Friday, June 29, 2007

My nieces were down over the weekend. We went to the Marietta carnival and watched the fireworks on Saturday evening from the front porch. The corn is so darn high, some of the low ones were cut off, but still nice to have a show from your own porch. Since I have so many black raspberries still, I picked up one of those automatic Cuisinart ice cream makers (the kind you don't need ice and salt) and we made a very good black raspberry sorbet. It was so easy!

Shady Acres, the farm that I buy dairy products from recently started selling ice cream. I got peanut butter last week. Very, very good. They have Jersey (I think) cows which make really superior dairy items. The butter is out of this world. I'm excited about using their heavy cream to make black raspberry ice cream.

We had ladies luncheon last Friday at work and I made deviled eggs and pimiento cheese to bring in. I made homemade mayonnaise for the first time. That was exciting. If you haven't tried it, you must. And it is kind of magical how the emulsion just suddenly happens and what was an eggy oily slop suddenly becomes fluffy yummy mayonnaise. Much different than bottled mayo.

The inundation has begun. I put in waaaayyyy too many tomato plants this year. This week's local meal(and probably many weeks after) will figure heavily with tomatoes. And I have two eggplants!
I took the girls to see Ratatouille on Sunday so maybe I'll make something like that! It was a good movie with stunning animation, but not a movie for little, little kids. There were several in the audience that lost interest about half-way through. More of an older child and adult movie

For some reason, I'm having trouble getting YouTube videos to post to my blog. But since we were talking about art in the last post, I thought I would link to This. Very cool.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Getting to know me

Ali at henbogle tagged me for
the seven things meme. So after much thought and deliberation, here are seven positively fascinating things about me. I'm kidding.

1. I watched the Library of Congress tribute to Paul Simon last night. I like Paul Simon a lot and have for a long time. When I was in 5th grade, our art teacher let my best friend and I listen to our Simon and Garfunkel records in her supply closet instead of going out to recess. I also had a pair of parakeets as a kid named Simon and Garfunkel. Suffice to say, there weren't many kids in my school that were in to Simon and Garfunkel, making me pretty much a dork.

2. I was artsy in high school and was convinced that I would live in the big city and work in advertising. After high school, I went to F.I.T. in New York City and majored in advertising design. I hated it. And I didn't realize how much I missed nature when living in the city. I left to eventually major in Biology at a state school outside of Philadelphia. Now I admire toads and stick my hands in the nether regions of chickens. Funny. I don't draw or paint much anymore and I should. The coneflower above and the chickadee are little doodles I have lying around my desk at work. Another funny thing was that there were a suprising number of women in by biology classes that had started out their schooling as art majors.

3. I have an extremely dysfunctional family and haven't spoken to any of them in over three years (mother, stepfather, sister, and brother). I haven't heard from my real father since I was 18. I had to make a deicision to remove myself from their dynamic to save my sanity. I am a much calmer person because of it. Now I just read about them in the paper.
4. Some people have a need to be around people all the time. That is not me. Lately, my favorite day of the week is Sunday. My husband works every Sunday and I get to spend the entire day reading and gardening and cooking and just general housework without ever having to open my mouth once to talk to anybody. Well, except for the dogs, cat, and chickens. I don't go anywhere except to take the dogs for a ride to get the paper in the morning and the day stretches out before me and seems to last a really long time.
5. I don't have air conditioning in my home. The older I get, the weirder this is to people apparently. I don't like air conditioning and can't see spending the money to have central air put into our house. We have a good breeze most of the time and there are only a few days a summer where it gets a little unbearable. Good thing I don't mind sweating. I don't have it in my car either. And on hot days when I am going into and out of air conditioned spaces over and over I get really tired.
6. I worry that I will regret not having children.
7. I am seriously addicted to this recipe for New York Takeout Style Cold Sesame Noodles. Yummy. Oh, and I can't stand Rachel Ray.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

you ungrateful toad

Really. Some amphibians!

I was weeding on Sunday with my five feathered 'helpers' and they were jumping on anything that moved. I came across this toad. He didn't even attempt to flee. And five pairs of chicken eyes spied him and moved in. Just seconds away from being pecked to messy, toady pulp, I whisked him away and carried him to an area that would be a little more secure. And how does he thank me? By letting loose a torrential toad-sized bucket of pee on my hand. Twice.

He is Bufo americanus, the American Toad. Here is what he sounds like. It makes me really happy to find things like toads in my yard, as we are pretty far from any water or wetlands and it just isn't a common occurrence.

Be careful Toad. There are five hungry ladies scratching around looking for good eats. Hell, they even eat their own kind. They'd certainly eat a toad.

OLS Meal 1

Nothing terribly exciting. It has been hot and I've been busy both with work and the yard.

