Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whole Wheat Italian Herb Pizza Recipe

Whole Wheat Italian Herb Pizza

Dough: (Time: 2 hours, Servings: 4, Makes two medium pizza pies, or 1 large pizza pie)

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or seas salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon crushed, dried or 1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh italian herb, we prefer basil or oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Before rising
1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl, mix. Add 1 cup warm water and oil and mix until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If the ball is shaggy and sticks to the bowl, add 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing until it comes away easily from the bowl. If too crumbly, add more water. 

2. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for few seconds to form a smooth round dough ball. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1-2 hours until the dough doubles in size. Our house is kept pretty chilly, so I prefer to let it rise for 2 hours.

After rising

3. After the first rise, cut the dough in half. If you only want one pizza (serves generally 2 people) then you can put one dough ball in the freezer in plastic wrap or a zipper bag, for up to a month. With the dough you want to use, roll each piece into a round ball, about a quarter inch thick. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rest until they puff slightly about 20-30 minutes. Get your oven preheating to 500 F.


1/2 cup of pizza sauce or marinara sauce
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese (less than you'd think, or you'll get too much grease!)
1 cup assorted toppings

4. Once your oven is heated you can transfer the dough to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Brush a light layer of olive oil on the top of the dough. Add the sauce and spread on the dough. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and your toppings. 

5. Bake at 500 F for 8-12 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown. Enjoy!

Optional: If you have a medium-sized cast iron skillet, you can do a more deep dish pizza. After rolling out the dough, place it in the skillet, like a pie pan. Let rise there for 20-30 minutes, then put your toppings on. Before putting in the oven, heat the skillet for 3-5 minutes over medium heat to set the dough. Then bake for 8-12 minutes. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chicks! 3 weeks old:

Chick Update!

The chicks turned 3 weeks old this Saturday, and how they've grown! They've been threatening to hop out of their brooder box all week, but the cold has kept them from making the leap. We had a couple of bitterly cold days with the cold front that moved in, with strong winds and a 25 F wind chill that kept us shuttered inside. The chicks are almost done feathering out, and much more equipped to deal with the cold, significantly better than with their downy fluff of before. We've spotted a few combs, of our breeds we should have single comb for the Welsummer, rose comb for the Wyandotte, and pea comb for the Ameraucana. 

Here are some recent pictures:

      This little guy always stands his ground when we come in to feed or change the water (which you can see behind him, is constantly pooed in). While most of the other chickens scatter to the far corner of the box, he plants his claws and cranes his head up at you, unafraid. His comb is also one of the biggest, so far, making us think that he is, well, a he. It looks like a Pea comb as well, making him one of our Ameraucana roosters. His comb seems like something part dinosaur, part Klingon. Shall we call him Worf?

      This chick, our biggest, is always perched on top of the waterer, fluffed up to conserve her warmth. Every time we go out there, she's perched up there like the queen hen looking down on her subjects. You can see the beginning of her rose comb above her beak, must be a golden-laced Wyandotte!

     They're definitely getting a little too big for their brooder box. We added their manure and bedding to the compost piles, a great fertilizer for the garden when composted.

         The chicks are growing up, they've graduated to larger feeders and waterers, and these hang, so no more knocking them over or pooping in them! Unused to the space and cold air, they'll group together for a while under the lamp. But as you can see, the Queen is off to the side, already spreading her legs and wings and thankful for the additional space. We suspend our feeder/waterer at the chick's back height, so they can reach the insides, can't poop in them, and we can adjust them as they grow. 

Sausage and Onion Frittata Recipe

Happy Winter Solstice Feast!  

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yuletide, the Winter Solstice, Hogswatch or Makara Sankranti, we are all huddling close through these dark, cold nights; staving off the long night with warm company and hot food.

The Winter Solstice is also known as Midwinter, The Longest Night, The Shortest Day, and The First Day of Winter. But it's really, for the northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of winter, and signals the beginning of a gradual lengthening of days to come. This year, it happened to also be the final date of the Mayan Calendar. Which someone somewhere decided meant the apocalypse.

Since the world didn't end and we're all here to enjoy the prospect of lengthening days and the promise of the spring to come, here's a recipe to tide you over. Quick and easy, serves 4-8 people, depending on your appetite. Perfect for a lazy chilly morning to bring some warmth to your belly and a spring back into your step. Try with some Cholula sauce to give it some kick!

