I Dig Chicks!

I’m considering getting a few chickens. They’re interesting, strangely beautiful creatures. Fresh eggs would be a nice bonus. I haven’t committed to chicken keeping yet because I worry about finding someone to care for them on the rare occasion that I go on vacation. It seems like too large a favor to ask of friends and family. “Hey, do you mind checking in on my chickens while I’m away?” I doubt that rewarding them with all the eggs they can eat will be incentive enough.

Part of the reason I want chickens is because I love the wide variety of clever and stylish chicken housing that is available. Have you seen those wire egg baskets? They are too-die-for! Okay, I’ll just say it; I’m kooky over chicken paraphernalia. However, I draw the line at chicken diapers. Yes, there really is such a thing. They come in various colors and patterns and are for indoor chickens. Indoor chickens?

Another curious product is the chicken saddle. Imagine making a surprise visit to your chicken and catching her romping through the woods with a field mouse in the saddle. Embarrassing. From what I understand, these saddles are “wigs” for balding chickens. They also protect chicken wounds. And, sometimes, the purpose of the saddle is purely for decoration… poultry bling.

I first became interested in chickens when I learned about Martha Stewart’s fancy chickens and their fancy eggs, the colors of which became the inspiration for a popular line of Martha Stewart paint. Who says there’s no money in chicken eggs? Leave it to Martha. I bet she doesn’t have a problem finding chicken sitters.

Do you know…
It is safe to send one-day old chicks through the mail. In fact, this is the only time it is safe. Right before they hatch, they absorb the last of the yolk. This sustains them for as many as three days. You will thank me for this fascinating tidbit the next time you struggle for small talk at a party.

Got Poo?

I gave my pansies a little treat today – horse manure. Flowers love the stuff! Unbelievably, composted (dried and cured) horse manure does not have an odor. I meant to feed the pansies a few weeks ago but never got around to it. It’s not as if it’s difficult to do. Just sprinkle a few handfuls of horse poo on the flowers, water it in, and wait for it to do it’s magic. I expect them to look fabulous around the first week of February.

I am fortunate to have friends who own horses and love to give me sh*t. Er… well, you know what I’m trying to say. It’s important to use only fully composted manure. The fresh stuff is too strong and burns young plants. Not only that, it’s messy and it stinks. Think of horse manure as a fine wine. It gets better with age.

Another thing I like to do is make horse manure tea. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Before you rush to my house with a tall glass of ice, let me tell you that manure tea is not for human consumption. If someone tells you that it is, he/she is not your friend and you should never speak to this person again. I mean, really! You should also try not to recall other “good advice” this friend gave you. It will only humiliate and sadden you.

Where was I? Oh yes, manure tea. I use manure tea for my houseplants. It’s not as messy, or as unsightly, as the stuff straight from the bucket. To make the manure tea, I fill a muslin bag with composted horse manure and soak it in a watering can for a few days. When the water resembles weak tea, it’s ready to use. It’s like a power shake for plants. Try it! Your plants will show you how much they love you by providing you with beautiful blooms and lush foliage.

Crazy Easy Homemade Butter

Making homemade butter is a lot easier than you might think. All you need is a jar with a lid, heavy whipping cream, salt, and a little patience. Pour one pint of heavy whipping cream into the jar and add ½ tsp. of salt. Put the lid on the jar and shake, shake, shake. Continue to shake the jar for 30 minutes or so.

I know what you’re thinking.
There must be a better way!

There is a better way! While the shake-a-jar method is a great activity for hyperactive children or people with too much time on their hands, it’s far too grueling.

An easier method is to use a stand mixer, hand mixer, food processor, or a blender. Unless you don’t have electricity, I suggest using one of these appliances. The entire process will take 10-15 minutes.

Pour one pint of heavy whipping cream and ½ tsp. of salt into the mixer and run it on high. First, it will become whipped cream. After about three minutes, the butter will break (clump). Continue to mix until the butterfat forms larger clumps. Pour the liquid from the butterfat. This liquid is buttermilk. You can save it and use it for baking. It makes great pancakes! Now, pour a little ice water into the butter and buttermilk mixture and mix it for about 30 seconds. Doing this will “clean” the butter and keep it from going sour. Then, dump the water. Repeat this process until the water is almost clear. You can skip the ice water washing if you plan to use the butter immediately. Knead the last of the water from the butter by hand. Don’t be a piggy. Please wash your hands first.

That’s it. You now have creamy, dreamy, homemade butter, not to mention soft hands.

For my friends who prefer photos…