Oct 21, 2017

Weekend Links

I've been busy.
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 


"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Romans 12:2

_______________________________
* If  you've noticed that I'm blogging less, please bear with me. I'm trying to find a blogging schedule that works well with my crazy homeschooling, working from home, homesteading life. Now that the rush and bustle of preserving season is mostly over, I hope to have more time and energy for blogging!

Non-guilty pleasures.
* I work hard, so when I have the opportunity to get my hands on a great novel, I can be kind of naughty and stay up too late reading it. Such is the case with Where We Belong, by one of my favorite Christian authors, Lynn Austin. I'm about halfway through and I recommend it!

* Free homestead management printables. They look helpful!

* Why orange yolks aren't always an indicator of free range chickens or a higher quality egg.

* 50 Ways to Inspire Your Husband

* It's so healthy to have kids give gifts they've made. Even very young children can give these simple sachets as gifts, for example.

* Take your homemade or store bought apple cider and spice it up (mull it) for the holidays!

* How to Trust God with Your Older Children.

* Recall on all  I.M. Healthy Soy Nut Butter products, due to E. coli.

* Why you should NOT slow cook beans. I checked, and the USDA says it's true. Can't believe I never knew this!

* Little House on the Prairie told from Ma's point of view?? I totally need to read this!


Oldies But Goodies:

* The BEST Cinnamon Rolls Ever - a from scratch recipe
* How to Can Ham
* AMAZING Molasses Spice Cookie Recipe
* How to Roast Pumpking & Squash Seeds 
* What to Do With Green (Unripe) Tomatoes

Oct 18, 2017

Protecting Canning Jars in an Earthquake

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

I live in an area where the government keeps warning us to expect an earthquake. A really big earthquake. Having lived through the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 (the one that interrupted the World Series), I take this pretty seriously. And one of my concerns is how to keep my home canned goods safe. After all, if the earthquake is big enough, those jars might contain the only food we could obtain for a while.

Let's face it; canning jars are far from earthquake proof. So what can we do to minimize the risk of loosing them during an earthquake? Here are some ideas I've come up with or seen implemented online.

* Secure shelves or cupboards to wall studs. This should keep them from toppling over during an earthquake.

* Line shelves with no-slip (or "grip") shelf liner to help prevent jars from sliding around during a quake.

* Secure cupboard doors with child locks. This will at least keep jars from flying out of them during an earthquake.

* Place boards across the front of open shelves. Don't just give shelves a lip, or place wood at the bottom of each shelf. In a bigger earthquake, that won't help at all. Instead, place the wood jut below the middle of the jars. (Make it look like this, not this.) Be sure the wood is on the sides of the shelves, too. I've seen some people use bungee cords instead of wood or metal, but unless those cords are really tight and not at all stretchy, they won't help at all.

* Place jars in boxes with foam or bubble wrap dividers. Sort the content so like items are grouped together, clearly label all sides of the boxes, and label the tops of jars, too. If this seems like a pain for everyday use, separate a percentage of your jars into boxes and keep the rest on the shelf.

How do you protect your canning jars from natural disasters?

Oct 11, 2017

How to Make Apple Cider With an Electric Juicer

How to Make Apple Cider with an Electric Juicer
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 


Many people saw my photos on Facebook and Instagram and wanted to know more about how I make apple cider (and apple juice) using an electric juicer. It really couldn't be easier! And I highly recommend the method. (But first: Let's clarify the apple juice vs. apple cider. Cider is just like apple juice, except it isn't strained - so bits of pulp remain in the liquid. Traditionally, apple cider is also left unpasteurized.)

Unfortunately, cider presses generally cost hundreds, and building one may take time, ingenuity, and money you don't have. It's possible to make apple juice by cooking the apples on the stove, as described by Ball, but it's pretty time consuming and heats up the house. But if you have an electric juicer? Quick and easy!

Now, juicers aren't always much cheaper than cider presses. I inherited mine from my brother, and it's a really nice piece of equipment. (It would cost about $350 to try to replace it.) But less expensive juicers work just fine, too - and there are plenty of them on the market. I'm sure you could even use a KitchenAid Mixer attachment. Also, juicers are a lot easier to find (used or new) than cider presses. And you're more likely to be able to borrow one.

