Sunday, January 31, 2010

move over martha

I guess I never stopped to think about how much we rely on pre-packaged foods in our every day life. I didn't realize it until I decided to make Sunday dinner with fresh ingredients from scratch! Now keep in mind, I dont have a farm so I don't have fresh milk or beef and I did used store bought flour and mozzarella. But still making today's menu from scratch STILL proved to be a challenge for me!

The menu:

Sausage and Cheese Lasagna
Blackberry Turnovers made from our blackberry bush jam we canned in September.

The Specifics:
The Lasagna
I made the spaghetti sauce from scratch over christmas and stored the sauce and some meatballs in the freezer, so i used this for the lasagna. The rest is easy, I am Italian so I can do those in my sleep.

The bread:

Bread is becoming easier for me to bake. Its easier but still not very pretty. I guess its the taste that counts.

The Turnovers:

Turnovers are VERY hard to make for me lol The whole concept of creating and then rolling out the dough turned into such a messy nightmare but The result was 4 (out of 6) intact Turnovers.

The time frame:
I started this at 10:30, made dough for rising, made dough for fridge (turnovers), and then kneaded and second rose while I stuffed the turnovers, cooked them while I prepared lasagna etc. The timing all worked out well but the lasagna and bread are still baking and it is 1:15pm so this is going to amount to hours worth of work.

The outcome:
All were very pleased. It was fun and I managed to keep the kitchen clean in the process. Nobody was maimed and I did not get really pissed off and chuck anything at anyone so all in all Success! Keep in mind, I am NOT the cook in the family. I don't like it, its hard for me and tedious, yet I still enjoyed providing today's dinner for my family!

Have a fantastic Sunday folks!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Showdown hodown

The great bread show down has been completed!

The rules were simple, Blog vs Book bread. Each contestant had to choose their bread from either blog or book, and they had one chance to bake a loaf.
It started as early as 8am Sunday Morning when Lisa (thats me) could not sleep and decided to bake her loaf of bread. She gathered her supplies, rubbed the sleep from her eyes and began to create a masterpiece using a blogger's long tested recipe (one of you guys!). She slaved, and worked, and then set it aside to rise while she ate her Kashi Go Lean crunch cereal.
It may not be pretty but here it is, Lisa's submission of French Bread:

A few hours later, Dave awakens and discovers he is missing a key ingredient for his book bread and runs out to the market. After a few calls back to Lisa (who graciously decided to help him rather than leave him scrambling) he arrives back at Swood south with his ingredients and begins the painstaking process of making his bread.. Italian Semolina Bread:


Before I announce the winner, I just wanted to let you all know that this was in good fun. We are trying to live up to the "make more of our own food from fresh" challenge and in order to do that, we needed to learn how to make bread. Our kids eat alot of bread and wonderbread is not the same thing! This was just a fun way for us to learn!

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Wonder BreadImage via Wikipedia

So the winner is...

The Blog Bread!

Like you had any doubts! As ugly as it was, it was simple, tasty and I am sure that with a little practice, I could learn to not make ugly bread!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Its a showdown!

Step on up!

Dave and I have decided that we need to have a contest. We are the contestants and the kids are the judges. Since we have decided to make more things from fresh ingredients we have been searching for the perfect loaf of bread. I keep raving about how wonderful my blog friends recipes are, and he thinks that the book bread is going to be the best of the best.

You can probably see where this is going right?

Tomorrow we are having a contest to search for the best bread

blog bread vs. book bread

Of course I will not say publicly which blog I got the recipe from just in case we lose :) BUT if we win, I may be persuaded!

Wait for it tomorrow as I will post a full coverage of the bake off!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

T is for Trouble, S is for Solution.

In an effort to try to gain back my full flock after this winter's troubles, Dave and I have decided to set some eggs for hatching. We have easy access to fertilized eggs so we are totally cool with hatching little mutts for our own personal flock. I mean if this goes well maybe I will buy some cochin eggs or wyandottes for the future of SWood flock but for now as an experiment we are just hatching our own eggs.

