The Dreaded EGG SONG Has Arrived!

006That damn hen is going to blow our cover.  I don’t know what the heck is going on lately but Swiffer has started to do the EGG SONG.  This morning, the “song” (it’s kinda like a cross between a goose in distress and a car alarm going off in your driveway) began at 5:38!  Why now??????? After 7 months of laying like a champ, why the hell are you now making all this racket?  You DO remember that you and the other 2 hens are illegal?????  Did you forget that only our IMMEDIATE neighbors know that you 3 chickens live in our backyard????????? Are you aware that your so-called “song” can be heard way down the street past those IMMEDIATE neighbors???? Why must you have such a big mouth??????

OK….lay on the couch and tell me what’s really troubling you.  Does it have something to do with my post on Rosie from a few weeks ago?  You’re right….she was in the spotlight that week and we did get some good “views” for that post, but you didn’t hear Honda kickin’ up a fuss.  Besides…….her eggs are enormous and she deserved a little “shout out” for her daily accomplishment.  By the way…..you are still laying the SMALLEST EGG!!!!

Guess who's on the right????

Guess who’s on the right????

Ya know….Maybe the soup pot is not a bad idea.   Now that I think about it, you were the one who bullied Rosie for a month when she first came to City Boy  Hens last November.   You were also the one who taught her  NOT to lay her egg in the nest box, but right beside yours on the floor of the coop.  You were also the one who took 7 long months and 13 days to lay your first egg, which by the way, was 3 months behind Honda’s initial offering.

So…….What’s it gonna’ be Swiffer?  You want the By-law Officer to write me  up?   Just to let you know….it’s not me that will be going???  IT WILL BE YOU and the two quiet hens!

So maybe…86 the song.  There’s no need for this racket.  OK…..You win….I’ve written a post about you.  But….don’t come crying back to me if we don’t get as many views for this post as we did for the one with Rosie.  People aren’t generally impressed with such negative behavior……. So…In the mean time ………SHUT IT!003

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Pickled Asparagus

019Canning season officially starts at City Boy Hens with pickled asparagus.  Around here, it is included in our antipasto, the “topper” to “special events” salads, a great addition to any sandwich or just as a pickled treat with dinner. Chickens2 003

Step 1: Sterilize your jars, lids and rings.

You can use the dishwasher on the high temperature setting, your canner (big pot) for 15 minutes at a “rolling boil” or your oven at 225 degrees  Fahrenheit for 20 minutes to sterilize your jars.   Whatever way you choose, remember to keep the jars warm after the required length of time and do not sterilize the lids in any of these ways.  The rubber seal may become compromised do to the extended length of heat and may prevent a good seal for your canned goods.  For me, the oven is my method of choice.004

For the seals and bands, I find it easiest to put these in a small pot of water and keep them just below a boil.  Make sure that you separate all of the lids.  They can easily become stuck together and appear as one.  The last thing you are going to want is to go through the entire process below and find that you are short one lid because you put two on one jar without knowing!005

Step 2:  Fill your canner up with water.

I know it sounds like an easy step, but it is worth mentioning that you need to find the right volume of water.  Too much and the water will overflow when you add your jars that are heavy with their contents.  Too little and the jars will not be completely submerged which will not allow for proper sterilization of contents.  I fill my canner to around 2/3 full in order to accommodate 6 large canning jars.  Note:  Use hot water to fill the canner.   This will help to speed up the process of bringing the water to a boil.  Even with doing this, it will still take some time to get this water to a boil so start now!

Step 3: Wash and cut your asparagus.

Asparagus spears are quite long and a good portion of the vegetable must be cut off in order for it to properly fit into your canning jar.  I have found that the easiest way to do this is to cut one piece to its designated length and then position each bunch beside your one piece and “chop”.  Follow up with a good wash for the asparagus  in the sink.  Note:  Don’t discard the remaining stem of the asparagus.  Bend each piece until it snaps and keep the tender end.  This can be canned, cooked for the next few meals or made into soup!008

Step 4:  Make your brine.

6 cups of pickling vinegar (5% acetic acid)

9 cups of water

9 tbsp. of pickling salt.  Iodized salt will leave your brine cloudy.

