Asian Pears


carrots for next Spring

cukes are still coming


Wilma enjoying scratch grains

Caylie and Annaliese

adorable dish towels made by Jackie

corn stalks drying

As I type this morning I'm enjoying watching the steam rise from my hot coffee and swirl above my mug in a fancy little design.  It hard not to become distracted from such a simple, mesmerizing thing.  I always enjoy the quiet of Sunday morning before the day begins.

We were out of town all day again yesterday which means yet again, it's time to play catch-up.  With the garden winding down and soap/lotion sales picking up, the next month will likely be a blur.  So, the quiet coffee sipping on Sunday mornings has become my ritual.  It's the only day of the week I can wake up and get going leisurely.

The leaves are barely beginning to make their colorful change.  We noticed only a handful on our drive to Massachusetts yesterday.  The temps have dipped, for the most part, to the 60's although yesterday and today will be in the mid to upper 70's.  The one day I planned to make homemade soup for lunch.  Oh well, it will still taste delicious.  :-)

With Fall making it's entrance I bought a few beautiful Mums at the farmer's market from a fellow vendor.  They are beautiful!!  I have corn stalks drying that will soon be added to the front porch posts.  We collected the sweetest, juiciest most tasty Asian Pears from our backyard tree to eat as well as bring to the market.  We kept some of the smallest aside for taste testing.  People loved them as much as we do and we sold out what we brought.  They aren't the prettiest of fruit {we don't spray} but they are so good!

We are continuing to collect summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, scallions, herbs and beets.  I planted a new crop of carrots that will come back in Spring and be so sweet from the winter freeze.

Last week I was having a pretty crappy week at work until I came home one day to a lovely little package from my blogging friend Jackie.  When I opened it up it contained two of the most adorable dish towels I'd ever seen!!  {photo above}  After seeing her adorable Hennies, I had asked her if she would design and make the towels and was so thrilled with how they turned out.  They are the perfect addition to my country kitchen.

The two new Coop Girls are continuing to adjust as the older girls keep up with barking orders and putting them in their place.  They are all receiving scratch grain treats in the morning again, along, of course, with whatever goodies come from the kitchen each day.  We stop scratch grains in the summer because corn is said to raise their body temp's and in the heat and humidity of our summers, they certainly don't need that.  We replace it with an oat blend for summer.

We have plans to add more pullet layers to the coop before winter.  Rather than raising them from chicks, we'll just buy a bit older girls who are getting ready to lay.  Our eggs, veggies and fruit have been very popular so we plan to sell more eggs and veggies & herbs at next Summer's Farmer's Market.  We'll bring our Apothecary line as well as have a booth for our other products.  Our plan is to grow excess of some of the veggies we already grow that aren't being sold much at the market currently.

Today I plan to make 5 different scents of soap as well as make something special for dessert.  I haven't decided what that will be yet.  Next weekend I want to go to the local apple orchard so I can put up applesauce, caramel apple jam, and make apple pie as well as freeze a few for baking later.  Oh, and apple dumplings.  My they are good!!

On the menu this week:  Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Glazed Carrots; Chicken and Dumplings; Baked Red Snapper with Rice and Broccoli; Beef Mozzarella Bake with homemade rolls and salad; Grilled Pork Chops with Creamy Risotto and Broccoli;  Chicken Cordon Bleu with Rice and Broccoli.

Hoping you're having a wonderful weekend!

Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Canning Recipe: Green Pepper Jelly

We've been fortunate to get quite a bit of canning done over the last few weeks.  Our beautifully filled jars are adding up to full cupboards!  One of the recipes we tried last year and has made a return this year is the Green Pepper Jelly from the Ball Book of recipes.  It's spicy, sweet and tangy.  Perfect atop cheese and crackers.  And beautiful too!

I make two changes to the original recipe.  In the original recipe they say to strain the juice from the pulp after processing the peppers.  Then, if you don't have enough juice to measure 1 1/2 cups the recipe tells you to add enough water to get 1 1/2 cups.  Instead, I add some of the pulp to bring the mixture to 1 1/2 cups.  I like a bit of texture in my jelly and this works perfectly.  I usually add about 1/4 cup of the pulp.  I've made this adjustment in the recipe below.  I also omitted the garlic originally called for.

