We Won! A Locking Door Kit from Chicken Guardian

Chicken Guardian personally delivered our prize and set down to visit with us on camera.

We won this newly designed locking door from Chicken Guardian. The Chicken Guard locking door kit makes your coop very secure. The folks from Chicken Guardian were driving thru our area and stopped by for a short visit.  We sat down with them and discussed the new door and other new products that they are now carrying.  We will be installing the new door when it cools down a bit here in East Texas.  Stay tuned for that.  In the meantime, you can join our conversation

 

Why I built a Holz Hausen Wood Pile (A circular wood pile)

We have always stacked our wood on landscape timbers and cement blocks without any issues.  But living in the city we bought a half a cord at a time at the most.  That amount of wood would last a couple of winters, since we only used it for ambiance and not warmth.

Log-Splitter Required

We had some mulch delivered that came with “some logs” and we have had to fell a couple of trees and suddenly we had a couple of cords of wood.  I decided to buy a log-splitter to take care of it all.

Squirrels Attack

Our new fireplace is huge to look at, but actually has a very small firebox.  So the old style wood stack wasn’t working for us.  The squirrels were making the wood fall and we were afraid of the whole thing coming down.

Internet Search Begins

I started looking on the internet for some ideas and came across the Holz Hausen method that is used across Europe.  It looks so neat and tidy and quite frankly, just looks freaking awesome.  I thought I would give it try.

The advantages that I read are:

  • The logs are slanted inward, so the water runs off and keeps the wood drier.
  • It cures faster due to the chimney effect
  • Can use different lengths of wood to build
  • Will stay neat looking as you use the wood
  • It is strong and won’t fall down (I have verified that so far)
  • You can build it tall

    A Holz Hausen Wood Pile, the European style of stacking wood.

Please watch the video for more details.

 

5 Reasons Why We Had Our Shed Built

Chemical Storage

One of our first planned expenses was a shed or storeroom for chemicals.  We don’t believe it is safe to keep paint, fertilizer, etc in the same area that we build things.  Also, we run a business out of our home that uses chemicals, so we have more than the average person.  Building a chemical storage building was our first priority once we got moved in.

Research|Research|Research

I did extensive internet research on the type of building I needed.  Some of our chemicals cause metal to rust so anything that had metal was out.  This included plastic premade sheds since they are fitted together with metal.  We decided that a good old fashion wood building was our best bet.  I first priced out the local big box and building it ourselves.  I looked at prefab online.  I also saw an ad for a local company that would build on site.  The build on site was just a couple of hundred bucks more than my son and I “DYI”ing it.

The “Build On Site” Won

these are the reason why we are really happy with the results:

1.  Quick turnaround.

2.  Price.  As I watched them build, I realized I had not actually calculated the whole price to build it myself.  I forgot many of the small items that would have added up.

3.  Freed our time to work on other projects.  As we watched, we figured it would have taken us a good two weekends as we probably would have tried to “reinvented the wheel” on too many things.

4.  Well built by experienced workmen.

5.  Level.  This may seem minor, but we ended up building on a slope.  Their experience here ended up being VERY important.

Truth in Advertising

I called to order, expecting that perhaps the ad was going to be deceptive and there would be a lot of add ons or a horribly long wait time.  Neither proved to be true.  I ordered and it was built within a week.

New Shed

New Shed at The Chicken Poop

Side View of Shed

Side View of Shed

Shed matches the barn

Shed matches the barn

Five Hours in 28 Seconds

We did a time lapse video of the shed being built.  It took two men five hours from the time they drove on the property to when they left.    Everything was done on site.  We were very impressed.

Hope you enjoy the video.

Texas Heat VS Free Rocks

Texas Heat VS Free Rocks

Texas Heat vs Free Rocks

The Side Yard- The Less is Better Principle

After I finished the front yard we knew we needed to do something with the side yard. I had to deal with the shade issue but I also had to handle the situation that the yard had a steep slope that made it very difficult for the water to not just run off. I knew I couldn’t do anything about the shade, but I might be able to fix the slope.

