Happy Saturday!

Fence project – done!!!

It’s not perfect because I don’t weld, but it’s pretty gosh darn close, and certainly $1500 worth of close! 😁

Now on to the next project. I’m gonna use this 95 gallon galvanized water tank from the barn, and the damaged pieces of fence, and make a bigger baby chick brooder.

The littles have gotten SO big! They need more space. (Wait ’till I tell you the story which proves it!!! 😯 I’ll write it as soon as I finish this project. Let’s just say Madeleine proved she is truly a benevolent chick-sitter!) But it’s too soon, and too cold, to put them in the puppy play pen yet.

I’m gonna whip this up, then the bride and groom are coming over to make plans for wedding we’re having here next month. Yay!!! And then I really need to make lemon bars!

#mylittlechickens

Mending Fences

My first project of the day: this broken fence.

Seven old cypress trees blew over in the last storm. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage, except for a section of this fence. I’ve already got a roll of this fencing, from some chicken projects I was working on, so I don’t even need a trip to the hardware store!

I may be a city girl, but I know my way around horse fencing and hog ties, and I’m not afraid of a little mud! (Take THAT, fence company who wanted thousands of dollars for the job!) 😁

#mylittlechickens

Paddy’s Baby Cup

As I am getting out our springtime things just now, I came across this sweet chick baby cup. It belonged to my grandfather, “Paddy”, born in Palo Alto, California, in 1917. I’m so grateful it was preserved!

#mylittlechickens

The Farmer’s Market in the Farm-to-Fork Capital

Let me tell you about this incredible farmer’s market! Sacramento has always been the heart of California agriculture. When I was growing up we called it “Sac-o-tomatoes”. And we really do grow a lot of tomatoes here! In the summers, the curves of the freeway are red with tomatoes that roll off the top of the open air trailers when they turn. Cow-tipping, ice-blocking, and crawdadding were all a part of my teenage years. (Don’t worry, we never actually tipped a cow!) We picked wild blackberries by the river in the summers, and headed to Apple Hill in the fall for fresh cider and apple donuts.

As the farm-to-fork movement grew in California, Sacramento led the charge. We have amazing educational urban farms like Soil Born Farms. We have a community of chefs who are excited about local, seasonal products. Our city council has embraced urban farming, strongly supporting initiatives for backyard chicken flocks, and school gardens. The city hosts an amazing farm-to-fork festival each year. Tickets to the cornerstone event of the festival – the Bridge Dinner (literally on the Tower Bridge, over the river) – are highly coveted, and sell out within minutes. And we have such exciting, vibrant, farmer’s markets, almost every day of the week. The biggest of these is the downtown Sunday market, under the freeway. Farmers from all over the valley bring their wares, year-round. Most of the regions top chefs can be seen here on a regular basis, as well as hundreds of locals. You always run into someone you know here!

We are at the end of our winter season, so today I found beautiful citrus fruits including pomelos, tiny sweet yellow limes, and my favorite, Meyer lemons! I also found strawberries bursting with flavor, wild caught salmon, exotic mushrooms, baby lettuces, handmade sausage, seedlings for my garden, a fragrant eucalyptus wreath, and a French apple almond tart. Of course, Daisy also got a gigantic, flaky, chocolate croissant. It’s no wonder this place is a favorite of both of ours!

Headed to the Farmer’s Market!

Today I’m headed to the downtown Sacramento farmer’s market with my favorite six year old, and my favorite Christmas present! I use this wagon in the garden and barn for a million things. It has all terrain wheels that can handle the pasture, and carry heavy loads. It’s washable, and collapsible, so I also throw it in the car each week, and load it up with bushels of treasures at the farmer’s market. I used to use baskets, but they kept breaking, because I love to find the full flats of slightly bruised strawberries, peaches, or cherries, for making homemade jams. No more!