 Sausage and Onion Frittata

½ lb. bulk breakfast sausage
½ onion, sliced or diced
6-8 eggs
½ cup shredded gruyere or swiss cheese
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
¼ tsp sage 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. 
  2. Put the tablespoon of butter in a large, oven safe skillet over medium-high heat, we recommend a cast-iron skillet. When melted and foaming, add the onion and cook, sprinkling with salt and pepper, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sausage, break up or crumble as you stir. Cook about 5 minutes.
  4.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs with some salt and pepper and the sage. Pour the eggs over the onion and sausage, using a spoon to evenly distribute the sausage and onion. Sprinkle with the cheese and let cook, undisturbed, until the eggs are set, 5-10 minutes.
  5. Further set the eggs by placing the skillet in the oven for a few minutes. 
  6. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Goes well with Cholula. 
      Happy Feasting! 
            Farmer Figgins

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Creamy Fall Vegetable Soup

This was an easy quick dinner with lots of yum and the doctor will tell you good job.  Let us know what you think, and what you all do to vary it!
Try in a bread bowl for extra yum!

Creamy Fall Vegetable Soup
Serves 2:
-2 tbsp butter
-1 clove garlic, minced
-2 stalks celery, chopped
-1 medium carrot, chopped
-1/3 cup chopped onion
-1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon flour
-2-4 medium russet, yukon or red potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch cubes (enough for 1 1/2 cup of cubed potato)
-1/8 tsp thyme
-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/8 tsp seasoned salt
-3/4 tsp worchestor sauce
-1/8 tsp ground mustard
-3 cups stock, chicken, vegetable or beef.
-1/2 cup milk or cream

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted and foaming, reduce heat to medium-low,  and add minced garlic and let sautee for 30 seconds. Then add onion, celery, and carrot and sautee until soft. Add the flour and sautee for 2 minutes.
Add the rest of your ingredients, mix and let simmer for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft. Let cool slightly, then puree with an immersion blender or blender. Serve immediately. 

Good cooking and stay tuned for our Pizza Recipe,

Farmer Figgins

Death and Farming: Crusty Butt

Death and Farming

Farming in general is about life, growing plants from lifeless seeds into life giving food.  Breeding livestock to create milk production and provide meat.  Raising chicks who will in turn provide eggs which become further chickens and again life giving nutrients.  On the other side though, is death.  At the end of each fall the plants will die, eventually the calf grows up and will be slaughtered, the chicken becomes roast chicken.

Today we had our first experience of this as Crusty Butt unfortunately did not pull through.  This chick, as you may remember, had some health issues from the beginning.  Sara has been playing nurse, making sure that no further pasting occurred, by daily inspecting and cleaning the chick's vent.  This problem seemed to have cleared up, but as the days went by and the rest of the chicks have gone well down the road towards chicken, Crusty Butt remained a tiny fluff ball of a chick. We watched her closely, and she seemed uninterested in eating or drinking, and seemed just to stand around to be jostled by her siblings.  Eventually we decided to separate the chick from the flock, in an attempt to protect it from being trampled and pecked at, as well as to make sure that it was getting plenty of feed and water. Chickens are prone to cannibalism, and we didn't want to encourage it by leaving a sickly chick to be picked on, or feasted upon.

Early this morning the solitary cheeps--which had been coming from the closet we had her safely tucked in away from Katniss and the cold--stopped.  When Sara checked on her she found a small little chick spreadeagled with her feet up in the air.  This was a sad find, but not unexpected.

A typical chicken raiser can expect between 2.5-5% loss of chicks.  Ideally, we would have liked to not have lost any, but this is the nature of the life we have chosen.  We consider ourselves fortunate to still have 26 healthy and thriving chickens though, and Crusty will become part of the compost pile to help nourish life in a different way.

Farmer Donnie

RIP Crusty Butt

Friday, December 7, 2012

Country Living

Country Living

Since we moved to the country, we’ve noticed one important change in our lives: it has significantly more poo. There’s the cat, of course, and now the chicks with their sticky butts. And now our new puppy, Ender. After taking him to the vet our theories were confirmed, he was born with Roundworms from his mother. We’ve been treating him since then and he has gained substantial energy and weight, though his poo is still mostly liquid.

