|Our Broody Speckled Sussex|
When we first gave chicks to our two broody hens, Lynda from the Wisdom of the Radish and author of a book with the same name asked us about the acceptance.
“Did they accept them? I once had hens “accept” new chicks only to, a few days later, decide they weren’t right and kill them all… it was so sad. Don’t mean to scare you, but be careful!”
Well, we’ve had the chicks here for a few weeks now and the results are mixed. We gave each hen two chicks each. We then locked our Speckled Sussex hen in a brooder with her chicks for a few days and then allowing her to roam the kid stall during the day with her chicks. Our Black Australorp we kept in the coop. After we were sure the hens and chicks were imprinted on each other we moved the Australorp in with the Sussex. When the chicks were big enough they all got to hang out with everyone else.
Pretty early on we noticed that while she was going through the motions of motherhood, the Sussex wasn’t that great at it. She wasn’t protective and had a tendency to wander away from them – not paying them any mind. The Australorp was the exact opposite being super protective and a doting mother – attacking even the goats if they get too close to her chicks. The Sussex ended up losing one of her chicks and after that it all went down hill and a few days ago she completely abandoned her remaining chick.
But all is not lost!
The Australorp adopted the abandoned chick and is now raising it as hers. We now know that the Speckled isn’t a good mother (though she is a very determined egg hatcher), while the Australorp is a phenomenal one. Hopefully she’ll get broody again so she can raise more chicks for us.
Coffee. I can’t be functional without it. I hate to say that, but I must admit I have an addiction. My husband, Tom, and I took on a challenge to not buy food at the grocery store or restaurants for a year. That also meant no more chain coffee shops. I had to find an alternative.
When Tom and I were in the UK on our honeymoon one of the things that struck me was just how good the coffee was at all the Bed & Breakfasts we stayed at. It wasn’t bitter like the coffee you get here. It was smooth and nutty with hints of caramel. When we got back home I was all of a sudden extremely disappointed in my options. So I started doing research on how I could possibly recapture that flavor here while also avoiding the grocery store and chain coffee shops. While I haven’t reached the exact flavor I have come pretty close by roasting my own coffee. I can get the green beans from a specialty store (which still follows our no groceries rule).
I researched coffee roasters. They aren’t cheap and from reviews it seems that most of them are very short lived. Then I found out that you can roast coffee in an air popcorn popper. Yep, that’s right, an air popcorn popper. We have an old one, that has, well, seen better days as you can see. It’s also probably 20 years old, back when they made things to last. The bright yellow plastic has now turned brown from heavy use. But so far it’s been going strong for nearly a year.
The one thing you have to make sure when buying an air popcorn popper to roast beans is that it rotates when heating because you want the beans constantly moving. With newer poppers you’ll probably burn it out in about 6 months with regular use so I always stick with buying them at thrift stores where they are a dime a dozen. Another option is you use a stovetop popcorn popper. If ours burns up we’ll probably just switch to that style.
You can get beans online from different retailers or from some homebrewing retailers. I recommend getting a sampler pack for your first time. The number of varieties of beans is mind boggling and they all taste different – sometimes drastically different. So find a place that offers 1lb samplers. There’s nothing worse than buying a 5lb bag of beans only to learn that you can’t stand the taste of it.
Roast coffee outside, seriously. Why roast outside? Because it is incredibly smokey and the popper blows the chaff from the beans all over the place. I try to catch as many as I can in the metal colander but it can only do so much. The photos were taken on my stove under the hood because it was too cold that day. My popper takes extra long to roast coffee if it’s cold out, so it’s faster and easier to roast under the hood and then clean up the chaff afterward. Not to mention it also helps save the wear and tear on my poor old popper.
What you will need:
Green coffee beans
Air popcorn popper
Metal colander preferably one with a wire bottom but I don’t have one of those so I just use this one
Pot holders if the popper gets hot
A box fan set on it’s back face so that the air is blowing up. I put mine on a metal patio table that has a perforated top.
How you do it:
1. Depending on the size of your popper put about 1 cup of green beans in it. The beans should just reach the top of the rotating “drum” inside the popper. Turn on popper. Never ever leave the popper unattended. It gets really hot and can very easily catch on fire. Don’t let this scare you though. As long as you are attentive you shouldn’t have an issue.
2. The beans will begin to make a popping sound. This is called the “First Crack.”
3. You will notice that the popping sound slows and stops for a little bit. When it starts to pop again this is the “Second Crack.” You will notice that this popping has a slightly different sound than the first crack. This is when you need to really pay attention. At this point it’s called a “City Roast.” I prefer to roast 30 seconds into the second crack. You can roast it all the way to an Espresso roast but it will change the flavor. I find the lighter roast helps keep away the bitterness. It takes us about 8 minutes to roast the coffee from star to finish. It will probably vary depending on your popper. The longer you roast you’ll also notice the beans become shiny. This is because the cracking sound is caused by the beans creating fissures that release the oils from inside the bean.
