“Arugula”–It’s What’s For Dinner. . .

So I knew it was time to lay off the “let’s eat Arugula” jokes when Thing 1 wandered into the kitchen while I was prepping a whole chicken (from the store, not one of ours) for the crockpot and gasped, “Mom!  Is that Arugula?!?”

“it’s not Arugula,” I assured him.  “She’s still parked in the nest box–NOT laying. . .But if it was Arugula for dinner, would you still eat it?”

He thought it over, then shrugged.  “Yeah, sure.”

Arugula is our consistently broody chicken.  She’s the squinty one mentioned in the “Pale Clucker” post.  She’s grouchy, pecks at the kids, and looks mangy and half-starved because she’s prepped herself for hatching eggs that don’t exist.  Thus the beginnings of a few “maybe we should just eat her” conversations.  This is supposed to be an urban homestead–where do we draw the line between “pet” and “potentially on your plate”? Granted we want our kids to realize where our food comes from, but we also don’t want to traumatize them by eating a beloved “pet”.  So I started throwing the idea out there just to see what response I might get.  Sorry Arugula.  Once the kids realized we could get another chicken to replace her, AND have chicken dinner, let’s just say they were not entirely opposed to the idea.

While we were contemplating the lot of our broody hen, we ended up spending the weekend with good friends of ours in Medford, who also keep a “few” chickens.  Hearing us complain about Arugula always trying to brood, Les brought in four fertilized eggs for us to take home for her to try to hatch.  Since we got home after dark, we tried to sneak the eggs under her while she was “asleep,” but all we managed to do was spook her back to her perch.  We brought the eggs back inside until the following day when I was able to gently roll them under her.

She spent the next 20-some days parked on those eggs, getting up only briefly to run out the house to forage and get a drink.  We started getting a little worried as the winter temps started dropping (I don’t care how much you “real winter” people laugh at us, 16 degrees F in the Willamette Valley is COLD!!).  Our coop is not heated in the least bit–it is protection from wind and rain and predators, but it will not keep their water from freezing if it gets cold enough outside.  The Girls seem to be doing just fine with it.  Arugula fluffed up in her nest box, the rest lined up on their roost.

Not that we really had much of a plan or set up in place for baby chicks, but checking on them this last weekend, we noticed Arugula behaving differently on the nest, and hadn’t got down to feed like normal.  Ben pushed her aside enough to get a good peck and hear a few little peeps.  Well, what do you know. . . Arugula’s a mommy!  Ummm. . . Now what. . .

We filled the bottom of a Rubbermaid tote with bedding shavings and pulled Arugula off the nest to find three chicks and one remaining egg.  They went in the box and not having a good way to keep everything warm, we put Arugula in there with her babies and brought the whole tote inside our unheated garage.  We did find a heat lamp to place over the top and the chicks seemed pretty happy nestled under “mama”.

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The following day I was able to get a waterer and feeder and chick food all set up in the tote and find that the fourth egg had also hatched.  It’s really neat to see the traits that made Arugula such an ornery “pet” being used in her favor as an excellent mother.  The phrase “mother hen” has all new meaning.  She completely covers her babies in her wings, she talks to them, coaxes them to water, cracks bits of food for them with her beak, then drops it for them to eat. . . Needless to say, Arugula will not be what’s for dinner any time soon.  We’re hatching new plans for her if this little experiment continues to go well 🙂

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Shut the Door!

An unusual thing happened this morning. I got out of bed before 6 am.

Thing 3 had just gone back to sleep in her crib, and Ben had the coffee on so I figured I might as well stay up and take a cup out back to enjoy a rare moment of peace and quiet.

The opossum peeking at me from the back corner of the garden, however, was enough to throw off that thought process.  Little pointy head. All teeth. Little waddling “run”.  Ugh.  So that’s what is chewing on my little pumpkins and pooping all over the garden. I had strongly suspected raccoon, but that little guy indicated otherwise.

Ben joined me and we got to talking about opossums and what strategies we might try to convince them to head elsewhere. I pointed out a gap in our bamboo “fencing” rigged up around the garden where it looked like something possibly climbed it and caused the cross-pieces to pull downward.  While we were looking at that, the girls started getting stirred up inside the coop and clucking. A rat came tearing out from the eave of the coop roof, scrambled down the siding and dove out of sight. So much for a quiet and relaxing morning in the garden.

