Friday, June 21, 2013

This post brought to you by.... Chickens??

Okay, so this post has nothing to do with music education. I suppose I could tie it into general education since it's related to my (and my school's) passion for nature education and harmony with the earth. But really, I'm just so excited about my chickens.

A little backstory: As a child of the suburbs, followed by years of living in big cities, then again the suburbs, I always had a little dream of one day living on a farm. A totally unrealistic dream, as I'm lucky to keep even the hardiest tomato plant alive for a full growing season and have no true interest in spending large amounts of time as a farmer, but at least I could live next to a farm. Or have chickens!

Last year, we moved out of our family-friendly suburb to four acres in the woods, just five minutes from my school. Next to a small farm! Though we miss our old neighbors, it turns out we have some fantastic slightly-further-away neighbors here, and for the first time ever I feel justified in naming my home:

My Mother's Day present last year

Our driveway

Hound Acres even came with a cute A-frame chicken coop and run! So, for Micaela's 7th birthday, we ordered five day-old chicks.

First time free-ranging

Finn with Meringue, his buddy.

First visit to the coop.

Spoiled rotten with organic soy-free feed (from my favorite local pet store, Phydeaux) and with free range (during the day) of nearly an acre of grass and bugs once they were old enough, our chickens provided hours of entertainment and pretty good tick control last summer. However, we waited through the summer and fall, and our full-grown healthy hens didn't reward us with a single egg. Much to our surprise, our first two eggs defied all the backyard chicken literature and came on the winter solstice, beautiful and large!

Straight from the chicken!

There is something so magical about taking care of these funny animals and getting back a nearly perfect food. Right now our five chickens are giving us 25-30 eggs a week. The kids love to check for treasure in the coop several times daily. I'm going egg crazy! Omelets, scrambles, quiche, custard, hard-boiled–yum! Free-range backyard chickens produce eggs that are more nutritious and tastier than supermarket eggs, even the "organic" ones. The yolks are yellower and contain more vitamins and omega-3 fats. Plus, our laying hens are eating even more pests and fertilizing our backyard. Our dogs leave them alone (just takes one peck!). It's a win all around!

I leave you with one of my favorite recipes, a good old-fashioned southern drinking custard. I make it with more sugar and cream for dessert (basically an egg nog base) or with more eggs, less sugar, and milk or coconut milk for a delicious breakfast drink.

4 cups milk (can use 2%, whole, half-and-half, or canned/homemade coconut)
4-8 eggs, depending on how eggy you like it and how many you need to use up
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup if you're Paula Deen)
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and sugar.

In a double boiler, heat milk to steamy, but not boiling.

Add at least a half cup of hot milk to the eggs and immediately stir well.

Slowly pour the egg mixture into the double boiler, stirring constantly. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the custard coats your spoon. Do not stop stirring, or you will end up with sweet and creamy scrambled eggs!

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

I usually keep stirring for a few more minutes to prevent lumps as it cools. If lumps gross you out (I don't mind them at all, so I skip this) you can pour your custard through a strainer.

This drinking custard is delicious anywhere from chilled to boiling lava hot. It keeps in the fridge for at least 3 days, I think–it rarely lasts more than 24 hours in my house!

White Splash, Blaster, and Slaster ask to come in the house. Sorry, ladies. I have to draw the line somewhere.

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