Backyard Bounty: Elderflower Syrup

Elderberry Syrup

It’s that time of year: the delicate and unique fragrance of elderflowers wafts through the air. The creamy yellow-white clusters are now in bloom, heralding the coming purple berries. Having previously tried a remarkable imported elderflower soda, I thought I’d try my hand at making an infused elderflower syrup that could be used to flavor water kefir or create delicious summer cocktails.

First step: pick many elderflowers. The recipe I used calls for a quart jar full of the blossoms. If you’ve seen elderflowers, you know they’re tiny, so that’s a lot of flowers. Fortunately, the bushes have grown large and big clusters of the flowers were within easy reach. The chickens came around when they saw that I had a container in my hand, but all they got were a few unlucky beetles that flew off the flowers. Continue reading “Backyard Bounty: Elderflower Syrup”

Farm Projects: Cooling Off The Coop

Coop Cooling

It’s hot out today. With the heat index, it’s 97 degrees. Sounds like a good day for sitting in an air-conditioned room and taking it easy, right? Yeah, right – it’s the perfect day to add some insulation to the chicken coop to help keep the ladies cool. Happy chickens lay more eggs!

As you know from reading earlier posts, we retrofitted a lofted shed as a chicken coop when we acquired our first chickens. We’ve learned a lot since then and would definitely build our own, rather than try to make a shed work, in the future; that said, the shed wasn’t built with the special features a really good chicken coop incorporates, like excellent ventilation. In addition, the metal roof combined with the very tall loft traps heat. We’ve tried to ameliorate the worst of the heat in past years by employing shade cloth, installing a fan, building a sturdy screen door, cutting in a lot of ventilation, and making sure the ladies have cool water available to them after they’re secured for the night. Continue reading “Farm Projects: Cooling Off The Coop”

Cast Iron Chronicles: The Field Skillets Have Arrived!

Field Skillet Packaging

It’s like Christmas (in June) here: the eagerly-awaited Field Skillets arrived today…in a surprisingly light box!

In an earlier post, we shared why we were looking forward to receiving the new cast iron pans. Now that we have them, we intend to put them to the test and see if they live up to the hype. Here’s what we’ve noticed upon opening the box and taking them out: Continue reading “Cast Iron Chronicles: The Field Skillets Have Arrived!”

Test Yourself: Can You Identify This Insect?

Identify this insect

We often find strange and fascinating bugs out in our pastures, and many times they’re hanging out on the tops of the rabbit tractors. Recently, we saw an interesting insect and it took us a moment to realize what it was because it was smaller than the others of its kind we’ve seen. Do you know what it is?

In case you’re stumped, here are a few hints, courtesy of gardeninsects.com: Continue reading “Test Yourself: Can You Identify This Insect?”

New Farm Denizens: White Chinese Geese

Chinese Geese

We’ve been considering adding geese to the farm for a while, and have been researching different breeds to find the one that we think will be the best fit. We’re pleased to share that yesterday, we brought three young Chinese geese home.

Why Chinese geese? They’re known to be good guardian animals because they’ll create a racket if they see something that doesn’t belong (this could be a downside if you live close to neighbors), they’re some of the best layers, they can obtain much of their nutrition from eating weeds and pasture greens, and they’re lovely creatures.  You know how we like pasturing our animals! Continue reading “New Farm Denizens: White Chinese Geese”

Beware The Super-Broody: These Girls Mean Business

Broody

It’s that time of year – the ducks have been laying lots of eggs, and when they’ve laid a clutch, they want to try to hatch them (and they’re exceptionally good at it). When one goes broody, and interesting phenomenon occurs: the broodiness seems to be contagious. So what happens when several ducks go broody and they all want the same nest box? They sardine into it. Never mind that there are other boxes, just as nice, that are available. They want that one special box.

That’s right: three ducks crammed themselves into a single nest box. Our nest boxes are jumbo hooded cat litter pans, normally very roomy for a single occupant. It’s even comfortable for two ducks, should they decide to be roommates. But three is pushing it – see how they’re stacked? Continue reading “Beware The Super-Broody: These Girls Mean Business”

Weekly Roundup: Farm Happenings

Weekly Roundup

It’s been a while since we posted…so what have we been up to at the farm? Actually, we’ve been on vacation in the south of France. Just kidding! Here’s the real roundup: Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Farm Happenings”

Duck Delinquents: When Girls Stay Out All Night

Duck Delinquents

Pretty much every predator in the area likes duck. We get it. To foil the many animals that lurk in the darkness, we secure the ducks in their coop (or the chicken coop, if they’ve chosen to squat in there) at night. Every once in a while, though, a duck hides when we go to herd them into their coop, and she stays out all night long. Notably, we have never had a drake stay out after curfew…hmm…

Continue reading “Duck Delinquents: When Girls Stay Out All Night”

Cast Iron Cooking: Dutch Dutch Baby

Dutch Baby

Do you have a lot of farm fresh eggs on hand that you’re not sure how to use up? Try making a delicious Dutch Baby for breakfast – even the pickiest eaters are certain to enjoy it…and it’s even better if you use duck eggs! Continue reading “Cast Iron Cooking: Dutch Dutch Baby”

Like Strange Eggs? Here’s A New One!

Strange Eggs

Each morning, we collect the duck eggs from the nest boxes in their coop. We time it so that the group is out eating breakfast while we take the eggs; otherwise, we risk invoking the wrath of the broody who’s been sitting in the corner nest (she knows we steal the eggs, I can feel it in her glare). Several of the girls have already gone broody, but this duck has been particularly committed to defending “her” eggs.

There are four nest boxes in the duck coop: three jumbo covered boxes and one small, shallow one. For some reason, some of the ducks prefer the shallow, open one – there are typically at least two eggs in there in the morning. We usually find several in each of the other boxes, with the broody’s nest being the cleanest, beautifully down-lined, and full of carefully hidden eggs. We’ve learned that you can provide the most deluxe, plush nest box, and that’s still no guarantee that the ducks will lay their eggs in it, so offering variety seems to work best – and an egg laid in a nest box has a much better chance of being a clean egg. Continue reading “Like Strange Eggs? Here’s A New One!”