I spent the rest off the morning inside researching how to identify opossum and raccoon poop and reading Internet horror stories of opossums getting inside people’s houses.

The neighbor kid came over later that to play with Thing 1 and Thing 2.  I promptly kicked the three boys outside and decided to try and throw together a batch of granola bars despite Thing 3’s insistence at attaching herself to both my legs and crying (brothers woke her from both nap attempts this morning–might seriously be time to get Project Third Bedroom started. . .).

Thing 3 finally contented herself emptying my cupboards, the granola bars were mixed and in process of  getting smoothed out into the pans when next thing I know, three boys come bursting through the kitchen door from outside, all yelling and hollering something that sounds like, “GET IT! IT’S IN THE HOUSE, GET IT!!”

Something big, sleek and black streaked past the corner of my eye, toenails scrabbling to keep traction as it hit the hardwood floor.  Three boot clad boys pounded the floor right behind it.  It rounded the corner and fled into my bedroom.

My first thought after the morning I had: “WHAT kind of rodent did THOSE BOYS just chase into my house?!?”

As the boys and I collided around the corner–Thing 3 scooting on her butt right behind us–the animal began to squawk and bock and flop and flap back and forth across my unmade bed, three sets of grubby little hands reaching and diving after it.  Chicken Nugget, you stupid chicken, don’t you dare poop on my bed!!  (And yes, of all the chickens, it would be Chicken Nugget to end up in the house.)

Thing 3 thought the whole fiasco pretty entertaining until Chicken Nugget found the bedroom window and started flapping her wings in a desperate attempt to escape.  The flapping wings hitting the window freaked her out and she began shrieking.  The boys continued trying to corner the chicken which only resulted in more flapping against the window and more shrieking baby on the floor.

“EVERYBODY OUTSIDE–NOW!!” I yelled.

The boys vanished.  Three faces soon appeared at the outside of my bedroom window (though the  look on those faces when the chicken hit the window again gave me something to laugh about later).  Chicken Nugget tried to squeeze under a chair in the bedroom.  At that point I easily grabbed her and tucked her under my arm.  (“Yay!  My Mom got her!” I could hear through the window.)  Out went the chicken.  Baby got scooped up and snuggled until she had calmed enough to stop trembling.  Granola Bars went into the oven.

Lesson learned?  Don’t get up before 6 am. Oh, and when baking Granola Bars, shut the back door.  One simple step to keep life that much more sane.

Curious about the recipe?  Like most of the recipes I use, I originally found it on allrecipes.com. . . but have changed it a bit since.

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This is the version I used today:

4 ½ cups rolled oats

¼ cup wheat germ

¾ cup flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup coconut oil

½ cup maple syrup

1 cup applesauce

2 cups assorted chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and unsweetened shredded coconut

First, make sure the back door if firmly shut.  Then go ahead and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease one 9 x 13-inch pan.  In a large mixing bowl combine oats, wheat germ, flour, coconut oil, maple syrup, and applesauce.  Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and unsweetened coconut.  It takes a bit to mix and make sure all the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the liquid ingredients.

Lightly press mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars.  Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.

Kale Me Maybe…

As promised earlier, the recipe for the AWESOME soup we’re having this evening.

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Taken directly from Mother Earth News, it was the perfect answer to the question, “What do I do with Kale?” Particularly if you’re like us and don’t care for Kale chips…

“Kale/Potato/White Bean Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Turkey or Chicken sausage, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock or broth
  • 3 cups chopped red potatoes (cut into 1 inch cubes)
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 8 cups coarsely chopped Kale leaves, tough stems removed
  • 1/2 tablespoon snipped fresh Rosemary
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white beans, rinsed, drained (or dry beans precooked)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 Cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Brown sausage 3 to 5 minutes in large pot or Dutch Oven. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, or until onions are limp. drain any excess fat from pot.
  2. Add chicken stock, potatoes, carrots, celery, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are near tender. Add kale, rosemary, and white beans. Cook 5 minutes more, or until carrots and potatoes are tender.
  3. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

The soup was delicious, and went well with a Widmer Hefeweizen, though admittedly, there isn’t much that it doesn’t go well with, but it also paired well with an Angry Orchard Crisp Apple.

…Give it a shot, Kale’s good for you, I promise.