Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spicy noodles with greens

It was 3:00 yesterday and I was still trying to decide what to make for dinner.  I think I googled something like "what to cook" and found This Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles recipe from the New York Times. Went back and forth on purchasing sesame oil at the store ($3!) and ended up getting it - so glad I did - it added a very familiar savory flavor that is common in a lot of Chinese food but I could never pinpoint.  Made it with an entire bag of frozen spinach.  Only kind of embarrassed to admit that I had not only seconds, but thirds.

Something to absolutely make again.  When eggs and chard are in full swing here I make a ton of Pad Thai because it's a handy way to use up 6 eggs and a lot of greens - I'm glad I have this one in my pocket now for the same reason.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Memorial flannel pillows

After my grandfather died I pulled some of his clothing out of the bags destined for the goodwill. Not much but two of his jackets that I'll wear to work outdoors and a couple of his old, threadbare flannel shirts.  These are what I remember him in.  He wore these constantly and the cuffs and hems on them were frayed.  I thought to make pillows out of them to put into the camper. I think it would please him that a small part of his memory will be out there exploring the wilderness with my family.   For now they are sitting on our sofa.

Fronts of the pillows.  That floral one - not my grandfather's - that came from Ikea :)

The backs.  I made them "envelope" style so the covers can be taken off and washed easily.  I like the stripes.  The fronts and backs are backed with interfacing to make them more durable. Not a seamstress by any means but I am very proud of how these turned out.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February heat wave

It was absolutely beautiful this week with Friday being the best day of all.  It was 66 degrees at 9:00 a.m.! What a day.  All of the spring bulbs are showing, the garlic is up and crocus are blooming in the front yard.  I know there is a flip side to warm weather out of season; buds and blossoms freezing, bees eating through food stores too quickly.  But I'll take it anyway and be grateful for it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

2017 food production calendar

I can't believe how much easier it's been to keep track of things through blogging.  I used to write everything down on calendars or scraps of paper but then it would get lost. These are some goals that I'll add to this over the season. We are in zone 5 here.

2017 food production schedule:

March - innoculate mushroom logs. Buy a small covey of quail locally.
March 8 - 12 wks from last frost date.  Start seeds for leeks, shallots, onions, cabbage, brussel sprouts, strawberries.
March 13 - TSC should have red ranger meat chicks in by now. Buy 12.

April 3 - meat chicks out of brooder and into the chicken tractor
April 5 - 8 wks from last frost. Start tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, herbs, flowers.  Till spring garden, mulch pathways, outline permanent strawberry bed.
April 15 - opening day of trout season. Go get 'em. Don't come home with a deer tick like last year.
April 19 - Plant potato, greens, cold hardy seedlings, snow peas.

April 24 - waterfowl order from Metzers arrives. 4 geese & 6 ducks in the brooder.
May 3 - 4 wks from last frost.  Start cucumber, melons, zucchini & winter squash
Early May - harvest excess quail. Decide if I want to incubate quail eggs for an August harvest.
May 15 - till summer side of garden, mulch pathways. Start planting transplants & direct sowing if weather permits.
Mid-May - hunt morel mushrooms. Dehydrate extras.  Egg production should be in full swing.  Make sure I am freezing excess eggs for winter.
May 22 - waterfowl out of brooder and into goose coop.  Clean out the freezer and have knives professionally sharpened in preparation for the following week.
May 29 - harvest TSC meat chicks.

May 31 - last frost date. Get all transplants & direct sows in the ground, along with dahlias and cannas.

June 12 - Order arrives from McMurry. 9 egg chickens (mostly Cochins), 7 red ranger meat chickens, 1 free mystery chick
June 24 - Amish benefit auction. Buy up some $1 roosters. Into chicken tractor.
June 26 - call & make date to have auction roosters processed.
July 3 - McMurry chicks out of brooder and into chicken tractor. Re-sow beans.
July 10 - re-sow zucchini.
August - canning.  We are going to need a ton of tomato pints along with jelly.
Aug 14 - Order 10 red ranger meat chicks for this date.
Aug 20 - re-sow greens.
September - canning
Sept 4 - Enter and kick ass at the local fair. Harvest McMurry meat chicks, any extra roosters and drakes. New meat chicks out of brooder and into tractor.

Sept 15 - Think about putting up a cold frame for greens.
Oct 1 - First frost date. Harvest anything left in the garden for winter poultry feed.
Oct ? - After first hard frost, dig up and store dahlia and canna tubers.
Nov 1 -  Have extra geese processed along with last batch of red ranger meat chicks.
Dec - Deer season.

