January 8 – gratuitous dog shot.  Sadie is resting her chin on the chair.  She does that very well and a lot.  I read where folks training therapy dogs train them to lean their chins on people.  It is something that is very soothing, so I get that. Sadie will also do it on us, especially when she wants food.  She’s very good at avoiding the camera, which is why she’s resting her chin at the moment.

January 9 – Sadly, the chicken-killing dog returned.  He got Charlotte, my Welsummer (that’s her feathers above), and Buffy the Buff Orpington (who we did not find except for far too many feathers).  Jack fought again, losing a good number of tail feathers.  Everyone else is traumatized, but alive.  I am traumatized.  I am also quite angry.

January 10 – Drove to Traverse City to have an Art Girl meet-up.  I finally got to meet Rita.  I took a picture of the page above because the way she captured the spider web intrigued me.  Evidently you spray paint on the spider web, then catch the painted web on paper.  It looks amazing.  I know it’s something I had read about, but never tried.  Now I’ll be trying it.  Her entire book was amazing.  She is making it based on this quote by Emerson: “Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson”  She and a friend (whose blog is here) both have a book that they both work in.  There are some more pictures at the blog.

After leaving the Art Girls, I went to the tiny town of Frederic, Michigan, to buy more chickens.  I got lucky again.  This gentleman had 10 laying pullets (9 months old) and was selling them for $4 each.  So my 10 have been replaced and my egg business will remain intact.  I got four Rhode Island Reds, three Barred Rocks and three Buff Orpingtons.  They are very sweet young chickens.  When I got home it was well past dark and the light in the barn was out.  So I carried the new hens in one at a time and put them on the roost.  I have read that if you do this, all the chickens will wake up together and there is less drama in the pecking order.  Overall, this is true.  However, the young pullets at the lowest rungs of the pecking order immediately try to not lose more rungs and peck at the newcomers.  There was one Buff with a little blood on her head the next morning – she got pecked on the comb, which is soft skin.  But there wasn’t a lot of fighting, which was good.

January 10 – Turned out to be a nice day to introduce chickens.  The temps were well into the 50s, which is so very un-January-like.  When I went out to see how they were doing, they ran up to me so I got some scratch grains and offered it up.

The man I got them from told me he sometimes would sit in the barn and hand-feed them.  This made me feel much better, to sit in the sun on a nice day and feed chickens by hand.  That’s one of the Rhode Island Reds, a new breed for me.  They are very pretty in the sunlight.

I started to worry, though.  Big time.  So I went to town and bought fencing materials.  The ground wasn’t frozen solid, so I was able to put the T-posts in with little trouble.  On the way home from town, I was feeling quite panicky, certain that the chickens I had left out would have been attacked.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen.  This did:

I now have a fence around the barn.  It incorporates the garden area and the chicken yard around the small coop.  I couldn’t let them out through the chicken door because the baby chickens are in that area.  So I fenced all around the barn so they can go under the big white pine there (lots of good scratching when the snow isn’t covering).  Since the chicken-killer isn’t evil in his intents – he just wants to play – I think the fence will deter him enough.  It also serves the purpose of corralling my own dumb dogs when I am occupied with chickens.  They sometimes use my occupation as an excuse to go chase the school bus or the occasional pedestrian.  That was also causing me anxiety.  So now, they are contained as well.  Our new plan is to erect a permanent fence surrounding the house and chicken coop, along with a gate across the driveway.  The dogs do respect even the chicken wire fence, though.  I have left them inside it while going into the house, and they just wait by the gate.

While at the farm store, I also found these!

For tapping maple trees for sap to turn into maple syrup.  I bought six, which is plenty enough for us.  Now I’m watching the neighbors who also tap, to know when to get out there with my 7/16″ drill bit, spiles and buckets (I’m not sure yet if I’m going to order the sap bags I have seen, or if I’ll go with recycling water jugs at this point.  I’m excited to see how it all works out!

January 12 and how the weather changed.  Big ol’ snowstorm coming in.  I ran into town again and on the way home Lake Mitchell was whited out and I could just see the fishing shanties.  It caught my eye enough to make me pull over for a picture.

January 13 – We got about 6 inches of snow.  Thankfully, David was home again to the snowblowing.

I went out to feed the birds.  After a big snow is a good time to feed them.  The dogs were out with me and thought they heard something on the road and bulleted out that way.  They go from good dogs to bad dogs in a heartbeat when they think there’s something to be protecting me from, and they don’t listen.  I got their attention by some yelling and made them go in the house while I finished up with my birds.

The very picture of a bad dog.  But she cannot let me out of her sight, so she sat like this while I finished filling bird feeders and taking pictures.  She was quite miserable when the wind blew the door closed.

Tortilla Soup, made by me and so amazingly yummy my feet danced on their own accord.  Because it was such a snowy icky day, I put one of our big chickens in my big (20 quart) stockpot.  It cooked a couple hours and made some yummy chicken stock.  I froze four quarts right off.  The rest I put into two smaller stock pots and made a batch of chicken noodle soup and a batch of tortilla soup.

Here’s my Tortilla Soup recipe, which I cobbled together from a couple others:

  • 10 cups stock
  • cooked chicken
  • 4 T chipotle adobo sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (or one jar if you have my pantry)
  • diced avocado
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1 T oil
  • 1/2 c shredded pepper jack cheese

Cut corn tortillas into strips and toss the strips with the oil.  Place on a cooking sheet and put into a 400° oven.  Let them cook for 4 minutes or so, then stir them around a bit and let them cook until they are golden brown and crispy.  Set them aside.

Meanwhile, add the chicken, tomatoes and adobo sauce to the stock.  If you taste it now, it will seem very hot but the additional ingredients you add at the end will temper that a bit, so don’t worry.  Heat the soup thoroughly to let the flavors dance together.

Put a bit of shredded cheese into each bowl, to your taste.  Sometimes I like a lot, sometimes less.  It’s up to you.  Pour the soup in.  Add diced avocado and tortilla strips, again to your taste.  I like a lot of tortillas.  Eat and enjoy.

I’ve been thinking this could be made veggie style using veggie stock and maybe chickpeas instead of chicken.  The adobo is going to spice it up nicely.

Oh, and 4 Tablespoons still leaves a lot of adobo left.  I found this tip in my Cook’s Illustrated cookbook: spoon the sauce out onto a plastic-wrap covered plate in tablespoon size dollops.  Freeze.  Put the frozen disks into a baggie and freeze til you need them.  Then you can just take a little adobo popsicle out and pop it into your recipe.  I did it and it worked great.  I still had 9 tablespoons of sauce, so that’s two more batches of tortilla soup!

I also froze one quart of soup for later and ate the other quart that was left for lunch over the next couple days.  David had a bowl and he liked it as well.  He wanted chicken noodles, but my dancing feet made him curious.  He didn’t have the cheese in his.

January 14 – David’s off to Florida while I’m home with the snow.  Now that the chickens are confined, I can spread seeds on the ground for the birds that prefer ground feeding.  Finally saw a junco.  These are the winter goldfinches and pine siskins.  I had a very lazy day today.