2017… And so it begins.

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Reminiscing about greener days on the farm

I almost just shot a coyote!

My god… how life has changed. But if a creepers gonna creep on my flock, I’m going to have to take them out. Just call me Laura Ingalls effing Wilder. No, don’t do that. I don’t think she’d approve. Plus, I don’t know if she’d actually shoot a coyote, but it’s 2017 baby, and this farm girl’s got a gun!

Hey all! It’s me, y’know that sweet sweet blogger you’ve missed hearing from? I can officially say that I completely failed all of you in the year of 2016. Like, seriously. I had three blog posts. Three. Ugh. The worst. But I’m back! And better than ever! Well, I don’t know about the better part, but definitely back. More prepared maybe. After having a kid, I seem to have snacks on me at all times so that is an improvement.

In the past, I’ve started the year out with a recap of our past years goals, how far we’ve come and what life is looking like for the New Year. I did a great recap of 2016 already, and for the most part it covered our goals and accomplishments. You can catch up here if you missed it. You will see in our current list of goals and aspirations, we seem to have lost our minds and decided that we can, and should do all of the things.

Who needs sleep anyway.

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“We do Mom. We need sleep. The baby is mobile and he is everywhere!”

I’m headed back to work a real job in March so things should get so busy that we’ll be taken down a few notches, but for now, here’s our list:

  • Install deck railing and child gate – we attempted to get this done before winter hit in 2016, but it just didn’t happen. But we need to get on it because we have the busiest little boy on our hands and he is just raring to get out there.  So definitely #1 on the list.
  • Landscape and clean up the farm for the family reunion – Every three years, my husband’s family has a family reunion, which is awesome! We were, um, voluntold a few years back that our farm was picked to host the family reunion and we were very excited… when it seemed so far away. Now, it’s here! In July.  And we have some things to do. The theme is Pioneer Days though and I am already planning a pack horse race so… it will be a good time regardless if our farm is presentable!

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    Luckily, I know a decent landscaper ❤

  • Honeybees – this is happening this year. Even if we just have to get some bees and learn the hard way. It’s happening.
  • Horses – Currently we have 20 horses on the property: 12 mares, 4 geldings, 3 colts and 1 stud (Thor is back!!!) We’ve been keeping everyone fed and the colts are finally weaned. They are hanging out with our stud horse Thor and learning that humans aren’t so scary… which means we’re actually managing our wild herd! My father-in-law is brining hay across the river to the remaining wild ones and we plan on bringing more across this spring. We still don’t have an exact count of how many total there are, so we’ll just have to keep catching them.
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    So. Fuzzy.

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    This little one is very friendly and just wants to be loved by me

  • Garden – Oh, the project that just keeps on giving…
    • Organic Certification: Our commitment to producing crops organically is going to be official! Clay and I decided to go pesticide free on our commercially farmed 88 acres of farmland when we moved onto the property, so the first summer would have been 2014. We need a minimum of three consecutive years of no pesticide use to qualify and plan on having certification by 2018. We are initially going to certify our crops and have plans to move into certifying our poultry, eggs, honey and any other products we may venture into on the farm. So. Exciting. We will continue to practice organic methods of fertilizing (compost, worm tea, cover crops) and pest control, as well as continue to strive for a permaculture balance on the property as a whole. Organic certification will mean that we are going against the grain of the farmer’s and fields around us to provide a healthy ecosystem for our family, our critters and the wildlife that share this land. It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time and I’m beyond thrilled to be learning and living the process.

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      The grass and weeds had a very healthy year in 2016. I promise you there is food in there somewhere!

    • CSA Farm Boxes: A long-term goal of the farm is to become a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation. Basically this means that people in our community will invest in shares of our farm and crops at the beginning of the season to help us buy the supplies we need and then, in return, will receive a share of our harvest throughout the harvest season. Eating local at it’s finest! So this year I want to commit to selling 5 boxes per week for 10-12 weeks… gotta start somewhere!
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      2016 dinner harvest

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      I am planning on getting some of my preserves tested this year so I can offer them through my farm boxes at the end of the season

