Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Moving Day

It’s Wednesday already. How did that happen? Yeesh.

Much excitement around here lately. First: the girls moved into their coop. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to say goodbye to the box in the basement. I hope we haven’t jumped the gun: no one out there seems to agree on when to put chicks outside. We opted for the younger end though as it was just too hard to have spring going on outside while our kids were stuck in the basement, you know? They seem pretty happy out there (although we discovered that they were kind of afraid of the dark on their first night, since they’ve always had a heat lamp on the dark is a new thing – we thought at first that they were cold, but nope, just afraid of the boogeyman, hilarious), and much like when they first arrived in the basement we are eating our meals out there and giggling over their antics. Right now we are only letting them in the top part of the coop, so they get their bearings. After the cold snap tonight, we’ll let them in the bottom part, and then after they get a little bigger we’ll put up our nylon fencing that we got and they’ll have a huge hunk of the backyard to roam in! We added some old windows to the front of the coop so that it would be less drafty. Someday soon we are going to paint the coop. Yellow? With green windows? Yeah.


Although I love all of the chicks, I have to say that there is a very clear snuggler in the group, and that is the Buff Orpington, who we named Reepicheep. She is such a chicken babe, and comes right up to us when we are around. She also seems to be making a play to be the Boss Chicken, but she’s got some stiff competition from both of the Silver Laced Wyandottes, which we named Big Dot and Little Dot. Now that they are not under a red light bulb they are way more photogenic, and there will be proper introductions shortly.


In other additions to the family: rain barrels!! We picked these lovely barrels up for $15 a pop, thanks to a tip from some friends. Prefab rain barrels of this size sell for about $100 here, which I find to be very irksome. Collecting rainwater should be easy peasy. Anyway, it’s true that now we have to poke some holes and fashion some spigots (Patrick! Do I get to use pipe tape????) but we feel pretty can-do about the whole thing. A roof our size should kick down about 600 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall. How crazy is that?


Lastly, does everyone have a stock bag in their freezer? Is this a silly thing to post here? Too bad. So – I am really into making stocks. I didn’t used to be; I found the whole process to be really messy and greasy and since I didn’t really know how to make stock I would just boil the carcass or bones or whatever with water and maybe an onion if I was feeling ambitious and end up with stock that did not have anything special going on. Anyway, I can’t remember where I read about making stock. Maybe the Zuni cookbook? A Cook’s Illustrated? I don’t think either of those is right. But anyway, find a good cookbook that talks about roasting and caramelizing your meats and veggies and you will be on the right track. A lot of folks tell you to put things in the oven and give ‘em a roast, and I have to say that I do not do that because it kind of seems like a waste of energy, although I am sure it does make great stock. I just throw everything into the pot and brown it that way. No liquid yet, just stuff (more on stuff in a minute). Brown it all to the bottom (don’t be scared!), and once you have a fair amount of stuff caramelized, pour in a tiny little bit of water (or wine is even better) and use it to wash everything off of the bottom of the pan. Repeat for as long as you have the patience. All that browning and slight burning does something to the proteins in the meat and bones and veggies such that you get that complex rich stock flavor rather than the watery stuff you get when you just boil bones. Anyway, on stuff: ideally you will have onion scraps, carrot scraps, leek scraps, and celery stuffs. Who the heck has all of this on hand when you randomly have a chicken for dinner? Not me. So, we keep a big plastic bag in the freezer and whenever we have scraps of this type, we throw them in there. Oh, also the rinds of cheeses like parmesan – throw those in too (this is also a great way to give veggie broth an added richness). A bay leaf if you have it, some pepper, etc. You can cook it as long as you have patience for, but ideally at least a few hours. Once it’s cooled on the stove I freeze it in old yogurt containers; don't be putting in something while it's piping hot. Anyway. That is my deal about the stock bag. Just say no to those damn boxes of weak stock from the grocery store.

6 comments:

dig this chick said...

I love the idea of a stock bag! And wine is always better, no?

AND, speaking of wine, your recent comment on my blog reminded me that over many glasses of wine with girlfriends recently, I learned about the perfect chicken feed from one friend who runs my local real co op. Anyway, I will have to get in touch with her to get details because my memory is fuzzy (it was really good wine) but I guess I am able to buy local grain that would be garbage (I KNOW!) and then just supplement with winter peas for protein. I'll keep you posted.

queenbeehoney said...

that is SUCH a great pic of Ben out in front of his chicks! soooo cute. and why didn't i think of a stock bag in the freezer? i always used to try and save that stuff, but by the time i would get around to using it, invariably it was too rotten to be of service!

Cinj said...

What a cute bunch of chicks! I was hanging out with some adoreable chicks in a kindergarten class yesterday. I really want some of my own, but I'm not allowed to have livestock in my development.

cake said...

that is a beautiful coop. and i am jealous of your rain barrels! i bet you will have no trouble with spigots etc.

thanks for the tip about the freezer bag. ditto what queenbeehoney said.

Daphne said...

I love homemade stock too. The best is from a roast chicken. Yumm.

lhalleck said...

Oh my god...your chicken babies are so, so cute. I just want to hug them....
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