because eggs are so yummy

Part of the allure of keeping chickens is the mystery. So many odd things happen that require investigation, monitoring, and lots of hypothesizing that you almost can’t help dragging family and friends into making bets and taking sides, because some of the mysteries require action before things get too ugly in chickenland. Things like bullying and sometimes murder. Or, in this case, eggocide.

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It looks like someone didn’t make it up to a nest in time, but there was also a pile of damp eggy straw in the nest above that egg. Since we’ve been running into occasional broken eggs and soppy straw in that nest, we’ve been assuming someone has a weak shell problem, but this scenario with two eggs on the same day might mean more is going on.

We know some wild birds will roll eggs out of nests, and we know farm poultry will sometimes roll eggs over when they ‘set’ to distribute heat more evenly. We also know chickens will carry food around when they don’t want another chicken to eat it first, but chickens can’t carry eggs around.

All my chickens have been laying in mostly one nest out of four since we got this bunch, no idea why, but sometimes we catch two hens laying together side by side in one nest, and all the eggs are in one nest when we gather them. There was never a problem before with someone rolling someone else’s egg out of the way. Actually, some chickens prefer to lay in nests that already have eggs in them, which is why some people put fake eggs in the nests, to encourage or train the hens where to lay.

I’m guessing someone’s egg broke at some point in all this group laying and then someone got a taste for egg. Perhaps over time someone else noticed egg being eaten and jumped in to grab a bite and also developed a taste for egg. It’s so hard to tell when you only get an occasional broken egg and a pile of wet straw, because that’s not uncommon with aging hens. When that happens I mostly worry that part of the broken shell might have remained inside and will cause the hen a lot of pain and infection and possibly death, but all my girls seem to be fine.

One of the eggs we brought in this last week looks like someone gave it a light peck. Eggs very rarely hit just right to crack like this, as if it had bounced off the point of a little rock or something. I’m wondering now if someone was checking it to see if it would go ahead and pop open, and when it didn’t, left it alone.

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This soggy eggy straw problem has been going on for at least a month, and quite suddenly over the last couple of weeks our daily egg harvest has dropped from 3-4 eggs a day to one a day, and often none. At first I thought it was the weather changing, the equinox shortening the days again, maybe a molt starting (I once had a chicken who molted every November like clockwork for some reason), or even simply just getting older. They’ve been stuffing themselves full of autumn bugs like grasshoppers and big spiders and crickets, so we even thought maybe they were getting too lazy to come back to the henhouse to lay.

Today is solid enough evidence to change all our casual guesswork to hard decision making. If we had a flat yard it would be easier to separate the hens, and then I’d be able to observe who is doing what fairly quickly. As it is, just owning chickens has resulted in a couple of injuries carrying things down the steep yard, one requiring some pretty impressive staples and another coming close to a concussion, so putting the extra work it would take into separating the hens would only increase my fall risk, and we’ve got other needs to consider that take priority over chickens.

I’m afraid our action at this point is to make our best guess about which chicken might be the main culprit and cull her out. Which makes me sad. My chickens are pets, and even though I grew up butchering, I haven’t eaten my own pet chickens in many years. It’s a very big deal when it comes down to having to banish someone from the group. Sometimes we manage to find other homes for them, but that’s not always the best answer, either.

In years past on a previous blog, I know a few readers found it very upsetting for me to talk about killing my pets. We got lucky with one crazy chicken that we had to keep separated all the time and didn’t have to cull her ourselves because a hawk finally got her, and we could tell she didn’t go easily and probably put that hawk off chicken the rest of its life beating the crap back out of it, but that was better than her killing the other chickens, which after several weeks we finally realized would eventually happen. Some chickens just go crazy.

I can’t keep a chicken around that’s going to purposely break and eat eggs. My chickens already get top of the line feed, thanks to cheap feed breaking my arms out (vegetable protein could include peanut plants after the peanuts are processed out), and free range nearly every day for several hours, so this eggocide has nothing to do with being hungry or nutrient deficient. It’s also a behavior you really can’t train back out of a chicken, and once the behavior is learned by other chickens, there it all goes. You either wind up checking nests every hour or so to beat them to it or you put chicken in the pot and start with a new bunch, because I really don’t have the time to devote to watching them this closely. (And what do you think causes ‘crazy chicken lady‘ syndrome? lol)

I’m suspecting either Nadia, the golden laced, or Mary Margaret, the smallest white one.