How to Make Apple Cider with an Electric Juicer

1. Read the juicer manual thoroughly, since they don't all work the same. Mine has a handy dandy container for the apple pulp to go into, plus a pitcher for the juice. (Which is still packed somewhere, so this year, I used my batter bowl.) You basically plug the machine in, insert an apple or two, and turn it on.

My juicer set up.
2. In most cases, you do not need to prep the apples. I find making cider or juice is an excellent use for very small apples that are time consuming to cut up for other methods of preservation. Plus, small apples don't need chopping up in order to go into the juicer. My juicer manual recommends removing the apple's stems, which I do - but I don't fret if a little bit of the stem adheres to the apple. Also, you should never use bruised apples or apples that are beginning to go bad. Doing so will increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the finished product. If you run across apples that are bruised, just cut the bruises away before juicing the rest of the fruit.

3. Insert one or two apples (depending upon your juicer), and use the presser to slowly press the apple through the juicer. Slower is better because the machine will get more juice from the fruit than if you push the apples through quickly. Repeat until you have as much juice as you desire.

Extracting apple juice.
4. If you're pressing a lot of apples, you may need to empty the pulp holder more than once. You might also want to clean the screen now and then, to make the machine more efficient.






5. When you're done, you will probably see a lot of gunk in the juice. My creates a stiff foam that sits on top of the liquid. I spoon off this foam and dump it into my compost bins. (It does not blend into the juice, even after stirring or shaking.)

When done juicing, there is a lot of stiff foam on top.
6. Cider, by definition, has bits of apple pulp in it. But my machine leaves a lot of pulp in, and my kids (who are the primary drinkers of the liquid) don't love it. So I strain my apple cider through a fine mesh sieve. The end product still has pulp in it - just not so much.

My juicer leaves a lot of pulp in the jars.

How to Make Apple Juice with an Electric Juicer

1. Follow steps 1 - 5.

2. Line a fine sieve with coffee filters or a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain the juice through it.

Straining the pulp away to make apple juice.
2 or 3 coffee filters (or a double layer of cheesecloth), combined with a fine sieve, do the trick.

How to Can Apple Cider or Apple Juice
I follow Ball's directions.

1. Pour the cider or juice into a large pot placed over high heat. Bring the liquid to 190 degrees F., or just a bit hotter. Do not allow the liquid to come to a boil. Keep the liquid at 190 degrees F. or hotter for 5 complete minutes, adjusting the stove temp as necessary. This kills off any bacteria in the liquid.

Pasteurize the juice or cider at 190 degrees F. for 5 minutes.
2. Ladle cider or juice into hot canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Any size canning jar may be used.

Jarring the cider.
The finished product!
Related Posts:

How to Preserve Apples: Canning, Freezing, Dehydrating, Root Cellaring
 What to do with Crab Apples

Low Sugar, No Pectin Apple Peel and Core Jelly

Picking Unripe Apples for Making Apple Pectin

Apple Skillet Cake Recipe

Apple Spice Bread Recipe 

Apple Butter Oatmeal Crumb Bars Recipe

Canning Apple Pie Jam

Freezing Apple Pie Filling

The Best Tasting, Easiest Applesauce Ever

Making Dried Apple Rings in the Warmer Drawer


Oct 4, 2017

Introducing...Pickles!

Pickles, wearing her leash.
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

We have a new critter on the homestead: Pickles, a Polish rabbit doe.

Let me be clear that Pickles is a pet. My daughter's, really. But we are hoping Pickles will lead us up to rabbit as livestock. Here's how.

My daughter adores her buck, Buddy. He's really an excellent pet, and our daughter has long had aspirations to breed him and sell the offspring as pets. Not only do we love her entrepreneurial spirit, we love encouraging our girl to work with animals. (Actually, I feel she has a special way when it comes to critters. Give her an animal that's ornery with everybody, and she'll soon have it well behaved...at least around her. Buddy himself had a rough start on our homestead, back in July of 2016. He bit me repeatedly, several times drawing quite a lot of blood. He bit my husband, too. But he would never dream of biting our daughter.)

Buddy in one of the rabbit hutches.
Our girl saved her birthday money to buy the cages and equipment to house a doe and kits, and we finally found a doe we thought she could breed with Buddy. (Bonus points if you get the reference to Buddy and his wife Pickles!) She's already something of an expert caring for rabbits. Now we want her to become an expert at breeding them. And then, when we can afford the housing for them, we hope to add meat rabbits to the homestead.

