Monday, December 13, 2010

Tall Man Red Beans & Rice

Keith and I recently graduated from Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. Although we have a long way to go to implement all that he has taught us, we definitely look at our personal financials in a whole new light. Those that have gone through the class know that there is much discussion around beans and rice. When times are tough, you can eat for a long time on beans and rice. So for our graduation pitch-in dinner, Keith decided it was fitting to add this to the meal. Here's his recipe, created to reflect the spirit of the dish, as well as the flavor. Enjoy!

1 cup dry rice
1-2 tbs oil
2 tbs minced garlic (dried garlic powder can be substituted)
3-5 slices of some smoky meat, (ham, sausage, bacon, turkey)
1 small/medium onion minced
2 stalks celery chopped
1 16oz can Red Beans
1 8oz can tomato sauce
3-5 tbs of Italian herbs or oregano & thyme
Cayenne pepper
hot pepper sauce

Prepare all items ahead of time. Dice and measure onions, celery, garlic, herbs. Open cans.
Step 1 - 1 cup dry rice - cook (my wife used a rice steamer)
Step 2 - In large fry pan: in heat 1-2 tbs oil to medium hot, lightly fry 2 tbs minced garlic (dried garlic powder can be substituted), 3-5 slices of some smoky meat, (ham, sausage, bacon, turkey,) diced. Drain grease if excessive.
Step 3 - Add 1 small/medium onion minced, 2 stalks celery chopped. Stir until translucent.
Step 4 - Add 1 16oz can Red Beans, stir. Add 3/4 can of tomato sauce, stir. Stir in 3-5 tbs of Italian herbs or oregano & thyme, salt, and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 5 - Taste. Add Cayenne pepper, and hot pepper sauce to taste. Stir well. Keep warm till rice is done.
Step 6 - Add in cooked rice, stir well. Keep warm until served.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Chickens and Baby Eggs

There is no good excuse for the lack of updates other than time flies really really fast. Lots has been happening around Windy Acres (especially the wind...always the wind).

A crazy wind storm came through a few weeks back. Everything got tossed around. The pen was pulled away from the coop. We lots some trim, a trash can and a cushion. Poof! Off into never never land. The trim ended up at the top of our biggest tree in the backyard - wrapped around some limbs. It took a tree guy climbing up into the tree to get it down.

We lost Mama Cass two weeks ago. Remember the roosters that the hatchery had sent along for warmth? Well, they got big and were starting to get aggressive - causing all kinds of daily drama in the coop. Chickens running and squawking. I kept saying "we have got to get rid of those roosters". We came home from being gone all day on Saturday, only for Keith to find Mama hiding in a corner of the coop all torn up. She was still alive but her wing had been badly torn and you could see muscle - there was no saving her. Keith had to put her out of her pain. It broke my heart. I know I shouldn't be so attached to my chickens - but I am. Mama ruled the roost and I am sure that a fight happened that day. So Keith killed the roosters. The coyotes had some extra meals courtesy of Windy Acres that night.

The one good thing that has come out of this is that harmony has been returned to the coop. The rest of the girls seem much happier. No more feathers flying every which way, so more squawking and girls fleeing in every direction. The new chicks are about 21 weeks old now and I think there are at least three new layers - judging by the color and size of the eggs (itty bitty baby eggs).

Sandy is getting bigger and bigger - she's 61 lbs. and only 7 months old. We're hoping she's nearing the end of the growth spurt. The general craziness seems to lesson a wee bit with each passing week. Although she did leap clean over the end of the couch onto Keith the other night. I only saw a flash of fur out of the corner of my eye and heard Keith yelling "SANDY...NOOOOO". I turned to see our oh so giant dog sitting on top of Keith with a proud look in her eye - "look what I just did". Puppies - you gotta love 'em.

Friday, October 1, 2010

End of Summer Updates

It's been a little while since our last post and we have much to catch up on.

The new chickens are growing and now integrated with the big birds. They are about 12 weeks old and we figure we might see some eggs by mid-November. The big girls rule the roost (literally and figuratively). They run the smaller ones out whenever they want to eat. They have been allowing a couple more of the adventurous young ones sleep on the roost at night. For the most part they all seem to get along. With the lack of rain, we are going through tons of chicken feed for 17 birds. There are at-least three roosters and soon they will be going away to a meat market.