I doubt this happens quickly, and when it ever does, it’ll still take a little while to see if we made the right call. Would you believe this is my first time dealing with eggocide in all the years and flocks I’ve had? I can’t believe people thinking this is a common problem in their flocks and actually sitting by nests waiting to grab eggs. Guess it was my turn this time.

Daycation

Originally posted 11-9-12. Thumbnails click out to original size.

I took my last long drive of the year out with my dad last Saturday, and it was so reminiscent of my childhood, especially the last couple of hours being uber carsick. Don’t worry, I didn’t throw up. I’m grown up now. My sister was kinda cringing over against her door… I never thought about other people suffering through my suffering as a child, bet she’s got poignant memories herself. But other than spending most of 12 hours in a vehicle, it was pretty cool and I got a few pix.

This first one nearly got my camera banned on the spot. We’d already been to McDonald’s next to the intersection in Seymour, and half the customers were Amish with their buggies parked outside and horses smartly trotting their buggies across the big highway, and I didn’t get my camera out once, it’s not polite, right. But there’s a 6 mile stretch of highway where you meet buggy after buggy coming through, so I super zoomed through the windshield from the back seat and snapped. There was a little bit of discussion over whether it would be ethical of me to post it to my blog, but I argued that the horse wouldn’t know the difference.

Accidentally got a pic of my feet. I am so in love with these shoes, ASICS® Gel – Kayano 18, not being paid to say that.

This is how I grew up, with atlases and maps in the car. Whichever kid got the front seat would be up to their eyeballs in maps ‘navigating’. Dad loves our tom-tom, cracks me up watching him hold it and accidentally bump the screen every two minutes, one time had to reboot and another had to reset the whole route. It’s like an electronic teddy bear for the car.

I let everyone else hold the map. I know we drove up C and wound up on the old Route 66.

This next part is mostly for any cousins who might happen to come through. We wound up at the Honda shop in Lebanon, #veryexciting. My dad and his brothers all had motorcycles, and Dad owned his own shop years ago with one of them. I’ve been told I was conceived on a motorcycle trip in California and have memories of being sandwiched between my parents on motorcycle trips (and mom was pregnant with my sister), and going to rallies and stuff. Anyway, what tickles me is Dad is this old Mennonite farmer and looks like he can barely get around with his bad knees, but he had to sit on several bikes around the store and yap with the owner for nearly an hour. He looks so cute. He sure wanted to take one home and relive some good old days. His favorite was the Honda Shadow. Here he is with Scott.

This one is more my speed.

I still have one of Dad’s old matchbooks. I think somewhere I’ve got the Dick & Dee Dee / Triumph Motorcycles 45 RPM, and I can still sing all the words.

 

After that we swung by Cackle Hatchery where I got my pretty girls, but they were closed, so then we jogged on up to Bennett Spring and hung out awhile.

The water in the spring was so clear that I could zoom through up to 30 feet and you couldn’t even tell. We tried to figure out how big that rock must be, at least waist high, the top is barely above water.

Random pix.


 

Last bits of autumn there. I think these would make great 1000 piece puzzles.

These click to bigger if you want to read them.

 

I was pretty worn out by then, so this is all I got going home.

 

autumn peak in the Ozarks

Originally posted 10-29-12.

You’d think this whole being allergic to autumn thing would deter me from frolicking out in it, but I installed a scaffold framework under my left eyeball so it couldn’t ooze down my face (loaded up on benadryl, I’m still floating) and spent the last three weeks running around all over the place.

