In Season two of The Duck Chronicles- Episode Thirteen – New Muscovies and February is Green we check out the new muscovies progress and even some newer ones that were added since the last episode.
The silvers are really pretty. The day started out with duck anarchy. Dorothy left the gate open and when I got up there were ducks everywhere. A quick call of duck duck duck along with a bucket of breakfast sprouts got them up front where they belong.
Fox and Dana the rat patrol have come along well. They spend their days mostly sleeping and playing. By working with them we have gotten them to be able to hang with our ducks and not really bother them. They also follow me around the property in my daily tasks, and have done great at not really leaving the 3 acres of fenced area.
The drain system for the water with the willow is a big improvement but more has yet to be done. We will be planting more trees and building a second drain system to split up the total water.
You also get to see today what happens when ducks get our early; you end up on a bit of an egg hunt. Today we found three so far. Nice big ones too. We also take a look and how we are healing land using quail waste material.
We finish up with a brief look at the quail aviary but if you want to see a full review check out our playlist of the step by step progress here. http://bit.ly/quail-aiv
We are still working out the kinks in our new quail laying operation but we do have eggs. We are making them available to our customers for 4 dollars per 15 pack.
Be advised if you want to use quail eggs any way other than boiled you really are going to want a quail egg cutting tool like this one.
Quail eggs really do prove that good things come in small packages. I have been eating them like mad since we started getting them. We are still in a major duck egg shortage so it has been nice to have these around. I have a feeling I am going to have to hold some back for myself.
While only about 1/4th the size of a chicken egg they are packed with both flavor and with nutrition. Some quick nutrition facts about quail eggs are quite amazing, here are a few articles about the benefits and nutrition of quail eggs…
My grandmaw that is, perhaps yours too. Read on and make that call for yourself.
First off like most people I had two wonderful grandmothers. One was Italian on my mothers side. She was amazing in the kitchen and raised me more as my mother than my grandmother in my early years. Anything that woman touched in the kitchen was pure gold. Sadly she left us way to young, the consequences of her one true vice, smoking.
My fathers mother is where this recipe came from. She was equally a second mother to me and taught me a lot about what to do and what not to do in the kitchen. Sadly both by example. She was old country Ukrainian as in actually came over in the early 1900s old enough to remember “the old country”. The woman could bake anything as though an angle cooked it and the ethinic food don’t let me get started on it, wow I miss it. Meat though? As in steak, roast beef, pork chops, etc. The woman murdered meat.
Everything was cooked to oblivion, there was a saying at Sunday dinner, “Thank God for Gravy”. This was a deep seated and irreversible consequence of her living at a time with no refrigeration. Meat was to be cooked to death to make sure death wasn’t the result of consuming it.
Her saving grace with meats? Anything deep fried. How a Ukrainian Grandmother in Pennsylvania came to this following recipie for frying chicken which is about a southern as it gets, she never told me. But last night I was thinking of her and since I just culled some of our male Texas A&M quail I decided to dust off the memory of her chicken and try it will quail. The only additions I added were I used some Keith Snow Grilled Chicken Seasoning in the Flour and I didn’t use butter milk. That makes it better, but this was spur of the moment decision and we didn’t have any. Since it was quail, I also used quail eggs vs. chicken eggs.
Here is what you do, Part the quail out into quarters. Split the breasts in half and take the leg and thy as individual pieces. Make a two station coating set up. One plate with flour, salt, pepper and any seasoning you want. This is where I added some Keith Snow grilled chicken seasoning. In the other use cracker crumbs. Saltines, you can buy them or do what I did, put some crackers in a ziplock bag and roll them with a mason jar. Just like grandmaw did.
Next in a bowl beat one egg with about an equal amount of butter milk. I used 5 quails eggs about the same as one chicken egg. Well four actually one was double yolk, poor little quail who laid that thing!
Next dip your pieces into the egg mix, then roll in flour. Now dip in egg again, and roll in cracker crumbs. Here is another deviation, my grandmother would do all this in the morning, then put the pieces in the fridge till dinner. This makes the breading really stick beautifully! You can even do this and put them on a try in the freezer. Once solid vacuum seal and you have take out and fry ready to go chicken, done this way the breading really holds up beautifully. Since it was 6PM and I was hungry I went strait to the frying pan.
