Tag Archives: rooster

Dwindling Dark Days

Can you believe it’s nearly spring already?  When I started this challenge it was cold in Michigan but still unseasonably warm.  Now after eating local meals all winter, the seasons are about to change again.  And, here in Michigan it is, once again, unseasonably warm.  It’s only the middle of March but all the snow, aside from the areas in almost constant shade, has melted.  Saturday night I’ll “Spring” the clocks forward (well, Mr. Hippie will but they’ll be sprung regardless) and next week I’ll start seeds for my spring garden.  It’s almost too hard to believe. 

Asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries will start showing up at the Farmers’ Market in the next few months but until then, the storage cupboard is nearly bare.  If I had been eating locally all the time, we would have run out of stores long ago.  If I was only eating the salsa that I made and not supplementing with store-bought salsa, I would have been out since October.  To make a real go of eatting locally next winter, I’m going to need to can and freeze a lot more food. 

If I want to eat a jar of slasa a week (and that’s a conservative estimate) I’ll need 52 pint jars.  I have that many, but I’ll need jars for jam and tomatoes and pickles (and you get the picture). 

Freezing is easier.  I have many freezer containers but space has always been a problem. We have a fairly large refrigerator-freezer and have had a small chest freezer for several years, but there were times that all the space was full.  I wanted to buy half a pig last year but there wasn’t enough room.  However, for my birthday, Hubby got me this:

My birthday present!

The new stand-up freezer Mr. Hippie got me for my birthday!!!

Now I can start dreaming of frozen food!

But, this post is supposed to be about the Dark Days meal I made.  I haven’t been motivated to bake lately.  I think that’s partly due to the increasing temperature and partly to the fact that I’ve been so busy lately.  I wanted to bake bread to go with dinner but just couldn’t bring myself to do it so here it is, all by itself, Chicken Corn Chowder.

I started with the rooster from last week’s Dark Days meal.  I threw it into a pot with some diced potatoes an onion and three wrinkle-dy parsnips from the refrigerator and boiled the whole mess until I had a nice stock.  After that I pulled the parsnips out and ate them. :)  Then, I removed the bones from the meat and strained the stock into a bowl.  I added some spelt flour roux (flour and butter cooked together), some thyme from the garden (that I didn’t even have to dig out of the snow!!!)  and some milk to the stock pot to make the base creamy.  Once I had a creamy base, I returned the stock, potato chunks and the chicken meat to the pot and pulled two ears of corn from the freezer.  I cut all the kernels off the cobs and added them to the pot.  The soup was essentially done at this point, but I seasoned it with a little more salt and pepper before serving it (without bread :( ). 

Chicken Corn Chowder

Rooster-Corn Chowder

Even without bread it was a delicious meal.

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Dark Days Week 16 PM Edition~ Coq au Poivre

I’ve wanted a pressure cooker for a while.  Ever since I started canning again I’ve considered the possibilities that would be open to me if I had one.  Stock, low-acid vegetables, soups and dinner starters can all be safely canned with a pressure cooker.  Plus a pressure cooker can be used to speed up cooking time of beans and meats.  I researched various canners on Amazon, eBay and other online sites and was surprised by the cost.  I checked at the resale shops.  I found a couple of smallish cookers that were still fairly pricey and was almost ready to settle for an expensive, little cooker.  

And then, my friend Mike brought me this:  

My new pressure cooker

Yay! I've wanted this for a while.

 

I love that guy!  His wife is awesome too.  They are the most generous people you will ever meet.  They make soap.  I wish they had a website so that I could link it because their soap is amazing.  Maybe someday I will be able to replicate their soaps but for now I’ll have to settle for flops like mine.    

Anyway, back to the story.  After I roasted the last rooster I decided that future roosters needed to be cooked longer, or immediately souped.  The chicken had delicious flavor, but because they were older than normal meat birds and had been allowed to free-range, the legs were tougher than you’d like.  But then the pressure cooker arrived and I decided to try pressure cooking the rooster.  And guess what?  Success!  

