welcome, and thank you for joining me on my tiny little farm in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania
-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-

Monday, January 23, 2012

my new hero


Favorite quote: "I don't do anything I don't want to do unless I have to... and I don't have to. So there we are."

From her father: "Ruth it's good to think for yourself, but just once in a long time couldn't you think like other people?" Her response: "Like who?" He changed the subject.

"What I feel I know for sure is, do what you want to do and don't tell other people how to behave."

Monday, October 31, 2011

peep

The new batch of silky peeps arrived a little over a week ago and are now ensconced in a pen in a corner of the greenhouse, a heat lamp keeping them warm. If all goes well, they ought to be old enough to start laying eggs in March or April. In the meantime, they're awfully cute!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

quack

the merry band of crazy ducks

The ducks are eight weeks old, but I'd be surprised if their brains were bigger than a pea. Crazy is what they are - nuts. The more I'm into farming and raising animals, the more I realize there are very good reasons for many common terms. In this instance, ducks are daffy. Living cartoons. Looney-tunes, as a matter of fact.

On the upside, they are maturing rapidly and in another two to three months should start laying eggs for market. Duck eggs are excellent for baking and custard-making. And since (like my chickens) these girls will be living on pasture, they're more nutritious than any you could ever find in a store. Not that you're likely to ever see duck eggs in a store, but that's not the point. The point is, they're good for you. And just plain good. Rich and thick, with deep orange yolks.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

soon there will be more

Today I placed an order for twenty-five blue silky peeps.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

i'm back

I guess I pretty much took the summer off from blogging, but now that fall is here in full swing and things are happening at a much more manageable pace, you can expect to see more of me.

For the first time in my life, I took a two week vacation and went to a little cabin in the adirondacks. It was a much-needed time for relaxation and serious reflection. Decisions were made, soon to be acted upon.

When I left my hill for the mountains there were forty silky chickens in residence. There are now seven. Apparently there was a nearly wholesale massacre in broad daylight. Chicken carcasses scattered all over the pasture. Neighbor dogs are suspected. Nothing will be said to the neighbors, however, because there is no proof and I'd like to keep up good relations. And anyway, it could have been any dogs, not necessarily theirs. What is odd is that neither the sheep nor the geese were harmed. Perplexed is what I am. Well, that and very, very sad.

Thankfully the ducks were ensconced in the greenhouse on grasshopper patrol and so were spared. Yes, ducks. As in twenty-one Khaki Campbells. Just six weeks ago they were adorable little balls of fluff with shoe-button eyes, black bills and webbed feet - now they are a nearly grown, quacking mob of insect predators. While I've said I wouldn't get ducks again, these girls are for egg production and so should earn their keep. They'll be moved to their winter pen in the next couple of days so that the greenhouse can be seeded for fall/winter greens.

That's it for now. There's more going on here but I'll save that for another day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

pea shoots, crisped pancetta, and mint vinagrette

I have to try this one. I have the pea shoots, the mesclun, and the mint. All I need to do is get some pancetta from market tomorrow.
http://www.marthastewart.com/print/316305

Sunday, May 1, 2011

my week

It's been quite awhile since my last post. First, allow me to begin by saying, absolutely, that I am not complaining! However, I've been a little, shall we say, stretched lately...

Monday: Left for Tractor's Supply at 6:45 a.m. to get there when they opened. I desperately needed tetanus anti-toxin so the tails of the newest lambs could be banded. The meat chickens also needed food as did a freshly hatched bunch of silky peeps. Also made a stop at the bank. Arriving home, all the animals had to be fed and watered and then I needed to return a tractor borrowed from my sister who lives two miles away. Next, I planted 120 seed potatoes before harvesting for Tuesday's market. The workday ended at 8:20 p.m.

Tuesday: Loaded up the truck and headed off to market at 6:15 a.m. Left there at 3:00 and went to Home Depot for materials to make a hanging basket display at market. When I got home, I checked the soil and found it still a little too wet, but with more rain on the way, decided to roto-till anyway. Quit when it became too dark to see, about 9:00.

Wednesday: Planted an additional 240 seed potatoes along with 60 feet of sunflowers and put in 180 lettuce, 1,000 onion, and 200 swiss chard transplants. Quit about 8:00.

