A cluck, cluck here………

So it has come to my attention that I haven’t talked about the chickens much lately. That’s mostly because I have worked myself into quite the conundrum about what to do with their current situation. What current situation, you might be asking yourselves….. Well, follow along now….

As you most likely already know, chickens like to run in packs (usually referred to as a flock in the chicken world ;p ). Last fall, our flock of chickens had dwindled down to only 5 members, so George and I decided that we would get some more come Spring. Which we did. We bought 9 little baby chicks this past May from Hanson Grain in Hanson, MA. They were so adorable! And I had just the right number of new baby chicks to name each one loosely after the Nurse Practitioners I work with. So there’s Jojo, Lizzy, Heather, Lindsey, Meg, Jill, Cindy, Erin, Coco, and Carrie. More on Carrie in just a sec…..Here’s little Coco trying to escape shortly after we got the little chicks, when they were still residing in the house….always the instigator. Down below is little Erin, being lead down the primrose path….. 😀


Shortly prior to the arrival of the new peeps, we also acquired 2 other chicks. One cool April evening, on her regular daily run, one of the ladies I work with, Stephanie, heard some chirping off in the distance. When she stopped to investigate, she found 4 baby chicks that had been left abandoned on the side of the road in a cardboard box. While you’re wondering who would do such a thing, try to console yourself with the fact that Stephanie found them and asked if I would take them. I think we all know what my answer was.Here they are in their little box.


Stephanie really went to heroic lengths to rescue them. Even so, only one of them actually made it to my house–and that was with the help of one of the other NPs that I work with–Carrie. So sad.Here’s the car ride home from the hospital. Carrie literally sang and hummed to her all the way home to console her. It worked!

We named the surviving chick–what else–Stephanie. And since chicks need friends, we went to Hanson Grain and got just one chick so baby chick Stephanie could have some company. We named the chick friend Carrie, of course. Initially, Stephanie tried to kill Carrie, but now they are very best friends. Stephanie is the Rhode Island Red on the left and Carrie is the Buff Orpington on the right in this picture.


So–to line it all up for you– we now have the original 5 (group 1), Carrie & Stephanie (group 2) and the 9 new baby chicks (group 3). That’s 16 chickens, in total.This is Jojo, slinking around in the bushes.

We had not anticipated the difficulty of combining 3 separate groups of chickens. It’s a little trickier than you would think! It never occurred to us that we couldn’t just throw them all together to make one big hen party! No, no….when we first put them all together outside in the coop, they were all 3 separate warring factions! There is a reason they call it a “pecking order” in the chicken world. This picture is Meg….. by far the friendliest of the new group.


It has taken them a little while to assimilate into the outside world together. And don’t think I didn’t have the thoughts of just building 2 new chicken coops for the 2 new groups of chickens, making our own little “chicken village”. I’ve said it a million times…..thank goodness George is the voice of reason and reassured me that they would learn to live with each other. This is Cindy, with Jill in front. They’re part of the group of new chicks.


So at this point, we still have essentially 3 separate flocks of chickens, but as the days go past, they all seem to become a little bit more tolerant of each other. I’m constantly cogitating on various ideas of how I can help them learn to be one big flock. But as time goes by and I see that they’re gradually becoming more used to each other, I’ve started having the thought that I just might not have to do anything. As one of my favorite people at work always says, “sometimes doing nothing is the right thing to do”. Stephanie and Carrie started off as enemies and now are never apart. Maybe I’ll just leave them alone, after all. They seem to know how to make it work. The lessons you learn from your backyard chickens….




Strawberry Fields Forever…..

It’s that time again…..strawberry jam time, that is! Two days ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to the strawberry fields at C.N. Smith Farm to pick my own strawberries. I did plant some strawberries in a container just outside my kitchen door this year, but every time a strawberry gets close to turning red, the chickens help themselves.  By the way, chickens LOVE strawberries…toss some into the yard and it’s a feast!!


So off to the fields I went……..the strawberry fields at the farm are vast. And of course I waited until the middle of the day right in the middle of the summer heat to venture out.


Luckily for me, the clouds rolled in to block out the light and heat of the sun. I picked 6 quarts of beautiful berries in about an hour. But seriously–these berries are gorgeous!



So first, you get the goods home, hull them, wash them, and cut them into little pieces.


Then, you put them in a pot with your sugar and lemon juice. Mash up the strawberries to the chunkiness consistency of your liking. If you like it really smooth, I would suggest using an immersion blender.


Heat this pot of goodness on medium until the sugar has melted, then turn the heat up until you get the mixture to the boiling point. Let it continue to boil at a low rolling state for about 30 minutes.


When it’s ready to pour up, or “set”, it should pass the “crinkle” test. Basically, you put a little plate into the freezer when you get started making the jam, take it out when you’re ready to test and drop a dollop onto it. Let it sit for a minute or two and if it crinkles when you nudge it with your finger, then it’s done. As I neglected to take a picture of this step when I was actually doing it, I’ve nicked someone else’s from the Internet. Thank you to whomever did take this picture. It is from the Food Fanatic website. That is not my finger.


Don’t fret if you have to let it rumble around in the pot a little bit longer than 30 minutes. That’s actually just when I start testing it. I don’t really like to use commercially prepared pectin, and strawberries contain their own naturally. So depending on the amount that is in your strawberries, it is not unusual to require a longer boiling time.

When it’s all set, pour the mixture up into your previously sterilized jars, put the lids and rims on and pop them into a pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes. At this point, you can take the jars out and put them on a cooling rack to cool overnight. And this is the best part–you’ll hear the popping of the lids as they seal! I never tire of hearing that. It’s one of my favorite sounds on the planet.

And the 6 quarts of berries that were picked yesterday turned into 6 pints of fantastic jam today. I kept one quart aside for us to snack on, so technically only 5 quarts turned into 6 pints. But you get the picture.





Super Easy No Pectin Strawberry Jam
5 quarts freshly picked, juicy strawberries
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
  1. Wash, hull, chop the strawberries.
  2. Combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in your pan on the stove. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. You can mash them with a potato masher or use an immersion blender here.
  3. Increase the heat and boil for 30 minutes. Stir frequently.  Skim off the foam frequently, as well.
  4. Do the crinkle test until you have positive crinkle.
  5. Pour the jam into hot sterilized jars. Leave about ¼ of space from the top. Put the lid on and the ring on.
  6. Put the jars into boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes. Take the jars out of the water and place on a cooling rack where you can let them cool overnight. When you hear the popping sounds, rejoice!! 😀