I thought about terracing the yard but with my son’s truck and my truck in the driveway it would create a trip hazard that I didn’t want to deal with. My wife said that since it was now June and the Texas heat was quickly sneaking up on us, this was a project we would tackle in the fall.

But the Rocks are FREE!!!

Actually, they are mini boulders. And they were free. Did I mention FREE! I called my wife. She said no. She did not want me to get hurt moving them. I assured her I had a pain free plan… well I knew I would think of one!

You see, I was doing the floors on a jobsite while another contractor was excavating what looked like white Austin stone boulders. Another epiphany moment occurred. They said that the boulders were going to be hauled away and put in the landfill. NO! I paid the excavator operator $10 to put 8 boulders in the back of my truck.

These Guys Were BIG!

They ranged in weight between 200 and 600 lbs. Side note: if you have never really watched one of these guys work the machine, do it. They have an unbelievable amount of grace in using the controls. Not one of the boulders was dropped into the truck, they were moved around so that they all fit without damaging the sides of the truck.

The Rocks

Rocks still on the jobsite

The Pain Free Plan

My next issue was how do I remove the boulders from the truck? I took a tow strap, wrapped it around the boulder, backed the truck up to tree, tied the other end around tree, and drove forward. Not the best for the tailgate but job accomplished. No injures! I rolled the boulders around until they were where I wanted them.

The Project Begins…Sooner Rather Than Later

So we have boulders and no plan. We look at them daily for about 4 days. Then my friend with the playhouse, he has an oak tree, a very large oak tree that didn’t fare well during our 35” of spring rains. It ended up crushing part of his roof. It was coming down.

My wife and I headed to Pinterest for ideas. We know we have to create a small retaining wall and like what we saw using the wood upright. Since my friend doesn’t have a wood burning fireplace I asked for some of the logs for my landscaping project. I loaded up the truck a couple of times and brought home various sizes and shapes of logs.

Retaining Wall Retained

I knew I had to level the yard to begin with. My idea was to plant 2 ft. logs and back fill from there. I dugout the trench and placed the 32-2ft logs in upright. I needed to create some kind of deadman to keep logs from being pushed out. Walking around Lowes I couldn’t find anything that I thought would work. I decided to talk to the Pro desk where the solution emerged (thanks Lowes). We talked about using 20 ft long flat iron to band one side of the logs.

Retaining the Retaining Wall

Boxes are put down to keep weeds to a minimum.

I marked the iron where the gaps between the logs were. I had some 5ft lengths of rebar welded on and then concreted that in to act as deadman. I backfilled the logs and solved my first dilemma of a sloping yard.

To help keep weeds down I covered the entire area with flatten boxes. Then I covered the boxes with a layer of mulch. Now it was time to take a break and figure out what to do next.

Log Slices

Two years ago I saw on Pinterest, paths being made with log slices. We had done this on the mailbox side of our house and I really liked this look. We decided to put more of that tree to good use. I had to dig out the dirt in the easement between the sidewalk and curb on this side of the driveway. I dug down 6 inches and put the dirt in the side yard for later use. We came in at the end of the project and filled it with sand.  I also did my side of the driveway so I had a bit more room for my Ford F250.

tree slices to drive over

Log slices are cut at least 6 inches wide and buried before they are surrounded by sand to lock them in place.

No More Lost Water

Now my wife and I had to figure out what we wanted the yard to look like. While we had gotten rid of a huge hill that had let all of our irrigation water run off for 30 years, we do not like flat yards without any interest. So we created small rises and all the leftover dirt was put to use.

Now flat with no runoff

Now flat without any water runoff.  Success!