Thursday: Trellised and suckered a row of tomatoes and began pulling up a used-up bed of baby lettuce mix in the greenhouse in preparation for planting cucumbers. Harvested for Friday and Saturday's markets. Got back in the house early, around 6:00.

Friday: Left for market at 5:45. Market ended at 4:00, but I hung around to put up the hanging basket display until 5:00 when the market was holding a party. Stayed until 6:30, then came home and spent an hour harvesting some additional items for the next day.

Saturday: Left for market at 6:00 and stayed until 2:00. Back to Home Depot for more display materials. Came home, took care of the animals, poked around a little bit and then crashed until 7:00, when my sister called to see if I wanted to go out for ice cream with their family. Yes, please. Got back home and went to bed.

Today: I still have an awful lot to get accomplished, but believe I'll just ignore most, if not all of it until tomorrow morning, when it will all start again. *

*I really should get my asparagus patch put in since more rain is expected for the next three days. And those cucumbers are still calling my name - they need to be planted too. But first, I need to tighten the belt on the tiller. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ready to garden yet?

I finally sat down and updated the 2011 plant offering! Seedlings will be available at the Landis Valley Herb Faire, May 6-7. If you can't make it to the fair but would like some seedlings, you can contact me to make arrangements to pick them up here at the farm or at Central Market in Lancaster.

Friday, March 25, 2011

farm city

Okay, I just finished reading this book and must say that it was wonderful! If you love small-time farming, urban farming, or farm animals (especially raising them), then I think you'll love it too. It's nearly enough to make me want to move to the city to start farming there. Nearly, but not really. I love the countryside too much for that, but if for some reason I found myself in the city, I also might find myself following a similar path.


Check it out...

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Saturday, March 19, 2011

bees

I lost my bees this winter. My first hive. From the looks of things, it seems to me they might have starved. There was maybe a cup of honey left at the very top. There also weren't many bees there. It's a mystery. This was in the top bar hive that I built last year. Perhaps they didn't store enough honey, perhaps the queen died and they lost their purpose? Who knows. All I know is I'll wait at least until next year to try again. I have to get my nerve back up. I'm still and probably always will be a recovering be-phobe. But a bee-phobe who is looking for all the pollination help she can get and who wants to eat her own honey. So give me a year and we'll have another go at it.

Now, about the top bar hive...
The idea is to allow the bees to build their own comb, hoping that they don't attach it to the sides, so the bars with comb attached can be lifted out. This is supposedly healthier for the bees. BUT - when I checked on the hive and found everybody dead, I took all the comb out and the girls had attached it everywhere. Had I wanted to harvest any honey while the hive was active, it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible. So in addition to getting my nerve back up, I also have to re-think the hive situation and come up with a plan.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

interesting...










Monday, February 28, 2011

farm products

From time to time, I'll be posting about Tulip Tree Hill farm products that are available direct from me (the farmer) to you. This time it's lamb. The next time it might be machine-washable lambskins, wool roving for hand spinning, yarn, eggs (chicken or goose), live animals, or an assortment of fresh produce. For now it will need to be picked up here at the farm. Once I'm at market, we can make arrangements for pick-up there (except for live animals, never them there, if you know what I mean).


At any rate, I now have grass-fed lamb available for your freezer or dinner plate. Raised naturally on mother's milk, pasture, hay, free-choice sheep minerals, water, and sunshine. Weaned in their own time. That's it, no extra feed additives, hormones, grains, etc. If you buy an entire lamb (as burger, chops, and foreshanks), the cost is $8.66 per pound. If you'd like to buy individual cuts, the ground lamb burger is $8.00/pound and chops (shoulder, loin, and leg) are $12.00/pound. Processing was done at a USDA certified butcher shop and all meat is shrink-wrapped and quick-frozen for maximum freshness.

Now, I must say, here is something I wasn't anticipating...


That's right.

Eeewww.

I was told they're a delicacy.

Seriously.

I think I'll pass, thank you very much.

Now you just let me know if you'd like some nice grass-fed southern Lancaster County, PA lamb.

