Wednesday, May 22, 2019


We took 4 years off from working with animals, but we are now back and excited all over again!

Our newest additions are some beautiful, rare and unusual chickens called Ayam Cemini.


These chickens come from Indonesia and is considered sacred in its homeland, used for centuries in religious rituals.  Imported relatively recently to the United States, this breed is extremely limited in numbers and can be a challenge to acquire.

Although some have referred to this chicken as the Lamborghini of chickens, to us, this is the ultimate Goth chicken...right down to its bones.

That's right. The feathers, which shine  iridescent beetle green and purple sheen
in sunlight are black, but so is the wattle,  comb, skin, meat, organs and bone marrow and bones. This is due to an excess of pigmentation caused by a genetic condition known as fibromelanosis.

This abnormal accumulation of melanin makes the skin and tissues appear black. This genetic trait is only carried by three other birds – the Silkie, the Svart Hona from Sweden and the Kadaknath from the Madhya Pradesh region of India.

The Ayam Bekisar originated from matching the green jungle fowl with some domesticated red jungle fowl.
Interestingly, this type of fowl has a very distinct crow, and was used by seafarers as foghorns on the boats – a practice still used today.

Ayam means chicken in the Indonesian language, but the name Cemani can either mean the ‘village of Cemani’ in local dialect or ‘solid black’ in Sanskrit.
They are thought of as good luck charms, with the blood and other parts of the bird being used in traditional medicine preparations.

The Ayam Cemani is said to have magical powers and can facilitate communication between the living and the spirit world. It is used as a sacrificial bird to please the gods, and as it is for the Gods, its’ flesh is rarely eaten in Indonesia.

A Dutch breeder named Jan Steverink first imported the Ayam Cemani out of Indonesia to Europe in 1998.  Currently, this breed also resides in the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and now the United States. 

The roosters weigh an average of 5 to 6 pounds, and the hens average 4 to 5 pounds. 

Ayam Cemini can poor layers, which is probably why fertile eggs and chicks are difficult to find. Different sources claim you can expect the hens to lay 60 - 100, 80 - 90 or 120 -140 cream-colored with a pinkish tint, medium to large eggs a year.

A typical laying cycle lasts for about 20 to 30 eggs, then the hen will stop laying for three to six months.

The eggs are unusually large in proportion to the size of the hen’s body

Nope, no black eggs from them! Those pictures of thebird with black eggs are fake.

Cemanis in general seem to be a friendly and likeable bird. They are intelligent, gentle and docile – including the
 roosters

Ayam Ceminis are hardy and easy to handle and best of all, low maintenance.  Because of their black color, they easily absorb the sunlight, which helps them in cold, harsh climates.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Canning corn - Raw Pack Method

This is so much better than buying canned corn. I could tell you all about what happens when corn in canned in a factory, but let's skip that and get right into the goodness of canning your own corn.




You don't have to grow your own corn in order to can any. Go to a local Farmer's Market, or a farmer or friend that grows corn and get fresh corn to can. They can do all the work and you reap the benefits! We have gotten corn from a sweet Amish family that we stop in to see through out the summer.

Start with fresh corn on the cob - as fresh as you can get.   According to the USDA, about 32 pounds (in husk) of sweet corn is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 20 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. Note that a bushel weighs 35 pounds and yields 6 to 11 quarts of canned corn, which is an average of 4½ pounds of corn in the husks per quart of finished canned corn.
 Cut the kernels from the cob

Whole Kernel Corn – Cut kernels from cob about 2/3 to 3/4 the depth of the kernels.

Pack raw corn loosely in clean, hot Mason jars, leaving 1-inch headspace, (corn tends to expand more than other vegetables). Cover with boiling water leaving 1-inch headspace. Adjust jar lids.

 Put the lids and rings on the jars

Wipe the rims of the jars, put the lids on and then the rings on snugly, not not TOO hard.

Dial Gauge Canner—Process at 11 pounds pressure - Pints 55 minutes and Quarts 85 minutes. For processing above 2,000 feet altitude, see chart for recommended pounds of pressure.

Weighted Gauge Canner—Process at 10 pounds pressure - Pints 55 minutes and Quarts 85 minutes. For processing above 1,000 feet altitude, see chart for recommended pounds of pressure.

When the processing time is up, turn off the heat, and allow the pressure canner to cool and the pressure to drop to zero before opening the canner.  Let the jars cool without being jostled.

When it is time to eat, you just heat the corn up - it is cooked already and is delicious!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Processing Farm Chicken **GRAPHIC**

We finished processing our chickens in September. Hubby Jim, made the cones, scalder and feather plucker - which helps the process a lot. I wish we had these years ago, it saves so much time and effort.
I have to admit... all the years we have lived here, this is the FIRST year I processed chicken - whole. The kids have done it, Jim does it, but I always wait until the chicken is in the fridge, and I get to prepare it!
This year, because Jim is having problems with his legs due to his disability, he needed me to help (The kids are all grown and out of the house).

