Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sick gander

Well, it's always something.  I noticed Friday night that my oldest gander was acting funny.  Quiet, with his neck extended and trembling slightly. Staring intently. The patriarch of the group, I thought something had happened in the yard to put him on high alert; a fox or raccoon out early.

Yeah, well, no.  We weren't really home yesterday and I didn't get out there to check on them.  This morning when I went out he was sitting down. Which I've caught him doing maybe all of once.

He doesn't want to walk. He will, but trembles like he's drunk and then sits down again as soon as he can.  He is clumsy, tripping over vegetation and knocking into things.  Shit.


I scattered some corn around this morning,  parade-candy style. He ate a bit.


This is how he is sitting.  Wings ever so slightly fluffed.

He ate some grass, some corn. I saw him drink.


I remembered that ducks (ducklings especially) have higher nacin needs and a deficiency presents as leg trouble.  So I got into the first aid kit and made a cocktail of ground niacin and electrolytes.  Caught him, pried his bill open and carefully got about 10 ml into him orally.  Took the chance to check him over while I was straddling him: no obvious injuries,  regular range of motion,  no weight loss..  If he got into and ate something I would think the other geese would have the same symptoms. 

  Replaced all water in the run with fresh electrolyte/niacin spiked mix which will harm no one. 

We'll see how things go. Dang it anyway. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What are these plants?


Can anyone help me identify some plants that are in bloom this month? 

The first one is some kind of perennial sunflower that's absolutely invasive. It started out as a single 2.5 inch pot my mother bought and is now in three locations on the property ( I only planted them intentionally in one spot, they've come up where I must have thrown ones that were weeded out).  The plants are well over my head, probably 7 feet tall.


Garage and shed for scale. They're huge.

They spread by means of a rhizome? tuber? that is tiny, about the size of a finger - it looks like what you'd see from a wild daylilly.


Here are the flowers. They're very pretty.  The stems are slightly sticky the way larger sunflower plants are.

The other mystery is this flowering shrub


They're tall too, maybe 6 feet, and grow in mounds.  They are prolific here in areas that have poor soil (like alongside railroad tracks - gravel with little soil).  These railroad tracks are nearly always running along waterways.  The plants themselves are in dry ground but maybe they like the increased humidity?


Here's a close up of the leaves and blossoms. They flower in sprays along the length of the branches.  For the last month these have been covered in honey bees and other pollinators. 

Can anyone help me identify these?


Monday, September 17, 2018

Jamie Oliver Maryland Chicken


Tonight's dinner was prompted by two separate facts: 1) a bunch of bananas on the counter that wasn't  getting any fresher and 2) The package of organic chicken breasts pleading "not fajitas again, please".

I've made this dish before and we really like it.  It's out of the Jamie's Dinners book. You cut a pocket into each chicken breast and stuff half a banana into it.  Nestle the chicken into a bed of white beans and corn.  Pour white wine and half & half on top. Add bacon, grind some pepper over top and into the oven with it.  Really quick and simple.

We didn't have any wine in the house so I used half a bottle of lager.  Figuring that would make it taste more "earthy" I expanded on it with a bunch of mushrooms and thyme.


My sister and I inherited a bunch of this cast iron enameled cookware from my mother - I think it's called Dru? She loved the "sea foam green" color and had many pieces.  It's wonderful for going from stovetop to oven and then into the refrigerator.  Cast iron pots and skillets are such work horses in the kitchen. 

Dinner was a fun treat.  There's plenty of the corn/bean mix left over and I think that will be my lunch tomorrow, with an egg poached into it.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Happy things

Some things bringing me a little bit of happiness this week:


Reading time with the littles. One of the books we have been reading is The Very Clumsy Click Beetle. There have been tons of actual click beetles around here this summer and today we spent 20 minutes playing with one on the porch; watching it "click and flip" and letting it crawl on our hands and arms.  This is something I remember my mother showing me when I was little.


This lovely cactus dahlia bloomed.  I didn't have it last year so it must have been part of a pack I got from Aldi's.  It's small and very pretty.


Bee.  I had somehow forgotten how much Bee adores babies.  The baby and I were resting on the couch one evening and Bee came over to sniff him and lay down on the other side of him.  I remember when we brought our oldest home from the hospital she seemed to think about if for a couple of days and finally decide he was a tiny people kitten.  She fussed over him, slept with him and would get distressed when he cried.  They're still great friends.  I hope she and the baby continue to get along like this.