You can even have the boy bits if that would make you happy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

to market, to market... and a farm update

Good news - this week I was given the nod of approval from the Board of Directors of Lancaster's Central Market, and barring any unforeseen incidents will be a standholder starting April first! I feel both excitement and trepidation. Excitement because I love going to market with beautiful produce, talking with customers, and all that it entails. Trepidation, because this is a big commitment. Market is open three days a week (all year around) which allows just four days to do all the growing and harvesting. I anticipate that during the height of the season I'll be working seven days a week. Hopefully that will be offset by a much lower workload during the winter when growing slows down and it is mostly about harvesting what was sown in the fall.

What's been started so far...
Planting for the spring season started in late January with a couple of flats of lettuce. Not too much to start with since I still didn't know if or when I'd be able to start at market. Now that a decision has been made, it's full steam ahead!

In the first week of February, rosemary, lavender, and alpine strawberries were started, some to be sold as seedlings, some to be planted here on the farm. Greenhouse tomatoes and peppers were also started in soil blocks - seven varieties of sweet peppers, four of hot peppers, and three types of tomatoes. The tomatoes are growing like gangbusters and will probably need to be moved from my kitchen to be planted in the greenhouse within the next two weeks. If they grow like last year, they should hit the market stand at the end of May!

In the second week of February additional lettuce was started. This year, I'm growing eight varieties - a red and green type each of butterhead, leaf, summercrisp, and romaine, which makes for a very pretty display and an even more delicious salad!

This week, bee balm, thyme, oregano, hanging basket tomatoes, and rhubarb (all mostly for seedling sales) was started in soil blocks, as was more lettuce. Beets, turnips, swiss chard, mustard greens, pak choi, tatsoi, and spinach, was seeded directly into the greenhouse beds to be grown for market.

Seedling sales...
We will once again be attending the Landis Valley Herb Faire May 6-7 as vendors. We'll have over 25 species of herbs, including lemon grass and stevia along with many culinary favorites; luscious alpine strawberries; rhubarb; celery; artichokes; red roselle; cotton; 6 varieties of eggplants; 12 varieties of sweet peppers; 6 varieties of hot peppers; 16 varieties of tomatoes; 11 varieties of melons; 3 varieties of cucumbers; 4 varieties of summer squash; and hanging baskets of tumbling tom tomatoes and everbearing strawberries. With the exception of the hanging baskets, all of the seedlings are heirloom open pollinated varieties which offer superior flavor, promote genetic diversity, and allow for home seed saving.

Other news...
The silky bantam peeps that hatched on new years are doing great. They, along with the adults have been moved out of the greenhouse and back into the barn since the greenhouse is now back in production. Hopefully with the lengthening of days, the adult hens will start laying again - their eggs have surely been missed around here.

Speaking of eggs, the geese have started nesting and Griselda has laid her first egg of the year.

The sheep are also doing well, eating their fair share of hay and growing wool like nobody's business. I need to make an appointment for the shearer to come pretty soon. The remainder of last year's lambs finally went to "freezer camp". Certainly it was a tough decision, but a necessary one. On the plus side, this means that we have lamb for sale, both chops and burger; and in a couple weeks, lambskins - nothing goes to waste.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Before the seed 
there comes the thought 
of bloom."
E. B. White

Today I am placing this year's seed order. There has been much thought of bloom and growth for the past week in preparation.

Monday, January 3, 2011

new arrivals for the new year...

peeps in the winter greenhouse
The silky hen did her job and hatched ten of the twelve eggs she was sitting on. She's now showing them the ways of the world, escorting them around the greenhouse, looking for bugs and other tender morsels. Another hen has decided she would like to start her own family, and after giving her a few eggs she immediately settled down into that oddly determined, glassy-eyed, nearly hypnotic state they get when brooding. Good times.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

why, hello there

Once again it's been awhile since my last post, but here we go...

New spinach beds, protected by row cover and plastic. At the far end will be the hoophouse.

Winter is officially here and I am. not. ready. Shocking, right? The used hoophouse purchased in September is still not up. Good grief. I don't think I know anyone who can procrastinate like me. However, on Saturday my brother-in-law and my sweetie will be here to help and we intend to get that puppy up. I'm hoping my fall-planted spinach survives until then. It's been cold.

