Friday, March 30, 2012

Carnage

Sometimes I forget that my otherwise contented kitties are distantly related to jungle animals.  I also forget that they are regular experts at wending their svelte furry bodies through gaps that you'd think would be impossible to fit through.

Four of my new chicks were consumed this afternoon.  Four.

Grrrr.  Bad kitties.  Ignore those hunting instincts, will you?

Brooder tub is now reinforced with more wire cloth, a few extra boards, and some strategically sprinkled cayenne pepper.  I have been stalking...I mean, observing, the cats through the bathroom window, and they appear to be baffled by the new arrangements.  I am not certain, however, that the Demon Twins will be repelled for long.


Note the glowing eyes, a sure sign of evil intentions.

I am hoping that the cats will decide to enjoy the radiant heat and ignore the delicious squeaker toys hidden inside the quilt-wrapped brooder.  If they don't, I hope they poke themselves on wire ends and get a snoot-ful of hot pepper flakes.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Only Stopped for Dog Treats.


But somehow, I came home with these as well.

Yes, folks, it is the time of the Spring Impulse Buy.  Some women buy shoes.  Other women, a cute sassy skirt.  Me?  I buy a dozen chicks from Tractor Supply.

It is true.  I have no will-power to resist the cuteness of a chick.  One peeep-peep and I am lost.

I took six of Rhode Island Reds, egg laying Queens of the Universe, and the other half dozen of something called "Amber Links".   The nice girl at Tractor Supply had no idea what they were, but a quick search at www.feathersite.com revealed that it is a Rhode Island Red crossed with a White Plymouth Rock.  They should grow up to be white with some amber-brown colored feathers.  Oooh, pretty!  Both will lay large brown eggs in prolific quantities.

When thinking of egg colors, I always flashback to the egg advertisment I heard while growing up in New Hampshire in the 1980s:

Brown eggs---are local eggs,
And local eggs--are fresh!

It used to run alongside the bread commercial with Ted Williams in it.  Remember that, New Englanders?? 

In other news, I have now decided that my once-used-for-meat-birds shed will now be converted to a second hen house for these future layers.  My egg-buying fans will be delighted.  (Of course, we all need to be patient and wait until September to expect our first eggs.)  I am already plotting the outdoor run configuration and sliding access doors. 

Oh yay, another project.  I was beginning to feel bereft of things to do.  Silly me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A New Day

You, dear reader, will be happy to know that I am feeling much better.

Still headachey, still "a bit squiffy", but all in all, I remained upright and non-vomitous during work hours.  I even managed to head out to the garden afterward, and enjoy some sunshine while playing in the dirt before repeated bending resulted in a touch of nausea.  Flu notwithstanding, it was a lovely afternoon to be outside.  The birds were singing, kids were playing, dogs were barking, one of my neighbors was busily mowing down the 1/8th inch of growth from his lawn.  Ahh, spring in a small village filled with lawn obsessed neurotic norwegians.  There's nothing quite like the roar and rattle of a lawn tractor filling an otherwise peaceful afternoon.

Today was the day to clear off a portion of the luxurious growth of Creeping Charlie (aka common ground mint) that seems to be in love with my garden.  If it was a cash crop, I'd be King.  Too bad you can't sell it on the black market.

Hmm.  Maybe you can?  Folks seem to smoke nearly anything these days.

Note to self:  Research halucinogenic properties of Creeping Charlie.

Second note to self:  Reassure any agents from the DEA lurking in cyberspace alert for any mention of black market, drugs or halucinogens that I am really not serious about becoming the next Drug Czar of Prairie Farm.  Really.

Anyhoo, I dug and scraped and discovered that my one hoe is defunct.  I routinely kill my gardening implements.  I don't think I am that hard on them.  I am likely just not taking care of them.  But how much care does a $10 hoe require?  Then again, it could be like my mania with toasters.  I kill toasters every six months of so.  Who knew it was wrong to want your toast, toasty?  Apparently I am to only want it pale and limp and non-toasty.  Blech.