The first thing you need to do is to take away all food sources from the chicken for 24 hours. This cleans them out, so you don't have a mess on your hands. Put them in a cage of some sort, so they will settle down. When chickens get excited, adrenalin gets in their muscles and can make the meat tough.

Handy tools to have
1. Killing cones and sharp knife
2. Scalder with water temp up to 
3. Plucker (doing this by hand for one or two is certainly feasible.) 
4. Evisceration table
5. Water to rinse the chicken cavity
6. Ice filled cooler
7. Bags


1. Place the chickens head down in a cone and quickly sever the artery on both sides of the neck. There is a small bare spot near the top of the neck which is the easiest and best place to cut. The chicken bleeds out, and the messaging from the brain to the body is disconnected. This process is quick and humane. Leave  the chicken for about 3 - 4 minutes to thoroughly bleed out.


2. The chicken is dipped into hot water to loosen the feathers from the skin. This is called'scalding' (150 degrees). Jim swishes them around and up and down until the feathers on the back, next to the tail, release. Those are the toughest feathers to get off. This takes about 40 seconds - depending on the temperature - the lower the temp, the longer you have to swish.


3. The chicken is placed in the drum of the plucker. The machine is turned on, and the "fingers" strip the feathers from the skin.

4. Cut off the feet. These can be saved and used in making a good old fashioned chicken soup. Next,  the neck is slit and the gullet and windpipe loosened. On the opposite end,things need to be taken care of. Slice off the oil gland on the top of the tail. This is yellow, and easily slice off.
Secondly, a slice is made in the skin above the vent. Pull the skin apart large enough to get your hand up inside.


5. Grab on the windpipe and the gullet and slowly pull out. Don't worry about being gentle... you will really have to pull hard to get the guts to come out.



6. The gallbladder is attached to the liver. It is a dark green. When disconnecting, do not let it break and spill that acid out (if it does, throw away the liver). Set the liver aside for delicious recipes.


7. The heart is also delicious in recipes




8. Reach back in and scrape the lungs off of the sides of the back bone.


9. Finally, slice off the vent area.



Rinse the chicken inside and out, and place in a cooler full of ice. The chicken needs to be kept cool for at least 24 hours, then bagged and put in the freezer.  We use special shrink bags called Heat Shrink Bags

1. Place the chicken into the bag. We use zip ties to close the bag. Squeeze out as much air as you can before tightening the zip ties.



2. Slit a tiny hole (1/4")  in the bag. We do this right on the backbone where there is a slight divot in the bird.

3. Swish the bagged chicken in hot water (190 degrees) until the air has bubbled out of the bag.



4. The heat shrinks the bag. Place your freezer label over the slit to seal it. (If you buy the shrink bags, labels come with them.)




5. Place in the freezer.


Free Range chicken is not the same as grocery chicken. They are more muscular, so cooking these chickens do best when brined (marinated) cooked "slow and low."

***I will post some recipes later this week***

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Store -bought chicken vs. Free-range chicken

A chicken allowed to consume a natural chicken diet has a more balanced ratio of omega-6 fat to omega-3 fat and the chickens themselves are leaner because they get to exercise.  Homegrown chicken has a much firmer flesh than CAFO chicken...

What about Organic? It doesn't matter whether the chicken ate organic food or not, if the organic chicken lived indoors and did not have access to pasture then it will never ever be as healthy as a non-organic pastured chicken

Is free-range chicken just as good as pastured chicken? It depends. Some larger poultry houses claim the chickens are "free-range" because they are on the dirt floor of a barn, and can wander around.
We "free-range" our chickens - this means we let them out every day to forage as they wish. They have no pen confining them. I prefer to call them "Homegrown Chicken".

Pastured poultry are chickens in small 10x20 sized pens that are moved several times a day and are able to eat the grass.

Are vegetarian chickens healthy? No.Chickens are not supposed to be vegetarians. This simply means that the grain given to the chickens did not contain any "chicken parts". Chickens naturally go after bugs, slugs, worms, flies, maggots and all palatable bugs. This is what chickens were meant to do. Any deviant diet from the natural chicken diet is not going result in the healthiest chicken.

The chicken that you buy in the store come from CAFO's (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). The chicken is in tight confinement, fed copious amounts of feed with antibiotics to ward off the disease which is common, and hormones for rapid growth. This also keeps YOUR cost down, but they aren't healthy birds to eat...Here is a link to a good explanation of CAFO chicken farms

Homegrown chicken is somewhat time expensive to raise. And any farmer raising chicken for the health benefits, deserve the price they ask for.

