Archives for September 2011

New Roosts for the New Girls

In pondering what to do about my continuing dilemma of my 4 new hens not wanting to roost in the coop with the other hens at night, I came up with the idea of adding new roosts so they could feel like they had a place of their own. I’d been meaning to add new ones anyway, so this was the perfect excuse to finally force me to finally do it.

I walked over across the street to some wooded land and dragged out some fairly straight, sturdy branches. One branch had a great “fork” in it that I thought I could use nicely too.

I used some under-utilized corner spaces to add roosts and I loved the way this forked branch works to give two different roosting spots on the same branch.

Using my miter saw, I cut the branches at angles, always allowing extra length until I got the angle just right, then making the final length cuts. I pre-drilled the screw holes, and then used nice long screws to anchor them to the wall. You’d be surprised how much a bunch of chickens perching on a branch can weigh, so I knew the branches had to be strong and firmly anchored to the walls.

The new branch roosts in the chicken coop.

Kiki & Grace are still really mad at me for hooking the chicken feeder up to a pulley so I can raise it during the day and they can't free-range on chicken feed all day.

And so even though I still have to go and gather the new hens out of the old small coop every night, at least once they are in the new coop they are making good use of the roosts. Even some of the other hens are joining them now.

The hens enjoying the new roosts.

Somehow Kiki & Grace now manage to squash themselves through the small old coop's chicken door where they can eat the chick feed!

And every night I still have to gather up all of the adolescents that were forced outside by the 4 new hens and bring them back into their coop, once they are there they are delighted to enjoy some food and warmth without worrying about those 4 new ladies picking on them.

The adolescents in the old coop.

Third Street Stuff

One of my favorite coffee shops here in Lexington is this funky place called Third Street Stuff. It's got these crazy murals painted on the exterior, and there's this little gift shop in the front of the store that has all kinds of strange and unique stuff.

Lone Elk in Poker Flats

This lone elk was out grazing one early fall afternoon when I was trail riding in an area called Poker Flats in Wyoming. His herd wasn't far away, but he was lovely there all by himself.

I’m Off To Kentucky

I’m leaving early Friday morning to go and see my daughter, Amanda, in Kentucky for a long weekend. I’ve been madly packing and getting things ready around the farm for me to leave, and will return on Monday afternoon.

I’ve brought lots of things to post while I’m down there, so keep checking for updates throughout the weekend.

Have a great one!

French Crullers

My kids have been bugging me lately to make fresh donuts again, since I haven’t made any in months. For a while I was on a roll, making glazed, chocolate & strawberry frosted donuts, Dinner Party Donut Holes, and New Orlean’s Style  Beignets. I really wanted to try and make French crullers. I’m not generally a huge donut fan, but a good cruller is so light that it’s hard to feel too guilty about eating one.

I found two promising recipes on the internet for them. Both were based on a basic pate a choux recipe, but one had orange zest and used shortening rather than butter in it. While generally I would opt for the butter over shortening, the shortening recipe seemed to be rated higher, so I decided to go with that one. The one thing I did take away from the other recipe that did seem important, was to freeze the donuts once they were piped out for 30 minutes. I tried this recipe twice; once without freezing and once with, and the freezing is key to keeping the soft batter from completely losing it’s shape when trying to transfer them into the fryer.

French Crullers

Original recipes from and Adapted and combined by Crafty Farm Girl, September, 2011.

4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest
4 tablespoons shortening
1 cup hot water
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Put 4 tablespoons sugar, salt, shortening and orange rind in saucepan with 1 cup hot water. Bring to a boil. Mix in 1 cup of flour. Reduce heat to low and, with a wooden spoon, stir in the flour until the mixture forms a ball, working out any lumps of flour from dough as you go. Remove from heat, and cool slightly.

Beat in one egg at a time, beating each one in thoroughly before adding another. Working the eggs into pate a choux dough is a good arm workout, but doing it by hand, and always with a wooden spoon, is the way I grew up making it. You can transfer the dough to a heavy-duty mixer at this point and work the eggs in, still one at a time, with the beater attachment, working each egg into the batter individually and just until combined.

Using a star tip, press dough through pastry bag, in desired shape, onto a well-greased square of heavy paper. (Note: I used parchment paper, and next time I will try cutting up a brown grocery bag and greasing that, as I think it might release the donut batter into the oil easier than the parchment did.) Place the piped donut batter into the freezer for 30 minutes.

The donut batter in the pastry bag ready to pipe.

pipe into circles on squares of greased heavy paper and freeze for 30 minutes.

While your donuts are in the freezer you can bring your oil up to the proper temperature. Turn paper upside down and let crullers drop into deep, hot fat (375 degrees F – 190 degrees C). Fry until well puffed up and golden brown in color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain on unglazed paper. Ice with confectioners’ frosting.

Using a knife, carefully scrape the batter off of the paper and into the hot oil.

Fry until well puffed and golden brown on each side.

When brown on both sides, remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on unglazed paper.

Prepare icing and drizzle on with a spoon or smear on with a knife.

To Make Frosting: Cream 1 1/2 tablespoons shortening and continue creaming while slowly adding sugar. Add cream, salt, and vanilla and mix smooth.

