Every Healthy Chick needs a Tonic!

“Tonic? Singular? Don’t you mean Gin and Tonic?” I hear you murmur….. Nope. This is definitely a post all about tonic of the chicken variety today; mainly because I have a mound of comfrey leaves waiting to be put to good use and a lovely herb spiral loaded with goodies of the green and nutritious kind.

The girls Chicks

I like to give my “ladies” a little health tonic boost throughout the year but especially coming into winter. They’ve had a hard time of it this summer with the heat and the endless drought. It put them off the lay and many began to moult; a right scruffy bunch they looked too! Chickens need extra nutrition especially whilst laying. It makes sense to offer a herb tonic to keep your hen in tip top condition because that means your eggs will be tip top too.

You can make your own homemade tonic and tailor it to your chickens’ needs; it can also be free too if you have the right herbs already growing in your garden. Not that I’m a cheapskate…I just love a bargain!

This is what I generally use in my chicken tonic:

Perk Me Up Tonic for Jaded Chickens

2 handfuls of marjoram
2 handfuls of sage
2 handfuls of chickweed
1 handful of Pineapple sage
1 handful of Comfrey
1 handful of marigold/calendular flowers
1 handful of parsley

Chicken Tonic Herbs

Chop up the herbs and add to usual feed or simply throw around the coop as a healthy snack and a fun game for your chookies! You can dry these herbs for use in winter if you like. Then you will always have a steady supply. I do this with calendular flowers in the summer as they are great for making rich orange egg yolks.

Chicken Tonic 5 Chicken Tonic 6

In the summer when flowers are plentiful I add any of the following :
Violets or Heartsease
Sunflowers
Clover
Borage

Chicken Tonic 3 Chicken Tonic 2

To help you on your way here is a list of herbs and their benefits :

Chickweed – packed to the brim with nutrients
Comfrey – rich in protein and a good source of potassium and calcium
Dandelion greens – immune system
Dill – relaxant, anti-oxidant
Fennel and garlic – laying stimulant (garlic will taint the taste of your eggs)
Lavender – stress reliever, insecticide
Lemon balm – stress reliever, antibacterial
Marigold – yellow yolks, insecticide
Marjoram – laying stimulant
Mint – insecticide
Nettle – high in nutrients and vitamins
Oregano – stimulant, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal
Pineapple sage – aids nervous system
Rosemary – insecticide
Sage – anti-oxidant, anti-parasitic, general health promoter
Thyme – anti-parasitic, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial
Yarrow – anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, stress reliever

Enjoy making your own chicken tonic. If you’re short on time simply tie together some silverbeet (chard), spinach and herbs and hang in the chicken coop. You will amuse and delight your feathered friends whilst giving them some nutritional goodness too – everyone’s a winner!

Chick Weed

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The Muesli Bar Challenge #1

Tea and museli bar

I love to bake; especially for my family and friends. I bake for many reasons but one of the most pertinent ones is I like to think my baking creates memories for my children; coming home from school to the delicious smell of Mum’s Apple cake was always a delight for me as a child. My Teacher Friend summed it up recently. She said how she remembers fondly the baking her Mum used to create and how she too wanted to do the same for her children. As S. J Watson said in the brilliant novel “Before I go to Sleep”, “What are we if not an accumulation of our memories?” (page 164) so, lets start creating memories!

I’m starting with the humble muesli bar. I decided to set myself the challenge of finding the best Muesli bar recipe ever. Most muesli bar recipes call for a similar roll call of ingredients including rolled oats, dried fruit, coconut but the difference lies in the wet ingredients. The wet ingredients can make or break a muesli bar; some make for a crumbly affair and others have you ringing up your dentist for an appointment they’re so hard. I’m going to try and find the perfect one and will start with the Kiwi Classic Cook Book the Edmonds Cookery Book.

Edmonds Cookery Book

The recipe calls for ingredients that I have in my cupboard today – hurray!

Recipe

First melt the butter, apricot jam and golden syrup over a low heat.

First shot

In a large bowl measure the remaining ingredients. I used cranberries instead of raisins for a change.

Dry ingredients

Simply combine the melted wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and press into a square tin.

Mixture ready to mix

After 25-30 mins in the oven at 180c you should have something like this…..

Cooked Museli Bar

So my criteria for testing (should try and be professional about this!) are as follows:

Taste – Love the toasted nuttiness of the seseme seeds
Sweetness – perfect; not too sweet at all
Crunch factor – A bit of crunch and nice and chewy
Crumble factor – My piece crumbled (but I had just taken it out of the oven!) but once cooled they hold together well
Verdict from the Little People – scoffed half the tin so I’m taking that as a good sign
Overall Rating – I think this is a very deserving little muesli bar 8/10.

Well Done Edmonds!