Green Pepper Jelly
Recipe source:  Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes:  Seven 4-ounce jars

4 Green Bell Peppers, stemmed and seeded
2 Jalapeno Peppers, stemmed and seeded
2/3 cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Package Regular Powdered Fruit Pectin {1.75 oz}
3 2/3 cups granulated sugar

In a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree all the peppers until smooth.

Transfer puree to a dampened jelly bag, cheesecloth or a fine mesh stainless steel strainer set over a deep bowl.  Let drip until you get 1 1/4 cups pepper juice.  Add enough pulp to bring it to 1 1/2 cups.

Meanwhile, prepare canner lids and jars according to canning instructions.

Transfer the 1 1/2 cups pepper juice/pulp mixture to a large, stainless steel saucepan.  Add vinegar and lemon juice.  Whisk in pectin until dissolved.  Bring to boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam and discard.

Quickly pour hot jelly into prepared hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool.  Store.

Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.


evenings at the beach....life is good

someone caught his dinner!

travelers headed to Block Island

our niece was married at the beach!

We are back from the beach.  As happens in life from time-to-time, we've had wonderful things happen this weekend and not so wonderful things.  We'll start with the wonderful.

Our niece was married in Rhode Island on Saturday and the weather was amazing.  It was a beautiful ceremony.  She had asked me to photograph it, which was a bit nerve wracking.  I told J that although I know how to photograph pies, chickens and dogs, {none of which came in handy for this....} I have no clue on photographing a wedding.  Thankfully the weather was perfect - not too sunny, not too overcast, and the pictures turned out beautifully.

The animals all stayed home for our beach venture.  This was disappointing to the dogs since the LOVE the beach.  We have 2 of the best pet sitters ever and one stayed with all the "kids" to take care of them.  Jackson even behaved!  Today he's being a bit of a handful, but I was happy to hear he didn't pull any crazy stunts with her.

Today we have beautiful sunshine but chilly weather.  I'll be picking much of the garden today since the temps are dipping this week.  I've also got 2 wedding soap orders to prep and pack.  Only memories of the beach remain.  We were able to walk the beach before retiring for the night and start our day on the beach - what a luxury!

And on to the bad.  I lost an Uncle this weekend.  He passed away after having been very sick for a few weeks.  Death is never easy and talking with my Grandmother afterward was quite difficult.  She said "you know, I've lost 2 sons and a husband now".  My hope is she will be able to pull herself back up from the sadness.  He will certainly be missed.

Hoping you are all having a wonderful weekend.

Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Two Winners Have Been Chosen!

The Coop Girls were enlisted to chose 2 winners of our most recent Cobble Hill Farm Apothecary giveaway.

For prior giveaways I would only use 1 chicken.  But, for this giveaway, I decided to let them decide who would choose.

The first question that I was asked, of course, was what the treat would be.


That got the whole coop excited.

The basket of names was set on the ground.

A lot of inquisitive looks......

Is the rice in there???

When they realized the rice was not in the basket, only little Emma went for the papers.

She pulled out a paper, but there was actually 2.

Not realizing that, she went back in for another before I replaced the paper basket with a bowl of rice.

Sarah tried to read who won.

Until she remembered she couldn't read.......

Betty and Sam look for more rice.

And Allie wonders if we could do this again soon.

So, the 2 winners of the 3 bars of soap, body butter and stick of all-natural deodorant are........

Kim Johnson and Holly Ollinger.

Congratulations ladies!!
Please email me at JayNStaci@aol.com and we can figure out which scents you would like.

Stay tuned for more giveaways.....

Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

The Chicken Coop At Cobble Hill Farm

Hattie loves to welcome visitors

Whether you are planning on building or renovating a coop, there are a number of things to think about - both for you as well as the chickens.  You can also read my "Chicken Coop 101: 13 Lessons Learned While Building Our Coop" post which speaks a bit about the different aspects of a coop.

Here's a bit about our coop, what we did, and how we decided on the design.