Reflect on things that went well, things that failed.  Resolve to do better in 2018 or just buy meat at Wal-Mart like everyone else.  Is it worth it?  Inventory seeds and order for the new year. Cook. Bake. Rest.

Monday, February 20, 2017

New rooster adventure, early spring?

It's been a heck of a past couple of days.  For starters, it's been absolutely beautiful.  Around 60 during the day and it looks like it will be this nice all week.  I've started to freshen the house a bit; hung the wool blanket on the line to air, took up the dining room rug and mopped underneath it and opened some windows.  Actually I am currently taking a break from googling "how to get a winter's worth of banana, baby food etc. out of a woven wool rug".  It looks like it's going to involve me and a scrub brush.  Hooray.

The little guy and I raked out a flower bed today, did some more pruning and put up the hammock my husband gave me for Christmas. The only tantrums this child ever throws are when he has to come inside.  He loves the outdoors so much, you would think we make him live in the basement the way he carries on screaming, attacking the door and crying angry tears.  We don't by the way.  He would happily live out there if he could - wind, rain or snow be damned and I don't blame him.  Me too, little one.  I get it.

Picked up a new rooster from a lady on Craigslist on Friday.  He's a Brahma and gorgeous.  She had the most beautiful flock of Cochins and Brahmas - nothing but feathered feet and fluffy butts everywhere.  The lady I got him from was very nice asking me on the way out to "please don't roast him" and "keep in touch". Um. Ok.  This weighed heavily on my mind because as soon as we got home I opened the box he was in to show him to my husband and of course he burst out of the box and took off running. Across the road.  Behind the neighbors house. I immediately had two distinct thoughts: That was stupid of me. and, more to the point,  I don't have time for this shit.

He was on the lam for two days.  At one point the lady sent me a text asking how he was doing and I replied that: Great! He was out free ranging! which was technically true.  We have three acres of heavy brush and woods.  I couldn't get near him or find where he was roosting so I devised a trap of sorts.  Hoping that he would appreciate chicken company I tossed our old dried up Christmas tree into the chicken yard, spread around two bales of straw and chucked a coffee can's worth of corn all over the place.

"Be on the lookout for a handsome stranger" I told the hens.  The goal was to get the girls to make as much noise as possible and it worked; within a couple of hours he was the gate talking to them and they were standing in a cluster on the other side of the fence with little hen hearts going pitter-pat.  They are all in loooove with this guy.  I'm going to take that as a good sign of his character.

There's so much else going right now that I'll write about this week; garden plans & another poultry order coming.  But for now, back to housewife chores.

Friday, February 17, 2017

My little baker & a birthday cake

The little guy is 19 months old now and has turned into quite the little helper.  He insists on unloading the dishwasher, handing me each item to be put away.  He loves to sweep, shovel, throw things in the trash and is disturbed by anything that he deems to be out of place.

I don't know where he got this neat streak from.  Certainly not from his parents.

So I've been finding little things for him to do.  Lately I've been having him help make our bread. He stands on the counter and his job is to scoop the flour from the bin and put it into the mixing bowl.  I'm standing right up against him supporting him while he's "working" but other that, he has the satisfaction of doing it "all by himself".  The beauty about the recipe I use is that the amount of flour is totally negotiable.  If he dumps in too much I just adjust the liquid until the dough looks right.

Footprints in the flour.

Here are the basics:
2 cups liquid (I use a mix of warm water and dairy - milk, yogurt, whatever)
spoonful yeast
spoonful honey
sprinkle of salt
roughly 3 cups flour (a mix of white, wheat, chia seeds, flax, whatever)

Chuck this all into the Kitchen Aid and turn the mixer on with the paddle attachment.  You want to adjust the dough for consistency (if it looks like batter - add more flour, if the mixer is really working-  add more liquid). Mix hard until you see strands of gluten forming - the dough will start to look stringy coming off the paddle.  Cover and let rise until doubled.  Preheat  a lidded cast iron pot at 450 degrees, pour the dough in and bake for 30 minutes. Take the lid off and bake for another 15.  That's it.

The finished loaf.

Tasting the flour.