Back to the garden:  removal of Charlie was a success.  I was left with two smallish beds, of luscious dark rich soil (once my compost heap was where these beds are now),  where I will soon plant garlic, horseradish and asparagus.  Just imagine, a whole bunch of THIS waiting for picking:





Ooooh.  Ahhhh.  Who needs halucinogens when you can take a whiff off freshly grated horseradish?  Hoooeeeee.  No need for Sinutabs, either.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Day in Bed

So, as much as I have resisted them, the germs seem to have found me.  I so rarely get the stomach flu, I'd nearly forgotten how miserable a sore stomach and fever can make you feel. 

Actually, aside from the headache, the fever isn't so bad.  I am having some wild dreams (spent much of the wee hours dreaming I was possessed and undergoing exorcism...I don't recommend it to anyone, really) and this strange out-of-body sensation that is trippy.

Yes, Mom, I am taking tylenol.

ANYWAY, I am also not used to spending copious amounts of time sitting on my luxurious tushie and napping in the spring time.  I mean, I should be at work.  And if I'm not at work-work, there is plenty of real-work here on the farmlette.

Just thinking about it makes me want to go back under the covers.

I am resisting that though, and trying to catch up a bit on my plethora of unread magazines.  My favorite:  Mother Earth News.

I always find something inspirational in here.  Plus, I love the classified section in the back.  Did you know you can find a yurt online?  Or buy bees, or an incinerator toilet?  You can also contact a variety of faith healers and paranormal experts.  Hmmm...possibilities.


As a proud Farmgirl and member of the Sisterhood, I am a big fan of MaryJane's Farm magazine.  It is lovely, like a little scrapbook and girly vintage pictures and lots and lots of decadent aprons.  Love. It.


Huh.  Just realized that mentioning the "Sisterhood" makes me sound as though I've joined the Masons.   I could be hung by apron strings for revealing...oh dear, no.  I can say no more.  What happens in the Sisterhood, stays in the Sisterhood.  You know it, girls!


Who doesn't like a magazine called Grit?  I mean, it conjures up this great mental imagery of defying the elements, hitching up the overalls, and getting the hard jobs done.  Grrrr.  Plus, there's great articles on lovely and cute farm animals you can raise.  Awww, lambs. 

I'm off to recline under the quilts with my stash of magazines once again.  Maybe I'll read, maybe I'll nap.  I can hardly wait to find out.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fun in the Sun

Finally!  It turned out to be a lovely, sunny afternoon here in Gloomville.  I swear, I was beginning to think I lived in Seattle...anyway, it is gorgeous out there, which is very gratifying to the soul.  To celebrate the much-desired sunshineyness, I spent much of my day outside playing around in my new hoophouse.


As you can see, the plastic roofing is now fastened over the hoops...


The doors are hung, the windows covered...


And, after a trip to a local greenhouse and some bad-ass construction skills demonstrated by moi, I have four partially filled, 3 ft x 4 ft raised beds and lovely, fragrant and aesthetically pleasing cedar mulch paths within my new gardening space.  Isn't she lovely?  Ahhhh....

Stay tuned for a dramatic paint finish for the exterior wood walls. No, don't even ask.  I will not give out any spoilers.  (I know, I can hardly stand the suspense myself.)

After working hard all morning and much of the early afternoon, and sweating copiously within my very warm hoophouse doing construction, I indulged myself with these:


The first grilled bratwurts of the season!


And then I spent some time with these little cuties:


Awww!  Now it's off to a sunny corner to recline and enjoy a peaceful Saturday afternoon.  Blissful!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hoop House Erectus

The kit arrived as scheduled, and is almost completed, thanks to the efforts of my friend Andrew, builder extraordinaire.  Just looking at the directions overwhelmed me, so it is wonderful to know somebody who actually can read them, interpret them, and then put all the bits and bobs together to make this happen:



While he was slaving away, pounding stakes, hammering, power drilling, and whatever it took to make a box of geehaws come together into something looking like the advertised Country Barn style hoop house I fell in love with on the internet, this is what I did today:


I know, I nearly chucked it in as a "too hard to persevere" job halfway through the foot massage.  And the bubbling, chromatherapy bath with jasmine-scented sea salts followed by a gentle exfoliating scrub of apricot hulls combined with brown sugar...well, I sucked it up and wore my big girl panties and got 'er done.

