I never tire of pie. Not the baking, nor the eating. Which is why my Thanksgiving tradition doesn’t include turkey and the fixings. It’s just pie. This year, three dozen people came to my home for my annual Pie Party. I made 19 pies. 25 crusts (a classic butter rolled-out crust and graham.) I followed a few recipes. most that I’ve created, but also some from books and magazines. Inevitably, there’s a pie that I invent on the fly. This year it was the layered lemon, cream cheese and cherry pie.

There were two savory pies, a Corn, Tomato and Cheddar Tart, and an Onion and Gruyere pie. These were made with homegrown red onions.

corn pie


onion tart


Also made with homegrown ingredients was the Peach Pie with Dried Apricots. I can’t grow apricots, but this year was a bumper crop for my one peach tree. It had a walnut and oat crumb topping.

peach pie


There were apple pies made with locally-grown heirloom apples. One with a top crust, the other with an almond and ginger crumble.



pear pie


Every year I make a Toll House Pie, which is like a big chocolate chip cookie. Except it’s better, because there’s pie crust. This year I also made a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. That was like a big chocolate chip cookie, but for adults. Not all of the bourbon bakes off.

toll house


There was also Lemon Pie, Chocolate Pie, Raspberry Cream Cheese Pie, and that Cherry Invention. I set 8 pies out at a time, and as they’re finished, replenish the array.



I made enough pies so that my son could take one back to Detroit (where he’s in college) and for us to have leftovers. But none of the savory pies remain. I might just have to make another pie…

Twiggy Takes a Break

Finally! Twiggy, the White Leghorn, has stopped laying.

Twiggy is as active as ever.

foraging hens


And just as voracious.



I don’t see signs of a molt – no white feathers. No pin feathers coming in. I guess this is as much a break as she takes. We’ll see how long it lasts. I don’t expect to see one of her white eggs until February, but you never know with this hen.

Scooter shows no such hesitation at reducing his activity level. When he goes out in the morning, he tip-toes over the frosted leaves. Scooter has already enacted his winter plan.

dog curled up

A Busy Week

Across America, people are getting ready for Thanksgiving. In my house we don’t do the big family meal, with turkey and the fixings. Instead, on the weekend following Thanksgiving we have the Pie Party. It’s an event that I invented, and for my family and friends it has become a much looked forward to tradition. (If you type Pie Party into the HenBlog search bar, you can read about all of the parties from past years.)

The party is all pies. That’s it. A lot of pie. This year I’ll have more than 30 guests, and each one eats half a pie (yes, really, I keep records!) I bake all of the pies myself, from scratch. I use my organizational skills honed when I worked in professional kitchens. I have exact prep lists and have planned out the work flow. Yesterday I made 15 crusts, plus decorative cut-outs.

Baking is a combination of exact measurements and technique born from experience. I weigh out the flour.

measuring flour


But the rolling out is all about feel.

rolling crust

By the way, that’s my beloved rolling pin. It has a nonstick patina of butter in its pores.

I froze all but two of the crusts. Those were turned into pies, which were then also frozen. My pie crust recipe, and directions for freezing, are in this post. Some pies can be baked ahead. Some can be baked the day before. Some have to be made on the morning of the party. Some touches, like meringue, are done right before the guests arrive.

Today I go grocery shopping. I need cream and lemons. I’ll also head to a farmstand for some heirloom baking apples. (See my apple pie recipe.)

Here’s this year’s menu:

Lemon Pie, Toll House Pie (one with peanut butter chips, one with just chocolate), Apple Pie with Crumb Topping, Classic Double-crust Apple Pie, Pear and Cranberry Pie, Chocolate Pie with a Graham Crust and Meringue Piping, Chocolate Chunk Bourbon Pecan Pie, Apricot Cream Cheese Tart, Peach Pie (made with homegrown peaches), and two savory tarts: Onion and Prosciutto, and Corn and Tomato.

I’ll make doubles of most of these. And, no doubt, as I always do, I’ll worry that I don’t have enough (!) and make something at the last minute. As you can imagine, this week, blogging will take a backseat to the cooking.

What’s on your menu?

Phoebe On Her Own

Moving animals around the farm and changing groupings and housing is always complicated, especially so when you have several species, each with their own management needs, and then each animal is an individual with his or her own personality. It was time to combine the two flocks. I did this to ease my workload in the winter. I also anticipate more deaths (it happens with hens) and I didn’t want one flock of fewer than three birds. Melding the Gems and the Ladies has gone especially well! I haven’t seen any pecking order aggression.

But, I had an additional reasons to move the Ladies. I was also thinking about Phoebe, the rabbit that lived with them. Phoebe is my second bunny to abide in the smaller coop. The first was Candy, an imperious, imperturbable lop ear.



Candy liked to put herself right in amongst the hens. Candy was at the top of the pecking order. I called her the Empress.

with hen


Phoebe is not so domineering. She’d rather keep the hens at a distance. She doesn’t join the scrimmage for the morning treats.



I had a feeling that she’d be happy to have the Little Barn to herself. After I moved the hens, I cleaned it out, and gave her a litter box in a spot where she was used to peeing in the chickens’ bedding. (Something Candy never did.) Phoebe immediately used it.

phoebe in coop


Now that I know she’ll keep the barn tidy, she has cozy pine shavings to romp in.



I’m not going to get another rabbit to keep her company. She’s already three years old and has never had a bunny friend. (I got her from a rescue, and she was a lone rabbit in her previous home.) But, she’s not lacking for friends. There are the goats, and us humans.


Phoebe shows no signs of missing those bothersome chickens. Now she’s waiting for snow!


The Ladies Move In

I’ve been laying the groundwork for the Ladies to join the flock of Gems. They’ve free-ranged together. I encouraged mingling by tossing corn on the lawn.

Next, I put the Ladies inside of the coop so that they could get to know their new digs.



Meanwhile, the Gems were out on the lawn.



The next day, I cleaned out the Big Barn. I shoveled out all of the old bedding and then used a blower to get the dust out of every nook and cranny. (This is my new favorite cleaning tool! Despite frequent swipes with a broom, and a once-a-year thorough vacuuming, surfaces were thick with dust. If you do this, use a face mask and protective glasses!)



I put down a thick layer of fresh Koop Clean. The hens love this bedding, and I knew that they’d be so overjoyed at the prospect of scratching in it, that they wouldn’t bother their new roommates.

I carried the Ladies over to the Big Barn and tucked them inside, and then I invited the Gems in to meet them on their home turf.

open door


At first the Koop Clean was so distracting, that no one cared about the interlopers.



The Ladies went outside before anyone noticed them. For awhile they stuck together.

ladies together


But then the pumpkin that I’d put out provided a distraction (as I knew it would.)



Soon, everyone was milling around. No drama.



At nightfall, the Gems went to their normal places on the roost, and then the Ladies climbed up and settled down.


So far, so good. I expect a few skirmished as the chickens realize that there’s a new pecking order to be sorted out, but I don’t think that it will be too bad.

Phoebe, by the way, is enjoying having the Little Barn to herself. More on that in another post!