June 27, 2013
A few weeks ago, Matt and I dove headfirst into something called the Whole30 program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, it is, in very basic terms, a highly restricted paleo-based diet that eliminates foods behind auto-immune issues and inflammation in the body. Because I, like so many other members of my family, suffer from a whole slew of autoimmune disorders, asthma included, I wanted to see if I had the power to alleviate my symptoms just by altering the foods I eat.
For those of you who are curious, Matt and I are 18 days into the program, and we've already noticed a whole load of encouraging positive changes. If you're interested in hearing an update about this once we're done (though we might extend our Whole30 to a Whole60+), I'll be happy to tell you how it's worked for me, but for now, lets get to the ghee!
Although fat consumption is encouraged in this program, it is very specific about the types of fats you can and cannot use. Unfortunately, this means that butter is not allowed, which was really difficult for me to accept at first. Mostly because I use butter to cook almost everything. Luckily, the problem with butter isn't the dairy fat, but with the milk proteins, which means that if you can find a way to eliminate the dairy solids (such as making ghee), you're good to go.
I've made homemade ghee in the past and loved it, but now it's a staple in my pantry. Especially because it's so easy to prepare. So now, whenever I see my favorite unsalted grass-fed butter on sale at the store, I load up on it so I can make large batches of ghee to keep me stocked up for months.
Even if you aren't on a paleo diet, ghee is an amazing addition to your pantry. It's delicious, has a high smoke point for cooking, and stays good for much longer than butter because you've boiled out all the dairy. To make your own homemade ghee:
Melt one or two pounds of unsalted grass-fed butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Once the butter melts completely and starts to boil, reduce heat to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for ten to fifteen minutes, or until the milk solids begin to separate and sink to the bottom.
Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally so the milk solids don't burn, until they turn a golden brown color. This will help infuse the ghee with a rich, nutty flavor.
Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, clean and dry the jars you're using to store the ghee. For reference, each pound of butter will fill one pint jar.
Using a sieve and a double layer of cheesecloth, strain the ghee into the jars, and cover with lids and bands. Discard the milk solids, or store in the freezer for baking (they're actually quite tasty if you don't have an intolerance to dairy).
When the ghee has come to room temperature, it will solidify, but will remain soft enough to scoop out easily. You can store it in your cupboard for up to a month and it will remain shelf stable, or you can store it in the refrigerator indefinitely. I tend to make several jars at once, and store all but one at a time in the refrigerator.
June 21, 2013
The chicken coop is finally done! Well, mostly. Minus a few minor adjustments and cosmetic touches, the coop is finished and fully functional, and the chickens are sleeping in the hen house at night instead of their basement brooder, which we promptly tore down. It was nice to reclaim all that space in the basement again.
These ladies still haven't figured out the new system, unfortunately. The night we finished their coop, we were out working on it until there was barely any sunlight left. By the time we were done and ready to put them in for the night, they were all huddled outside the basement door, ready to be let in for bed. These are creatures of habit, no doubt.
We snatched them up, and brought them up to the doorway of the hen house thinking they might go inside on their own. They wouldn't budge.
They were almost stubborn about it, squawking and flapping their wings every time we tried to coax one further in. Eventually, we grabbed Starbuck, the leader in their pecking order, and placed her up on the perch. She settled in and closed her eyes almost immediately while the others filed in after her. Not only are chickens creatures of habit, but they're also highly suggestible.
After watching them for a few minutes to make sure they were all sleeping, we closed the door and went in for the night, satisfied that they would be safe and warm, and enjoy their first night of total darkness.
The next morning, Matt went out before work and opened their hen house door that leads down the ramp into their run. When I checked on them an hour later, they were still in the hen house, but they were all awake and eating their food. They would sometimes huddle up near the door, but it didn't seem like they were ready to go down, so I decided to wait and see what would happen. I gave them another hour and a half before I finally went out and coaxed one of them down the ramp. Seconds later, they were all down and sitting on their perch in the run.
Later that day, I went out to the coop to bring the girls some food scraps. Instead of jumping down from their perch to gobble up their treat like usual, however, they all remained where they were, craning their necks while curiously staring at my offering. Eventually, Amelia Pond (the flier) flew up on my lap and ate while the others made a ruckus. It took me a minute, but I finally realized what the problem was: they were afraid of the straw we spread throughout their coop, and were acting like it was lava.
I took Amy down from my lap and placed her on the straw, but she immediately jumped back up to The Perch of Safety, so I grabbed Starbuck instead, and brought her down to where the food was. She was like Mmm, food! and started eating right away, and not two seconds later, the rest jumped off the perch to eat with her.
Conclusion: these chickens are big chickens. That said, I think they are very happy with their new accommodations, even if they haven't quite figured it all out yet.
Stay tuned for next week's chicken update, where I'll reveal the finished coop in full detail. Until then, have a great weekend, and happy first day of summer!
June 12, 2013
Blooming hydrangeas from the yard.
These ladies seem pretty happy with their new digs.
A new pair of simple wool ankle socks.
Sprouting peas, zucchini, onions, and basil.
A little matte black spray paint goes a long way.
Home blend pickling spice.
First Whole30 breakfast. Two days down - so far so good.
June 7, 2013
I know I snuck the picture of our chicken coop in last, but it's really starting to come together. Matt put up the walls and roof over the weekend, and with the help of my MIL and FIL, we were able to lift the hen house (formerly the dog house) onto its stand. That thing was heavy!
We still have a lot of work to do before we call this project done. As far as I can tell, we still have to attach the nest boxes, doors, windows, chicken ramp, trim, and then paint the hen house, but the run portion of the coop is fully functional. It's nice because now the chickens have somewhere to go during the day when Matt and I can't be outside with them. They still have to go back into the basement in the evenings until the hen house is finished, but hopefully we'll have it done within the next week or two.
One thing I should mention that really surprised me, and might be helpful to other beginners: our back yard isn't totally fenced in (yet), so the chickens could potentially escape if they really wanted to. This was something that worried me at first. I was convinced they'd try to hop the fence or run away, but they don't tend to move around all that much. Occasionally we have to herd them back toward us if they wander off too far while they forage, but for the most part, they seem content to stick around. They spend half their time preening and sleeping in the shade, anyway.