I heated the pressure cooker and drizzled a little olive oil into the bottom of it.  I salted the chicken and rubbed a ton of cracked pepper onto it.  Then I threw the bird into the cooker to sear it and turned it until it was browned on all sides.  I added some fresh rosemary and a couple cloves of garlic and then added water until the roo was nearly covered.  I threw in half a dozen diced Yukon Gold potatoes from my “root cellar” and screwed the top onto the pot.  Then I put the pressure gauge on the pot to set ten pounds of pressure and turned the heat up until the gauge started to wiggle.  I set the timer for fifteen minutes and started the biscuits.  Yes, you heard me correctly, fifteen minutes!!   

Coq au Poivre

Pressure cooked rooster and veggies.

 

The biscuits mixed up quickly and I threw them into the oven.  The timer went off signaling that the chicken was done, so I turned the burner off and got the broccoli ready to cook.    By the time the biscuits were done, the pressure cooker had cooled enough that I could open it and check the chicken.  It was thoroughly cooked!  Even better, it was tender.  However, it was not crispy.  I removed both thigh/leg portions and put them on a sheet pan and threw them in the oven for a few minutes at about 400° to crisp up the skin while I cooked the broccoli and plated the rest of the dinner:  Broccoli from the freezer (Providence or Olds Farm, I froze broccoli from both), Yukon Gold potatoes from Westmaas farms in Marion via the “root cellar”, homemade biscuits from my stash of spelt flour, and home canned cranberry sauce that I made in the fall with Michigan cranberries.  

Even if I’m not cooking old roosters, I’ll definitely use the pressure cooker again.  It is so much quicker, and saves a ton of electricity!

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Dark Days Week 14 (Rooster Noodle Soup)

Last week’s Dark Days Dinner was roast chicken from our own small flock.  Not one to waste, and always up for an easy dinner, I decided on soup out of the leftover bird. 

Over the last two days, I made stock and separated the meat from the bones.  Nothing special, just your basic stock.  I didn’t even add any vegetables to it aside from the garlic, onion and herbs that I cooked the chicken in originally. This afternoon I made noodles for the first time in years.  I realized today why it has been so long since I made homemade pasta: rolling it is not fun.  Okay, so it is fun, but it is not easy and my noodles were not very thin.

I used to have a roller.  A nice, Italian roller that I purchased at Goodwill.  It was new or just like new and came in the original box.  I paid ten or fifteen dollars for it.  Somewhere along the line I must have decided that I didn’t need a pasta roller any more because lately, I’ve been contemplating making pasta and searching, in vain, for that roller. 

So, today I made pasta anyway.  And hand-rolled it.  And hand cut it.  I am not an expert.  My noodles were thick.  And wide.   “Those are not noodles.”  The Boy proclaimed.

“Yes they are.”  Says me.

“No.  They aren’t.”  He persists. 

Ugly as they were, I was victorious in this particular battle.  They were noodles and they were delicious.  I should have baked bread.  Or made a salad.  But, I didn’t.  The soup was so good that it stood alone:

Rooster Soup

Delicious soup with ugly noodles.

Big Ugly Noodles:
4 cups flour 3 1/4 cups plus more for kneading (See note below)
4 eggs
generous splash of olive oil

Dump 4 cups of flour onto the kitchen counter.
Poke a well into the center of the pile of flour so that it looks like what I’d imagine a volcano looks like from above.
Crack the eggs and dump them into the crater of the flour volcano.
Pour some olive oil into the volcano.
At this point, it should look something like this:

Making pasta

Flour eggs and oil ready to become delicious noodles.

Use a fork to “scramble” the eggs and slowly incoporate the eggs into the flour.  Once the eggs and flour are blended, knead for 3-5 minutes.  (At this point I decided that my pasta was too dry and added another egg; this was messy, but I’m glad I did it.  Next time I will decrease the starting flour because it is easier to add flour than eggs to a stiff dough.)

Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough into quarters; roll each ball into a thin sheet.

Pasta rolled and ready to cut into noodles

Homemade pasta sheet

Cut the sheets into strips to create noodles.  Mine were thick and chunky, but you can cut them however you like.

Homemade noodles

Finished noodles

Let the noodles dry for ten minutes or so before cooking.  I boiled mine right in the soup, but you could cook them in boiling salted water and then add them to your finished soup if you are concerned about boiling your soup down too much.