We took off for miles two weekends in a row, one to Stockton Lake and one to Silver Dollar City, both during what turned out to be a lengthier than usual peak autumn foliage in the Ozarks. We have the potential for spectacular color around here, but so often get cut short by sudden sheering winds and nasty cold rains that the leaves get stripped off before we have the chance to bask in their glory. THIS year, autumn walked in casually, hung its coat and hat on the rack at the door like a gentleman, sauntered to a comfortable seat and quipped with the waitress before ordering a pot of coffee, settling itself in to regale us with made up tales of courage and daring do. We got more than two weeks before most of the leaves even thought about the oh-why-not leap into whirlygig freedom around my parts, and it turned into a slow almost choreographed Disney-ish promenade that is still happening on my street. Because the last several autumns have been so disappointing, I had my camera *ready*. There is no “I’ll go back and get that tomorrow” in Missouri. And now, true to nature’s ways, here come the cold winds and rain, and tomorrow the magic part will be all gone, just in time for the spooky Halloween part.

All the thumbnails click out to full size.

The hardest part is trying to catch the real magic on camera. Some of the trees around here go through more than one color change that slowly dots through the trees until you see everything from green to yellow to orange to red to bronze and brown all at the same time on one tree, and it’s stunning, but it keeps changing so quickly that the next day the variegated colors are done. Another tree might turn a bright yellow, then shade to a slightly oranger yellow, kind of like peaches, and then get a burnt sienna overlay that makes it look delicious when the sun hits just right. And while some of the tamer red maples go red all over and lose their leaves quickly, the wilder indigenous ones will flame up more slowly, with the red creeping through the green and then the edges of the red leaves crisping up like the edges of a berry pie in the oven, until brown laces all the red leaves. When the bright sun comes out, the trees glow, and I’ve never been able to truly catch that quality on a camera, even an expensive one. The pictures will come out brighter and more colorful, but you have to be *in* the woods under the canopy while the sun comes out to be part of the glow, like the magical Elven wood Lothlorien. In the upper left corner of this first one you can see a little leaf sticking up that is yellow AND red with the slight brown edging that I was talking about.

Persimmon trees remind me of peach pie.

By now, regular readers of my silly survey blog are recognizing my aspie ‘train spotting’ quirk as a tree obsession that goes into synesthesia overload when all the colors come out.  Since I grew up in the desert without a lot of trees, and now I’m surrounded by them because I live in the woods, it’s all magical.  I LIVE IN MIRKWOOD, guys.  Yeah, *spiders*.  The Ents around me may not be fully awake, but the whispering never stops.

People living along the coasts might be surprised to know that we get some of your seagulls coming through the heartland. Hundreds of them circled in while we were at Stockton.

No idea what this was about. We get a few fun loving eccentrics hiding out in these hills.

 

killing time in between thunderstorms

Originally posted 10-13-12.

Killing a little time before the next crazy thunderstorm hits. The last lightning storm lasted nearly 5 hours. We’re under a tornado watch, so I’m watching the weather maps.

This is the kind of pictures I think would make good 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

I like how driving through the Ozarks feels like the bones of the earth are showing. Don’t drive with a camera in your hand just because I do sometimes.

This is only one set of towers within 5 miles of my house. You’d think I’d get way better broadband, but I don’t, despite having the best. We live in a weird pocket, my street is like the Bermuda Triangle.

I’m not terribly fond of driving through junky little towns, but this one feels like there is something special about it. I think it’s all the trees hiding the town…

I love the shockingly brilliant red maples standing out before all the others turn orange and yellow. In a few more days half the county will seem like it’s bright red.

I feel like I’m on the top of the world at this point because you can see so much horizon all around. That’s one thing about living in woods that I miss, I grew up with lots of horizon in a desert.

My street feels magical because of all the trees. When the leaves fall it’s like driving through a movie, and when it snows you feel like you’re way far away in a magical wood, in a different world.

I love the way the world looks from my yard.

Looking out the window in between thunderstorms.

Kinda having a little trouble trying to keep up with a half dozen eggs every day. Those girls are machines.

 

mmm, rocks

Originally posted on 9-29-12.

Here we go, finally starting to turn around here. Won’t be long till the really big spiders come out and make their insanely gigantic webs across the yard.

Hawk watch. I’m not sure bunching up and freezing into place is the right move when a big hawk drops down and soars right over (I’m pretty sure that wing span was nearly as wide as I am tall). Red-Tailed Hawk | Missouri Department of Conservation

They stayed in that tight little knot all the way up to the house, but did a very thorough bug genocide over a ten foot wide strip between their house and mine.  Chicken herding has never been easier than with this bunch.