We did not use plans to construct our coop.  That answers the number one question we get asked.  We would be happy to share the plans, had we used them, but unfortunately we did not.  Instead, I was thumbing through an outdoor buildings book at a bookstore, pointed to a similar-style shed and said to my husband, "I want something like this".  And he built it.  He's good like that.

Of course, that's a simplified version of events.....I did point to a shed, he did say "ok", but we had further discussion about entrances, exits, roosts, nesting boxes, food, water, etc.  We also wanted an outdoor area that the chickens would be penned in during the day.  Our chickens are allowed to free range only when we're home.  The reason, is that we do have a few neighbors with both outdoor cats and/or unleashed dogs - something that could certainly prey on unsuspecting chickens.  Because of this, we've provided them with 2 outdoor runs - 1 covered with metal roofing and the other covered with re-purposed fruit tree netting {keeps chickens in and wild birds out}.

Here are the specs of our coop:

  • Size = 8'x10'
  • Height = 8'
  • Floor = plywood
  • Floor, Ceiling and doors are insulated
  • 4 Windows provide adequate light and ventilation 
  • Electricity has been run to the coop for lighting, heaters, and heated waterer
  • Litter = deep-litter method {kind of - see note below}
  • 6 Nesting Boxes & Roosts
  • 3 Waterers {1 inside, 2 outside}, 2 Feeders
  • Doors = 1 main door that opens out with a screen door that opens in; 1 chicken door that opens out
  • 2 Outdoor Runs
The specs in more detail:

The standard space requirement is 3 feet per chicken.  The size of our coop is larger than needed for our flock for a few reason:
  1. We wanted an outbuilding that could be multipurpose in case the next homeowners don't want chickens.
  2. We wanted it comfortable for the people as well as the chickens.
  3. I believe in the theory that you should always go a bit bigger than you think you need because your flock may increase.......chickens can be addicting!
If you're building your coop and aren't sure what size to go with I highly recommend a little exercise we did which helped put things into perspective.  We went to the local home improvement store and stood in each of their different size sheds determining where nesting boxes, roosts and feeders/waterers would go.  This helped us see exactly how much room we would have.

Also, remember that you need only enough space for roosting/laying if your flock will be free-range all the time.

Things we would change:  nothing.  We love it.

Our coop is much taller than needed.  We chose the height, also for a few specific reasons:
  1. To give space for insulation.
  2. To be able to comfortably walk around the coop.
  3. To build a storage space in half the ceiling height for extra feeders, waterers, straw, etc. {see comment below}
The last point seemed like a great idea, on paper, however we no longer use that space.  You may recall we had a mite outbreak a couple of years ago when the high humidity went on for weeks.  Because the mites infested EVERYTHING, all items that couldn't be thoroughly cleaned had to be thrown away.  It was awful.  We've never had another mite outbreak but because of the one we did have, as well as the next point, we removed the storage area.

The second issue with the storage area was the chickens thought is was the coolest hiding spot ever!  And because of that, everything was covered in poop.

The only downfall with a taller coop is that during the winter it's more difficult for it to remain warm from the chickens' body heat alone.

Things we would change:  we would make it maybe 1 foot shorter but other than that we are very happy with it.  We have since torn down the overhead storage space so that's no longer an issue.

We chose plywood although concrete, dirt or linoleum could also work.  We find that plywood works well with the deep litter method so that during our twice a year big cleanings, it's not too hard to scrape poop from the floor.

Things we would change:  Nothing.

We were driving to the commissary one day and lo and behold someone had a big pile of brand new insulation in their front yard for sale.  It was a great deal so we purchased it, and that's what we used to insulate the coop.

Things we would change:  nothing.  We would definitely continue to insulate any future coops both to help cool the coop in summer and retain heat in winter.

We have 2 large windows on the front of the coop, and 2 small windows, 1 on each the north and south ends of the coop.  The front windows are situated above the nesting boxes to help them retain some darkness.  One smaller window is placed at eye level for cross-ventilation, and the other is placed near the peak of the roof for winter ventilation.  Because it's up so high the flock doesn't feel the draft.

