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Archive for June, 2010

OK…so I’ve been thinking about having a front yard produce stand for the past 3 years.  With the addition of our front yard garden beds, we’ve been able to grow enough veggies for our family and to have plenty to share.  I’m EXCITED to say, today was the debut of “Pommerenk Produce”.  Within minutes of placing the veggies outside we had our first “takers” and more neighbors continue to stop by.  Today’s offerings were: cucumbers (3 different varieties), zucchini, sugar snap peas, green beans and grape tomatoes.

I can’t believe it’s been 8 weeks since we put the first seeds and seedlings in the ground.  Everything is thriving and soon we’ll be harvesting our first potatoes and corn of the season.  The kids and I will be spending some time tomorrow starting some new seeds we got over the weekend.  This will be our first attempt at starting seeds in containers and then transplanting them into the garden.  As always, if you’re in the area stop by.

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I’ve had a few people ask me lately about how to go about building a chicken coop so I thought it would make a good post.  We built our entire coop and run for about $200.  Most of the wood used to construct the coop was scraps we either had in our garage or we got from family & friends.  Our biggest expense was purchasing the chicken wire that covers the entire run. 

 

The “run” (where the girls hang out most of the day) is about 8′ x 12′ and about 5 1/2′ high.  I really wanted a big space for the hens to have lots of room to cruise around in when they weren’t out in the yard.  We have a raised “coop” (where the hens sleep at night) that the hens can relax under during the day, it’s about 4′ x 5′, not including the nesting boxes.  The space requirements you need per chicken are 4 sq ft in the coop and 10 sq ft in the run. 

We have 3 nesting boxes (where the chickens lay their eggs), and the girls generally share the boxes and only lay in one or two of them.  If I were to build another coop I would only have 2 nesting boxes.  I definitely like having access to the nesting boxes from outside the coop.  The pull-up hatch door makes egg collecting very easy, especially for the kids.

Even though we live in a very urban area we still have wildlife in the neighborhood.  We were extra cautious and poured a cement foundation to prevent any critters (raccoons, foxes, possums, coyotes, etc.) from digging under the run to get in.  We used standard 1 inch hexagonal chicken wire (poultry netting) to enclose the whole run to keep the chickens in and to keep predators out.  I asked Steve to build the run high enough for me to be able to walk in comfortably and I’m glad we did.  It’s really easy to keep the area clean and to change the hens food and water. 

Chickens “roost” at night, meaning they sleep on a branch or 2×4 piece of wood inside the coop.  A lot of poop falls to the ground in the coop.  I knew I wanted to do the “deep litter method” inside the coop so I wouldn’t have to clean out the poop every week.  I had Steve build the bottom of the coop to accommodate for 12-18 inches of pine shavings used to line the bottom of the coop.  All I do is add new pine shavings into the coop every month or so along with a sprinkling of food grade diatomaceous earth.  Every 2-3 days I “fluff” the pine shavings and poop around in the bottom of the coop.  The diatomaceous earth helps to dry out the poop and eliminate the odor.  I’ve really been surprised that our coop isn’t stinky.  With the deep litter method I only have to change out the pine shavings every year and they go straight into the compost bin. 

Just recently, with the addition of the new chicks, we’ve made some modifications to the coop.  We’ve added a “nursery” inside the run to separate the big hens from the little pullets (teenage chickens).  The “little girls” should be able to join the “big girls” when they are about 12-15 weeks old.  We just need them to be big enough to defend themselves from the other hens as the pecking order gets re-established when they are first introduced together. 

Our first egg

Our 1st egg

As I’ve said before, I’ve learned pretty much all that I know about raising chickens from Backyard Chickens.com.  It’s a great site to get ideas about building coops and for learning how to take care of chickens.  Let me know if you have specific questions on how we do things.  I’m learning as a go and I’d love to help others get started.

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I’ve been baking and cooking for years, but now that I have kids I’ve begun having lots of fun decorating birthday cakes.  Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to make a Train Cake for Jack’s 2nd birthday, the son of our good friends Bob & Kay.

At the party, the kids went crazy over how the cake looked, but the adults went crazy over how good it tasted.  The cake was made using my favorite Meyer Lemon Cake recipe…super moist and lemony.  You can make it too…

Meyer Lemon Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh meyer lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons fresh meyer lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. Grease and flour bottom, sides and center tube of a 9 or 10-inch tube pan (or bundt pan) with at least 3 3/4-inch high sides.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking dosa and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until thickened and lightened to a cream color, about 2 minutes.
  5. On low speed, beat in 1 cup oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until blended.
  6. Blend in flour mixture; when incorporated, mix in sour cream until no white streaks remain.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  8. Bake on center oven rack until top feels firm and toothpick comes out clean.  About 65 minutes.
  9. Let cake rest in pan for 15 minutes, then run knife around edge of cake and tube in center.
  10. Invert cake onto wire rack.
  11. Frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on low speed to beat butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, zest and vanilla until smooth.
  12. Beat in sugar until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  13. Frost cake.  Cake can be covered and stored in refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  14. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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Garden Fresh Pesto

Ellie and I picked a bunch of basil today and I got busy in the kitchen making some tasty pesto.  I did a variation of my normal pesto and added some spinach this time.  I actually made the pesto with 1/2 basil and 1/2 spinach and it turned out fabulous…here’s what I did!!!

Garden Fresh Pesto

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine (or water)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed very tight
  • 1 cup spinach leaves, packed very tight
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Makes about a 12oz jar of pesto, enough to toss with a 16oz bag of pasta.  In addition to the pesto, I usually toss the pasta either with fresh grape tomatoes cut in half or julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes and then a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

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Our nectarine tree is exploding right now and I can only eat 4 or 5 nectarines a day, Ellie can eat MORE !!!  If you’re in the area please stop by and get some, we’ve got plenty to share.  If not, try stopping by your local Farmer’s Market and pick up some fresh ripe nectarines.  This easy and refreshing tart recipe is so good I’ve already made it twice.  It originally appeared in the July 2002 issue of Bon Appetit.

Nectarine & Crystallized Ginger Tart

Ingredients

Crust

  • 25 gingersnap cookies, coarsely broken (about 6 ounces; about 2 1/4 cups pieces)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger*

Topping

  • 4 to 5 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices
  • 1/4 cup peach or apricot jam, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger*

Preparation

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind gingersnaps in processor. Add butter and blend until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press mixture over bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake crust until color darkens, pressing sides with back of spoon if beginning to slide, about 8 minutes. Cool completely.

For filling:
Beat first 6 ingredients in medium bowl until smooth. Beat in crystallized ginger. Spread filling in prepared crust. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

For topping:
Overlap nectarine slices atop filling in concentric circles. Brush with jam. Sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger. Serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours.*Buy the crystallized ginger in the “bulk bins” at Whole Foods or a health food store…much less expensive than buying in the spice isle of a regular grocery store.

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