Here’s link if you’d like to check it out: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B06VTCLX48/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1520200974&sr=8-1-spons&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=creative+outdoor+all+terrain+folding+wagon&psc=1&smid=A1VLPYMYU04LA0

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce and Dark Chocolate Sauce

Our family has a few birthdays all bunched together. I love birthday cake, but there’s only so much cake one family can eat! This is how the Cookie Cake was born. It’s basically a huge chocolate chip cookie, served in wedges, warm and gooey, and crisp on the edges. It feels like a special occasion desert because it is enormous and decadent looking, and is served with two homemade sauces, and the best vanilla ice cream. But, like all my recipes, it is simple and no fuss. And, (although this is not necessarily a good thing) there is NO limit to how much Cookie Cake one can eat. Leftovers will be grabbed in chunks as you walk by. You will accidentally finish off the whole thing. You will have to make more!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake with Two Homemade Sauces: Salted Caramel, and Dark Chocolate

Ingredients

For Cookie Cake

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter

11/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups four

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3 cups chocolate chips

Optional:

1 or 2 cups toasted walnuts

(We have one child with a nut allergy, so I don’t usually include them, but lightly toasted walnuts are so delicious in this!)

For Salted Caramel Sauce

2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup (half a stick) butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

(To be honest I never measure any of this. It’s impossible to mess it up. You can add more cream if you want it runnier, more salt or vanilla if you like those flavors)

For Dark Chocolate Sauce

2 cups Dark chocolate chips, or bar cut in chunks – I love Callebaut or Valrhona

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

(Again – I just eyeball all of this. As long as you have more chocolate than cream, you can’t go wrong!)

Instructions
For Cookie Cake

Preheat oven to 350

Spray a something inch spring form pan with baking spray (or butter and flour).

Cut a circle of parchment paper slightly larger than the pan, put in bottom of pan.

Cream together:

Room temperature butter

Brown sugar

White sugar

Then add, and cream again:

Eggs

Vanilla

Add all powders on top of creamed mixture:

Flour

Baking powder

Baking soda

Salt

As the powders are sitting on top of the creamed ingredients, mix JUST the powders around with a spoon or spatula. (I do this instead of mixing them in a separate bowl before adding them, because I hate doing extra dishes, but it’s a good idea to distribute the baking powders and salt in the flour. So this is my compromise.) Then mix the dough completely together with the electric mixer.

Add chocolate chips, and toasted walnuts if you like.

Mix once more.

Spread dough into springform pan. Don’t worry about making it too even – it will even out on its own.

Chill (if you have time)

Bake at 350 until crispy brown on edges but still soft in the middle.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Add sugar to saucepan and stir in high until all sugar has melted and liquid is turning light brown.

Quickly take off heat and add cream. (If you wait the melted sugar will continue to brown and turn burned.)

Be careful! It will bubble up and steam when you add the cream. Stir until it mixes smooth with heat proof spatula. It will be VERY hot.

Add butter, vanilla, and salt to taste (some people prefer really salted caramel).

Dark Chocolate Sauce

Add chopped chocolate, cream, and corn syrup to glass bowl.

Microwave, on low, for 45 seconds at a time, stirring between, until chocolate is melted and cream mixes in. It will be a glossy dark chocolate sauce at this point.

Be careful not to let the chocolate scorch in the microwave.

Stir in a pinch of salt, and vanilla.

Serve warm with bowls of sauces. Enjoy!

The Babies are One Week Old!

We’ve had the chicks for one week now. They are growing so fast! The brooder is already getting crowded. I’ll move them to a bigger pen soon, but I want to keep them warm by the fire for one more week, so I needed to make a little more space for them. I decided to get rid of the standing waterer and feeder, and hang feeders from the outside, to give the chicks more room to spread their wings.  Also, the standing water feeder gets dirty so quickly, even if you do put it up on a block.