The vegetable garden was mildly successful this year, definitely better than last year. We harvested plenty of cucumbers, habaneros, sweet peppers, tomatoes and squash. The season started out rainy and ended in a drought. I was able to do some canning this year - five pints of salsa, five pints of tomatoes, and seven jars of pickles. The funny thing is - I really don't like pickles. But, what else was I going to do with all of those cucumbers? I also did some dehyrating for the first time that seemed to work very well - squash, zucchini, red pepers (1/3 jar) and habaneros (1/5 jar). I'm eager to see if the rehydrated squash will make a good casserole.

We fought bugs all summer. I don't like to use pesticides but the Japanese beetles seemed to think the natural bug repellent was merely a yummy candy coating for the pole and long beans. They completely covered the beans. Then something else all together ate every leaf of the broccoli. So we had to resort to some of the stronger stuff if we wanted any chance of eating from our own garden. One of these days I will be successful at growing something other than tomatoes and peppers. We have definitely decided to go back to raised beds next year. It is just too much to try and keep grasses and weeds out while at the same time attacking the bugs. I really don't mind the thought of doing it all over again next year. It's like wiping the slate clean.

Last but not least, meet Sandy our new dog. We picked her up on August 28th from a family in Nashville, Indiana. Their dog had 12 puppies and they thought they would keep one - soon realizing that they really didn't need two huge dogs. Sandy (formerly known as Nannerl - Mozart's sister's nickname) is a Great Pyranese/Flat Coated Retriever mix. She is 5 months old and already 51 lbs. Sandy (renamed for Sandy from Grease) is a super sweet dog. The problem is that she is all puppy in dog size. She does all the normal puppy things - chewing, stealing, jumping, etc. in a really really big size. How big will she get? Great Pyranese get anywhere from 85 - 100 lbs and Flat-coated retrievers anywhere from 55 to 75 lbs. So probably pretty big.

So far, Sandy's antics include:
- destroyed five rolls of toilet paper and one roll of paper towels
- stole and ate a bag of potato chips
- attempted to eat english muffins (don't think she likes them)
- stole and devoured various hotdog and hamburger buns (an entire bag of 8 hamburger buns disappeared two days ago)
- ate a brand new roll of bread opened yesterday
- stole a spatula out of the sink
- stole socks, t-shirts and underwear out of the clothes hamper
- ran away with my stuffed animals in her mouth
- destroyed a favorite hat
- chewed a hole in a pashmina shawl
- ate a packet of Swiss Miss hot chocolate
- stole two potatoes out of the potato bin
- ate a packet of instant chocolate pudding

You get the picture. our days and nights are filled with "No Sandy", "Give that back Sandy", "Drop that Sandy", "what is in your mouth Sandy", "Sandy, come back here", "No Sandy, that;s gross" "Sandy No", "Sandy No", "Sandy noooo". In the end, she is just so darn cute that we don't stay mad very long. She rolls over on her back, showing her tummy and wagging her tail with the "I'm soo cute" look. We just need to get better at puppy proofing everything.

Monday, August 16, 2010

6 weeks old and getting Big!

Too big for the brooder but not big enough yet for the coop! It was time to get the girls out of the garage and out into the open. They were sneaking out of the brooder anyway as there were telltale signs (i.e. chicken poop) around the brooder. We had been told that the the chicks need to be at least 1/2 the size of the other chickens before introducing them to the flock (although technically the chicks are the "flock"...there are more of them than the grown-up hens). So the weekend before last we bought an exercise pen and a dog crate as temporary housing. Of course it was one of the hottest days of the year...trying to catch the chicks and move them outside. I am pretty sure we got the worst of the experience.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The New Chicks on the Block

So, I had to stop by the post office today to pick up some chicks. No, I'm not dating again, we have new arrivals here at Windy Acres.

Since we were down to 3 hens, we wanted to increase the flock size. We're also branching out with two other breeds (3 other if you include the spare chicks sent for warmth.) We should have 4 Buff Orps, 4 New Hampshire Red, and 3 Dominique. The hatchery wrote that it included Rhode Island Red males in for warmth. So, we'll be getting rid of those when we have them identified.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Chicks are on the Way

We've been searching Craig's list for anyone selling chickens locally. Last week we found a woman in Mooresville selling some Buff Orpingtons. Her only requirement was that we had to buy two roosters as well. She had way too many chickens and needed to get rid of some birds. I did some calling around and found a local meat market that would trade the roosters for a couple of cut-up chickens.

