Garden View

Garden View
Hello and Welcome! I decided to start this blog for everyone out there who has an interest, or WANTS to be interested, in living a life that is a little more sustainable. I am still learning, and invite you to follow this blog to learn along with me. I will share what I have learned as we go, and hopefully you will pitch in and share what YOU are doing to live a little more off of what you can grow and DO from home. PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say, if I can learn how to do this on a very small backyard plot in a city, then ANYONE can do this!!

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Several Simple Steps to Satisfy Your Chilly Flock

We are having some more chilly temperatures with lows in the single digits (below zero with the wind chill) and highs in the 20's.  Obviously, not everyone is excited about that........



On these cold days, I make sure that the girls have some fresh hay to scratch around in (no straw since the bunny lives with them and it can poke his sweet little eyeballs) with some high protein snack mix hidden in it for some added entertainment.  The hay also gives them something to stand on besides the cold snow.  Chickens love to scratch and they make short work of a flake of hay inside the run!

Here is an example of what is in their winter snack mix (that the bunny also loves to eat too).  This varies in quantities every time I mix it.  A little of this, a little of that:

Cracked corn
Rolled Oats (not the instant kind)
Mealworms
Flaxseed meal (for added Omega 3=more nutritious eggs for us)!
Black Oil Sunflower seeds
Variety Nut mix-peanuts, sunflowers, pistachios,etc (I found this at Wal-Mart in the bird seed section for $9 for a 5lb bag!)
*HINT:  Check with your local farm and/or bird/pet supply stores and ask what they do with their damaged bags of the above items.  You just might score a sweet deal!

Of course our critters always have their regular feed, oyster shell, grit and fresh water available at all times as well.  I try to feed them the treats in the late afternoon/evening before they go to bed, as this raises their body temperature a bit while they digest the high protein content and helps to keep everyone warmer as they snuggle up on the roost at night.  They will also get the occasional bowl of cooked, warm oatmeal as a nice treat on a frigid day, much like today.  Even Odice partakes in this belly (or crop)-warming delight!  Keep your Critters warm and Carry On!










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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It's a White Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!  What a wonderful site it was leaving a lovely candlelight Christmas Eve church service last night to find that there was beautiful sparkling snow falling down!  The snow continued through the night as the children scrambled to get things ready for Santa; yes, including sprinkling some reindeer food outside (oatmeal and crushed candy canes).  We woke up to a chilly but beautiful site this morning with about 2" of glittery, beautiful snow!  We did not have much moisture this last year (like everyone else) and have not had hardly any snow yet this winter, so I welcome the sight! 

The girls always softly hum to me from their coop when they hear me walk out to the let the dogs into the dog run in the morning, and this morning was no exception.  They don't get up and come out to greet me-just politely say hello in their own way!  It's funny how much laughter and sweetness just four chickens and a large bunny have brought to our lives!

The gate was opened this morning and the girls were allowed to roam if they wanted; only two took us up on the offer (George and Red).  Oh, and Odice-of course! 



My husband opened the back door and George hopped right inside!  These chickens just know what they want, I guess.  Maybe they are just admiring my Christmas present of new Garden Wellies with chickens all over them!

I hope you enjoy the day today-whether it is with family or otherwise.  Bask in the HOPE that the meaning of Christmas brings with the birth of Jesus Christ!

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Friday, December 14, 2012

How to bake delicious works of art: Springerle Cookies

SPRINGERLE COOKIES: ALMOST TOO PRETTY TO EAT!


Need a 14th century cookie for your cookie swap?  OK, this isn't about an actual cookie that is that old, but the technique that is.  Springerle (spring-uhr-lee) are credited as German, dense, cake-like cookies and are made by pressing a specialized cookie mold into the dough, typically carved with beautiful detail.  The printed cookies are allowed to dry to preserve the image before baking and, after they are cooked, will keep for months and actually improve with age.



HISTORY OF THE COOKIE THAT IS ALMOST TOO PRETTY TO EAT:

Scenes from the Bible were some of the earliest images portrayed on the springerle molds hand carved into wood and were also used to educate those who couldn't read or write. Eventually, other scenes were carved and the cookies soon reflected images of holidays, events, and scenes from day-to-day life. The cookies were also used to celebrate births, weddings, and used as betrothal tokens. Exchanging springerle during the holidays was a common practice very much like we exchange cards today.

