Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Warm Apple Crisp

Remember this: It is fall and you are at Grandma's house for a visit. The leaves are changing outside making the mountains full of reds, yellows, and oranges that seem to wrap you up in beauty. The air is crisp and you have been outside playing with your kids and your trusty dog. You decide to come in to warm up just as the sun is setting. You wonder what Grandma and Grandpa have been up to. As soon as you open the door, a sweet delicate aroma touches your senses beckoning you to go straight to the kitchen. All the lights are on along the way with the floor creaking beneath your feet as you walk. As you walk towards the kitchen the aroma only becomes more desiring. You walk in the kitchen and there is Grandma by the oven pulling out what she has been baking. She sees your rosy cheeks from playing in the cold and asks you to sit down at the table. While looking at her with love and endearment, she brings you a bowl of warm apple crisp. As you put the first slice into your mouth, the warmth immediately makes you feel as though she just wrapped you up in a blanket fresh out of the dryer. As you eat, you excitedly tell her how much fun playing outside was and how you felt like a kid again. She gets up to serve your children some and all the noise seems to dissipate into the air as you are caught up reliving the same memories your children are making at that instant. You realize how wonderful life really is and that these precious moments with your family are the ones that last. They are the ones you yearn for and keep you going through the tough times. They are the ones that your children will be telling their children as they are growing up. You are truly happy. Oh how wonderful is Grandma's house!

Now that you are wanting to relive the same experience I had while eating this, lets begin!

Set oven to 400 degrees.

Begin by slicing and coring 4 apples and placing them in a pyrex or casserole dish. You can peel them if you want to as well but it takes more time.

Pour 1/4 Cup Hot water into the dish.

Sprinkle as much Cinnamon onto the apples as you want. The recipe suggests 1/2 tsp Cinnamon but this was not enough for me so I put on more.

Sprinkle 1/2 Cup Sugar onto the apples.

In another bowl, combine:

1 Tbs. Melted Butter
1 Egg
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda

Pour this batter on top of the sugar and cinnamon coated apples. Try to spread it evenly but if not, it is no big deal.

Place a few slices of butter on top and place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes or until the apples are golden brown.

One other thing that you can do is to add Granola to your dish. Use a spoon to add it on top before you put it in the oven. I actually didn't have an granola at the time so I use the cereal "Honey Bunches of Oats." It still turned out great!

Welcome back to Grandma's house!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chicken Palace

Overview: This is my most recent creation and probably one of my favorites! It is the biggest because it has taken me the longest time out of all my other projects and it was the biggest in regards to square footage. I was asked by my friends dad to turn one side (230 sq. ft) of his barn into a place for his 28 chickens. I call it a palace because it is so big. All he had before was a little coop which he used to grow his chicks but soon grew too big for it, plus they were making a mess all around his yard. I did the majority myself while asking for help for a few hours from a great friend.

Here you can see what it looked like before. This area was actually used for pigs back in the day which is why there are metal posts which held fences to separate the pigs. As you can see, there are four posts holding up the roof structure. He wanted me to build walls in between them that could be easily removed to clean out the area and durable enough to be moved around and put back into place many times. It was somewhat of a challenge to figure out how to tie them all together but I feel our solution will work out really well and for many years to come!

This is a look from the other direction and here you can see what his old coop looked like. It was definitely not big enough for 28 hens!

He first had me read a few chapters out of this book to get the dimensions right for the roosts, nests, and total square feet. It says that if you are putting your large chickens in a cage, then you need to have 4 sq. ft per chicken at least. If they don't have this much room then it is very easy for them to get sick. Really this book was almost a perfect resource because it had so many useful facts that would've never known had I not read it. Also, if you are looking to raise any other type of farm animal, there is a whole series of them.

This is the final view! I am sorry that the pictures are so dark. I thought I had arrived there in time to get some better lighting but these will do. The wall sections are framed and painted white with chicken wire attached to the back to hold the chickens.

This is from the other side. If you notice on your right is the back of the bests with a shelf on top for storage. To the left of that is the door to enter into the palace.

This was our solution to tying all the walls together with the existing posts. We ended up drilling a 1/2" hole through all 11" of wood and putting a bolt through it with a wing-nut on the end so that all someone has to do to remove the wall is to unscrew four wing-nuts, push the bolts back and off comes that section of wall! Then you can clean out or add to the palace all you want and have room to spare.

Here, I built two "Chicken Doors" so that a person can open them up to let the chickens out instead of having to take a whole wall section off. The other door is further down on a different wall section.

This is the back of the nest area. The owner will soon put fake grass on top of a sloped wire bed so that when the hens lay their eggs, they will roll down behind a piece of plywood so that they won't eat them. The owner will then open this little door to take the eggs.

This is the main door to enter into the chicken palace to start an adventure.

Here we see some hens actually in the nests when they aren't supposed to be. Even though we put put some plywood, they still fit through the cracks to settle in. We took them out and re-covered them so that they don't reside in the nests until they are ready to lay eggs in a few months. You don't want them to stay in the nests until they can lay eggs because they will make the area very dirty.

The owner hung a chicken feeder three inches off the ground from the roof rafter by a chain.

Here is the roosting area. Chicken usually sleep by roosting which means both of their feet are on something skinny like a 2x4 piece of wood that is off of the ground. They do this because they feel more safe off of the ground further away from any predators. You need about ten inches of roost space per chicken so here we have almost 30 feet of roosting space. Where there is no coop or cage to stay in, chickens will usually roost in trees at night. We also built this roost because it is better to have a roost and a nest separate so that the nests stay cleaner.

I sure hope you enjoyed this little adventure! I loved this project and it was great to finally see it finished and inhabited!