We agreed on a price and day/time that we would pick up the chickens. As you can imagine, we were pretty excited at the thought of finally building our flock back-up. The night before we were set to pick-up the chickens, she emailed to say that someone stopped by that day and took all of the "buffs". Arrrgh!!! We had an agreement and she goes and sells the chickens to someone else. Why? I was livid and wanted to report her to Craig's list, but "being a jerk" wasn't an option for flagging the post.

So we decided to go ahead and bite the pullet (like the pun), and get more chicks. This time we're ordering from a hatchery in Cameron, Texas - Ideal Poultry. They do not require a minimum number of chicks, just a minimum order of $25. We're ordering Buff Orpingtons (4), New Hampshire Reds (4) and Dominques (3). They will ship on July 7th and should be here the next day. The Reds and Dominques should start laying eggs faster than the Buffs. Since Dirty Harry (our cat) is living in the east wing, we plan on setting up the brooder in the garage/workshop. It will be fun to have chicks again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Blood

We drew first blood tonight. It was around 10:30 or so, when we returned home from a night on the town. Had a nice Italian dinner, and saw Jersey Boys. Excellent show. Not your typical musical, more a concert with narration.

Anyway, I let Abby out to do her business and go to close up the chicken coop. I hear her barking, but I collect the eggs, and check on the girls first. Everything looked fine in there. So I close up the door, and swing the light over to where Abby is barking. I can see she is barking at something, but I couldn't tell what it was, or which side of the fence it was.

I swing around our shed and see that she is barking at a rather large possum. I scream and yell at her, INSIDE, INSIDE, IN, IN. She does her normal, I hear ya, but I want to bark at this thing. When the possum bared it's teeth, I hit the fence with our Maglite. That got Abby's attention off the possum and onto me. She reluctantly followed me inside. I ran to my office and got my wife's Ruger 10/22. I had just loaded some magazines yesterday in hopes of getting the rabbit that's been hanging around our tender, tasty garden.

So, I roll onto the deck, pop the magazine into the rifle, and, holding the maglite with the fore-end of the rifle line my shot up. The first crack didn't seem to effect it. I lined up carefully then, let my breath out, and CRACK. The possum went skidding end over end, landing under the sheds door. I put another one into it, just to be sure.

Shelly came out and held the light as we made our way over to the shed. I poked it with the end of the rifle and it seemed to squirm. I backed up, and put two more shots into it. It was dead now, and muscle contractions caused it to do a little dance on the ground. Gloves, a shovel and a rake later, and it was deposited into the corn field. I'm sure something will complete the cycle of life.

So, here is the scene of the crime:

And the nasty intruder:

One less critter to worry about getting the chickens, or causing problems for Abby. My first thought upon seeing those nasty teeth was, I hope it doesn't have rabbies. We've washed down the shed and shovel with bleached water. Hopefully, that will keep Abby from sniffing and licking the crime scene.

It's 11:23 PM now, almost an hour since the shots rang out. No knocks on the door, no sirens, no signs of the county sheriff, yet. I love living in the country.

What a way to end a date night with my wife. Dinner, a show, and first blood.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I've Taken Up Jogging

...and I can't say that I had intended to start jogging mind you. I guess it really would be considered more like running in short bursts. In the last few weeks, there have been several times when I have found myself running after a dog (Abby) who in turn was running after another animal - chickens, cats, chickens. You get the picture. Monday night was the latest sprint, this time 'round and 'round the chicken coop we went. I am sooo glad there were no video cameras rolling. Keith and I had recently put up a small fence giving the chickens access to more parts of the yard. We had been letting them have the run of the entire backyard until they shredded my hostas. Come to find out hostas must be like crack to chickens. So we put up this fence so that everyone could be happy. We felt quite proud of ourselves. Until...