(Please don't worry about Buddy and Pickles safety. Polish rabbits are really tiny - 3.5 lbs, tops. They would not be worth butchering! Besides, pets are pets, not livestock.)

Buddy and Pickles haven't met yet. We're first letting Pickles get acclimated to her new surroundings and new caregiver. It should be pretty amusing to see Buddy's reaction to his "wife." I will keep you updated.





By the way, if you're interested in having a rabbit as a pet, we highly recommend the Polish breed. Not only are they small and therefore easy to hold and carry, but they tend to be more laid back than some breeds. Their small size also means they can easily live in smaller cages (though it's always good to let them have access to the outside; we use a ferret leash for this purpose, which you can see in the photo of Pickles at the top of this post.) Plus, their oddly proportioned bodies are just plain cute!

Related Post: An Introduction to Raising Rabbits for Meat


Sep 30, 2017

Weekend Links

We have grapes!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

"He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
 but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son."

 Proverbs 10:5
_______________________________

* I'm a pretty tired lady, lately. I'm homeschooling two kids, writing as a job, homekeeping (including cooking healthy meals from scratch), and preserving the harvest. It. Is. A. Lot. Of. Work. I have ZERO time to relax. Still, I'm thankful we can homeschool. I'm thankful I can help bring in some money to make ends meet. I'm thankful we are eating healthy. And I'm thankful we have a harvest to put by for the winter. Perspective is everything!


* Recall of Death Wish Coffee Company’s Cold Brew Coffee, due to botulism.
THIS is a knock-your-socks-off pie!

* Recall on papayas, due to salmonella.

* THIS is an amazing pie that will knock everyone's socks off! And it's in my book "Easy As Pie" - so you can be the star of Thanksgiving dinner :)

* 25 powerful ways for a wife to tell her husband "I love you."

* Tackling mom worry with God's word. 

* Growing a family on a next-to-nothing budget.
 
* 5 Reasons Your Children Aren't Obeying. 

* Did you know there are Halloween books for kids that speak biblical truth? There are! Check them out here.

* I think every family needs to have a copy of Squanto for Thanksgiving. Hint: It's got details you've probably never heard before about God's hand in American history.

We're still harvesting apples.
* A MUST READ. 2 million children are being trafficked worldwide. 250,000 of those children live here in the United States. Here are 3 of ways these children are pulled into trafficking.

* Conventional marshmallows contain horribly unhealthy ingredients. But that doesn't mean you have to do without. Try these healthy, homemade marshmallows.

* If you're about to have a hard frost and you still have green pumpkins, learn how to ripen them indoors. (Or just make mock apple pie with them!)

* Growing up, chili meant lots of beans. Now that I follow a keto diet to control my diabetes, I don't eat beans. Happily, this was the first no-bean chili I tried. Everyone loved it and nobody missed the beans! 


Oldies But Goodies:
Apple crisp.


* Herbal remedies for winter illnesses
* 7 make-ahead Thanksgiving food ideas 
* Apple Skillet Cake Recipe
* Cauliflower Chowder Recipe (with an Instant Pot option)
* Freezing apple pie filling
* Easy Apple Crisp Recipe

Sep 26, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not...Making the Most of Orchard Fruit

Waste Not, Want Not Making the Most of Fruit in the Orchard
The black and white photo caught my eye because it featured two women standing next to a tall pyramid of canned food. Though I spotted the photo on the Internet*, it originally appeared in an early 1900s newspaper, and the caption said the mother and daughter team had canned hundreds of jars of fruit that year. The mother bragged, "We didn't waste a thing."

That photo was pretty awe-inspiring, and made me think about how previous generations prided themselves on their lack of waste, whereas all too often the current generation doesn't even realize how much it is wasting. Especially when it comes to food.

As a general rule, homesteaders are thrifty and resourceful, but amid the hot, seemingly-never-ending work of the harvest season, how often do we let food go to waste? On our homestead, my goal is to avoid food waste as much as possible, and to preserve as much of the harvest as I can for human consumption.

When we moved to our current homestead, there was already a small orchard in place. I quickly learned that while this was a true blessing, it could also be overwhelming. Today, I have a solid system in place to help me preserve the orchard's harvest each year.