Local burgers from Masonic Homes, buns from Terranetti's (a local bakery in Mechanicsburg), little squash from Chicque's Roc Organic Farm (named after local Chicque's creek) in Mount Joy which were marinated in Gazebo Room Greek Dressing, also made in Mechanicsburg. And radish 'pickles' along with a seedless cucumber from Shady Acres in Elizabethtown.

The buns and dressing come from about 25 miles away and are probably not made with local ingredients, but are made by small, locally owned companies. Everything else came from within 5 miles, and the radishes came from me!

And since I've been averaging about four quarts a day of black raspberries (you should see the freezer), dessert for the evening was handfuls of berries consumed standing up as I rush to get them picked by the time the sun goes down.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I'll stop talking about chickens soon, I promise

Violet. My special needs hen. When they clipped her beak when she was a mere day-old ball of fluff, they messed up. Her lower beak sticks out a good bit, making her a little slower on the take. And when competing with four other hens for a juicy bug or ripe berry, Violet usually loses out. So I always save her an extra portion and make sure she gets her share. I think the lower beak gives her sort of a pouty look. She is a friendly little gal and for some reason prefers to pal around with the two barred rocks instead of the other two Buff orps.

I've been picking a few black raspberries here and there, but it will really ramp up in the next few days. The far end of the garden, where I intended to have orderly rows of fruit bushes, has morphed into a tangled mass of black raspberries with a few blueberries and red raspberries mixed in. I remove the blackberries when they volunteer in there because I just can't abide those thorns. Raspberry thorns aren't too awful and the reward is worth the small scratches. I think my first OLS meal will have a yummy black raspberry ending.

I am not a huge radish fan. Yet I plant them every year. Probably because they are easy, pest free, and almost instantly gratifying. Yet I never knew what to do with them other than put them on salads. I've read about slicing them thin and putting them on buttered bread with salt, but that didn't seem that appetizing either. So I made Suzuke. Basically a pickle, it is sliced radishes or carrots or onions dressed with Basic Su and refrigerated. Basic Su is a Japanese sweet/sour dressing and is just one cup of sugar mixed with one cup of white vinegar and salt to taste. Really easy and really good. I can eat lots of radishes now. And I look forward to using it with cucumbers when there are ripe ones, but not quite enough to can a batch of pickles. Thanks to the Kitazawa Seed Co. Catalog for the idea. While I didn't order any seeds from them, I did hang on to the catalog because the back is filled with really interesting recipes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Catching up

So there will be no baby chicks. Saturday I walked up to the pen to let the girls out to roam and Claire was part of the pack. Something that hasn't happened in many many weeks. And she wasn't acting her broody bitchy self, biting the other chickens and strutting around with her feathers all fluffed out. She was normal.

Uh-oh, I thought. I unlocked the door to the shed, walked in and saw that there were no more eggs in the nest and that there was a pile of shells on the floor. But no yolky messes. Ewwww. So somehow the eggs were removed from the nest and broken and then apparently eaten. I saw that one egg had rolled off in the corner. It was cracked but still holding together. I took it outside where my curiosity got the best of me. I opened it up to see just how big the chick embryo was. Inside was a baby chick about a third the size of the egg. I think it was still alive. It totally freaked me out and I buried it in the compost pile. I looked at the chickens scratching the mulch from my flower beds and realized that they had consumed 11 chicken embryos and their yolk sacs. Yuck. Chickens are evil.

I thought about getting more fertile eggs, but I think Claire is happier not being broody so I don't want to cause her to be that way again. If she goes broody next year, maybe I'll get her some eggs then, but for now I'm glad she isn't spending every hot summer day in her nest box.

I've been very busy with work and haven't had much time to do much of anything. I'm excited about next week when a stream restoration project begins. I actually get to oversee the sectioning off and dewatering of several sections of stream. They pump the water from the upstream section to the next live downstream section, giving a stretch of a few hundred feet of dry streambed in which to work installing erosion protection and such. The critters get moved on Monday, so I get to help move fish and whatever else we find when the water level starts dropping. Fun!

I'm particpating in One Local Summer again this year. I hope to have an entry every week (even though most of what I've been eating is local). This year there are 100 participants, so I want to have something great every week, really reflecting my area of Lancaster County. I think I'll stick to the 100-mile radius limits, which for me goes about to Trenton, NJ to the east, a little below D.C. to the south, Altoona to the west and Scranton to the north, but mostly concentrating on my home county. This should be easy, and pretty much most of our food comes from within 10 miles of our home this time of year. So I'm starting off with good intentions. We'll see how well I follow through with the postings.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tweet tweet. Tweetely Deetlety Deet.

Baby Robin, just hanging out. I should form a committee and lobby for changing the Latin binomial for this little guy. Turdus migratorius is really kind of unfortunate. And not very fitting to this feathery little harbinger of spring.

Yesterday was a good day. Spent mostly driving all around southeastern Pennsylvania. I got an hour long tour of a quarry in Birdsboro, when all I really needed were some pictures of rocks for a stream restoration project. Still interesting though.

