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My Peeps... or the Chicks with the Chocolate Eggs

Im egg-cited! I am now the owner of 6 chicks!
The four larger ones are Cuckoo Marans and they will lay a light chocolate colored egg. They are pullets which means they are supposed to be all hens.  The little black one is an Australorpe renegade that showed up in a batch of Delawares (the little yellow one). I bought the Marans for $16, or $4 each, and the other two were $5 for the two. The Delaware wasn't one I wanted but I needed a buddy for the Australorpe~ that I REALLY wanted. Australorp's lay large, light-brown eggs, and have a reputation for reliable egg laying, and friendliness.
Next week I will go to Milton-Freewater, Oregon for a flock of strait run (boys and girls) Black Copper Marans. They will lay a dark chocolate colored egg. Well, the hens will, the roosters will go in the freezer. (I might keep one rooster so I can make babies though....)
The light keeps them warm. Each week the light is raised higher to lower the temp a bit, as they are able to keep their body heat. that's why the little ones (which are younger than the big ones) are up closer to the bulb.
I showed the dogs what was in the tub. Mollie was apprehensive, but jumped into the tub to get a closer look while I wasn't looking. After I fished her out she kept hiding behind me. She has taken to whining when I am in the bathroom without her. George wanted a closer look, but not so bad that he jumped in. They are curious. I really hope they can get along. I just really want to let the chickens in the yard during the day. Sigh....Just a nice picture in my head....Especially, since I am going to have so many! (So much for starting small...)
So, yes, we have no chicken coop, but we have chicks!Cheep, Cheep Cheep!

PS I think I want a duck.....


Chicken Season?

Who knew there was a season for chicken? Well tis the season! Our local feed stores are advertising that they have baby chicks! So hubby and I went to see the chicks at our favorite store..... But they were sold out. Bummer. I even had him talked into having chickens...that day....
CHICKEN CROSSING Sign xing signs rancher farmer gift.
Although I knew I wanted chickens and hubby seemed to be on board....mostly...I haven't yet figured out how to do it. I guess getting some chicks will force me to figure it out. And how that spring is here, well I guess its the season to try! Good thing I have the books for that...

Canning VS Freezing: It's a Tie

When it comes to how to keep food so it is safe and convenient most Americans will opt for a trip tot he grocery store for a prepackaged mix of  "food" that is highly processed, laden with chemicals, and fat, and tragically lacking in nutrition. For many people ignorance is bliss, but for others the knowledge of what they are doing to their body leads them on to find better ways to feed and nurture themselves and their families. Many budgets won't allow for this expensive grocery store option either. What to do? There are a few options out there to to both provide for your families future and have fast convenient food ready to go for those times you just don't have the time or energy to spend cooking meals.