In the beginning…..there was a fig tree

I came to figs rather late in life; I was in my late thirties when I first tasted a fresh, sun-riped fig. The figs of my childhood were consumed at Christmastime; soft and sticky from a cardboard box with a camel on it. So exotic and foreign. Now I find myself living in New Zealand with my very own figs trees simply dripping with this most luscious of fruits. I am the proud curator of two Brown Turkeys and one Adriatic and some 600 figlets. I say figlets; I’m not sure if it’s a technical term for a fig under one year old! I have nurtured these little babies from dead looking stick to healthy, sprouting figlet and I’m very proud of that fact!

I never planned to become a fig orchardist but life has a funny way of sending curve balls. I was looking to replace part of our apple orchard closest to our house. A local business featured an article in the local paper looking for people to grow figs co-operatively with them. What I knew about figs then could be written on the back of a postage stamp but I read on… Figs grow anywhere – the poorer the soil the better; I certainly had plenty of soil poor or otherwise….figs only need pruning once a year; I can manage a bit of light pruning…..figs do not need to be sprayed with chemicals; bingo that’s just what I wanted to hear! I was sold and phoned my husband then and there. I must have sounded like I’d been at the gin because his response was a bit stilted to say the least. But then some of my ideas have been a bit “out there” now I look back. Like the time I thought we should invest in some buffaloes and go into the buffalo mozzarella business; “But there’s a market in New Zealand for it! I can’t find it in the shops!” “Will you do the milking every morning?” my husband replied. Good Point Well Made. Anyway, later that night we talked again and decided to go and talk to the Figgery….the rest is history. One year of history to be precise.

Our delivery of fig sticks

Fig 2Fig 1

Here are the fig sticks ready to be put into root hormone and some potting compost

Fig 3

Job done. 1,000 fig sticks underneath the walnut tree.

Fig 4

And a very exciting moment…the first bud!

First Fig Bud

This is the year when we will plant the figlets in the orchard. Next year (2014) we should get a crop but they won’t be fully productive until 2015. There’s still a long way to go but I’m excited about this journey I really am!

Seeing Red

Autumn Poem

My beautiful daughter, Little Lady, wrote a rather marvellous poem about Autumn. I thought I’d share it with you and use it to start my Autumn post. After a long, hot summer we are all in a state of shock as autumn’s nippy little fingers have finally got their clutches on us. It was a cool 9 degrees on the school run yesterday morning and we got the Big Blankets out (affectionally named The Walrus) for the beds. The garden has been a tapestry of reds, pinks, purples, oranges and yellows; a real feast for the eyes. Even though our Autumn this year has felt more like summer, I’ve still been reaching for my Soup Book. I’ll write a blog about soup soon and share some of my favourite recipes. For now, here are some autumnal photos from my garden.

red leavesBurgundy LeavesSolo LeafTree

And some red photos because….well just because really!

Keep Calm TinCushionsBooksBagHearts

And I end this post with my seductive, glossy, hot chilies tucked away in the greenhouse just waiting for me to pick them and turn them into their destiny; otherwise known as Chili Jam. More on this in another post. So much to write about!
Chilies

A Walk on the Wild Side…

Ohakune Sign

Day 2 of our Road Trip saw us going for another Bush Walk. I wasn’t sure if the Little Ones Legs would be up for it but they skipped out of the car like mountain goats so off we went.

Old Coach Road Sign

The Ohakune Old Coach road follows the road of the old bridle path that was finished in 1886. It was used for coaches to carry passengers and goods between the two railheads of the main trunk line from Auckland to Wellington in the North Island. You can still see the rock pavers that were added to the road in 1885 when it was updated to a dray road and so needed to be more durable.

Auck towellie sign

The walk begins with wonderful vews of farmland

Just like DevonLike Devon againThistle

I couldn’t help thinking of Devon with those lush, rolling hills and farm gates. Then, as we rounded the corner into the Kiwi bush we entered Hobbitville…..

Hobbitville

with towering rimu….
Tall Tree

the ubiquitous ferns…..
Ferns

moss covered trees….

Moss on treeNative Plant 2Native plant 3

and what I think might be Himalayan Honeysuckle or Leycesteria Formosa….but I could be completely wrong. I’m no Alan Titchmarsh I’m afraid….!

Native Plant 5

As we came out of the bush we saw the spectacular Hapuawhenua Viaduct that was built in 1907-1908 to finish off the main trunk railway.

Old rail track

I loved the symmetry of the design with it’s 13 concrete piers and it’s gracelful curves. It was designed by Peter Seton Hay, Superintending Engineer of the Public Works Department and has a Category I Historic Places status from Historic Places Trust. The viaduct is 284 metres long and at its maximum it stands 45 metres high. Impressively it was still in use until 1987 when the line was realigned and a new viaduct was built. A spectacular piece of railway engineering heritage even if you’re not the typical Trainspotter type of individual (and I’m not at all I promise….no navy anorack for me!!)

We also saw buckets….

Buckets

It was at this point that my family and friends thought I’d lost the plot (“Mummy, why are you taking photos of rusty old buckets?”) so we set off steadily munching jelly snake lollies.

Lolly Bribes

Ah lovely…..