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Category Archives: Community & Friends

Candling Chicken Eggs.

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This is the third in a four-post series about hatching eggs from our 5 deceased laying hens who fell victim to a predator, along with nearly all of their temporary flock-mates, during their transitional stay at Harmonious Homestead. For more, read The Absence of Chickens and Incubating Chicken Eggs. IMG_9972 There are varying opinions about the importance, and risk, of candling eggs while hatching them via an incubator. Some feel it is unnecessary exposure to bacteria, which could result in a greater number of developing embryo losses. Others feel it is an essential source of information about how the incubation is progressing and what might be going right or wrong in the incubator. During my first try incubating eggs, I found myself somewhere in the middle, hoping to minimize the risk of contamination while still checking the eggs in order to remove any non-developing eggs and avoid a messy situation. On day 7, I candled each egg for the first time. Previous reading led me to believe that it may be difficult to see the tiny embryos, but i found it to be fairly easy to tell which eggs were developing. Even the blue eggs, with two layers of pigmentation, were fairly easy for me to see through using no special equipment, just the flashlight on my iPhone. I invited Rachel and Lil of Harmonious Homestead over to take a look and assist me with photos. We crowded into the bathroom, our only room without a window. I held my phone in one hand and the egg in the other, sealing the light of the the flashlight as well as I could so that it would shine only through the shell of the egg. The light revealed a spiderweb of veins and a sizable air sac in the developing eggs and just a indistinct cloud of yolk in the duds. IMG_0010 (Viable, developing egg, you can see the embryo as a dark spot just to the left of the corner of the phone.) After candling each egg, I recorded whether or not the egg was developing on a chart. I decided to keep those that did not appear to be developing in the incubator for a few more days before checking them again and discarding them if they were, indeed, lacking embryos. IMG_9986 (Another developing egg. Note the spiderweb of veins, slightly difficult to make out in this photo, and the visible air sac at the top of the egg.)   IMG_9975 While it was a little disheartening to find that many of the eggs from Rachel’s rooster Shackleton II weren’t developing, we knew the experiment was a long-shot from the beginning. Many of the eggs from her next door neighbor were viable and developing, though. So I knew my clutch would hatch quite a few purebred Ameraucana chicks in just two more weeks. IMG_0027 (This egg had a clear blood ring around the yolk. We decided to crack it open and investigate as part of this homesteading/homeschooling activity. The head, body and eye were easy to make out.)

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The homesteading backslide

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Through a series of unfortunate events, upon which I don’t care to expound, we have come to a point of urban homesteading that I have feared reaching – the backslide. As renters, I have always known we were at the mercy of our landlord when it came to our homesteading exploits. When our permission to keep backyard chickens was recently revoked in order for our landlords to address a property issue, I felt a bit deflated. Ok, more than a bit.

Fortunately, we have a close community of like-minded folks, so our options were numerous when considering a new home (or a swift end of life) for our trusty hens, procured just seven months ago from one of our favorite places – City Folk’s. Betty, Batgirl, Austra, Beyoncé and Pippin are now efficiently tilling the earth for our friends over at Harmonious Homestead, helping them prepare for expanded planting in 2014.

This experience has focused me even acutely on saving money to buy a modest homestead of our own as soon as possible. I would love to have our girls back in our own yard, doing work for us, turning scraps to nutrient-rich fertilizer and healthy eggs and entertaining us with their chicken ways. It was a moment of homesteading bliss cut too short.

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(These photos and links seem glitchy, so I’ll likely be back to fix them tomorrow.)

Plantain and a canning accident.

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Today I had a canning adventure with a friend. You can read Rachel’s account of the situation over at Harmonious Homestead.

Preserving is fun to do with friends: the workload is shared, more can be accomplished in less time, and it is a great bonding experience. Matching canning burns aren’t usually part of the equation for most, but that’s certainly the part of today that will be most memorable for Rachel and I, and likely for our kids and husbands that witnessed the immediate aftermath.

In short, as I was tightening* the Tattler lid on a quart of tomato purée after pulling it from its 85-minute hot water bath processing, the lid exploded forcefully off of the jar instead of fastening down tighter as I turned the canning jar ring with one towel-laden hand and held the searing-hot jar with the other. Boiling tomato purée shot out, clinging to everything in its path – my hand and arm, Rachel’s arm and clothing, the fridge, the cupboards and up to 8 feet away all over the floor. Rachel claims it looked like a stabbing scene.

She and I immediately ran to sinks to cool our skin. My next stop was out Rachel’s back door for plaintain, (the plant, not the banana-like fruit) to apply a quick poultice of the chewed leaves. I pressed the juicy leaves onto my skin, covering as much of the burn as I could without the oozy pulp falling off of my arm, and stayed outside for quite a few minutes. Upon returning to my home a short while later, I repeated the treatment, holding the poultice to the worst spots with bandaids and larger dressings.

I must admit, when I took the bandages off to check on the progress just minutes ago, I was quite impressed. I’ve used this plant before to dress burns, but they’ve only been very small injuries. In fact, I’ve never experienced a burn like this before. Some spots that earlier appeared as though they would be a larger area of blistering have settled right down, and I’ve ended up with only two very slightly raised blisters, each much smaller than the eraser of a pencil.

I obviously don’t have a control for this crude experiment, but I call it an early success. The pain of the fairly serious burn was gone in about 4 hours, and the swelling is remarkably nearly absent already. I’m glad to know plantain.

