Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

Guyere Cheese Ring….So Much Better with Backyard Eggs September 15, 2012

Filed under: In the Kitchen,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 8:19 pm
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We’ve wanted to raise backyard chicken eggs for a long time, and one of the things I was most looking forward to making with our egg overstock is my mother’s Guyere Cheese Ring recipe. It’s one of my favorite easy cold weather recipes, and it’s so heavily egg based, I knew it would be amazing with the richer flavor backyard chicken eggs. It finally turned cold enough last night that I whipped this up for dinner, and it did not disappoint. Our 10 year old even said she doesn’t like it with industrial eggs, but she claimed dibs on the limited left overs with our chicken eggs! (Recipe to follow!)

 

#BlogElul – Counting, the Peach Brandy Results Are In August 23, 2012

Filed under: In the Kitchen,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 3:49 pm
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Countless Bottles of Brandy (OK, there were 6)

I bottled the Peach Brandy I made a few weeks ago, and I’m sure I’d have something really eloquent to say about how I didn’t count the bottles well, and thought I’d run out, but had barely enough with the help of my husband digging through my basement stash of bottles I SWEAR I will turn into some awesome Pinterest project. But you should have asked before I bottled all that booze, tasting as I went. It’s good….really, really good.

UPDATE: Mighty Nest is doing a Weck Jars giveaway here (http://mightynest.com/blog/food-in-jars-cookbook-giveaway) Wish me luck winning some proper jars and bottles! ūüôā

 

#BlogElul Day 3 – Intentions, And How We Harvested Our Rooster August 22, 2012

Filed under: Family Stuff,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 6:12 am

Yes….I’m starting on Day 3. Maybe I’ll go back and do Day 1 and 2, but I found this project on Day 3, so here we go.

@ImaBima posted about Elul, the Hebrew month before the Jewish High Holidays, where we, as Jews, are supposed to be introspective and reflect on our past year as we prepare for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. My friend, Adam Schaffer¬†posted his contribution to #BlogElul, and I was intrigued, given our last few days here at the Hatton House. So I thought I’d party crash day 3, and see how this goes. The blog is in desperate need of post-vacation updating, so at the very least, we’ll have that.

I’ve been thinking about “Intentions” quite a bit in the last 2 days. Two days ago, I awoke to the sound of a rooster crowing at 9:40 AM and I thought, “That has to be one of my chickens. Only I would have a rooster that thinks dawn is at 9:40 AM.” Our chickens are about 4 months old, and there was always one that was a little bigger, but I was advised to wait for the telltale crowing or egg. I went outside and of course, the crowing stopped. I didn’t want to falsely accuse anyone, so I went inside and googled “Buff Orpington Rooster” and found a post on determining chicken sex¬†(stop snickering…this is serious). Armed with this new information, I went back outside, and to my great dismay, one of my chickens had larger feet and sickle tail feathers. I waited until the crowing the next morning (this time at 6:30 AM) and confirmed, that yes, we had a rooster, which is illegal within the city of Des Moines. He had to go. I looked on Craigslist, but there were so many roosters already posted for $1-2, and there was no way I was going to sell him for that after raising him from a chick, to have someone else slaughter him or use him to fight. He was my responsibility.

Talking about killing aging hens after they stop laying in a few years is not the same as needing to dispatch a rooster right now. In a few years, we’ll be experienced urban farmers, and we’d be able to handle it. Yesterday, we hadn’t even had an egg yet. And things were about to get real. I posted on the Iowa Urban Chicken Farmers page¬†and got connected with someone who pointed me to a YouTube video¬†¬†produced by Permies.com. In it, she not only describes in detail how to harvest a chicken, but has the most beautiful manner of putting you at ease with it. And she got me thinking….

How much intention do we put into what we eat? This isn’t just about keeping kosher or not (I don’t) but about thinking about where our food comes from, who benefits from what we eat, and what happens to the animals that we pretend don’t have lives before they get to the butcher counter. I hadn’t thought about the life the chicken that was already in my fridge lived, and yet, you have to face it when you butcher your own food. It’s a pretty intense experience, but I’m glad to have done it (OK, I sat next to my husband and watched, but I was there). It’s like the tomatoes from your garden are so much more satisfying than store bought ones, but on the whole other level of connectivity and¬†consciousness¬†about food. So, as you move through Elul, whether you are Jewish or not, observant or not (this is my first awareness that I was supposed to be doing something prior to Rosh Hashana) I invite you to harvest your food (it can be from a local farmer, if you don’t have your own backyard rooster) and eat with intention.

