Archive for the ‘chickens’ Category

"Everyone Knows it’s Windy"

September 26, 2010

According to local meteorologist Paul Douglas, Minnesota has one of the most extreme climates on earth. A couple of days ago it was close to 90ºF, yesterday our rain gauge registered 4.5 inches of rain for the day, and this afternoon it’s 54ºF with gale-force winds. My 4-month old babes are confused and suffering. I just looked out the window and saw all four girls huddling together under an evergreen tree. The older hens have dealt with our temperature fluctuations before, but today even they’re looking a little crazed. Happily for them, they’ve discovered a way not only to deal with the weather but also their otherwise annoying young companions: use the little ones as windbreaks.

Roxanne and Cleo position themselves near the center of the evergreen tree, forcing Coco and Ruby to cover their rears. Coco Chanel, third in the pecking order, has squeezed herself to the inside, leaving poor Ruby on the outside. My tiny girl sits in the wind hunched in a round ball with her head buried under her wing. As I glance out my kitchen window she looks up, but quickly nuzzles her face back into her down coat. I don’t have the heart to tell her this is only the start. And it’s not even winter….

Why don’t the chicks go into their protected run or the warm, draft-free coop? God only knows. Their question to me would probably be “Why do we live in Minnesota?” or better yet, “Why does anyone live in Minnesota?”

Well, before I ended up posting this blog the weather changed again. It’s now sunny, calm and gorgeous. In fact we grilled outside enjoying the last of the summer corn and tomatoes! That’s why we live in Minnesota.

Grilled Herb Pork Tenderloin with Toasted Corn Relish
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1 (1 lb.) pork tenderloin
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
3 to 4 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used marjoram, oregano, sage, and parsley)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Toasted Corn Relish
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ears corn, kernels removed (generous 1 cup)
1 small onion, halved, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped (1 cup)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Brush pork tenderloin with olive oil and rub minced garlic over pork. Pat herbs over both sides of pork and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill pork over medium heat or coals 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 145ºF to 150ºF (pork will be pale pink in the center).

While the pork is grilling, make the corn relish. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and heat until hot. Cook the onion and corn 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan to scrape up the browned bits, reducing the heat to medium if necessary to avoid burning. Stir in the tomato, lemon juice, salt and pepper and heat until warm. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 3 to 4

Kung Fu Cleo

August 31, 2010

Today the anticipated Meet and Greet took place. It quickly escalated into a Bared Beak and Clawed Feet Event. Roxanne and Cleo have been socializing through the fence with the new girls, Ruby and Coco, for the past four weeks and it was time to introduce them face to face. I set the mood by providing plenty of treats for everyone and things went along smoothly—for awhile.


Ruby and Coco were feeling brave and finally ventured away from their coop to the edge of the lawn where I was sitting. All of a sudden, Cleo took a running karate-style leap, landed on Coco’s back and pecked her full force coming up with a gigantic mouthful of feathers. Bedlam resulted. The two babes squawked with all their might, flew in a circle and headed into their coop. I flew out of my chair screaming at Cleo. I ran after that chicken as she led me on a chase through the yard still clutching her mouthful of black and white feathers like a trophy. Occasionally I got close enough to whack her with a plastic bag of raisins I still had in my hand, like a scene out of a Loony Tunes cartoon. She finally ran into her coop and I slipped the lock on. She sulked for 3 hours before she came out.

Roxanne Playing Mother Hen

Roxanne and the babes got along fine without Cleo. Roxanne hovered over them like a mother hen with an occasional peck if they got too uppity but it was all very quiet and quite civilized. Cleo finally stopped sulking and I let her out on condition she behave herself. The result? Cleo has established authority over the little ones, she only needs turn a beady eye towards them and they run. Otherwise, they’ve all settled down into a peaceful truce. Each staying in their own areas, but feathers are soothed and the neighborhood is quiet. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Summer Borscht
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At least once during the summer I make my favorite vegetable soup, summer borscht. This family recipe comes from my Ukrainian grandmother and all of us were raised on it from the time we could hold a spoon. I recently made a double recipe resulting in a huge pot that I was able to serve to friends, eat for many nights plus give a little away. Immensely satisfying. Anyway, if you’ve never tried borscht, or only tried a heavy winter version, try this light summer vegetable soup. You’ll be surprised at how delicate and flavorful it is. Enjoy!