Creating Zones

We created a couple of “zones” using some long 4” dia. branches as borders and different colors of mulch. Then it was off to the garden center for a couple of plants and we were done. While our yards may not be officially Xeriscaped, the turf is all gone and we were ready for the next drought. And while we shouldn’t have been surprised, but the next drought happened this very summer. Yes, this is Texas. Two year drought, 34 inches of rain in the spring, official drought again by Oct 1st, 8 inches of rain by the end of Oct. Gotta love Texas.

Stack of Rocks

Finished Before the Heat of Summer

Luckily the summer started late this year due to all the rain we had in the spring.  In the end we turned a shady, dirt area into a shady retreat, complete with bench made from my free stones!

A place to reflect on the day

This photo was taken in a few months later when the sweet potato plant had a chance to grow in.

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

About 5 months ago I purchased the Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder because of a rodent problem. I was seeing small rats getting into my hanging feeder. I also saw droppings all around the feeder. I was very concerned about diseases in and around the girls.

Precision Chicken Feeder Review

Stop Feeding the Rats

I read that treadle feeders should eliminate or reduce problems from rodents. At the time I only had 3 chickens and I didn’t want to spend a lot on a feeder. I was using a Precision Pet Cape Cod Coop without any issues. The Coop seemed to be built reasonably well; therefore I felt that another one of their products should also be reasonably well built.

Read the Instructions: All the Instructions

The first thing I noticed when I received the feeder was that the instructions were simple to understand pictures. Unfortunately in my exuberance to get it built, I missed the slant board that feeds the food to the front of the feeder. Taking apart one side to install it not a problem. Reinstalling it became challenging because it does help to have extra hands to hold parts in place. This is where the problems started to show up.

chicken-treadle-feeder-page-description-03

There are small tabs that fit into holes on their opposite piece that if not seated properly will pull the star nuts out of the boards so that it can’t be tightened. Also don’t use a cordless screwdriver because even with good control it is very easy to over-tighten and remove the star nuts (reinserting does not fix it).

Nutty Solutions

The next issue I encountered was the flange nuts used on the moving parts of the feeder work themselves off. I have had to reinstall them at least once a week. The easiest solution would be to change out the flange nuts to nylon lock nuts because you need to be able to adjust the tightness to make the parts move correctly.

Clever Rats, Better Solutions

As I said earlier, I purchased this feeder because of rodents. The first day I had completely closed the feed lid, a rat chewed his way into the feed. The rat jumped out when I checked it that night. There is a small gap behind the treadle cover that with very little chewing, the rat was able to crawl in. I solved this by screwing a piece of plywood into this area of the gap.

bar added to keep rodents out

Help Wanted: Fatter Chickens

As I said, the star nuts are easy to pull out. Thankfully I had plenty of drywall screws to hold it together. If you have the drywall screws, I would add them at the initial build. I recently found out that the cover door was not opening with my lightest girl. The feed had caused the provided screws and nuts to partially dislodge causing the cover to stick.

Chicken Training

Before I purchased this feeder, I read about how to train the girls to use this type of feeder. Many people commented that their type of treadle feeder (multiple manufacturers) had holes to prop up the cover so that the girls would learn where the food was. Many said theirs came with at least two holes so that they could begin partially closing the cover to teach them to step on the treadle platform to open the cover.

chickens having some dinner

6 Week Learning Curve

There are no feeder training instructions nor are there any holes in the side to insert a screw to hold up the cover in this model. I had to drill my own. From what I read, most people were able to completely close the cover in two weeks. It only took my girls six weeks (I think my girls maybe very special), so don’t give up hope, they will figure it out.

Specs

clip_image001

Cost between $55 and $75

Final Impression

This is one of the items that I believe is very beneficial to have if you have any kind of wild bird and/or rodent problem. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” holds very true to this product.

Fab or Flub?

Flub. In my opinion, if you have any carpentry skills this would be a good time to break out the table saw and build your own. I am already seeing some plywood delamination on my feeder. If time or skills are not your forte, I would invest the money and look into metal feeders.

A 30 Year Project Is Finished!

A 30 Year Project Is Finished!

