Saturday, April 5, 2014

Chick Hatch-Along Part 2: Incubating Week 1

The first few days of running the incubator were a bit stressful. I wasn't very confident in what I was doing and I was nervous because, well, I've never had a part in creating life before. Seems like something that should be taken seriously.

I chose my office as the place to set it up because it was lower traffic and I thought I would be able to keep the temperature in the room stable with a space heater. Not true at all. The room was fluctuating by 20 degrees throughout the day/night and I couldn't get it to balance out. It was affecting the temperature inside the incubator and it's really important to keep it between 100-102  at the tops of the eggs, any higher and it could kill the embryos.

It got to frustrating so I ended up moving the incubator into the kitchen. That way the dogs/cats couldn't get to it, the temperature in the room never fluctuated more than 5 degrees and I could check on it frequently. After that it was smooth sailing. There were still hot and cool spots in the incubator because there wasn't a fan circulating the air, but the lowest was 99.5 and the highest was 103.2, with most of it in the right range.

At Day 7 I got to candle all of the eggs. Candling mean shining a light through one end of the egg in a dark room to see what was going on inside. You can buy a fancy egg candler but I made one out of a small flashlight and a toilet paper tube.


At Day 7 you can see a small spot with veins coming out of it. It looks like a spider. That's the baby chicken starting to develop! White eggs are the easiest to look into, but we have brown and green eggs so they can be a bit challenging to see into.

This one is a normal egg. You can see the air sac at the bottom of the egg, the embryo above it, and veins spidering out from there. 

This one turned out to be unfertilized. The yolk moves around in the egg and there didn't appear to be any development. 

Unfortunately quite a few of the green eggs from my flock ended up to not have been fertilized. I culled 7 eggs and I think 4 more are also unfertilized but they are hard to see in so I'm waiting until Day 14 to be sure.

I candled again at Day 10 and could see more development in the eggs. Right now of 47 eggs I can see development in 32 of them, 7 were culled, 4 have shells to thick to see in, and 4 I'm pretty sure are infertile but I'm waiting a few more days to make sure.

Here is one that is developing really well. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chick Hatch-Along Part 1: Getting Started

A month or so ago I decided that I wanted to try hatching some baby chicks this spring. I was really hoping that I could get a hen to hatch eggs herself because it's much easier. She does all the work and then when the babies hatch she protects them from the other chickens who may want to kill them.

The only problem with that idea is that the chickens don't always, ok never, do what I want when I want it. In order to hatch chicks a hen has to go "broody", it's a chickens version of going into heat. She develops the instinct to sit on the nest and not leave it for at least 21 days- the time it takes for chicks to hatch. She gets all puffed up, makes strange noises, and pecks at you any time you try to take the eggs from underneath her.

I had read that you can sometimes trick a hen into going broody by putting unfertilized eggs, easter eggs, or golf balls in a nest and increase the number of eggs in the next until there are enough that a hen wants to sit on them. I started doing this in January- right when we had a really, really cold spell. All the store bought eggs froze and cracked. So I waited a few weeks until easter eggs showed up in stores. I found some white ones and I started adding them to the nest. All the hens decided they liked laying in that nest, but didn't want to sit.

I finally got impatient and decided to take matters into my own hands. I was determined to get chicks this spring, with or without a hen! I bought the book Hatching and Brooding Your Own Chicks and started shopping around for an incubator that I would need to hatch chicks myself. I didn't realize how pricey incubators were, so I put feelers out to see if we knew anyone who had an incubator.

Two people lent us incubators and we decided to use the smaller one that had a self turner and a large picture window so we could see the hatch. Chicken eggs need to be rotated about 3 times a day, as they would be under a mother hen as she shifts around to make sure she's keeping all of her eggs warm, so the self turner is very helpful. The incubator is a Little Giant Still Air Incubator. The other option would be a forced air incubator, or one that circulates the air. They are more desirable because they keep the temperature more constant, but they are much more expensive. If you are handy you can make a fan for the still air incubator out of an old computer fan, but I'm not that savvy so I'm going to see how the still air works on it's own.