Now pay attention this is important. No non stick teflon coated crap, no canola oil, none of that new fangeled crap as granny called it. You melt enough lard into a well seasoned cast iron skillet so that the lard will come up about half way on the sized pieces you are frying. Get the oil to a medium heat. Put your pieces in, for your breasts go meat side down first, ALWAYS or you get your hand smacked. I can still hear her over my shoulder saying, always the thick side first.
Fry to golden brown, turn and do the same. Now if you are doing big pieces you may need to put them in a pan with a rack at the bottom to keep them from sitting in grease and put in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes to finish them though. For quail though they are small and done right away.
Take the pieces and set them on paper towel to drain. Grandmaw used old news paper rather than waste a “good paper towel” but we don’t really use news paper and sorry grandmaw not hip on news print chemicals. But the 1980s were a different time were they not?
Now quail are some small little birds but as you can see done this way they make a decent meal at just one bird per person as part of a full meal. Add some vegetables, some sweet potato fries and a salad and this would be bangin. That said it was late and we had been at the movies, Dorothy didn’t want any so I didn’t bother with sides and just ate all of it.
Final thoughts on what I would suggest differently.
The coating did stick really well, hot grease helps with this a lot but not too hot least it brown to fast but a day in the fridge is a good idea it will stick even better.
Though the coating held up well it crumpled a lot when eating the breast pieces, you have to contort those little things a lot to get the meat off the bone. I would take a few moments to bone the breast pieces next time. The leg quarters, work just fine though.
This was really good but saltine crackers are not that flavorful. I did it this way as a tribute to grandmaw, if you are going to do crackers, butter crackers or ritz style have more flavor.
But what about Paleo Jack
While it is true this was NOT paleo it was not that bad as a once in a while treat and hey, grandmaw deserves to be paid tribute to at times. In the end it was not a lot of carbs really but yea higher than something I would eat often.
Fear not though my caveman and cavewomen followers, my paleo version is coming. Not yet but I will leave you with these ingreedents,
Hard Parmesan Cheese
Honestly this will taste better and be about 2 carbs per piece of quail. If you just get creative I bet you can figure out exactly what to do but my official recipe will come soon.
If you really want to make this a forget healthy eating for a day and just have a glorious treat, mix a butter and flour roux with some of the lard, add salt and course cracked pepper and make white gravy! When you work hard all the time you can treat yourself to such things from time to time and not feel bad about it.
Cracking quail eggs is a bit different than cracking a chicken egg. You can do it with a knife if you are really skilled but given this tool does it perfectly every single time and only costs about 9 dollars, it is the way to go. You can get one here, http://amzn.to/1PhA4fE
While I did this video to show you how this little tool works today I am scrambling my eggs with left over skirt steak, a bit of salsa and cheese. Yum!
We should be offering quail eggs to our customers in another week or two. With that in mind we are going to put a few videos about using them so that every customer knows what to expect and has a great experience with these fantastic eggs. Right now frankly since the ducks are not laying enough, I am hording our first quail eggs for my own breakfast and snacking.
Today we discuss how to make quail eggs either sunny side up style of over easy. It is a simple life hack, re-purposing a mason jar ring for an egg ring. Sure you can spend money on a official egg ring but to me that doesn’t really make much sense.
Quail eggs are tiny but that isn’t the only thing that makes them different. They tend to easily have whits and yolks seperate. This is no problem for scrambled eggs or boiled ones but if you are trying them sunny side up or over easy, it can be.
What you end up with is often long strung out thin whites on one side of the pan and lonely yolks on the other. The solution is called an egg ring. Now you an buy a set for 12 dollars or more or do what we do and just use a mason jar ring. A large ring is perfect for 5 eggs, a small mouth ring works well for 3.
Next time we will talk about cracking quail eggs and why you will really want to get the tool you see me crack and egg with at the beginning of this video.
As you might imagine as local small farmers that also try to buy what we don’t produce from other local producers we live a very healthy food centric life. That leads to my other passion cooking. I love to cook even more I think than to eat what I cook.
Another thing I enjoy is cooking out doors. We do this with grills, smokers, in a fire pit, with rocket stoves and portable stove tops.
I recommended the one pictured above, The Ranger II by Camp Chef. It is a phenomenal stove and I recommend it for many reasons. First if your stove is electric you should have a back up way to cook. This stove is the most flexible one that still has full sized stove power I have ever found. It is absolutely safe to use indoors as well if the power is out and it is cold outside. Next though if you are stuck with an electric stove, you will find yourself wanting to cook with this stove frequently and likely outside. The best part is it sells for just under 100 bucks and ships free if you have Amazon Prime.