The Evolution of our Front Yard

Have you ever started a project with the intention of just completing it and getting on with life? That is what I planned to do during the spring of 2015. I live in North Texas and we had an extremely wet spring. When I bought my zero lot line house 30 years ago it was in a new development. I picked the lot that was the highest in the neighborhood as a safeguard against flooding.

Front Yard is Finished

Fast Forward 15 years

Everything was fine for about 15 years. I was talking to my then neighbor and he mentioned that water levels were getting close to the back door. I also noticed the water was taking longer to drain out of my backyard. I decided to install 4 surface drains at the low areas with a pipe to the street to move the water out faster. This took care of both of our concerns. Flooded Backyard

I don’t seem to have any photos of the flooded front yard.  But the backyard drains into the front.  I know this is a horrible photo, but it was a horrible night…..

Fast forward 13 years and I was finding that between the dogs and the chickens the drain pipes were getting clogged with dirt and not functioning well. I decided to install a French drain with gravel and landscape fabric (next to old drain) to improve the drainage. FYI, this is not inexpensive both in energy expended as well as money (we live with clay soil).

The Pile in the Driveway

I ordered 4 tons of river rock gravel which was too much, but a blessing in disguise. I think I overestimated the actual size and volume of the trough. Once the drain was in and covered with the rock (but not dirt at this point), my wife and I saw how beautiful the rock actually was as a path. By utilizing the excess gravel as a path we could create a low, low maintenance yard. Rock Pile

This photo does not do this pile justice…my back will tell you that the pile was much bigger.  I moved the rock in 5 gallon buckets in a two wheel dolly barrel.  Many buckets! 

Coming out of a severe drought, this sounded like the responsible way to go. I should point out that for 30 years I have tried many different yard styles (mostly different types of grass with NO luck) because this area is heavily shaded with oak trees. So this really solved many different issues for us.

Winter before Reno

You can see from the “before” photo that there were no elevations and not much interest in the yard.  Just lirope and the cannas during the summer. 

Two years ago I tried to cover the yard with lirope just to give the yard some life and even that failed. I got a few patches to grow, but nothing attractive. The only thing that grew well was the cannas. Time to start thinking outside the ’neighborhood’ box, everyone had some type grass yard and I wanted something different.

Digging the Trench

The very first thing we did was call 811 before we started to dig and waited for them come out and mark all of our lines. 

Lines marked by utilities

Utility Marking…different colors are for different types of lines. 

With the digging of the trench, there was a lot of dirt in piles that started to take of a life of their own. Instead of piles of dirt they created different elevations to plant on. The clumps of lirope stayed in their oasis as did the cannas.Trench with rock layer

After I dug the trench, I put down landscape cloth and a layer of the river rock.

pipe and drains added

Then I laid in the covered pipe and tied in drains where I knew the water really pooled. 

Zips Ties were used and drain covers added

I used zip ties to attach the pipes to the drains and put the covers on the keep the rocks out of the pipes. 

Covered the pipe with landscape cloth and rock

I covered the pipe with landscape cloth and covered it with the river rock.

A number of years ago we bought field stone to outline some of the paths and borders we tried to create. We had a lot that no longer defined anything and some were buried.  It became a treasure hunt to find the rocks.  We then started to move the stones around and redefined the yard.

With the drain installed I decided that the excess gravel would be used to create the path over the drain pipe thereby eliminating the need to add dirt back over the pipe and help increase the water flow into the drain.

This last weekend we had 7 inches of rain in three days and I must say that there was very little water pooling and that was only when we had an inch drop in 15 minutes. I think this can be attributed to the fact that I used flexible corrugated pipe with slits in it instead of rigid pipe with ½” holes.

The Cost Rundown

What did this cost? The biggest expense was the drain system which includes the gravel-around $300. The plants and mulch another $75. So for under $400 we now have very nice place to sit outside and enjoy our little slice of heaven.

