with the mainland days warming up and the island cool, until June or so when the water warms up a bit. The ocean is the great regulator.

They say tonight and tomorrow morning we may get snow flurries or maybe rain and maybe some “lake effect” snow Saturday morning. It will be 50 on Saturday afternoon. So…if you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute. If you do, enjoy it while you can.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken Chat – It’s Spring!

Well not quite officially, but after the full worm moon we are in the home stretch right? Doris started laying again Tuesday. Yes Doris, our big ole Coronation Sussex. She not an everyday layer. But, once she starts after a break it’s at least an every other or third day occurrence. So this leaves Nike, the low chicken on the totem pole, the only girl not laying.

Aphrodite doesn’t like sharing the nest box. Husband said there was a lot of yelling Tuesday where she was trying to kick everyone out of the house. She waited so long that I guess she just couldn’t hold it anymore. I found it on the back steps, still warm, shortly after Husband let them out of the run. Hopefully she will learn to share, or at least lay when someone else is in the house. We have one box that’s two chickens wide. The other girls don’t have issue sharing.

Though things seem to be warming up, the other night was a bit chilly so I threw the girls some cracked corn on the patio before bed. This is a special treat. Corn is like candy to them, all carbs no nutritional value. The theory is that their bodies will stay warmer while they are digesting the corn overnight. It may be true or not, but I feel better sometimes throwing them a hand full. It was a feeding frenzy and everyone was going for the best best pieces. Nike was just trying to get some and stay out of the way at the same time. You may see a lot of paraphernalia in the background on the patio. I had to take some things, like the lawnmower, out of the basement for the big clean and they were still hanging out outside.

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P1030971 Watch out Nike!

P1030972 Whew that was close! Aphrodite saw that.

P1030974 Doris, your such a meany sometimes.

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Update on the basement situation. The “gifts” I left out were all moved the next day, they haven’t moved since nor have I seen any “evidence”. I went through Wednesday afternoon armed with a can of expanding foam insulation and plugged all the holes I could find, even if they were teeny tiny. Hopefully, this will be an end to any unwelcome visitors. 

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