And I got to see MORE GOATS!!!!

A farm near where I was taking more pictures of a stream project had all these little guys. How cute!

It was all I could do to not just jump in their pen and start grabbing baby goats and just absorb all their smushy baby goaty goodness.

But then I could hear the unpleasant ruminant noises coming from the barn which housed the adult goats. Did you know that goats make this rather piggy snorting noise which is actually them burping because they eat a ton of grain and sit around and digest it? It momentarily cured my goat fever.

And since it was Tuesday, on the way home I stopped at Roots Farmers Market in Manheim. I didn't buy much. Some Swiss Chard and two quarts of homegrown berries. I'm getting a little berried out. Kind of ready for cherries and blueberries and something different.

Last week was a whirlwind of local food. Wonderful spring mix, snap peas, baby potatoes, and strawberries from Masonic Homes Orchards. Which is now also offering grass-fed, dry-aged beef. We bought some hamburger patties to try, as the cuts of steak were rather expensive and if it wasn't that great, I'd be annoyed that I spent a lot of money. We made the burgers over the weekend. Just beef, nothing added. My husband took one bite and said "Is it just me, or are these really, really good?" I thought they were fantastic as well. He thought they tasted like burgers we had when we were kids. He said he had forgotten what beef was supposed to taste like. We loved them. And probably will never buy anything else. Seriously, that good. And then there was local chicken from Shady Acres, which also had homegrown tomatoes from their hothouses. Yumm!

Monday, June 11, 2007

More chickens!

I had a few days off at the end of last week. And in addition to getting caught up (ha!) with the garden and cleaning the house, and all the other things that pile up, I went to visit my rooster. He is doing well at Meadowview Apiary and is king of his own little harem. When the owner asked about my own hens, I said they were doing fine except that one was broody off and on. He asked me if I wanted to hatch some of Roo's fertilized eggs! He gave me a dozen and I am free to keep all the hatched chicks or give them back. I will probably give them back. Well, maybe I'll just keep one. Or two.

Anyway, when I got home with the dozen eggs and put them in a pile, Claire was beside herself and hopped on and hasn't willingly budged since. I pull her off every afternoon to make sure she eats something and runs around a little. It will be interesting to have newly hatched chicks with a mother hen.

The owner of Meadowview Apiary (in addition to bees) has so many chickens and turkeys and ducks, I can't imagine keeping track of them all.

Thank goodness he didn't offer me any of these to take home. Cause I totally would have.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I am such a dork

Apologies to Harry McClintock, the first known person to record this song. Click here if you aren't familiar with Big Rock Candy Mountain.

I give to you "Big Mulch Chicken Mountain".
One evenin’ as the sun went down and the garden I was waterin’
O’er the yard came a fat Barred Rock who said woman I’m not roostin’
I’m headin for a land that’s far away beside the rooster fountain
So come with me and we’ll go and see the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain

At the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain there’s a yard that’s fair and bright
Where the hornworms grow on bushes and you roost out every night
Where the nest boxes are all roomy and the sun shines every day
On the tender lettuce leaves and the earthworm trees
Where the cool water springs and the Orpingtons sing
At the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain

At the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain all the hawks have broken wings
All the raccoons’ teeth are missing and the snakes are tiny things
The farmers trees are full of fruit hanging just off of the ground
Oh, I’m bound to go where there ain’t no snow
Where the rain don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
At the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain

At the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain the hens can all soar high
Your feathers never all fall out and there’s no such thing as pot pie
There’s plenty of gravel for your gizzard with cracked corn mixed right in
I’m goin’ to stay where you scratch all day
The bugs never end, a fine place for a hen
At the Big Mulch Chicken Mountain
I make my own self laugh.


So I got a fun new toy for my birthday recently. A Canon A630! I still have to tinker with it and learn to use it more effectively. And figure out how to lower the resolution cause the photos are HUGE.

Sorry if that bogged everybody down.

We have had two wonderful days of rain so far and the weeds are quickly gaining ground in the garden. Tonight I have to get out there and put down newspaper and straw in the tomato/pepper/eggplant area. Everything is coming up nicely, but the entire snap pea crop was lost to the groundhog(s) that live under the chicken shed. Seems we had an agreement these last few years, but this year somebody apparently feels entitled. They haven't touched anything else though. Yet. I have a few days off coming up and it might be the perfect time to discuss relocating with this varmint family.
My grandfather's peonies. Every year they get bigger and happier looking. After not blooming for so many years due to shade, they bloom their hearts out for me now. And they have a nice fragrance.
Spring is almost past us and it seemed to speed by very fast this year. The farmer planted the field behind us in corn this spring and every day I look out from the second floor to see that it has grown a little more. Sneakily covering a little more dirt. It is like a giant hour glass ticking down the days of warm weather and freaks me out a little bit, a big huge reminder of the passing of time. Barley does not have this effect on me. Nor do soybeans.