Sunday, December 16, 2018

New Chicken Pen

When we moved to our new house, not only did we have to move ourselves, but we also had to move the chickens.  It was difficult to decide where to set up their new digs.  In the end, we built a pen around an old bodark tree with their coop serving as part of the fence on the north side.


We used our old peacock shed as the coop and used sections of old dog fencing for the pen.  Only one of the hens, the Americauna, has figured out she can fly over it.  She is half wild, anyway, so I'm not surprised.  Here's a look at it from the other side.

We didn't have quite enough dog fence to completely surround the tree, so we filled in with 6-foot woven wire.  The nice thing about the dog fence is the panels have built-in gates, like this.

The peacock shed has plenty of room for the hens.

We used 2X4s for the roosts.  These work better than round roosts because it allows them to sit down and cover their feet with their feathers to prevent frost damage to their toes.  We built shelves inside to store various things.

We store their food in metal trash cans in the corner and put up some hooks to hang rakes, etc. that are used to clean their coop.

We installed their nest boxes on the opposite side from the shelves.  

Annie, the Americauna hen, has decided a nest on the floor is much better than the man-made nest boxes.  We discovered this nest over behind one of the trash cans after Tom observed her going behind the can several times.

It was difficult to get a good picture of it, but she had collected nesting material from the nest boxes, along with feathers, and built her own nest on the floor.  We have to check there for eggs everyday.  Quite often, there are one or two.

We put a bale of straw for them outside every couple of weeks.  It doesn't take long for them to tear it apart and keeps them occupied for several days.  It also serves the purpose of covering the bare ground with mulch and keeps it from getting muddy.

All in all, we must have done a good job of building the new pen because a wild turkey hen has taken up residence there, as well.  She roosts in the bodark tree, but spends a great deal of time in the pen with the chickens.  They don't seem to mind her company.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Jerusalem Artichokes aka Sunchokes

Before I begin, let me say that Jerusalem Artichokes are not artichokes at all, but are tubers produced by plants similar to sunflowers.  The name, in fact, comes from the Italian word "girasole" which is the Italian word for sunflower.  Here's what they look like while in flower.

This past month we had some for Thanksgiving dinner.  The chokes are best if you wait until after frost before you dig them.  In fact, you can just leave them in the ground all winter, digging them as needed.  As you can see below, we had a bumper crop this year and this is just part of them.

The tubers are knotty and require quite a bit of cleaning to get the dirt out of all the grooves.  Tom had his work cut out for him, but it was a nice day, so he got some fresh air and sunshine.

When finished he had a large bucket almost full.

I roasted them in the oven using a very simple recipe.  I cut the larger ones in two so they were all about the same size.  Doused them with olive oil.  Added salt and pepper and cooked at 375 degrees until soft.  I stirred them a couple of times during cooking.  Here's a before picture.

Here's after they were cooked.

They are quite tasty, having a somewhat nutty flavor.  I have a friend who made "chips" from them by slicing them thin and cooking them in the oven at 450 degrees.  I've not tried this, but that is on my to-do list.