Thursday, July 28, 2011

Extreme bread pudding

I've been searching for a good bread pudding recipe for my whole life, and I finally figured it out myself. My husband and I took his mother out to eat for Mother's Day. I like to go to locally owned restaurants that make their food from scratch, partly so that I can get ideas for cooking at home. When it was time for dessert, the waiter described this bread pudding that sounded out of this world -- he said they made it with their homemade bread and their creme brulee. I ordered it without hesitation and was so terribly disappointed. There was way too much bread, and the bread tasted terrible. It made me wonder if they stretch the definition of homemade. Maybe he just said baked fresh or something that made me think of homemade, but really it was a frozen bread dough or something. I didn't eat much of the pudding at all, but it gave me an idea for making my own. Frankly, I can't believe I never thought of it sooner. Everyone loves my créme brulée pie, so I simply made a couple of adjustments and came up with this!

1/3 to 1/2 loaf of bread
2 cups goat milk (or whole cow's milk)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Cube bread and place in buttered 9 X 9 baking dish. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of bread. Mix milk, sugar, vanilla, and eggs in a blender on low for about 15 seconds. Pour over bread crumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

I like adding the chocolate chips because I like chocolate, and honestly, it doesn't take much chocolate to satisfy a craving. You wind up with six or seven chocolate chips on each serving, which means you get a bit of chocolate in every bite, and that makes me happy!

For more recipes check out Hearth and Soul Blog Hop!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coop de Hill

Richard's Coop de Hill sits behind his vegetable garden, near his bee hives.
If you want a chicken coop that sits in one place like Grandma's did (as opposed to the movable coop in my last post), you might be interested in this picturesque coop built by Chicago's Mindful Metropolis Publisher Richard McGinnis for the backyard layers at his rural farm Thorny Hill Manor, from which he works or commutes into the city by rail.

Here are the stats from Richard:
The coop is 6’ wide x 8’ deep – the walls are just over 6’, it is 10’ at the peak and it is raised 20” off the ground. It has four levels. The fenced in part under the coop where the hatch and ramp are is also 6’ X 8’ and opens out into a 7’ x 12’ outdoor covered run. The interior of the coop has a main floor that is 6’ x 6’, a common nest box that is about 1’ deep and 6’ long with outside access, two additional hanging nest boxes on the wall, a roost above the common nest box (with an outside door for easy cleaning of the roost pan) and a large storage loft for feed and bedding, etc.
This is the back of the coop. You can see the ramp under the coop
that allows the chickens to come and go through a hole in the floor.
You can also see several doors in the back of the coop:
the bottom one is for gathering eggs from the nest box;
the middle ones are for cleaning the roosts;
and the top ones open to a storage area.

One of the things I especially love about Richard's coop is that more than half of the building materials were recycled or repurposed -- and it is so cute, which proves that we can be fashionable and green at the same time.

And here are a couple of construction photos to give you a better idea of how it is put together:

Unlike most coops that have chickens coming and going through a door in a wall, this one has the chicken door in the floor!

The yellow door at the front of the house is also a chicken door, but Richard only lets his hens out to run around the yard when he is there to supervise. When he is gone, the chickens can use the door in the floor to go into the run, where they are protected from predators. "I am gone a lot, so they can stay out all day, and when I get home at night, all I do is reach in and close the trap door because they are all roosting already," explains Richard. "I feel pretty confident the whole set up is reliably predator resistant, but nothing is predator-proof, so I like locking the trap door at night."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

City chicken condo

My oldest daughter, who now lives in a city, decided she wants backyard chickens, and we were happy to help out. After looking at a variety of portable, bottomless chicken coops online, we designed and built this one for her.

The base needed to be four feet by eight feet so it could fit into the bed of our pick-up to move it to her house after we made it at our place. (The hens were transported in that dog crate.)

The base is made with 2X4s and is four feet wide by eight feet long.

It was helpful to have two people working on it together.

There were ten, four-foot long pieces that connected the base to the top of the A-frame, creating four two-foot sections. The 2X4s are two feet apart because the three front sections will be covered with chicken wire, which is two feet wide. A roll of chicken wire is 25 feet long, and we needed 24 feet to cover the run. The coop area contains two nest boxes that are each one square foot.

The nest box is removable to make it easier to clean.

The coop section is a two-foot section on one end, which we enclosed with a plywood wall on one side and a plywood door on the other side. The door is on the nest box side (right side in this photo), so you can feed and water the chickens, check for eggs, and clean out the nest box when necessary.

We painted all of the exposed wood with red barn paint, and we put a piece of metal over the top of the coop to keep rain from dripping down on the girls when they're sitting on their roost.

The ridge vent is high enough that the door can be opened and closed without it scraping the top of the coop. We put translucent plastic siding on the front and back to let light into the coop. The plastic is one foot off the ground between the coop and the run, so the hens can run in and out of their coop whenever they want.

And here is the coop in my daughter's yard before we put the hens in it. I wanted a bottomless pen so the chickens could be moved to fresh grass every couple days. It also eliminates the need for bedding or litter in the coop, and the lawn is automatically fertilized. The yellow rope on the front is attached to the base, so the coop can easily be moved by one person. There is also a rope on the other end, so the coop can be moved in either direction.

And here are the four occupants. Two are two-year-old New Hampshire hens, and the other two were hatched this spring -- a white one with feathered feet (obviously a descendent of a brahma, a breed we had several years ago) and a barred rock. These lucky four were chosen because they refuse to leave our goat barn, so we had to literally hunt for eggs every day. No doubt in a couple months, an unfound, rotten one will explode, which is not pleasant for anyone with a nose. Four hens is the limit for this particular design because of the length of the roost in the coop. Throughout the coop and run, the hens have eight square feet each, which is more than 16 times the amount of space that factory farm layers have. (And the factory farm hens don't have grass and sunshine.)

The feeder sits under the nest box, and the waterer sits in the run. There is a two-inch space between the nest box and the door, so Mike put a little shelf on the door to cover that crack so that chicken poop doesn't fall into the feeder from the nest box. After this picture was taken, and before the hens were introduced to their new home, straw was put into the nest boxes.

And here is a New Hampshire hen in the coop. They duck their head to walk in.

It was really exciting to work on this project for our daughter. I've been a big cheerleader for city chickens for years, and it was fun to actually create a movable pen and figure out how to make chickens work in our daughter's yard.
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