Here are some recipes:

Free-Range Chicken in Vinegar Lyon-style
Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2003

1 free-range chicken or fryer, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds, cut into 8 pieces, rinsed and patted dry
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 cup good-quality white wine vinegar
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, about 1 cup
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream
Chopped parsley, garnish
Directions
Season the chicken evenly on both sides with the salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and garlic cloves and cook until the chicken is well browned, turning once, about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Add the vinegar and stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the tomatoes, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a warmed platter and cover to keep warm.

Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits that cling to the sides or bottom of the pan. Cook until the sauce is reduced by 1/3 in volume, about 10 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and return to the pan, discarding the solids. Reduce the heat to low. Add the remaining butter, a piece at a time, whisking constantly until all the butter has been added and the sauce is smooth and thick. Do not allow the sauce to boil and remove from the heat as necessary to prevent from breaking. Add the creme fraiche and whisk to combine. Adjust the seasoning to taste.


Ladle the sauce over the chicken and garnish with the parsley.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Baby Bunny Saga

4 weeks ago, as Jim and I were busy with visitors, and  trying to get things ready to take a "down & back" trip, I happened to notice a new born bunny on the ground near a couple of our outside hutches. I checked all the nest boxes, but there was no fur pulled in any of them. I had no idea which doe had given birth as they were all due at the same time.
I usually try to breed my does close together, so if I do have an orphan it will be adopted by another doe. But I haven't had an orphan born before any other litters!
I held it in my hand as Jim and I gave a quick tour to the visitors. When they left, I stood there trying to figure out what to do. I checked the other does in the back bunny barn/chicken coop to see if one had a litter back there. No such luck.
The bunny in my hand had gotten wet and damp, but not really chilled.I wasn't sure if I should start bottle feeding it, as that is a tough job to take on... especially if we were traveling.
 I made a quick nest out of sawdust and some left over bunny fur, and left it alone on our kitchen counter for the night.
Early the next morning I went to the hutches again to check to see which rabbit was having her kits. i had a flashlight (it was about 4 am) and checked the nest boxes. Success! I found the momma that had a litter. Unfortunately, it had rained the night before and somehow the box was wet inside. The last 4 bunnies to be born were chilled. This is not good, as a chilled kit doesn't usually make it. i brought them into the house, threw some wash clothes in the dryer to heat up. I turned my hairdryer on low and set it blowing into the box where they bunnies were, and ran outside to do chores.
I came back in and wrapped each kit in a wash cloth that was warm from the dryer. Then I changed the bedding in the nest box for the mother and the litter to be dry. Jim found the leak in the roof of the hutch and fixed it. I placed all 5 bunnies into the box. The chilled ones had warmed up a bit, and the one I had found the day before all snuggled down in the sawdust. That was all I could do at the moment.
We arrived home late the next night - about 36 hours had passed and I sort of dreaded looking into the nest box... But, much to my surprise, all the bunnies were doing well, full bellies and warm bodies.


The bunny that I had found on the ground was the only one with a white belt around it, the rest were totally gray. So I have been watching it's progress as it has grown: (I do refer to it as a "he" but we have not checked to be certain)


One week of age and the fur has grown













What a difference  10 days makes. His eyes are open and he is very alert. The bunnies stay in the nest box still.











He is now 4 weeks old. Eating with the rest, in and out of the nest box and doing well. His ears have grown so much.





 
                                                                                              

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bald faced Hornets



We have a nest of Bald-faced (sometimes called White-faced) hornets that we leave undisturbed. They have built a nest in the crook of our old farm wagon. It is made up of chewed wood and looks like paper, most
nests are shaped like a football - especially if hanging from a tree. Each nest contains one queen and anywhere from 100 to 700 male workers who are responsible for building and expanding the nest.




 They are an aggressive insect when disturbed - but to me, they are beneficial.

Hornets do not hover near and pollinate flowers as bees do, although the white-faced hornet are attracted to fall flowers such as the golden rod. They are not attracted to sugars in food and drink, as the yellow jackets are. They feed on insects and caterpillars.

When we first moved her, we had a screened room with a picnic table. Every day the hornets would zoom in, grab a fly and zoom out. I was amazed watching them take care of the pesky flies. And now, w
ith all of our animals around, these busy wasps eat a lot of flies.  They will fly into the barn, grab a fly and out they go...