The view from my chair

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

Around three years ago we decided we wanted to raise chickens. If you have read any of my previous articles you will see what a relatively quick coop and run I put together. We bought the coop online and it was cute. I built the run and truth be told: it was ugly. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on something that may not be a long term desire.

After losing three of the original five girls to possums (they are just plain mean suckers) our enjoyment hasn’t waned; it has just grown. We recently decided that instead of fixing the defects in design it was time to just start over.

Run=Ugly

My wife finally shared with me that she thought the run was really ugly and that she wanted something a heck of a lot more attractive than what she had to look at. Plus, I think she could see I was getting very antsy not doing anything after a very busy spring redesigning the front yard (another story sometime).

I was going to build from scratch and create my own unique design (and probably spend way too much money). I had the basic essentials (waterer, feeder, etc) so all I had to do was build around these things and I would have a new coop.

Ugly Runthe after photo of the new coop

The wall next to the house:  Before and After

As you can see, the tarps and buckets were taking over the small space.  But even my wife will admit, the run did keep the girls happy during wet or bad weather.

Pinterest for Ideas

I spent a good deal of time and scoured through various articles in Backyard Chickens and Pinterest trying to come up the perfect idea for our backyard. I guess I should mention that my wife loves to watch the girls out of her office window. Of course, the girls also love to tell her when it is time for a snack whenever the backdoor is open.

the girls at the back door

A Friend Helps

I have always believed the good Lord will provide when the time is right. About a month ago I told my best friend my plans to build a new coop. He told me that his adult daughter had a playhouse that she was ready to get rid of because her daughter had a new play/gym house. He sent me a picture and I immediately saw possibilities. It was definitely smaller than I envisioned but I thought I could make it work. I picked it up and brought it home.

the playhouse brand new

The Build Begins

The first thing I did was temporarily put it together (without the roof) so that my wife and I could figure out what to do with it. It is important to understand that the dimensions were approximately 43”x 43” x 62” tall. It was way too small and I wasn’t going to fit in it to be able to do the chores needed. One of the biggest problems with the old run was it was too short to get into and stand up. I was tired of doing the crab walk!

The Floor for the Chicken Coop

I am a collector of building materials. I had been given a 4’x8’ pallet l with OSB board on it. At the time I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. When I got the playhouse, it fit on the pallet with room to spare. We tore down the old run, moved their coop and I started the project.

Pallet Floor with vinyl and hardware cloth

I first leveled the ground for the pallet. I took ½” hardware cloth and wrapped the pallet below grade to minimize digging from unwanted critters under the pallet. I had some reinforced vinyl that covered the pallet to make it weather resistant and prevent splinters into the girls’ feet. I left playhouse put together off to the side so that the girls would get use to going into it and on it.

After the pallet was ready I moved the playhouse onto the pallet. Time for the real work to begin. The first idea was to raise the roof about two feet so that I could stand up in it. We decided to use transparent corrugated roofing panels for the wall extension. We used panel closures on each end to minimize any drafts.

The Roof of the Chicken Coop

Next I stripped the “shingles” off the roof, rebuilt it with plywood and tar paper to make sure it was dry inside. I reinstalled the “shingles” and the roof was ready. I used 2×4’s as the support legs. I used bar clamps to set the roof.

I put the clamps at the desired height, my son and I lifted the roof over the supports and set them on the clamps which made adjustments very easy. The actual opening was 21.5 inches to account for overlap of the panels on top and bottom.

Plywood added to the roof for strenght and warmth

roof remodeled

We closed all the openings and added some decorations.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

The first item was to replace two of the four small windows and build two nesting boxes for them. Because of the small size of the original coop there wasn’t any room for a nesting box on the inside. The girls would either lay under the old coop or hide the eggs. As soon as I built the box they took to it, even with all the noise from construction.Nesting Box Open  Hinge on nesting box

A hinge makes it easy to collect the eggs from outside the coop.