A Combination Unit that May Not Be the Best Option.
Anyway a person who listened to my podcast, asked about this stove/oven combination. Made by the same people so I am sure it is absolutely top quality. So hey why not add an oven. The issue is the stove top itself is only a 7000 BTU burner set vs a 17000 BTU burner set and the stove with the over costs over 100 dollars more.
Also while the oven is nice, it isn’t very flexible, and it isn’t very large either. Next the unit is a lot bigger so it is less convenient to just whip up some sausage and eggs on the deck on a sleepy Sunday morning with.
Some really like “all in one” type things well my take is a bit different. Again we have two goals when we add items to our on farm cookware.
~ One – Enhance our quality of life, give ourselves more fun options and when it comes to outdoors stuff, that includes options for camping or tail gating too.
~ Two – Improve our ability to deal with disasters and power outages if we need a back up cooking method.
So when asked about this I think a lot more about flexibility, adaptability and functionality along with good old fashioned frugality. In fact I have a slogan, always be frugal but never be cheap.
Here is the solution I put together.
Say I am happy to spend 213 bucks to up this part of my lifestyle and preps at the same time. Instead of buying a weaker stove, I would do this.
It is only 30 bucks! It also folds down when not in use to be only 2 inches high. You can put it on your cook top, put it on a grill, use fire coals from a camp fire, you are not restricted just to gas. It is cheaper, works just as good, has a little bit more interior space and is dramatically more flexible.
Also a heck of a lot lighter.
Now I now still have 85 dollars!
So I go get myself a nice 6 quart dutch oven with a rimmed top, like this, http://amzn.to/1PpuuSL for 60 bucks shipped free by the way on Amazon Prime.
I still have 15 bucks left over! I can get a good dutch oven lid lifter tool with it for 11 bucks. Or if I don’t need one I could buy some food to get started cooking with my new stuff.
I now have the best small cook stove I know of, a camp oven that I can cook with and a dutch oven that I can use as an oven or make something like pot roast, stew or chili. If camping I can camp fire cook and still bring my stove and make eggs with that or say fried potatoes. I am not relying on just one thing that can break I am now sitting with three options. On top of it all my stove itself is more convenient so I am going to use it more.
So what does this all have to do with being a small farmer?
As a small farmer this is how you have to think about everything you do. We have to function stack our feeding, our egg collection, etc. for efficiency. Our new quail aviary will not just produce quail but grow food for the quail to cut our feed cost while improving product quality and it will also grow food for people too. On top of that it will produce compost all while giving the quail the freedom to really be quail they way they most like to be. Room to run, play and fly. Something we can show our customers that justifies the premium local food sells for.
The days of the giant farm in my opinion are coming to an end. Too much damage to soil, the product quality has been in decline steadily for over 50 years. Less nutrients in our food, less flavor too. The food may visually look good but it doesn’t taste to me like it did even back in the 80s.
We are encouraged daily by people that want to do business with us because they want more quality. What is even more encouraging is people doing it themselves and we see it daily. People asking for advice and getting started, some with just a small personal flock of chickens or quail and others doing far more then we do on our little 3 acre duck farm.
The key though is you have to THINK as a small producer. There is an often stated claim that small farms can’t be profitable, there is some truth to that, because many are not. But you can be viable if you work hard to make one thing do many things, or use the same investment to get multiple redundant solutions. To us this is the way forward for small farms. The systems are disinterested in our success, the corporations of the world want big food, big pharma, big everything. To succeed as small farmers we need more than big dreams and big ideas, we need efficiency and agility. This type of thought process is how we get that done.
All you do is plug it in and it does the rest. Once it is dark a motion sensor turns it on when it senses any movement. Lighting up your dark hall way or dark storage building automatically. It gets better though, if the power goes off it turns on automatically. This helps you find your other lights, candles, etc, without breaking your neck. I mean we all know power tends to fail at times like when you are just getting out of the shower.
But hey you need to get to your gear, well all you do is pick this little gadget up off its charger, push a button and you have a flash light you can take with you. Always fully charged.