 

chicken style pumpkin pie

My chickens love watermelon and cataloupe on hot summer days and equally like to slurp up oven roasted squashes as the season transitions into fall and winter. I accidentally found out they really like pumpkin one year when I tossed an old jackolantern towards the edge of the woods and it broke open- they cleaned it out in no time, right down to the rind. A year later I put one in the pen, same thing. This year I decided to cook one up like I would any other leftover squash, and it sure made a rainy week all better.

Roasting anything is so easy. Line a roasting pan with foil, spray with a little nonstick spray, place a cut open gourd, squash, or pumpkin open side down, and fill with about an inch of water.

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This goes into a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or so, mostly just to get it softened up. You can poke the skin with a knife or fork and see if it’s easy to pierce. I caught this one about five minutes before it would’ve been so soft that it would have fallen apart, about an hour. As soon as you can easily pierce the skin, remove it from the oven.

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This is the most important part for ease later- flip that onto its back as soon as you can. If you let it cool even for five minutes first, it will seal down to the pan like a lid on a hot jelly jar. Slide a fork under the rim and very carefully lift so steam won’t burn you or you don’t splash hot liquid on yourself, ease it up and over onto its back. Now walk off and leave it however long you want because it’s too hot to do anything else with. Also, this gives it time to steam out a little. All squash will continue to ‘melt’ and collect a syrupy liquid, so the more it can steam and air out, the better.

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After it has cooled enough to handle, carefully lift and slide it over onto a plate. In case it’s soft enough to fall apart, don’t lift very much or move too quickly. After it’s on the plate, I sometimes shred it a little with a fork so the chickens can start digging in when they get it. I think they have more fun when they have to work at it, though, because it’s so boring sometimes, and really, what else does a chicken have to do?

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Since my hens have been stuck in the pen during a rainy week instead of out chasing bugs, I tossed a can of tuna onto the pumpkin for a protein boost. Getting all of one’s protein from grain isn’t necessarily the healthiest diet, and a little extra protein from something else once or twice a week definitely perks them up. Today it was tuna. Sometimes it’s a little bit of leftover burger or old shredded cheese. Protein nibblies! Please keep in mind these are NOT daily meal supplements, just once in awhile snacks. Overfeeding chickens ‘people food’ can result in malnutrition and impacted crop, which can cause death. If you see a chicken gorging, remove the food. Gorging might also indicate an underlying problem such as parasites, illness, or stress. By the way, as I set that pumpkin down on the ground, I bore through the skin in several places with a fork so the liquid could drain instead of sitting there getting muddy and fermenting. Makes the pumpkin easier to slurp up over the next 24 hours.

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Chickens walk around while they eat, changing places and circling, darting in and out, keeping an eye on each other in case someone else has a better bite. It’s fun to watch chickens take turns checking out new snacks, tasting and nibbling, talking to each other comparing notes like foodies in a Cheesecake Factory.

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Healthy chickens that aren’t stressed out will do this until they get bored again, which is actually fairly quickly, and it’s not long until the circle widens back out and next thing you know they’re thinking about shopping and talking about maybe hitting the salon. They will come back to the pumpkin once in awhile for a few more bites here and there.

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Some of you wish really bad that you could have chickens so you could watch them. Here are some videos.

 

 

 

Notes for people new to raising chickens-

Chickens are connoisseurs of a large variety of foods by nature and aren’t made to live off leftover garden produce like herd animals that graze. They also need fairly large amounts of denser proteins in order to keep pumping large amounts of protein right back out into eggs and still be able to keep healthy feather growth, healthy tissues, and healthy immune systems. I know it’s trendy nowadays to demand that chickens be fed an all-vegetable and grain diet lacking in animal products, but consider that our demand on them for eggs and their genetic enhancements that allow them to do that for us more often than they would in the wild actually make it difficult for them to live well if they live on the edge of nutrition deficit. It’s ok to supplement with snacks, but make sure one food group isn’t edging another one out and causing a nutritional imbalance. The best supplement to regular feed is getting to run around eating bugs and greens, and maybe the occasional small reptile, which is full of calcium because it has a skeleton. Chickens are opportunistic and will also eat mice if they are hungry enough, which isn’t a good idea because wild mice carry disease. If you allow your chickens to free range, make sure you don’t spray pesticides or use chemical fertilizers where they roam, because it will wind up in your eggs.

