Archive for July, 2010

Chicks Get Names

July 26, 2010

I surprised myself and went for over a week without naming the new baby chicks. I had a couple of suggestions from all of you, a few of which were under serious consideration. I’d try them out on each bird as if I were trying on shoes—seeing how they fit and whether the chicks snuggled comfortably into the name. For some reason nothing seemed right. In between trying out names—anything from Eunice to Dottie to Violet, Loretta, Aurora and more—the new chicks were known simply as the babies.

It’s a funny thing, but without names I felt no attachment to them. Because they were already two months old and I hadn’t reared them from day-old chicks, I wasn’t bonding and felt untethered to them. Of course it didn’t help that they ran shrieking every time I approached. Even my shadow seemed to scare them and off they ran to the other end of the run each time I came near. I kept waiting for their personality to emerge before I chose their names, but it’s hard to detect personality in a whining chick you have no personal contact with.

Today it all came together and names were bestowed and I instantly felt more emotionally attached. The Rhode Island Red has been named Ruby. My friend Barbara gets the credit for naming Ruby as she sent it in as a suggestion early last week. But they’ve been an unmatched pair until today when I had a sudden inspiration for the Silver Wyandotte, my black and white hen. I’ve decided to name this chick with the designer-style feathers Coco, after the famous designer Chanel. Barbara indirectly deserves credit for this name too as she’s the one who’s taken M. and me to not one, but two recent Coco Chanel films (I may not be able to afford the clothes, but I now know her history).

Anyway, Ruby and Coco are my new girls and this evening there was a change in how I responded to them. I even got Ruby to sit with me and eat corn out of my hand. “I think this is beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Although, now that I look at all four names, I have a flock with Roxanne and Ruby and Coco and Cleo. Alliteration here we come!

New Chicks!

July 19, 2010

Two new darlings have been added to the flock. The new 2-month old chicks arrived late Saturday afternoon amidst the sound and light show of a severe thunderstorm with tornado sirens blaring. It was quite the welcome—no wonder the little ones are still a bit skittish of me.

It was hard to narrow it down to only two. Chickens are addicting, especially when each breed is so unique, so I have to keep telling myself I only have a backyard, not a farm.

I ended up with two lovelies that fit my criteria. I wanted a breed that was known for its egg laying ability and settled on a Rhode Island Red. This Little Red Hen is known as a great layer of brown eggs, an active bird that can be friendly to the point of following you around the yard. It is a heritage breed and was developed in Rhode Island at the beginning of the 19th century. It’s considered a dual-purpose bird, meaning it can be kept for meat as well as eggs so it’s been a popular breed through the years.

Rhode Island Red (looking bigger than she really is)

My second choice was a Silver Wyandotte. These birds are not only good egg layers, they’re also gorgeous with white feathers outlined in black giving them a lacy look. They’re large fluffy birds, docile, and lay brown eggs. They’re also a heritage breed and first appeared in New York in the 1870′s.

Silver Wyandotte

I haven’t named them yet as I’m waiting for inspiration and to see their personalities emerge. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Roxanne and Cleo both froze with a stunned look in their eyes when they saw the youngsters. They quickly regained composure and hoofed it on over. They’re spending a lot of time circling the little girls’ coop and Roxanne has taken to honking like a goose, no doubt to the annoyance of the neighbors, trying to exhibit her dominance.

The cats and everyone else have checked out the new settlers, but they seem fairly oblivious to their stream of visitors. They eat voraciously, love anything green – clover, grass, ferns, and want to run wild. I’m keeping them penned in until they grow a little more as I’m not sure my yard is chick-proof, and I don’t relish chasing a wild chick around the neighborhood.

Visiting hours are open, so if you’re in the area stop by!

~ ~ ~

I picked up the chicks at Anoka Ramsey Farm and Garden Center. While there, I also picked up some just harvested Yukon gold and purple potatoes, plus eggs. I couldn’t resist, they’d been grown by the young man who helped me choose my chicks. There’s nothing better than potatoes fresh from the garden. I made them into a French-style potato salad and served them with grilled chicken. Perfection.

French Potato Salad
Print This Recipe

The purple potatoes don’t taste any different, but they do make a nice accent in this salad. Feel free to use all Yukon gold potatoes or red or white new potatoes. You may also add 2 to 3 chopped hard-cooked eggs to this salad.

7 small purple potatoes (about 2 inches), unpeeled, quartered
4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into eights
1/3 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, chives, tarragon
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 medium garlic clove, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place the purple potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water, add salt (1 teaspoon) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes or until the potatoes are just fork tender. Drain. Place the warm potatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the shallots, herbs, salt and pepper.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the vinaigrette. Place the vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a small jar; shake until all of the ingredients are combined. Add the olive oil and shake vigorously until blended. Pour over the warm potato mixture and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6
(Makes about 5 cups)


July 17, 2010

You’ve got to check out a great new store in town: EggPlant Urban Farm Supply. Whether you’re interested in chickens, gardening, sustainable living or just like to see what’s new, you’re going to love this store!

