A reader shares chicken care advice and a few foods tips.
The following scraps of wisdom come from experience. I learned most of these food tips "the hard way", and I hope — by passing them along — I can make life just a little easier for a few other folks.
First: Never, never clean a chicken house and disinfect it completely. Always leave a few droppings scattered about. Chicken manure, as many of you know, is high in protein . . . in fact, this substance is so protein-rich that it's being pelletized now and fed as a body-building ration to beef cattle. So it naturally follows that each hen — while she scratches and mulls around — will ingest whatever she needs. Should you clean all the droppings away, however, you might find your birds becoming so "meat hungry" that they'll start to peck at each other. And that cannibalism can grow until you end up with a bunch of dead chickens.
Tip two: Don't ever try to set an old biddy hen on a concrete floor, even if you have a six-inch layer of dirt over it. Her eggs — at least most of them — will just lie there and rot.
Another thing I'd like to tell you about is a great way to preserve green beans ... and a yummy recipe for eating them later on.
First off, you should pick the beans after the dew has dried in midmorning, and keep them as clean as possible. Then, when you bring them in, string the pods with a needle and heavy thread. ( Run the needle between the "lumps", so that you won't puncture the beans inside.)
Next, hang the strings in a darkened room (or at least out of direct sunlight) and pin an old worn dishcloth ( or — better yet — cheesecloth) around them to keep the fly specks off while they dry. The legumes will turn a pale yellow or almost white.
When you're ready to cook your dried vegetables, simply snip off their ends with scissors, wash the beans in tepid water, throw them into an iron pot with just enough water to cover, and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Put the lid on the pot and set it on your stove over low heat. (Or cook the beans — at the "simmer" setting — in your crockpot. )
If you start this dish about 10:00 a.m., you should let it cook until 2:00 p.m. and then add some salt pork, bacon rinds, hocks, leftover ham (or what have you), a little pepper (I use dried whole peppers from my garden), a whole onion, and a few potatoes. Cook this mix until 6:00 p. m. ... and get set for some good eatin' !
And if you'd like some great biscuits to go with your one-pot supper, here's my family's favorite biscuits recipe:
Sift together 5 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of baking powder, 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of sugar, and then cut in 3/4 cup of shortening.
After that, mix 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 package of dry yeast, and 1/2 cup of water. Let the mixture stand until it foams to the top of the cup before you blend it into the other ingredients.
Next, add 2 cups of buttermilk (or 1 3/4 cups of whole milk that has been combined with 1/4 cup of vinegar and allowed to sit for four minutes).
Roll the dough (until it's about half an inch thick) on a floured board, and cut the biscuits out with a water glass dipped in flour. Then just put them on a greased pan, pop them into a 400° F oven, and bake them until they're golden brown.
When you've shaped as many biscuits as you need for supper, cover the rest of the dough and put it in the refrigerator to be cut and cooked the next morning. And, for a real breakfast treat, top those a.m. "shortbreads" with sugar and cinnamon before you bake them.