My Journey into Hobby Farming

The Trick to Peeling Fresh Hard Boiled Eggs

Amy ConleyUntil recently, I have had such a difficult time peeling hard boiled eggs that were fresh from our chickens. It was almost impossible to peel them without getting half the white with the shell. I have tried every method and was unsuccessful. I read that you could salt the water or put white vinegar in the water. That didn’t work. Then I read a blog post from “A Garden for Your House” by Kevin Lee Jacobs. He is a fellow New Yorker and I love his posts. I have borrowed his method which I would like to share.


Take your fresh eggs out of the refrigerator because they should be cold. I used a straight pin to poke a hole in the wide end of each egg. Fill your pot with water and get it to a rapid boil. I salt the water and add a tablespoon of vinegar. I figure it can’t hurt. Once your water is boiling, gently place your eggs into it. I use a spoon because the first time, I dropped one and it cracked when it hit the pot, oops. Boil your eggs for 13 minutes. I like to move them around gently once in a while. As soon as your timer goes off — yes, I use a timer — crack the eggs and submerge them in an ice bath. Let them sit in the ice water for at least 15 minutes. Now it is time to peel them and you won’t believe how easy they come off. I will never use another method again.


I am sure this is a method that has been around for years but I never heard of it before. Now you can make egg salad, deviled eggs, Easter eggs, whatever your heart desires. I have not tried this with duck eggs but I am going to since we will be dying some for Easter.


My question to you is, do you eat your hard boiled dyed Easter eggs after they have been sitting out all night? I still haven’t decided if it’s a good idea. I am always leery and think we will get sick on room temperature eggs. Don’t worry, the pigs will love them. Food does not get thrown out in our house. Check out my Facebook page for lots of pictures of baby goats and piglets. Lambs are coming soon and hopefully chicks that are in the incubator as I write this. Happy Easter from Conley Farm.

Orange Cranberry Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread

Amy ConleyThe name says it all, Orange Zucchini Cranberry Chocolate Chip Bread. I love trying different variations of zucchini bread. I have my “go to” zucchini bread recipe and then I alter it to the flavor I want. I love taking zucchini out of the freezer all winter long to make breads. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, you can still grow zucchini and you always get a ton of it. My kids are not a big fan of it grilled or sautéed like I like it but they will eat it in a dessert. They love my zucchini brownie recipe which you can find the recipe amongst my other blog posts.

I had some cranberries in the freezer from when they were on sale. You can get cranberries pretty inexpensively in the fall and they freeze great. I throw them right in the food processer frozen so they chop up nicely for the recipe. I also like to add nuts, whatever you have on hand. I like pecans but walnuts would also be good. This recipe makes two loaves so I always leave one loaf without nuts since the boys don’t really like them.



3/4 cup vegetable oil (canola or coconut oil are my preferences)

3 farm fresh eggs (from your local farmer or own backyard)

1/4 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

Juice of one orange

2 cups zucchini pulp (I like to use previously frozen zucchini, let thaw and drain)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon (heaping teaspoon)

Zest of one orange

1 cup chopped cranberries

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

I keep my zucchini stored in zip top bags in the freezer. Thaw them out and drain most of the liquid and measure out two cups of pulp into a measuring cup. Add the juice of one orange to that until you are ready to add it into your recipe. If you are using a fresh zucchini, grate it by hand. It always comes out moister if you grate it with a hand grater rather than your food processor.

Start by mixing your wet ingredients; eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, and yogurt. This is the point I add in my zucchini/orange juice mixture. Now in a separate bowl, add all your dry ingredients together. Put dry into wet until moistened without over mixing. Add in cranberries, chocolate chips and nuts. This is also tasty without the chocolate chips. I like to use semi-sweet or dark chocolate. Divide into two 9x5 loaf pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes.

Orange Cranberry Zucchini Bread

You can also put these into muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes. For a basic zucchini bread recipe, omit the orange juice but don’t drain off all the liquid if using thawed out zucchini. I would also add in more spices like more cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. You could also do a lemon blueberry variation. You could use lemon juice and zest and substitute blueberries for the cranberries. That would be delicious.

