Winter Here And Now

Are we halfway through winter yet? It’s always hard to say really, the upcoming months of February and March, can in fact, be brutal. The real snowfall here in Maine will often come at the end of this cold winter season, nudging itself into spring. This we know. Today, however, it is warmer. The wood stoves are less hungry at the moment, the chicken’s water may just remain unfrozen for the day, and our pups are not prancing back to the warmth of the house with icy feet. Today is a good day to put together a seed list. It’s a good day to burrow through the winter squash that is stored in the root cellar and cull out any soft ones. I think it’s a good day to make chocolate pudding as well. Agree? There is one recipe I always use for chocolate pudding, a pudding that is so dark and rich and silky smooth that once you put it in your mouth, you may regret swallowing and instead choose to let it linger on your tongue. Decadent, for sure.
How’s it going for you this winter? Are you faring well? I do hope so. Well, so long for now, I must go and raid the pantry for chocolate and get to that puddin’ making!
Here’s the recipe…

Favorite Chocolate Pudding

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 TBLS. granulated sugar
1/4 cup (high quality) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBLS. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups whole milk
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( again, high quality)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir together brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt with a fork in a heavy bottom saucepan, until sugars are broken up and the mixture is well blended. Add 1 cup milk and the chocolate and heat over medium heat, whisking, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup milk and cook, whisking frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, until large bubbles pop on the surface and pudding is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, then immediately transfer to a large bowl or 4 serving bowls.

Adding A Bit More Light…….

Picture 406Our laying flock consists of about 30 chickens. This year we added some new layers, and now those younger birds are in full egg laying production. We like to keep our hens laying through the winter if we can. Quite frankly, if we are spending the money to feed layers, we want them to lay eggs. There are two separate chicken coops here that house about 15 birds each. Both coops are equipped with lighting that is set on a timer. This lighting provides ‘artificial daylight’ which enables the chickens to keep up with their egg producing during the winter months. A chickens ability to lay eggs is stimulated by its endocrine system, specifically the glands and organs that produce hormones. As daylight hours dwindle, changes in these hormones affect their egg production. In other words, without their needed 14 hours of light, their egg production lessens. Adding additional light  triggers the endocrine system into action, resulting in winter egg production. We’ve also been lucky with the mild winter so far, and the chickens have had the extended benefit of foraging for vegetation outside their chicken run. The ground has yet to freeze here in Maine, and the chickens are enjoying this added opportunity for grazing. This free range, soil scratching activity also helps to provide them with a well balanced and highly nutritious diet. During the summer when they are scratching around for greens and bugs, their egg yolks are quite dark. We do notice that the color of the egg yolks pale a bit when it is bitterly cold and when the landscape is frozen and snow covered. Chickens are happiest when they get plenty of sunlight and have the opportunity to scratch around their natural habitat. We appreciate watching them parade around the nursery and farm……strutting about, intent on finding some tasty little morsel. We also appreciate their contribution to our own diet….fresh , delicious eggs!