Every year for the holidays, I make several varieties of cookies to share at my workplace. The most common are chocolate chip cookies.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
The “secret” recipe I use is actually basically on the back of the bag of chocolate chips with a couple of small modifications.
Beat 1 cup (2 standard sticks) of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated white sugar until creamy. I prefer to use unsalted, uncultured pasture butter, but other butter works well.
Beat in 2 large eggs, one at a time, until well blended. I prefer to use farm fresh eggs from free range hens for the extra bright orange egg yolks.
Add in 2 Tablespoons water and 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract and then blend well. This is a difference from the “traditional” recipe – the traditional only uses 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. For the flour, I sometimes use 1 cup of whole wheat white flour and 1 1/2 cups of normal flour to add a little more chewiness to the structure of the cookies.
Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture.
Stir in one normal bag (12 oz) of chocolate chips. For a little more sugary taste, use milk chocolate chips. For a more traditional, use semi-sweet chips. For other options, try mint chocolate chips or other flavors.
Once the dough is prepared, try to not to eat all of it raw! If you succeed in not eating all of the dough raw, roll the dough into teaspoon size balls and place on a baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. The greater amount of whole wheat flour that you use allows you to space the cookies closer together as the whole wheat flour helps the cookies stay more compact while baking while cookies made with white flour tend to expand a bit more while baking.
Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 8 or 9 minutes. Note that the traditional recipe calls for 12 to 15 minutes but that makes the cookies too crisp for my liking. Also, at around minute 6 and again when removing them from the oven, I smash down the cookies with a spatula to keep them thin and prevent the middle from fully cooking.
After a few more minutes on the baking sheet, remove the cookies to cool on wire racks. Usually the cookies are still droopy and some may fall between the wire racks – this is as intended. Once fully cooled (or even before), the cookies will be deliciously soft and ready to eat.
Continue reading for the peppermint candy cane cookie recipe.
One of our friends who works at the local shelter (the same one where we got Penny) told us that there was a 14 year old and sick yorkie at the shelter whose elderly owner had died. The family did not want to keep her.
We went to the shelter to meet Tiny. She seemed lethargic and sort of sick. She had a stubborn infection. She had some rotting teeth that gave her very bad breath. She is mostly blind and deaf. Her lower jaw is off center. The shelter was not sure how long she would last.
We brought Penny and Shaffron to meet her at the shelter and Tiny mostly ignored the other dogs.
We took Tiny home as a foster dog. The shelter stated that they didn’t expect any heroic efforts to keep her alive. This was in mid-November.
We ended up with a number of new chickens once again in 2017.
We really liked the intricate feather pattern on the Partridge Rock hen so we purchased the only one on display. She is a bit older than many of the birds on display – she was over 2 years old and had already been in a number of shows and events before the fair.
Partridge Rock hen in her cage in the poultry building at the NY State Fair – 2017.
In addition to the Partridge Rock hen, we also purchased 2 Andalusian hens. Andalusians are fairly small for full size chickens and pretty fast on the ground. They are also decent flyers compared to other breeds. At least one of them has been flying up into the hayloft to lay eggs occasionally. They have a variety of coloring with blue (gray) with various black lacing. Our 2 Andalusians are named Andi and Luci.
They quickly outgrew the crate and needed some more space. At around age 6 to 7 weeks, we moved them into the movable chicken tractor so they could experience full outdoor weather for the first time and better hone their foraging skills before merging with the main flock.
The chicks in the chicken tractor.
Here is a video of the chicks their first day in the chicken tractor:
The chicken tractor is moved every couple of days to a new spot to avoid dead spots in the pasture from too much foraging and digging. After a couple of weeks in the chicken tractor, the chicks were finally ready to join the main flock.
Click through to see pictures and videos of the chicks joining the main flock.
A local charter school hosted a farm animal day during their day camp over the summer. As one of the few farmers in the area raising fiber goats, we were asked to bring one of our goats to show and explain to the children. That meant another chance to transport one of our goats off the farm.
When preparing to transport a farm animal directly in the car outside of a crate when you don’t have a pickup truck or trailer, it is important to have the right set up so everything goes well and doesn’t ruin the inside of the car.
In our case, we used the cargo area of our Subaru Forester. Here is a picture before goat preparations.
The cargo area before goat preparations.
First, we placed a waterproof tarp over the entire area, folding up the sides where necessary so any fluids remain trapped on the tarp. Then, we installed the temporary pet barrier so the goat couldn’t jump over the back seat. Finally, we placed towels on top of the tarp so it was more comfortable and absorbent if necessary.
Horses have a lot of paraphernalia. To store it all, a horse owner usually has at least 1 tack box. As we have a horse, we were in need of a tack box to store at least some of our horse’s tack at the stable.
I decided to try and see if I could make a tack box instead of buying it. It turned out to be very easy with 3 easy steps (and a 4th optional step if desired).
Step 1: Search all of your property (especially outbuildings and old barns) for an old tack box or trunk and select the one you want to use.
I started by checking the piles of items in hayloft to see if there were any old trunks or crates that could serve as the starting point for a tack box. It turned out that there was a dusty, old, broken trunk in the hayloft. The base was mostly intact but the hinges were broken and had ripped off the box. I found the missing lid nearby.
Here is the old, broken box from the hayloft.
I brought it down from the hayloft and dusted it off. There were some faded and stained portions on the exterior, but other than the broken hinges, it was overall in pretty good shape.
Now that you have your basic tack box located, it’s time to move to Step 2.
The day old chicks we were raising outgrew their cage in the house after about 4 weeks. They were ready to move outside to the barn. They didn’t need the heat lamp any more and were ready for more space and fresher air (the house needed to be aired out by that point as well!).
I used an outdoor pet exercise pen and covered the outside with chicken wire to make sure the chicks couldn’t squeeze out between the bars. I added a wooden crate and a cement block inside to give them something to climb and roost on. The floor is covered with pine shavings to help maintain cleanliness and provide the chicks with something to kick through. The roof over the pen was just a scrap of wood from the barn to prevent them from flying out and any other chickens from getting in.
Four week old chicks out in the barn.
Click through for a video and more photos of the baby chicks.