Hatch Watch 2012 Live Stream

Update: The chicks moved out of the incubator to the brooder and you can watch them here.

Your regularly scheduled Jar Lunch is being pre-empted for live streaming of our hatching eggs! We woke up this morning to one pip and lots of peeping. You can hear the little peeps every once in awhile, and us cheering them on. They respond to the sound of our voices sometimes!

As an added bonus, you may hear our dogs Cash and Clementine whining, although I’m trying to convince them to spend some time outside in the sun with the fully formed chickens.

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the backyard jungle

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Hatch Watch 2012

Yesterday our Brinsea Mini Advance incubator told us there are 3 days left and stopped turning the eggs. Yes, our incubator turns the eggs for us and counts down the 21 days during incubation. Our research has told us to keep the incubator on lockdown for the final 3 days. No more opening it and candling the eggs for a peek inside. We removed the turning tray and added paper towels and we are ready for some hatching to commence.

I’m a little bummed that I didn’t have time to turn this into a photo project and document their development the whole time. Here is a photo of candling on day five.

There is certainly something developing in there!

On day five we thought we only had two or three developing. Our flashlight wasn’t bright enough and they were still very small. Within a couple days we got a better flashlight and we could tell exactly what was going on. There were two clear duds of our seven hatching eggs. Not bad! We started to see five little chicken embryos moving around inside the eggs. That was the highlight of my day at the end of each day during this process. It seriously blew my mind the first time we saw them move.

There are tons of YouTube videos (like this one below) that show candling eggs at different stages of development:

In the last week, we have been able to tell that one of our five remaining eggs quit. With four of them the chicks inside are getting so big all you can make out is darkness that moves sometimes and an air bubble. The quitter is noticeably smaller and not moving. So we have high hopes for four baby chicks and fingers crossed for at least 50% girls!

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homemade mango lassi

We are smoothie junkies around here, so I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me sooner that we could make mango lassis at home. It also didn’t occur to me that they are healthier than they taste. Instead of yogurt and milk, I like to replace some of the dairy with light coconut milk.

mango lassi
Makes a 1-3/4 cup serving.

Per person blend:

1 mango, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup lowfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons light coconut milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
a generous pinch of salt
a dash of cardamom

Optional: sprinkle with pistachios and drink through a colorful straw.

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Jar Lunch: Preserved Lemon Pasta with Morrocan Olives

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

This pasta was created for the sole purpose of trying to eat some of our preserved lemons. I would say both the lemons and the pasta were a success! I paired the preserved lemon with Moroccan olives, which are cured black olives.

Morrocan olives: cured black olives. If you don’t have these available, you can substitute Kalamata.

Preserved Lemon Pasta
Makes 8 generous servings

Ingredients:
1 (14.5 ounce) package whole grain pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 egg yolks
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water, divided
1/2 cup halved and pitted Moroccan olives
1/2 cup diced preserved lemon (pulp and peel)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas
3/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
4 ounces pecorino, shredded

Directions:

Cook the pasta al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving one cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and then add the olive oil. Once the oil has heated, add the onion. Sauté until translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the wine, turmeric, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid has reduced by about half and appears slightly thickened.

In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks. Very slowly pour in 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water while whisking constantly. There should be no lumps. Add the egg mixture to the sauce, and continue to cook over low heat until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Toss the sauce with the noodles. Add as much additional reserved pasta cooking liquid as needed so the sauce easily coats the pasta. Add olives, preserved lemon, parsley, and pecorino and toss until well combined.

Enjoy!

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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The Littles

It’s about time for an update on our flock integration! We have taken to calling our segregated flock “The Bigs” and “The Littles,” and it just stuck. While they aren’t best of friends yet, I am happy to report we have made major progress. Go Team Littles!


The Littles


The Bigs


The Littles again – are you seeing the theme here?

When we last left off, Katniss & Primrose were being bullied by Pepper and, more tragically, were really bad at being chickens. Perching and scratching and basic chicken life-skills seemed to be daunting to them. We were told our Lavender Orpington pullets had been free-ranged on 10 acres. In retrospect, what breeder of expensive chickens lets them run so free? I’m pretty certain they never spent a day outside until they met us, and I was convinced they were permanently stunted.

The little hidey-holes I built them (Pepper demonstrates above) proved to be the solution we needed. Instead of getting cornered in the run when being bullied, they miraculously became adept at jumping on top of the boxes where Pepper leaves them alone (mostly). They still spend a lot of time hanging out on top of those boxes, but little-tiny bit by little-tiny bit, Pepper is less interested in bullying them and they get braver.

After the Littles moved outside, Pepper spent the first few long days we were away at work in solitary confinement inside the coop. We would arrive home to a happy little flock of three. Lenora and The Littles would be together, eating and acting like regular chickens. And as soon as Pepper was freed, she would chase Katniss & Prim up onto their box. Sad, but soon they were more confident and Pepper no longer needed to be separated. Baby steps.

They have started hitting important milestones like going up the ladder and going down the ladder. I can’t tell you how much we love chickens we don’t have to put to bed or wake up in the morning. However, they have been putting themselves to bed in the nesting boxes, which has caused some confusion for all parties.


Pepper laid an egg in the hidey-hole because her favorite nesting box was occupied. Pepper has never laid an egg anywhere but the nesting boxes before.

Other new chicken-like behaviors: running, jumping, scratching, eating scratch from a human hand, and just today I found them dust-bathing. Now, if only they could start spending time as a foursome before our flock grows again.