Bike innertube to keep out water

A silicone bead along the hinge and along where the box is attached help keep the water out.  But the innertube on the hinge should really make the difference.  Our first rain is this week and we will know for sure.

nesting boxes seen from inside the coop

Here is a view of the nesting box from inside the coop.  We have wooden eggs as recommended.  The girls took to the new boxes without any problems.

Chicken Poop Hammocks

The girls were still not sleeping in the new coop because I didn’t have a perch for them. I wanted to make an easy to clean system. I knew I would be using sand on the floor but I still didn’t want to get on my hands and knees so I added small poop hammocks behind each roost bar. Occasionally they sleep the opposite direction but for the most part they have performed as expected. They and the roost bars are removable for easy cleaning.

Poop Hammock Explained

The Chicken Coop Doors

I needed to build doors before I let the girls sleep in their new digs. The playhouse came with two openings for the kids. One was just a 43”x 17”opening and the other was a43”x17” opening with a little door and window in it. The opening became my door, so that I could installed a full length door albeit only 17” wide.

On the girls door I took the play door out turned it upside down and made the window the new chicken entrance. To close the door I used single shelf tracks and cut them to size. Much cheaper than using “C” channel. I had an old rigid chair mat that I cut up for the door so that it slides up and down. I am in the process of building an automatic door opener out of a car antenna (still have a few bugs to work out).

Chicken Door from inside coop

Chickens Door from the Run

Human Door

You can see the transparent corrugated roofing panels that enclosed the Coop extension here.  This makes it bright for the chickens while they are in their coop during inclement weather.

extension panels

Here is a good view of the transparent corrugated roofing panels before the chicken run is attached.

The Chicken Coop Windows

There were three more windows that I kept intact. I put ½”hardware cloth over them and then attached two tracks to each one so that I could install clear Plexiglas when the weather turns colder and wetter. I am leaving them open now while the weather is nice.

window with removable plexiglass

The Run

I purchased 48” wide hardware cloth so that I could build the chicken run without any overlaps. The run is 4’x8’ which is small for 4-6 chickens but girls are only in there when the weather is bad. I covered the chicken run with polycarbonate roofing panels to keep them out of the rain and hail. I used plywood for the back as a wind and rain screen. I built a two and half ft. wide door so that this winter I can put a hay bale inside to help keep them out of the mud.

perches and dusting box

We added a bench from the old playhouse front porch for a perch along with a branch.  We also have a dusting box with sand and ash.  They use that every day.

Water and Feed

I attached the waterer from the old run to the back wall and kept the bucket outside. I decided to keep the feeder in the run because of room as well as keep rodents away from the girls at night.

chicken waterer with chicken nipples

Another thing that I built was a feed catcher. My girls are very sloppy and throw food out of the feeder. This was adding to the rodent problem. Now I can recycle the feed back into the feeder.  I already see savings!

feed catcher

Weather Protection

With the reinforced vinyl, my wife came up with the idea to make a removable wind/rain screen on the screened sides. We hang them on the outside of the chicken run during inclement weather. They tie off at the bottom with bungee cords and eye hooks.

Ready for Rain

rain tarps are stored in the chicken runDuring good weather we roll the weather protection screens up and store them inside the run out of the way.

How Much Did This Puppy Cost????

And for the final question you might have…how much did it cost?  Well, remember that I got a $600 playhouse for free.  I also mentioned that I am a collector of building materials, so all the wood you see in the photo above, free.  I did sell the old coop on craigslist for $125.00 so that offset a lot of the cost.  I paid for the hardware cloth, the roof panels you see above in the run and the transparent corrugated roofing panels.  Also had to buy the panel closures for those panels on the coop.  I bought some odd and end pieces of hardware like the brackets you see above.  I did reuse hinges and door latches from the old run.  I had to buy the shelf tracks for the doors and windows, but I had the Plexiglass and I had the plywood for the coop roof.  Lets see, what else…oh, the door lifting system that doesn’t work yet.  That is a whole other article.  As soon as it is up and working, I will let you know all the details.  But at this point, I think I am out about $75 bucks.