Unripe Fruit 

The first batch of fruit homesteaders usually deal with is unripe. Maybe they've taken the time to thin their fruit trees (which typically results in larger single fruits); maybe the trees have naturally thinned themselves by dropping unripe fruit on the ground; or perhaps a storm has knocked young fruit off the trees.

If you're like me, you grew up being told unripe fruit was unfit to eat. My mother promised me tummy aches and digestive complaints if I broke this rule...but as it turns out, a lot of cultures eat unripe fruit. We can, too.

Preserved immature figs.
Unripe Figs: In the Greek and Turkish cultures, unripe figs are commonly eaten in a sugar syrup.

1. Cut off the stems of the figs and make a slit at the bottom of each fruit.

2. Place the fruit in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and gently boil for 15 minutes. Remove the figs with a slotted spoon.

3. Wash the pot. Place the figs back in the pot and cover with water. Boil and strain them again. If the figs are soft but still keeping their shape, they are ready. If they aren't yet soft, boil and strain one more time.

4. Place the figs back in the pot and add water and granulated sugar to make a syrup. Traditionally, equal parts water and sugar are used, but you can make a lighter syrup, if you wish. Also add about 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice for every 1 1/2 lbs. of uncooked figs. If desired, add some strips of lemon peel, and about 6 whole cloves. Cover and bring to a boil, cooking until the liquid turns into a thin syrup. During this process, if some of the figs start to lose shape, remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Cool the syrup and the figs. 6. Thoroughly wash some glass jars and fill them with the prepared figs, leaving about 1 inch headspace. Cover with the syrup. Place lids on the jars, refrigerate, and begin eating after a week's time.
Immature apple pectin.

Unripe Apples: Use immature apples to make your own pectin for jam-making or health. Click here for complete instructions. 

Immature Plums, Peaches, or Nectarines: Unripe plums are regularly eaten throughout Asia and the Middle East. How do they make them edible? By pickling them. In the Mediterranean, baby peaches, no bigger than olives, are also pickled and eaten. But peaches and nectarines don't need to be so small to make great pickles.

Basic Fruit Pickle Brine: Into a medium saucepan, pour 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons of kosher or canning salt, and 1 cup of water. Place over high heat and stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Cool completely, stirring once in a while. Place fruit in freshly washed glass jars, cover with brine, and refrigerate. Allow the pickles to sit a week or two before eating.






Other Unripe Fruits: Poaching makes unripe fruit more tender and enhances any sweetness while helping to remove bitterness. Poaching is best used on fruit that is fairly close to ripeness.

1. Cut the fruit in half and, if possible, remove the core or stone.

2. In a saucepan, add enough liquid to cover the fruit. You may use water, beer, wine, or a sugar syrup. If desired, add spices like cloves, cinnamon sticks, or ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and add the prepared fruit. Simmer until fruit is soft.

3. For particularly green fruit, allow the food to sit in the poaching liquid in the refrigerate overnight. In addition, fruit that is nearly ripe is salvageable by using it in baked goods. For example, chop not-quite-ripe peaches and add them to your favorite muffin or quick bread recipe.

Windfall applesauce.
Windfall Fruit 

When our fruit is ripe (or nearly so), but the wind or over-ripeness has made it fall to the ground, I don't leave it for the birds. (Letting fruit rot around trees encourages pests.) Every day, I look for windfall fruit; that way, very little of it ends up so mushy its only use is the compost pile. Don't be concerned if windfall fruit is bruised or has holes from birds or other critters.

To use windfall fruit, I cut away any bad parts and use the rest for pie, cobbler or crisp, jam, jelly, or (if you have apples or pears) applesauce or pearsauce. Sometimes I also put better quality windfall fruit into a bowl designated for food that should be eaten that same day.


Handling a Bumper Crop

If you have large amounts of ripe fruit, it pays to start preserving it right away. Set aside some for fresh eating, but then get right to work dehydrating, canning, or freezing the rest. Putting some fruit in freezer bags to turn into canned food later is a life saver. For this reason, I try to ensure the freezer has plenty of empty space before the orchard season begins. Most fruits freeze just fine whole; place them on a rimmed baking tray and pop them in the freezer. When they are hard, put them in freezer bags. But when I'm really pressed for time and I know I'm going to make jam with the fruit, I often just throw the fruit in a freezer bag and call it good.