Happy silkies in the greenhouse.
broody hen
The greenhouse still needs to have the last of the summer plants cleaned out. Hard to imagine, but I was still harvesting tomatoes last week - in an unheated greenhouse! This recent onset of cold weather however, has done them in. A couple of weeks ago I moved the silky chickens out there until I got around to planting for early spring production. As a side bonus to procrastination, they have had a blast pecking around, finding weed seeds and bugs to eat while scratching up the dirt. They will be able to have free run of the place while I get the beds ready for planting, but once seeds start going in they'll have their own pen - still in the greenhouse, but contained so they don't kill the new seedlings. They love the sun and the warmth, and I love hearing their contented clucking while I work. One of the hens has decided she'd like to sit on eggs and so I gave her a dozen to take care of. They should hatch right before New Years and be ready to start laying by June. The chicken's pen in the barn has been converted to accommodate the geese. Their food and water bucket are in there and a corner has been set aside, ready for next year's brood of goslings.

The great wall of leaves.
In other news, sweetie has been collecting bags of leaves for me. I'll use them next year as mulch around garden transplants. The battle against weeds starts now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

DIY mixer repair


That's my KitchenAid mixer. Scary looking, isn't it? Don't be frightened though, it's not as bad as it might seem. Although I will admit that at first I thought this puppy was a goner. You see, my sweetie tried to use my mixer with the food grinder attachment to grind ginger root. (For future reference and to save all of your mixers from a similar fate, this was not a plan. Ginger root should be grated by hand.) In the midst of grinding, the part that holds attachments and spins around suddenly stopped spinning. The motor ran just fine, but no more mixing, grinding, or anything else was going to happen any time soon. So I googled it and found out that it was probably a relatively simple and cheap fix. There is a sacrificial plastic gear inside the mixer so that if the going gets too tough, it fails in order to save the motor. Pretty cool, right? You can find directions here for doing this repair yourself.

Now that it's all apart and the new gear and food-grade replacement grease is ordered, it will be a matter of seeing if I can remember how to get it all back together again. Could be interesting.

By the way - the head of the mixer is packed with grease. What I found was that the grease had degraded pretty significantly, so it might be a good idea to take it all apart every several years and remove and repack the grease. One of those "can't hurt, might help" kinds of things.

But I'll tell you, it feels kind of good to have a quality piece of equipment that can actually be repaired (by me, no less) rather than having to throw it away like so many things today. I like that. Hopefully with good maintenance and no more ginger grinding, this mixer will last me for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

a wonderful little book

I just finished reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. And while it has absolutely nothing at all to do with farming, I feel the need to share it with you. A gem of a book, it has many little pearls of wisdom in it that are quite thought provoking. At least for me. Have you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

and now applesauce

This week my friend wanted to make and can applesauce. This time I seriously put my foot down and said I'm not helping and you need to use your own kitchen to do it.

Two minutes later I gave permission to use my kitchen as long as he cleaned up afterwards. But I held firm on not helping.

An hour after he started with the apples on day one, I insisted on not helping, but would keep him company.

By the end of the day, I was helping. I made him do all the cleanup though.

On day two, I helped from the beginning and at the end of the day also helped clean up.

There are now nearly a hundred quarts of applesauce residing on my kitchen table.

Today, he overheard me telling someone I like pickled red beets...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

auction items

Today I went to an auction at a greenhouse/farm market that went out of business. Sad to see them go as I've enjoyed shopping there for many years. But at the same time, they had a lot of good stuff for anyone involved in greenhouses, market gardening, farm stores, and the like. I spent what is to me, quite a lot of money, but it was all for things I'd planned on buying anyway. This way I spent about half of what I would have if purchased new.

I bought what I hope to be all the 4.5" pots I'll need for next year, some shade fabric, a hoophouse, some produce tubs, and two seedling carts. All told I spent nearly $900, and the biggest ticket item was, surprisingly, the carts at $300 each. The hoophouse I got for very nearly nothing since the only truly useable part of it is the rafters. Even so, I paid a small fraction of what I otherwise would have.

I am now exhausted, but it was a very, very good day.

morning song

I awoke this morning to the sound of a fox calling, a screech owl trilling, and a bullfrog croaking. A most beautiful chorus that I never tire of.

Friday, September 3, 2010

canning continues

Peaches.

We put up 100 quarts.

Three bushels, when I specifically asked to do just (?) two.

At least there were four of us this time. My sister and her husband helped and we did it at their house.

Still took all day.

Now there's talk of applesauce.