    • Set-up small greenhouse, prep, dress and mulch 100′ beds, install drip lines, manage pathways, work on grass issue, plant 5 fruit trees (pear, plum, apricot, honey crisp apple x2), plot 2 fruit tree guilds in the food forest, fix raspberry bed and prep remaining 100′ beds on west side of acre garden. All while keeping a small child from burning and overheating in the open field…there’s going to be a lot of dirt eating this summer. Yup.
  • Chickens – my small little flock needs some filling out and my egg basket needs more colour (did you know that egg colour is addicting?). As of now I have 1 rooster and 9 laying hens, a mixture of green and pink eggs mostly with one blue one thrown in for good measure. I received an incubator for Christmas this year (thanks Mom and Dad!) and have my first set of eggs incubating as we speak! If all goes well and I don’t absolutely kill all of them, then I will be hatching many many more. Eggs on order include: Black Copper Marans (dark brown egg), Ameraucana’s (blue egg), Silkies (small white egg), Blue Isbars (green egg), Cream Legbar (blue egg), Icelandic (tinted white egg), Lavender Orpington (light brown egg), Wheaten Marans (dark brown egg), Olive Eggers (olive green egg) and silver and blue laced wyandotte (light brown egg). I think I can officially claim that I’m a chicken farmer…. or a crazy chicken lady? Same difference in my book 🙂 We are also embarking on the world of turkey ownership this year… it could go either way. They could be super awesome, sweet and fun to have on the farm or I could have to face one down and hit it with a shovel like that one time I was 12 at my friends house. Could go either way…

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    Current egg basket. Just set 24 of my gals eggs in the incubator and expect a hatch on February 28

  • Cabin – there is much to do in our 16×20 cabin on the property. After meeting with the bank regarding the build of our dream forever house it’s been determined that we must live in the cabin for up to 12 months during the actual building process. That means me, my husband, our toddler and 2 large dogs will be moving in and living that REAL homesteader life. So yes, much to be done in the cabin. But stoked to be planning our dream forever house!

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    Work in progress…

I suppose that sums it all up. Seems doable, and if not, definitely a lesson in patience. I must say, I can’t remember a time when I have ever felt more fulfilled with my daily life or with where I am. It truly feels as if we are in the exact right place at the exact right time. And with the state of the world today, it feels good to be connected to our land, our family, our community and our happiness. 2017 will be a year to learn, grow, be kind and over all else – love.

What’s on your plate for 2017?

~Katy

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The Young and the Nestless

eggsIf you know me in my new farm life, you know that my life is never without chicken drama, most of which I refer to as The Young and the Nestless. It is a never ending cycle of broody-bitchy hens, obnoxious egg songs (some hens actually “sing” after they lay an egg, although it’s less of a song and more of a hey-I’m-being-murdered sound), a cat who thinks he’s a chicken, and too many roosters for one person to handle. I even got rooster sperm on my arm once trying to save a hen from a gang-bang. That’s right. Rooster. Sperm. On. My. Arm.

Lately, the drama has gotten real. My chickens free range during the summer months which means they are unsupervised on the property most days. Not only does this mean my newly planted perennial beds are forever mussed, it also means there is a chance of egg hiding. Add in ridiculously warm sunny weather and a stifling hot coop and you get no eggs for days.

After two weeks of getting one egg a day (thanks Izzie), Clay and I searched and searched and searched for their hidden stash to no avail. I even tried to bribe my so called chicken-cat into telling me where this elusive nest was. The dogs were no help and I figured I’d have to do some sleuthing (slash stalking) to find the treasure. The game was on.

Of course, the hens were immediately on to my plan and just gave me the run around… and the goose eye. Come on ladies, don’t I do everything for you? Don’t I feed you and give you snacks and fresh water and straw and struggle snuggle you any chance I can get? They weren’t having it. At least I knew I wouldn’t be dealing with more chicks since they all headed into the coop for the night. They’ve successfully tricked the two broodies in the coop who are confused as to why they have no eggs to set upon. Georgia and Florence – give it up ladies, you’re being broody for no one.

Sunday afternoon I was ready to give up… My biggest fear was that some adorable fox would happen upon this magical stash of easter eggs, devour them, go looking for more tasty treats and run away with my chicken-cat to have fox-chicken-cat babies that would show up in season 3 reeking havoc… typical chicken farmer stuff y’know.

But then I heard it… someone was being murdered someone had laid an egg and they were singing their song! I rushed outside and found Georgia, curiously off of her broody horse, heading for the bushes. She was on the search as well so I put Maynard on point and headed into the depths of our chicken yard. And then I found her. Betty, setting atop a pile of eggs. Hooray! The search had ended and now, now I was in the loop. I waiting impatiently for Betty to do her thing and promptly scooped up 25 eggs. 25 eggs! The ladies were busy.

