Drowning in Tomatoes – Or So We Thought

For the longest time, I’ve been saying that I couldn’t wait until I had enough tomatoes to make my own sauce. I got my wish this year.

Our tomatoes did awesome. We had so many that we couldn’t harvest them fast enough. We had a few plants that never got staked up and just grew along the ground. Even with all that we lost, we still had more than we could imagine. The bucket below isn’t even all of them.

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

About 3 gallons waiting to be turned into sauce. / Photo: After the Knot

We decided to dedicate a Saturday to straining and canning what we thought would be jars and jars of pureed tomatoes.

A while back, C’s grandfather gave us his Squeezo Strainer. The postmark on it said 1987 so you know it’s awesome already. Even though it was used countless times, it still looked brand new. The Squeezo helped us by peeling and pureeing the tomatoes so when we were done, we just had to boil off the excess water.

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

The Squeezo in action. Photo: After the Knot

“We’re going to be eating tomatoes in January!” C exclaimed.

Well, not really. We didn’t realize how many tomatoes you needed to have enough to last until January. Once the excess water is boiled off, you end up with about a half of what you started with. In this case, we ended up with 2.5 quarts of pureed tomatoes that can be used to make sauce at some point in the future. Despite all that hard work for just 2.5 jars, I’m happy for the learning experience. We finally got to use our pressure canner, which I’ve avoided touching out of fear that I’d blow up my house.

That's a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

That’s a lot less than we thought. / After the Knot

We’ve since tilled our garden, putting all of the plants back into the earth to help feed the soil. It had become so overgrown it wasn’t even manageable. The plants had started to slow production and the risk of getting bit by a snake wasn’t worth climbing through the brush. We still have our aquaponics garden with some really great looking Romas continuing to thrive, so we aren’t at a total loss. Before the summer is over, I’d like to take another crack at canning some more tomatoes for use during the winter, but if it doesn’t happen at least I can say I finally did it.

Meet our New (Feathery) Additions

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you expecting a human addition to our little family? Nope. Not yet. In the meantime, the only babies running around our house are the fluffy feathered type.

We’re now the proud owners of six backyard chickens.

One of the reasons why we moved into this house is because the neighborhood is chicken friendly. There are quite a few people in our community with chickens (as well as a couple of ponies and, I’m told, a cow) so we knew having a few wasn’t going to be a problem. In fact, our hen house came from our neighbors across the street. They gave us one of their hen houses when they decided to scale down their flock.

We were having some trouble physically obtaining chickens for a while so our neighbor let us borrow two of his mature birds so we could start getting fresh eggs. We have about half a dozen in the fridge so far.

When it came to getting chickens, we had a couple of options. In the end, we decided to purchase them from a hatchery in Fayetteville.

All six of our chicks are different breeds, because C really, really wanted eggs in different colors. I’m not sure why this was so important to him, but whatever. I’m just happy they’re all friendly, docile breeds.

After the Knot

After the Knot

We got  an Olive Easter Egger (Ameraucana) who is about two months old, a Brown Ameraucana who is about three months old, and four two-week-old chicks, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, a French Black Copper Maran, a Delaware Hen, and a Brown Leghorn.

Chickens are a fairly low-maintenance animal. Of course, we figured out a way to make it much more complicated.

Missy and Olive / Photo: After the Knot

Missy and Olive / Photo: After the Knot

Two days after bringing our chickens home, one of our borrowed hens became pretty aggressive. We had expected that she would try to bully the two older hens a bit, but we didn’t expect her to attack one of the chicks.

The French Black Copper Maran, Frenchie as we call her, had her tail feathers ripped out so violently that she was bleeding. C put her in a box and put her in our spare bathroom where she sat in one spot for most of the night. C then spent the rest of the day attempting to regulate the heat in the bathroom so that it wouldn’t be too hot nor too cold. Miss Meany Pants went back to our neighbor’s house and we haven’t had a problem since.

Frenchie / Photo: After the Knot

Frenchie / Photo: After the Knot

Frenchie continues to be separated from the rest of the flock, but she’s healing really well. We moved her from a box to a plastic toy bin we found at the ReStore for $5. We needed something a little bit taller as she’s testing out her wings. She’s pretty good with being handled and chirps when we leave the room. Hopefully, all of this will help her become very friendly.

The rest of the chicks are more skittish around us and aren’t as comfortable being held. We don’t need them to be cuddly, but we do want them to be friendly.

Our oldest, Missy the Ameracuana, isn’t expected to start laying eggs for another few months. In the meantime, she’s been a pretty good momma to the rest of the flock, including Olive – the Olive Easter Egger – who is only a month younger.

It’s been a little chaotic so far as we try to figure everything out. I just returned from an almost-crisis where we thought we lost the Brown Leghorn (name TBD). Turned out she was just roosting under Missy and everything was fine. I’ll feel a little better when they’re too big to fit through any forgotten cracks.

The remaining borrowed hen gives us an egg every other day, which doesn’t really make up for the money we’re currently spending in electricity for two heat lamps, but it’ll pay off eventually. Then I might have more eggs than we know what to do with.

Do you have backyard chickens? What has been your experience?