I have been stung by them... one time on the top of my head as I walked under a nest that I hadn't seen. A good remedy for the sting is a paste of water and baking soda - less water, more baking soda. Within moments, the sting will feel better. (Unless you are allergic, which of course means you will need an  epinephrine injector kit - such as an Epi-Pen and go to the hospital as quickly as possible after being stung) 



For more information: Bald Faced Hornets

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Solar Cooking

Solar Cooking

Solar cooking is simply harnessing the sun's energy to cook food. This is an excellent way to keep the house cool in the summer, costs nothing to use, and is a great alternative to conventional cooking.
There are two things needed to solar cook.
1. Solar cooker
2. Dark pot to cook in - this can be either a granite ware, cast iron, or an aluminum pot painted black on the outside. The thin walls of the granite ware is actually a good heat conductor
If you are not able to find black or darkened pots and pans for use in your solar cooker, you can cook your food in jars. Canning jars are preferable because they are designed for high pressure and heat. Regular clear jars can be used if you do not seal them too tightly in order to diminish the possibility of exploding. You can paint them black for better heat absorption.

The golden rule of solar cooking is: GET THE FOOD ON EARLY, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT OVERCOOKING.

The simplest design of a solar collector is an old tire tube. Place the inflated tube on a board on the ground. Place the cooking vessel inside the tube. Cover the tube with a piece of plain glass. The place in the well of the tube is like a closed cavity. Air neither go out nor come in. The rays of the sun enter the glass and get trapped. Slowly, the temperature of the cooking vessel rises, and the food is cooked.
You can add a mirror on top of the board, which would add more reflection of the suns rays on the pot.

Other simple ways to harness the sun into a solar cooker is using a bucket,
Take a 5 gallon bucket, put a heavy rock in it to keep it stable. Take your shiny car window shade and fold it into a cone shape. It will be an awkward cone. Then place the cone tip into the 5 gallon bucket. Get a black pot/lid and fill it with your food. Put pot on a cheap-shiny pizza pan (wal-mart). Slide both pizza pan and pot into a turkey cooking bag. Close and tie off bag. Place bag, pot and food over the center of your shade cone and leave it facing the sun.

23 years ago, we started with 2 cardboard boxes, one inside the other with the gap between filled with insulation, covered with none other than duct tape.
Flashing, found at a builder's store, made up the sides and bottom. A piece of mirror was taped to the box flap. We used a stand-up dressing mirror for the sun reflecting into the box, and used a piece of glass to cover the top ... voilĂ , we had a solar cooker! It worked great!



We have since built a newer model... a black wooden box, with fold out lids that can be closed up when not in use. the inside of the box is painted black. After the food is placed inside, a piece of glass is placed on top. Two flaps were hinged to the top, and mirrors attached. These flaps can be positioned to the suns rays, reflect them into the box, where the sun's heat is trapped.

The sky is the limit to what type of solar cooker you want to make. People have made them using pizza box, or shoe box – which would be a great kids project:
http://www.hometrainingtools.com/build-a-solar-oven-project/a/1237/
The main point is to get the sun's reflection in the cooker and on the pot
A simple model on how to make your own :
http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles/radabaugh30.html




The best times for cooking with a solar cooker is between 10 am and 4 pm - that is usually when the sun is at it's hottest.

OK. Now that you have figured out the solar cooker, it is time to cook something.

If you just want to experiment with an easy recipe, try cooking RICE:
1 cup rice,
2 cup water

Place the dark pot into the solar cooker, orient it so the sun is shining directly into the cooker and let the sun do the rest. Rice takes about an hour. Condensation on your window is a sign that the rice is cooking. You can check it then. (Be VERY careful lifting the lid of the pot off because the steam WILL burn)

BEANS:
Soak about 1/2 pound of pinto beans in water overnight. Drain the beans and add fresh water to cover the beans by about 1/2 inch. Add a pinch of salt- some chopped onion, a little garlic, and a slice of bacon if you like. This all goes into a covered dark pot and is cooked ALL day in the solar oven. If you notice the water has boiled away, just add more hot water. They are done when they are tender.

POTATOES:
Slice a couple of those SOLAR BAKED POTATOES and place them into a dark pot. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, add a 1/2 cup of milk, sprinkle with salt and pepper, You can add some Parmesan cheese. Mix briefly, then cover and place into a preheated solar oven and bake until hot- about an hour or so.

For a total meal:
ALL IN THE POT CHICKEN

Cut up vegetables - potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, turnips - any favorite vegetable.
Place it on the bottom of your dark pot.
Cover this with your chicken pieces, skin side up, seasoned with your favorite herbs. (I like to add paprika, salt and pepper)
Cover the pot with the lid, and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
*If you don't want the skin on, add a cup or so of chicken broth/water.

Use caution when removing the pot and the lid - it is HOT - just as hot as if it had been in the oven.














Head on over to my website for more information:
http://www.highlonesomeranch.com/SolarCooking.htm
And more recipes:
http://www.highlonesomeranch.com/SolarCookingRecipes.htm