All the windows we used are re-purposed.  There was a stack of them in the barn when we purchased the house.  We just knew they would come in handy someday!  My husband attached hinges to the tops of the windows and then a cord to pull the window open as little or as much as we want.  We use a cleat for the cording so the window stays open.  A barrel-lock was added to each window to ensure they close tightly.

The window openings are covered with hardware cloth to keep wild critters out and Coop Girls in.  The hardware cloth is attached to the outer part of the window and the windows open in.

Things we would change:  nothing.

We chose to run electricity to the coop for 3 reasons:

  1. So we would have a light in the dark of winter.  Since it gets dark so early and we like to do a headcount every night, we prefer the lightbulb to a flashlight for this task.
  2. To run flat panel heaters in the winter and a box fan in the summer.  Let me make it perfectly clear that heaters are not a necessity in any climate.  When I talk about them it tends to get a few up in arms over the fact that we use them.  We choose to add them for use on negative degree days/nights mostly because we have a higher ceiling, and it doesn't stay as warm in the coop as we would like it to. The heaters are on a thermostatic outlet so we can control the temp - it doesn't get above 20 degrees.
  3. To keep the water from freezing.  Rather than trying to make sure all day long that the water is not frozen, we chose to install a heater that sits under the waterer.  It warms it just enough to prevent freezing.  We did not think through the placement of the waterer when placing the small door that opens to the outdoor run and they are directly across from each other which means the cool draft goes right to the waterer in winter.  Regardless, it would likely freeze throughout the cold winters we have here.

Things we would change;  nothing.

We kind of use a deep-litter method.  When I say "kind of" I mean we use a deep-litter method, as much as our flooring allows, but we do a light scooping every morning.  It's just our preference.  If you choose to use a true deep-litter method, keep this in mind when building the floor/door so you have enough space to add litter a few inches deep as needed.

We use wood shavings on the floor and straw in the nesting boxes.  We've never had an issue.  We like that the wood shavings are easy to scoop, making it a great choice for the floors.  We also like the straw for the boxes because it tends to stay in there when the girls are moving it all around before laying an egg.

Things we would change:  nothing.

Nesting Boxes/Roost Space
Our nesting boxes go along the entire left side wall when you enter the coop {8 feet}.  As mentioned in the "windows" section above, they are placed right below the windows to help keep them darker.

The average size for a nesting box is 12x12x12 although ours are a bit bigger.  The number of nesting boxes needed is about 1 for every 4-5 chickens.  For more detail on nesting boxes, you can read this post that I wrote.

We built a little walkway in front of them which the girls pace up and down as they decide which box to lay in that day.  Some days you see 3 or 4 of them lined up on the walkway waiting their turn for the days favorite box.  Even though all the others are not in use.  Those of you who have chickens, I'm sure you're nodding your head at that one.  It's the funniest thing to watch.

The box roof is slanted to deter chickens from hanging out and pooping on the roof.  You may also notice a few other things in the photo above:  The rake hanging above the boxes is our poop-scooping rake.  It works great!  The door to the outdoor run is placed below the nesting boxes {you can see Sam coming into the coop}.  And the white on the walls is diatomaceous earth to keep our coop mite-free!

We have roosts that run along the back wall of the coop and then partly along the wall parallel to the nesting boxes {you can see the start of it in the photo above on the right}.  This, along with 2 shelves {because they love shelves}, gives them plenty of space to sleep.

Things we would change:  nothing.

We have 2 feeders and 1 waterer indoors and 2 additional waterers outdoors.  The reason for multiple of each is because chickens can be cruel.  They can try and prevent those lower in the pecking order from eating and/or drinking.  Because of this, if you make more than 1 available, they will have an opportunity to get to it.

The indoor feeders are on stands Jay made with a lip that holds them in place.  This makes it super easy for removing them and filling them.  Keeping feeders up off the ground means less waste as a chickens natural instinct is to scratch while they eat and they will scratch the food dish if it's sitting on the floor.  Food goes everywhere.