I love making breads. Hope you enjoy. For more on Conley Farm, please visit my Facebook page.


Butchering Homegrown Chickens

Amy ConleyWe decided this past year we would raise meat chickens. We raised meat chickens before but this time we tried to do it the right way, if there is such a thing. We have read a lot of Joel Salatin’s books and he has some great ideas on raising meat chickens on pasture. It was our goal to raise them mostly on grass, moving them every morning so they can get a fresh salad bar daily. We raised some meat chickens a few years ago but they got way too big on just feed and the butchering process was ... how can I put it? Horrible. My first time butchering was not a pleasant experience. The chicken plucker that we borrowed stopped working after the first chicken. Have you ever plucked a dozen chickens by hand? It’s the worst. You have to remember that I was a first timer.

Setting up for Butchering

It took me a few years to decide I wanted to try it again. My husband and I were determined to get it right. He built a moveable coop from scrap wood that we had around the farm. With the help of some grain and fresh grass daily, the chickens got to be a good size in about 12 weeks.

When it was time for butchering, we had a plan. We set up a tent and table by our fire pit. We used the fire pit to boil water in a large canning pot in order to scald the birds. We made killing cones out of traffic cones that we attached to a saw horse. The woman at TSC got a little chuckle when I was looking for traffic cones and told her what I wanted to use them for. The first time I killed a chicken we used a stump and hatchet. The hatchet bounced my first strike and then I felt so bad I didn't kill the chicken with the first hit. The cones are much better. The chickens are upside down which kind of puts them at ease and me too. We then can easily slice their necks quickly after thanking them for being a part of our farm. We do it as humanely as possible.

One chicken down, 26 more

We also borrowed a chicken plucker from our neighbor. It worked great. We are so grateful to have neighbors that are farmers too and help us out. Our whole process was like a well oiled machine. We took three chickens at a time and put them in the cones. The first one, my husband handed me the knife. He said, how can I blog about it if I don’t do it. So I took care of the first one and he did the rest. We went through the process of plucking, gutting and cleaning them outside. We put them in a cooler until they went inside where I cut them up and packaged them for freezing.  We even got the boys involved. They caught many of the chickens and brought them to us. The two older boys each gutted a chicken which totally grossed them out. My husband explained to them each of the parts they were pulling out so they can learn about anatomy so it didn't seem so gross to them.

Chicken plucker

Our weekend of butchering was a success. We put 27 chickens in the freezer. There is nothing better than homegrown food that I can offer to my family daily. You definitely appreciate it more when you know where your food comes from. Our dinner almost every night has meat that we raised, vegetables that we have grown and milk that I have hand milked. My kids are not picky eaters because they grow up like this.

Frustrations of a First-Time Milker – Year 2

Amy ConleyIt is said to be the year of the Goat. It was the year of four baby goats and two goat mamas on our farm. Last year, Ginger had one baby and it was my first time milking. There were many problems that came along with it. She had me so frustrated at times.

This year I tried to stay calm and go with the flow during the birthing season. It was a lot easier knowing a little more and being ready with a milking stand if I needed it. When both Nya and Ginger had twins, I figured I was home free. There would be no getting a hard udder since two nursing babies would cure that. Well, I was wrong. After a couple days, I noticed Nya was not letting her babies nurse on one side. I put her in the stand for several days in a row and milked that side. I even would put the babies on her when she was in the stand so they would get used to that side since they were being conditioned to only nurse on one side. It took about a week and she seemed good. Ginger had the same problem but it only lasted a couple days and her babies did great.


So each year that I have had baby goats, I have taken them back to the place I first purchased my goats in order to get them dehorned. John at the Beekman farm in Sharon Springs, New York, is so good with his goats and shows so much love to these babies after they get dehorned. They smell a bit like burned fur afterward but it is worth not having horns. I brought them home and Nya didn’t want anything to do with her babies. Oh no, what did I do? Three hours away from mom and now they smell funny; she was not having it. I again had to put her in the stand so they could nurse since they wouldn’t take a bottle. Luckily it only took a day.


