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