Thursday, February 27, 2014

There's a chicken in my bathroom

Manflesh came in from his nightly chicken rounds with a friend.  One of the Barred Rocks had been hiding in a nest box instead of roosting with the rest of the flock.  When he opened it up to check on her, she stayed put instead of flapping away in usual chicken fashion, which was not a good sign.

Earlier, one of the Barreds had been very insistent on breaking out of the portable fence where the flock was supposed to be foraging to return to the permanent hen house, to the point that she spent most of the day out in the pouring rain rather than hanging out in the shelter.  Manflesh thought this might be the same chicken, and maybe she was just chilled from getting so wet.  He cuddled her on his lap for a while and offered a little lukewarm water and feed.  She perked up a bit, maybe, but her breathing was really labored, with her whole body rocking with each breath.

Frantic Googling was inconclusive, so we agreed to let her spend the night in the warm and dry and re-evaluate in the morning.  I fitted out a cardboard box with some cozy towels and little dishes of water and feed, and our invalid chicken took up residence in the bath tub.

The next morning, she was still with us, but didn't seem much improved.  Our chickens aren't very tame, so the very fact that she stayed in her box and didn't flutter when we walked around her seemed like a pretty bad sign.  Still, she was awake and alert, so we thought we'd just give her as much peace and quiet as we could muster and hope for recovery.

This went on for a couple of days, until this morning I woke up to the distinct sound of pecking on and around the bathroom door.  She was out of the box!

Our glamorous master bath.

Breathing was still a little labored, but we agreed that if she felt well enough to be up and about, she would probably be more comfortable with the rest of the flock rather than isolated in the house, so manflesh took her out.

So far, so good, but only time will tell.  It's so hard to know what to do in these situations, when the animal can't tell you what she needs, and there's not a lot you can do anyway beyond providing some comfort and hoping for the best.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Oatmeal Fudge Cookies

Sometimes, you just want a cookie.  A crunchy, chewy, chocolatey, yummy, cookie.  There's not really anything else that fits that same snacking niche.

Don't those look good?
These make a great snack.  They're dense and satisfying, and there's really nothing in them to feel guilty about.  Call them "energy nuggets" or something, instead of cookies, and eat them for breakfast with my blessing.

The preparation does rely pretty heavily on a tough blender.  You need something that can reliably grind oats into flour without overheating.  My Vitamix does the job in a few seconds.  If you don't have such a blender, you could try substituting a scant cup of prepared oat flour for the first cup of oats and finely chopping the raisins, then blending them aggressively by hand.  I haven't done this, but it should work okay.  Really though, just get an awesome blender.  I love mine and use it for all sorts of things.

So...  recipe:

1 1/4 cups rolled oats, divided
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

Put 1 cup oats and the raisins in the blender and grind to a fine, floury texture.  Pour into a small bowl.

Add the cocoa powder, salt, and soda to the oats and raisins, and stir to combine (I like a slight salty aftertaste in this cookie, but if you don't, you can omit the salt).

Blend in the coconut oil, then follow it with the egg and vanilla.  Finally, stir in the reserved 1/4 cup of whole oats.

Place dough on an ungreased cookie sheet in 12 heaping-tablespoon-sized balls.  Flatten slightly, and bake for 10 minutes.  After baking, allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  You can eat them warm, but be forewarned that they'll be very crumbly.  After cooling, the structure is much more sturdy and they should prove lunchbox-worthy.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Sad Story

I said that I would share both my successes and my failures here.  This is the story of a failure.  A failure that looks like this:


That's two quarts of delicious homemade pea soup, chock full of our home-grown produce, that now has to go in the trash.  We can't even feed it to the chickens for fear of glass shards.


I thought I was being so clever!  I would freeze in glass, and there would be no danger of holes developing, like when I use ziplocks and they rub against one another in the freezer.  I could thaw in the microwave without worrying about plastic chemicals leaching into the food!  I left plenty of headroom for the freeing soup to expand, and I even used a piece of plastic wrap instead of a metal cap for even more expansion insurance.  THIS WASN'T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!

I thought my mistake might have been in putting the soup in the freezer warm, and I planned to try again, but refrigerate first.  Good thing I thought to Google it, because it turns out Michael at Critical MAS had already tried every solution I had thought of, and after a pile of broken jars, finally gone to the source.  Jarden Home Brands, maker of pretty much every canning jar you're likely to use, had this to say:
  1. You should only use straight jars and not those with rounded shoulders. “Jars with rounded shoulders inhibit the expansion of the food, allowing the food to take on the shape of the jar in the freezing process. Foods freezing and taking on the shape of the jar places undo stress on the rounded shoulders and can cause breakage.”
  2. Not every canning jar is ready for the freezer. “Only use Ball Can-or-Freeze regular half-pint and wide-mouth pint jars, Ball and Kerr Quilted Crystal Jelly Jars in 4, 8, and 12 ounce sizes, Kerr regular and wide-mouth half pint, and wide-mouth pint jars. Why? “These jars are designed for freezer use since they are wider at the top than at the bottom and have tapered sides. This shape allows food to expand straight upward as it freezes.”
 It would not have occurred to me in a million years that the freezing food would bind up on the shoulder and crack the jar from there, so thanks for doing the legwork, Chris.

Now, my problem is that those specially shaped freezing jars only come in half-pints and pints, and we're firmly a quarts-of-soup kind of household.  For now, I've frozen my latest batch in big plastic yogurt containers, but if you've got a lead on awesome freezer-safe jars in big sizes, I'd love to hear about it.