I was in the coop doing a little clean-up - adding some bedding, getting clean water and adding more food to the feeder. All of a sudden I hear Abby barking and see a chicken flying by. Abby had jumped the fence and was going after the girls. My girls! I ran out of the coop and tried to catch Abby. I would have had better luck catching a wet pig. She zigged, I zagged. All the while I was screaming at her. Of course, I've been enjoying a summer cold so all that screaming wasn't really doing a whole lot for my already sore throat. She seemed to be in a totally different zone - oblivious to anything other than the chickens she was chasing. There was a cacophony of screaming, barking, squawking and howling coming from the backyard. I finally caught her for a moment and she wrenched out of her collar. Ugh! She had been groomed on Saturday and they hadn't put the collar on tight enough. This meant more running and screaming to finally catch her - grab her head, hold her between my legs so I could get her collar back on and drag her butt back to the house.

Then I ran back to check on the chickens. All three were in a corner of the coop - staring wild-eyed yet quiet and traumatized. Short a few feathers, they seem to be fine now. So much for thinking that Abby and the chickens could share the yard together in harmony. Oh well, lesson learned. Off to get taller fencing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rainbow after the storm

Another reason why i love living out in the country...

This is the view from our side door looking just south-east -
across the street at our neighbor's farm after a recent storm.

The girls enjoying a spring evening

Mama Cass

Grace Slick

and Elvis

Thursday, April 29, 2010

We lost another chicken

Tuesday night, we lost another chicken. Blondie - one of the survivors of the Windy Acres Chicken Massacre of 2009. As with Janis, she seemed fined. Eating and scratching with the other hens. When I went to check on the girls after sunset, she was lying on the coop floor obviously in distress. Within 15-minutes she was gone.

After losing two birds within 3.5 weeks, we decided to try and find a vet that could do a necropsy. We wanted to make sure that we didn't have some disease running rampant through our little flock. Odd that although Indiana is a large egg producing state, there seem to be few vets that deal with chickens. We ended up at All Wild Things Exotic Animal Hospital. They have been extremely helpful and kind throughout this entire ordeal.

The vet just called and said that Blondie died of polycystic liver disease. She had basically bled out into her belly. Chickens, especially layers, can be prone to fatty livers. The vet said if you have to go, this is the way to go - quick and painless. This was really shocking. Fatty livers can develop from too much fat (and corn) in their diet. For the most part, the girls get the feed designed for layers. I had only introduced some scratch into their diet within the last month or so. We may decide to have some blood work done on the other girls, checking their liver enzymes and cholesterol. but the truth is, if they already have the cysts there is nothing that can be done. if they have fatty livers, it can be reversed with changes to their diet. So, the first change is no more corn!

We had been hesitant about adding more chickens this year. Now that we are down to just three birds - we will definitely be adding more soon.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Janis - Gone but not Forgotten

We've had some wonderfully warm and sunny days in the last week and so we have been able to let the girls run around the backyard enjoying the grass on days when we're home to keep an eye on them. They love the fresh grass and the new found freedom. Easter was a gorgeous day even with the non-stop wind. We had practically the entire family over for dinner and an Easter-egg hunt. 19 people getting together under one roof. I cherish those moments with my family.

So it was very disheartening to wake up this morning to find that we had lost one of our hens sometime during the night. All the girls were fine yesterday and when I locked up the coop at 10pm. When I let the girls out this morning, only four chickens ran outside. I opened up the coop door and there was Janis dead under the roost. There doesn't appear to be any trauma. I am very concerned and sad. We did have some heavy storms roll through the area around 2:00am. I don't know if she could have been startled and fell off of the roost - perhaps breaking her neck? Chicken heart attack? I just hope that the other girls are ok when I get home.

Janis was one of the bigger hens and definitely one of the loudest. She just loved clucking up a storm when I came to clean the coop or give them treats. Perhaps I shouldn't have named the girls after dead or troubled rock stars. Should I be concerned for Elvis and Mama Cass?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

6 eggs???

We're not sure how it happened, but somehow we had six eggs from five chickens. Either someone was being an overachiever or one of the girls layed an egg later the day before - after we had already collected the days' eggs. We are a bit stumped. Generally the girls have been producing anywhere from 2 to 2.5 dozen eggs per week. We truly enjoy the surprise that each day brings with our eggs. Which hen will be laying? What size and shape will the eggs be? Where will the eggs be? The farm fresh eggs have become a hit with our co-workers with more people requesting to be on the "egg" list each week. We may have to really think about getting more chickens.