We have used various types of Power Failure Lights for many years, they really are a blessing. This latest one though solves a lot of problems. First the lights are LED, this makes them low draw and extends battery life. And with this type of use their life expectancy is though the roof. Next the battery is lithium ion. This is a big deal, every other version we have tried used NiCads and being charged constantly would eventually either kill them, kill how long they lasted or in some cases actually make the light come on and stay on even when it was switched to off.
Living in Texas storm season is really two seasons, bad storm season and normal storm season. So we are adding a couple of these a month over time to our homestead. First in the house but eventually I will have some in both shops and one in the duck house.
These are available on Amazon Prime so they ship free if you are a member.
Get a few and the next time the power goes out you will have no stubbed toes, no scared kids when the lights go out and you can raid the fridge without turning on any lights after hours.
Well guys the new year is upon us and it is time to update everyone on some things.
First we are raising our price to an even 8 dollars a dozen for all customers. We have granted special pricing to a few customers over the last year and we have been in general selling at 7.50 a dozen. That said we remain constantly sold out and our work load and expenses dictate that we move to a uniform pricing model. As owners of a small farm we spend a lot of hours and a lot of money to produce a premium product, we try to balance this in setting our price. This new price is fair and about 4 dollars less then duck eggs at Whole Foods when and if you can find them there.
Next for at least 30-45 more days we are going to continue to not take new customers. Unfortunately several weeks ago a coyote killed over 24 of our ducks and our 2 geese. Jack was able to eventually shoot the coyote and she is no longer a threat. But this came at the absolute worse time of the year. In the winter ducks simply lay less, many of the birds we lost were mature layers. We have not taken new customers in about a month at this point and it will be at least that long before we take any new customers.
Following the above, current customers will have longer wait times for at least another month and we have an absolute hard limit of 4 dozen eggs per customer. In some instances as we work down our list we may offer some customers say 2 dozen for the time being. We are doing all we can to be fair to every customer and do so with our currently limited production.
We have taken measures to rectify the situation. First we installed artificial timed lights, this is helping but the effect is limited. One cannot force a duck to lay and frankly we would not do so if we could. The health and happiness of our animals is our top priority. We brought in new birds this fall that will also begin to lay in February and over the next 60 days laying of all the birds will increase as part of the natural cycle.
Additionally we purchased 8 mature muscovy ducks and 15 that are about 4 months old at considerable expense as a stop gap. These girls are laying a bit right now and should be at full on capacity by the beginning of February.
As a final note we are no longer going to be offering a deposit return on egg cartons. The program just wasn’t that popular and our cost on cartons in quantity is only 28 cents a unit, in doing a 50 cent return program we were costing ourselves money. Small farms can’t do that over the long term.
I do want to say that we absolutely love all of our customers. We love being a place your kids can come to and see where their food comes from, we love hearing about how our product is improving your health or in many cases making eating eggs possible for some who can’t eat chicken eggs.
We will be working hard to bring more to you in the coming months. We currently have 60 plus quail in house that should start laying in about a month and will be adding quail eggs to our offering. We will also be bringing out a line of amazing loose leaf teas and possibly baby and micro green salad mixes by March.
Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to offer us your business. And thank you for understanding this is real farming, there are times of limited production. For those that wish to become customers when production ramps back up, just fill out our email update form on the right. We will let you know when production comes back up.
To deal with this loss we just purchased a total of 16 young muscovies, many are chocolate and gray phase birds. The oldest among them (about 6) will be laying for us by the end of January, the rest should be laying in March, this will help us catch up with our loses.
This will also avoid the need to brood young birds in the winter like we did last year. We will be adding more Welsh Harlequins and 300 Layers and perhaps some silver apple yards, now in March, that will put them into laying in August right when the muscovies go to full stop.
We also just got 8 inches of rain in about three days from the remnants of Hurricane Sandra, while this storm was weak sauce overall it brought a TON of rain our way, way too much as usual way to fast.
This means 2015 was the wettest year on record in our area and yet we still had a five month drought between the spring and fall monsoons. Welcome to north Texas weather! Oh the weather guessers say our rainfall for this month was 2.55 inches, they really don’t do a very good job, our three day total came from measuring water collected in a 6 foot kiddie pool over those three days in an open field.
Fox and Dana also make several appearances, they are both coming along very well and doing just great in learning to trust people after their feral kittenhood. Fox has learned to leave the ducks alone; Dana is likely one butt kicking by Arnold, Hans or Franz from finally understanding that as well.
Remember you can see every episode of The Duck Chronicles from both Seasons So Far at DuckChronicles.com