Editor’s Note: We brought back chicken expert Lisa Steele to share with you essential info for raising your own flock. Pull up a chair – it’s going to be good!
Editor’s Note: We are so happy to welcome back Lisa Steele as our guest blogger! She is a fifth-generation chicken keeper who has been around chickens most of her life. Today she’s sharing her wisdom on how to pick out the right flock for you and your family.
With more than a hundred breeds of chickens to choose from here in the United States online from hatcheries, breeders or your local feed store, finding the best breed of chickens for your needs can get pretty overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose just one breed. And in fact, a mixed flock will give you a more colorful egg basket and more interesting group of chickens.
Years ago, when all 7 of the kids were home, a flock of chickens was a necessity. I could go through 18 eggs for a single breakfast and custard for that hungry bunch used up another dozen. Things have changed. Only my youngest remains at home and a dozen eggs lasts me for several days, even with the occasional batch of custard. A big flock of layers seems like overkill, especially as most of the neighbors have chickens too. Continue reading
Seems like everyone I know who has kids has, at some point, wished to stop time. When the little one stands on her own for the first time. When the last kid has Senior Night for football. Continue reading
Keeping chickens takes just a few minutes a day.
When everyone in your household is either at work or school all day, it can be daunting to think about getting a pet dog or cat, much less a flock of backyard chickens! But in reality, chickens are very easy to raise once you have your set-up and routine figured out.
Planning the best Thanksgiving turkey ever? Shelley, Lehman’s Merchandising Assistant, has been brining her family’s Thanksgiving bird for the past several years, and she shared her simple recipe with us. Brining the turkey for at least 12 hours before roasting makes it extra moist, and this recipe gives the meat a slightly sweet flavor (which Shelley says her brood loves). Try it this year – it’s quick, easy and it just may become part of your Turkey Day tradition.
Classic Turkey Brine
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup coarse salt (such as sea salt or pink salt)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 orange, juiced and rind finely grated
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 turkey, 12-15 lb (thaw turkey and remove giblets before brining)
- Ice (enough to cover turkey)
- large stockpot and/or storage container with lid (such as a 5-gallon bucket or 4-gallon bucket)
In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients except turkey and ice. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Chill. Place the turkey, brining liquid and ice in stockpot or lidded bucket and let stand up to 12 hours, refrigerated (overnight works well). Roast and feast!
When folks hear I work from my home and I’m a homesteader, they make some pretty lofty assumptions when it comes to my dinner table. It is true that I am lucky and blessed
to have good food, good animals, and good people all around me and that makes for some amazing homegrown fare. However, as a single woman running a farm by herself, time isn’t always available to make sure everything is basted, brined, and tables are set with cloth napkins. In truth, some days are so long and exhausting on the farm that the last thing I want to do is cook. And that is why I am grateful for the amazing Dutch Oven.
The design has not changed in centuries, and why should it? A cast-iron dutch oven is all you need to create one-pot meals like chicken and biscuits or savory stews. During our harsh upstate winters, and even now in springtime, Cold Antler Farm depends on its dutch ovens more than ever. They are the original crock pot, the ideal slow cooker, and easy to care for while lasting forever. When people new to farm cooking ask me what they should get, I tell them before they even order a stove they should get a cast-iron skillet and dutch oven, because that is the original homesteader’s grill and oven.
The most basic chicken dinner this farm does happens in a cast-iron dutch oven. All that is needed is a defrosted whole chicken (small enough to fit inside the oven), some olive oil, chicken rub, and root vegetables of your choice. Around here everyone grows potatoes, parsnips, carrots and rutabagas: all make fine bottom veggies for your meal! I strongly encourage you to chop fresh kale as well, as there is no better way to enjoy kale than oiled under a chicken! I promise!
I roughly chop the carrots, taters, and other vegetables and place them in a pile, half filling the cast-iron container. (If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can do the same with a deep skillet.). All vegetables get a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chicken-rub herbs and with my two clean hands I make sure all get a good coating of oil and herb. Once that is done, the bird is set on top. The root vegetables act as a natural lift for the chicken, letting the hot air circulate all around the bird and the juices and fats to drip onto the vegetables below, which is exactly what you want!
I preheat my oven to 425 and let the bird get a flash roast to brown the skin. This only
lasts about fifteen minutes and then the temperature is lowered to 350. I let the bird sit in that oven while I do chores, go hunting in the back field, take the horse out for some training or a cart ride. That oven does all the work for you. In about two hours a fat chicken is falling off the bone and you know it is done when you can grab a back drumstick and it falls right off into your hands, separating from the rest of the roasted bird easily. Another test is to make sure that when you pierce the breast the juices that flow out are clear and not red or bloody at all. These are the ways homesteaders checked their birds before every kitchen had thermometers and cooking shows selling the latest electronic gadgets. They are good tips to know!
This all may sound involved and complicated, but it isn’t. Try it a few weekends and before you know it, it’ll take you less than five minutes to chop your vegetables, oil them, and place a bird on top. Then the oven does all the work for you! Easy.
So get some cast iron, get a fat farm chicken, and dice up those potatoes, folks, because after you start roasting birds in cast iron at home you’ll never go back to any other way. And the best part? Once the meal is done and everyone has had a good helping of meat and vegetables you can add a few cups of chicken stock and some salt and butter and set it on the stovetop to heat up into a fine stew. Meals need to stretch around here as long as a rooster’s tail feather. And to have a tool you can roast in, then set the same meal on the stovetop and make a hearty stew in is a farmer’s blessing.
Happy Spring to you all, and may it be filled with many fine meals!
Editor’s Note: Welcome to new blogger for Lehman’s Country Life, Janet Pesaturo. Janet is the writer and photographer at OurOneAcreFarm.com, where she blogs about backyard farming, sustainable living, and nature.
Birds are beginning to sing, the daffodils are poking up, and it’s time to think about baby animals. Spring is a wonderful time to plan for a new flock of chickens, and if that’s what you’re planning, you have many choices ahead of you. One important decision is which breed(s) to raise. The wide variety makes selection a rather daunting task, but also ensures that you’ll find at least one to fit your needs and desires. Chicken breeds differ in many ways, from productivity to appearance to temperament, and more. Exploring the options will help you choose. Continue reading
From all of us at Lehman’s, our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.