Roosting Chickens

…as a bryd that retorneth agayn to his owene nest.

The above quote indicates that even in Chaucer’s day, people noted the tenacity with which chickens will return to their roost at night. The phenomenon has even been studied scientifically, with the study authors noting “When perches were not accessible, the hens showed signs of frustration and/or increased exploration.”

Our layers’ roosting houses were moved in small increments a few times from March through June. In July we finally had the opportunity to move the houses 150 feet away. We thought it would be close enough that the chickens would see the roosts and adapt to the new spot.

Alas, it was not.

We realized several days after the move the the chickens were assembling at their old roosting spot, which was outside the new boundary of our livestock guardian animal. One of the indicators that something was up was that our egg production seemed to go way down. In reality the chickens were laying in more odd places because the nest boxes were also moved.

We ended up moving the roost houses within 30 feet of their old location, with an absolute clear line of sight, and with a little help the chickens were able to re-orient themselves back to safety.

Such are the trials of chicken farmers when they fight a bird’s natural instincts.

Surprise Calf

While out doing my chores, I ran into this little guy (and his mother).

We bred his mother last fall, but had reasons to think that it had not taken. We wondered why it was proving so difficult to catch her “in heat” so that she could be bred again.

Mom and calf are both up and seem to be doing well. Mom will get some special treatment for a few days.

Garlic Scape Pesto

I make this recipe with ratios. Do the ratio by volume, say, 1 cup to 1 cup to 1 cup to 1/2 cup. (By the way, Ratio by Michael Ruhlman talks more about how cooking is really only a matter of finding the right ratio or proportion. Interesting book!)

1 part scapes*, chopped into 1 inch pieces** (1/2 lb is about 2 cups)
1 part nut – any nut or seed you like – we tend to use walnuts or sunflower seeds
1 part cheese – any cheese you like – we tend to use Parmesan or cheddar
1/2 part oil – any oil or fat you like – we tend to use olive oil

Blend in the blender or process in the food processor. The blender takes more oil, the food processor less. I prefer the food processor. The flavor of this mellows with refrigeration. The pesto can also be frozen. We eat it with veggies, crackers or bread OR eat it plain.

*I use most of the scape. If the stem end is firm or not pliable, like the firm, not-pliable-end of asparagus, I don’t use that part. I find where on the scape it bends naturally and then use it from that point on toward the tip. From the tip end, I only use it if it is fresh. Once it gets dried-grass-like, I cut it back toward the flower umbel and don’t use that part. I do use the pliable stem and as much of the flower and tip as I can.

**I have found that one way to cut these is to put the ends of 5-8 scapes together and sort to straighten them so that you can cut 1 inch off. You sort of hold them together like a coil and feed it out from one hand and cut with the other hand. OR do them 1 scape at a time.

2020 Update – I have found that my food processor only holds about 6 cups. I have also found that I like 1 to 1/2 to 1/2 to 1/4 in proportions. So this year I did this:

  • 3 cups trimmed scapes
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped nuts (shredded in the shredder/grater)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

I layered the scapes, nuts, and cheese in the food processor and then processed it on high. After about 30 sec., I added the oil as it was still spinning. Sometimes I would add some more oil, but usually not. This ended up with a thick mixture that we use as a dip or a spread. If I want to use it in a salad, I would thin it with oil and vinegar dressing.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

Years ago we found this recipe for Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake. It works well with fresh or frozen rhubarb. Nutmeg and rhubarb were meant for each other. This recipe demonstrates that.
After baking, this cake can be flipped upside down so that the rhubarb is on the top. OR it can be served, as is, from the pan. It doubles well. Below is my rendition of the recipe.

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake


TOPPING (OR the part you put in the pan first)

  • 3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb .5-.6 lb is about 2 cups
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour or cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg - essential!
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour OR combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg - essential!
  • 1/4 tsp salt - optional
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream optional


  • Place rhubarb in a well-greased 10-in. heavy oven-proof skillet. Combine sugar, arrowroot and nutmeg; sprinkle over rhubarb. Drizzle with butter; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Add the butter, sugar, egg and milk until well-blended. Spread over rhubarb mixture.
  • Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Loosen edges immediately and invert onto a serving dish. I put the serving dish upside down over the baking dish. Firmly holding the 2 parts together, I quickly turn them upside down. Then I let it sit a little to let the cake and rhubarb settle onto the serving dish. Sometimes I need to pull some of the rhubarb off the baking dish and on to the cake.
  • Serve warm or cold. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Original recipe

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Several years ago we found a recipe called Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake and used it at Easter for our Easter breakfast. The original recipe has a layer of cake, a layer of strawberry rhubarb filling and another layer of cake. Not wanting to take time to make the layers, I mixed it all together. Here is the recipe with that adaptation.