Not sure how to preserve your fruit? The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a gold mine of information on how to can and freeze just about anything. And to learn how to dehydrate your fruit (or other foods), click here.

And, of course, it's always nice to share with friends and family. My husband's co-workers love the bags of apples my hubby brings them! You might even look into sharing your fruit with a local charity that feeds the hungry. Sadly, not all of them allow home grown food, and you'll want to be sure the organization has a good reputation for not letting produce spoil, too.

Waste Not, Want Not
Making fruit scrap syrup.


It used to be that when I cored or peeled any fruit, I just dumped those trimmings in the compost bin. There's nothing terrible about that. And there's nothing awful about feeding those trimmings to livestock, either. (Be careful feeding too much fruit peelings to chickens, however; it will make their eggs taste "off.") But I really try to use those peelings for human food, when I'm able.

One way to do that is to make fruit peel syrup. It's an easy process and makes a thin syrup perfect for pancakes, or even to use with savory dishes. (For example, peach syrup is a nice marinade for pork.) Here is complete information on how to do it.

You can also turn fruit skins, cores, and pits into jelly. Easiest of all is apple peel and core jelly, which requires no pectin and can be made low or no-sugar. See the recipe here. The process is very similar with other fruits, except you'll typically need to use pectin for them. For example, when I recently made pear jelly, I boiled the trimmings just like I do for apples, strained to make juice, but then followed the directions on a box of commercial pectin to make the jelly itself.

Peach Peeling and Pit Jelly

This recipe works for any fruit.

1. Place peach peels and pits in a large pot. Just barely cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to sit overnight.

2. Strain the mixture; compost the peels or feed them to your animals.

3. In a clean, large pot, mix together the resulting liquid and 1 box of powdered pectin. Bring to a full boil. Add 3 cups of granulated sugar. Stir and return to a full boil until the jelly reaches 221 degrees F.

4. Ladle into hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Apple vinegar in the works.
Fruit Scrap Vinegar

I also sometimes make vinegar from fruit scraps. It's very easy and results in some really tasty vinegar. Homemade vinegar should not be used for preserving, because there's no accurate way for you to ensure it has the correct acidity to safely preserve food. But you can use it in salad dressing, as a marinade, or in cooking.

1. Warm 1 quart of filtered, non-chlorinated water. Stir in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar or honey, stirring until completely dissolved.

2. Wash some glass jars and fill them about half full with coarsely chopped fruit scraps (peels, cores, bits of fruit - but not rotten or bruised parts). Pour the sugar water over them, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. Cover with cheesecloth held in place with a rubber band and allow to sit at room temperature. Stir once a day with a freshly washed spoon.

3. After about a week, the liquid will appear dark. Strain, composting the fruit scraps or feeding them to animals. Pour the liquid into freshly washed jars, cover with cheesecloth, and allow to ferment 2 or 3 more weeks, or until you like the flavor. (When tasting the vinegar, use a freshly washed spoon and don't double dip.)

4. To store, place a plastic lid on the jar and keep in a cool, dark location, like the refrigerator. Is it

Is it Safe to Use Fruit Pits and Seeds?

Most people believe apple seeds and fruit pits contain cyanide (or, depending upon who you're talking to, arsenic). But according to Rodale's Organic Life, the Guardian newspaper, and other sources, there's nothing to worry about when using pits or cores to create food for your loved ones. The truth is, apples, apricots, plums, pears, peaches, and cherries do contain amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when chewed. (There's no natural arsenic in any fruit.) However, according to Nordic Food Lab and other expert sources, cyanide isn't heat-stable. So when you cook pits and cores to make syrup or jelly, their toxicity disappears. In other words, there's no need to worry about making anyone sick. Furthermore, according to experts, even enthusiastic fruit eaters would have a hard time ingesting enough seeds/pits that their body could not naturally detoxify the fruit's toxicity.


* I have literally spent hours trying to find this photo again so I could share it with you. No luck!

Sep 20, 2017

50 Low Carb and Keto Thanksgiving Recipes

Keto, LCHF, and Low Carb Recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holidays
I discovered I was diabetic last year, right around the holidays - so I guess it's no wonder I've been planning a keto-friendly Thanksgiving since then. I confess, the thought of not having all my favorite Thanksgiving and Christmas foods was really depressing. But then I realized, I don't have to feel deprived! Thanks to the Internet, it's so easy to come up with low carb (or keto or LCHF) alternatives that taste fantastic!