Ender, the Xenocider. Beware: He will annihilate your species.
When he gets older, that is. 
          And in terms of getting stronger, when we got Ender he could barely hop up a normal sized stair. Now he can manage the taller stairs leading to our three-season room, and we have to take him out running to wear him out. We’ve been crate training him as well, and his crying at night is getting better, he only cried for a little bit around 10:30 last night, and a little more around 4:00-5:00 this morning. Potty training is still a work in progress however. I think he peed in the house only 3 or 4 times yesterday…typically when we’re eating or making dinner and can’t watch him close enough. He’s adorable, especially when he’s sleeping and falls off the couch, and he’s sure to protect the farm from strays and deer, of which there are many. So far we’ve seen half a dozen cats prowling the property, a stray dog nosing in the compost, and near two dozen deer. I think our farm may have become a haven for them. We’ve got lush perennial pasture for them to graze, thanks to the previous owners and the Amish/Mennonites who seeded it, and we don’t shoot at them, yet. They laugh at our puny fence of course, but its intention was more to keep our livestock in than to keep them out. 

         We’ve been without cable and internet for a little over a month now, though we should be getting internet mid-December! We don’t miss cable much, except for the Bronco games. When we have the time we listen to NPR, research for the farm, read from our extensive library, or play video games. I finally beat Assassin’s Creed II Brotherhood, now onto Revelations! I think what we miss the most from Colorado is Chipotle and Sprouts (mostly for their goat butter, yum). But we’re learning to cope. We’ve learned to make damn good Chipotle-style burritos, and we noticed a neighbor down the road has goats, I’m hoping we can buy some butter or milk and make some for ourselves.



 We try not to go to town too much, being pretty far away, and when we do it is usually for errands and shopping, and always stopping by the library to use the internet (we miss it so!) We’ve been limiting ourselves to eating out once a week, and have been trying different restaurants nearly every time. We’ve found a few promising ones that we enjoy eating at and would love to sell to, such as Dexter Street Smokehouse, which offers local meat and has great hamburgers.

Homemade deep-dish bacon pepperoni and onion pizza, with
a whole wheat, basil and garlic crust.
         In all honesty we have missed eating out very little because we make everything ourselves, and we eat well. Here’s a sample of our meals this week: Homemade sourdough bread, eggs and toast most mornings, Chipotle-style shredded beef burritos, garlic Parmesan chicken wings, winter salads with carrots, radishes, broccoli and cucumber, turkey vegetable soup, zucchini and bacon spaghetti carbonara, homemade bacon and onion pizza, and broccoli chicken stir fry. We eat pretty good.


My second try with Sourdough bread, from Mark Bittman's
 How to Cook Everything, one of the few recipes I've found
 that doesn't call for Buttermilk. Very simple and easy.
         We haven’t met many of our neighbors yet, but it’s winter and most people are trying to stay snug and warm in their homes. We don’t really go to church or any local school games, so I’m not too surprised we haven’t met many of our neighbors. We see the Amish/Mennonites driving their buggies by the house nearly every day, mostly around dawn and dusk, and we look forward to meeting them, and maybe asking them to seed more pasture for us when we’ve cleared the fields of trees. Once spring arrives and we’re out in the fields full-time, we hope to meet our neighbors when they drive by and stop to ask us why in the world are we hand-weeding.

Until next week, Farmer Figgins. 

Oh, does anyone have a good whole wheat bread recipe they'd recommend/share? All of mine turn out far too dense! Any advice/recipes are welcome!

Chicken Update: 1 Week Old

Chicks Update: 1 Week Old

The chickens are growing fast and furious. At one week old, I’d wager their twice their original weight, and as you can see, they've started to pick at their fuzz and develop true feathers. Chickens go through a series of “molts” (where they shed feathers for new ones) throughout their lives. The first, not really a true molt, occurs when they are chicks, they lose the fuzz and get tiny feathers. The second molt occurs just before they start laying eggs, around 5-6 months, and the last molt generally occurs around 2 years of age, and signifies a decrease in egg production and that it’s time for a new flock.

You can see the new feathers coming in their wings.
           While our chickens are looking happy and healthy, we have had a small health concern. On Tuesday, we noticed that a few chickens were developing “Sticky Bottoms” also known as pasting. It’s fairly common in newly hatched chicks, caused by chilling, overheating or improper feeding.  Given that it’s December and our thermometer are not exactly trustworthy, I’m going to say it was either chilling or overheating. Pasting is essentially when the soft droppings/manure stick to the chick’s vent and harden. If not taken care of, the dried droppings can seal the vent shut, and eventually cause death.