What a difference a goat makes. When I wrote my first article, Frustrations of a First Time Milker, I mentioned how Ginger would always kick the bowl over or stick her foot in it. I had to buy a goat hobble in order to keep her feet down. Well, the first time I milked Nya, she just stood there without being hobbled and did great. That didn’t last. She doesn’t just try to kick, she does it with two feet and takes the whole stand with her. I had to put cinder blocks in front of it so it could not tip over.

Goats are stubborn animals, but they are also so loving, it makes you want to scream. A little kale and some carrots have calmed her kicking habit. This year, even though Nya is a first timer, I have made her my main milker mostly because she is so much easier to milk. With Ginger, my hands and arms hurt after I milk her and it takes longer.

milking Nya 

All the babies went to good homes and I am milking twice a day. I decided to dry up Ginger and just milk Nya until the fall. I have a ton of milk already frozen for my soap business. The piggies enjoy two quarts of milk a day, which leaves me enough to play with. My youngest son always asks for goat milk. I love that. To read more about my journey, check out my Facebook page.

Our Amish Neighbors

Amy ConleyA few years ago, I was out doing yard work and a van pulled into the driveway. I always wonder who is stopping especially if I don’t recognize them. A man got out with a straw hat and a beard. He was a pleasant gentleman asking if we were looking to sell our farm. I laughed a little and told him how we are just getting started. The van was full of Amish men looking for farms in the area.

Well, they must have found some because before we knew it, the horse and buggies became a normal sight. I love how you can wave to your neighbors and they wave back because they are not going 55 miles per hour down the road. We love taking rides around to see all the Amish farms. First of all, it is so nice to see run-down farms working again. It is also nice to see their beautiful barns, the school house and horses working in the fields. I don’t think everybody around here loves it, but I do.

An Amish horse and buggy | Fotolia/Christian Kieffer

An Amish horse and buggy | Fotolia/Christian Kieffer

The same man stopped in another time to chat, and he had found a farm about a mile away from us. He was interested in the top of our silo. It again was an interesting question, but our silo is not used and would be a total eyesore in our yard without a top so we had to pass.

When we were looking to breed our goats, an Amish family had moved in a mile in the other direction with their goats. It was a perfect match and we have borrowed their goat for two breedings. The Millers are a nice young family with eight children. God bless them because I am lucky I can handle three. Their children are so well behaved and quiet unlike my own.

Since we got to know them through having goats, they regularly come and use the phone. I bring them messages and duck eggs, and Mrs. Miller gave me a beautiful bread. It hasn’t been easy getting to know them as they are leery of us non-Amish folks. I would say now we are friends. I don’t know if Elmer and Betty would want to be mentioned in a blog, but since they don’t use technology, they won’t know about it. Sometimes, I think they have the right idea living a simple life without technology taking over. I will say that I could not live without electricity, and I could not use an outhouse especially with the winter we just had.

Loading the pig onto the truck.When it was time to bring our pig to the butcher last fall, we had asked a farmer we know with a truck. He said he knew two young Amish men who had a pig crate. For a favor to the older farmer, the young men helped him get the pig on the truck and to the butcher. I was taking photographs, and they asked me not to take any of them. I had already known they don’t like their photo taken so I made sure I wasn’t getting them in it. He was nice about it but also adamant. We gave them each some money for helping, and they were so surprised and grateful. They did all the work so it was the least we could do.

The Amish in Central New York are a really nice addition to the area. They have their traditions and beliefs, but they are people and families just like us. It will be nice to see how they grow and integrate more into our community.

Our House Duck

Amy ConleyMy duck adventure began a couple years ago when we decided it would be nice to have some ducks for our pond. They could keep it clean for us. We saw they had Rouen ducks for sale at the local farm store so we thought that would be a good breed for us. A heavy weight duck that we could butcher if we so desired. As they got bigger, we would lock them in the barn at night and then let them out during the day. One day they took flight and flew out over the cornfield, and I was standing there in shock thinking they weren’t going to come back. I thought that heavyweight ducks didn’t fly? They don’t! These ducks were Mallards. They came back and it took them all summer to discover the pond. In the fall, they all flew away except for one. We called him Ducky Momo.