Bring this to a boil.

Step 5:  Pack your jars.

Before I begin packing my canning jars with asparagus, I add 1 clove of garlic (cut into 3 pcs.), 1/2 tsp. of chili peppers and 1 slice of lemon.  Feel free to omit any of these ingredients though I highly recommend them all. Now it’s time to pack your jars.   I find that it is easiest to lay the jar on its side when it is time to pack the asparagus into the jars.  You may be surprised at how many spears you will be able to pack into each jar.  I averaged around 35 per jar.  This number will vary on the thickness of the asparagus stalks.  It is important to pack your jars as tight as you can without breaking off the tips of the asparagus.  I find that a table knife works well to help move the asparagus from side to side in order to make room for a few more spears.012

Step 6:  Add the brine and seal your jars.

Now it’s time to add the brine to your jars.  A large ladle and a canning funnel makes easy work of this step. Make sure not to fill the brine up to the top of the jar.  Leave around 1/4″of “head space”. Once this is done, take one of your sterilized seals out of your pot with a pair of tongs and place it on the lip of the jar.  Note:  make sure to wipe the lip of your jar before placing the seal on the jar.  This will ensure that nothing is trapped on the lip which could prevent a tight seal and spoil your asparagus as it sits in your cantina (cellar) for up to 1 year.  Once this is done, tightly screw the canning ring onto the jar.015

Step 7:  Water bath.

The water bath is debatable and many people omit this step.  Some rationalize the omittance by claiming that the boiling brine is enough to kill any bacteria that may be left on the asparagus.  I also recognize that this step is a pain in the butt and can be quite dangerous because you are transferring a relatively heavy jar into and out of boiling water.  With that said, I feel better eliminating my family’s chance at botulism and using a canning tongs to work the jars into and out of the boiling water.  This process should be done for 15 minutes.016

Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and place the hot jars on a rack to cool.  After a while, you will hear the great sound of “SNAP”.  That means your jars have sealed.  Let your jars completely cool (over night) and then put them in your cantina or cupboard until it is time to enjoy the taste of pickled asparagus.019

Making Some Honey Bee Frames

My assignment this week from Dan was to assemble some honey bee frames for my hive.  The frames consist of a top bar, 2 end bars, one end bar and a sheet of 100% beeswax foundation.  The beeswax foundation has hundreds of tiny hexagons which the bees will build up to make comb.  It is in this comb that they will put eggs, pollen (protein) and HONEY.  The process was quite simple and my pneumatic brad nailer made for quick work.003004

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You will notice that there are 2 different sizes of frames.  This is because there are 2 different depths to the supers (boxes) that we will use for the hive. 013 The larger frames will go into the 2 bottom supers.  This will be where the queen will lay her eggs (up to 1000 in a single day) and her workers will deposit nectar for the brood and winter feed for the entire colony.

The upper supers will be strictly for our honey consumption.  There will be a screen below these 2 supers which will prevent the queen from laying brood amidst our honey. Since the queen is much larger than her workers, she will not be able to fit through this screen, though her workers will be able to move up and deposit honey into these frames.

So……..why are these supers smaller than the ones below?  Common sense would dictate that large supers would be the best choice for harvesting honey. Remember last week’s post about more is not always better???????  The only reason that these supers are smaller is because honey is heavy! A medium super – filled and capped with honey will weigh in at around 45 pounds.  Now take into account that there are around 40,000 bees(that’s the average) who are really ticked off that you are stealing their honey.  The last think you are going to want is more weight!   Dan informed me that last year he harvested around 100 pounds of honey from each of his 4 hives!

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So for now……I just have to wait for my Queen to arrive.   Dan told me that she will be coming near the end of the month. She, and a bunch of bees from one of Dan’s strong hives, will be brought together in order to start my hive!

A Bit of Trivia:

Did you know that honey bees are not indigenous to North America?  Apis mellifera (Western Honey Bee) was first introduced in 1622 on the coast of Virginia.  It was famously called “white man’s fly” by Native Americans.

My daughter with Dan's pig "Larry".

