I’ve shared that we have a lot of carrots and beets coming up. We are eating them nearly every day.
The beets I love to roast, but I also love to braise them with the greens. Braising beets brings out their sweetness and compliment the slight bitterness in the greens. With that said I’ve also roasted the beets and reserved the greens to sauté.
My point? Don’t scrap those luscious beer tops. While I do share them occasionally with the chickens, I love adding them to my own meal.
Carrots find their way in my salad but my hands down favorite way to eat them is roasted in olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped garlic and finished with a drizzle of Lemon-Tahini dressing. I’ve been known to eat only this for lunch or dinner.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of dining on these roasted and braised delights, well, make a plan.
You can find the Lemon-Tahini Dressing here at Oh She Glows and I’ve placed the Braised Beets recipe below, compliments of Prairie Bottom Farm.
While the recipe calls for baby beets, which do work best, I’ve been successful with adult beets too.
Braised Baby Beets and Greens
1/4 cup butter
1 bunch whole baby beets with their greens, (washed well and patted dry)
1 cup chicken broth or chicken stock
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Melt butter in a skillet over a moderate flame. When it froths, neatly place beet thinnings into the skillet so that all the root tips rest in one direct and the greens in the other. Sear in butter until the greens are wilted. Pour 1 cup chicken broth or chicken stock into the skillet, cover, and simmer until roots become tender – about ten minutes.
Turn off the heat and transfer the beets to a serving dish using tongs. For best presentation, lay the beets together so that all the beetroots rest at one end of the serving dish with the greens resting at the other. Sprinkle with fresh chopped mint and dress with cider vinegar.
Fall has arrived with its rainy vengeance and I’m beginning to pull a regular harvest of what remains in the garden.
This week I focused on the beets and carrots. Well, with the amount we planted, I’ll be focusing on them every week, but I’m not complaining.
What, you mean I have to eat rainbow carrots and beets from my garden each week? Yes please.
Being new to this backyard farming gig we created for ourselves, we didn’t fully embrace the concept of thinning the carrots. The result has been a lot of baby carrots and small beets, but we’ve still ended up with some nice beauties of both.
As the chicken run has been pretty soggy, I’ve been letting the chickens join me when I’m digging around in the garden. Grass is limited in the large run space which is something we are looking to remedy in time, but as we complete the harvest we’ll start letting the ladies graze, till up the garden, and hunt for worms.
While I miss Jackson, I have to say it’s been nice to only have hens. They are excited to see me each day and as I dig in the garden, they waddle over to investigate what I’ve found. Trying to keep them from eating the kale, chard and bok choy is a challenge, but who can blame them. Those greens are delicious.
Chicken math is well known among those who raise these birds. For most of us, something happens after you’ve watched your brand new chicks grow to pullets. The amount of chickens you intend to get doesn’t seem to be enough.
Then we meet other Chicken owners.
“Ooooooo your Black Copper Maran is beautiful.”
“I want to have some Silkies too!”
That’s how it starts for most I imagine.
For us, in March we started with 19 chicks. Ten Buff Orpingtons, five Welsummers (all female) ordered from the hatchery and four additional wild cards from the local farm store: Americauna and Mottled Java breeds,
A few Buffs didn’t make it shortly after arrival and the rest of the Buffs, except for one, turned out to be roosters instead of hens.
Our first time raising chickens has been interesting.
I tried keeping a rooster, Jackson. I adored him. I would bring my camping chair into the run and he’d come along and sit in my lap. By the time he reached 6 months, he was a jackass. I was attacked everyday. And while I know he was doing his job, protecting his ladies, I grew tired of our daily dance.
I still have a day job and I currently don’t have the capacity to manage a flock, three dogs, a stressful job and a rooster who couldn’t wait to kick my ass everyday.
He had to go.
So I posted him on Whidbey Island Backyard Farmers Facebook Page and hoped for the best.
Last week, I had a taker. She needed a rooster for her 30 hens, now we just had to catch him without injuring him our ourselves.
It took two days, about three pounds of sunflower seeds, a sheet and my husband’s capturing skills before we could secure him for travel. Within a few hours, Jackson was on his way to a larger haram. Far more than what he deserved, but honestly, I was happy he didn’t end up as Coq au Vin.
A few days later and I find myself scrolling through the Backyard Farmers Facebook page. People were downsizing and trying to find home for adolescent chickens. And as I was down quite a few chickens, I was willing to help out.
Fast forward 24 hours and my husband and I are sneaking two Plymouth Barred Rocks and two Silver-Laced Wyandottes into the chicken coop with the other ladies.
Early March our baby chicks arrived and I became a mother hen in training. Since then, my husband and I have found our stride as chicken owners. The run is secure, we have automatic feeders and water systems (because, hey, we still have day jobs) and the chickens find safety in a small coop while we complete the larger one.
While the chicks were in the brooder, we spent evenings entertained by Chicken TV which was better than actual television. We not only spent time watching them, but holding them and letting them climb over us while discussing the different kinds of eggs we’d expect.
Just before transitioning them from the brooder to the coop, the Buff Orpington pullets loved nestling into our laps. I enjoyed watching as one would nestle down as I ran my hand gently over its head down to its tail. It was so amazing seeing how much these birds had grown in a matter of weeks.
Now, 15 weeks later, we are hearing confirmed cock-a-doodle doos.
Yes. Plural. I’m sure there are two…maybe more?
The moment crowing happens I immediately try to identify the owner by racing out to the run quickly, but calmly as I don’t want to frighten everyone.