I learned first how to tell if an egg was fertile by cracking open 4 of our eggs (we ate them) and carefully examining them, running back to google and then examining them again. Turns out 3 of the 4 were fertile. Thats 75%. We agreed to set 12 eggs on Friday evening so we fired up the incubator on Thursday night. Here is a picture of our incubator downstairs in our pantry. Photobucket You can see our freezer, this one is just for dog food (raw fed), and you can see our cans and dry good storage. We had nowhere else to store the bator so lol i guess it goes with the food right?

We collected eggs on Thursday and Friday and then on Friday night after work, I rushed home and we carefully inspected all of the eggs according to the directions I found online. Dave and I happily set 10 eggs, our little egg family, on their spots on the turner. We congratulated ourselves and I stood there and watched the temperature like a hawk. Photobucket

As soon as Dave went off to do his thing for the time being, I snuck upstairs and grabbed more fertile eggs and set them too. ha ha ha So we now have 14 little eggs on day 2 of the 21 day incubation! I eventually fessed up to Dave and told him what I did but I waited until he was in a great mood first. We have room for 6 additional hens. We also have plans for a little grower area inside the coop. They will be brooded in the house with us until they are about 1 month old, then they will go out to the coop with the rest of the ladies in the grower pen. This will hopefully make the transition easier for the introductions. I figure it will be just in time for free range time.

I will of course, update you but don't expect major news over the next few weeks. After all, they are just eggs and will remain so for 3 weeks :)

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

The one where she admits its not that easy :)

As I sat at my desk yesterday, I hear the familiar "bing" of new email received. It was about 4, and my day was over at 4:30. It was from hubby telling me about a chicken rescue. My heart just sank because I found myself back in the same spot I had been in many times over the last few weeks. I was once again faced with losing a chicken.

Let me back track a bit so you can understand. Our flock was solid at 12 hens and a Rooster. We spent the summer learning how to care for them. They were easy really. We use the deep litter method so the whole thing takes about 10 minutes a day to feed and water the girls and maybe an additional 20 minutes maintenance per week. They were free-ranging too so it was fairly inexpensive as they were not eating as much as their feed as they would be if they were confined. All of those bugs and fresh greens were filling their crops with vitamins and they were producing a solid 8 to 9 gorgeous orange yolked eggs per day. How perfect!


As you read earlier in the post regarding lessons learned, I added to my flock, and with that addition, we also added mites. Although more difficult, it was an experience I was bound to have so I trudged on enthusiastically and we rid ourselves of the problem. Then I added 2 Cochin. This time however, I properly quarantined them for 4 weeks, nursed one Cochin through a respiratory thing and then added them to the flock. 3 days after a "by the book" introduction, I came home from work to find one dead Cochin and another seriously picked Cochin. We removed her and nursed her back to live, but I re-homed her. I was done and had learned my lesson about adding new chickens to my already perfect flock.

Bad weather came, and with it, terribly low temps and much snow. The girls felt the snow was WHITE DEATH so we just stopped opening the pop door. They weren't going out there anyway and they were cold. I noticed that some of the black star's were getting thin on the feathers. I actually considered it a molt and went on with my life. A week later I noticed one of the black stars was bleeding. Upon closer examination I noticed that I had 6 bald hens and some of them were bleeding. One hen (Cotton's sister) was badly pecked with a HOLE in her back about 4 inches in diameter. I was horrified. I spent HOURS researching picking, minimizing their light (shut off the coop timer and let nature take its course), adding salt and vitamins, blue kote, pine tar and all the other remedies known to man. I cried and was fairly distraught. Found the picker and as you read, put her in our pot. We opened the pop door and shoveled the snow, the girls were out in the yard. Problem solved. The hens began to heal, even Cotton's sister was healing well.

I then noticed cotton's sister was limping. She had developed Bumble Foot. This being treated and the chicken starting to behave more normal... we were on to face the rest of the winter. What else could happen at this point? Had we not already dealt with just about every ailment that was common to flocks?

Monday of this week I was talking to harry and he had mentioned this awesome "hawk" that he saw flying in the yard. In fact, Django was barking at it. I warned him that the chickens were in danger and he told me that it was too cold, none of the chickens were out in the yard. Later, I got a call from Harry, who never calls me at work. You know where this is going. Cotton was gone and a hawk (or falcon) was well fed.