The "huge" egg is a regular chicken egg.  The bantams are laying super cute eggs and the ones on either end are unusual eggs that one of the female quail occasionally gifts me with.


Nigel is all done molting and looks amazing.  I love this guy and can barely resist holding and squeezing him when I see him.  I do ruffle his butt feathers on occasion.


Today the baby laughed for the first time and is learning to use his hands.  It's just perfect.  And wonderful.


I've been taking some time lately to try to remember who I was pre-children.  I've been doing yoga at the library and have started an insect collection.  This frame is just for holding purposes until I can tag and display them.  It's a great time to slow down and pay attention to the life around me.  Right now the goldenrod is blooming and covered with wasps and bees of all types.  I noticed for the first time today that the praying mantis are taking advantage of that fact; hiding in the goldenrod blossoms waiting to nab a wasp or passing bee.  I saw four of them doing this today, one of them was eating a yellow jacket and another was holding the leg of something (wasp?) and eating it like a piece of chicken.  I'm sure this has been going on every year and I've never noticed this cycle.  


These also make me smile; the covered dish from the thrift store and the little toy man.  Our neighbors had a garage sale and gifted some things to our oldest - I saw this guy and snagged him for myself.  Because he looks just like Bob from Bob's Burgers and it makes me happy.  He sits on a shelf and watches me cook.

All good things to remember.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cake; or "the problem with knowing where food comes from"

My three year old woke up this morning yelling "Mama, I want chocolate cake!" I told him that we didn't have any.  To which he replied "MAMA! We make it!"

Sigh.  Well, yeah, that's where cake comes from - the kitchen.  And it's always available.

We made a chocolate sour cream cake, or rather he did mostly.   It was a joint effort.


He put all of the cake ingredients in the mixer, same with the frosting.  Then added the sprinkles on top.

Really, who can argue with that?


We did a half batch of this recipe, more or less.  Didn't follow directions, just added wet to dry.


Getting the last bits of the melted chocolate and butter out of the pan.  The smallest apprentice looks on.


This is the frosting we made but we ended up adding about twice the powdered sugar.

It was a really nice treat.



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tomato pie

Sounds questionable, right?  I had never even heard of tomato pie until a brunch hosted by some of our dearest friends.  Someone had brought this dish to share and it was amazing.  Tomato pie.  I had seconds when no one was looking.

   

I've made it twice since that brunch and my only regret is not knowing about it sooner.   My sister asked if it tasted like pizza and the answer is sort of... but not really. It's sweet and savory and tastes more like a lasagna. 


Apparently it's a classic Southern recipe. I'm embarrassed to never have heard of it before (when asked about my heritage I reply that my mother's family is half Eastern European half Southern (pre-revolutionary war)). So it stands to reason my grandmother would have made this at some point.  But really, there is no recipe needed.  It's a "feel as you go" kind of dish.

It is simply this: you pre-bake a pie shell.  While it's baking - squeeze the seeds and juice out of some tomatoes (maybe 3 large ones), slice them 1/2 inch thick and put them in a colander in the sink. Salt liberally.  

Chop a sweet yellow onion into 1/4 dice, or just chop however.  Get a handful of basil from the garden and slice thinly.

When you're done with that, rinse the heck out of the tomatoes to get rid of the salt.  Squeeze the liquid out.  Pat tomatoes dry.  In your pie shell place the onion, then the basil, then the tomato.  Don't worry about it looking nice because it will be covered by cheese.

In a separate bowl - mix together roughly 2 cups shredded cheese ( I used mozzarella & cheddar) and 1 cup mayonnaise.   At this point I added a big glug of hot sauce and another of Worcestershire sauce.   Stir it up and drop this mix over the pie.  Try to smooth it out a bit. Grind pepper over it.  Bake at 350 until the cheese is bubbly, flat and golden - 30 minutes?

It makes me think that it would be just as good with maybe corn and shrimp added - It's pure joy, the best of summer in a dish. Good for breakfast or supper.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

The fair & Best in Show Eggs

The little local fair has come and gone.  Like every other year, it rained on Friday and Saturday evening but we still had a great time.  Sadly we even had to miss the parade due to rain (the kids all went to an indoor playground instead).