Yet another example as to why I may just be management material.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Oh, Sap.


You may remember my sap-tapping project, where I put my box elders to work this spring and hoped for the best.

This is what three gallons of box elder sap boils down to:  about 2/3 cup of fragrant, golden syrup.  It looks like browned butter (which is fantastic on top of baked potatoes and steamed asparagus, by the way), but smells like the best of maple syrup.  I only wish there was more...but given the very odd winter we've had, where there was a serious lack of snowfall, I suppose I am lucky to have gathered that much sap.  I only had two taps, too, so all in all I consider this experiment a success.

I can hardly wait for next year's maple syrup season.  If I gather five gallons of sap then, I bet I could have an entire HALF-PINT of syrup.

 Boy howdy. 

There's an embarrassment of riches for you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Time for Support Group?


Hi, my name is Cris.  I'm addicted to making mustard.

I can't stop myself from making it, because it tastes soooo much better than store-bought stuff in little, hermetically sealed jars, it is ridiculous.  And it's easy, really easy.  That's why it's become my addiction.  I can't seem to control my urge to break out a saucepan and a whisk, or buying large quantities of whole mustard seeds.  I have enough to stock a small pantry with enough mustard for four years...and I need more.  More, I tell you.

Do you think I have a problem?

Anyway, if I do, I think it is one I can live with.  Since yesterday, I have made four half-pints of dijon mustard that rivals even the fanciest jar of Grey Poupon.  Remember how I mentioned earlier that it is easy to make?  It really, really, really is easy.  Plus, while making it, you can usually snaffle a glass of wine for yourself, which makes the whisking go by so much faster.  My kitchen smells all kind of mustard-y wonderful.  Mmmmm!  There is nothing like a good mustard, slathered on a sandwich, dipped onto a pretzel, sniffed to clear a stuffy nose...well, maybe stick to horseradish mustard for that application!  But dijon mustard, now...that is so compatible with so many, many things.  I used a hearty slathering on some pork shoulder steaks I cooked up for dinner last night, and I have a hankering to try a fancy-dancy French recipe called Lapin a la Dijonaise (rabbit in mustard sauce). 

Never tried making mustard yourself?  Maybe you need to try whipping up a batch of dijon mustard for your own fridge!

Dijon Mustard a la Home-made

You will need:  2 cups good quality white wine (I used a nice Marcus Jacobs chardonnay); 1 small onion, minced; 3 cloves garlic, minced; 1/2 cup ground mustard (of good quality, please!); 3-4 drops of tabasco sauce; a good pinch of kosher salt; 2 Tablespoons honey; 1 Tablespoon olive oil.
Bring the wine to a boil in a sauce pan.  Add the minced onion and garlic, and boil for five minutes.  Strain out the onion and garlic, and discard.  Return the wine to the sauce pan, and bring back to a boil.  Using a whisk, add the mustard powder and beat until smooth.  Whisking constantly, add the tabasco, salt, honey and olive oil.  Whisk and allow to boil gently for about five minutes.  Remove sauce pan from heat, allow to cool.  Mustard will thicken as it cools.  Pour into a jar with a nice tight lid, and it will survive in your fridge for about 6 months (if it lasts that long).

Someone pass me a pretzel.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let There Be Beer


And hopefully, it is good.

So, aside from sugar, dairy products, coffee and grains, the only thing I don't produce for my own consumption is alcohol.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I have made Cherry Bounce, and Limoncello, and there was once a happy accident that resulted in Alcoholic Rootbeer once...but those are more in the family of "infused" alcoholic beverages.  I haven't actually made the base vodka myself.  Perhaps one day, but for now, I prefer my potatoes mashed with butter, salt and a healthy dose of pepper.