I also made a birthday cake for a wonderful friend who I've been blessed to know for over 15 years now.  Happy Birthday! It's the same 
banana with cream cheese frosting  cake I made for the little guy's first birthday party.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

You win one you lose one

So a couple of things happened yesterday while we were outside grilling dinner.  The first was that we had a domestic duck, a Khaki Campbell hen, wander into the yard.  The conversation that followed went something like:
"Um, that's not my duck?" I said to my husband.
"Which one, the spotted one?"
"No... That's ours. The really pretty dark one with the blue bill."

She is lovely, and really friendly.  One of neighbors a few houses down got ducks maybe four years ago.  A little flock of Khaki Cambells and Black Swedish.  They weren't penned or housed and it didn't take long before they started wandering the neighborhood, begging food, getting eaten by raccoons and hit by cars.  Pretty much they went feral.  I hadn't seen any of them since summertime and I think there were only two left at that point.

Then this little lady showed up yesterday out of nowhere, probably happy for duck company.  When it got dark I penned her in the garden with my flock. This morning they're all getting along like they've known each other for years.  She's currently napping in a pile with the rest of the ducks.

I should probably go knock on the neighbor's door. Or just keep her.

Also, while we grilling dinner, the new rooster beat up a couple of hens and then nearly killed my bantam rooster.  They got into a fight - not a kinda-adorable cock fight like we saw here, but a BAD one.  There was no posturing, no bluffing.  This guy was out for blood and I honestly think he would have killed the bantam had I not broken it up.  He had the little guy pinned in a nesting box and I was sure he was dead when I picked him up.  He wasn't but the big guy is about to be - as in he's getting whacked tonight.

I'm sorry to say that his probationary period is up and he's getting roasted.  The hens are being abused, egg production is down and while he hasn't gone after any of us yet I can tell it's only a matter of time.  It's disappointing because I love to hatch chicks in the spring and while I've been trying to collect some to incubate -  production is so low it doesn't seem worth trying

I've been checking Craigslist for a free rooster and if one comes up near me I'll grab him as a temporary measure until I can raise up another Cochin.  I'd like to continue working for a self-sustaining flock of heavy weight birds, something that got put on hold when Mr. Rooster died.

It was 50 degrees yesterday and beautiful.  Today - more snow.  The daffodils are coming up along with the rhubarb.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Winter vegetable storage

Winter is about half done here so I thought I'd report in on how storing the vegetables went so I can do better next winter.  Mostly it's not been good. This is what I tried this year:

Our cement block garage usually stays a bit warmer than the outside so I tried storing 4 pumpkins, a bucket full of potatoes and a crate of onions out there.  The pumpkins froze, the potatoes froze but the onions have done wonderfully so far.  Some have a few wrinkles or tiny soft spots but most are perfect.  They're just heaped in a milk crate.

In the house, I kept potatoes and onions in both the kitchen and basement.  They quickly went soft and sprouted in both places.  We've eaten almost all of the squash but there are three huge drum shaped winter squash in the kitchen that look like they were just picked - absolutely beautiful. They're like 10 lbs each.  I'd really like to cook them but the little guy likes to use them as tiny chairs.  He probably wouldn't miss just one though...

In the garden- wow I thought I had a really good idea with this one.  I had read about burying a covered bucket and storing potatoes that way.  You pack them in some dirt, lid the bucket tightly, bury it and then cover it with a bale of straw.  So I did.  I had really, really high hopes for this method.   Went out today and dug the bucket up, pried the lid off (it was really stuck) and..... It was bad.  Like really, really bad.  Somehow water had gotten in the bucket and the potatoes liquefied. Oh, it was terrible.

I'm not sure where to go from here.  Maybe I'm just expecting too much?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

I ordered geese - let's celebrate!

(Image from the Metzer website)

I ordered my dream geese from Metzer Farms this week.  I'm going to consider this my inheritance from my grandfather and I think it would please him to no end that I decided to get livestock in his name and that these geese and ducks will feed my family for years to come.

Ducks, you say?  More ducks? Yeah.  That's where I got into trouble.  All hatcheries have minimum orders.  Metzer will ship as few as 2 or 4 birds, but it will cost you additional shipping charges to keep a smaller number of birds safe and warm  in transit.  When I calculated my order I realized that to add 6 ducks would only cost me an additional $10 since I would now be above the "small order" upcharge..  So I did.  "Order it up" my husband said.  Who wouldn't?  I picked out some lovely ones.

Here is what I ordered.  They arrive April 24th.  This is my first order from Metzer but they have an excellent reputation for their waterfowl.