I leave you with my favorite chicken shot from recent days:


Levi & Lenora

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The 48-hour kitchen makeover

Our oven died recently at a very inconvenient moment. We decided to seize the opportunity to convert to a gas range. Then we decided that we should re-do our kitchen floor before the new stove is installed. One thing led to another, and it seemed like while we’re re-doing the floors, we should replace the baseboards. And it would be nice to paint the kitchen too. This led to a frenzied 48 hour marathon of tile shopping, watching adhesive dry, being covered in glue and agreeing on the perfect shade of white paint. This is what our weekend looked like.


We loved the Armstrong VCT sample kit.


The gray grime is a leveling compound. The blue X marks the center of the room.


Low-VOC adhesive.


The borderlands.


The tile roller weighs 100 pounds!


We’re so pleased with the results.

We’ll work on before/after glamour shots once we can move all the furniture back to the proper place. Our new range arrives tomorrow. We have more painting, spackling and baseboard installation to do, and we need to seal/polish the new floor when the adhesive is cured, but I feel great about how much we accomplished in two days. These kitchen projects have been on our list since we bought our house and it’s exhilarating to cross them off.

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Jar Lunch: Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella

The Jar Lunch: It’s like a bag lunch or a bento lunch, but the next big thing is lunch packed in a good ol’ mason jar. I have to microwave my lunch at work, so metal containers won’t work and heating up plastic has me worried. We often simply fill mason jars with leftovers, but sometimes it is fun to come up with a clever jar lunch and make a big batch. Lunch for the whole family is already packed.

I tried to keep it simple this week. Translation: we are still without an oven. Time has been scarce, so I even went for store-bought pesto, although homemade pesto would make this recipe all the more delicious. You could omit the smoked mozzarella to lighten this up a bit, but I’m pretty sure you deserve a little smoked mozzarella. Levi took one bite of this and said, “Is that smoked mozzarella!?!” at which point I knew this one was a keeper.

Pesto Quinoa Salad with Smoked Mozzarella
Makes ten 1-1/3 cup servings

Igredients:
5 cups cooked quinoa
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
½ cup mayonnaise (light or regular)
1 (10 ounce) package grape tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1 (13.75 ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
8 ounces smoked fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes

Directions:
For quinoa cooking instructions, this method works great (and 1.5 recipes worth makes a bit more than 5 cups). You can make the quinoa the night before and chill overnight in the fridge. Otherwise, spread the quinoa on a baking sheet to allow it to cool faster.

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. Cut the spears into 1″ strips and steam for about 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and spread on a baking sheet to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pesto and mayonnaise. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, and toss until combined and evenly coated.

Please add your photos to the Jar Lunch Flickr pool for this or any other jar lunches you make!

See our other Jar Lunches here.

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Bloomin’ Rhubarb

If you grow rhubarb, this is a familiar, exciting sight this time of year.

Last year, I put in a few new rhubarb plants. They were rather inexpensive and I thought I could fill in ye olde rhubarb patch a bit. Then, this happened.

The variety I bought is an old-fashioned rhubarb variety known for bolting. I would not have bought it if I had realized this at the time, but it was an impulse buy. Bolting occurs when the plant sends up a flower stalk in an attempt to produce seed. Bolting reduces the amount of energy the plant has to put into leaf growth. We eat the delicious leaf stalks of rhubarb, so bolting reduces the harvest and is an undesirable trait. More modern rhubarb varieties have had the tendency to bolt bred out of them. I am reminded of modern commercial turkeys who can’t reproduce without human intervention, but I want more delicious rhubarb so I prefer the modern varieties too.

The flower is a little alarming and it looks something like pink cauliflower. The gardener can simply chop off the flower stalk, and the rhubarb should return its attention to growing leaves. It would be preferable to chop it off before it gets this big, but we were busy.

Now that the flowers are gone, hopefully our new rhubarb plants will go back to making pie fillings. I’m not sure if I’m willing to tolerate this behavior, or if I should dig them up and plant a different variety.

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chickens before they’re hatched

I’ve mentioned the trouble we had acquiring chicks this year, so we cast a wide net for our options. We bought the lavender pullets, but we needed a couple more hens. Specifically we wanted Salmon Faverolles. They are, as you can clearly see, the most adorable chickens on the planet with their lovely beards and feathered feet. Levi tells me faverolles are the “three french hens” mentioned in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” so they go way back.


Photo borrowed from the Faverolles Fanciers of America

Unfortunately my attempts to source day-old faverolles chicks were extremely frustrating and I learned a lot about the genetic stock available at big commercial hatcheries. This led me to the Backyard Chickens forums (Those BYC people know everything about chickens. I’m serious!) where many people recommended a breeder in Oregon who sold hatching eggs. There was a waiting list for eggs, which we signed up for. I ordered an incubator, which was back-ordered but arrived just in the nick of time. The eggs arrived, full of hope and potential, packed into shredded paper and wrapped in bubble wrap.

We installed them in our new Brinsea incubator, where they will spend the next 21 days growing into happy, healthy baby faverolles, hopefully. The Brinsea Mini Advance is the smartest incubator we could buy. It turns the eggs. It controls temperature and humidity. You can even set it for a daily cooling period to mimic a broody mother hen who gets up to go eat and drink. Hopefully it can help eliminate a lot of rookie mistakes. Plus it’s a clear dome so you can see everything that’s happening inside. The incubator holds seven eggs, so that’s how many we bought.

We placed the incubator near Krista’s favorite gnome, who can watch over the eggs and read them stories.

We might hatch anywhere from zero to seven chicks. I’m trying not to, well, count them before they’re hatched but it’s difficult not to be hopeful. And yes, I do feel like we’re kind of crazy for doing this, but now that it’s happening, it feels like the most reasonable and exciting thing. So, stay tuned for future incubator updates: from candling to countdown!

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