 

Chickens of the Corn July 20, 2012

imageWe are in a drought in Iowa, and I’ve almost completely given up on growing corn this year in the garden. All is not lost, as the chickens love taking their dirt baths among the (pathetic) corn and tomato plants. I’m told by one of my fellow backyard farmers that chickens like a take baths in the dirt to clean their feathers and get cool. This is definitely the place for them!

 

Peach Brandy! (T Minus a Month) July 11, 2012

imageI posted on Facebook asking for ideas for what to do with my 10 gallons of peaches, and by far, the most interesting idea in my book was “peach brandy.” I did some research online, and found a recipe for peach brandy on Cooks.comthat was as follows:

2 gallons + 3 quarts boiled water
3 qts. peaches, extremely ripe
3 lemons, cut into sections
2 sm. pkgs. yeast
10 lbs. sugar
4 lbs. dark raisins
Place peaches, lemons and sugar in crock. Dissolve yeast in water (must NOT be to hot). Stir thoroughly. Stir daily for 7 days. Keep crock or vessel covered with cheesecloth.On the 7th day, add the raisins and stir. Let mixture sit UNTOUCHED for 21 days, then bottle. (5 gallon crocks).

So my friend Rachel came over and helped process the peaches (we left skins on, because on another website I read it said it would give the brandy a rose color). I got the crock bleached, the ingredients all boiled, chopped, and covered, and it’s going.

When I stirred it this morning, it was very fizzy and smelled like alcohol, but I think it was just the yeast. The things I’m unsure of are whether or not cheesecloth is enough to keep bugs out, and if I’m supposed to cover it for the 21 days or not. Then my mother in law stopped by tonight and said if you don’t chop up the raisins, they can swell up and explode. Apparently this happened in another family member’s wine making.

So here’s your chance to voice your opinion/advice on our first brandy making venture. Save us from our inexperienced selves as needed!

 

A Sad Day for Urban Chickens

Filed under: Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 8:26 pm
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image¬†¬†I’m starting this post with a photo of the chickens happily munching on our peach cuttings from our peach tree. They’re happy here, and I need to focus on that. It’s taken me a few days to write another post after the last one, where my nine chickens looked so happy running around our yard. A couple days after I posted that, someone broke into our fenced back yard, tore apart our chicken run, and terrorized our girls with a hack saw that the criminal(s) brought with, and a sledgehammer we’d left out from some construction. When my husband found them, our girls were still loose in the yard, two were out of the yard, and one had been either chased or beaten to death (it was during the 100+ temps heat spell, so chasing a chicken to exhaustion wouldn’t have been impossible). I can only call this devastating to all of us, humans and chickens alike. As our nine year old daughter put it “This is awful two ways, one because they look so lonely, just the six of them, and now they’re going to be harder to mother.” (Yes, I could not love that child and her animal loving heart any more).

We reported it to the police. In our city, animal cruelty is an¬†aggravated misdemeanor on the first offense, and a felony on the second, but that only helps if we catch these people. We have our neighbors keeping an eye out and an ear to the ground, but so far, we’ve had no word on who might have done this.

The chickens are recovering slowly. They aren’t as outgoing as they once were. In my last post, you can see that they’d walk right up to me without any treats offered. They’re not as afraid of humans as they were right after the¬†massacre, but I don’t know if they’ll ever be as loving as they once were. I’d love to add more chickens, but we’re trying to regroup and let the coop emotions settle before adding more chaos…..chicken shiva, if you will. We’ll get there, eventually.

 

Peach Season! July 3, 2012

Filed under: In the Garden,Keep It Local,Urban Farming — hattonhousedsm @ 7:00 pm
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imagePeach season has arrived at the Hatton House! From our single peach tree, we harvested almost 10 gallons of peaches before we ran out of buckets. We’ve already frozen some, given some to neighbors, and made a peach cobbler. Still not at all sick of them. Peaches grown organically and eaten 100 degree hot right off the tree is an intensely delicious experience!