I did lots of research online about how to operate a still air incubator, read the book I had purchased and realized that while I had learned a lot, I pretty much know nothing is certain when incubating eggs. The incubator should be set up in a room with a relatively constant temperature varying no more than 5 degrees because it can affect the temperature inside the incubator. It should stay out of direct sunlight so you don't cook your eggs. The temperature at the top of the eggs in a still air incubator should be between 100-102 degrees, so I set up a thermometer on top of the eggs, and have 2 digital thermometers to stick down in the vent holes to take temps with periodically. The humidity in the first stages of incubating should be between 50-70% according to most sources, but another source said 30-40%, so I purchased an IncuTherm Plus Hatch Monitor (hygrometer/thermometer). I also cut a sponge in half and saturated it with water in addition to the water rings inside the incubator because I read that can help draw up the humidity to the top of the eggs.

Eggs put in the incubator should be clean (but don't wash them), free of shell imperfections like cracks or thin shells, and a shape where it is easy to tell the rounded end from the narrow pointy end to make sure the rounded end with the air sac ends up at the top when placed in the incubator.

We were so lucky- one of the women who lent us an incubator also gave us 23 eggs from her flock. She has a mix of Ameraucana, Buff Orpingtons, Golden Wyandottes and Silver Laced Wyandottes. One rooster is a Buff Orpington but all of the others are Ameracuana crosses (Easter Eggers). I can't wait to see the mix we get! We also collected eggs from our flock- we have an Ameraucana cross rooster and a variety of easter egger hens (crosses between Rhode Island Red, Marans, Araucana and Ameraucuana) and 5 Production Red/White Leghorn crosses. We collected eggs over 5 days and kept the eggs waiting to be incubated in our cool laundry room, about 60 degrees. I read that keeping them cool and humid (but not refrigerated) while collecting, and collecting for 7 days or less, gives them the best chance of hatchability. You can collect for up to 14 days, the hatch rate may go down and they may take a little longer than 21 days to hatch.

I ran the incubator for a day and got the temperature stable before adding 47 eggs to it on  March 24th. Hatch day should be 21ish days later, or April 14th. Just in time for Easter!


Next up: Week 1 of running the Incubator.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Pattern: Frisson


Frisson

by Brittany Wilson

Cold winter months can go on and on, seemingly without end, until that moment when hope is restored by trees and plants pushing out their leaves towards to early springtime sun. If you’re like me, you wait very impatiently for this sign that the warm months are just around the corner.

Frisson is that moment of excitement and joy that it will soon be time for sandals and sundresses. This lightweight bias shawl can even be knit as an advent calendar for spring; the lace sections grow and grow right along with your anticipation for the warmer months of the year. 

 SIZE
One Size

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS
Width: 78 inches
Height: 13 inches

MATERIALS

Handmaiden Fine Yarn [50/50 merino/silk; 546y/500m per 100g skein]; color: Berry; 1 skein

32” length-inch US #5/3.75mm circular needle, or desired length for working a shawl.

Notions Required
tapestry needle

GAUGE

24 sts/48 rows = 4" in garter stitch, unblocked

PATTERN NOTES

Bind Off: The bind off for this pattern is done purlwise as follows: [P2Tog, slip stitch back to left-hand needle]- repeat until desired numbers of stitches are bound off. Be careful not to bind off to tightly, you will want some flexibility when blocking the shawl.

Brackets on Row 2 and other WS rows: (k1,p1) into double yo indicates that you will knit into the loop of the first yo and purl into the loop of the second yo. 


Thursday, January 23, 2014

FedEx Small Business Grant Contest



I’ve entered the FedEx Small Business Grant contest and in order to proceed to the next round I have to collect votes. Could you all help me and vote for me? It will only take a second of your time. It would mean the world to me! And I guess you can vote once a day until February 23rd, so maybe check back and vote again if you think of it.
And if you’re really excited for me to win- maybe share this link with any friends who you think might be interested in helping?

Link to my FexEx Small Business Page.

Thank you all so much for your help!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Pattern: Tiara Tam

A design made for a princess and a yarn that’s fit for a queen- what more could a woman want? This tam/beret design incorporates simple cables and eyelets to mimic a tiara around the brim and 8 diamonds around the crown and is worked in a luxurious yarn that is suitable for any occasion or season.

