My Food Journey

New Coop Part Two and My Hectic Life

This post promises to be as discombobulated and full as my life has been lately. The chicken coop is perhaps the most exciting piece of news, but I also can’t not post about the incredible progress the gardens have been making and the spring feast that I shared with Dave, Meg, and Stanley last night.

Perhaps someday I’ll get back to those short one-topic posts, but not now. There’s just too much going on.

First, the coop.

As I shared in my last post, my brother Ben built the coop inside the garage two weekends ago. He didn’t have time to do the run until last weekend, so in the meantime we let the girls out into the yard (supervised of course) to stretch their legs. They had fun, but it became very apparent that they would ruin the lawn in a matter of a few days, so they spent most of their time cooped up in the coop.

It was fun to watch them become accustomed to their new chicken door. Here’s Blondie thinking “I got out of this thing, I wonder if I can get back in?”

Might as well give it a try. Red Hen is a bit taken aback by all the unnecessary flailing.

It worked! Red Hen, by the way, has completely gotten over her broodiness. Whew! I was hoping the move would do it, and it looks like it did.

We were gone on a three day camping trip this weekend, and when we got back on Sunday, Ben had this much of the run finished. The wood is all cedar – very nice! He and my other brother Dave worked on it for most of the day on Saturday. It pays to have brothers! Stanley and I dug a 6 inch trench around the inside of the walls and buried chicken wire to keep any digging predators out. Raccoons are my biggest worry. I feel pretty certain that they will not be able to get in here.

We let the girls out for one last graze in the big yard, and they happily dust bathed and scratched and did everything they could to destroy the lawn before they got stuck in the run.

Putting the last of the screws (this took a bit longer than expected as his ratcheting screwdriver broke and he needed a new one) in the galvanized roof. What a beautiful run!

Here it is today, with the girls all moved in. As expected, they’ve just about destroyed all the grass. I’ll probably put straw down so it doesn’t get too muddy.

The side toward the street…..

….and the back side with the door. I plan on getting a padlock just in case someone decides to mess with them when I’m not around.

As you can see, the girls are very visible from the street, which is awesome. There are a lot of pedestrians that pass by and it’s really fun to see them notice the coop. There’s just something about chickens that makes people smile. I also really like how it’s changed the look of our house – it’s no longer just a house with a garage on a corner. It’s a house with a garage on a corner with a chicken coop!

OK, I know that was enough for one post, but June doesn’t stop just because I’ve got a new chicken coop……

Friday was my birthday. I was by myself in the morning, and I decided that the thing to do was to pick strawberries. Most of the u-picks were closed, but I did find Berry Hill Farm, a 2 1/2 acre farm on the edge of town that was open for picking.

I soon learned why all of the other u-picks were closed. It has been raining a lot this month, and the strawberries are hurting because of it. About half of them at this farm were either rotting or moldy, or both. The hot weather we had early in the season brought the crop on earlier than normal, so I had missed the peak. That, on top of the rain made for disappointing picking.

I got 3 quarts. These two I froze right away, and I brought one camping with us. Hopefully next year will be better.

Not to be discouraged, I headed to our Main Street garden to see what could be harvested.

Holy potatoes! I’ve never seen such big healthy plants! There was one that had fallen over, so I dug underneath to see what was there. Potatoes! Still small, but they’re there. We’ll be harvesting them all in a month of so. I wonder how many pounds we’ll get……

I was afraid these tomato plants were too small when I planted them just a few weeks ago. How wrong I was. They’re growing like crazy, and a few flowers are starting to form.

My row of peas is doing really well. Between Dave and Meg and Stanley and I we’ve been picking them about every other day, and there have been plenty to go around. It’s quite overgrown and when I can afford to I’ve been thinking of buying a cordless weed trimmer to help manage the growth.

The cherry tree is ripe too!

Is there anything as beautiful as a ripe red cherry?

More tomatoes. We’re going to have a canning bonanza this summer.

The peppers are slowly plugging along. They’ll get there.

The summer squash are looking good.

Baby concord grapes. The vines are just loaded.

The pole beans thinking about starting to climb.

Here’s what I brought home. a quart and a half of cherries, a few black caps (wild black raspberries that grow in back of the garden), peas, and a few token potatoes.

I went back on Monday and came home with this haul. More peas and black caps, more potatoes (for a special solstice feast), lots of lettuce, baby dill to dry, and cilantro and dill flowers for a centerpiece. I love June!

OK, almost done, I just have to show you a few pictures of the meal we had last night. It’s worth it, I promise.

I am really bad at pie crusts. It’s mostly lack of practice, and I know I’m only going to get better if I do it often, so I decided to go for it and make a crust for the berry pie I had planned. I made it with lard and butter, from this recipe on Epicurious. It actually worked!

Stanley went to the nearby park and heroically picked 5 cups of black caps for the pie. The mosquitoes are getting bad, so I believed him when he said that he lost about a pint of blood. It was worth it. I never use measurements for a pie like this. I added something like 3 Tablespoons of corn starch, 1 cup sucanat, the juice of 1/2 lemon, a little honey, a little salt, and I think that’s it.

Even the latice worked!! I put a dab of butter in all the holes, brushed it with milk, shook on some cinnamon, and put it in the oven. 15 minutes at 425, then about 45 at 350. It’s hard to turn your oven on to 425 degrees on a hot muggy day, but it proved to be worth it.

This was dinner. Burgers from The Rustic Table, salad from the garden, potatoes from the garden (coated with oil, put in a loaf pan, and cooked on the grill – YUM!), and cream of tomato soup.

I didn’t get any pictures of the soup. The milk curdled and I was too embarassed to let it be seen. It tasted good though. Onions and garlic browned in butter, add a bit of flour and cook a while longer, add a bunch of milk, a few bay leaves, a tiny bit of sucanat, and salt. Cook till it’s thickened, then add tomatoes. I still have some frozen puree from last year, which is why I made the soup in the first place. It really did taste good, but it sure did look bad.

I’ll leave you with this picture of one of the nicer pies I have ever made. The crust was flakey, the berries weren’t too juicy….. I’ll have to make a point of making more pies this summer until I get it right every time.

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