The baby and I went on Thursday to check out our entries and then my husband and I took both of the kids on Friday evening.  The little man took his first pony ride (adorable) we had had some good food and I won lots of ribbons. 


Best in Show eggs.  Again.  My chickens and I: that's how we roll.  The baby admires our success from the carrier.  


Banana butter = first place ribbon.


Eating Fair food without dropping any on the baby.  This was a chicken Philly cheese steak sandwich, add mushrooms.  It was amazingly good.  I can see us making this at home.


Quail eggs - First place.  No one else entered.  Oh well.

All told, I won about $55 in prize monies - which equals about 350 lbs. chicken scratch at the local feed mill.  Or a pair of purebred geese.  We'll see. 

Either way, it's money in for the backyard farm fund.  We have big plans for spring.

 

These aren't ours but dang aren't they cute.  Tiny pumpkins painted up as doughnuts.  I think the little man and I will try doing this next year.

 

Three lovely ladies eating hay.


These wonderful girls - and who's that in the background? The little man, my husband and my mother in law.  The dairy barn had a great elevated "sandbox" filled with corn with lots of toy tractors to push around.  It would be fun to have one of these at our house.

Another year, another "tiny farm party" come and gone.  Rural life, ain't it wonderful?


Here's a post about the 2016 Fair and the 2017 Fair with the baking contest.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A birthday, apples & a fair

What a week! Currently on break from simultaneously canning apples, cleaning the kitchen, cooking up two tiny roosters for chicken salad and searching the yard for a quail that shot out of the pen like a feathered rocket when I gathered eggs tonight.  Oh well.  At least both of the kids are clean, fed and asleep.  And the house smells wonderful.

My lovely husband had a birthday this weekend and we celebrated it with his family from both far and near.  It was such a fun time.  Everyone got to meet the new baby and the little man had an absolute blast playing with his cousins.  His legs are currently covered in bruises because his new hobby is.... wait for it... break dancing. Yep.  It's awesome.  Some of the flinging himself about is purely made up by him and some I recognized as yoga poses I've practiced in front of him.  He's really into it.  It's adorable.  Couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

But back to the birthday.  The following is going to sound arrogant but please bear with me: I made a Boston Creme Pie that was amazing. Everyone raved about it.  My husband called it the best cake I've ever made.  All of this seems like patting myself on the back but it's not... more like a confession... it was so embarrassing...  a hard lesson in what a  food snob I've become.  We do try to make healthy things from scratch when we can. The recipe is this one from the Kraft website.  When asked about the amazing pudding in that cake?  Had to admit it was made from Cool-whip.  Which is made of corn syrup.  From a plastic tub.  Mixed with a pudding box from Aldi's.  And a box mix cake.  The kind of ingredients that would normally make everyone in our house shudder.    



A delicious pile of artificial ingredients and preservatives.  Of course it tasted so good :(

The cake was a box mix but I used whole milk instead of water, butter instead of oil and added an extra egg.  Needed to double the frosting recipe.  It was wonderful but apparently I've become a total ass about food.  We'll call it a draw.
  

Brought half a peck of apples home from my parent's house this weekend.  Our trees aren't producing yet and these looked lovely.  I set aside some of the better ones to feed the little man's appetite (apples are his favorite food) and have peeled and sliced the rest to can. Just waiting for the dishwasher to finish the canning jars.  Maybe I'll make our favorite apple custard pie with these this winter.

* Update - just finished these and got 4 pint jars. Yay for free organic produce.


My dad's apiary.  It's amazing.  The solar fence is due to bears.

Today we entered the Jamestown Fair.  My father came along to help, god bless him.  I had the baby strapped to my chest in a carrier and a 3 year old running wild.  It did break my heart a little bit.  Here we are back in 2016 when the little man was the one strapped to my chest.  And here in 2017 he insisted on pulling the cart.  This year he was running about while I carried his little brother.  It's beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.


Here's what we entered this year.  Some canned goods, eggs, herbs... It didn't seem like much but ended up being 20 items.  That tall stuff is Thai lemongrass.


Our eggs.

