Solstice eggs

Recently at the WAYFC meeting, while touring Becky‘s backyard farm and meeting her bunnies and chickens, she mentioned that they weren’t laying much because of the short days, and I commented that I am always surprised at how quickly their laying picks up after the Solstice. There were many murmurs of assent, including someone’s comment that sometimes it’s even the day of Solstice.

Solstice was two days ago. That day we got one chicken egg. Yesterday two.

Today five.

Solstice eggs

(The blue one and the white one are duck eggs.)

Frustrating/sad news, plus update on turkey sales

It’s our third year with poultry, and the raccoons have finally found us.

We are down to one laying duck (from four) — they took one on Sunday, one on Monday, and one on Tuesday. So the hens and remaining survivor duck are all staying inside the coop until we can figure out another solution. It’s a bummer; I like seeing them free-ranging around the yard and I definitely like the tasty rich orange yolks they lay because of eating so much grass and weeds.
Also, while the hens slow down their laying in the winter, the ducks are champs and keep laying an egg a day each, pretty much all winter. So we’re looking for some more Khaki Campbell ducks on Craigslist and such. Let us know if you know of any that are available.

Then on Monday night, the dogs woke us up at about 1:30 and we ran out to see a couple big raccoons around the brooders that hold the turkeys (4 weeks old), batch 2 of our broilers (also 4 weeks old), and batch 3 of the broilers (like 5 days old).
We think there should have been 23 turkeys; there are 15 left. There should have been about 58 broilers from batch 2; there are 45 now (though to be fair, we couldn’t count them before and they escaped a lot when they were small, and we might’ve lost some before). The small broilers seem to have been undisturbed.

Raccoon carnage is particularly icky to clean up after, as they often don’t eat the whole bird or carry it away, and in fact if they can reach through the chicken wire and grab a bird, they’ll just gnaw on it through the wire and leave the rest of the body inside the brooder for you to find in the morning.

We have put up electric fence around the brooders and the greenhouse too, where the 30 turkey poults that arrived today are brooding.

Tuesday night we were woken up at about the same time, and the dogs barked a bit then quieted down and seemed confused. The brooders were untouched. I hopefully infer that the dogs were barking at the sound of raccoons learning about electric fence, and subsequently taking off in the other direction.

This affects our turkey availability, obviously, though I’m not quite sure yet how we’ll work it out. Due to some procrastination on our part combined with a really bad experience with Privett Hatchery, we are taking a gamble that the poults that arrived today will be big enough in time for Thanksgiving. We may have only smallish (8-10 pounds) turkeys. If they are really small, we may only sell the fifteen that are left from the first batch for Thanksgiving — they will be a month older — and do today’s 30 for Christmas. Or I guess we could do whoever’s big at Thanksgiving, and give the rest another month to keep growing.

In any case, I’m not sure yet how to take orders for turkeys. I know people will want to secure their turkeys early, so I hope we don’t have to wait too late; I’d be sad if folks waited for us and didn’t order from others, and then we couldn’t deliver and they had to use a storebought bird.

To that end, please put your name and email address if you want to be on the non-binding list of interested people: We’ll go down the list first-come first-served, and contact folks as we have birds, and if you have found another source, we’ll just move on to the next person.

Dark Days Week 15: Huevos Rancheros!

For some reason I got all het up to make some sour cream this week. I followed this recipe, because I didn’t realize Mother Earth News had one too. But they are pretty much the same.

So once I had this sour cream, I froze 3/4 of it but we still needed to use up a half-pint of it that I kept fresh in the fridge. We also have a LOT of eggs (want eggs? email me!!) and Garth loves black beans almost as much as he loves ketchup. So: huevos rancheros, only mostly following the recipe (as usual).

  • Black beans from Alvarez Farm (150+ miles, but just barely), simmered for a long time with pre-fried Skagit River Ranch bacon and Laughing Crow Farm onions, and a bay leaf from our farmers’ market.
  • Fresh tortillas from the awesome tortilla-maker machine at Central Market! (Now that we have lard we might be making our own tortillas soon!)
  • Salsa: onion from Laughing Crow, organic storebought :( tomatoes, homegrown jalapeños, Laughing Crow hot peppers that we dried at home last summer (not sure what variety, but I thought they looked a lot like Bulgarian Carrot peppers). Obviously did not use cilantro, as it is, you know, February.
  • Homegrown eggs! as always. Fried in my happy cast iron pan with leftover tasty bacon fat.
  • Homemade sour cream with cream from Fresh Breeze dairy, also as always. I used Nancy’s organic full-fat plain yogurt as the starter.

