Making English Muffins From Scratch…And the Hazards of Free-Ranging Chickens

Cool autumn winds are blowing here on the farm, the small avenue of liquid amber trees finally showing hints of bronze as winter creeps closer.  It never gets too cold here, or too hot, and after living in places that have topped 43C (109.4F) and others that have bottomed out at -8C (17.6F), I appreciate the lack of extremes.  The weather is gentle and the shift between the seasons subtle.  But despite the lack of truly cold weather, I still feel an urge to settle down and bake something as autumn rolls on.  Cool weather.  Autumn.  Baking.  It all goes together.

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The kneaded dough is shaped into balls and place on a polenta dusted tray for rising.

 

Bare Cupboard Spelt and Buttermilk English Muffins

 I found a recipe for English muffins a little while back by (the very awesome) baker and author, Peter Reinhart in his book ‘The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.’  I’d been pretty keen to give it a shot but, as usual, inspiration struck when the cupboard was fairly bare.  With all the wheat flour gone, and full cream milk drunk, it wasn’t looking good.  Then I remembered I had some leftover buttermilk from pancakes we’d made the day before…and a bag of spelt flour tucked in the corner of the pantry.  Spelt and buttermilk English muffins?  Sounded alright to me.

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The balls of dough are first grilled for a few minutes each side before being baked in the oven to finish cooking through.

 

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Muffins coming out of the oven after final baking stage

 

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Split muffins with a fork to keep those nooks and crannies you’ve worked so hard for
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Bit of butter and you’re good to go.

 

The Challenges of Free-Ranging Chickens

Our three free-ranging chickens, Strawberry, Caramel and Chocolate have been a delight to have around the farm.  There’s not much more endearing than seeing chickens exhibiting their natural behaviours – chasing bugs, scratching for worms and generally enjoying themselves.  But all this comes with risks, and with a price.  We are lucky in this area not to have foxes, and while one of our neighbours swears there are wild dogs we have never seen any evidence of them.  Pet dogs are another matter.  Our neighbours a couple of properties away own two very large dogs.  Recently the dogs learnt to escape their yard, trotting down the road to our farm, ducking under our five strand barbed wire fences and taking two of our chickens, Strawberry and Caramel in broad daylight, a few metres from the house. The first time I only heard a squawk, saw a dog with a collar, but never saw any evidence that a chicken had been taken.  No feathers, just a missing chicken: Strawberry.  A few days ago I saw the dog and the feathers – this time it was Caramel.  It’s all a bit depressing, really, but that’s the reality of letting your chickens roam freely.  Chocolate, the flock leader and our best flier (she who loves living and sleeping in trees) escaped.

This leaves us in a bit of a quandary.  We are not particularly keen on keeping our remaining chicken, Chocolate, or our second newer flock permanently cooped up – the quality of the eggs aren’t as good, there are ethical issues regarding chicken freedom, and frankly we just enjoy seeing them out and about.  But…we have to ensure their safety.  Losses during free-ranging are to some extent inevitable – we knew that when we chose to let our chickens range.  And we have been fortunate only losing two in almost twelve months.  Reducing the risks has to be the aim.  I’d been keen to use portable electric netting to give the chickens a designated ranging area that could be moved from place to place to even the wear and tear on the grass.  I’m not really sure whether this would deter two dogs intent on chicken dinner – would they just jump it?  And obviously electric fencing won’t stop predatory birds; but surely our birds are now big enough to be less of a target?  It’s not an easy one.  We still haven’t released our chicks from their chicken tractor, apart from supervised excursions….It’s something to think about.

And in other news – we have another rooster!  Pam is actually a Patrick.  I caught ‘her’ crowing a few days ago.  That brings our boy chicken total to two.  Two roosters out of five chicks…and counting…

 

 

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Pam the rooster on the right.  Can you see the signature rooster ‘pointed saddle feathers” just above her tail??  (Thank you WillowCreekFarm for the tip!) I think I can…I’ll get better at telling the boys from the girls one of these days…

 

4 thoughts on “Making English Muffins From Scratch…And the Hazards of Free-Ranging Chickens

  1. Hey Julie, so sorry to hear about the loss of your feather children. 😦 Free ranging chickens definitely has its challenges. I would give the electric netting a go. I guess there’s not much you can practically do to your boundary fences without spending a fortune. Although, if you temporarily put some electric netting where the dogs came through so they get a shock next time they try, maybe that would help deter them? I’d like to give them a good shock. Naughty chicken murderers. On a more positive note, I am drooling at the sight of your English muffins. I’ve never made them before, but oh, I really must make some! And Patrick-formerly-known-as-Pam is a very pretty colour, even if he is a boy. Are you going to keep one of your roosters?
    -Twiglet

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Twiglet, thanks for your thoughts for our beautiful feather children…So hard to know what the right choice is when it comes to balancing chook safety vs. chook freedom. Think you’re right re: the electric netting. Sounds like learning to install and use electric netting is my next project…As for our rooster situation, yes we were planning on holding onto one rooster – yours is looking pretty grand, by the way. The kids are in negotiations about which rooster gets to stay…could get interesting! 🙂

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  2. Oh it’s awful when that happens with chickens (I won’t even tell you about our experience – it’s just too horrible!) On a brighter note though, I need the recipe for those muffins! We absolutely love English muffins, so I’d love to give this a go. They look delicious!

    Liked by 1 person

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