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Maynard facing off with Georgia… don’t worry, Georgia always wins

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Following the fluffy butt

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A-ha!! Jackpot! Poor little Betty was the victim of the gang-bang saving… nasty roosters tore her skin so bad I had to super-glue her together. We’re just waiting on a good molt to get her feathers back… Learn something new everyday folks!

A friend recommended I do the water test by floating them in water – if they stay at the bottom they are good, if they float to the top they are bad. I was happy as could be. I had solved the chicken drama.

In retrospect, I should have known it was too good to be true. Rookie mistake in taking all of the eggs off the nest. Turns out they didn’t want me in the know and now I have no eggs in the coop and no eggs in the outside nest. Damn. The search continues. At least the chicken-cat is still with us and the broodies are back in the boxes. I’ll take what normalcy I can get.

Until next time folks, beware the rooster sperm… beware.

~Katy

 

 

Warmer Weather

March has arrived and with it, warmer weather. At least today. I have spent most of the day outdoors with my critters enjoying the sunshine and thought you all might like a peek into our funny little world.

Wyatt and Sake have been working on their relationship…

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Wyatt is working on his “easy” skills

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They both got in a good sniff

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Then Wyatt was ready to play

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The intensity Wyatt, the intensity

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We also worked on his “lay down” skills

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My handsome old man

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Then she just started to taunt him

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She would tolerate playing under the BBQ

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Mostly…

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In the end, the sun won and they both took a nap

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Ain’t she purrrrty

The cat’s ratings went up when Wyatt noticed she could get ONTO the barbecue. The plot, as always, thickens.

The chicks are more active everyday as well as their Mama. Dad came in to see the babies for the first time, and although Josephine wasn’t stoked, she tolerated him a lot better than everyone else.

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Learning

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The four newest fluffs: Hazel (yellow), Mabel (all black), Malka (middle) and Phil (if he turns out to be a she, Philomena it is)

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Beatrix checking out the scene… and the food

The chickens are happy for the sun.

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“My mom cleaned out the chicken coop and all I got was this lousy chicken” ~Sake

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Georgia takes a dust bath in the sun

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I can’t sit down without someone on my lap

I hope you all are enjoying March so far, just keep in mind.. in like a lamb, out like a lion. Or in my case, in like a chicken, out like a Wyatt 🙂

~Katy

 

 

The first babies on the farm

If you have ever felt the urge to get nothing done in your life, I suggest you hatch chicks under a broody hen. It has been 23 days since I set Josephine and Georgia on clutches of eggs and the last few days have been busy. And I haven’t gotten a lot done… well, I guess if you count judging 4-H speeches, going to a job interview and taking the dogs on a ski with mismatching skis nothing, then yeah. But the remainder of my time has been spent in the coop. On the floor. Staring at Josephine.

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I think the saddest part about this is that I didn’t realize it until about 20 minutes into the ski… babies on the brain I suppose

Thursday night around 9 pm I heard a faint chirping noise coming from Josephine’s nest. WHAT!? I was so excited, I promptly sat myself down and listened intently for about an hour. Friday would mark 21 days of gestation which is the average amount of time for a chick to hatch. I knew (Googled) that chicks can start peeping from within the shell before they attempt to break on through to the other side, so it was really happening.

I spent pretty much all day Friday in the coop, although didn’t get to see anything. I still heard chirping and knew we had at least one little chick on it’s way.

Saturday brought a busy day, but I rushed home to check on the situation. I sat on the floor and hunkered down for a few hours of staring at Josephine. Don’t worry, I had company.

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Group audience selfie! (Sake kills it in this photo)

Then, I finally saw our very first baby on the farm. It peered out from below Mama hen, took one look at it’s audience and scurried right back to whence it came.

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Hello little one

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Oooo, it’s a baby!

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I guess I wouldn’t know what to do with an audience like that either…

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Yay Mama Josephine

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I feared it was dead, but it started to chirp at me

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Such a little sweetie, looks like we might have Dad’s markings 🙂

Well, three days later I’m proud to report Josephine hatched two more little ones. To my surprise, Georgia got off of her nest this morning, and as I walked by, I noticed a wee one who had literally just come out of the shell. A light colored one to boot! (I have an inordinate amount of black chickens) Georgia seem uninterested in returning to her nest, even though I tried to set her back on it a few times. I was aware that with it only being 40 degrees in the coop, it was a critical time to keep the chick warm. Then, Pearl decided she wanted to lay her egg in that nest and started pecking at the baby. Well, Katy to the rescue. I scooped up the little one and sacrificed my hand to place it under Josephine hoping she wouldn’t be too upset and reject it. She was upset, but just with me. She tucked the little one under her wing, gave me the goose eye and proceeded on with her day. Good Mama.