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Rusty Red Chair

I took this picture this past February right about on the border of Georgia and North Carolina at this fabulous place (something between an antiques shop and a junkyard). I loved this chair; all of the different colors of paint, the rust, the way the light is hitting it.

“Doesn’t Play Well with Others”

Right before I figured out that King Strut may be at the root of The Great Egg Mystery, in desperation to get my egg production back up I purchased 4 Red Star pullets from my local Agway. (I say local, but where I live the closest agricultural supply store is 30 miles away.)

Red Star hens are, I believe, a cross between a White Rock chicken and a Rhode Island Red chicken, both of whom are the gold standard in egg-laying capabilities in the chicken world. A “sex-link” chicken is one, which at the time of hatch, can be sexed by it’s color, as the female chicks are a completely different color than the male chicks. So, if you want only hens and no roosters, Red Star is a sex link and it will be easy to tell which is which.

Now most Agway stores offer “pullets” for sale. These are defined as “less than a year old”, but generally when  you get them from your Agway or other ag store they are around 20-24 weeks old. If they are not already laying eggs, they will be soon.

The one reason I do not like to get these pullets from a store and not raise them myself is that they always have their beaks clipped. This is standard operating procedure at any large poultry house, and I guess it is at whoever grows these birds for the ag stores as well. It was started back in the 1930’s as a preventative measure to combat cannibalism and feather pecking from birds that live in close confinement. I find not only does it look awful, but it’s just a barbaric thing to do to an animal. I have never had an issue with either of these things, but I realize I’m not a large factory-farming business. My hens live happy lives.

One of my new Red Star hens with a clipped beak.

Well, that was a very long explanation to the start of this story.

I brought these 4 girls home about about 9 days ago. I kept them in my old small brooder coop for the first few days so my ladies could get used to them through the fencing. (You should always introduce a new bird or birds slowly to an established flock.) When I did introduce them to the flock, all of my older laying hens seemed completely nonplussed by them. In fact, for the most part, they chose to ignore them.

I guess, being the low girls on the totem pole, they decided to show my adolescents who’s boss. I noticed something was up the first night they were out with the flock and I went to lock up the farm. All of my adolescents, who normally sleep in my old coop, were outside sleeping on the porch, and the 4 new ladies were inside. Every time one of the adolescents tried to go inside they would get chased back out by of of these new hens.

All of the adolescents have been chased out of the coop and are sleeping on the porch.

Let’s just say if I were giving out report cards right now, theirs would all be marked “Doesn’t play well with others.”

So while all hums along pretty calmly during the day here on the farm, come sunset everything falls apart. Every single night I have to go out and, one by one, carry the new ladies into the new chicken coop. I don’t think they’ve exactly been welcomed into the coop by my established flock with open wings, but they’re just being given the cold shoulder — not being picked on.

The four new ladies are there in the corner. They sleep on the floor rather than roost with the older chickens.

Then I have to go and round up all of the adolescents and convince them that it’s now safe to go into their home for bed.

The goats think they’re all being ridiculous.

And for the record, since King Strut was delivered back to the Agway my egg count has gone up dramatically. Over the last 5 days I’m back to getting 15-20 eggs a day!

Meet Antonio

This is Antonio. He is the brother of Ramone and Luigi. He has come over from the old country to visit his brothers.

Really though, my daughter Maia has two favorite stuffed animals. I know. She’s 11. But we live in a magical world here at my house, and Charles and Ramone are important members of our family.

Maia never gave two hoots about stuffed animals. Ever. She would get them as gifts for her birthday or for Christmas and she would carry them upstairs, throw them in some corner and never look at them again. We finally stopped giving any to her, and told friends and family not to either. She just didn’t care for them.

Two summers ago we were in Wyoming when the movie Despicable Me came out, and in it was this stuffed unicorn. At the Teton County Fair that summer, Maia saw this unicorn from the movie at one of the games there, and she had to have him. She named him Charles, and for whatever reason, he was different than all the other stuffed animals before him. He was special.

Earlier this summer Ramone came into our life. We found him up in Kent, Connecticut at this wonderful store up there.

Luigi, Ramone & Charles

When we went back to that store at the end of the summer, we purchased the remaining stuffed animal like Ramone, and this became Luigi. Charles isn’t willing to share Maia full-time with anyone other than Ramone, so Luigi lives on my bedside table.

I decided I wanted to try and make something like Ramone and Luigi. He’s a simple shape, and I have lots of old felted sweaters, wool felt and wool scraps.

Now for his pants.

The finished Antonio. He rotates between all of the kids.

I think he came out pretty close to the way Ramone and Luigi look. He’s a little long in the waist and he’s got more a body-builder’s type body than the others, so we call him the younger, more fit, brother.

Luigi and Ramone


How could somebody not enjoy owning chickens. They're social, entertaining, and they give you gifts constantly.

Ag Fair Cow

You will never see a cow cleaner than just before it's ready to walk into the show ring at an agricultural fair. Scrubbed, brushed and primped, I don't think I've ever seen such a clean cow tail or udder as on this girl.