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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rosemary Brac and HOA's

 Yesterday I had a visitor from the neighborhood next to ours,the neighborhood working towards having chickens allowed by their HOA. My visitor had emailed asking if she could take some photos of our coop for an up coming HOA meeting,sure why not anything to help their cause. We visited while I gave her a tour of our gardens,pictures were snapped and then a request was made,could I, would I mind manning a Q&A table at their HOA meeting? All I would have to do is answer people's questions about keeping chickens in the city.Ok I said,I thought at first I would have to stand in front of a partially unfriendly crowd to talk with mic in hand so standing at table seems easy enough,only a few folks at a time to talk to I can do that.
 The pro-chicken crowd had sent out a survey to their neighbors with questions to answer and a space for them to list any concerns.The three main concerns were very simple to answer and two are easy to solve.The other is a matter of tolerance.
  Many of the surveyed people were worried about smell and rats. I can understand both of those.A smelly yard is no joy to me so I got that one. I ran all of  my answers by my visitor to see what she thought. Keeping the smell down is simple, when your nose tells you that your coop is smelly,clean it.Your nose will know before your neighbors catch wind of it.This can be about bi-weekly in the summer because city chickens live in much smaller coops than farm chickens,like any other small space it needs cleaning more often.In the winter it can take longer because of the cooler weather. ( We don't clean our coop from November until March, the composting manure releases heat and helps keep the hens warm.)
  As for rats, I hate wild rats and do not want to see them in my yard at all. The best ways to keep rats from coming are easy, feed your hens in the morning and take their feed bin in at night.Rats are nocturnal if there is not anything there for them to eat at night they are not going to hang out. Also by keeping your feed stored indoors the rats won't be tempted to chew through your feed bags or buckets.Indoor storage also keeps your feed dry which is always good too.I had not thought of this until now but by designing your coop so it is up on "feet" you won't be building rat habitat,they love living under things.Finally, keep your coop clean.
 The third concern was how much noise chickens make.That has kind of a round about answer, yes they make noise but not all of the time.My visitor said she read somewhere the loudest hen ever recorded was 80 decibels the same volume as a dog barking.She asked me about the "I just laid an egg" chatter the hens do.So far I can find no rhyme or reason to this behavior.Sometimes my girls will go for weeks with out announcing they have laid an egg,then one day it is the biggest news since Obama won the Presidential race. But really my neighbors dog barks longer than the hens sing out about their egg laying habits.In my mind if you can ignore a reasonable amount of dog barking you can ignore a hens cackling.The only other time the hens make noise is when there is some threat in the yard and this is a good thing to tune into,there's trouble in the yard and it is your duty to A.keep your hens safe and B.fix the problem.
 So a HOA meeting is where I will be one evening next week,wearing my best Suburban Mom costume,no nose ring and a big patient smile.There's some conservative folks over there so I will need to blend in like G.I Joe in the jungles of Way Far Out.
   I have another recipe to share today.I know I always post some sort of baked thing it is because they are the only things I cook I have an actual recipe for.When I cook it is a dash,handfuls and a bit of this or that.Well I do follow the recipes for canning but that is different.
 Today's recipe is for Rosemary Brac,(Brac is an Irish term for tea cake.) I have no idea where I got this recipe, I have it written down in my book but the origins are lost.This makes one 9 inch round cake that is slightly sweet,savory and has it's own richness to it as well. The first step to making the Brac is steeping golden raisins and rosemary in warmed milk.This step is important,the warmth of the milk softens the raisins and allows the oils in the rosemary to infuse the milk. I know this may seem like an odd combo,sweet and savory but it works. I had a slice of it slathered with butter and apple butter yesterday,the apple butter sent it over the top! Yum.
    Rosemary Brac-
    Preheat oven to 350   remember if using a glass pan turn the oven down by 25 degrees.
   Grease a 9 inch round pan.

   1/2 Cup Golden Raisins
   1 Cup Milk
   1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh Rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoon dried
        Heat these together in a pan until the milk just starts to boil.Set aside and cool to room temp.

  In a bowl -
  2 Eggs beaten until frothy
  4 Tablespoons of melted Butter
  3/4 Cups Sugar
   Add butter and sugar to eggs mix well.Now add-
  2 Cups Flour
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
    Add dry ingredients to egg mixture beat until smooth then add in the milk,rosemary and raisins.Stir it all together and pour into your pan.
Bake for 30- 45 minutes. Somehow when I first wrote this recipe down I did not write down the temp or time, duh Rois. So I had to work it out for myself.Most cakes bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes so that is what I went with.My oven takes close to 45 minutes.
 The Brac reminds me a bit of scones, a bit sweet,rich and will go with lots of things.I hope you try this recipe out although it sounds odd it is really tasty.
  Enjoy your weekend and happy Mother's Day to one and all.


  1. Kristen McCormickMay 8, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    I think you should keep the nose ring in! We live in Portland, after all. I don't think being yourself loses you any credibility. You're articulate, well-informed, and have a nose ring. That's who you are. I thought about taking all my earrings out when I applied for jobs, but I just wore my hair down. After I got the job (which did specify no face piercings) I pulled back my hair and asked the boss if my (8) earrings in my left ear were a problem. He was a little taken aback, asked if they were easily removed (I said no, I'd have to have a professional do it), and he said he thought I'd be a quality employee so he was going to overlook it. Win.

  2. Thanks Kris! We shall see...Thanks for stopping by,come back soon!

  3. Good luck with the tabling! Your responses to the biggest concerns sound very reasonable and easily addressed- of course, having chickens can be quite a learning experience and you figure it all out quickly anyhow. Please post some of the other questions they ask!

  4. Flora& Fauna, I will post some of the other questions for sure. I have been trying to think of possible questions and my answers. Can you girls think of any? Let me know if you do.

  5. I can imagine some people will want to know why we should have backyard chickens when eggs from the store are so cheap- its scary how many people still don't know what sort of conditions commercial chickens are raised in. They also often don't realize the difference between healthy, free-range, farm-fresh eggs and factory eggs.
    I think people might also be interested in what the chickens need to be fed- can they eat compost? can they forage for all their food? how much space do they need to be considered free-range? You might get visited my just as many who are interested in having chickens as those who have concerns about the neighbor's chickens.
    Oh! And numbers. How many chickens will there be? I can imagine some folks will be nervous about their neighbors having 50 chickens vs. 3 or 4. And what to do when they get out and into the road.

  6. F & F- I just have to find a balance point and I'll will be ok.I am nervous, I want this to happen for the neighbors but having to face very conservative people is one of my biggest fears.I don't want to be judged or labeled,which I know the two of you get very well.