I've always said that I enter the fair because it's important to me.  The idea of it; the celebration of agriculture and homemaking and small town life.  But it's funny because this year I had not one but two volunteers thank me for entering.  One lady thanked me for bringing my quail eggs to enter.  Another thanked me for "taking the time to bring everything here".  Maybe it was because there hadn't been many people show up yet - everything looked sparse - but I think most people come in to enter after they get off of work. Maybe it was because I had a 9 week old baby strapped to my chest, I don't know.  The point is, if no one enters the fair than there is no fair.  And the idea of that is just sad.  So we do it.  Every year.


It was about 90 degrees today.  Here's my dad giving the little man a ride back to the car.

We'll wait to see if we won any ribbons this year. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Spaghetti-o's by the lantern light

On Wednesday we had the most intense storm of the summer.  The skies darkened - quietly - always a cause for notice if not alarm.  We live on the crest of a hill and our old trees were blowing sideways and dark clouds above the house were starting to circle.  

I took some comfort in the fact that the poultry and wild birds were still going about their business as if nothing was wrong.  Living without TV and without my mother (she called with all necessary weather updates: bad storms, frost threats, tornado warnings) I have pretty much no clue what is going on until we look out the window.  Which is fine on some level;  I like surprises as much as the next person but we have two children now and when we saw the circling clouds things got serious. We have had tornadoes here that have wiped out entire neighboring towns and I am old enough to remember this happening.  Then our power cut out and we realized that my husband's phone was about dead and mine had a 4% battery charge.  We don't have a land line.  Well, damn it, talk about feeling stupid and unprepared. Holding the baby I alternated between pacing and looking out the window all while maintaining a cheerful face for the oldest.

Then the rain started to come down in buckets.  I've always heard that the tornado threat has passed once rain starts to fall.  Not sure if I want to be corrected if I'm wrong.

Life is nothing if not pure adventure.  Obviously we need to secure some sort of battery powered  phone charger for the future but this time we were pretty well off to face an extended power outage if need be; easy prep food, water stored in the basement, a couple of beers in the fridge (joking, not joking) and I had learned some things from the last storm.  The lanterns all had batteries and when there was a small break in the rain I ran out to the camper to retrieve the Coleman stove, a small container of propane and a fresh lantern.  Just in case we were in this for the long-haul.  Dinner was supposed to be pizzas from scratch but ended up being canned soup and Spaghetti-o's cooked on a camp stove by the light of a Coleman lantern.  


Some times surprises turn out to be the best of our days. It's such a joy and a gift to experience something completely unexpected.  After dinner we sat on the front porch as a family because the house doesn't have much natural light and was really dark inside.  The oldest played with a dump truck, the baby napped and my husband and I talked about our favorite books when we were young. It really ended up being a lovely night.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Spicy coconut tofu with cabbage

This was going to be another magazine recipe but as I was pressing the tofu this afternoon I realized we didn't have, well, most of the ingredients.  Dang. Serves me right for cleaning out the condiment drawer.

But we needed to eat something for dinner. And we had some things in the house that kind of resembled the required ingredients....  in sort of an abstract way.  So bravely I forged on, throwing things into pans and tasting as I went, thinking as it cooled that:
1) It wasn't going to be edible. At all.
and
2) The husband was going to be mighty sad about the appearance of both cabbage and tofu on the same plate at the same time.  Tofu = not meat.

Well, turns out it was actually really good and he said it was one of his favorite dinners.


We need to work on the presentation.

So, to make it again:
I made a sauce of half a can coconut milk, a dollop of Thai chilli dipping sauce, some teriyaki sauce, a big spoon of honey and some abodo sauce from a can of chipoltle chilies.
Meanwhile cooking some thinly sliced green cabbage from the garden and red onion. When they were soft they went into the coconut sauce to stay warm.
Tofu was cut into thin slices, dipped in flour and fried.

Food was plated over wild rice. I remembered Anthony Bourdain teaching that in the restaurant industry, the taller a dish is the fancier it appears. Tofu was stacked accordingly and a lime squeezed over. It still looked damn depressing so I sprinkled some basil over it for color.

Turns out we loved it so much that I ended up frying more tofu so we could have seconds.  Creamy coconut, spicy heat and crispy tofu. What a fun suprise.

Update: also good with bok choy and green beans in place of the cabbage.