Now, if Thanksgiving isn't at your house, or you have carbavores who insist on the old standbys, admittedly things will be more difficult. There is hope, though! Focus on the turkey, ham, or whatever meat you traditionally have. (Hopefully not ham covered in sugar - but if that is what's served, just cut off the "crust" of the ham.) Then bring a side and a dessert you can eat.

I've included single or small serve desserts, if you feel you're the only one who will be eating them - but honestly, if you don't tell anyone food is low carb, they'll probably never know! In fact, in my experience, non-low carbers tend to prefer my keto dishes over versions they are used to. (Because fat adds flavor, friends.)

Enjoy!



Gravy:
Creamy cauliflower mash with gravy, via Keto Connect.
The Ultimate Keto Gravy 
Keto Giblet Gravy 
Low Carb Chicken (or Turkey) Gravy
Paleo (and Low Carb) Gravy

Stuffing:
Low Carb Sausage and Cheddar Stuffing
Cauliflower Stuffing
Cauliflower Rice Stuffing 
Mushroom, Bacon, and Cauliflower Stuffing  
Pork Rind Stuffing 
Low Carb "Cornbread" Stuffing

(Hint: Have you tried low carb cauliflower replacements before and hated them because of a strong cauliflower flavor? Try using frozen cauliflower! In my experience, it's far more mild-tasting.) 

Bread:
Low Carb Garlic Parmesan Knots
Low Carb Cheddar Biscuits 
Low Carb Cranberry "Cornbread" Muffins 
Low Carb Dinner Rolls 
Almond Flour Low Carb "Cornbread" 
Coconut Flour Low Carb "Cornbread"


Low carb, crustless pumpkin pie, via Low Carb So Simple.
Mashed Potatoes:
Slow Cooker Mashed Cauliflower 
Instant Pot Mashed Cauliflower 
Keto Mashed Cauliflower and Gravy 

(Hint: Remember, frozen cauliflower has a more mild flavor.)  

Sides & Other:
Sugar-Free, Low Carb Cranberry Sauce
3 Cheese Ham and Broccoli Casserole 
Low Carb Green Bean Supreme Casserole 
Skillet Green Beans 
Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mushrooms 
Keto Creamed Spinach 
Low Carb Broccoli Salad 
Skillet Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Sauce
Low Carb Egg Nog 
Keto Pumpkin Spice Latte 
Low Carb Gingerbread Men 






Pies and Desserts:
Keto Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Sauce.
Crustless Low Carb Pumpkin Pie 
Crustless Pumpkin Pie II
Keto Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse 
Pumpkin Pie in a Bowl 
Low Carb Pumpkin Cheesecake
Mini Low Carb Pumpkin Cheesecakes  
Low Carb Pumpkin Cake Roll 
LCHF Cheesecake 
Keto Brownie Cheesecake 
Boston Cream Cheesecake
Low Carb Chocolate Silk Pie 
Low Carb Chocolate Pie
Keto Brownie Cheesecake
Low Carb Mock Apple Pie Filling
Low Carb Pecan Pie 
Low Carb Pecan Pie Bars 
Almond Pie Crust 
Coconut Flour Pie Crust
Keto "Graham Cracker" Crust 
Low Carb Chocolate Pie Crust

(Hint: Anytime you can omit the pie crust, do! It will save a ton of carbs. Cheesecake and pumpkin pie are easy - and delicious - without a crust.)

Sep 15, 2017

The Little Chicken Who Couldn't

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 

Our Internet line was down for five days, so I'm playing a lot of catch up! (Not only do I work exclusively online, but my children were doing online school, too. Oy.) And while I was disconnected from the world, a lot of things happened at the homestead - including the hatching of our hens' eggs.

X marks the incubating eggs.
Mama hen had been sitting on 10 eggs for 21 days. When she first started sitting, I carefully marked each egg with a penciled X, so I'd know exactly which eggs were being incubated. Then I left Mama to it.

I knew the general advice is to separate the mama hen from the rest of the flock, but I had no way to do this, and I wanted to see what happened if I did things the old fashioned way - letting Mama do all the work.

