Home-raised Meat Chickens

For Mother’s Day  my husband gave me a very original gift… he let me eviscerate a chicken!  What a thoughtful man he is!  I was very excited to do it… no, really I was.

We raised and butchered meat chickens for the first (of many times, hopefully) this spring.  Our chicks arrived on one of the coldest mornings in March, we had been praying for them to make it when we saw the overnight temps!  Normally people don’t order chicks to arrive in March around here, but we decided to take a gamble that the weather would be nice by then, it wasn’t.  Despite the rough trip the chicks arrived healthy and active.  We got 15 Freedom Rangers and they added 1 Black Ranger, which we promptly named The Lone Ranger, lol!  We did decide if he ended up being a hen we would call him Juanita – thank you Barney Fife!  We ended up giving the name to a light colored hen who was always with him.

We brooded them inside, along with our 10 layers (in separate brooders) until they got big enough to go out into the coop.  Once the green grass of  spring finally arrived, we started letting them outside, which they loved!  At first they were out loose, and we would be out there with them keeping an eye out for hawks or other animals of danger to them.  It was so much fun to watch them scratch or sprawl out in the sun.  They were very sweet gentle birds and preferred to be near us, often lying under our chairs and around our feet.  We would pick them up and stroke their soft feathers.  Once their pen was completed we would stand watching them just be chickens – taking dust baths, eating grass and insects, preening themselves all the while making happy noises… everything a chicken should do.  One of our favorite things was when the cockerels starting crowing… or at least attempting to crow.  It was a mix between an old time car horn and a fog horn, definitely not the typical sound you hear from a mature rooster.

The Lone Ranger grew in a tall, beautiful black cockerel with lots of multi-colored sheen and burnt red feathers intermingled.  He was a sweet to the ladies, so he stayed around longer than all the other cockerels.  We had debated about keeping him and Juanita to start our own flock of meat birds, but decided that we weren’t quite ready for that.

Other than losing one to a  freak accident in the brooder, we still don’t know exactly what happened, all the chicks made it to their butcher days healthy and plump.  Since this was our first time, we decided to split up the butchering.  Some of the cockerels were getting mean and hogging all the food, and we felt for our 9 pullets,  so it was easy to choose who would go first.

On Mother’s Day our 4 heaviest cockerels  “fulfilled their purpose in life” – to provide meat for our freezer!  The whole experience was so satisfying, and one that the whole family took part in.  We actually really enjoyed it, the kids especially like to check out the inside of the gizzards!  What a great hands on science lesson when we spread out the innards and showed the whole digestive tract, the kids loved it.

Over the next month a few more Sunday mornings became chicken days, each time we got a little more efficient in how we did things, so by the end we were able to process 9 birds in the same amount of time it took us to do 4 the first time!  We did everything by hand using things that we had made ourselves.   It was a great feeling at the end of the day to see the chickens in our freezer knowing exactly what they had eaten, how they had been raised, and how they met the end of their lives (not freaking out and stressed).

There is nothing like the taste of a  home-raised chicken brined and roasted… yummy!  I always save the carcasses for stock, and just this past week made one of our favorite meals – Chicken Dumpling Soup .  I hope to can some of the stock to have in the winter, but it’s so hard not to use it right away since it is so good.  We want to raise some more this fall, so maybe I’ll be able to save some from those for winter… hopefully…

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Help during sickness … LibriVox

We’ve been dealing with sickness this week, and in an effort to keep the sick child from getting too bored as she lay in bed, I burned a couple of cds of stories from LibriVox.  These are great ways to get some “school” without seeming like you are schooling.  Thankfully my cd player will play mp3 cds, so I can get about 80 files on one cd, which means lots of listening time.

If you haven’t heard of LibriVox, it is an online audio library of sorts.  We found it a few years ago, and have enjoyed quite a few stories from them.  I just discovered that you can browse by genre and they have several non-fiction sections, both children’s and adults, that have some great learning books. 

Yesterday the kids listened to most of Grammar-land and started Burgess Bird Book for Children.  It is amazing how much they can pick up on through stories.  My two youngest were telling me all about pronouns, and my oldest was saying that he didn’t realize a pronoun could be an adjective too.  Love it! 

Right now they are listening to the Burgess book again, and my two oldest are following along with the copy I have on my Kindle… hmm, utilizing the hearing and reading gates together… all without me suggesting it 🙂

Popcorn anyone?

