Posted in Chickens

Introducing Coco and Dottie

I’ve decided to introduce two of our most prolific egg layers together. Chuck regularly refers to them as “The Twins” or “The Leghorns” so if figured why not. These are the 2nd and 3rd chickens we got in spring 2018. They are White Leghorns and lay white eggs almost every day. We picked them up at the same time and while we don’t know if they are in fact related there’s a strong possibility they are.

As you would expect of a chicken breed called White Leghorn they are all white, except for their very red combs and wattles. Coco is actually bigger than her “twin” Dottie. Admittedly it’s hard to tell unless they are next to one another.

You will notice in the photo that the chicken on the left is larger, this is Coco, the chicken on the right is, therefore, Dottie. Also if you notice Coco has purple shoulders. I have sprayed her shoulders with something called Blu-Kote [intended for wounds to help fight bacteria as well as disguise the wound further protecting it] in order to help differentiate them for quick identification.

Coco the Crabby Chicken

If you’ve spent any time at all watching chickens you know how they are very individual, each with their own little quirks. Coco is one of those chickens with definite quirks. Both Leghorns are bossy, pushy and first in line. Whether it’s to get out of the run to free-range, get their chicken scratch or snacks, they are always first.

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Posted in Gardening, Instagram, Our House

Gardening

This is a pretty busy time of year for us on the Hretz Homestead. We’ve added 7 new chicks to our backyard flock. All the seedlings have been planted. The flower beds have been extended, as have the gardens. An additional two truckloads of mulch dispersed. Plus planted new flowers and 10 tiny trees. If you want to know more about garden prep and such, check out my previous garden post here.

Lantanas are some of my favorite flowers we have planted. The flowers themselves are tiny clusters of fairy size bouquets. I prefer the yellow and pink variegated ones but they also come in other colors and solids as well. These plants get big and bushy with flowers all summer long.

We first had these in New Mexico, where they came back every spring. In Virginia it must be too cold so I had to replace them all. I guess that simply makes them an annual.

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A Rose by any other Name

We also added lots of roses this year. Some were found on Craigslist for a cost of digging them up ourselves. This added about 8 new-to-us-roses to the flower bed behind the house.

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Quick Bird Watch Update

Lots of busy work going on here at the Hretz homestead. Chuck and Tim have fully planted our gardens. Also, all our flowers are in. I’m generally on flower-power and chicken duty while the men do the grass and food production. This works wellfor us.

House Finches

Today is touching base on the birds. We have seen the first round of House Finches come and go. The 2nd round had an unfortunate nest collapse leaving all the eggs smashed on the front porch. the third set of finches have a very full nest with 6 eggs. which in my experience is l larger brood.

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Posted in Chickens, Nature

Bird Watch 2019

Bird watch 2019 has officially begun. Nesting is in full swing and the set of eggs have been laid.

Our neighborhood, Queen’s Lake has Bird Sanctuary signs posted as you enter. And I have seen more varieties of birds in our yard than anywhere else I have lived. Also, this neighborhood happens to back up to New Quarter Park.

New Quarter Park has many amazing walking trails. The park is a 545-acre preserve. There are mature woodlands and open meadows, which offers a diverse habitat that supports a variety of plants and animals. I had not realized until I googled a link for the park that it sits on a bluff of fossil shells. Another really interesting thing about the area is the surrounding tidal creeks and marshes.

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Posted in Chickens, Gardening, Homesteading, Nature

Garden Prepping

Garden prepping is in full swing here. My husband Chuck has started his seedlings. We moved some existing plants, planted last year from the front gardens, into different gardens in our backyard to protect them from deer. If I had realized the deer would be a problem I would’ve done more research when we started revamping last year. And of course, the chickens are doing their part turning over all beds in prep for planting.

Other Garden Prepping

We dug out flowers from neighbors who were looking to thin or remove perennials. Then planted them into our gardens In addition, we have reworked some of the garden beds from last year. We made some larger and added another new bed. We are trying to make the beds curved in such a way as to accommodate our riding lawnmowers ability to navigate with ease.

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Posted in Chickens, Homesteading, Shopping

What do the Labels on Egg Cartons Mean?