Best of all, my wife is very happy with it.

Doug’s Smoked Turkey Recipe

Doug’s Smoked Turkey Recipe

  Delicious recipe for Turkey Brining a Smoked Turkey

I have been asked for my recipe for what my family deems the best turkey they have ever eaten. After 33 years of preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving I think we have a winner. For many years I cooked the turkey without brining it; then about five years ago a friend of mine and I were talking about trying this additional step and I must say it brings the turkey to a whole new level.

Turkey Brine Recipe

2 gallons of water

3 cups of canning salt

3 Tbl minced garlic

½ c roasted vegetable stock

2 Tbl ground black pepper

½ cups Worcestershire sauce

2/3 cups brown sugar

2/3 cups apple cider

Combine ingredients in stock pot, stir and then heat up until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Preparing the Turkey

I don’t buy expensive turkeys. In fact if the grocery store is giving away a turkey if we spend x amount on food, so much the better. We try to get two 15 pound turkeys so that there will be plenty of leftovers for everyone to take home. I start the thawing the turkeys in the fridge, 3 to 4 days before Thanksgiving to make sure it is completely thawed.

The morning before Thanksgiving I will remove the turkeys from the packaging. I remove the giblets and put them aside for gravy. I cut off the tail and toss it (my wife does not like it). I thoroughly rinse off the birds and then place them in 2 gallon food safe bags, place them in an ice chest and then fill them up with the brine solution. I always completely cover each bird. Seal the bags and cover with ice. (if you don’t have a good ice chest, make sure you have ice the entire time) You are now done until Thanksgiving morning.

Our family has dinner around 1:00 pm so the following ritual is what I do to eat around that time.

I get up at 5am and start the smoker. I want the temperature to be between 230 degrees and 240 degrees. I put 3 or 4 cups of wood chunks in a bowl of water to soak, to increase the smoke effect. If you have read any of my previous posts I use a propane smoker because it simplifies my life. I add hot water to water pan.

I will remove the turkeys from the brine and thoroughly rinse them off to remove excess salt and then pat them dry. Place the turkey breast side up. I take a ¼ pound of butter and put half of it inside the bird. I then take my hand and slide it between the skin and meat and then insert chunks of butter into the skin cavity. I liberally season the birds inside and out with seasoned salt and lemon pepper. Tie the legs together so that they won’t over cook. I have an instant read thermometer that I insert into the thickest part of the leg (don’t let it touch the bone).

By this time the smoker should be at temperature and I will put the birds as close to the middle of the smoker as possible. I drain the water from the soaking wood chunks and add them to the wood pan. The next step is very important. I set my alarm for 3 hours so that I can check the temperature and water level. I then I go back to bed. Remember nobody likes a grumpy cook.

If everything is going as planned I will need to add hot water. One thing to be aware of is depending on how fatty the bird is the water pan will fill up with grease. You don’t want to let the pan run out of water. Depending on my mood I will add a little more wood. Not really necessary but it can’t hurt. Avoid opening the smoker as much as possible because of heat loss.

Keep an eye on the temperature and the birds should be ready around 12:30. Flexibility is important. Smoking is not an exact science, it is an art.

I will pull the birds when they reach 160 degrees and cover them with foil, and then let them rest for 30 minutes before I carve. The birds will continue to cook and will reach the cooked temperature of 165 degrees.

The turkey will be one of the moistest bird you will ever eat. Some of your guest may comment that the turkey isn’t done because it is still pink. It is pink with a smoke ring. The temperature will tell you that it is done. The pink will tell you that you are fixin to go to taste heaven.

Bon Appetit

Giblet Gravy Recipe

3 or 4 cups of water

1 cup of diced celery

1 cup of diced onions

2 or 3 Tbl flour

Salt and pepper to taste

All of the giblets including the necks

Place in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and everything except the necks (remove the necks and strip the meat off if so desired, discard the bone) and broth into the food processor. I will add about a cup of liquid to processor and chop it up to desired consistency. Return it back to the sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbl of flour and heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thank you to Karen at the Graphic Fairy for our vintage image.

