2011 has started out with a bang. On the not so good side of things, our A/C outside fuse box has decided it no longer wants to be part of our family and our main fridge (thank goodness we've got a second one in the back of the house) decided to take a vacation 2 days ago. So Monday I spent a good part of the day on the phone with appliance repair services because the refrigerator is no longer under warranty (isn't that the way it always happens?). I ended up scheduling 3 different companies because each one said they were coming on different days and, having dealt with no show repair people before, I decided whoever got here first got the job and then I'd cancel the others. In the end, the guy who said he'd be here the same day (Monday), got here after 2 p.m. on Tuesday (see what I mean?), but he was able to fix it by replacing a control board for $387. He also did us the favor of breaking the ice maker water line, so he fixed that on the house, though we got to mop up the floor after the tell-tale gush of water filled the kitchen. All's well that ends well. And because the weather's been so gorgeous lately, I've put off calling the A/C repair people and have just been keeping the windows open. If nothing else, it guarantees a low electric bill this month. I'm sure I'll call as soon as the temperature starts creeping up.
On the good side of things, I harvested some gorgeous Scotch Bonnet peppers, but didn't have enough to put up a whole jar, so I decided to quick pickle some vegetables and add the Scotch Bonnets to them so they'd have a zesty heat. It's an easy recipe that you can adjust to your own taste. I simply pack quart jars with the veggies I want to quick pickle (in this case I did cauliflower florets and carrots) add fresh garlic, onions, a palm-ful of salt, a tiny bit of sugar, and peppercorns, and then fill the jars with white vinegar. I give the jars a quick shake to dissolve the salt and sugar and then I let them sit on the counter for at least a week before I start pulling veggies out as a snack or side dish. It's as simple as that. No stove is involved. No dirty pots or pans. Since the jars are filled with straight vinegar, I often add more veggies as I finish what's in the jar. I do refrigerate them once I open them.
|Quick pickled vegetables make a colorful and tasty side dish.|
After the refrigerator repairman left, and since Mickey was off work, we decided to give the chicken coop a good cleaning yesterday. First, Mickey swept out all the chicken poop and got that in the composter for future garden fertilizer. I did a second sweep, getting as much of the chicken poop dust out of the coop as possible. Then, using a boat deck brush, I scrubbed the floor with straight white vinegar, gave it a good rinse with warm water, and squeegeed it. I let the coop air dry for about 30 minutes, and then put down a fresh layer of pine shavings and a light dusting of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth. The girls watched and commented the entire time, but seemed to be quite pleased in the end. I bet they slept comfy last night. Who doesn't enjoy clean sheets?
And now for the big news of the week. We're going to try our hand at raising meat chickens. I've been thinking about it for a while, but didn't think (and still don't) that I could handle the dispatching and processing of them. I'm afraid emotions will get in the way. My friend and fellow urban homesteader, Sydney, has kindly offered to do the dispatching and processing in exchange for me raising them and sharing them with her. Off we go into new territory! I've already found a breeder, who I like a lot. They were fabulous on the phone, answering all my novice questions without making me feel like I was stupid. We've decided on 30 birds to start because that will give both Sydney and me 15 each. I'm told by the breeder and others that most people are on an every-6-week cycle with regard to raising meat birds, so 15 for me makes sense. We usually eat 2 chicken meals per week, using leftovers for lunches, and then that leaves 3 birds for the event of company and/or chicken stock. The breeder talked me through calculating how much starter and grower feed I'd need and I've already placed my order for organic soy-free feed through Bee Heaven Farm. Yes, it's going to be more expensive to feed the meat birds the organic soy-free feed, but I think the health benefits far outweigh the cost. And, if the calculations are correct, it will cost just a hair over $3 a pound for healthy homegrown chicken. Last time I checked, conventional boneless skinless chicken breasts were $2.99 a pound at Publix. This way, I know precisely what is going into our birds and, in turn, what is going into our bodies. Meanwhile, Mickey has been collecting wooden pallets for me to build a tractor for the meat birds because I want to keep them separate from the hens so that they can't share food. Plus, the meat birds have to have feed available basically 24 hours a day to get them bulked up for dispatch by 10 weeks of age, where the layers do not. nailer from my cousin. Everything else I have here on the homestead already.
Well, that's the start to our year and our week on the urban homestead. I can't believe it's only Wednesday. I wonder what the rest of the first week of 2011 will bring.