There is a serious lack of brewing going on around here.  To rectify the situation (what a nice phrase, don't you think?), I recently spent a day with my friends Khaiti and Andrew (www.ltdfarm.com) learning the fine art of beer brewery.  Oh, it was fun!  The best part was playing around with the malt extracts.  They come in a bag, and look like huge, dark-goo-filled breast implants.  Love. It.  Anyway, I had been thinking about getting into home brew for a while, but it just seemed so intimidating.

Turns out, it isn't.  If you can read a recipe, you can brew beer.  Well, at least with the kits sold by Scott of www.windriverbrew.com who has taken all the hard bits, written explicit directions, AND packaged everything in a lovely kit.  Oh, how I love a good kit!  (See my previous post about the hoop house kit that is winging its way to me as I type.)  Great deals, too, to buy everything together--and lots of varieties of beers to try.  I am smitten with a good brown ale, so I am trying my hand at making a batch of Black Bear Brown Ale as my first tour as In-House BrewMistress.

 I'll let you know how it turns out...but I don't promise to share samples.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cuteness Overload!






Law.  Doesn't it just make you want to squeal and go snuggle something?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

They're taking over...


That's six dozen (plus two) eggs in the fridge.  Every day, I find four to six eggs waiting for me in the nest boxes.  Well, actually, one chicken is molting and another of the girls has decided to go all brooooooooody on me, so the past few days, it's been only four.  Still, that means in the average week, I am getting three dozen eggs.  Holy frittata, Batman.

I think I need to start baking.  Or making omelets for everyone I know.  It's going to become like those giant baseball-bat zuchinni that get "gifted" on the porch after midnight: random eggs will start appearing on neighborhood doorsteps near you, left by a mysterious, cloaked lady drifting chicken feathers in her wake...a faint distant clucking will drift across the alleys and byways...who is it?  It's the Chicken Lady!  Duh-dunnnn.

Eggs, anyone?

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Raining Men


Ha ha.  Not really.

That episode title sucked you in, though, didn't it?  You thought, my word.  Has the internet dating gateway opened to reveal some terrifically sexy lumberjack-slash-farmer-slash-foreign-accent-speaking-utterly-romantic-manly-man that simply adores our darling friend Cris?

Sigh. I know.  Just writing that title made me a little excited, too.

Isn't this man just adorable?  There is actually a ridiculous amount of hot lumberjack pictures out there.  Seriously, just google "lumberjack" in an image search.  Oh, but keep your filter on moderate...some of those pictures would make the Marquis du Sade blush.  Wow.  Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

No, not men.  Rain.

It is raining today.  Not snowing, not sleeting.  Rain.  I want to go dance in it...but I'd probably fall on my butt sliding across the mud-over-frozen-ground thing my backyard has going on.  So I've been settling for a stand in place, happy wiggle butt boogie to celebrate a nice early Spring rain.  It is the kind of rain that releases that lovely scent of petricore (the smell of dust after rain), and makes the birds sing cheerfully and the trees turn that shade of pinky-green that means the sap is rising and the gutters run with happy gurgles and ploip-ponk noises.  The lake in the cornfield is growing to epic proportions, now only a foot below the level of the road bed.  This may be THE YEAR that it overflows.  Wouldn't that be an exciting reason to be late to work? "So sorry, but the lake in the cornfield overflowed and my road is impassable."  That's almost as good as "Sorry I'll be late, but there is a moose butt resting on my car."

Yes, I really had to use that one a couple of times when I was living in Alaska.  There was this moose, see, that really liked the weeping birch next to where I parked my car in the apartment lot, and he would browse for hours, literally hours, munching on the tasty twiggy branches while resting his big bum on my car.  There's no moving a moose, so when he showed up, I'd pour myself another cuppa coffee and go watch the Today Show for a while.