If your chickens eat every scrap of food you give them and don’t look or act well, like missing feathers that never grow back and pecking on each other, they might not be getting enough to eat, or lacking a specific kind of nutrient. Some people find that feeding chickens a little bit of meat will help with this. If your chickens won’t eat food you put in the pen, they either can’t handle eating it or they are too full of food already and becoming fat, which will slow down egg laying. If they are leaving food laying around to mold, remove it because moldy food can make them very sick. Chickens like to alternate actively foraging and napping through the day, and the exercise they get foraging helps keep their stress levels down when they’re back in the pen. If they must stay in the pen, keep the snacks small so you can distract them with something fun and different more often. Sometimes a head of lettuce is the bomb when chickens are bored.

 

Glade Top Trail

This is a rescue post from 9-24-12.

I don’t think I had been on Glade Top Trail in over 20 years. I’ve been sandwiched in between metro and tourist cities in a rural covenanted subdivision for so long that I kinda feel like I’m caught in a rat race. I lived on hundreds of acres near national forest during high school, so yesterday was awesome to get out and really breathe, even if it was only metaphorical. My histamines shot through the roof, so I had to crank up the benadryl a little.

My dad is one county over. The countryside from here to there is like night and day. This is still pretty tame a little over halfway to his house.

Most tourists come through the Ozarks and think they’re seeing rugged and beautiful, but it’s usually from the comfort and safety of people milling around a theme park or zipline. Seeing ‘the woods’ from a highway isn’t the woods. My first 14 years were spent in New Mexico thinking that ‘woods’ were the pine trees in the Colorado mountains. I couldn’t imagine the kind of woods in “Where the Red Fern Grows”, more like jungle growing right up out of steep jagged flint, the bones of the earth. We moved to the Ozarks when I was first hitting high school, and we lived in The Woods, creepy and magical, just like in fairy tales. “Wild thing from the wild woods, what do you want?” (Kipling, Just So Stories) Our dog was part coyote, one of our cats was half bobcat. I know because I saw that thing born from a stray cat out of the woods, the hugest ugliest tailless kitten we ever saw, and only room for one. I don’t know how that birth didn’t kill the mother. That kitten was bigger than she was when it was only half grown and never would tame down. Also, have to add this, us kids walked a mile one way just to get on a school bus, regardless of the weather. One day we stepped over a black snake stretched across the dirt road, well over 5 feet long. Never catch those and keep them in a jar, by the way, they really smell bad.

You don’t properly leave ‘metro’ until you’ve passed this point, the highest elevation for miles before a twisty plunge into another world decades behind this one. It’s kind of like traveling back into the 1970′s for me, but back in the 80′s it was like going back to the 50′s. Every time I travel through this countryside I imagine Hobbits traveling by pony to far away places, and how hard it would be for me without the highway. I think we take highways way too for granted nowadays.

And at that point I passed a house that has never had electricity. That’s a pretty rare thing, even in the most rural areas, and it’s right on the highway. I’ve been in that house, the people are sane and normal, they just like living without distraction. I doubt they have the kinds of anxiety issues that plague nearly one fifth of American adults, including me.The United States of Anxiety

We picked up my sister before we went to Dad’s. She lives down this magical road. Do you believe in fairies and pixies?

Don’t worry, she’s a big believer in electricity, even though she’s hand quilting a project from scratch. I don’t have the patience for that. I noticed she’s got a bumper crop of persimmons, the equivalent of deer candy.

Dropped a bunch of homemade goodies in my dad’s freezer (it’s his birthday, he’s 83 now) and put him in the front with the atlas. All us kids grew up with an atlas, learning to ‘navigate’. We’re all sort of obsessed with maps because of that, me to the point where I took a cartography class in my resource planning degree program so I could learn the history of how they are made, and even make one myself. I loved visiting the big map room in the college library, but back to Dad. He refuses to join our modern age, so it was all about that atlas, although he eventually got so fascinated by the Tom-Tom that he couldn’t put it down.