Check out the Ravelry Pattern Page to get it for Free Through November 7th, 2013 11:59pm GMT. 







MATERIALS

Needles:
1 US #2/2.75mm 16” circular needles
1 US #3/3.25mm 16” circular needles
1 set US #3/3.25mm double pointed needles

Notions:
-   Tapestry needle
-   1 stitch marker

Yarn:
Handmaiden Fine Yarn Swiss Mountain Cashmere and Silk [65% cashmere, 35% silk; 196yd/180m per 50g skein] 1 skein; color: Vermillion

GAUGE
32 sts/34 rows = 4" in stockinette stitch on size 3’s

SIZING
With piece laying flat after blocking. It stretches about 1.5” with blocking:
Width across the crown: 10.5 (12.5)”
Width across brim opening: 4.5”

Fits an adult head. The Brim is stretchy. 
Skills in this pattern above and beyond the basics (instructions included): 
Cabling without a cable needle (twisting stitches)
Central Double Decreases




 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Regal Color Palette

I dyed up some tussah silk yesterday for a few projects, but shouldn't these all be put together into a project? Such a gorgeous and regal colorway.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Sunflower Garden

Just in time for the end of summer, our small collection of giant sunflowers bloomed this past week. It's so nice looking out the kitchen window and seeing all shades of sunflowers and wildflowers together lining our driveway. 


Bomber also loves to run around them to try and sneak up on birds and butterflies.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream

Earlier this year I got my new favorite toy, a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker. With the help of two awesome books, Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams At Home, I started with simple Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbert and was soon making gourmet ice cream like Goat Cheese with Apricot Jam.  

I've recently gained enough confidence in ice cream making to try out my own combinations, and the most successful so far is definitely the German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream. Below is my recipe. You will need a 1.5 quart ice cream maker (and this recipe really will fill it to the brim), and a basic knowledge of how to make ice cream.


This is Betty, or as Brian likes to call her "Big Mouth Betty", because she sure does 
let you know when she's running with constant hum that goodies are on their way.


German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream

Ice Cream Ingredients:
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
- 1 cup 1% milk
- 2 cups half and half
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 8oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened

Coconut Caramel Swirl Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup toasted coconut (I toasted my own on a baking sheet in the oven under the broiler for a couple of minutes)
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

Making the Ice Cream:

Prep:
1. In a medium heat proof bowl whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar together. Set aside.
2. In a medium heat proof bowl whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

Make the base:
1. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, combine the cocoa powder with the remaining sugar. Whisk in 1/4 cup of milk to make a paste until smooth and uniform. Don't add the milk all at once or your cocoa powder will be lumpy. Whisk in the remaining milk, cream, and salt and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture reaches a bare simmer, or 180 degrees, reduce the heat.
2. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of the cream mixture and, while constantly whisking egg mixture, add the 1/2 cup of cream mixture to the egg mixture. Repeat this step once more. Carefully pour the egg mixture back into the pot of hot cream mixture.
3. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it has slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
4. Whisk the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese. You can put the mixture through a fine mesh strainer for a super duper smooth texture, but I didn't find this to be necessary. Set the bowl in an ice water bath, or put it in the fridge. Allow to completely cool, 2 hours or overnight. I like to make my mixture in the morning and freeze it in the afternoon.

Making the Coconut Caramel Swirl.
1. In a small saucepan stir together the sugar and water. Turn heat to medium and stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring the mixture and watch for the mixture to turn a deep amber color.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, cinnamon and vanilla.
3. Allow to cool slightly and stir in the coconut.

You will want the mixture to be cool, but not harden before adding it to the ice cream. Once it is layered with the ice cream it will become slightly more liquid and any hardening will go away.

Freezing the Ice Cream:
1. Add the vanilla to the ice cream base.
2. Freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions. Make sure it gets really thick before removing it from the ice cream maker for the smoothest texture.
3. As you take the finished ice cream and put it in a freezer container layer the coconut caramel swirl and the ice cream, but don't mix them together. Make sure to put a little of the coconut caramel swirl in the bottom of the container and reserve a little for the top too.