The waterer is on a short stand throughout most of the year and in winter a heater is added {as shown in the photo above} for light heat to keep it from freezing.  The 2 outdoor waterers hang from strings from the roof framing.  This keeps them off of the floor so they don't get filled with dirt and muck.

If yours won't be free ranging at all, you may also need to have grit available.  Additionally, for layers oyster shell may also be needed.  We have a little shelf that keeps the feeders of off the ground that we use, as needed, to offer one or both of these to the flock.

Things we would change:  as noted above in "electricity", the indoor waterer is in direct line of the small door to the outdoor run which means cold breezes in winter go right to it.  We would probably move it although the water would still freeze, just not as often/quickly.

We have 1 large door for the coop that also has a screen door.  There is also one small door for the chickens to go from the coop to the outdoor run and then a small door and a large door from one outdoor run to the other.

The coop doors were set up so the door opens out and the screen door opens in.  We did this because it makes it so much easier when having the door open in Spring through Fall.  The small door to the outdoor run opens out, also set up specifically for ease of use.  This way we don't have to wade through the chickens in the morning to open the door to the run.  I can set up their goodies for the day, get them fresh water, etc. and then open it up to the rush of girls who have been patiently waiting.

We lock all doors at night to keep them safe from predators.  The lower door has 2 types of lock on it so if a predator can open one type of lock they likely won't be able to open the second type of lock.

Initially we were going to make them a chicken tractor to go out on the property in.  We have never built in, instead, letting them run free when we're home.  The reason I bring this up is we put a door on the outdoor run specifically to put a chicken tractor up to that the girls would go in on their own {shown in the second photo above}.  We, however, had it open the wrong way.  It opens out and should, instead, open in so you can pull the chicken tractor up, then open the door.  It's a non-issue since we've never used it for that, but something to think about if it's an option for you.

Things we would change:  nothing {see note about chicken tractor door though}.

Outdoor Run - Covered
This is the run we first built and just last year added an uncovered run so they could get more sun if desired.  We wanted a covered run for a few reasons:

  1. On rainy or snowy days it can be used.
  2. It shields them from direct sun on really hot days.
  3. It keeps them safe from predators overhead {particularly the smaller chickens who can be carried off by hawks}.
The outdoor run has a roost, 2 waterers and is fully fenced in.  It works great and the girls love it.

Things we would change:  because of the wire we wrapped the outdoor space in, when we have younger chicks they can get through so we use a netting across the fencing on the lower part.  We would probably have used a different fencing with smaller holes if we did it again.  If you never raise chicks - only pullets, this is a non-issue.  If you have predators that may enter during the day or you don't lock your coop up at night, I would choose a different fencing, again, with smaller holes that they can't fit through.

Outdoor Run - Uncovered
We added this so the girls would have more space when locked up during the day.  We added a netting overhead to keep them safe from flying predators as well as to keep naughty escapee bantams in the coop.  The netting is re-purposed fruit tree netting that we put overhead using string my husband had laying around {that he knew would come in handy someday...} and screw eyes to hold it.  We put it up high enough that we can comfortably walk through the run.

We did not bury the fencing so we put rocks around the interior to keep more naughty chickens from digging their way out {yes, they do that}.  With the rocks in place the digging on the edge has stopped.

Things we would change:  nothing.  Again, as with the run above, if you're worried about predators you may change the fencing and sink it down a couple of feet.

All-in-all, we adore our coop and tried very hard to think it through both from a chickens perspective as well as a comfort for ourselves.  Their feed is stored in the garden shed which is located directly across from the coop {shown in photo above}.  The only thing I would possibly add is an outdoor storage area like the one I had Jay add to my garden shed where I would store their feed.

The other things to consider are a sick bird area and an area for chicks to grow.  We have a removable wall we use in this coop where we can partition off sick birds, as long as it's not upper respiratory issues.  Unfortunately, if it's upper respiratory, they can't be around the others, so they come in to the house {and boy do they love the pellet stove warmth in the winter!}.  For chicks, it's to keep them safe but also to keep them from eating layer feed too early on.  You don't want an excess of calcium to build up in their little bodies.

I hope this was helpful!

Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.