All roads lead to Rome, they say, so it wasn’t long until we were driving over the historical Rome bridge, originally built in 1913 and closed to traffic for a time in 2007 for severe structural deficiency. But little things like that don’t stop anyone from driving over it. Never saw a warning posted this time.

:update: 7-24-15 I just found out the Rome bridge has now been dismantled, but it’s well documented with really good pictures on Facebook.

We overshot and wound up way on the other side of Glade Top, thanx to a sign being shorn right off a metal pole, possibly from a tornado that skipped through awhile back. We had to turn around and go back up this highway. Can you imagine how beautiful this scene will be in a few more weeks when the foliage turns?

We eventually arrived, and x marked the spot on the map.

There are plenty of places to stop and take in views all around.

We probably saw a hundred squirrels and a couple of wild turkeys, but I was more focused on trying not to look down the sheer drop offs along one side of the road. My sister’s girl made up a ghost story during a field trip to Glade Top about a young married couple who plunged to their deaths in a Model T, and the story gets retold to this day. Kinda makes you wonder if most ghost stories are started by kids, and they’re around so long it becomes ‘fact’. That was almost 20 years ago. Note of trivia- my sister’s mother-in-law’s family owned the Glade Top property until the government incorporated it into the Mark Twain National Forest.

I’ve always had a hard time driving along steep drops, so I asked my sister if she remembered how we’d ask to ride in the back of the pickup when Dad took us up mountains so we could plan on bailing and leaping out before he slid off and rolled down a steep mountainside, and she totally remembered it. Dad would drive as close to the edge as possible so he could get a better view, and more than once we felt a tire slip. I utterly trust my dad, he has never ever let anything bad happen to us, but more because he walked the line of faith than held an arm in front of us. I grew up feeling like I need to be ready to bail in case of utter disaster and annihilation, even though it never happened. To this day I feel safer in the bed of a pickup than I do in the front seat, and I still have nightmares about driving up 90 degree inclines and clinging for dear life to the steering wheel and praying the whole vehicle doesn’t just fall off the road backwards. Come to find out, so does my sister… It was very hard for me to sit through watching the Titanic sinking because I know what hanging onto the pickup felt like going up and down steep hills. As I got older I realized I could get out and walk, and I did, far enough away so I’d be clear of where the pickup might roll. But it never did.

That atlas gave us stuff to bicker about several times. Dad was like a robot caught in a logic loop over the ‘missing’ road numbers (take a plat map if you go!), and my sister finally grabbed the atlas and became the navigator. I knew before I ever got to Dad’s it would be like this, having grown up with the guy, so I got a big kick out of the whole thing.  And it turned out I was right, we had crossed over into Taney County, and then cross back into Ozark County as we twisted around the little mountain.

Missouri still has execution laws.

Finally reached a nice picnic area near the top. They keep it fixed up because there are so many local groups and activities on Glade Top, including the Foxtrotters (horses) and the annual Flaming Fall Revue: A Barbecue and Music Event. You can see the old fire tower still standing. When our kids were young, people would still climb it, but I think now they’ve got warnings on it now because it’s getting too old.

After Glade Top we went out a different way to Theodosia to eat lunch at Cookie’s by the marina. Scott couldn’t resist the homemade malt.

Then we cut back through around Glade Top. I found the whole drive to be very satisfying after a hectic year in my own life.

And I’m a little envious of some of the people living on the rolling land around there. You never know where people will lose themselves when they’ve got the money to live the sustainable life, and I was a little surprised at a few of the ‘mansions’ tucked away in the hills.