I drilled a few more holes in the container, (I love my power drill – can’t imagine life without it!), so the chicks could access the spouts of feeders and water bottles hanging in the outsiders the brooder. I’ve never tried a water bottle for chickens before. I didn’t even get the special chicken nipples, I just used a water bottle we had never used with the bunnies. I wasn’t completely sure it would work. But these smart girls figured it out almost instantly!  I dripped the water on the tip of new waterer with my finger a couple times.  Once one chick figured it out, the others quickly followed.

The chicks are eating and drinking so much more than they were a week ago.  They need it because they are getting big so fast!  Pretty soon you may want to switch to larger feeders and waterers, to make sure they don’t run out.  They are also getting flight feathers on their wings, and will start to flutter out of their brooder, given the opportunity, so make sure your lid is secure!  Even though they are such sweet fluff balls when they are brand new, they are getting stronger and more hardy every day.  This is good news!  You’ve passed the first, most fragile, week.  Congratulations!

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #chickensandhens #farmlife #chickenfarm #urbanfarming #chicks #farmlife #chickenlife #urbanfarmer #farmlifestyle #chickenlove

Oh No!

Eek!!! I have a chicken emergency!! Poor, sweet, Miranda is suffering, and I can’t figure out why. I’ve spent the day treating all the possibilities, including cleaning out the coops, in the middle of a hailing thunderstorm. (Yes, afterwards I did reward myself with my favorite Earl Grey tea from England, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, and cuddles with a baby chick and my six year old, in front of the fire.) So today, instead of giving advice, I am asking for it from all you wonderful chicken experts!

(And I promise to post completely adorable baby chick pictures later! 😊)

A couple weeks ago Miranda, our Rhode Island Red hen, seemed to be molting, mostly on her neck and chest. I kept an eye on it, looking for the new feathers to grow in, and checked for mites, but didn’t see any. It has gotten worse, so today I did a closer inspection. You can’t see it until you pick her up, but Miranda has a red, raw, bald streak, from her neck down her chest, almost to her vent!

I’m going through the possibilities in my mind. Here’s a list of what I’ve thought of:

– Mites

– Rodents chewing at night (so horrific, I know!)

– Vent gleet

– Feather picking, either by her or another chicken

– Broodiness

I don’t think it’s vent gleet, because the area immediately around her vent has feathers still, and doesn’t seem irritated.

I saw pictures of rodent chewing (how awful!) that look similar, which is why I thought of it. I’ve had an ongoing battle against rodents in the chicken run. But there hasn’t been any evidence of them in the past couple of months. So I don’t think that’s it.

So I’m back to mites. As soon as I realized it was a possibility, I thoroughly cleaned out the coops, replaced all the bedding, and treated it with diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is completely safe for chickens, but the tiny fossils of the diatoms slice and kill any bug with an exoskeleton. If it is mites, I’ll need to treat the whole flock, and the coops. It’s a lot like when you find out your kids came home from school with lice – a huge hassle!

I brought Miranda inside, gave her a bath with epsom salts, got her warm and dry, treated her legs and raw areas with Vetericin, and then covered them with Vaseline. I’m keeping her quiet, warm, and isolated. I still haven’t seen any mites, but am not sure what else to do. I’ve given her water with apple cider vinegar, honey, and garlic powder, which is supposed to help her immune system. I’ve given her choices of oats, plain yogurt, and scrambled eggs. Oats have been shown to help with mites. The yogurt and scrambled eggs are for probiotics and protein (in case it is feather picking, which can be caused by not enough protein). Also, Miranda seems a little underweight, so I’m trying to get some extra calories into her, and my girls LOVE yogurt.

Miranda could be broody, and picking her feathers because of it. If that’s the case, I wonder if she’d like to try raising some baby chicks? (since I happen to have a few right now!) But if she does have mites, I don’t want to expose the chicks.

I’m still not exactly sure what I’m dealing with, but am treating it on multiple fronts, hoping just to solve the problem. Regardless of the cause, how do I stop poor Miranda from picking herself raw? Do they make cones of shame for chickens? Do I use a chicken apron, except in the front? Do I put her back with the flock to avoid stress, or keep her warm and quiet? I’d love any advice from all you chicken experts. Thanks you guys!