Strawberry Rhubarb Coffeecake


Fruit portion

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 TBSP arrowroot powder OR 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb or frozen rhubarb .5-.6 lb. is about 2 cups
  • 1 package 10 ounces frozen strawberries (OR fresh; either way, I do slice or quarter these.)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cake portion

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour OR combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk OR 1 TBSP vinegar - any kind - added to 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Crumb topping, optional

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


Fruit portion

  • In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in rhubarb and strawberries as they are, fresh or frozen. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in lemon juice. Cool.

Cake portion

  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Mix in melted butter. Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla; stir until moistened. Mix in fruit portion until evenly mixed. Pour into a 13x9 in pan or 2 round cake pans.

Optional topping portion

  • Combine sugar and flour in a small bowl; add melted butter until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean and cake is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 12-15 servings.

Original recipe

Scapes and Rhubarb

Chicks! From the Post Office?

Lots of things come from the Post Office: bills, refund checks, Amazon packages, catalogs, magazines. But did you know that we get baby chicks in the mail? That’s right!

Box chicks come in

We get day old chicks from a hatchery in Pennsylvania. They are hatched at the beginning of the week, shipped overnight or 2 day air, and we get them when they are a day or two old. We get a phone call from the Post Office that they have arrived and then we go pick them up. Here is a picture of a box with baby chicks. This box holds 100 chicks – 25 in each quarter. So yes, our baby chicks really do come from the Post Office.

About 25 chicks in 1 quarter of the box

How can the chicks survive the trip? They have each other to stay warm as they travel. As for food, my understanding is that part of the egg stays inside the chick and feeds the chick for the first week of its life. So the chick doesn’t need a lot of food and water right away, which allows hatcheries to ship birds.

Brooder – notice heat lamps above chicks

Once the chicks arrive here, we put them in a brooder in the barn. This is a protected area that keeps predators – weasels, rats, cats, hawks – out and keeps the chicks in. It also has heat lamps that the chicks can live under so they can stay warm until they have the necessary feathering to go outdoors. We dip their beaks in water so they can find the water in the future. Sometimes we also dip their beaks in the (non-gmo) feed, so that they can find that again as well. The birds will live in the brooder for 3-4 weeks depending on how they grow and feather out and depending on what the weather is like.

At 3-4 weeks we move them outdoors to a larger protected pen. They sleep in an old truck cap or in this moveable hut, eating grain, drinking water and eating grass and vegetation and insects. They are protected by fencing from our guard dog, Gaia, and she in turns protects them from other predators – weasels, rats, hawks, foxes and coyotes. We move them regularly to fresh grass.

Movable hut
Truck cap model with Gaia, the guard dog, in front

At 10-11 weeks we process them and sell them as fresh or frozen chicken. Our chickens will probably weigh between 3 and 6 lb.

So how can you get some chicken this year?

1. Join our meat CSA and get 1-2 chickens each month as part of the monthly share. Reply to this email to let us know you would like to be part of our monthly Meat CSA.
2. Pre-order chicken by putting $5.00 down on each chicken you would like. Any chickens that are pre-ordered will be $4.75 / lb. We can take the $5.00 in cash, in check or at our website by using a credit card or Paypal.
3. Purchase chicken as you want or need it for $5.50 / lb.

I hope you will purchase some chicken from us this year. Reply to this email if you have questions. And once you have done that I hope you can enjoy some fresh air and sunshine! We wish you strength and joy in your day!

One other note: Westcott Farmers Market is on Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m. If you would like regular emails about currently available items, subscribe here! See you soon!

Can You See the Sunshine?

Hungarian Goulash

Here is a delicious, oven slow-cooked beef recipe. It comes from Jenny McGruther at Nourished Kitchen. She has written several books, including one by the same name – The Nourished Kitchen – available both at amazon and OCPL.

Here is her recipe with my notes:


3 tablespoons lard, butter or oil
3 medium yellow onions, chopped fine (OR 3 cups of vegetable combination, like celery and mushrooms)
¼ cup sweet paprika
2 teaspoons whole caraway seeds
2 pounds beef chuck roast cubed (OR your choice of beef)
1 cup long-simmered beef bone broth, beef stock or water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (OR plain vinegar)

Heat the oven to 275 F.
Melt the lard or fat in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the onion or vegetables for a short time to begin to soften. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until soft and tender.
Stir the paprika and caraway seeds into the onion or vegetables, and then stir in the cubed beef, stirring constantly to prevent the paprika from burning. Cook the beef in the onions and spices about 4 minutes, then stir in the beef bone broth and vinegar. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Allow it to cook in the oven until the beef is tender, about 2½ to 3 hours.
Serve over noodles (OR some starch – rice, potatoes, bread).

Other notes: If possible, cook it on the top of the stove in the same pot as you will cook it in the oven. If not possible, you could transfer to a different dish to cook in the oven. Probably, you could also transfer it to a crockpot or slow cooker and cook it on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 5-6 hours. I haven’t tried that to see how that would work.


Jenny’s original recipe