In June of 2008 we purchased our first chicks. They were already getting a few of their pin feathers in place of the fluff. When they had enough feathers to move outside, they did so during the day and I brought them in at night. Their first outdoors home was the dog’s crate with the floor removed. They loved exploring their new world.
One of the new girls was an Easter Egger as they are sometimes called. She was a very hardy bird and the only one left of the original flock until today. She had been slowing down and yesterday was injured. She died today. As I buried her, the other hens were looking on from the other side of their fence. I thought they might be mourning but realized they only wanted to see if I was digging up any bugs!
Our brown chicken was a great layer for quite a long time and healthy for so long. She lived 6 1/2 years – a long time for chickens. She lived a lot longer than any industrial bird and she had a great life in our yard.
We had not been getting any eggs from the younger hens for about a month and I was seriously considering culling them and starting some new girls. When I was cleaning the coop this afternoon, I found this:
Maybe she thought she should get busy laying or I might bury her like I did her flockmate!
Fig beetles were winning. They had been swarming over the fig tree and eating the ripe fruit. They are really annoying bugs. They seem to fly randomly and will bump into anything including the side of the house. Do they have eyes?
So, a backyard harvest took place this morning. I gathered all of the figs – ripe now or not. I also decided that since we had the ladder out that my husband and I should gather the the rest of the pomegranates.
A morning of food preservation then began. The figs were washed and prepped for jam. Some of the figs were past ripe and beginning to ferment. Now I know why those bugs were flying so haphazardly – they were drunk on fermented figs!
Pomegranates are juicy so we made a giant mess getting seeds out of the pomegranates. We purchased a plastic grid device (pictured below) that assists in removing the seeds. It did a pretty good job so if you have a pomegranate tree and want to easily remove the seeds you might want to try it. After seeding and a spin in the food processor, we had five cups of pomegranate juice. Jelly making will take place soon.
During the Master Food Preserver training, we learned about vacuum sealing. I did not own a vacuum sealer but was intrigued by the idea. When I checked out the Food Saver machines, I decided that they were too pricey for the amount I thought I would use one so I let that idea go. Food Saver had a little rechargeable unit that you could use with their own brand of zip top bags. I liked that idea better as you could wash out and reuse the bags. So, I bought the little handheld pump and some of their bags. What a waste of money – the one way valve on the freezer bags came off the bags in the freezer and so the bags lost their air tight seal. Then the handheld pump refused to hold a charge. Bummer.
Then, I came across a Ziploc vacuum sealer at the store. A simple hand pumped device and better bags (they actually hold the seal in the freezer) for about $4. Then, this little pump got a whole other life when I purchased some cleverly designed tapes from www.pump-n-seal.com. Pump-n-Seal also sells a hand pump but I already had the Ziploc one and so I did not order theirs. Now I can seal Mason jars. I punch a hole in the lid of a canning jar with a pushpin and cover it with a piece of the tape. Fill the jar, place on the lid, screw on the ring, and pump! An airtight jar that is so sealed that I often cannot get the lid off unless I loosen the tape.
We now use this system all of the time. Pantry items are well-sealed. Dehydrated items stay fresher. Freshly roasted coffee can de-gas with this small one way valve. I also have use this system when fermenting because the gasses that are emitted during fermentation can escape and then the little tape seals back down and acts as an airlock.