God help us all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

a battalion of soup


Do you know how much soup three bushels of tomatoes makes? Ninety two quarts. Yup, 92. Nearly a hundred. I know this from recent, first-hand experience. And it will take me a long time to recover mentally, emotionally, and physically. If I ever do, that is. 

How did this happen, you ask? I'm still wondering the same thing. Just the week before, a friend and I bought, prepared, and froze twenty dozen ears of sweet corn. You'd think I'd learn from that, but apparently that's not the case. So when he calls and says he knows where we can get all the roma tomatoes we want, free for the picking, and do I want to help make tomato soup, my good sense deserted me and I said yes. The field of tomatoes at the bottom of my road was being mechanically harvested and so mister gregarious that he is, he stops and asks if they'd mind us picking up what the harvester left behind. They happily agreed, and so in less than an hour, we collected our three bushels. That, my friends was the easy part. We then spent the better part of two days making and canning his mother's tomato soup recipe. By the end of the second day, I was alternating between whining, being snippy, and begging to please just throw the rest away. So then when he went out at eight o'clock at night to get "just a few more" canning lids, I officially quit. Cracked open a beer and a bag of tortilla chips and sat down with a book to read. That's how he found me when he got back and that's where I stayed until he was done. It was either that, or hurt him. Bad.

Oh yes, the soup is good. Outstanding, in fact. And everyone we know is getting tomato soup for Christmas. Just saying.

Now somehow, against my strenuous protests, I find myself going along with plans to can peaches tomorrow. I seem to have lost my capacity to say no and mean it. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

an overturned (cast) sheep

Yesterday Mayapple's two lambs kept calling and calling. After about five minutes of that, I went out to see why they couldn't find their mother. Seeing her in the pasture, I thought she was laying down, but then realized that she was on her back, legs sticking up in the air, looking quite dead. A sheep can die fairly quickly if they roll onto their back and are unable to right themselves. Their rumen (stomach) compresses their lungs and unable to breathe, they suffocate. As I got closer, I realized she was still breathing, just very shallowly, and so quickly helped her onto her stomach. After trying to get up and failing, she laid there panting heavily for about 15 minutes. Finally, she tried again to get up, this time succeeding. A bit wobbly, she walked away from me to her now-relieved lambs. She can thank them for saving her life.

Mayapple is the same ewe that nearly died this spring from a bad case of pregnancy toxemia. Poor sweet girl, she's having such a bad year, I just wanted to give her a hug. But while friendly enough, she's not a hugger.

Friday, August 20, 2010

farm update

Wow, it's been awhile since I posted anything! I blame it on spending time with friends, both new and old; weeds and their desperate and evil desire to get the best of me; and lack of anything that seemed important enough to warrant a post on its own.


On the bee front:  
As you may know, with a hive of bumbles in the greenhouse for pollination and a hive of honeybees for honey and field pollination, I am a recovering bee-phobe. Not quite there yet, but making headway. Or, at least I was, until a few weeks ago. Deciding to clean up some old wood, I disturbed a nest of yellow jackets. After much swearing, running, arm flailing, and finally jumping into the shower to get them off me, I was stung five times. Not that bad you say? I beg to differ. I am still jumping at the sound of buzzing. That little incident probably set me back a year in my relationship with bees. At least. As a result, last week a friend volunteered to inspect my hive for me. He borrowed my jacket and hood, but the tyvek suit was too small. "Not a problem", said he, "I'm not afraid of bees". Long story short, the bees were in a foul mood and he was stung at least ten times. Never having been allergic, he didn't worry until he started having trouble breathing. I gave him three Benedryl and after about an hour, he started getting better. Come to find out later, after hearing his symptoms, his doctor said he nearly died. We can just consider this another year of set-back with bees, okay? However, my friend's not a quitter and so asked me to order him a tyvek suit. Now, armed with an epi pen he is ready to tackle hive inspection once again. Maybe this afternoon. God help me.


Sheep:
The flock is doing great. Everyone is healthy and thriving. Due to a reduced pasture size, heat and drought, I've found it necessary to feed hay. No lambs have been sold yet, so it looks like they may be going to the butcher at the end of October. If you like lamb and are interested in some for your freezer, let me know.