I think this post is reflecting my strange lack of concentration today.  All day, I have felt a bit off, fluttering from one project to another, a vertiable whirlwind going nowhere fast.  I am so dang tired (stupid time change), but I'm afraid to take a little nappy-poo because then I maybe won't sleep tonight.  Again, stupid time change!  And I don't want to drink coffee or round up a Coke, for the same reason. So I am an overtired, frenetic, slightly manic person this afternoon.

It is Spring!  The season when wild plans abound, projects brew, and all the dreams I dreamed all winter have the chance to see daylight and actually grow into reality.  I have so many happy plans a-foot, I can hardly stand it.  Okay, well, might as well reveal one of them:


I ordered this last night! 

The Hoop House is coming!!  I see watermelons in my future.  And peppers.  And tomatoes.  And winter kale.  And....and....oh, the options of abundance!

Okay. I think I am going to lay off the sugar now.  Happy Rainy March Monday to you all.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How Do I Know it's Spring?

Let me count the ways:

(1)  The girls are sporting new bling on their coop.

Aren't these the coolest garden flags?  I found a small set of three purple (purple!) chicken flags at a great little gallery in Bayfield, WI.  Of course, three tiny flags were not nearly enough, so I tracked down the artist at her etsy shop and worked out a deal to order another set of three purple chicken flags, plus a set of these rainbow darlings.  I do believe that the girls are quite pleased with their snazzy spring decor.

www.etsy.com/shop/windsparrowstudio

(2)  My sap gathering project is running like a tap.

 In the past two days, I have collected nearly a gallon of sap from my box elder trees.  I'm storing it in a plastic bucket, until I get a few more gallons, and then I'll set up an outside burner and start to boil it down into syrup.  It is supposed to be a very warm and springy week, so I think I'll be able to get enough to start boiling by the weekend.


(3)  My home is once again lakefront property. 

 Each year, the melting snow makes a lake appear in the cornfield across the way.  As you can see, it gets a little close to the top of the bank (usually, it's a good five feet down a slope until you hit the field).  One year, it even flooded one of the trailer homes in the court.  Time to break out the canoe, I think.  No geese landing yet, but there are usually at least one or two that try it out for fun before it dries up.




(4)  The buds on the apple and plum trees are starting to swell. 

In a few more weeks, hopefully plenty of blossoms will emerge.  I should get some fruit this year on at least one apple, and both of the more mature plums.  Keep your fingers crossed that we don't wind up with a late, hard frost!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring Reading

In between managing things here on the farmlette, work and getting sucked into serial episodes of Midsomer Murders and Dr. Who, I seem to spend a fair amount of time reading.  This spring, I've stumbled across several good reads:


I am intrigued by this one!  One of my garden dreams is to have wandering chickens in a secure area, happily scavenging for bugs and grubs of all sorts amongst my happy vegetables and flowers.  I don't know if it will ever happen for me here on the tiny farm in the backyard, but there are some lovely pictures (and brilliant ideas) inside this book.


I love Gene Logsdon.  His writing is so witty, so full of information, and is just plain fun to read.  This is one of his more recent books, and shares what has worked for him on his farm, which sounds positively glorious.  Just reading a few pages makes me have a vision for my future "big farm", with wandering chickens, sheep and more (peacocks??) wandering about cheerfully.  Ahhh, my future farm...


I have great plans to unlock the secrets of companion gardening in my backyard this year.  This is the fourth (or possibly fifth) copy of this book I have owned over the years.  I keep loaning it out, and then off it goes into the cosmos, spreading gardening joy wherever it wanders.  Hopefully, this one will stay for a bit, and I can see if planting tomatoes near to carrots (but well away from potatoes) really does work.


This author, Jenna Woginrich, has a wonderful little farm in upstate New York.  I've followed her blog for a couple years now, and it has been a wonderful journey to watch from afar.  Currently, I am madly envious of her new Fell pony named Merlin, and her collection of geese.  Oh, did I mention that she also has sheep and a pony named Jasper?  All this, and she's a published author, too.  Before you think I am completely green with envy, her story is truly remarkable, and beautifully written in this memoir of how she found her farm.