I fell in love with these beautiful and tasty works of art a few years ago when they were featured in a special cookie edition of Martha Stewart magazine.  I immediately went to www.houseonthehill.net and browsed their wonderful catalog of cookie molds.  I purchased two Christmas themed molds and anxiously twiddled my thumbs until the package arrived.  I couldn't wait to get started!

MY RECIPE TIPS:

  • I found that following this recipe that was included with my first cookie molds, really does work to perfection! I didn't use Hartshorn (bakers ammonia/substitute for baking powder) the first year and my cookies did not turn anywhere near as good as when I did use it. I couldn't find any at local stores in my area, so I ordered some online the next time I bought more cookie molds. I highly recommend using it!

  • Purchase flavoring OILS, not extract as the flavor will not shine though as well. Natural grocery stores are good places to find them.

  • DO dry the cookies before baking them. This preserves the image. Why go to all the effort of making them not to have the image turn out as clear as possible? Depending on your humidity, etc, you will need to dry your printed dough for 2-24 hrs.

  • Lastly, make sure you bake a 'test cookie' in your oven before putting the full pan in. You may need to adjust the temperature, add another pan on the bottom rack, or prop the oven door open to wick off heat so your cookies don't over puff/ tilt/ crack.
 

IMPRINTING COOKIES:

Roll dough 3/8" to 1/2" thick (deeper molds need a thicker dough). Brush your mold with flour (for cookies) or confectioners sugar (for candy) on the mold to prevent sticking. Press the mold evenly onto the dough and lift off. To prevent distorting your image, cut each cookie after pressing rather than printing another one alongside it (press-cut, press-cut).
 
Kitchen tools you will need on hand:
  • Rolling pin
  • Pastry cutter (having this makes it much quicker and precise to cut
  • Cookie Mold/Press or Rolling Pin (for Springerle's)      Springerle Rolling Pin
  • Knife or similar tool to lift cookies after pressing
  • Parchment Paper
  • Cookie pans

Perfection Springerle Cookies Recipe (houseonthehill.net)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Hartshorn or baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 6 cups powdered sugar (1 1/2 #)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of anise oil (if substituting fruit flavored oils, use 3 teaspoons)
  • 2 lb. box sifted cake flour (Swansdown or Softasilk)
  • Grated rind of orange or lemon – optional (enhances flavor of the traditional anise or the citrus flavors)
  • Additional flour as needed 

    1. Dissolve hartshorn in milk and set aside.
    2. Beat eggs till thick and lemon-colored (10-20 minutes).
    3. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the softened butter.
    4. Add the hartshorn and milk, salt, preferred flavoring, and grated rind of lemon or orange, if desired. Gradually beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer, then stir in the remainder of the 2 lbs. of flour to make stiff dough.
    5. Turn onto floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a good print without sticking.
    6. Imprint and dry cookies.
    7. Bake on greased or baker’s parchment-lined cookie sheets at 255° to 325° (oven temp will vary depending on your altitude, oven and cookie depth) till barely golden on the bottom, 10-15 minutes or more, depending on size of cookie.
    Store in airtight containers or in zipper bags in the freezer. They keep for months, and improve with age. Yields 3 to 12 dozen.
      
    You can also use Springerle molds to make paper casted/painted ornaments, decorations and crafts. There are other cookies that you can use with them too; such as Gingerbread, Fondant, and many other wonderful recipes that will not only be delicious, but so pretty you will ALMOST be hesitant to eat them!


    Click here to view a video on how to bake Springerle cookieswww.backyardhomesteadadventure.blogspot.com

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    Sunnier Day Stations

    The weather was beautiful yesterday so the critters  had some "kick up your heels" time in the backyard.  Everybody found time for:
    
    
    The LOUNGING IN THE SUN station

    
    
    The WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT station

    
    
    The PREENING station
    EXCUSE ME!  Coming thru!