Smoke Hollow PS 4400 Review

Smoke Hollow PS 4400 Review

Smoker Review

In my previous article I talked a little about my experience in the world of smoking meat and Turkeys in particular. Over the years I purchased various brands of smokers and types of smokers with varying degrees of success and failure.

Last week I purchased a “Smoke Hollow PS 4400” propane gas smoker from a club house store. The benefits of buying from these types of stores, is they tend to include a number of extras for no additional cost. The extra on this unit was a cover, normally priced at $44.00.

This is a big smoker. I could smoke 4- 15lb turkeys or 21 racks of ribs. Because of the size of this smoker I would suggest that if you are a beginner smoker or your plans for smoking are a couple of turkey legs a couple of times a year or maybe a whole chicken once in a while this may be too big for your needs.

Breakdown of the Smokers Components

Doors:

The model comes with two doors, one for the food and the other for the water pan and wood chip pans. This model I purchased also came with glass doors. If you can afford them they are well worth it. I like being able to see what is going on without opening the door and losing the heat. I can also check the water pan without losing the smoke in the main body. If you need to add water all you need to do is open the lower door and pull out the water pan to add more water.

This model does not come with door gaskets and every review I read talked about this. They said there was an issue of heat loss as well as smoke coming out around the door. Before I fired up the smoker the first time I applied thin bead of high temp gasket maker material. I left the door open for 24 hours to cure and haven’t have any problems. The doors come with 3 adjustable door latches, two for the top door and one for the bottom. It gives a very secure fit.

Burners:

The 4400 comes with two burners. I am not sure why, because with one burner at medium I can reach 300 degrees. I smoke most of my meats at 235 degrees.

One possible use is this smoker comes with two fire chip pans and I suppose you could fill both pans with wood and when it is time to start the second round of smoke you would only need to turn off the first burner and start the second. Maybe an unintended benefit would be that there is a second burner if the first burner wears out.

Water and Fire pans:

Overall I am happy with the pans. The water pan holds approximately 1.25 gallons which gives about 4 hours cook time before refilling. The one suggestion I have is, when it is time to drain the pan, have a 5 gallon bucket close by. You can pour into it and then you don’t need to carry the greasy water and risk spilling. Another suggestion is to triple layer with foil to make it easier to clean up as well as to protect the pans from developing holes.

The fire pans are of a good size to hold a large amount of wood. The downside of how this unit is designed is that only the center 1/4 to 1/3 of the wood is used up. The outer perimeter creates charred wood. I don’t think it has a big overall effect but I do like to use up material.

Measurements:

The overall measurements are 44″ x24″ x16″. It is tall enough too comfortably to add or remove food items. The handles are at a good height to make it easy for two people to carry. It is not very heavy so it is easy to move short distances.

Legs:

The legs create a wide enough footprint to give it stability, but as with the rest of the construction the legs are made with light weight steel and it will not take a lot of rough handling i.e. in the back of a pickup off road.

Racks:

This smoker comes with 5 racks: two regular, two jerky racks, and one rib rack that will hold 7 racks of ribs or it can be turned over and used as a regular rack. If you are going to use the jerky racks for something other than jerky I would suggest a sheet a foil to prevent sticking to the racks because it is a pain to clean the racks.

Temperature Gauge:

I was pleasantly surprised at how accurate the temperature gauge was. In a side by side comparison with a digital probe it was only off by 5 degrees. I did find that the unit was 15 degrees cooler at the bottom of the cabinet. This is good to know so I can put smaller items at the bottom.

Drip Pan:

The smoker comes with a drip pan although it didn’t catch any drips. There is a large vent hole on the bottom that the pan does not cover and this is where the grease dripped out. I solved the problem by putting an old tray under the smoker and solved the problem.