Verdict: YUM. Will definitely be making this again. I usually order this when out for breakfast because I don’t eat meat whose origins are not intimately known to me, and it’s often one of the only vegetarian meals on a breakfast menu. But the addition of the little bit of bacon in the beans is fantastic and adds a nice depth to the whole thing. I also cooked the salsa for a good long while, which made it caramelizey, and neutralized the acids a bit, mellowing it out — though it still had some good heat from the peppers.

Homegrown: eggs, jalapeños
Island-grown: onions, hot peppers, garlic
Local (150 miles): cream for sour cream; bacon; bay leaf
Local (Washington): beans!
Locally-made from unknown ingredients: tortillas!
Unknown, organic: tomatoes :(


I’m not really one for resolutions, but I did get a nice Moleskine calendar notebook with room to write some basic notes on each day. I’m hoping to take notes each day about what went on — what was planted, what was harvested, how many eggs, etc. I forgot to do it the past couple of days but today I noted down 2 duck eggs and one chicken egg when Garth went out in the morning, and two more when I put them to bed when we got home from Seattle. Also, Stripes and one of the reds have bald butts for some reason; their butt fuzz has apparently fallen out. But today I noticed that Stripes’ butt fuzz feathers are coming back, so I wrote that down too. (Red was facing the wrong direction on the perch and I didn’t want to crawl around in the dark and freak the ducks out. I’ll check her butt tomorrow.)

Anyway, I don’t figure I’ll transfer the daily notes here, but on the other hand it may provide a handy outline for quick weekly updates, or ideas for bigger posts, etc.

The Chickens Took the Day Off and I Built a New Anvil Stand

So the other day the girls laid only a single egg. It was bizarre. Then, the day after, we got five eggs. We normally get between three and six eggs per day, so having an egg-free day out of the blue was kind of bizarre. Everything seems to be back to normal. I guess they needed a break.

In a perfectly reasonable segue, I built a new anvil stand today. My old stand was built of a mess of 2x12s glued and bolted together (see figure 11 on this page). It was unstable on uneven ground and I never felt really good about it. Also, even with a mess of silicone caulk on top my anvil, being an old Peter Wright, rang loud enough to require earplugs. So I built a new stand out of 2×12 by screwing together four lengths and making a box with either end open. Then I filled it full of dirt.

The silver-grey stuff is scale that forms on iron when it's being worked. It then flakes off and makes a mess. I don't know if the resolution is high enough to see the earwig that ran out when I moved the anvil, but it's there.
Dirt and Dimensional Lumber Anvil Stand

The silver-grey stuff is scale that forms on iron when it's being worked. It then flakes off and makes a mess. I don't know if the resolution is high enough to see the earwig that ran out when I moved the anvil, but it's there.

I call it my Rammed Earth Anvil Stand on account of I compacted each layer of dirt with a chunk of 2×4 and a sledge. It came out rather well, I think. It’s much more stable than the old one because the dirt inside conforms to the grass and soil it’s resting on. Also, the much greater mass means that my hammer blows move more metal and the anvil doesn’t hop around when I’m working. Best of all, the column of dirt damps the anvil and it’s not so freaking loud all the time. As a further upside, I can tell the relative temperature of the iron by the changing sounds as the metal cools. Nifty, eh? Also, very cheap.

This is my anvil. You can see the dirt it's resting on. It's like a raised bed for metalworking.
Anvil and Stand

This is my anvil. You can see the dirt it's resting on. It's like a raised bed for metalworking.

My only concern it that the weight and the hammering will cause the screws holding the whole shebang together to pull out. If this happens, I’ll just run some bands around the outside for strength and hope it holds.

Our first Regular Customer!

I have taken eggs to coworkers a few times already, and I will again, but today we got our first non-acquaintance/friend/coworker customer. A friend of our neighbor, or maybe a friend of a friend of our neighbor, she has food sensitivities that don’t allow her to eat chicken eggs. She emailed to say “is it true you have island-grown organic-fed duck eggs??” Happily, it is true, and we now have a regular customer, and she gets to have delicious non-sick-making eggs! Win all around.

One thing we currently do not have, unfortunately, however, is power. Farm blogging from (admittedly a hand-me-down) iPhone: what sort of person does that make me?


The chickens started laying about ten days ago. We have some ideas who’s laying, and I’m not sure it’s all of them. We built a little platform and put some Rubbermaid tubs on it, for nest boxes, but the chickens go under the platform — the gap is only about 4 inches — and lay underneath. So we have to go in a team to collect eggs, and one person lifts one end of the chicken tractor while the other rummages underneath.

So far we have had exactly one dozen eggs. The first one was funny and capsule-shaped, and turned out to have two yolks. The rest have been mostly regularly egg-shaped, but smallish; I tried to take a picture just now but my camera is crashy, so maybe I will add one if it comes back to life.First three eggs, with dinner components on either sideThree eggs = four yolks!