Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I've been wanting to make homemade vanilla extract for a while now. I finally bought a cheap bottle of vodka today to make it. I took out a bit to make room for the vanilla beans and tried it. Yep, tastes like soap. I don't drink much at all (first taste all year) and this stuff is nasty. Oh well, that means it's perfect for making vanilla extract. It said it was made in the US, so that's why I chose this one over another of the same price.

I still had vanilla beans from a 2011 Ebay order. It was a great deal, order x amount of beans and get 10 free Grade B Tahitian vanilla beans for free. I used all 10 along with 2 Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans (also from the same order).

I usually get the 1 oz/29 ml bottle of Watkins vanilla for $4.99

McCormick Vodka 750ml bottle $6.99
10 Grade B vanilla beans $free
2 Grade A Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans $1.33

= $8.32 for a 750 ml bottle of vanilla extract, or 25 of the little bottles, a $129 value. 

Now really, can you argue with that? 

I use a lot of vanilla extract. I even put it in pancakes. For me, it is worth it to do a large bottle. You can also do a small bottle. It's roughly 3-5 beans for each cup of vodka. 

I still have quite a few of the Grade A beans left. I have two split beans in a container of sugar for vanilla sugar. When a baking recipe calls for sugar, that's what I use. I need to change them out one of these days, but the two in there are over a year old and still smell fantastic.

Original idea from here: Chickens In The Road

Vanilla beans from here: Vanilla Products USA (Ebay store)

(I have nothing to do with either of these sites, just a fan!)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Chicken Coop Addition Plans

This is our current coop and pen set up:

This was right after we brought the first girls home, so of course there is NO grass left in there now :) The pen is a 12x7 dog pen. We built a small pen last year, but now that we have the four girls, it's too crowded and there is a bit of bickering at times. 

My first idea was to get another dog pen, attach it to this one and let them out in there for limited times so they can graze. I'd have to put a hole in this coop to attach it (Hubby says absolutely not.) or replace this one with kennel panels so I can make two doors. One inside, and then the existing door open inside. Make sense? Sorta? 

The pink would be the kennel doors. This way I could open and close the inner door to let them out on the grass. Obviously not to scale, just a visual idea :) 

Or, some people have taken old trampolines and turned them into chicken tractors. I found lots of trampolines on Craigslist for under $50.

The bottom is wrapped in fencing. You can either do a makeshift gate or make a tunnel to connect it to the pen. If I did that, again, I'd have to make a hole somewhere. Or try to herd them to the trampoline. I think it'd be easier to move the trampoline, it gives them shade and protection from hawks. Chickens can be trained to go to certain areas, but there's a high risk of escape for this set up.

This chicken owner made a "chunnel" / chicken tunnel out of wire.

And there is one last option. When I had my horses, we had a lean-to that blew down. Well, actually blew out of the pasture, across the yard and landed near the barn. Thankfully no one was hurt, just destroyed the lean-to. We still have most, if not all, of the pieces. However, some were horribly bent and it's really not usable for anything. I need to look at it, but we *might* be able to use part of the roof section to make a chicken tractor.



Without looking it up, I want to say this was 12x20? We still have the fabric sections, but obviously they will blow away in high winds. If we were able to salvage some of this, I would have to wrap it in wire, use some of the fabric on top for shade and really secure it. I think this would be a potential eyesore too. It's hard to hide a big white tarp. The trampoline would blend in and of course the dog kennel would look fine.

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