After a 20-minute application of plantain (note the swelling):
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After a 5-hour application of plantain (swelling nearly gone, the green splotch is from the plantain juice):
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*The tightening step is one that is particular to the reusable Tattler lids, which have given me delight over multiple canning seasons. I will not hesitate to use these lids in the future, as I believe this was mostly operator error on my part. In the future, though, I will use one-use Ball canning lids for tomato purée.

Local Foods Week 2013

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The annual coming-together of the Columbus community to embrace our local food producers is nearly upon us. Spearheaded by Local Matters, the event runs from August 10 until August 18. Instead of rehashing the details, I’ll refer you directly to the Local Matters site and get straight to the events that I’m most looking forward to.

    Saturday, August 10

400 Farmer’s Market
Part spectacle, part food, part wares, the twice-monthly market is a short bike ride from my house. We’ll head over near the start for something to snack on and to say hello to some friends.

    Tuesday, August 13

Fermenting class at City Folk’s Farm Shop
If my schedule allowed, I would attend this class. Fermenting is all the rage, and Andy of Crazy Kraut brings a wealth of knowledge and boundless enthusiasm to the topic.

    Wednesday, August 14

Midohio Food Bank’s Share Your Harvest donation event
I’m excited that our community engages in activities such as these. Sharing the harvest is one of the most rewarding aspects of growing your own food.

    Thursday, August 15

Mid-Summer Foraging Workshop
I’d be remiss to not mention my own event here. Bring along a few suspected edibles from your own yard, and we’ll identify them together. The last foraging workshop filled up to capacity, so sign up soon!

    Sunday, August 18

Veggieland & The Annual Local Foods Week Kids’ Cook-off Challenge
Darren is too young to participate in the cooking challenge, but I hope he’ll draw inspiration from watching young chef-in-the-making prepare delicious food.

Perhaps we’ll run into each other as we celebrate local foods. Which events are your favorites?

Home Ec June recap

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On June 24th, a small but mighty group gathered for the first Home Ec since our location shift to City Folk’s Farm Shop.

Of the gatherings so far, this spread was the most impressive. Somehow the gods conspired and we ended up with a potluck that was perfectly suited to the theme, Picnic, and made a complete, homemade gourmet meal.

It was certainly not to miss.

These photos from Rachel capture a bit of the ambiance.

We started off with a boozy cherry punch.

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After we spent a few minutes chatting and gazing longingly at the spread of perfectly-seasoned chilled salmon with wilted cherry tomatoes, marmalade-glazed bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, herbed watermelon, colorful potato salad and plain ol’ buttered popcorn, we happily piled our plates high and sat a long table to chat even more.

While Dennis provided a backdrop of solo guitar, we shared stories of gardening and life, made new friends and topped off our feast with a delectable icebox cake which must have been devoured too quickly to get any fitting photographic evidence.

As if the evening could get any more sublime, we all left with our arms full of plants looking for homes.

It was the most terrific of times, and we do hope you will be able to join us July 29th at City Folk’s for the next Home Ec.

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Share your favorite pick-me-up

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We had a terrific time at my sister and brother-in-law’s house recently. They live on a lake, and the time was relaxing and restorative, just as one would expect.

It was sublime having my morning coffee at the end of their dock, legs dangling and cool water at my toes.

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But upon returning home, I feel that the four nights away were a big tease, a glimpse of a life that right now feels unachievable. Our aspirations aren’t grand; what we aim for is just more than basic, or perhaps even less. A small piece of space on which to raise chickens, garden, let Darren run and climb and create. A home in a peaceful place.

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Coming home held a moment of relief followed immediately by moments of uneasiness as we figure out how our family moves forward when the business Dennis teaches for closes before November. Waiting on others to make moves that affect your fate is unsettling at best, and the emotional and mental toll is beginning to wear on all of us.

Please share with me your favorite pick-me-up for those extended “down” times. Recipes, local spots to visit, activities – what helps you when you’re feeling low and need something special to get you moving again?

At that, I’m off to see if some minty sweet tea will do the trick for the rest of today.

Home Ec: June 24, 2013

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In Columbus, we took the month of May off to accommodate Memorial Day while our Canadian counterparts celebrated their first Home Ec at a new location. This month, though we’re back in the game at the usual date and time, it’s our turn to announce a new location!

Join Rachel and I, and Joel and Dana of Well Preserved – virtually, at City Folk’s Farm Shop on North High Street.

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In Joel and Dana’s words:

“What the heck is picnic? Show up with something to share that’s inspired by the idea of having a picnic. We’re not too serious about rules and we have all levels of cooks so don’t be shy!

If you’ve never been to a HomeEc, we really hope you’ll come out. There’s a friendly stable of regulars and several new people too. We’ll be the best hosts we can be and make sure that you get to meet some fun people and interact with a community of fun people who love food. If you’re really nervous about making something (and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches definitely count!) just show up to your first event and check it out.”

We think this month’s theme is particularly appropriate for our new gathering place of City Folk’s. Perhaps you’ll see a checkered blanket set the scene as we sit among straw bales, chicken feed, rain barrels, canning supplies and other homesteading goods.

Home Ec. Have you been? No need to be shy – join us!
RSVP on Facebook if you’d like to get in on the conversation.

Monday, June 24. 8:00 pm. It’s picnic time.