My daughter with Dan’s pig “Larry”.

Bigger Is Not Always Better: Some Advice From The Manager

Rosie's first day at City Boy Hens

Rosie’s first day at City Boy Hens

OK Rosie…. We need to talk!

There is no need to impress me further.  I am aware that you were a late addition to City Boy Hens and that you received extensive bullying from Swiffer during the first month when you were forced into the flock last November, but…. you gotta stop laying those EXTRA LARGE EGGS!    It’s getting to the point where I can’t even close the egg carton because those eggs are sooooooooooo big.  Not to mention the fact that I can’t even fit a dozen eggs in the carton because your eggs take up most of the space where Honda’s or Swiffer’s eggs are suppose to go.012

Listen…….I know you are a champ and I’m very proud of your daily accomplishment, but it’s got to the point where I have to find a separate area in the fridge just to house YOUR EGGS!  This is becoming a pain in the butt, especially on grocery day when fridge space is at a premium.

Secondly,  I’m getting tired of having to explain to the neighbors why your eggs are so much bigger.  I’m sure you are reveling in your daily accomplishments, but you should remember how it was going for you last November when Swiffer was pecking the crap out of you.  As I’ve told you before, that hen is not playing with a full deck, she lays the smallest egg, and you might want to stop rocking the boat!

Don’t get me wrong……..I’m proud of the fact that you have never taken a day off since last November.  I’d also be lying if I said that I am not impressed when I come out in the morning to collect your egg.  I know you hear my “Wows” & “Holy S**Ts” when I get your egg, but this favoritism has to stop.  From now on, I’m not going to view your accomplishments with any more interest than I do for the other hens.015

I also hope that you are not doing this in order to impress Honda with the hope that you’ll move into the #2 hen position.  You know that you are number 3 in the batting order and that’s never gonna change.  You also need to come to terms with the fact that Swiffer is always going to be psycho, no matter how much help she gets.  Don’t keep tickin’ her off!  It’s bad enough that you are not TOTALLY accepted by the tribe.  You’re only gonna’ make it harder on yourself.

Up on the deck.

Banished to the back!

So…. maybe drop the egg size down to a large, give yourself a little rest and try flying under the radar for a while.

Maybe then there won’t be so much jealousy in the hen-house.

Yours truly,

The Manager

There’s NEVER enough time!

Part 1

Last week was a busy week at City Boy Hens and I have no one to blame but myself.  Dan the beekeeper gave me my first assignment and I was instructed to put together 2 hive bodies or “supers” as they are referred to by beekeepers.  It really was an easy job because most hive parts are sold pre cut and ready for assembly. 006 So off I went back down to the city and assembled my two supers in an about an hour. 010 Then I got to thinking……….I could make some supers from scratch and, while I’m at it, I’d  better make  a base and a hive cover as well…….And I still have a couple of  days before I have to go back up to the cottage……… so I might as well paint them all as well.  And before I knew it….I made my very first hive!  My wife often reminds me that I “sometimes” try to accomplish too much in too little time, but I reminded her that there is no way that my hive was going to fit into the van with the family, dog and chickens when we all go up to the cottage in a few weeks time. Well… I’m sticking to that story, though I don’t think she believes me!017On Sunday morning, I met up with Dan and brought my hive to its new home.  It will sit in his barn for a few weeks until we can purchase a few more queens and re-start the 2 other hives.

Dan’s two surviving hives are doing well and the bees are starting to bring in some pollen.  You can see the yellow pollen that is attached to the legs of the bee in the picture below.  This is a great sign that all is well with the bees.027

Part 2

This past weekend also presented itself with the opportunity to build our raised bed vegetable garden at the cottage.  It was also the annual Spring weekend with my two great friends from my high school days.  It was great to have their help, laughter and practical jokes for an entire weekend.  Thanks guys!  Your sweat was greatly appreciated!011

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So…the week is over and a lot was accomplished in those blurry seven days.  Sometimes everything comes at once, but I know I’ll look back in the summer when the honey is a flowin’ and the garden is a growin’ and know that it was all worth while.  In the mean time, sleep is looking pretty darn good!