I haven't posted anything in a while. After losing Bogey, I didn't feel like writing much. We miss him so much. I made the huge mistake of watching "Marley & Me" last weekend. Not the movie to watch if you have ever had to make that ultimate decision for your pet.

But life does seem to go on. Spring is in the air. The weather has turned a bit warmer. Keith said that one of the girls was outside lying in the sunshine. It's time to start thinking about garden planning and spring cleaning. I am actually one of those weird people that almost look forward to the idea of cleaning everything out and starting fresh. I want to open the windows and let the stale winter air out of the house. I even want to clean the chicken coop (truly weird). Knowing Indiana though, I have to temper my enthusiasm with a dose of weather reality. They are calling for the possibility of snow showers next Sunday. So for now, I will treasure each moment above 50 degrees, enjoy the feeling of the sun shining down on me, and gaze in awe at the garden and seed catalogs piling in the mailbox.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Goodbye Bogey

Last night we had to say goodbye to the best dog in the world. Bogey was 15 years old and was suffering from arthritis and hip dysplasia. The pain just became too much for him and his ability to get up or down by himself was almost completely gone. Bogey aka Bogart had been a loving, gentle, and proud dog. He would look completely mortified when we had to help him get up after a fall. As the vet told us, we had to know that he no longer looked forward to each day. He only had peace when he would finally fall asleep and even that proved difficult in the last couple of weeks, as the mere act of lying down would cause him great pain. We knew we couldn't let him go on like this but I just found having to make this decision so difficult. My heart was breaking at the thought. But I know he was no longer happy.

In 1995, Keith headed out one day to get cat food for our old cat Whiner. About 30 minutes later, he came home saying "you have to go back to the pet store with me". They were having animal adoptions that day through a foster care group. Keith had seen Bogey and fell in love. He was a Black Lab/German Shepherd mix and his original name was "Rock". The agency said that his owner had given him up for adoption because he wasn't getting big enough. We brought him home and Keith renamed him Bogart (Bogey for short) after his favorite actor Humphrey Bogart.

Bogey was solid black and awesome. Bogey was easily trained. He was the perfect mix of loving dog and protector rolled into one. He could jump and catch Frisbees and probably could have competed in agility training when he was younger (had we had the motivation to be that agile along with him). We used to take him everywhere with us - even camping when we went four-wheelin'. He would always perk up and get excited if we asked him if he wanted to go for a ride. He always looked more intimidating that what he really was. He used to scare the delivery men quite a bit - especially the Chinese food delivery.

We have always had dogs in my family, but this was Keith's first dog. Anyone who knew Bogey knew what a great dog he was. We couldn't have asked for a better dog and I sincerely feel we will never find another like him - he was truly special. We love our other dog Abby very much but we have known she was crazy from day one. She is named after the movie Young Frankenstein (AB Normal). She misses Bogey very much too. Last night she sat by the front door looking out the window and pretty much moped all night. It will take a long time for our family to heal from this loss.

We were blessed to have had Bogey in our life. I know that now he is in a much better place where he can run all day chasing rabbits. Old man, you are loved soo much and we will miss you every day.

Friday, January 15, 2010


It's been a little while since our last update. The holidays and the extreme cold had us hibernating inside the house - trying to avoid having to venture outside at all costs. Keeping the coop warm has been a challenge. Many days we kept the girls inside as they didn't really like the cold and snow anyway. A water bowl with a warmer has definitely helped. All the girls started showing a bit of damage to their combs, so we tried to protect them with some petroleum jelly. They just loved being chased around in freezing temps (think it was 10 degrees that day) just so I could glop some Vaseline on their heads (yeah right!). We really should have video taped the entire endeavor. Even the eggs were freezing because we couldn't grab them till after we got home from work. BTW, a frozen egg looks like an Egg Slushy on the inside.

Elvis has been returned to the flock. They other girls still pick on her a bit and so she tends to stay off on her own. Away from trouble I guess. Egg production has increased despite the winter chill. Once we moved Elvis into the Hen Hospital, all the girls started laying and they have stayed that way with her back in the flock. We are getting 3 to 5 eggs everyday. In fact we have had 22 eggs since Sunday. I think it might be time to start thinking about selling them and not just giving eggs away to friends and family. I started keeping a daily journal on egg production and coop conditions. With feed and bedding costs, maybe we can get an idea as to what the price should be for a dozen eggs.