3 medium beets, peeled, quartered, cut into thin strips*
1 tablespoon salt
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup sliced yellow or green beans
6 cups cold water
¼ cup tomato juice
3 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
2 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
⅛ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons sour cream

Stir together the beets and salt in a large pot. (The salt keeps the bright red color in the beets.) Stir in the onion, beans, water and tomato juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes, carrot, peas, green onions, dill and pepper. Simmer another 10 minutes. Add parsley and garlic; simmer until the vegetables are tender. Add lemon juice to taste and stir in the sour cream until blended. (Do not let the soup come to a boil once the sour cream has been added or the cream could curdle.) Serve warm with an extra dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Serves 4 to 6

* To eliminate your fingers and hands turning red from peeling and cutting raw beets, use disposable gloves.

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
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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!

Yard Fresh Eggs

April 27, 2010

I just returned from Portland, Oregon, the city of backyard chickens, where you can find fresh from the garden eggs at your local neighborhood store. These eggs were sitting on the counter at The Meadow, a salt, chocolate, wine and flower shop in North Portland.

I was attending the IACP conference, a food gathering attended by over 900 food professionals from around the world. Part of the conference included an Urban Farm Symposium moderated by Kim Severson of the New York Times. I was honored to preside over a round table discussion about Backyard Chickens at the symposium.  I met some wonderful people such as Sarah Copeland, Patti Londre, Terry Paetzola, Nicole Pedota, Shayna Snyder, Ann-Michelle Albertson, Annakate Tefft, Katie Myers, Karin Endy and Sharon Wiest, along with others, all of whom expressed an interest in starting their own flocks. I hope I’ve inspired them to jump in and do it. We all need to join together and expand the urban flock a little further.

How did the chicks fare while I was away? Well, they went on a walk-about! Yes, the day I was to return, the girls found a hole in the fence. They wandered up the side yard and into the front by the street. Who knows what might have happened or where they might have gone, had Marty not happened to glance out the window! So there he was, by himself, forced to rustle three uncooperative chicks back through the fence into the backyard and safety – and then repair the fence as well.

Lulu on the Run

Thank goodness I arrived home with a suitcase full of Portland goodies for him, along with fresh morels and first-of-spring strawberries from the Portland Farmers’ Market!

The next day, Cleo and Roxanne each climbed into my lap and didn’t want to leave. I think they were glad to be safe in their own backyard–plus I like to think they missed me.

Spring Chicks and Carrot Cupcakes

April 08, 2010


A few cracked eggshells strategically placed were all I did to decorate the house for Easter this year. I had hopes of making a new Ukrainian Easter egg using one of the girl’s eggs, but I never found the hours it takes to create one. Instead, I put out the collection made by Marty, me, the boys and family through the years.


The girls have been taking advantage of the warm weather by lounging about and sunning themselves. They spend hours finding the rays and spreading their feathers to soak up the heat.

Roxanne and Cleo

Whenever I go out onto the deck, Cleo comes running with hopes that I’ll sit on the stairs so she can jump in my lap. She nestles in happy to cuddle until I finally put her down because I have to get on with my day.

Roxanne used to join us, but lately she’s more interested in food (I think she’s getting fat with all her eating) and instead of joining the cuddle, she nibbles at my jeans hoping they’ll yield a treat.

I’ve been into too many treats also, the problem with baking a lot (the eggs come in a little too handy). A few weeks ago I made what I think are the best ever Carrot Cupcakes. The recipe is from King Arthur but I’ve fiddled with it a bit and added more spices, toasted nuts and raisins for a deeper, richer, spicier version. Crowned with a luscious cream cheese frosting, they’re truly irresistible.

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