 My journey to find a better way has led me to a few options.  A couple years ago we got a freezer. A big freezer. Against my better judgment we bought a huge chest freezer. I promptly loaded it up with boxes and bags of food from Costco. We made freezer jam and added it to the stash. (Heaven on earth! If you've never had freezer jam, find your nearest Mormon and ask her to make you some!) We bought lots of meat too. Frozen juice went in. A few (unlabeled) leftovers went in. (not a good idea).
But just like I had feared the chest freezer design made it impossible to find what I needed before frostbite set into my fingers. Sometimes it didn't get shut all the way and the frost began to build up. Finally I located the knob that would turn it down of off and I turned it off to get rid of the frost. I figured it would take a loooooong time to thaw all that frozen stuff in that insulated freezer. Wrong. It was all soft by the third day. So I hacked at the frost (which was only slightly softer) until I could properly close the freezer and promptly turned it back up to refreeze everything.
This experience got me thinking though. What if we had an ice storm or other storm that took out our power for a few days? Doesn't seem so unlikely these days....
Enter canning... I have been experimenting with my mother's old canner the last couple years. I canned peaches, pears, apple pie filling, and lately salsa and beans. We have been including more beans in our diet the last five years or so, especially refried beans. Over the last several months I have been using more black beans. We love chili with beans (with or without meat) over Fritos! The peaches were mushy, the pears were good, the apple pie filling was good but not often used, the salsa was not good, and the beans have been used regularly. I found that the beans did not have to soak before canning them. Hurray!I also found that if you put too many beans in the jar you end up with soft mushy beans at the bottom ~ like refried beans! But the beans usually end up perfectly cooked and not salty! I put some garlic, onions and spices into some of the jars. Turned out great!
Last night, I made a big batch of spaghetti sauce, cooked up a bunch of ground meat and stew meat, and packed some raw pork into pint jars. Unfortunately, my mom's elderly canner turned in her notice. I burned my finger a bit on the steam when it wouldn't seal and I said no more! Time for a new canner. (I'd been thinking I needed one anyway.) I borrowed a canner from a canner extraordinaire and got at least one batch done last night. As I type my second batch is jiggling away.
What has worked the best and proved most useful?
Well the biggest hit of the list was freezer jam. My kids are already worrying because they can see that we are almost out. After one year they can't seem to handle a future without freezer jam.
The beans all ready to go and without worry about salt and chemicals, has also been extremely useful. Besides eating less meat, I love having beans ready to throw into salsas, salads, burritos, soups and all kinds of new things I hadn't thought of before. I love black beans and so does my picky boy! Now I'm excited to have spaghetti sauce ready to open. We tried it for dinner before I put it in bottles and almost everyone really liked it. It will be used for spaghetti, and lasagna.We don't eat alot of spaghetti at our house because hubby can't handle the tomato at dinner time, but when he's not eating it will be a quick fast meal that almost everyone likes.
The conclusion is that I think I don't need this huge freezer and that canning regularly would be a more useful method for having healthy, precooked, easy to fix meals on my pantry shelf. My freezer will still have its uses, for freezer jam, bread, frozen juice, and other miscellaneous tidbits, but I think I'm going to sell the treasure chest that wasn't such a treasure after all. The canner would have been much cheaper!

Here's some of the places I've found inspiration
safely gathered in
Old School Self Reliance 101

Now time to clean up....:-(

PS I think I will do some posts on my different adventures with freezing and canning.....


Breakfast Burritos in the Freezer

I found a great idea on The Simple Dollar for making breakfast burritos that can become a quick, cheap and nutritious breakfast for those who never have enough time in the morning for breakfast. (Those like me who are not morning people.) My kids are forever skipping breakfast and even lunch even though all it takes is grabbing something off the shelf. These burritos have a good protein boost for jump starting sluggish brains!
This combination of eggs, black beans and salsa appealed to me, but I could see that it might cause a revolt at my house if it was the only option. So I also cooked some cubed hash browns and chopped some bacon for half of them.
I broke 24 eggs and mixed in a little reconstituted dry milk, (What! I was almost out of milk....) and a dash of chili powder. After a quick whisk I dumped it all in my largest pan to scramble. I decided to keep the rest of the ingredients seperate for customizing later. I also cooked about 16 oz of Southern Style Hashbrowns (cubed rather than shredded). I found that by putting three tortillas on a plate with a small plate upside down on top for 30 seconds in the microwave made the tortillas nice and warm for manipulating. I opened some black beans that I canned in January, (Yikes! I need to do some more!) a bottle of homemade canned salsa, and shredded about one pound of cheese and got ready to roll.
Now I am not that good at rolling burritos because I always over stuff them. But I followed the method on the website and found that it worked better. (I still have to work on over stuffing them though.) I found that having them warm enabled them to stretch a bit and hold their shape better on the cookie sheets. I made 20 with the beans and salsa and then mixed the hash browns into the remaining eggs with the chopped bacon, stirred it up and made 12 more. I ate one that had split open.  So I now have 31 breakfast burritos! I figure each burrito is about 250 calories.
It was a bit bland so next time I will work on adding more flavor ~ maybe make a white sauce to give it some goeyness and fat to balance the protein or use refried black beans. I only used a pinch of cheese, but I think I'll be more generous next time and maybe mix it in while the eggs are warm so it melts just a bit.  I packaged them up with a paper towel wrapped around each one nestled in a baggie. They fit perfectly in the little snack baggies that I bought but no one uses. :) Why the paper towel? The Simple Dollar instructs that the burritos be nuked for two minutes on defrost and then warmed up for about 1 1/2 minutes all wrapped in a paper towel to keep it from drying out. It will also make a nice drip absorber. I like that idea.
Maybe next time I will make them into quesadilla's instead since I like more stuffing and less tortilla.
But that's just me.....

Of course, I won't make them again if they just sit in the freezer for lack of flashy packaging. Hump!/:(
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