Just because you can't have enough Jamie Fraser in your life.  I have loved Diana Gabaldon's world of scottish intrigue--particularly a certain red-headed hero who embodies the fabulousness that only a kilt wearing, whiskey brewing, fierce warrior-combined with-gentle soul, can carry across the page.  Oooh, my.  It's worth a read, but I recommend starting waaaaaay back at the beginning with Outlander.  Trust me, it's addictive.  (Oh my, I am feeling slightly flushed...tee hee.)



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Howling at the Moon


Happy Full Worm Moon!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, the full moon during the month of March is known as the Full Worm Moon.  Here's why:

 As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

Pretty neat, isn't it?  I know the old Almanac isn't considered by many to be very scientific, but it sure is chock-full of interesting information.  I don't think I'm going to see earthworm castings in my yard anytime soon, but the crows seem to be back and the sap is running.  Maybe there is some truth to the old sayings? 

All I really know is the full moon always makes me have the strangest dreams.  Last night, for example, I dreamt I was walking in the desert.  It was really cold, and I kept hearing little whispering voices...but I didn't see anybody around.  It wasn't scary, just odd.  And then there were toadstools all over the sand, which was really confusing....I don't remember much more than that, but see what I mean?  Very strange dreams.

Just for fun, I looked up the symbolism of my dream on www.dreammoods.com

According to their dream dictionary, to dream of a desert means I am feeling lost and abandoned, possibly suffering an attack on my reputation.  To dream of hearing whispers means that I need to listen more carefully to what someone may be trying to tell me, or that I am fearful that people are talking behind my back.  To dream of toadstools, it represents unhealthy pleasures and unwise decisions being made in my waking life, and the need to appreciate the things that I have rather than focus on what I don't.

Holy crow.  Here I was thinking it was just a strange dream.  Apparently, it is the root of some major psychological conflict.  Yikes.

Maybe I just need a vacation.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rainy Tuesday Dreams



It is raining today, not snowing, not sleeting.  A nice blowy kind of rain.  The kind of rain that makes me think of heading outside and pulling some weeds out of a rain-softened garden.  It's the kind of day where I want to be surrounded by piles of gardening books, with my graph paper and pencil in hand, plotting my next manuvers around the hazards of Creeping Charlie and the dreaded garden moles.


Can you tell I am ready for spring? 

Part of my problem is that I actually got enough sleep last night.  I couldn't keep my eyes open after 8:10 PM, so I crawled under the quilts and was in Dream Land before 9:15.  I haven't done that in ages.  Man, it was beautiful.  When the alarm went off at 5:15 AM, I didn't do my usual slam-the-snooze-button-ten-times-before-I-hit-consciousness.  I actually peeled open my eyes and looked around.  (I did still hit the snooze button a time or two.  For forms' sake.)  It just felt like something different was happening.  The world was waking up.  It may be gray and dirty out there, but the birds were singing, everything was dripping, and it was 48 degrees before the clock hit 7 AM.

Now I am trying to channel my zinging spring energy into the calmness of a day where I am stuck indoors.  I don't even get to drive hither and yon today, to work out some of this pep.  It's all bottled inside of me.  I may just explode. 

Well, probably not.  But you never know.

Even house cleaning is sounding appealing to me right now. 

 Good lord. 

It must be spring fever setting in.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Ain't that the truth."

Today, I was cruising around backroads and wound up at one of my schools in Pepin.  I love Pepin.  It's the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and one of the nicest small river towns I have been lucky enough to visit.  While I was there, I stopped at the co-op to get some gas and a bottle of water for the return trip home.

When I came back outside after handing over too much of my money to the nice lady at the cash register, I discovered a couple of old farmers standing around, looking at Lucille Laverne's back bumper.  One of them looked up, smiled at me, and pointed to the sign prominently displayed on the shiny chrome bumper:

"Honey", he said, "ain't that the truth."  We all agreed it was, agreed wasn't the weather lovely, and yep, spring was coming soon enough.