Poultry:
There are now seven remaining silky chickens here. Out of 25. Twice, I forgot to close their door at night. The first night, twelve chickens disappeared. The second time, another six were taken. I blame foxes. And of course, myself. I've been way too distracted lately.
The geese are doing well. Several goslings were sold and just one remains. Unless sold by the end of October, he'll be butchered.
To round out the year's supply of meat, my plan is to get some broiler chicks in the next week or so and have them ready for processing at about the same time as the gosling and lambs.

Market garden:
I've officially lost the battle with weeds in most of my new plot. Probably the best course of action at this time is to mow it and start prepping for next year while vowing to do better. The greenhouse is chugging along and producing well. Fall and winter seeds were ordered and have arrived. Planting will start up for those crops next week. A little late, but still okay.

So that's what has been going on here on the hill. I've been distracted in the best possible way, but as a result, things have run a bit amuck. Time to buckle down and get back to business.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

eggplant caviar

This is a wonderfully quick and easy recipe. Serve on a hearty, crusty bread.

1 large or two small eggplants
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to broiler setting.

Wash eggplant and pierce the skin several times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and broil on center rack of oven for 10 minutes. Turn and broil an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly.

Split eggplant in half and with a spoon, scoop pulp into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly, just until smooth. Add onion, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Pulse only until mixed. You don't want to puree or further chop the ingredients, just blend them.

That's it! You can serve this warm or chilled. Another variation would be to roast some garlic on the bottom rack of the oven while the eggplant is broiling and add it to the mixture.

Monday, July 19, 2010

busy day last week

First, I took myself off to the Kirkwood hay auction and bought a load of grass/alfalfa mix hay. I would have preferred straight grass, but the sheep have eaten the pasture down to a nub and so I took what I could get. Very nice stuff, but the problem with the added alfalfa is that it's more expensive and it has stems. My sheep don't eat stems, you see, so there's a lot of waste. Once they have selected all the soft and tender bits, all that's left in the manger are stems. Then they scream at me to bring them more of the good stuff and of course I comply. Have you ever been in a barn full of angry screaming sheep glaring balefully at you? (Try it sometime and get back to me.) Heading home from the auction I was followed by the very nice gentleman whose load of hay I bought. He then backed his truck up to the barn and threw the bales in to me while I stacked them six high. Over 3,000 pounds of hay, 82 bales, 90 degree heat and high humidity, with hungry sheep screaming for lunch and three cages of roosters and a hen voicing their displeasure. I never thought I'd make it.

happy, hungry sheep

I came in the house covered with sweat and hay chaff and immediately got in the shower. Then loaded up the three cages of roosters in my Bug and headed off to Roots small animal auction, feeling like a traitor the whole way. You see, I've had two of those roosters for several years and we've always gotten along quite well. They didn't have a mean bone in their bodies and always took good care of their hens. But, they wouldn't stay out of the greenhouse and market garden. They've eaten tomatoes and scratched up seedlings. Instead of roosting in their own pen, they chose the rafters of the barn, defecating on anything below. And they refused to stay out of the dog's yard. So although it hurt my heart to do it, I took them to be sold. Tough decision and I'd like to say the right one, but I'm still not clear on that. Things are certainly more peaceful here without the constant (and I do mean constant) crowing of four roosters, each trying to assert their aural dominance. What's left are only the silkies that came as peeps this spring. They can't fly over fences and barn stall barriers, or up into the rafters, making it much easier to keep them contained. There are 25 of them, several are roosters, a few of which will make that same car ride to the auction. What I hope to end up with by autumn is a nice-sized flock of silky hens with two roosters. A flock that stays in the pasture and their designated pen in the barn.

young silky chickens (please ignore the fact that my barn needs to be painted)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

'tis the season

For my all-time favorite sandwich in the whole world...

The BLT.

The combination of flavors and textures adds up to something that I look forward to from the time that vine-ripened tomatoes are over in the fall until they return again the next summer. Now, let me just say for the record - I do not and will not eat BLTs made from grocery store tomatoes. Period. Amen. They may look similar, but they have none of the complex flavor or juicy goodness of a tomato with the good fortune to fully ripen on a vine whose roots have sunk themselves deep into the earth. And that's all I have to say about that.

Back to the most delicious of all sandwiches ever...

Start with your favorite bread, preferably toasted, and spread a liberal amount of mayonnaise all over it. Please don't be stingy. And don't worry whether this will be messy - it will be. Go with it.