4. Unplug the popper and with the pot holders carefully, but quickly, pour the beans into the colander. Be careful! The beans are around 450 deg F.
5. Put the colander on the fan and swirl beans. You want to cool them off as quickly as possible, otherwise they will keep roasting.
6. You will notice now that the beans have expanded about 50%. Put them in an unsealed jar and let them sit overnight to rest. This allows them to release built up gases.
7. Only grind your beans right before you use them. You spent all this time roasting them you don’t want to ruin it by grinding them ahead of time.
Viola! You now have your own home roasted coffee. Enjoy it!
Have you heard of the Perennial Plate yet? Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine are touring the country to find stories of sustainable food. This episode is when they came to visit the SF Bay Area and they spent a bit of time at Pluck and Feather. I look forward to next week’s episode featuring Hank Shaw.
It’s Watermelon season so I figured now is a great time to teach you how to pick the perfect watermelon whether it’s at the store, farmers’ market or in your own backyard. Most people just grab one out of the bin and hope for the best. But nothing can be more disappointing than a lackluster watermelon on a hot summer day. I’ve perfected my watermelon picking skills and have rarely ever been disappointed.
|Nice Yellow Spot|
Picking a watermelon should not be based on smell like with other types of melons. Let’s face it, they just don’t smell all that much. Instead you want to use sight and touch to pick the perfect watermelon. First you want to find a melon that has distinct markings and a yellow spot. This is the most important part. The spot shouldn’t be cream. It doesn’t have to be a dark or bright yellow, but it needs to be distinctly yellow. Next you want to pick up your watermelon. You want it to be a lot heavier than it looks. Those are the most important traits for a sweet, ripe watermelon. You can also give it a slap and if it makes a “thunk” sound it’s good, but this is a minor characteristic of a ripe watermelon and shouldn’t be solely relied upon as unripe melons can also make the “thunk” sound.
|Our female dog spazzing out with the sprinkler|
No, I’m not going to talk about my nutso dog.
Instead I’m going to share my experience at the Oakland Urban Ag meeting last night. I’m not going to be nice for once and I’m definitely going to call shit out, so consider yourself warned. And for the record, I’m now allowing anonymous comments, though they are moderated so if you’re going to be shitty, I’ll read them, I may post them, I may even respond to them, but I won’t make any guarantees.
Let the crazy begin.
Surprisingly it wasn’t that bad, but the parts that were bad were REALLY bad. OK, more like REALLY entertaining with a strong dose of offensive.
The more well-known animal rights activists that we knew would be there were easy to spot because they all sat in the front row together. They were all dressed very nicely, even professionally. The main group didn’t shout anyone down and seemed rather engaging – though I personally didn’t chat with them, Kitty did have a conversation with one of them that appeared to be very civil.
On the periphery, however, things were quite different. One woman, I didn’t catch her name, was probably one of the most offensive people I’ve ever had the unfortunate circumstance to stand next to. First, she brought this poor rabbit with her. The room was packed and noisy and stressful for even me. I can’t imagine bringing an animal with me, let along a rabbit that is wired to be predated by everything. She clearly brought that poor animal to use for her own personal agenda. Flat out it shouldn’t have been there.
The rabbit was a small lop that had obviously been handled quite a bit. It was supposedly from a recent “meat” rabbit seizure in Oakland. I use the quotes because I’m not convinced it was raised for meat due to the circumstances surrounding the seizure, the breed of rabbit and also by what this woman had to say. It was so over the top and offensive that it’s hard to take her word on anything.
She had two arguments.
She said to put the words “Golden Retriever” in front of any statement we make about eating any type of animal. First off, I’m not particularly fond of Golden Retrievers and all I could think of was “that would make me vomit up a hairball that would put my cats to shame.” That said, I don’t have any issue with people eating a Golden Retriever or any other breed of dog as long as it’s humanely raised and slaughtered. I personally wouldn’t eat a dog, or a horse, or a cat, or a… because it wasn’t part of the culture I grew up in, but if someone was raised with that, knock yourself the fuck out. As long as it’s humane of course.
Her other argument? Apparently Glen Close in Fatal Attraction boiled a pet rabbit alive. I haven’t seen the movie so forgive me. Well, this woman then goes on to say that those of us that raise rabbits for meat also boil bunnies alive. I’m going to let you sit with that for a bit.
Is this woman for real? So because of this ridiculous and incredibly offensive statement I totally rolled my eyes which then brought on another woman to start yelling at me for rolling my eyes. Wow. Just. Wow. I did get a good laugh about it later telling other rabbit raising friends though.
It wasn’t until later though that she really made me angry. She went up to a woman she didn’t even know and told her “You need to lose weight, you eat too many rabbits.” Then when the woman said that was offensive she said “Stop harassing me or I’m going to call the cops.” Oh, she is lucky she didn’t say that to me. I probably would have decked her. Or at least said “I’ve recently lost 20 lbs because I started eating rabbits (which is true by the way).” Yeah, that’s probably what I would have done just to see the look of horror on her face.