Ducky Momo would fly up to our big pond and made friends with all the wild ducks. I always knew which one was him because the dog would jump in and they would all fly away except for one. Unfortunately one day he flew away too. We were hoping maybe he would come back in the spring but I don’t think he ever did.

We learned our lesson and last year we ordered 10 domesticated ducks that didn’t fly. They are so cute waddling around the yard and swimming on the pond. Right now, they like to make our backyard look like a giant mud puddle. We are getting about a half dozen duck eggs each day. Did you know that duck eggs are great for baking? They make my muffins so fluffy. This year we decided to incubate some eggs to hatch our own ducklings. My husband put a couple dozen eggs in the incubator. He was watching and candling them and weeded it down to about a dozen that looked like they might hatch.

duckling  duckling

duckling ducks at the pond

The day came that our first little duck hatched. It is so cute. About a day later, it looked like another egg started to hatch but then it stopped. We are now up to a week and I think our little duck is not going to have a playmate. Luckily he has playmates that aren’t ducks.

This little duck has made our house his home. My boys let it out and it chases them all over the house. You hear its little pitter patter of feet on the wood floor. The dog even likes the duck. Of course, we had to name this duck Ducky Momo also. It cuddles up in our lap at night watching TV. When it’s in its box, it cries whenever anyone walks into the room. He wants to come out and play. We have always been very clear that these are farm animals, but how can we help making this little guy or gal a pet? In a couple of weeks, I am doing a career day for my boy’s school, Ducky Momo will be a great show-and-tell animal.

If you want to learn more about my journey into hobby farming or see more photographs of Ducky Momo, visit my Facebook page.

Learning About Essential Oils

Amy ConleyI have learned so many lessons as a mom and a hobby farmer. When you immerse yourself into something, it is amazing how much you can learn and about things you wish you knew years ago. I have been on this soap-making journey since the fall. I have learned about the benefits of goat’s milk in soap, which you can read about in another blog post. I keep learning about  essential oils, which is what I use to scent the soaps.

Tea Tree OilWhen my now 10-year-old son was little, he had eczema really bad. For years we battled this itchy rash all over his legs. It usually was the worst in the winter. He hated being slathered with lotions and different medicines that the doctors recommended. I just did what they told me, but it really didn’t seem to help. My older self regrets not learning more about home remedies when my boys were babies. It is very rare that we go to the doctor nowadays. I think part of it is the paranoid mother in me has mellowed out and not every little thing needs to be seen by a doctor. Also, living on a farm, my boys are around stuff that helps them build up their immunity and they rarely get sick.

I have learned that each essential oil has a benefit other than its scent. I made a soap that contains lavender and tea tree oils. I learned that these two oils along with coconut oil, which is in my soap, are great for eczema. That along with the benefits of the goat milk itself is a great combination for anyone with itchy, dry skin. I had a customer tell me that her psoriasis is starting to clear up after using my soap. That is the best compliment I can get. Who knew that an excess of goat milk in my freezer could benefit so many people?

My son hasn’t had skin problems this year since using our soap. I have battled with an itchy scalp for 20 years and it is almost cleared up. I really like using soaps that have tea tree oil, peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil. They feel great on my scalp. Using the Internet is such a great way to learn which oils are best for your skin. Tea tree oil is my favorite. It is known as a healer, and is great for acne, eczema, cold sores, athlete’s foot to name a few. I recently read if you put water and tea tree oil in a spray bottle, you can spray it on your clothes and shoes to deter ticks, which are abundant in New York State.

Lavender oil is great for all skin types, and it has a lovely scent. Lemon oil is a great astringent if you have oily skin. I love the smell of lemons or anything citrus. Eucalyptus oil has anti-bacterial properties and is good for pain relief. Ginger oil can also help relieve aches and pains as well as promote normal blood circulation. Ginger oil is not for those with sensitive skin. There are so many oils available and they each have their own benefits. These are a few of the oils I like to use in my soap making.

To learn more about my Journey into Hobby Farming, visit my Facebook page.

lavender oil and soap | Fotolia/Tanouchka

Photo: Fotolia/Tanouchka