At this point you'd normally add the lettuce part of the BLT. I'm using sunflower shoots instead. Because I can. But more importantly, because they're tasty. They have the green crunchiness of lettuce, but with an added nuttiness to the flavor. You should seriously try them.

Okay, so now add slices of those luscious orbs,

And top it with bacon.

My goodness I love this sandwich.

Heaven on a plate.


With a side of home-brewed mint iced tea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

vermicomposting, continued

I've been adding shredded paper and kitchen scraps to the worm bin and although materials kept being added, volume did not seem to be increasing. Taking this as a potentially good sign, I decided to take a look at things this morning. Much to my dismay, there seemed to be fly larvae in the bin along with some gnats. Ugh! The last thing on my agenda is to contribute to the population increase of flies in the world. Googling this issue, it appears that what is co-existing in the bin alongside the worms are actually "black soldier fly" larvae. A very good thing, if that is indeed what they are. From what I've gathered, black soldier flies are increasingly being used to compost kitchen waste and - bonus! - their mature larvae can be used very effectively as fish or chicken food. Check out Black Soldier Fly Blog if you're curious or want to learn more. Another bonus to having these guys in the worm bin is that they seem to repel house and other pest species of flies. As adults, the black soldier flies live only long enough to breed and reproduce (a few days) do not eat, buzz, or try to get in the house. They don't even really look much like flies. From what I can tell, there is no downside.

But back to my original question this morning - how are the worms doing? In a word, great! They are making their way through the bin, munching as they go, and the bin gives off a mild, moist, slightly earthy smell. Perfect. Now, next on my agenda will be to build a larger, moveable wooden bin that can be kept in the greenhouse in the winter. Looking through YouTube videos, I came upon a pretty good one here. Not sure when I'll get it done, but now I have a plan of action.

Friday, July 9, 2010

summer harvest bolognese

Some of the best fresh vegetables of summer are brought together in this one dish. If you like pasta, you'll love this.

ingredients:
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 large eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into half inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 sweet pepper (ribs and seeds removed), finely chopped
1 zucchini (about 8 ounces), quartered lengthwise, then sliced 1 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
1 quart fresh tomatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and torn or cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 pound penne pasta (or your favorite shape, after all, they all taste the same)
parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

directions:
In a five quart saucepan with a lid, heat six tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat, add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Add onion, sweet pepper, zucchini, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until vegetables have softened, about 7-10 minutes.

Add ground beef. Stirring to break up the meat, cook until no longer pink.

Add tomatoes, oregano, and reserved eggplant and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes until sauce is thick and eggplant is tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain and serve topped with sauce and parmesan cheese. Some crusty bread would be perfect alongside this dish.

Enjoy!

Note: This recipe makes enough for eight people. When I made it, I cut it in half and saved the extra veggies for another day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

rumtopf, part 2

Just added sweet cherries to the rumtopf brandy pot!

cucumber mint sorbet

I have quite a lot of cucumbers, and my mint patch is no slouch either. Pondering how best to use some of the excess, I wondered if there were any recipes online for cucumber sorbet. Lo and behold, there were many! Of course, I fiddled around with them and what follows is the result...

You'll need an ice cream maker, cucumbers, mint leaves, sugar, and water. That's it.

Make a mint-infused simple syrup by combining one cup water, 2 cups sugar, and a large fistful of fresh mint leaves in a saucepan. Bring it to a slow boil on medium to medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not walk away from your pan as it can boil over pretty quickly if you're not paying attention. (Don't ask me how I know, just trust me on this one.) Using a slotted spoon, remove the leaves from the syrup and allow it to come to room temperature. Peel and roughly cut up three cucumbers, removing the ends, because sometimes they're bitter. Put them in a blender along with one cup* of the cooled syrup and blend until smooth. Strain into a bowl and refrigerate until cold. Pour this green goodness into your ice cream freezer and process according to the manufacturer's directions. That's it! Serve in a pretty dish and garnish with a mint sprig if you're feeling fancy.

It's an icy-cold, refreshing essence of summer on a spoon.

* You'll have some mint syrup left over. Feel free to use it any way you like, but it's a nice way to sweeten ice tea. Keep it refrigerated and use within a week.