    
    
    The FORAGING station
     
     
    The WHERE'S MY SNACK station

    The OTHER LOUNGING IN THE SUN station

    

    Here's to hoping you can Kick Up Your Heels a bit today!

    
    


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    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Quick Breed Profile: Blue Andalusian

    
    
    Fresh From Home
    Just checking in!
    Bandit loves checking on us inside; I hope she approves of what we are up to!  Blue Andalusian hens are very expressive, sweet and docile.  She can be a bit flighty simply because she is a lighter build than our heavier breeds (like the Barred Rock).  She currently has Vaseline on her comb and wattles since we are having a cold snap here in Colorado; she is a Mediterranean breed (originated in Spain) with larger comb/wattles that need to be protected from frostbite in  the cold.  This breed carries themselves as if they are royalty-without the snobbish attitude!  Her feathers are a beautiful slate blue color and are what is called 'laced (outlined)' with black.  She also has white 'earlobes' that have tints of a slight bluish/green color in them; it almost gives an iridescent effect.  She developed what look like spurs around 4-5 months old.  We almost found her a new home, but thank goodness many knowledgeable friends confirmed that some Mediterranean hens do get spurs (not just roosters)! 
    Another thing I love about her and have noticed since she was a little peep, is that her eyes are VERY expressive!  

    Andalusian's are typically described as: "noisy, somewhat standoffish and not adaptable to confinement, yet they’re less flighty than most Mediterranean chicken breeds (source: HobbyFarms.com breed profile)."  On the contrary, our experience has been very different.  While Bandit definitely has a screechier sound when she 'talks', she rarely makes noise unless you are outside in the yard and she wants out of the pen to come hang around with you.  Bandit has not been standoffish, but I believe that has a lot to do with the fact that she was hand raised by us from the first few days on.  She was handled daily by our children as well as adults and still seems quite attached to me (ahhhh, the benefits of being a primary caregiver ;-)  Bandit will often fly up on my shoulder when I am in the run or, more occasionally, if she is startled about something.
    
    
    Chicken hats!   Approx 4 wk old pullets 

    Although once quite a popular choice, the Andalusian is now listed as "Threatened" on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List.  Some people like to raise breeds like this that are threatened or scarce specifically to help bolster their standings on lists such as these, and, believe-you-me, if I was allowed to have more critters in my backyard-I would be one of them!
    
    
    Bandit's 1st and 2nd egg!

    The Blue Andalusian will lay lovely pale white eggs that are medium in size.  She typically lays 3-4 per week and has not slowed down her production thus far during fall/winter. 
      
    Bandit + Tina=Buddies!

    
    
    Bandit-5 wk old Blue Andalusian pullet
    She may be considered a more 'compact gal,' but she is bursting with personality!  Bandit was an 'extra' purchase when making up our current brood (we won't say she was a 'mistake,' for OBVIOUS reasons) and we are all very grateful for stumbling upon this wonderful breed of chicken!  Have you heard of any unique chicken breeds that you want to add to your flock some day?
    
    
    
    Bandit (Blue Andalusian) and Tina (Barred Rock)-approx 3 days old

       
     


    

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    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    VOTE: Creepy or Cute?

    VOTE: Creepy or Cute?

    Help me decide....fix the glowing eyes or not?  Maybe Bella is just overflowing with the Christmas Spirit already?




     Carl the Chiweenie had to get in the picture too....but now Bella has a Cyborg eye!  It just got weirder!
     ANYWAY...the tree is up and brightly decorated!  I suppose it's obvious that we love this time of year at our house....even the 4-legged friends!  Just WAIT 'til you see our Christmas card this year!!  Hee Hee...www.backyardhomesteadadventure.blogspot.comwww.backyardhomesteadadventure.blogspot.com

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    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    Bloomin' Okras!

    Yes, I realize that it is winter now, but I am already excited about planning my vegetables for next year!  I ventured into planted some new things in my backyard garden this year, including Brussels Sprouts and Purple Okra.  It was so fun to learn about these new veggies and to get to watch them grow! 