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Sometimes it’s easier to drink when you sit in the water

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Mama and baby

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I call these two the twins

So all in total we have four hatched, one that died on it’s way out of the shell, and one that is still “cooking”. I originally set fourteen eggs so although not the greatest success rate, I’m pretty impressed with my two broody gals. Over the past three weeks we’ve had temps down to -20 so they did their job well.

I candled the remaining eggs and found all of my orpington (brown) eggs didn’t even seem to be fertilized. I guess we know who Beatrix prefers… those beautiful Olive Egger ladies. Which I’m stoked for because I just love my green eggs.

I’m still hoping for that last egg to hatch, but am over the moon about four new additions.

We may still have snow and ice, but it’s sure starting to feel like springtime around here.

~Katy

We’re Expecting!

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The coop on a snowy cold day

And by we, I mean the chickens… Why, what did you think I meant?

I hope I didn’t just give my husband a heart attack…

It’s been a very cold couple of days here in Northern BC. We’ve been having a winter storm with temps down to -38 and lots of snow and everyone on the farm has been hunkered down. The dogs rarely leave the comfort of the wood stove, and I bundle up in my Carhartt coveralls to head to the chicken coop. Yes, that’s right… I own Carhartt coveralls. Who would have thought!

Though the temperature has been depressing, you wouldn’t know it if you entered our coop. With the daylight increased, spring has sprung for the chickens.

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Busy hens and lounging cats… welcome to our coop!

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Miss Georgia in the nesting box

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Josephine the Dinosaur… I mean the broody hen

I had two hens go broody this week. Basically, they are preparing to hatch some eggs. Both Josephine and Georgia were settled down in the nesting boxes at night and when I tried to move them they turned full dinosaur on me. You know, like the one dinosaur in Jurassic park that spit on that guy… like that.

They puffed up, shook their neck feathers and made some type of rattling noise at me. Strange little chooks. Once I picked up Josephine and saw she had “feathered her nest” by pulling out her chest feathers and decorating her nesting box, I knew I had a broody hen. Georgia quickly abandoned her nest after I offered up some treats twice in one day, so I was down to one. Sometimes they aren’t cut out to be mothers.

Well, back to Google I went because I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Do I break the broodiness? Do I let her hatch some eggs? It’s only February so is it too cold up here in the North? So many questions and so many answers.

I had been collecting eggs pretty religiously so I knew she was only sitting on a golf ball, but she was determined as ever to hatch it, so I felt it was a good time to do an experiment and see if we could hatch some eggs. Plus, I didn’t really have the equipment to break her broodiness, so I took the lazy way out. Why not let nature take it’s course?

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The hen house has been full of busy bodies since the girls went broody, everyone is up in each others business

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Like really up in each others business…

It takes 21 days to hatch an egg, if everything goes just right. We have cold temps working against us, but I figured I could set up the nursery under the heating lamp to help things out. Google said it was easiest to move a broody hen in the evening so I prepared the nursery yesterday during the day to make sure it was ready. I piled up a bunch of new clean straw in between two feed bins under the lamp and to my surprise, Beatrix my rooster began to prepare the nest for me. It was the darndest thing… and ridiculously adorable. I’ve never seen anything like it. He got right in there and turned and groomed the straw, all the while making cooing and clucking noises. He was very proud of himself. Such a good Dad-to-be. Apparently this is a sign of a good rooster… I knew he had it in him.

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Beatrix nesting

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Stella was very interested in what was going on

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Well, then everyone had to come check out the new digs

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Quite the to do

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Sake was the first to try out the new nest… I hope I don’t have a broody kitten on my hands

After shooing out the crowd that had gathered to inspect the nursery, all I could do was wait until night fall.

Evening came and I snuck out with a basket full of eggs I had been saving. 9 in total – 4 orpington eggs and 5 olive egger eggs. I arranged them delicately in the nest and moved Josephine over to see them. I made sure to wear gloves because broody hens love to peck and bite! She hesitated a bit and had a slight panic over being outside of the nesting box, but then she began to eat a little and I figured I should leave her to it. She was either going to sit on them or not. I don’t know how long she was off the eggs, but when I returned a bit later, she was up again. I scooped her up and settled her on top of them and she settled right in. A good sign.