Growing up popcorn making was somewhat of an event in my house.  We would gather around to watch the kernels whirling around in the hot air popper, eagerly awaiting to gobble up any kernels that bounced out of the bowl because of the speed at which they would fly out of the popper.  Of course, you had to watch out for the burning hot un-popped kernels that liked to burn the finger tips of those unfortunate enough to touch them.  Ahh, good times!  Then there was the fun of watching over the butter melting in the little container on top of the machine.  When the delicious golden goodness was poured over the kernels, we would keep our eyes on the ones that shriveled up since they were thoroughly soaked in the melted butter.  My mom would mix it altogether before any of us were allowed to take some, though we would always manage to snatch a few yellow pieces.  The mixing never quite worked like I thought it should… some how the buttery taste never got on all the pieces and you would end up, after eating all the yellow pieces first, with a plate of bland white popcorn.

I grew up thinking this was normal, that all popcorn was made and tasted like that.  Movie popcorn and microwave popcorn were different, but come on, you knew they weren’t good for you.  I took it for granted that you would have a pile of un-popped kernels at the bottom of the bowl when you were finished, popcorn flying all over the kitchen, flavor that wouldn’t get fully mixed in, and if it tasted like commercial popcorn it wasn’t good for you.

Actually the un-popped kernels drove me nuts.  It was almost like a reading problem in my 6th grader’s math… if a 1/3 of a cup of popcorn kernels contains 452 kernels, and 1/6 of them don’t pop, and 1/8 of the remaining kernels end up in various places around the kitchen, how many kernels will actually end up in the bowl to be eaten.  And how many servings can you get if a serving is 85 kernels? Oy!

Finally one day, out of desperation (we didn’t have any butter, lol!), I decided to look online to see if I could put anything else on it… cause plain popcorn just doesn’t get eaten!  I found out that there was an easier and tastier way to make popcorn.  Cook it in a pot on the stove with olive oil!  The flavor is on every piece and is as good as microwave popcorn.  There usually aren’t any unpopped kernels left and only a few can fling out from under the tilted lid.  It’s great!

Here’s the how-to:

3 qt. saucepan

1/3 c. popcorn kernels

3 TBS olive oil (others can be used, but this is what we like)

salt to taste

Heat the oil in the pan.  I start on medium high and turn down to medium once we get cooking.  Add kernels, cover leaving lid tilted to allow steam to escape.  Let cook over medium heat until pan is almost full and you don’t hear any more popping.  I take off the lid once there is about an inch of popped corn since they don’t usually fly out after that point.  Once finished, dump popcorn into bowl and salt to taste. Enjoy.

I usually stick the pan back on the stove and get another batch going since this stuff doesn’t last long in my house.  Thankfully it cooks up quick and is a healthy snack.  If you are tired of chasing flying popcorn around your kitchen, of losing out on unpopped kernels, or just don’t have an air popper, give this recipe a try!

Cutting Bangs

At a family gathering on Sunday , one of my sisters noticed that my younger daughter had “taken care of some hair that was in her eyes” on Saturday by cutting a small section of hair right at the top of her forehead very close to her scalp… and I hadn’t even noticed… oops!  Of course this led to reminiscing about past hair cutting experiences in our family either done by ourselves or a sibling.  I once cut a triangle into my bangs because I couldn’t find my toothbrush, lol!  We had a few times where one sibling would almost cut all the hair off another… ah, the memories of childhood 😉  I’m glad this is a first (and hopefully last) for my kids!

My daughter had been wanting bangs for a while, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it.   I cut the boys’ hair, and usually my girls, but never bangs before.  This little “self-help” episode brought about the need for Mommy to finally google about cutting bangs.

Thankfully I found a great website right away with clear directions and tips.  I read over them and perused the site for other general tips, then decided to take the plunge and cut her hair.  She has never had bangs, so when I made the first cut the hair was longer than a foot!  Overall I did a pretty good job… though they are slightly lower on one side.  I can always spot my errors, so I try not to look to closely.  She likes them a lot, and has been brushing and spritzing them down all day today  🙂  She looks very cute, though she seems a little more grown-up, which my hubby and I don’t like.

…keep plants alive indoors!

