Monthly Archives: October 2014

Our First Great Molt

So it’s here!  I’ve been thinking about it, and concerned about it starting last year this time.  It’s that time in a chicken’s life when they lose all their feathers.  It’s a time when they molt.  During this time a hen will stop laying eggs.  The chicken’s first molt will occur at about 18 months of age, and again about a year after that.

Chickens, like all birds, molt.  Humans constantly lose hair and replace it with new strands.  Dogs constantly shed with a bigger hair loss around seasonal changes.  The dog’s lost hair is then replaced with hair more appropriate for the coming season.  Birds lose all of their feathers at one time and replace them with beautiful new plumage.  Before the arrival of her new feathers, the hen is quite odd looking with bald patches over her body.  She will also be very tender and quite grumpy towards her other chicken friends.

Right now two of our original five girls are molting.  I’ve noticed that the girls that are molting are territorial with their food.  I believe this is due to an increased need of protein for their bodies to make these new feathers.  The other three will probably start their molt in the next few days.  We can expect the molt to last anywhere between 3 to 4 weeks all the way to 12 to 16, depending on the molt.

One of our Easter Eggers mid-molt

One of our Easter Eggers mid-molt

This is causing my husband to have rather sad mornings.   He’s had to supplement his normal over easy egg breakfast with oatmeal, muffins, or other foods that aren’t quite as good as eggs.  With the reduced sunlight, molting non-laying hens and our young chickens too young to lay, we are left with 0 to 2 eggs a day from our flock of over twenty.  Compared this to our summer egg numbers where we were collected between six and ten eggs daily from 10 hens.

After the molt, the chickens will lay fewer eggs in number, but the eggs they do lay will be larger.  I believe the young hens will begin laying about the same time our older hens are out of their molt.

What the inside of our nesting boxes have looked like lately - EMPTY.

What the inside of our nesting boxes have looked like lately – EMPTY.

So right now, we feed them, watch them, and enjoy their antics but not their eggs.  They are also fenced into my garden and working hard to create lots of fertility for our veggies next spring.  Their feathers will return as will their eggs.  And we will be ready.

Applesauce – Easy, Sugar-Free, Delicious

Applesauce is another “recipe” that is so ridiculously easy and simple that is almost embarrassing to post it.  However, embarrassingly simple is still simple, and that’s the name of my game!  My husband and child love applesauce.  I’ve actually made and canned over 3 gallons of it so we can enjoy it all through the winter and through until the next apple season.

One half bushel (a peach basket), made about a gallon and a half or 6 quart jars of sauce.  Once made, you can freeze or can it.  While canning is out of the scope of this blog at this point, I processed the quart jars in a water bath for 20 minutes, leaving about an inch of head space.

Here are the nuts and bolts of how to make your own applesauce:

Step One:  Select your apples.  I strongly suggest you select a nice vareity of apples.  Include sweet and tart apples so that the sauce has a deeper taste profile, while still ensuring you have enough sweet apples so that adding sugar is unnecessary.  This is another example of where knowing your farmer is extremely helpful.  My husband bought apples for me.  He walked up to a stand at the farmer’s market where we get a lot produce, and told the woman who owns the stand that he wanted an apple mix to make applesauce.  She put together a mixed bag for us.  And it turned out wonderfully.

Step Two: Quarter your apples, remove the seeds, and place the apple in a large pot.  You can keep the skins on.  In fact, red skins will lend to a beautifully pink colored applesauce.  Only fill your pot about 3/4 full.  That way you have room to stir.  I actually  needed to use two pots for this amount of sauce. 20140928_153935 As the apples cook down, you can add more.  Add a little apple Juice (maybe a quarter cup) so that the apples have a little liquid to cook.  As the apples cook down, they will make their own liquid.  Please note: you can use water in place of the juice.   Turn the stove on Medium, stirring periodically.