For those who read the pre-drive post and are curious, no, Dad never did start building his coffin yet. In a couple weeks it’ll be 3 years since Mom died, and it’s really hard being alone after a long marriage. I’m also thrilled that this drive experiment went so well, I’ve barely been able to travel or sit in a car very long for about 5 years, and apparently the stuff I’m learning in physical therapy and strength training is working really well. I was able to control my pain levels just by getting out of the car every little bit and doing certain extension exercises, and if I can maintain that kind of control, I might be able to start traveling again. #veryexciting

:edit: I caught my sister on video talking about when she stayed at a cabin at Star Valley Retreat right there at Glade Top Trail, so if anyone reading this post is wondering about where to stay if they come scout out the Glade Top Trail side of Mark Twain National Forest, you can keep up with their current events and specials at Star Valley Retreat on Facebook. :edit: Oops, looks like they have closed, sorry about that.

invisible garlic monster

Some people swear by dogs, others say there’s no finer watchdog than a guinea, but my girls do a pretty good job of alerting me to questionable scenes when they are out on patrol. This garlic/tomato bed, for instance- someone got in and dug up the whole garlic bed. You can see a few bulbs lying around in the dirt.

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I know what you’re thinking, because Scott thought it, too- the chickens obviously dug up the garlic while they were dusting. To which I reply How? Because the whole reason we put that mesh up was because they kept dusting there, and it wasn’t until after the fence was up that suddenly garlic bulbs are laying around on top of the dirt.

What got my attention in the first place was the sudden “I’ve just laid an egg” sounding cackle right under my kitchen window.  photo 10confazzled.gif How? Why? And they had never cackled in that little bed before, even before there was a fence and they could dust at their convenience. Had one really laid an egg? My chickens are prone to such habit that I’ve never found an egg outside of the Quackerdome, so either she couldn’t get back and therefore couldn’t help laying an egg in there, or something else must be going on. I never did find an egg, so maybe I translated wrong and it was a whole different cackle.

I asked the girls how they got past security, and we had to walk the little fence before we discovered a hole big enough for a chicken to squeeze through. They’d already lost where it was and were trying to get out by the time I got there. Took awhile to find the hole because it was so hidden by tomato bush, no wonder the girls couldn’t find their way back out. They were all on alert for some reason, though, and I think it’s because they could see all the changes in their old dusting spot that I couldn’t. Chickens are super detail freaks, in high gear noticing change because it can mean life or death. They don’t like something being different from the way they left it when they come back to it later.

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Something as big as a chicken forced its way underneath a part that wasn’t staked down, spent quality time digging up all the bulbs (probably found a load of grubworms), and then left before dawn. My chickens have dusted in there plenty of times and never once dug up garlic bulbs, so they found fresh holes very disturbing. Anything that can dig can also get into chicken pens. It would be like you coming home to find your stuff moved around- would you feel safe? Of course not. Scott wanted to blame the chickens for the garlic bed being all dug up, even though chickens aren’t very smart about muscling their way under fences (stuff like that is like math to them, iz hard), until he caught a big armadillo in a catch ’em live trap a couple of nights later. Armadillos love digging holes all over looking for grubs.

So I have a bunch of garlic on my hands now. I’ve already used a bunch, this is still on my counter.

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I’ve also got tomatoes showing up along the deck railing nearly every day like magic, so I bring them in and they pile up on the counter, as well. Other people I know can their own tomatoes and sauces, but that’s a lot of work and I’m busy and tired. I found another way to process that’s super easy.

I line a cookie sheet with foil, quarter a pile of tomatoes, and clean up a couple heads of garlic, like so.

t2

Then I drizzle a little canola oil over the pile and toss it up with my hands until it all looks oily. I used canola because it handles high heat really well.

t3

That goes into a 400 degree oven for 30-60 minutes. I can’t be more exact because I don’t really look at the clock. I go by smell and how it looks. When it starts looking like this, I pull the pan out to cool.

t4

After it’s cooled off, I spoon the mushy maters n garlics into little snack bags and put them into the freezer. They keep really well, and the flavor is fabulous when I add them later to other food I’m cooking.

t5

I don’t know anyone else who can say they get help harvesting and cooking from armadillos and chickens. I think we make a pretty good team.

chicken coffee

Several years ago I looked out my window and saw a dead chicken.

I couldn’t imagine what in the world must have happened, so I kept my camera ready just in case.

Apparently the noise I was making shuffling through the leaves wasn’t cool. She got a little cranky, that was such a good nap.

Chicken coffee.

coffeerooster