First Egg from our First Chicks!

Can you believe it’s only 18 weeks since we hatched our first large Light Sussex chicks – babies of Charles and Daisy? And today, Emma, sister of Beth and Ethelred (the unready cooked), laid her first egg! We’d been expecting it really, as we’ve had a couple of mis-starts over the last week – a couple of soft-shelled eggs dropped on the grass, but we didn’t know whose they were. I guess we now know!

It’s funny seeing the genes come into play, as Emma is definitely Daisy’s daughter – she’s larger than Beth, her colourings are pretty much the same, but even her temperament; laid back, easy going. And now she’s laid an egg after only 18 weeks! For a pure breed that’s amazing – we were expecting 20 weeks minimum – they were still on growers until a couple of days ago. As soon as we saw evidence of a soft-shelled egg we switched them to layers pellets – the books say to hold off and keep them on growers until they begin to lay, as kick-starting the egg-laying process can be detrimental to the hens’ health, but if Emma wants to lay, then who are we to argue?

By the looks of Beth’s comb colour, I would say she’s not far behind.

Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion Root Coffee

Right – over the last few years I’ve made it my passion to remove any dandelion I see in the patch. I’ve seen a field not too far from us, heaving with them, and I know how much of a pain it is to get rid of them. Therefore, every spring will see me armed with fork and barrow, marching through the patch, pulling dandelion after dandelion – it’s war on a grand scale, and the enemy is relentless.

I daren’t compost them, so I probably bin at least four barrow loads of them every spring, then another barrow load come mid summer when they have their second burst. But it seemed such a waste. I dislike moving stuff from our land, as I know things like weeds tend to carry an awful lot of goodness, wrapped up in their spikes and stings and wafty leaves. So to search out a use for our dandelions. Earlier this year we tried the young leaves – a bit bitter for my taste, though I’ve heard cooking them down rids them of that. We’ve yet to try the young buds lightly fried in butter, but I also read that you can use the roots to make dandelion root coffee!

Today was that day. I’d just pruned another two plum trees, gradually working my way through the orchard work. I’d noticed the dandelions popping up after a rest of a month or so, and decided this was the moment to have a bash at home-made low-caffeine coffee.

dandelion_coffee_1Firstly I picked around 20 of the choicest roots. None of these dandelions were huge, so all the roots were between 8mm and 3mm in width. Then a darned good scrubbing with the potato brush, to get rid of the soil, and a top and tail.

dandelion_coffee_2Another rinse in cold water, and then finely chopped, to help them dry out quicker in the oven.

On to a metal dish and placed in the oven at 200C for around 30 minutes, and the smell was lovely! Suz said it smelled like a coffee shop – I’ll take that as a positive 🙂 However, opening the oven door let a bit of smoke into the room, so I turned the heat down to 100C for another 30 minutes or so. In reality, this was an awful waste of electric for such a small amount, but it was an experiment.

dandelion_coffee_3Once the small pieces were brittle under a spoon, I removed them from the oven and ground them in a bowl, using the back of a spoon. Again, on a larger scale you could use a decent sized pestle and mortar, or a blender. The resulting pieces, I assume, would be fine to store for future use. dandelion_coffee_4Having no idea how much I needed to use for a cup of coffee, I poured the entire bowl of grinds into a single cup cafetiere, covered with boiling water, and left for a couple of minutes. Then it was a quick plunge and pour, and sniff. It smelled a bit like coffee, a bit like chicory coffee, and a bit odd, which I assume might be the dandelion bit. Adding milk, to about a 50% mix (yes, it seems the amount of root I had could have provided for two cups rather than the one I made), and a couple of sweeteners, made a drink I was more than happy to take away with me!

dandelion_coffee_6So here I am, typing this up, having just downed my first cup of home-made dandelion root coffee!

A lot of hassle, as are most things made and not pre-bought, but on a grander scale could well be worth the effort. Dandelion coffee cake? Hmmm…