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Step 3: Continue to cook and stir the apples until they become the consistency of …   …applesauce.   Stirring is really important so that you don’t burn apples to the bottom of your pan.  (Quite frankly, out of three batches, I burned two.  This is not a big deal for your applesauce, it just takes a little lot more work to clean)

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Step 4: Now, run your apples through a food mill.  Applesauce is what comes out the other side.

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At this point you can freeze it, can it or eat it.  We like it just the way it is, but feel free to add cinnamon or nutmeg or any other spice you may like.

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How super easy was this?  When making some of these recipes, I am shocked how simple they are.  One ingredient and lots of yum!!

How to Make Apple Cider Vinegar

If you are making anything that requires you to peel and core your apples, and those apples are organic, try making some homemade apple cider vinegar.  It’s super easy, and I think it’s pretty dang cool.

This is so simple and easy, it reminds me of the peanut butter post.  But it’s worth discussing, as I don’t think making apple cider vinegar is intuitive.

First take you apple scraps and put them in a glass jar.  These scraps are the peels and cores.  I compost the moldy or rotten pieces.  Stuff as much of the scraps as you can in the jar.    The amount of scraps produced by a batch of apple butter was enough to fill up two quart jars.

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Add about 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to each jar.  Make sure the vinegar is “live” and has the mother.  One that I know works as a good started is Braggs brand.  I have heard that you can do this with out the starter, but I have not tried it.

Fill the jar the rest of the way up with water and either loosely cap, or cover with a cloth and rubber band.  Place in a dark location away from extreme temperatures.  If the temperature is comfortable for you, than it’s fine for your jars.  In warmer temperatures makes the process quicker, cooler temperatures cause the process to take longer.

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Check on after about a week, then check every few days.  You may see some foaming or other growth.  Just spoon that off and compost it.  It’s fine.

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Check it every other day and taste the acidity.  Once it gets acidic enough for your palate, strain the apple/vinegar mix through a sieve and into a glass storage jar.  Those two quarts of apple scraps gave me a quart of vinegar.

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Put a lid on it and store at room temperature.  Congratulations! You just made homemade apple cider Vinegar!

Easy Crock Pot Apple Butter

I love fall!  Apples, pumpkins, and hot beverages.  This past weekend, we went apple picking.   Jaxson led the way to find the best apple trees:

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We brought home a half bushel of apples, and I got started making apple butter.  It’s quite simple (yay), and I would like to share with you how I did it.

First I put some Willie Nelson on.  This step is optional, but highly recommended.  Next, peel, core and quarter your washed apples.  Fill up your crock pot to the top. The apples will cook down in volume.

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If the apples you are using are organic, keep your peels and cores, I’ll show you how to make apple cider vinegar out of your scraps.  Very cool, right? Anyway, back to our butter.

Now add your spices.  Add what spices you like.  I used 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (bc I like cinnamon), 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  I also added about a half of cup of sugar.  If you have a lot of sweet apples (yellow or red delicious) you may not need to add any sugar.  If you have mostly tart, as mine were, sugar is a necessity.

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Now put your crock pot on low, and let it cook overnight.  I started this at 8 pm, at 10 pm I gave it a stir.  Then I went to bed.  By 7 am the next  morning it was ready (kind of).  I stirred it, then I tasted it and it was WAY, WAY too tart.  So I added another cup of sugar and let it cook.  I recommend using a mix of sweet and tart apples, instead of all tart apples, like I did.  That way you won’t have to use any sugar.

You can also add more spices at this time.  Remember you can always add more spice,  you can never take it away.  So add a little spice, taste, and reevaluate.

Then I canned it.  If you are not into canning, then you can freeze it.  If you are into canning ( I would like more experience before I post up instructions):  process half-pints and pints for 10 minutes and process Quarts for 15 minutes in your water bath canner at 6,000 feet or lower.  Any higher, add another five minutes to the processing times.

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Enjoy your tower of glorious apple butter!