Poor Crusty Butt
To remove the hardened droppings, you hold the chick’s bum under running warm water to soften the mess, then, gently pick it off. Then you dab dry with a piece of paper towel and apply Vaseline or Neosporin to protect the infected area and prevent more poop from sticking. Since then I haven’t seen any more sticky bottoms, except for one. This poor gal was already the worst off, her vent was red and inflamed and protruding from her back end already when I first cleaned it. Unfortunately while picking off some of the poo, I pulled off some her tender young vent skin in the process. So, since then, I’ve been cleaning her backside and applying Neosporin a few times a day. It’s currently scabbing and less inflamed, but I don’t think she’s in the clear yet. Equally concerning, she hasn’t been eating much and has now replaced Happy Feet as the runt.

Today we’ll pick up adult-sized feeders and waterers, and I think we’ll continue to monitor poor Crusty Butt and possibly move inside until she’s healed and gained some weight. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Xenocider

Ender, The Xenocider: 

Chickens were not the only animal to join The Shire this week.

We have wanted a dog for a long time, but knew we had to wait till we had the space.  We had been debating what kind of breed we would like, and we had been bouncing between Bull Mastiff, Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, St. Bernard, and a few others.  We really were not concerned about getting a pure bred and in fact preferred to find a rescue dog, mutts just seem to be better behaved, have less personality disorders, and health problems.  

We knew we wanted a young puppy though which has made finding one a little more difficult.  

Saturday as we were doing our daily Craigslist shopping we came across a 9 week old Brindle coat, Bull Mastiff/Shepherd Mix puppy.  A few hours later we brought home Ender!

We chose the name Ender months ago if we got a boy.  It comes from a favorite book of ours Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.  The main character, Ender, is a sweet young boy who is tasked to protect humanity from an alien invasion.  I don't want to ruin the story, because I highly recommend anyone who wants a quick and enjoyable read to pick it up at your local library, but we felt that a sweet little boy that is capable of going to any extreme to protect what is important to him is exactly what we needed as a pet.  

Ender is definitely first and foremost a pet, we did not get him to be a guard dog.  We certainly hope though that his very presence should discourage any unwanted guests, and that the combination of his Bull Mastiff guard dog instincts, combined with the shepherd make him a good farm dog.   So far he seems very loving, and has bursts of playfulness.  We don't need a leash to keep him from running off in the yard, as he just follows at our heels while outside.  He responds very well to treats, and loves to sleep.

Unfortunately though, his previous owners did not take proper care of him.  He has some anxiety issues (understandable as this is his 3rd home in 3 weeks).  This of course means neither of us has slept much since he wakes up like any baby and cries untill you comfort him back to sleep.  Also he seems to have worms.  He should be ok though, we have given him a dewormer, and he has a vet appointment tomorrow.

The Long Awaited First Chicken Post!

First Chick Update:

Just a quick update then the pictures of cute animals!

So things are slowing down around the farm the last few weeks.  I, Donnie, have started working an early morning shift at Menard's in Ionia, MI which has kept me pretty busy, and getting me trim. (I've lost almost 10 pounds since starting)  Sara has started working more on the Business "stuff" such as expense sheets and tax filings etc.  And we have been finishing getting settled in, especially cleaning and organizing the garage.  All of which makes for pretty uninteresting updates.

Last Friday though we got our first batch of livestock, chickens!!!!

   As Sara already posted we got 27 chicks of several different breeds.  They arrived at the Post Office and at about 6:30 am Sara was called to pick them up.  An interesting fact; the USPS is the only mail service that will transport live animals.  The chicks hatched and were sent overnight from Ohio to us.  It is possible to do this because chicks are able to survive a little over 24 hours without any food or water as they get all they need for that time from their egg.

We are attempting to keep the brooder at about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, using an infrared heat lamp.  Though in practice this is easier said than done as you have to compensate for outside temperature swings, and inaccurate thermometers.   It also meant we had to wait a few days to get you these pictures as we didn't want to take away the heat lamp the first few days or cause any undo stress.
pictures under infrared don't turn out that great
The most important thing with starting chicks is making sure you get them drinking right away.  Sara took charge for this, it was as simple as dipping their little beaks in the water so they know what it is.  We also did the same thing with their food just for good measure.  So far we still have all 27 chickens, and they are getting bigger quick!  If you look closely at some of the photos below you can see that some are even starting to get the feathers on their wings already less than a week after hatching!

Now for more pictures, since I know that is what you all really want!

This is the simple water bowl we use.

The little black chick here Sara has dubbed "Happy Feet" the only to be named so far and is the smallest of the flock.
So much variety!

Happy Feet again.
Somebody is hiding.