I was very sad again and now faced with having to shut the pop door again. Our pen is in the woods but without the leaves, they are exposed and now they are dinner. Now that we were down 3 hens, I assumed that the picking may not restart, the main picker is gone and they had more room to move around in there (they already had enough room but you know its just the train of thought I had).

This brings me back to where we started, the "bling" of the email received letting me know that once again, we had a chicken emergency. Cotton's sister was picked again, not knowing what else to do, Tarynn and Harry grabbed her and brought her in the house.

She has been cleaned, dusted with wonder dust and given water and food. Hopefully she will pull through again. She has had many ailments this winter and I am not that optimistic that she will make it but hopeful. I feel like she is very compromised with all she has been through. Harry and I will be putting a top on the pen and letting them out again into the yard.
We have learned so much... we are down many chickens. Our flock is now down to 8 with a Roo. I am sad for my losses I am discouraged in a way but not completely.

Yesterday I got an incubator (we didn't have time to build one, we want to start chicks right away). Sometime in the next few weeks I will completely document the process of incubating and hopefully hatching our own eggs and adding to our flock.

Thanks for always sticking by us :)

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year

Thai peppers (note: Variety native to Thailand...Image via Wikipedia

I have to thank those of you who have hung on and kept shmoopywood on your blogroll, reading list whatever you have kept us on. We have been on a brief hiatus. I have had to deal with some personal issues, not the least of which was losing my father. We are back though and I promise to start updating more regularly!

There are a lot of things planned for 2010, we have already started discussions about the garden. We learned a TON last year. We really did make it very hard for ourselves. We created our first garden ever, made it organic and used heirloom seeds! No wonder our yield was less than desirable! Good news is that I have learned a lot about placement within our own space, companion planting, and natural pesticides (I hate slugs). Also we had a rainy May/June which delayed our progress. We actually had peppers growing in November! Remember we live in the Northeast and November is quite late! In fact, this reminds me of a funny little story. Beginning of November, I was out tending the chickens (god I love saying tending the chickens) and my son was outside on the deck. As I was walking back to the house I noted a line of peppers glistening red and shiny. They were picked up at a Chicken Swap back on Memorial day weekend and they JUST ripened. Being of Italian descent I am not afraid of peppers, I reached down, plucked one off and popped it into my mouth and begun chewing. Lets just say, for an hour after, I was eating bread and ice water and crying. I finally found the little plant guide thingy and it said (of course) Birds Eye chili. Previously a member of the Guinness Book my friends… as the hottest pepper. It was dethroned due to hotter varieties being located but still… I ALMOST DIED lol.

We have had some trouble with our chickens, we had a VERY aggressive NH red hen who was just gorgeous but as soon as the weather started she began to eat her coop-mates. It was horrible. The rest of the birds are still recovering. I have 6 hens that have no feathers on their tails and 2 hens that have now healing HUGE open holes into their bodies. It was horrifying because as you know, once a chicken breaks the skin of another chicken, it’s a free for all. They instinctively peck at each other. I have a VERY small set up and not able to separate them. We found the culprit and removed her… It was SO hard for me to do. I caught, cleaned, treated and released all 8 of my remaining hens and my rooster was even pecked to bleed. I cried while cleaning them. I prayed they would make it and I even questioned my ability to keep hens. I added salt to their water for 1 day and then again 3 days later according to a picking remedy I saw. I sprayed them with Blue Kote, and slathered the hens who were featherless but not bleeding with pine tar. We talked about it and then we did something that some of you will cringe and other will just nod. We prepared her for the pot. It was hard, but it was a VALUABLE lesson. We learned how to raise, kill and dress our own food that day. Delilah taught us a VERY valuable lesson and we will forever be thankful to her for this.

We certainly have had our ups and downs over the last 3 months. I am sorry for being absent, sometimes life just takes over and you start doing things automatically, living through the bad. Blogging got left behind for that short time, so for that I apologize. We are hoping 2010 will be much smoother and full of lessons for us.

So stay tuned for more fun little tid-bits of misadventure while we gear up to build an incubator and incubate our own chickens, start our seeds, and other wild adventures!

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