As I climbed up into Lula, one of his friends called out, "Hey girl.  Love the pink."

Hot damn.  I knew driving a big truck would draw the men like bees to honey.

P.S.  if you wanted a bumper sticker to show off on your own hot rig, check out www.farmland.org   They are free!  You could send them a couple of bucks, if you felt like it, to support the preservation of farmlands near you.

Like the Hummingbird

I watched this great documentary the other night, called Dirt! The Movie.  One of the best bits was a story shared by one of the participants, who is working to save the Congo from desertification, an overwhelmingly impossible task:

Once, a long time ago, all the animals lived in a beautiful forest. They loved their forest,
and lived in peace and harmony. But one day, a storm came and lightning started a fire in the forest. All the animals fled in terror, and stood on the riverbank, helplessly watching as their home burned to the ground. They all agreed, saying "There is nothing we can do. Oh, it is so sad, our home is burning!" The great elephant, the tricky monkey, the fast gazelle--they could do nothing. But one of the animals, the tiny hummingbird, said to herself: "Something must be done!  I must try to save my home!" So off she flew to the river, and scooped up one tiny drop of water in her tiny, tiny beak. And she flew to the fire, and dropped her tiny drop of  water onto the flames. Over and over, the hummingbird flew from the river to the fire, each time dropping one tiny bead of water onto the flames. The other animals, the great elephant,  the tricky monkey, the elegant gazelle, they all asked her "why are you doing this?  Don't you know that one drop of water will never put out this great fire?" And the hummingbird, never pausing in her flight from the river to the fire, carrying her tiny drop of water to the flames, replied: "I am doing the best that I can." All of us can be like the hummingbird, doing our best wherever we are, to make our world a better place by putting our tiny drop of water onto the flames and save our homes. All we must do is the best that we can.


I think I will be the hummingbird.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Skills Shared

Yesterday was the second annual Traditional Skills Day event at Prairie Farm schools.  It is such a fun day, with classes on everything from beekeeping, cheese making, solar ovens, baking homemade bread...you name it, it is pretty much offered there.  It's a busy, wonderful day. 

It's also a tad exhausting, with all the enthusiasm going on.  I need to recover from it still, I think!  So many ideas are a'percolating in my little brain, it's enough to wear a girl out.

I taught two classes, one on raising meat rabbits and the other on keeping backyard chickens.  I even demonstrated rabbit butchering, as caught on film here:


Don't ask me what my hair was doing at that moment.  Yikes.

Anyway, nobody ran screaming out of the room, either in reaction to scary hair or disemboweled bunny, which was gratifying.  The bummer was, while cleaning out the lovely beast, I accidentally knicked the bowel and bob's your uncle, I had inedible meat.  Gaaaaaaaah.  I hate it when that happens, but I am extremely reluctant to introduce my insides to Mr. E Coli and his brethren.  So, it was poached rabbit for the chickens this morning.  The girls were delighted.  I was still a little disgusted.  It smelled really, really good...but likely would have killed me, so hey, all things considered, it wasn't a total loss.  Folks in the class got to see what can go wrong, and what to do about it.  (Namely, don't eat it.  Good lesson to know.)

The chicken class went much more swimmingly.  Gretel the bantam cochin came along and was her usual cute self.  She is a very cuddly chicken, and seemed to like looking at everyone.  I got to show off pictures of my very pink chicken house, which always makes me happy.  Go, Pink! 

And then there was the chili cook-off lunch, which involved me trying far too many kinds of chili.  (Okay, that was fairly delightful--nothing like roasting your tastebuds for fun.)  I brought along my Green Rabbit Chili, which was a hit.  I've always been partial to it, so it was nice to see other people scraping out the crock pot for the last little bits of greeny goodness.  I found someone's smokey hot brisket in this incredible rich sauce...holey moley.  Next time I am faced with a brisket and don't know what to do with it, I'm going to try to recreate that beauty.

