We had a decent supply of tomatoes from our garden this year, and decided to experiment with different ways of preserving them. One of the ideas I had read about was making chips, that are good just as a snack, or re-hydrated in meals.
We took a couple of buckets of tomatoes and made a combination of types to see what works best.
For the dehydration process, we sliced them and used salt, garlic and Italian seasoning lightly sprinkled on them, then into the Excalibur dehydrator until crispy.
The final product was delicious, and we stored them in glass mason jars that we also use for canning. They make a great snack and are a project we will be repeating.
Lessons learned include:
- Use meaty tomato varieties
- go light on the salt as they are concentrated when they dry
- do not slice too thick if you are making chips, but ensure you have enough to have a body to the finished product. I find under 1/4 but more than 1/8th is generally good.
With a focus on acquiring Heritage breed chickens as our laying flock, it was very easy to land on the Silver Laced Wyandotte as a top contender for our small farm. They are a very pretty breed with great shimmery green on the laced black edges of their feathers. Known for their durability through harsh winters thanks to a rose comb and a heavy breed body, it was a good fit for our PA climate.
We ended up with only 1 hen with too many roosters this first season, so we retained just one rooster and sent the other off to freezer camp. Hoping to be able to breed this variety, we will hang on to the lovely hen Midnight who was our first chick to fly and roost above her peers. Clearly an intelligent bird seeking adventure, she fits right in on our little homestead. She is wonderful at foraging, allows our kids as well as our guests to approach and handle her. She lays a medium brown eggs with speckles daily (we call them freckles since we are all freckled) . This is a beautiful breed that I highly recommend for a small farm that would like attractive birds that lay frequently and have a wonderful disposition.
McMurray hatchery has a good description you can read here: https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/silver_laced_wyandottes.html for more information on this breed.
Marans come in plenty of colors as they are a frequently used as a project breed thanks to the lovely dark chocolate eggs that they lay.
Not recognized by the APA or ABA, the Marans that we have are called a Splash Marans. Ours come from the French strain of genetics as denoted by their feathered legs.
The legs are slate colored, combs are big and floppy on the on the rosters and small, and tightly fit the contours of the head on the hens. It is very rewarding for us to have this breed as the temperament has been super friendly, pleasant and docile. The one rooster enjoyed meeting us each morning by the front door and walking us to the bus stop. The hens are very consistent egg layers and aren’t picky about nesting boxes.
Searching for chickens that would provide color varieties in my egg carton led me to the Welsummer. Heritage breeds were the way to go for our homestead and you cannot get a more classic looking rooster than the Welsummer.
The hens we have tend to be more skittish and less social but we are getting eggs almost daily with a great orangey-yellow yolk. It is worth mentioning that the pullets look like a little chipmunk as chicks and so telling the difference between the pullets and cockerels can be done at a young age. The rooster is colorful and grows to an impressive size. Our Hercules is a handsome one with a loud crowing to call those girls in and warn of predators.
After researching breeds of chickens that would fare well in our humid PA summers and cold winters, I settled onto the fluffy butt of the Buff Orpington. This heavy breed is known for a docile personality, however we did not find this to be the case in our young birds. In the early months, they were adorable and the epitome of cute yellow chickeny goodness. However as they progressed to living outdoors, both the pullets and the cockerels had some attitude which included pecking and asserting their dominance towards the humans.
As they grew into their adult size they seemed to definitely become more calm and actually sought out some interaction from us in a very rewarding way. By rewarding I mean they laid us lovely light brown eggs, allowed our daughter to handle them and stopped pecking at us when we entered. It’s possible that chickens are able to communicate about our intentions and they understood that the aggressive cockerel was sent to freezer camp early on and they hoped to avoid this fate.
In keeping with my goal to have a collection of colorful eggs in every carton, it led me to the Easter Eggers. We got 5 at first and 4 of them grew into cockerels. This lets you know that you cannot tell gender at a young age. In fact until my favorite pullet started to crow, I was convinced I had 2 pullets. Bummer.
Easter Egger Chicken is also commonly referred to as the Ameraucana. The Ameraucana Chicken Breed is recognized by the APA in many different color variations. The breeder I purchased from had a Wheaten rooster over Ameraucana hens. You cannot determine egg color by looking at leg color. Our EE birds have slate colored legs but if you go to their ear, you will see that it is a slightly gray color which is more closely linked to their egg color.