    See, I am no expert at growing things and am still learning as I go (which is good, 'cuz I love to learn-and then share it with YOU)!  All of the advice out there suggests growing what you like to eat.  So, since steak trees won't grow in my backyard, I decided on Okra.  Seriously though, I do like to eat it (fried and grilled).  Knowing that Okra can sometimes be a finicky grower AND that it prefers more humid environments, I didn't think this would actually grow in my little backyard raised-bed garden in Colorado.  Lo and behold-I got plenty of fruit from the four plants I had, and it was delicious!  Not only that, but I LOVE the way it looks in the garden.  The blooms are beautiful and hard to believe that the long slender okra 'fingers' will soon transform from this beautiful bloom:


    Into this delicious edible!


    Purple Okra is a type of okra that is purple when growing, but turns green when you cook it; much like purple green beans (which I also love and also have an excellent flavor).  You can cook and can this vegetable just as you would any other type of Okra; AND it's a great source of Vitamin C.
    I didn't do anything special for these to grow-it was more of an experiment than anything.  I planted the seeds in my raised garden beds as directed and just watered evenly throughout the season.  The chickens did get too close when they were tilling my garden later in the season and took the dirt down to the roots.  I just shooed them away and covered the plants back up and they continued to thrive (I also used some left over wire to creat a barrier near the roots so the chickens couldn't get that close again).  One unplanned bonus was that all of the fruits grew high enough on the plant that the chickens left them completely alone!  They didn't even like to eat the leaves.  This is staying on my backyard garden list for sure!
    
    In my opinion, it's never too early to start putting together a 'wish list' for next years garden.  I know that I have started mine and am already itching to get my hands in some dirt and plant some seeds!  I have some exciting things in the works to share with you about how to plan your garden/plantings for next year (when to start which seeds, etc), so make sure you are 'following' this blog either by email or gmail blogger! 

     What about you?  Did you try anything new and different in your garden this year?  Or is there something that you would love to grow, but haven't yet, or can't because it won't grow in your zone (I know I have a long list of those)?  Let's hear it!

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    Tuesday, November 20, 2012

    Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash

    I was hankerin' for some pre-thanksgiving goodness and a nice fall meal....and these are what resulted.  I had some hamburger and acorn squash that both needed to get used up as well as 1/2 of a sweet yellow onion and some stalks of celery.  I searched on some of my favorite recipe sites but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, so I came up with something pretty basic, but OH SO TASTY!  The filling for the squash came out tasting like Thanksgiving stuffing (only a bit healthier--I think).  The flavors all blended together so nicely and it definitely hit the spot!

    
    Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Here's the recipe I came up with for Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash (4 large servings):

    -2 Med-Large Acorn Squash
    -1-2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
    -1/2-1 Sweet Yellow Onion/ chopped
    -2 Celery stalks/ chopped
    -1 lb Ground Beef (or turkey, or sausage...)
    -8 Tbsp Flour
    -1 tsp Ground Sage
    -1 tsp Salt
    -3 cups milk (I used plain almond milk and it tasted great)
    -2 cups cooked Couscous (I used tri-color; it looks pretty with the squash and tastes good too)
    -Sharp Cheddar Cheese for topping

    1. Pre-cook the acorn squash.  There are 2 ways to do this;
    OVEN=pierce whole acorn squash and cook in a pan for 30 Min's. 
    Or
    MICROWAVE=cut squash in halve and remove seeds and strings.  place cut-side down in dish with about 1/2 inch of water and microwave for 15-20 minutes.

    2.  Meanwhile, heat a pan with 1-2 TBSP vegetable oil and cook onions until translucent.  Add chopped celery and ground beef until browned.  Drain mixture and return to pan.

    3.  While meat is browning, mix flour, sage, salt and milk in a medium bowl.  Pour this mixture into the pan with the ground beef mixture.  Cook and stir frequently until it reaches a thick consistency.

    4.  Stir the cooked rice into the mixture in the pan.  Spoon into acorn halves (you need to 'overfill' them) and top with cheese.

    5.  Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.



    In order to appropriately appreciate my accomplishment, you must understand that I am no culinary genius and am of the persuasion to ALWAYS follow a recipe.....EXACTLY.  That being said, this was an experiment that actually worked to my taste, but I welcome suggestions and comments on how YOU improved upon and prepared this recipe.  I can't wait to hear if anyone else likes this recipe as much as I did!