Well, Mama was an excellent broody hen. She sat diligently every day, only getting up rarely to drink, relieve herself, and eat a wee bit of food. She growled at us when we checked on her (yes, hens can growl!), though she never pecked when I peeked under her. (I'm telling you, Australorps are the sweetest chickens ever!)

One day when I went to collect the other hens' eggs, I laughed because I found two eggs immediately in front of Mama's nest. I assumed (ahem) the other hens wanted to lay in her nest - because hens are like that; you can give them each a nesting box, but they'll all lay in the same one. Then, I thought, they couldn't hold their eggs any longer and out they popped in front of Mama's nest.

Mama, sitting diligently.
Well, a few days later when I went to cook with those eggs, I got a surprise. I was making a huge batch of pancakes to freeze for my children's breakfasts, and when I cracked one egg, the contents were bloody. Upon closer inspection, there was an embryo in that egg. Gross. That huge batch of pancake batter had to go in the trash, but the kids were fascinated to see a real embryo up close and personal.

I knew then that the egg had originally been under Mama, and somehow got booted from the nest. And over the course of the next several days, I found a few other partially incubated eggs with embryos in them. (Needless to say, I started cracking eggs in a separate bowl before adding them to whatever I was cooking.) Embryos only develop in fertilized eggs if those eggs have been incubated (i.e. warmed up by a sitting hen or an electric incubator). So either Mama booted those eggs accidentally, or other hens snuck into her nest when she got up for a quick break and they booted them, or Mama rejected the eggs, thinking they were bad.

None of those embryo-filled eggs had pencil marks on them, by the way. Note to self: Use a pen next time.





In the end, though she had six eggs under her at the end of 21 days, only one egg hatched. In other words, only one egg had been under her for a full 21 days.

Some people asked why I removed all the unhatched eggs after that time. Why not just leave them under Mama and let them hatch when they were ready? I had two good reasons not to do that. The first is that most hens will abandon their chick before they abandon the eggs in their nest - which means the chick has pretty much zero chance of survival. In fact, this scenario played out on our homestead.

video

I heard peeping on a Monday afternoon. By Tuesday afternoon, I could still hear peeping, but couldn't see any chicks. I didn't want to disturb Mama too much, so I didn't peek under her. I assumed (see how my assumptions lead to bad things?) she had chicks still hatching.

That night, however, when my husband locked up the chickens in the hen house, he looked inside with a flashlight. There, in a spot underneath the slightly raised nesting box, was the chick, peeping for Mama to help him. Somehow, he or she had fallen out of the nest. But Mama would not abandon her eggs. (Hubby says broody hens are a lot like Daleks from Doctor Who, but instead of having a one-track mind that says "Exterminate!", they have a one track mind that says "Incubate!") Fortunately, this happened during a heat wave, so the chick didn't die of cold, and my husband tucked the chick back under Mama, who seemed grateful.

Mama and her chick.
The second reason I needed to dispose of the additional eggs is that in 21 days, Mama had hardly eaten or had anything to drink. By the time chicks hatch, the hen is much thinner and really requires a break from sitting in order to be healthy.

So, the other eggs were gone and Mama was focused on her single, cute little fluff butt. The chick seemed bright and alert and curious, and Mama had her work cut out for her.

By the third day, she took the chick out of the nesting box and let it wander around the hen house. She showed it the water and the chick feed and taught it to eat, and she remained highly protective, even fiercely pecking my husband once. (Normal for the average hen, but really aggressive for this one.)
Mama love!
Then she must have taken the chick outside to teach it to scratch. That evening, my husband found the chick dead in the chicken run, its eyes pecked out.

We'll never know exactly what happened. Maybe the chick took a turn for the worse, it died suddenly, and the rest of the flock did what chickens do to dead things. Maybe the chick showed signs of illness, which chickens greet with cannibalistic fervor. Maybe the chick fell of the ramp to the hen house and was injured or died. Or maybe Mama simply didn't do a good job protecting the chick from the rest of the flock, who, not knowing what it was, assumed it was food.

Sigh.

It's never easy when animals die on the homestead, but at least I know we gave the chick every chance and that nature took its natural course.

My husband says he wants to use an electric incubator next time. Personally, I'd like to give Mama another chance, but this time put her (and her chicks) in a smaller run of her own, safe from the rest of the flock. We'll see.