1 sexed pair Super Africa Geese
2 Super African Geese, straight run
2 blue runner ducks, straight run (I love my runner ducks, they lay an egg a day - every single day - in season)
2 black Swedish ducks, straight run
2 jumbo pekin ducks, straight run

The plan is to keep a a breeding pair (or trio) of geese and put one (or two, if male) in the freezer.

Any runner or Swedish ladies will get to join the flock and make eggs for years.  Any drakes (plus both pekins) will go into the freezer.

I have a very large doghouse coming from the farm that will house the geese.  There are plans in the works for a poultry barn vs the coops I currently have.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Vintage camping kitchen / chuck box

Look what I bought at the thrift store today! A vintage camping kitchen! I didn't know this was even a "thing" but once I started looking, they're all over the Internet.  The idea being that everything you need for your camp cooking is organized in one portable box.  We've always used Rubbermaid tubs, but it seems like the one item you need (like the can opener) is always waay at the bottom of one of the tubs.  Which tub? Good question. I have three.

So I saw this yesterday but didn't buy it right off because it was expensive (for me) to justify at $40. I came home and went out to the Metzendorf to confirm that, NO, there is hardly any storage in it at all.

Those drawers you see are very tiny in reality, the bottom two aren't even functional and kitchen stuff would have taken up all of them plus some. I have no interest in cooking inside the camper so I would have to go back and forth for each item I needed.  Also, I thought that when we picnic at the lake we could take it. So I slept on it overnight and we went back first thing this morning.  It came with a bunch of vintage camping gear that I'll try to sell to offset the cost.

Closed and ready to go.  That larger bottom loop actually holds a roll of paper towels.

It came with the brochures!

I'm going to re-paint it, either Coleman green or a beautiful very pale blue color that I'll eventually paint the camper kitchen (already have a gallon of it I bought as a mis-tint for $5).

I'd also like to put a piece of laminate down on the inside of the prep surface for easy cleanup. And I have a bottle opener that will be added to the side.

Hurry up, summer!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Drunk Seed Order

Otherwise known as "why you don't shop for seeds after drinking four beers that you later notice were over 8%".

I've been meaning to put in a small, SMALL, order from Pinetree Seeds for awhile.  Some fingerling potatoes and maybe cooking greens.  Nothing major.  Well, apparently last night was the night.

I had to check my e-mail this morning to remember what I even bought.

I remember telling my dear husband how much the order came to and him replying that it was a good deal considering how much food we get out of the garden.  I love this man.

$46.00 including shipping.  omigawd.

Then I checked the website to remind myself what the "Red, White & Blue" potato collection was even  about.  Apparently it includes 6 LBS of seedling potatoes.  Plus the fingerlings I ordered.  That's 7 POUNDS OF SEED POTATOES.  
Oh. My. Gawwd...
That's a lot right, I mean A LOT?

Order Details:



Quantity: 1
Total: $1.50

Bergamot Monarda - Bee Balm

Quantity: 1
Total: $1.95


Quantity: 1
Total: $19.95

Anise Hyssop

Quantity: 1
Total: $1.50


Quantity: 1
Total: $7.95

Mini Seedmaster

Quantity: 1
Total: $2.95

Zebrune Shallot (100 Days)

Quantity: 1
Total: $1.95

TATSOI GREEN (45-50 days)

Quantity: 1
Total: $1.50
Subtotal: $39.25
Shipping: $6.95
Total: $46.20

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Goodbye Farm

I didn't know how to write this post.  I still don't.  My father and my son and I went to visit my grandparents' farm for the last time this week.  I wanted to say goodbye to the barn and the farm.  It felt like a funeral.  The people that made it special, the memories, the souls - they weren't here anymore.  It was empty.  I guess that made it easier, barely.  Here then are my last pictures.  Although they are unnecessary.  Every corner of this place is written in my memory.

The porch has a "long view' across acres and acres. I used to sit on this porch and watch the barn swallows and bluebirds fly over this pasture.   You can see our hunting ridge, barely.  It's the white snow cap in the middle.  One the far left is an old beaver pond.

The little man saw an old wind chime on the porch and I held him up so he could play with it.  With each clear note I felt my grandfather's soul. I remember distinctly the first time it occurred to me that he would die, that I would someday be without him.  I was twelve years old maybe.  We were fishing in an old lonely watershed.  He was silhouetted against the sky.  

It was sunny and I didn't need a jacket.  And then a snow storm blew in across the fields.  There was a sudden rain of snow pellets.  It was time to leave.

My little man with his very own papa.