Years ago any plants that have come into my house have not had a very long or happy life… I had a bit of a black thumb.  I have killed an African violet, a beautiful rosemary plant, and others.  Most of the time I simply forgot about them, which they don’t appreciate.  My impulse when I would remember them was to water them, move them, or a number of other things which would promptly shock them to death.   I could grow an outside garden, but indoors just meant death.

A few years ago, someone gave their Christmas cactus when they were moving.  I promptly forgot about it most of the time, and would give it a little water when I remembered, so I was thrilled when I noticed the beautiful blossoms one winter day.  Maybe I had finally found a plant that I could keep!  The next year I moved it around too much and gave it too much water, so no blossoms (or at least I think that’s why).  It was looking pretty sad this summer, but perked right up when a friend did me a favor and re-potted.  Since then it has grown so much, and I am hoping for more flowers.

Another friend gave a geranium this past winter, and once again I was thrilled when it began to bloom.  Yippee!

Today I decided to take another step… we had to bring in our (new) rosemary plant, and since I read that peppers are perennial,  I brought in 4 of my 6 jalapeno plants… yummy!  So far so good, of course, its only been a few hours, lol!

Here’s our newly created plant corner with the geranium, jalapenos, rosemary, Christmas cactus,  and aloe…plants 003

I hope to increase our plant varieties in the coming years, but for now, I’m just going to try to keep these guys alive!

I Never Thought I Could do Lapbooks

We are trying something new today… lapbooks.  A few years ago I tried Apologia Astronomy with my kids, and as much as I liked it, they weren’t really ready for all the journaling activities.  So I’ve stayed away from notebooking and lapbooks since thinking it wasn’t a fit for us.  I have wanted to try some new things to get out of the textbook routine we had gotten into, and lapbooking recently caught my attention again.  I found a great website with templates and complete files for many subjects, so I decided to give it a go.  An added plus is that my kids are old enough to cut and glue everything themselves…bonus!

My two oldest are each finishing up sections that they really enjoyed, so I thought this might be a good way for them to round out the unit in their textbooks.  My 6th grader is doing simple machines, while my 4th grader is doing the Philippines.   So far they are excited about the projects, and I am looking for some lapbooks for their next subjects.  My 2nd grader is now asking for one to do… yay!

Here are some photos of their completed books….Philippines Cover  Philippines MapPhilippines inside book

Philippines back cover

Simple Machines Cover

Simple Machines inside book

Simple Machines side page

I came up with something a little different for my 2nd grader to go along with her science since I couldn’t find a pre-made complete one that covered everything she’s doing.  We are making more like pages that will go in a binder and be able to add to as the year progresses.  I used generic templates and came up with our own things to cover based on what she’s gone over so far.  I did most of the work for hers  just because I was backing up a few lessons, but she’ll be able to do it going forward.  Here are some of her pages….

Seasons

Seeds and flowers

Trees

As not to leave out my 1st grader, I’ve started one on addition facts.   Here’s what I have for him so far….

Addition cover

Addition open book

We only have a black and white printer, so they aren’t as great looking as some I’ve seen, but it still works.  I am excited about our new venture, especially since it is something they can proudly display to family and friends.

“b” and “d” confusion fix

My kids always seemed to have problems remembering which way b’s and d’s go.  I don’t blame them, I struggled with it as a kid too.  I tried several things from other sites that didn’t work, and finally came up with one on my own that has definitely helped!

Well, okay it wasn’t totally on my own, I do have to give credit to Word World because it was from one of their episodes that I got the idea.

The problem for my kids was that they couldn’t remember which way each faced in relation to each other, so studying them individually wasn’t helping.  They needed a context that had both letters in a form that would be easy to remember.  When I saw the bed in Word World, I realized that was what I was looking for.   Here is their bed….

word world bed

The b and d are in alphabetical order, so as long as the kids know that the b comes first they’re fine.  I drew my own (much more simple) version on our whiteboard and talked my two youngest through it… The b comes first then the d, that’s the way to get a “bed”, if we reverse the letters (put the d first, then the b) we get” deb” and it wouldn’t look like a real bed!  Here are some examples of my drawings, notice I included an example of “deb” under the “bed” to give them a better visual.

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Since then they both have caught themselves if they have started to write the wrong one, and will usually make some comment about not wanting to make deb 🙂

I just did a quick google search, and apparently I’m not the first to think of this, which I’m not surprised at… there’s nothing new under the sun, right?  Lol.  But maybe this will help someone else who hasn’t seen it either.