What do the labels on Egg Cartons mean? Does my back yard flock meet these labels? Are my chicken’s eggs healthier vs. store bought eggs? We eat our chicken’s eggs. I sell the eggs. Our chicken eggs are given to our family. It’s important to me to have the best eggs possible.

Marketing always manages to sneak into our subconscious whether it is right or wrong, especially when we really haven’t done the research to ensure the claims are accurate and meaningful. Then there’s the whole question of what is accurate.

Labels you will see on Egg Cartons

ALL NATURAL There is no legal definition for all natural. Does that mean our chickens eat natural bugs vs fake bugs?

FARM FRESH– Again, no legal definition for this. Did the eggs come from a farm, like with crops and cows? Were the eggs from a farm that has 2 million chickens laying eggs in cages? What about my 1 acre, is this a farm since we grow food, raise chickens and have a pack of chihuahuas?

HORMONE-FREE– Are you aware it’s illegal to give hormones to poultry in the USA? Therefore all eggs and chicken are hormone free so the label is redundant.

ANTIBIOTIC-FREE– Laying hens are not typically given antibiotics although some meat chickens may have been if necessasary.

USDA-CERTIFIED ORGANIC– A farm must apply for this designation and undergo inspections to ensure all standards are being met. Chickens are fed organic feed from their 2nd day of life. In addition, the chickens must have access to the outdoors.

I am not certified organic, however, I take great care to meet the needs of my chickens, and they are only fed organic non -GMO food. In addition to a great deal of research on my part, my daughter, Stevie, who works for the USDA specializing in poultry and has been an excellent resource.

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Posted in Chickens, Home, Homesteading, Recipes

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Perfect hard-boiled eggs was a feat in which I strived for my entire adult life. I have attempted to have perfect hard boiled eggs thousands of times. I’ve never had any success until now!

I swear to you. I have tried every method out there. With each attempt, I would have eggs that wouldn’t peel. Every egg I ever cooked looked like it had been malled by a wild animal after it was peeled. Ask my husband, ask my children. Seriously, go ask my BFF Raquel whom I would I repeatedly beg her to boil eggs for me!

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Technique after Technique

I tried for perfect hard-boiled eggs by placing them in cold water, enough to cover by an inch, which then was brought up to boil. I turned the heat off and let sit covered for 20 minutes. Peeled eggs resulted in half the egg white pulling away with the shell.

I boiled eggs with a tablespoon of vinegar. Or a scoop of baking soda. Also, Boiling the eggs for 5 minutes. Another time 7 minutes. Plunging the boiled eggs into ice water to cool. Another time leaving them to cool in the pot on the stove. Peeling them under running water. All with the same un-peelable results.

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Try this simple Life Hack for Clif Bars

This simple life hack for Clif Bars was shared with me by my youngest daughter, Joey. It’s so remarkably simple I can’t believe I never thought of it myself. I know you’re going to love it, too.

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My favorite Clif Bars

My very favorite Clif Bars are the Chocolate Chip. Another great one for this life hack with Clif Bars is the Chocolate Brownie one. I also enjoy some of the seasonal flavors like Iced Oatmeal and Mint Chocolate Chip. Keep your eye out for these.

Today I tried this life hack with a Nutella Filled one. I was hoping the filling would be like a lava cake. It was not, but it still tasted good.

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Posted in Instagram, Recipes

How to make French Press Coffee

I’d like to share how to make french press coffee with you. Making French press coffee is easy and inexpensive. It’s also delicious!

Supplies

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Posted in Chickens, Homesteading, Other Crafts

Egg-tastic- How I Present My Eggs For Selling

How I Present My Eggs For Selling

Egg-tastic – How I present my eggs for selling is all about the packaging. Earlier I told you about my love for good packaging. The last couple of weeks I’ve been working to come up with great packaging for the eggs I sell. I think I nailed it and it’s egg-tastic!

chickens with fresh eggs

Previously sister-in-law, Ruth, and her husband gathered an entire box full of recycled egg cartons. And they brought them to me when they visited last November. Ruth was also very excited to gather the eggs every day. She defintly had a serious case of chicken fever.

Egg Cartons

The most important supply is the previously mentioned recycled egg cartons. I have many. Which is a good thing. I did sort through them and chose the ones I like the best. There are two styles I prefer.

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