There was only one downside to the day:  I am now lusting after goats.  You know, the only thing (aside from sugar, coffee and grain) that I don't produce myself are the dairy product family.  I definitely don't have room for a cow, but a couple small goats....hmmmmm.  Okay, yes, my cranky old lady neighbor would have a fit.  I don't really care too much about that, honestly (yes, I know--I am mean) but I don't know if I have the room for them.  Or the willingness to secure them in a Fort Knox-like area.  I think I may have to do a little more research on that idea...but oh, I would like them so.  Little lady goats to milk, who will eat the overgrown brush and such around my little yard.  Oh, Temptation, why do you haunt me so??

I know you are all wondering about that Green Rabbit Chili, so here's the recipe.  It's kind of like posole, so you could make it using pork instead and it would be equally fantastic.  I warn you in advance, it is a three-day-chili.  Yes, you really do need to wait three days for it to be really, really good.

Green Rabbit Chili
You will need:  one rabbit, cleaned and dressed and ready for cooking; one bottle of good beer; 1/2 cup flour; 2 tablespoons dried minced onions, one tablespoon dried minced garlic; 1 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and ground corriander; 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper; 1 large can hominy; 1 large can green enchilada sauce; 1 tiny can green salsa; 1 tiny can chopped green chiles; 1 jalepeno pepper, finely diced (I used dried jalepenos from my garden); 1 quart water.

Day 1:  Place the rabbit in the crockpot, pour the bottle of beer over it.  Set on low for 8 hours.  Remove rabbit, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Pop into the fridge overnight.

Day 2:  Pick all the rabbit meat off the bones and shred it with a fork.  Add dried spices and flour, mix around to coat the meat.  Pop into the crockpot.  Add the hominy, enchilada sauce, salsa, water, green chiles and jalepeno pepper. Stir to combine.  Set crockpot on low, cook for 8 hours.  When done, allow to cool slightly and then put it in the fridge. 

Day 3:  Reheat chili to eating temperature.  Serve with your favorite chili fixings (diced onion, cheese, sour cream, etc.) and a slab of yummy cornbread.  This is spicy, but not really hot.  You can always tailor the amount of cayenne pepper and jalepeno to suit your level of heat, or provide some bottled hot sauce for those folks who like to sweat while they eat.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Channeling the Cosmos

I think I am channeling some wicked good cosmic vibes today.

It all started this morning, when I left the house on time.  (One small step for man, one giant LEAP for mankind.)  I find it is best to celebrate the small things, which then can snowball into greater things.  For example, I left the house on time.  This meant that I apparently just avoided getting involved in a rollover accident on County Highway A heading out of town (no idea who's SUV it was, but it is upside down and off the road, and wasn't there before I left this morning).  So I know that I am at least having a better day than that person is. 

Poor person.

Anyway, I got to my school on time, found a great location to work in (always a bit iffy), saw a super-cute three year old and her mom, and then found out that every other kid on my list was away on an elementary-wide field trip to the movie theatre. 

What is a girl to do?  Oh, I don't know...how about take advantage of some of that comp time that is accruing??  Don't mind if I do.

Heading into Rice Lake, my only planned stop was to Office Max to fetch some copies for a couple classes I am teaching tomorrow.  (More on that later.)  But because I suddenly found myself the proud possessor of Free Time, I stopped in at the store closing sale at the K-Mart, and found this:


An adult tricycle!  I have been pining for one, for years, I tell you!  Years!  It needs a new chain, and has some other wear issues as it was a long time floor model, but it was over $100 off.  I got myself a matching helmet and a cool blue honka-horn, also waaaaaaaaaay on sale.  I love me a honka-horn.  Ahhhoooooooogah! 

I may also be channeling a touch of this:




 Oh, a bike.  I am so excited!  Now I just need a little doggy to steal and cram into the back basket.

Oh, and for it to be spring.  That would be key to bike riding enjoyment.

I hope your Friday is full of delightful surprises.  Now, fly!  Fly, my pretties!  Bwah ha ha ha hah.