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Dark Days Week Thirteen?? (or, No More Roosters in the Henhouse)

This week was an incredibly busy week for me. 

To begin the week I had a late meeting Monday evening after school.  On top of that, the second fundraiser for the Family Wisdom Conference was Thursday night and I had to do a lot of things to prepare for it.  I had to collect all the silent auction items from my friends that had agreed to donate items (A handmade basket, Barefoot Books, and abi*bags) and finish building the worm bin that I agreed to donate.  Then, I had to bake cookies.  I made delicious marmalade thumbprints using my homemade blood orange marmalade.  I also baked chocolate chip cookies and hand rolled truffles until all hours of the night Wednesday. 

After preparing for the fund raiser I got to actually attend it!  The evening was wonderful, we had a pretty good turn out and we raised money to cover the expenses of the upcoming conference, but it meant spending all night Thursday out of the house. 

Plus I had a sledding birthday party Friday evening with a meeting for the Road Rally scheduled right in the middle of it. 

Knowing that I had to attend all these functions and complete all these tasks, I set out to cook my Dark Days Dinner early in the week.  I started out with a local sirloin and some potatoes from my “root cellar”.  I whipped up a batch of homemade feta-yogurt dressing for my salad of local butter lettuce and then. . . I burned the potatoes beyond recognition.  Boiled potatoes mind you.  I boiled the pot dry and then waited for the smell of burning potatoes to signal the downfall of my dinner.  Steak and salad alone do not a dinner make.  So, I had to pull a bag of gnocchi out of the cupboard to round out our meal.  Mostly local?  Yes.  Dark Days local?  No.

So yesterday I started over. 

I started my journey as an urban chicken farmer in September.  If you’ve been following me since then you are aware that three of my four chicks turned out to be roosters.  The City doesn’t allow roosters in town so something had to be done.  Last week I dropped off the roos at Olds Farm to be processed.  We picked them up cleaned and bagged the next day and last night I pulled one of them from the freezer and roasted him for dinner. 

Our official Dark Days Dinner this week consisted of our homegrown rooster roasted with onions, celeriac and garlic from Providence Farms, butternut squash also from Providence, corn on the cob from the Farmers’ Market via the freezer,

Dinner was much more succesful the second time around.

The "Official" Dark Days Meal for the week.

butter lettuce salad with homemade yogurt-feta dressing

Local lettuce with homemade dressing.

Local greens with my old standby dressing: Homemade feta, homeade yogurt and local garlic

 and homemade biscuits from locally grown spelt flour. 

Local organic spelt flour makes yummy biscuits!

Dylan helps me roll the biscuits for our Dark Dinner.

Dylan helped me roll out the biscuits and I even drizzled a little honey from Millie Hathaway’s bees on mine.  Yum!

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Bittersweet Beginning

If you’ve been following my chicken saga, you are by now well aware that three-quarters of my flock turned out to be of the illegal crowing variety.   So, now what??  Well, the roos have to go.  There are, I suppose, several options.  I could try to sell them.  I could give them away on Craig’s List or Frecycle, or maybe even take them to the humane society.  Or, I could butcher them. 

Butchering was always our plan.  From the very beginning, the children were told that if any of the chicks were roosters, they would be dinner.  And, that when the hens stopped producing, they would have to go too.  Mr. Hippie was researching guillotines months ago when we first started thinking one or more of them might be roosters.  He never got as far as actually building a chicken guillotine, but he was pretty intent on building one for a while.  However, the city ordinance that allows four hens and bans roosters also prohibits the (outdoor) slaughter of chickens in town. 

So, I put in a call to Olds’ Farm.  I get a lot of poultry from them and have purchased everything from their maple syrup to their ground beef.  In addition to produce and ethically-raised meats, Olds Farm also offers poultry processing.  I’ve got a call in to them to have my roos butchered.  As soon as they get enough birds scheduled, they’ll call me back to let me know the drop-off date for my three.  It’s sad, but I’ve come to grips with the omnivore’s dilemma.  I’ve arrived at a place that every conscious omnivore must reach.  If I can’t raise and eat my own birds, why is it okay for me to march into the grocery store and buy an already slaughtered chicken?  If I can’t eat those three roosters, I don’t feel justified consuming meat.   Granted, there is still a separation between me and the actual slaughtering of the birds.  I’m not quite There yet, but I think I will be eventually.

