Monthly Archives: June 2013

First Blueberries of the Summer!

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What a beautiful (and delicious) sight! The handful in the second photo lasted about 30 seconds once they were within reach of The Boy, but they were SO sweet and sunshiney!

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Our bushes are still small, but every summer we get to take our turns picking from the huge, 30-year-old shrubs at my parents’ house, where it’s easy to get over a gallon every other day. It looks like quite a year for them, too. I see lots of cakes, pie filling, jam, and pancakes in our future…

From The Farm Blog Hop

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Lash Eggs — Thank Goodness They’re Rare!

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This is a basket full of perfection fresh from the coop at my parents’ house last month. In the background, you can see my nephew apparently being crept up on by a giant bee while he waits for his turn at the Slip’n’Slide. Kind of bizarre. Also, in the upper left, you can see the big flat rock where Ben and I got married eight years ago next month. Anyway, what’s in this basket is what’s supposed to come out of chickens.

Basket of Happy

What’s next is what came out of one of my chickens recently. Warning: it could be considered graphic. If you get grossed out easily, stop scrolling now! You’ve been warned!

Lash egg

The hens would probably have eaten it if I hadn’t been in the run when it was, um… laid? Exorcised? From its mother’s womb untimely ripped? Whatever. A couple of chickens were scratching in one spot, and when they moved on, one of them had left this behind. At first, I thought it was a large but normal egg. Then I got closer and actually saw it. And then I picked it up. Not because I really wanted to, mind. I just knew if I didn’t, it would get torn apart pretty quickly, and I wanted a chance to study the thing.

After some Googling (“weird egg,” “hen laid ovary,” “hen laid alien life form,” etc.), I figured out that it’s called a lash egg, or just a lash. There are several posts on Backyard Chickens about similar occurrences, but I found this one most informative. The original poster did some research after finding out a name for the thing and then shared this:

“Experience of hard-core chicken keepers  (official experts enough, imho) seem to suggest it is a sloughing off of the reproductive system, usually thought to be lining.  It is discussed on forums in hens of all ages but evidently going though either a hormonal change at the beginning or end of their laying production period overall.  Sometimes lash is connected to a stressful incident that caused them to stop laying for awhile or a change from broodiness to laying again. Hormonal changes seem key in producing lash.  What “lash” material actually is, is debated.  Photos show various textures and sizes which make it extra hard to pin down.  I suspect “lash” is a broad term used to describe anything that comes out of the hen’s reproductive tract (usually coated with a rubbery layer of material in pink to yellow hues) that is not easily identified.  It is obviously flesh material, though, and not egg.”

Seems to sum it up pretty well. I don’t know which hen produced the lash, so I can’t say if she’s laying or not. I do have one Buff Orp that’s acting a little “off” right now, but she’s only been like that for a few days, and the lash was laid several weeks ago.

Has anyone else had a lash experience?

From The Farm Blog Hop

Happiness is a Warm Slice of Bread.

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I’ve wondered several times recently if it’s worth doing all we’re trying to do to live differently. Life can be so easy if you’re willing to just run down to the grocery store and buy pretty packages of ready-made food that bill themselves proudly as “natural,” “healthy,” and “old-fashioned.” And I will freely admit that for a few weeks (OK, months) after bringing our new baby home, I succumbed to the convenience. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of looking at an ingredient list on something I was about to feed my family for supper. Yeah. Bad idea. Now, I’m trying (read: struggling valiantly while wearing a baby on my chest) to get back into the habit of cooking from scratch.

Fortunately, I’m blessed with a sweet husband who loves to cook, so if the baby needs me around suppertime, Ben is totally capable of stepping in and fixing food for the three of us. Over the past year of pregnancy and babyhood, he’s also been awesome about taking care of the chickens and rabbits whenever necessary. I hope I won’t ever take for granted his willingness to come home after 10+ hours of work and still take an active part around the house. I’m trying to do as much as possible on my own, though, because I hate so much for anything to add to his burden.

But really, at times like this, it does seem so tempting to just let all of that stuff go. Let Ben come home from work and enjoy a well-earned rest. Let me focus on Legos and Golden Books and baby snuggles. Isn’t that all that really matters? Obviously, the answer is yes. And no.

I really do believe that we’re doing what’s best for our family by making the choices we’re making. Even the ones that might make other people think we’re crazy or have our priorities completely out of whack. (I’m pretty sure half of my Facebook friends have gotten sick of my agricultural/anti-GMO/crunchy-ish posts and unsubscribed from me!) And I want to be totally honest about the fact that we cheat sometimes. I don’t ever want to give the impression that we have this whole thing figured out. We don’t. But we’re trying.

For one thing, for reasons I’ll explain soon in another post, this will not be The Year of the Garden. I got a few tomato and pepper plants in the ground last month (didn’t even try to start from seed this year!), but my poor eggplants, okra, and cucumbers never even made it out of the pots. Next year, though, we should have a fantastic start as we work in all of the rabbit and chicken manures, straw, and leaves we piled on the garden plot this past winter.

We’ve also decided to cut down on the number of chickens we have. Our main coop is overcrowded, mostly because we planned to replace our older hens as their laying slowed down, only to find that they continued to produce like champs right alongside the new pullets. And overcrowding has led to feather-picking, so my beautiful girls aren’t so beautiful anymore. I’ve put up portable fencing in front of their coop so that they have more space and fresh ground to work through. But the simple fact is that we have too many.

So we are cutting back where we can and trying to lighten the workload. But in other ways, I want to do more. We’re using cloth diapers about 90% of the time, so laundry has increased somewhat, but it’s hardly overwhelming. (And now when I do have to use them, I realize just how nasty disposable diapers smell!) I have high hopes of doing more canning this summer and fall as well as making our own baby food, even though it looks like most of the produce for all of that will have to come from the farmer’s market. And I’ve been experimenting with new bread recipes, including this super quick and easy whole wheat from Modern Homesteaders. It’s so satisfying and absolutely scrumptious with last fall’s apple butter!

Whole Wheat Loaves

Mostly, though, when I make bread, it’s the same sourdough my mom made when I was a little girl. It takes two days to get from starter to bread, but the plus side is that you only spend a few minutes at a time working on it. Feed the starter, wait 12 hours, make the dough, let it rise 12 hours, knead it and make loaves, let them rise 10 hours, and bake. Given the lengthy time frames, though, it’s not uncommon for me to (finally!) get the boys settled down for the night and realize that I still have to mix up the dough or form the loaves. Funny how long those few minutes of work can seem when I know I could be curling up in my soft bed!

My 3-month-old, while a better sleeper than his brother was, is still waking me up a couple of times a night. So when I’m up late making bread, I do wonder if this (like so many other aspects of the life we’re trying to make) is worth the effort and the loss of rest. But the next day, I pull the finished loaves out of the oven and cut a slice while it’s still almost too warm to handle, but that’s when the butter melts into it the best. And I hand it to The Boy (just like my mom used to give me the first slice when I was little), and he takes a bite and says, “Oh, Mommy, you make the best bread in the whole world.” (Seriously, how did I get such a sweet kid?) And it means so much more than the extra 20 minutes of sleep would have meant. And someday, even if he never understands how much work went into it, he will remember that his mama used to bake the best bread ever.

I think that matters. I think it’s important.  And I think it’s totally worth it.

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