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Our pretty eggs

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Setting the bait… a nest full of real eggs to sit on

This morning I ran outside like a kid on Christmas and she was still on the nest!

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Morning in the nursery, she looked pretty content… or maybe she’s just giving me the goose eye…

Chickens stop laying eggs during their broodiness, so I am down a layer but hopefully it will be worth it. I can candle the eggs in about week to see if they are developing and get rid of any eggs that may not be good. Candling basically involves holding the egg up to a flashlight and seeing if an embryo is forming. Since Josephine is a first time mom, she could abandon the nest at any time or worse, kill the babies when the hatch so this is going to be an interesting adventure. But I’m all for learning something new!

Now all we have to do is wait…. No easy task for a over bearing chicken lady and an anxious first time father.

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No Beatrix, they haven’t hatched yet

Wish us luck!

~Katy

 

 

 

Why I will never boil another egg

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Our lovely assortment of eggs

As light begins to come back to us through longer days, our gorgeous hens have upped their production of eggs. As of now, we have 8 full time laying hens: 4 olive eggers (green eggs), 1 mixed breed (tan egg), 2 blue orpingtons (light brown and pink eggs) and 1 black orpington (light brown eggs). We have yet to find 8 eggs in one day, but they are starting to consistently lay 6-7 per day which adds up very quickly. So I find myself with an over abundance of eggs and there have never been more frittatas made.

Since my husband loves hard boiled eggs I attempted to keep at least a half a dozen in the fridge at all times. Though, our eggs are so fresh, they didn’t peel very easily. In fact, not easily at all. By the time you got the shell off, you’d have half an egg left. After researching (google) I found out that this is common among farm fresh eggs, which is concerning since I never seemed to have the problem with store bought eggs… Makes you wonder how “fresh” they really are. Someone suggested adding baking soda to the cooking water. Okay, let’s do that. Once again, a peeling mess and now the eggs tasted a bit like sulphur. Gross.

What to do. What to do.

One night on instagram, a fellow chicken lover posted a method that involved steaming the eggs instead of boiling them. She claimed it worked like a charm on her fresh eggs, so I knew I’d have to give it a try.

And folks, I will never boil another egg again.

Not only did they peel like a dream, they were beautiful and tasted amazing. I had to give the girls a high five for their hard work and this new discovery… although they were confused by the gesture. Thus is life on the farm.

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High five anyone… anyone…

Perfect Steamed Eggs:

  • 1 dozen eggs (or however many you have. We just have a lot. Like, a lot.)
  • Large pot with steamer insert, filled with about 1 inch of water
  • Bowl of ice water

Bring the pot up to a boil and carefully add eggs. Cover and let steam – 6 minutes for soft boiled and 12 minutes for hard boiled. Remove and add to ice water for 15 minutes. Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days or eat immediately. Easiest to peel under cold running water.

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The magic of a steamer basket

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Our gorgeous shells destined for the compost bin

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The prettiest peeled eggs I ever did see

Eggs for days people. Eggs for days.

~Katy

 

Weekend on the Farm

This weekend brought cold temperatures and sunshine for us on the farm. The winter has proven a formidable nemesis for chores, and we find it hard to motivate ourselves to bundle up and head out into the weather. Alas, we must, so we do… but we make sure to keep the wood stove stoked and the tea kettle on the ready.

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These Pine Grosbeaks are my favorite new members of our wild bird crew

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1-DSC_0081 We had two coyotes in the field on Saturday… Clay grabbed my .243 to make sure they didn’t find the hen house. Wyatt did not bark

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The very prepared hunter after he missed his targets

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We had to jump ol’ whitey to get him to start, but he finally did and we took a bale of hay down to the horses

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Clay hauled in some wood to replenish our stack

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We groomed some ski trails around the farm with this nifty groomer Clay built. Maynard sure does love to mess up all those pretty tracks we lay down… but he has so much fun we can’t help but let him

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Kindling was on my to do list and I got to use my gorgeous Alaska axe

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Fluffy butt Friday

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My handsome rooster Beatrix

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Good to know that Sake likes chicken scratch

There you have it folks, a little peek into our weekend. I hope you enjoyed yours as much as we enjoyed ours.

~Katy