With every yin there is a yang.  When one door closes, another opens.  Whichever idiom you choose, good and bad seem to go hand in hand.  This time is no different.  I may be losing three roosters, but now I have the opportunity to raise chicks.  Day.  Old.  Chicks.  Fellow blogger Tony of TC Bok Bok is ready to start his adventures in urban chicken farming and we’re ordering our chicks together.  This will mean safer, warmer transport for the young chicks, and shared shipping costs. 

I’m paying a little more for them than I did for the last “girls”, but the chicks from My Pet Chicken are guranteed to be girls so as Tony says, the extra cost is hen “insurance”.  Plus I got to pick the varieties of chicks that I wanted!  The order is in and I’m getting three chicks  the last week of March.  An Easter-Egger, a Dominique and a golden-laced Wyandotte are on their way to keep my soon-to-be lonely Rhode Island Red hen company.   I can’t wait to meet them!

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Rooku ~ a Haiku

Stupid boy chickens
I can’t keep you here in town
And you don’t lay eggs

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Proof

After hearing crowing from the henhouse over the weekend, I needed visual proof of the guilty party before I wrongfully convicted someone of being a rooster.  I’ve been suspect of the two buffs for a while now.

Roosters?

Are we roosters, or hens?

So, I sent Gwen out there Sunday morning to try and spy the loudmouth.  But, when she returned, she fingered this guy:

The guilty chick

The prime suspect.

I was still not convinced the other two weren’t roosters.  I mean, look at them!  Don’t they look more rooster-y than the red to you??
So, I went out this morning and peeked into the window.  In the dark it was hard to see for sure which chook was which, but they started crowing in turns so at least two of them are.  The red has already been witnessed so I’m pretty sure the other pair are both roos as well.  I’m a little sad to see them go, but after the symphony they played for me this morning, I can clearly see that the end is near.

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A Sad, Sad Day

For a while now, I have been questioning the hen-ness of some of my four girls.  If you’ve been following this chicken journey from the start, you’ll recall that I purchased four chicks of questionable sex at a barnyard-swap-meet of sorts in Whitmore, Michigan.  We did our best to try and select the most hen-like chicks of the bunch in the box, but it was a gamble right from the go.  Every time I think that one of the girls may be a rooster, I find some reason to believe that she is, in fact, a hen. 

For example, compare this photo of a Buff Orpington hen from My Pet Chicken to this shot of my buffs:

Buff Orpington Hen. Photo from: http://www.mypetchicken.com/My Buffs

Now, I realize the photo quality isn’t excellent, but if you compare the comb and wattle development of my buffs to the comb and wattle on the stock photo of an Orpington hen, there isn’t much difference.  My chickens are definitely skinnier than the plump hen in the photo on the left, but you’ve gotta take into consideration the fact that in the pic, they were only three months old.

Cordon Bleu and Parmesan

My Buffs

Also, the guy I got my girls from couldn’t guarantee what kind of chickens mine were.  It’s hard to peg down a particular characteristic to a chicken of unknown lineage. 
Alas, all doubts were cleared up this morning.  At least one of my four girls is, I’m sorry to say, a rooster.  Both my daughter and my husband heard one of my “girls” crowing.  While no eye witnesses were present to incriminate the guilty bird(s), my fears have been confirmed:  There IS a rooster in the hen house. 
Unfortunately, with the auditory confirmation, I’m afraid that both the buffs are probably cockerels and I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the reds may be as well. 
Now, what to do with the poor gent(s).  I spoke to one of the Olds brothers from Olds Farm this morning at the Farmers’ Market.  They offer poultry processing.  For $3 a bird, they will slaughter, clean and bag up my rooster(s).  The kids don’t like the idea much, but the plan has always been, “If any are roosters, we eat them.” 
Before I condemn an innocent bird, I need to see which of them is crowing, but at least I have a plan.  :(

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