The owner, Audrey Matson, is a farm girl turned urban gardener with a masters degree in horticulture. She raises chickens in her St. Paul backyard and decided to combine her two interests into one great store. Two years ago, Three Swingin’ Chicks posted a photo of Audrey with one of her chickens in an early blog about the Twin Cities Parade of Coops. Check out EggPlant’s link About Us to see our photo and read about the store.

EggPlant has everything you need for chickens and gardening, from feed and seed to coops and tomato hoops.

And guess what? They’re even taking orders for fluffy day-old chicks, which will arrive on July 21st. So if you’ve been thinking about acquiring chickens, this is the time. You’ve got a one-stop shop with expert advice thrown in for free! Gardeners will love the organic plants, fertilizers, the latest tools and books. They’re very open to new ideas and suggestions, so please go in and have a chat.

EggPlant is on the cutting edge of a national trend in chicken-garden center combos. The Wall Street Journal has even taken note of chicken entrepreneurs who are cashing in on the urban chicken craze. Some with specialty items such as chicken diapers, others with boutique coops or small batch chick orders. While I’m not sure my girls would ever submit to a chicken diaper, I’m all for anything that promotes the chicken revolution!

Roxanne and Cleo have just cast a nasty stare in my direction at the mention of chicken diapers. They’re rather crabby at the moment. I guess I can’t blame them, these Minnesota cold-hearty chicks are outside stuck in the sauna. No, I haven’t built them one, but when the temperature is 90ºF and the humidity is 90%, the backyard morphs into one giant hot box. Unbearable to say the least, especially when you’re wearing a down coat. (Please note we use the word sauna around here, we try not to upset the girls by talking about a hot oven!) The chicks are currently sitting in the shade trying to breathe without moving. I wonder if a cool shower with the sprinkler would do them any good?

…I’ve escaped the backyard and am now sitting inside in the air conditioning dreaming about new chickens. I think Roxanne and Cleo will now be receptive to expanding the flock. I’ve cleaned the big coop, readied the little Eglu for the new girls and now all I need are the chickens. The problem is, now that I’ve started looking at the variety of different breeds, I want them all. They’re all so unique and so gorgeous. If things work out I’ll head to the feed store this weekend. I will let you know when I bring home some new chicks.

~ ~ ~

Well, I couldn’t wait. Before I ended up posting this blog I drove out to get a couple of new chicks. Will fill in the details soon!

Getting on with Life

July 03, 2010

I hope you like the changes to the blog. I think it lightens it a bit and will be easier to read. I’m also adding more content which will be updated in the coming weeks.

Thanks to all of you for your kind wishes, words, cards, and flowers after Lulu’s death. They meant a lot to me. Cleo and Roxanne still seem a little lonely. Roxanne barks, literally like a dog, whenever Cleo leaves her to go lay an egg and both girls have taken to hiding in the nest when they go to bed at night. I guess they feel safer in there. One evening I found them both huddling in the corner of the nest together, like little kids cowering under the bed. Poor babes.

They’re lovin’ this weather though. They’ve taken to nibbling on the flowers on the deck when they come to visit me. Are fuschia buds toxic to chickens? I’ll have to check that out….

I’m starting to think about getting another chicken or two. It’s a lot of work to integrate new birds into a flock so I’m taking it slow, but I’m sure I’ll come around to actually doing it soon. I called a feed store today to find out what they had in stock and they do have Silver Wyandottes, a breed I’m interested in, as well as Rhode Island Reds, the classic Little Red Hen breed. I’d like strong egg layers with decorative feathers. Nothing like asking for a lot, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, I have good news to share. I just finished editing the first round of galleys for my book. If you’re not aware, my memoir cookbook, Chicken and Egg, will be published in Spring 2011 by Chronicle Books. I’m so excited. The galleys looked outstanding, better than I dared hope for! The photos by Alex Farnum are perfect and the design is gorgeous, the entire team at Chronicle does such a fabulous job that I’m very lucky. I’ll be mentioning more about the book in the future, but I wanted everyone to know it’s on track and going to be beautiful!

~ ~ ~

Looking for a signature cooler to serve this summer? Try a Pisco Sour. This national drink of Chile and Peru is made with pisco, a liquor distilled from grapes. Blended with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup and frothed with an egg white (hopefully from your own hens), it’s a refreshing drink made for summer. Trust me, you’ll love it!

Pisco Sour
Print This Recipe

1½ cups pisco
¾ cup simple syrup*
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 egg white**
1½ cups ice

Combine the pisco, simple syrup, lemon juice and egg white in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Add the ice and blend until almost smooth.

Serve in tall thin glasses or wine glasses with a straw.

Serves 6

*To make simple syrup, bring 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil; simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Cool completely.
** This recipe uses raw eggs. You may substitute pasteurized eggs if you wish.