Scanning the 16 potential suspects for the roo, I see no evidence. They all quickly turn back to their scratching and pecking…occasionally looking over their shoulder:
“Nope, wasn’t me!”
A couple of mornings ago after letting the pups and chickens out at 5 a.m. The crowing began again.
I pressed up against the back window and watched in the twilight.
Soon I recognized two Buff Orpingtons crowing.. one right after the other and flapping their wings with pride as the glottal cackle reared from their yellow feathered throats.
Unlike the Mottled Javas and Americaunas, our Buff Orpingtons and Welsummers came from a hatchery….we ordered all female. And while I realize that there is margin for error, when you consider we ordered 10 Buffs, three which died within five days…and now two are roosters? Something’s up, or I have some bad karma to remedy.
I began consulting The Chicken Chick, YouTube, and my Facebook Group, Backyard Chicken Project. Apparently, one of the markings is the tail feathers. If they curl down and you have a “sickle” tail feather, you have a rooster.
This is how I came to name “Jackson”…the Buff who I originally thought was doing the crowing….all the telling signs…thick legs, big feet, tail feathers bending downward like a sickle….but I haven’t seen him, or her, crow.
I make time to sit in the run watching my Buffs specifically…and over time they all seem to have rooster signs. Could it be that the hatchery sent me all males instead of females?
I now have rooster paranoia. The struggle is real people.
As I heard the crowing again this morning, I chose to forgo going back to bed and took a camping chair and my coffee to the run.
I took a deep breath and for the first time in a couple of weeks took pleasure in the chicken antics: the scratching and pecking, the squealing at finding an oversized leaf, the pecking at the flowers on my boots, and the glaring curiousity as to why I’m sipping my coffee with suspicion.
I browsed my phone and found a video showing hens crowing...as I played it, the chickens listened attentively. Maybe someone would crow, simply to copy?
Perhaps I have a prideful feminist hen who refuses to give into her assigned role. Possibly, she’s choosing to copy the rooster representing the telling roo sign of that sickle tail feather. Or this hen was simply meant to be a roo, but it isn’t giving in until the bird gets the deserved assignment: that she is, in fact, actually a he.
If that is the case I respect that, and welcome it. How do I question nature?
Too many of us on this earth live lives for others….only because others perceive us to be a certain way, a certain person, personality…a certain gender.
And for a period of time, it’s easier to be what others expect. Until it isn’t. Until nature rears her beautiful head forcing us to own our identity. Either in a loud cheer or fearful silence.
As I review these dynamics, one of the suspect roos clumsily makes its way in my lap.
We looked each other over. I take another sip of my coffee and the bird settles down perching itself on my right thigh and finally resting its head on my left.
And just like I did weeks before, I run my hand gently down from its head to tail. The bird closes its eyes.
It’s a common question Josh asks each week. The common answer is: “Finishing the chicken coop.”
Except these days I may insert an expletive in there somewhere.
The Chicken Palace, as we tend to call it these days, has been in progress since the end of March and I’m ready for this to be completed. It has pretty much consumed every weekend and I’m ready to get in some serious hiking.
We’ve been here for a year now and the last six months have been all about our chickens, their coop and our garden.
The garden is fenced, planted and we are seeing great progress with our seedlings. I think we may be literally giving carrots and peas away in a couple of weeks. The chicken area though continues to be a constant work in progress.
The run was already in place but needed some securing. The coop however is another matter.
Josh made plans for a custom built coop. It will be a 12×12 box for our current flock of 16. Why so big? Wel we want to add chicks in the future, right? The plan is to have a slanted roof a cottage style door and window. The nesting boxes are fancy…the will eggs roll to the front. Once complete it will hold at least 40 chickens.
Not that we necessarily want 40 chickens, but we dream big here.
We finally have three walls framed and this structure is actually beginning to look like something may be completed one day. Today we are framing he roof and the front for the door and window. The hope is that we can complete this before the end of the month so our chickens will have a larger home and so we can start enjoying life outside our farm here and around the Sound.
Yesterday we contemplated our farming dreams for next year, and today we started putting things in motion.
As we pick up our red worms in two weeks, today we installed our in-ground worm bin we bought from Bugabay. While Whidbey Island is known for being an agricultural gem, Greenbank’s soil, where we reside, is not the fertile easy digging variety like the land residing in Ebey’s Landing. Our soil is full of rock, or glacial till, as my husband informed me.
The words “glacial till” sound way more graceful than what it actually is. Pardon my French, but glacial till is a stubborn bitch to dig and we had to dig 12 inches to get the appropriate depth. Between the two of us we were able to get it accomplished in a couple of hours, but it made me (and Josh) really grateful we only had to dig one hole.
After a run to grab some peat moss and manure from the farm supply store and filling in the sides of the bin, we were ready to place our first layer of food waste. It must’ve rung a dinner bell because one volunteer worm was already hanging outside the bin. He looked as though he may have had a fight with one of our shovels, so I tossed him inside in pity. I’m imagining worms aren’t territorial so hopefully he’ll get along fine with the others when they arrive in a couple of weeks.
It was a good afternoon worth of work, but as I looked around the reality of the work ahead is getting real. There is sod cutting the garden space, constructing the beds, prepping the chicken run and possibly adding to that run to host turkeys.
It all needs to be ready by January/February, but tonight we’ll continue our hobby farm debates as well as continue dreaming about what this place could be.
It’s nice to start seeing that these dreams are on their way to becoming reality, one rocky shovel of soil at a time.