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #chickensandhens #farmlife #chickenfarm #urbanfarming #chicks #farmlife #chickenlife #urbanfarmer #farmlifestyle #chickenlove

Speaking of Chick Poop!

If you’re going to bring home baby chicks, you need to know about “Pasty Butt”. Just like human babies, you need to keep the little chick babies’ bottoms clean. If the poop dries on the chick’s bottom, it can block things up, which a little chick can die from. So you need to check their little fluffy bottoms daily, especially when they are tiny. When you find one with Pasty Butt (because you will), you’ll need to wash it VERY gently. It is important to use warm water, like you would for a baby bath, and not to pull any down out. If you pull down out, it can cause bleeding. Also the chick needs her down to stay warm. Some people use cotton swabs. The method which works best for me is to hold the chick with one hand, and create a little baby bottom bidet out of my other hand by cupping it under the chick, with a trickle of warm water running into it. If you keep the chick warm, she may actually relax or even take a nap. It will take a few minutes of soaking for the poop to loosen. You can use a little mild soap to help loosen it, but be very gentle! You will be amazed how tiny and fragile a little chick with a wet bottom seems. If you are grossed out by touching chicken poop, nitrile or latex exam gloves are fine. After you have shampooed the poop out, gently dry the chick with a paper towel or cloth. You’ll need to use a blow dryer, on low, to dry the chick’s down until she is fluffy again before you put her back. Keep the chick against you, and shield her with your hand as you blow her dry, so that you can feel the temperature and air pressure. Be careful not to blow her little wings the wrong way.

Giving this Pasty Butt baby a little bottom bath. She was super relaxed and happy!

Some people put a bit of Vaseline on the chick’s vent afterwards. I’ve never needed to, but if the vent seems irritated, or if the “Pasty Butt” persists, a little Vaseline can’t hurt. It’s also a good idea to have some Vetericyn (animal-safe wound care) on hand, to use for any abrasion, or any other injuries. If Pasty Butt persists, adding some corn meal, or mashed hard boiled egg, to their feed, can help. Also, try providing some chick grit. And finally, make sure that the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot in their brooder. Temperature is so important for these tiny babies!

Ok, that’s all I have to say about baby chick poop for now. I don’t think I’ve ever written the word “poop” so many times at once! 😂

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #farmlife #coopdreams #coopgoals #prettyeggs #chicks #chickpoop #pastybutt

The Heat Source

Keeping chicks warm is one of the most important parts of raising new chicks.

Baby chicks need at least part of their coop to be 95-100 degrees for the first two weeks. Then it should be reduced by 5 degrees a week, for a month, until their feathers have grown in.

We keep our youngest baby chicks in front of the fireplace, which, in the winter, always has a pilot light lit and is warm. I’ve made a window in one side, with hardware cloth and duct tape, to allow the warm air in. I had read horror stories of fires started by heat lamps, and decided they were too risky. So our first batch of chicks were warmed by the fireplace, and a waterproof, fire-safe, pet-warming pad, under half the crate (only half, so that they could move away from it if they got too hot). There was a lot of starting and stopping the gas fire, worrying that they were too hot or too cold.

But a more consistent heat source would make life easier for everyone. Last year I bought a brooder plate. It was about $60, which is more than I usually spend on chicken supplies. But it has been worth it. It’s safe, holds a steady temperature, and adjusts higher as they grow. I really like it.

I also put a sticker thermometer on the inside of the box, to easily keep an eye on the temperature. Even so, we still keep them by the fire when they are tiny. It’s cozy there, and so fun to watch them!

#urbanfarm #farmtofork #fresheggs #cooptofork #chickens #eggs #coop #farmlife #prettycoop #coopdreams #coopgoals #prettyeggs #chicks