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    Chicken on a stick

    ...in the snow!  You can see that these girls are all puffed up and ready for winter.  It's good to see that they can all get along in order to snuggle ;-)


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    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    The girls are still messin' with Mr. Funny Bunny

    What do you see in the picture?


    NOW what do you see?




     


    This was one happy bunny!  Otis (the 5 month old Flemish Gaiant rabbit) had some free time in the yard kicking up his heels  the other day.  Apparently, all this joy and jubilation caused him to feel a little warm and tired.  He found a clump of dirt from a spent pot I dumped in the run and he plopped right down in the middle of it.  Well, since Otis lives with chickens, he HAD to know that they would be over to take part in the fun in no time....






    This crew is quite the entertainment!  Those crazy chickens took to trying to bury Otis in the dirt like a sand angel , and Otis was just in happy-dreamy-la la land the entire time.  Well, I can say that this sweet little boy amongst the girls has tolerated their antics with style!www.backyardhomesteadadventure.blogspot.com

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    Sunday, October 14, 2012

    What's up?

    Bandit and Tina want to know what you are up to this weekend?  Is it officially Fall where you are?
    
    What's Up?


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    Sunday, October 7, 2012

    The 2-day story: From Summer to....Winter?


    Greetings from Colorado, where Wednesday we had the air-conditioning on with temperature highs of 85 degrees, and then we wake up to THIS on Friday morning......









    The lows dipped into the high 20's, then more snow on Saturday with lows in the 30's.  I am pretty sure at this point they were asking me to "put this stuff back where it came from!"


    Can you just IMAGINE the dialogue between them?  It seemed to me that they were looking to each other and pointing fingers......I mean pointing claws and paws at each other and saying "What did YOU DO??"

    However, it wasn't long before they figured out what to do with all of this white stuff....scratch around in it of course!  Otis, the Flemish Giant 6 month old, however, was thinking this cooler weather was AWESOME!  He was 'feelin his oats' and started chasing the chickens around for some early morning cool-weather entertainment.  I think the above picture is when they were all about to play a game of duck-duck-goose (or chick-chick-wabbit, as the case may be).        "NOT IT!"

    Colorado can have the strangest weather at times, but I couldn't live anywhere else.  Where else can you have Summer one day and Winter the next?  Literally.  When it hits 50 degrees in the winter, it's time for short sleeves!  All sarcasm aside, this last week did catch me quite off guard.  This year we seemingly went from Winter to an extreme Summer with record breaking  lengths of days-in-a-row of 100+ degree temperatures.  We cooled down to a few days in the 80's and 70's recently, but October hit and we had an early snow fall within 2 days of 80 degree weather!  Wow.  I didn't cover my newly sprouting carrots and spinach in hopes of frost prevention (out of lack of time in my crazy schedule as of late more than anything).  Today, the sun was shining and we hit a high of 51.  What better weather than to mow the lawn and let the chickens out to help me begin to winterize the garden?
    George allowing some petting and Red running for the hills (somewhere)...Oh, and Bandit's back-end

    My garden didn't fair too poorly with the sudden snow; all of my fall garden sprouts are healthy.  I did pull the lingering pepper, eggplant and tomato plants today.  It's always a bit sad when the garden isn't full of greenery and producing fruits, but I look forward to the cycle beginning all over again each season.  For now, tho, I have more learning to do about extending my growing season with crop covers and growing things indoors over the winter.

    

    George the super-garden helper.  Where there's fresh dirt, there's George.
    I have an overly large pile of books from the library on gardening specific to Colorado and the Rocky Mountain regions.  I have also been enjoying the many informative posts from the amazing gals over at Farm Chick Chit Chat too!
    I love learning new things and sharing them with others, so hopefully I will be able to share with you more about extending your growing season in Colorado as I learn it.

    Thankfully, the forecast is calling for a mild week ahead with average temperatures in the 60's.  Do you think I would be safe to call it Fall now?       I guess in Colorado, you just never know!  For now, here's to a great week ahead and one that's looking a lot more like Fall in the Rockies!


    Highlands Ranch, CO : Highlands Ranch Sunset July 2009



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