On The Road With The Hens

I’ve got a chicken road trip coming up. A couple of my girls are going to be on an Animal Planet program! I can’t give you details now, but what I can tell you is that they’re going to be used to show how easy it is to train any animal with thoughtful, consistent, positive reinforcement.

I need to bring two untrained hens, so Agnes and Philomena, the Golden Comets, will get their star turn. It’s a five hour drive, and they’ll be staying in a crate in a hotel room, and since it’s not easy to train stressed animals, I’ve been getting them acclimated to the crate, being confined, and new surroundings.

Meanwhile, I need to bring Coco, too. She’s my best traveling hen. Nothing fazes her and even people who are wary of chickens love her. However, as you know, she’s been broody. She’s been an unmovable, bad-tempered lump since the beginning of June. If she was sitting on fertile eggs, she could have hatched two clutches by now. So, two days ago, I put her in this wire-bottomed crate.

Coco is an unflappable hen (pun intended.) Even broody she doesn’t panic and throw herself at the wire door. She’s standing and walking around. I’ve been handling her and giving her special treats. The anti-broody crate is working a bit. However, I can tell that if she saw her nesting box, she’d turn into a lump again. So, she’s staying in the crate.

Meanwhile, I have much to do before leaving on Monday. The traveling crates need scrubbing. The three hens will get baths on Sunday. Then I’m going to give myself a manicure. Right before I leave. Think it will last?

It’s going to be an exhausting week. After the taping, I’ll drive five hours back home. Then, on Thursday I drive four plus hours down to NYC to pick up our oldest son from a pre-college program in Brooklyn. Two days later, we pick up our other son from boy scout camp in New Hampshire (note that it’s the exact opposite direction.) I can’t blog or respond to emails from the car, so don’t worry if you don’t hear from me until August!

Lily Puts the Toys Away

I believe in having well-trained animals – it’s safer and less frustrating for everyone, animals and people alike. Good training doesn’t have anything to do with being the “alpha” or subservience or taking advantage of another being. Good training is a matter of observation and communication. It’s thinking through what behavior you want and taking positive steps to get there. It’s fun.

Here’s Lily Dog, putting Scooter’s toys away.

I train Lily using a technique called “clicker training.” I let her know she’s done what I want with a “click” sound (you’ll hear it on the video) and then she’s rewarded with bits of cheese. But, it’s not the cheese that’s making her happy – it’s having a task to do and doing it well. Don’t we all know that feeling!

What To Do With Basil

It’s been hot and dry  here. The grass is crunching underfoot. Unless you are a goat, “crunch” is not a word that should be used in the same sentence with “grass.”

We have a well, and although I don’t believe in using it on the grass, I have been able to keep the vegetable garden watered. The basil is loving the combination of hot sun and sprinkler. I’ve had a bumper crop, which reached it’s peak all at one time.

Basil gets too strong and bitter if it blooms and bolts. So, I harvested all of it. I gave it a thorough washing in several rinses of water (and then dumped that water on my pots of flowers by the kitchen door.) Next, I picked the leaves off of the thickest stems (to be given to the chickens.)

The most important step when preparing to store basil is to dry it in a salad spinner.

Next, I pureed it in the processor with just enough very good extra virgin olive oil to make a paste. I like to leave a little texture to it.

I put it by teaspoonfuls into ice cube trays and tuck into the freezer.

When frozen solid I pop out the cubes (you might need to run some hot water on the bottom of the trays to loosen them) and put into a zip freezer bag. Back it goes into the freezer until this coming winter, when there are so many ways to use this little bit of summer. I’ll put a cube into a pot of soup, spread another on lasagna, and flavor focaccia with it. I had enough basil to make a batch of classic garlic, pignoli nut, pesto, too, that I handled the same way. Come back this winter, and I’ll show you what I make with my summer’s harvest.