Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Nuggets

We have two new baby chick!

Well, by new I mean at this point they are a week old.

Our last batch of chicks is now nearly 3 months old, was early "abandoned" by their mother, but have been fending for themselves quite nicely, and has been moved from the broody and hatching cage (where we put mammas sitting on their nests and leave them until the chicks are about a month old) into the regular coop with the rest of the hens and the rooster.

Cipher, calm as can be, hatching her chickies
Back to the new baby chicks though. Our black hen, Cipher, decided that, no matter what I did to encourage her not to, that she was going to sit on some eggs. So we stuffed a total of 6 eggs under her (3 of her own, 3 Isa Brown eggs). We were hoping the Isa Browns would hatch, since that particular breed of chicken is an excellent layer and lays pretty large eggs, but the rooster, being an Australorp, is also of a breed of chickens that lay very well, as well as are good meat chickens. Basically, we were hoping to create a hybrid chicken that was as good a layer as the two breeds and mix up the blood lines a bit (our Australorp hen and rooster are at least half brother and sister, and there's only so long you can keep up with the interbreeding of chicken relatives before you end up with a bunch of lame hens).

Nugget number 2, peeping out from behind mamma's bum
The day before Thanksgiving, we were blessed with two new peepers: fuzzy tan, as we are calling them, Isalorps.

This time, mamma hen is so calm and tame, I was able to put my hand under her to check on the other eggs or even pull the chicks out and handle them. No problems. She doesn't care at all.

Sadly, only 2 of the 6 eggs hatched. Two of the Australorp eggs died while hatching, and when the remaining two eggs were cracked open (4 days after the hatching was done, mamma was fully off the nest, and the eggs were cold), they were completely rotten duds.

But we have two new adorable nuggets, and are enjoying our growing flock.
Pretty little chicks being fed by mamma
See? TAME! I held bread crumbs, mamma picked
them out for the chicks, and eventually the little
things started climbing into my hand to feed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Down Under: 2012

Another Thanksgiving in Australia has come and gone.

This year, Phillip and I debated between inviting his immediate family over, sharing a giant meal with the two other families in our assembly (plus his own family), or just doing it alone again.

Alone won out. Basically, cooking for us and two (well three really) other families, one of which contains nine hungry children (though one isn't on solids yet) would have been too much for me with the whole pregnancy fatigue thing. Then it was down to maybe just his family.

Honestly, I just got selfish with my holiday traditions and we had it, just the two of us.

Thanksgiving back home wasn't really much more than a big family get-together and a pretty fantastic meal. We really have never had more to go with the tradition than just that. But it was still somehow MORE than just getting together with the whole extended family (and sometimes a few extras) and eating until we had to be rolled around the house to get anywhere. I can't put my finger on it, but there was just... more to it than what was on the surface. Something about just the FAMILY together, a sense of identity as a family, a group, US. Enjoying being with each other to do more than eat massive amounts of delicious food. To sit and talk and joke and laugh (and here is where I start to get teary-eyed).

So when it comes to trying to introduce my own family traditions to a family that has never followed anything similar to it, I tend to just not want to bother with it and horde all the goodness to myself and my husband, and keep it within our own little family of, for now, two.

Though we haven't thrown out the idea of making basically the same meal at a different date to share with others, Thanksgiving is still ours while we're here. It's my American tradition.

So this year, again, I cooked things in small batches for days in preparation of our little feast. French bread was baked four days prior in order to sit and get stale for stuffing (and other purposes at later dates that require stale bread), pie crust was made and frozen, and the day before, I made some spectacular biscuits and pumpkin pie.

This years pie, though, was made with a butternut squash (here in Aussie land called a butternut pumpkin). Also, rather than roasting it, in the interest of saving time, energy and money on our power bill, I cut it into chunks and steamed it. It turned out to be one of the creamiest pies I have ever made. The taste was basically the same as using any other pumpkin, too, with maybe a bit more sweetness.

Day of was, of course, turkey roasting day. Stuffed absolutely FULL of stuffing, our little 3.5 kilo bird went in the oven along with candied sweet potatoes, MORE stuffing, and a random corn "pudding" concoction that was the result of two recipes I found online.

Carving the turkey. I think Phillip was trying to show off my bump.
Le finished table setting.
Biscuits, mashed potatoes (with ranch), stuffing,
turkey, corn "pudding", gravy, green beans,
and, Phillip's favorite, candied sweet potatoes.
Also some grape juice.

We're just adorable, us three.
Experimental butternut pumpkin pie.
Seriously GOOD. Topped with homemade whipped cream.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Playing with my food

Our little chicks that were still in egg form in This Post hatched about three months ago now. But, because of the whole "I'm growing a person and therefore quite exhausted" thing, I didn't get to tell how the hatching went, nor post photos of how adorable the little fluff buckets were (I say were because they've been going through that awkward chicken teenager phase and are not as cute looking now).

We ended up with three chicks. Five hatched but... momma hen stepped on one right after it had finished drying (this happens. Chickens are not very bright, even the best momma chickens do this). Then, momma hen got off the nest permanently in the middle of another one hatching. So, that one died too. Or it died in the middle of hatching and she got off the nest. Either way, we ended up with three little chicks.

Phillip built a pen and cage for them to stay in, so that 1) the cats wouldn't eat our chicks and 2) the other chickens wouldn't kill the little chicks. Again. Nature. This happens. It's what they do and how they establish pecking order. That, and sometimes chickens can be jerks. Like all living things.
Mamma Hen breaking apart grain for her babies
Such cute little balls of fluff!

We were hoping all three were hens. Hens have a purpose: eggs. More than one rooster around and you have fights for dominance and hens going off their laying because they're getting too much *ahem* attention from roosters (roosters tend to pay more attention to hens who are laying eggs, as, well, this would increase their possibilities of actually reproducing. Hens not producing eggs means no babies means roosters give less "attention" to the hens. Therefore, too many roosters means you have no eggs. Which was the main reason we got our hens in the first place. So, any roosters in this batch will get the ax. It is, however, a bit difficult to see what sex a bird is. With chickens though, the rooster's comb starts to develop more quickly than a hens.

We seem to have one rooster. Which, the city-girl side of me thinks is kind of sad, because he's quite friendly at this point. And, well, they're baby chicks. They're still kind of cute. The practical side of me knows though that, if we get too many roosters because we don't want to kill them, we're feeding an animal that, if anything, will give us more trouble in the long run.

This is what happens now when I bend down to feed them
Oh well. Practicality wins out. In the meantime, we're having fun giving our little chicks a nice life of leisure. Their idiot hen mother decided that two months was a long enough time to look after them and left them to roam on their own. So, they've become overly attached to Phillip and me.

I seriously love our little chicks. They're adorable and fun. If I go out at the same time each day, they'll run up and jump on my to roost on my arms and lap No pooping on me thus far... But practicality must win out. 'Tis the way of life well, nearly everywhere unless you can afford to be picky and turn food into some sort of religion.

Please oh please don't poop on my head!
We've got another hen sitting on half a dozen eggs. Tried to stop her (I'd rather have more eggs than chicks) but, she is determined. We've decided already that nearly this whole hatching will be going into the freezer in a year (home raised free-range chicken, yes please!).