Life In Macro

Strawberry Shortbread Cookies

 Strawberry Shorbread Cookies 

I've always wanted a food dehydrator ever since I began to garden. Sometimes produce comes so fast there isn't any room left in the fridge, freezer, pantry, underneath the house, in the bathroom to the point where I have have to foist it on my husbands co-workers. Last year I didn't preserve at all which was a big mistake. It meant I was making tons of food for the right now..not for later. This year I'll be freezing, canning, and dehydrating.
Excalibur 4 Tray Dehydrator 
The people at Excalibur were kind enough to send me their 4 Tray Starter Dehydrator (2400 Model).
The very first thing I made was Buffalo chicken jerky with left over raw chicken from the prior night.. The smell of the chicken as it was drove everyone crazy. It was gone so quickly I wasn't able to take a picture of it. The second thing I dehydrated were strawberries on the verge of going bad. I figured at the very least my husband could use them in his oatmeal. The strawberries had a chewy/crunchy consistency. The taste was this unreal strawberry flavor with a huge burst of tartness. I could imagine them in muffins, pancakes, waffles, anything really. As it turned out today I wanted to make some cookies because Cupcake Bandit Madeline had been pestering asking me for cookies for a few days. I was going to just make some shortbread when an idea popped into my head. Why not Strawberry Shortbread? Shortbread by itself is amazing. But Strawberry Shortbread? Forgetaboutit. It's like summer in your mouth..with this buttery, crunchy, and intense strawberry flavor. If you don't have a dehydrator don't worry as you can buy this stuff in your bulk foods section. 
I have plans for my dehydrator.  I'm going to make homemade yogurt. I'm so excited about it! I've wanted to make homemade yogurt for years. And Alan can't wait till the hot peppers grow so I can make dry rubs and mixes for cooking. The dehydrator comes with a booklet that tells you what temps you need for say beef vs. fish or veggies vs. fruit. They have recipes for brines but also for AFTER you dehydrate. Over all I'm very impressed. 
I really want to thank the people at Excalibur for letting me try out their awesome product.
Do you have a dehydrator?
Delicious and Easy Strawberry Shortbread 
Strawberry Shortbread   
by Christine E. Mack 
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 stick unsalted butter. cubed
1 cup of dried sliced strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry preserves
Preheat oven at 350 F. Butter a rectangular pan and set aside. In stand mixer, add flour, dried strawberries and salt. Pulse for 30 seconds. Next add strawberry preserves and mix on low until flour becomes pink. With mixer still on low add in butter a few cubes at a time. Once all in turn up mixer to medium and beat until it comes together to form a firm dough into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. While hot cut shortbread into squares. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy! 

Raising Ducks For The First Time

Baby Ducklings 

I'm new to raising ducks. A lot of it is just plain common sense. Clean water, plenty of food, clean bedding right? Well there is more to it than that. For most intents and purposes ducks aren't raised as pets. They are raised for meat and eggs for personal consumption. With ducks you have to be one part parent, one part companion, one part vet, and one part zoo keeper. With that I have to say.....

God Bless the Interwebs! 

Without the internet I'd be lost. Books are all fine and good but they don't connect you to real people with real life situations. It's through them I've learned tips and tricks to handle most any situation. It's through them I learned about the terminology. In particular, Facebook has been the most useful of tools. Not everyone who raises poultry has a blog. A lot more use Facebook though. It's brings together a mixture of vetted poultry raisers and newbies alike. When I log onto Facebook I learn something new all the time. Just type "ducks" in the search bar and you get a slew of people who are passionate about the topic. The other resource I have found super useful are the forums on BYC has a very large crowd from all over the world with a concentration from the U.S. I particularly love one section where they connect you by state. This way you can find local people to swap fertilized eggs, get local advice, local based suggestions and other goodies. BYC isn't just for people raising chickens. They also talk about all other poultry, gardening, and other farm animals. I want to share some of the some of the things I've learned that were most helpful.

Chilling Out In The Grass
1.) Ducks are the biggest slobs on the faces of this earth but they are also among some of the cleanest. Ducks aren't messy on purpose. They just have needs. That need is water. Think about it. They are water fowl. Ducks consume much more water that chickens for a few reasons. Consumption would be the first. Second would be to clean out their bill due to it's shape. Have you ever had peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth? It's kind of like that. Now imagine your nostrils are on the roof of the mouth. Third would be for bathing. They like to keep clean. Cleanliness helps keep up their health. Fourth would be happiness. The little critters just love to swim.

2.)  I've seen a lot of different people say a lot of different things in regards to letting ducklings swim. It takes a little bit for ducks (and chickens) to become water proof. The ducky's down can become waterlogged and make them tired. Subsequently they drown. The other problem would be body temp can go down quickly. Momma duck naturally waterproofs the duckies with her own oils. HOWEVER, I have seen many instances where ducks drown anyway because they get tired even if they are waterproofed. You know what I say? Forgettaboutit. As human beings we are born with a bigger brain and two hands. Most times. For the record the six ducklings I bought are grown up for the most part. So here is what I did. I drew a bath as I would for a human baby and turned up the heat in the house so the bathroom was toasty. (translation: I was sweating) Let me tell you...there is nothing sweeter than seeing little fluffy ducklings swim around in the water for the first time. Beware because the very first thing they will do is poop. All you have to do after that is read body language to know if they are tired. They'll just sit there. If they are cold they'll huddle in a group. Either way it's time for them to get dried off in a big fluffy towel. Be careful of their vent (where they poop) but make sure you get the majority of the down dry. Immediately transfer them to the brooder.

Baby Ducklings In Large Brooder
3.) You will wind up changing duck bedding a few times a day. Not only are they messy with water but their poop is very wet. And stinky. At a certain point (4 weeks) I wound up giving the ducks a dog dish vs. a chick/duckling waterer. Not only could the splash in it but it also prevented a HUGE puddle of water on the floor and soaking most of their bedding in the process. The bedding was still wet in a certain area but no water damage on the floor was great too. I used pine shaving for their bedding. After a couple hours it was matted down. I wasn't so much concerned about cleaning it as I was concerned about the ducks getting sick from being in wet bedding as they were getting super playful with the water. I decided at 5 weeks to not use bedding. The poop & water would fall through the mesh wire in the brooder. I really wish I had done that sooner.

4.) At six weeks the ducklings were feathered out. At this point you can start determining who is a boy and who is a girl merely by listening to their voice. With Peking ducks there is not visual way to tell. I certainly didn't feel comfortable trying to sex them. I'm not trained to do that and I didn't want to hurt their organs. Plus I mean I wouldn't want someone poking around down there if I were a duck. Apparently, the ducks with the louder voices are female. Most men will not be surprised by this. The males will have a weaker voice. As the ducks mature the male ducks will develop a curled feather on their tail called the drake feather. That will be the only visual difference until the ducks sexually mature (around 6 months). When the ducks sexually mature the female ducks will often have feathers missing as the male duck grabs the female duck with his mouth hence pulling out her feathers. This is why women aren't surprised that female ducks are the loudest.
Peking Ducklings Almost Grown Up
5.) They waddle. It's hysterical. It's even more hysterical when your 3 & 5 year olds chase them for fun. Ducks aren't the most graceful things on land. Neither are 3 & 5 year olds. Both will often trip and fall down. Mother and fathers will enjoy the hilarity.

Do you have any ducky wisdom to share?