My favorite part though was the woman with balls big enough to stand next to my monster-of-a-man husband and say “slaughtering animals makes people violent” and then when he asked her to say that again she repeated it! Good for her! But wait…he slaughters animals. If slaughtering animals made people violent shouldn’t she be scared of him becoming violent? I’m confused.
There were of course other confrontations between animal activists and other urban farmers, but those are their stories to tell.
The city did a really good job of keeping it neutral and I applaud them for that. I hope regulations that are fair for everyone are created.
One important thing I did learn though…we need to make some damn t shirts with our logo on them!
I’m one of those poor souls that has to put up with both acne AND wrinkles. I swear, once I turned 30 my skin decided to get back at me for all the years that it was rather normal. So I went through all of the different brands. I think ProActive was the only one I didn’t use. I ended on Philosophy. Their basic products made my skin worse than it had ever been. It turned me into a glistening ball of oil and I got a new breakout every day. Everyone kept telling me how wonderful it was so I tried changing to another line they carried. The results were….meh. Too dry, my skin started to look chapped. The moisturizer wasn’t enough to make my skin look healthy again.
Then I started getting into all the alternative homemade personal care products. The baking soda shampoo and apple cider vinegar conditioner were the beginning. Then I learned how to make cold-process soup with Maya from Soul Flower Farm. There went the commercial body washes. Another batch got made with our farm-helper Brandy during a meetup. We definitely have enough soap to last us awhile.
But I still needed something for my face. The cold-process soaps that I had seemed a bit harsh for my face so I wanted something different. On a whim I stopped by a soapmaker’s booth at the farmers’ market. I got to talking to her and ended up purchasing two goats’ milk and oatmeal bars.
But I needed a moisturizer. I had heard that coconut oil was really good for your skin. We have a bucket of food grade virgin coconut oil so I decided to give it a try. You can also get non-food grade coconut oil, but I’m hesitant to use it not knowing if hexane was used to extract the oil or not. With the food grade virgin oil, it’s cold pressed and not refined or exposed to any heat.
I knew caffeine was good to reduce redness and I wanted to add some oatmeal as well. I put a tablespoon of fresh roasted coffee and 2 tablespoons oatmeal and put them through the coffee grinder until they were a fine grind. It was a hot day so the oil was already melted (coconut oil is normally a solid fat with a melting temperature of 72 deg. F). I put the coffee and oatmeal in a cheesecloth bag and steeped in the oil for 10 minutes. I squeezed as much oil out of the bag as possible and threw it out.
I immediately noticed a difference. My skin is so soft and supple and it seemed to be clearing up. I haven’t gone a whole month yet using this new program, but so far I’m totally impressed with how my skin is responding to these two relatively simple products. I can’t say it will for everyone but it’s definitely worth a try.
With the vast majority of Americans eating meat, sometimes you have to wonder why this statement is controversial. But it is. For some Americans, a very small minority of Americans, meat to them is akin to murder. They are incredibly loud. Any news article I read there’s always the same ones commenting about how people should give up animal products completely – how unnatural they are or unhealthy or damaging to environment.
I suppose eating hormone injected, antibiotic dependent animal products is unnatural and certainly unhealthy. Americans eat way too much factory farmed meat, dairy and eggs which isn’t healthy, that’s obvious, but eating small to moderate amounts of pastured, organically raised (not necessarily certified organic) animal products can be healthy and it’s completely natural (just look at our physiology and it’s apparent that we are designed to be omnivores). Flexitarians, those that eat mostly a plant based diet with small amounts of pastured, humanely raised animal products, are considered just as healthy as vegetarians.
I would consider myself a Flexitarian now. We eat very little meat compared to before we started our year without groceries. This is because we now raise nearly all of our own meat. When you raise your own, especially on an urban lot, you come to appreciate the animal more and in the end eating a lot less of it. We can only produce so much meat at any given time and being one that never buys something I can’t make/grow/raise myself, it’s greatly reduced the amount of meat we consume.
We raise meat animals, not to save money, but to know where the meat comes from, how it was raised and how it died. I have first hand knowledge of the care and respect that animal received.That said, I will say that slaughtering animals is not easy – nor should it ever be easy. It’s hard and afterwards I want to avoid meat for a few days, and usually I do.
So why don’t I give up meat if it’s so difficult? Maybe the same reason why humans have such a difficult time giving up sex. Two of the most basic biological needs – eating and reproduction drive us all. I’m not about to give up either because I don’t see either as inherently evil.
Every living organism dies. Every living organism dies to feed another living organism. It’s the circle of life. I don’t view my life any differently than that of any other animal other than, except for that whole technology thing. “But we have logic and critical thinking!” they exclaim. How do we know that other animals don’t also have that? Have you ever clicker trained a dog? I’m not going to force my carnivorous animals to be vegetarian because that’s not what they are biologically adapted to eating any more than my goats are to eating a steak.
I eat meat because I’m not going to deny myself the evolutionary role we have in the food chain. I stopped eating processed food because I wanted to get back to what us humans should eat and are designed to eat – and that includes meat.