Sunday, March 31, 2013

Saturday, March 30, 2013

And The Winner is...

Catherine Love!  

You are the lucky winner of a brand new copy of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens.  I will be in touch with you via email to let you know the good news & find out how to get your new book to you.

Congratulations to our lucky winner, and stay tuned for another fun give-away coming next week!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Brooder Time

Look at all those critters!

It's nearly time again:  the new batch of chicks will be arriving on April 15th, or there abouts.  My friends at McMurray Hatchery are patiently waiting for the Red Ranger and Buff Orpington chicks I ordered long ago in January to make their way into the world.  Then they'll be popped into a warm box and sent on their merry way from Iowa to Wisconsin--and then to me.  I can hardly wait.

Just a side note:  I highly recommend Murray McMurray hatchery.  Having ordered from them for several years now, I've had nothing but great luck with their day-old chicks, and their customer service can't be beaten.  They are so nice!  And, the chicks arrive happy, healthy and very very quickly, helping them get off to a great start.  If you haven't checked out their website or their mail-order catalog yet, and you're thinking about ordering chicks, I encourage you to check them out.

Before they arrive, though, I need to reconstruct the brooder in the car hut.  Remember it from the photo above?  It worked pretty good, although I think I may need to add some two-by-four supports and create some kind of a gate entry versus the whole "moving wall" thing.  I nearly squashed a couple of those cuties last year accidentally, and I don't want that to happen again.  There will be fewer chicklets to worry about this year, but still, I don't want any accidental squishings on my watch.

Part of this weekend will be spent in cleaning out the car hut and constructing the brooder.  Lucky me, I took a five day weekend in lieu of a longer Spring Break--it should be just long enough for me to tackle this project, I hope.

Well, that and shelling those beans currently hanging above the brooder space. 

P.S.  Today is the FINAL DAY before the drawing for the free copy of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens!  If you haven't left your comment on that blog post yet, click RIGHT HERE to head on over and make your entry.  Don't forget, or it will be too late!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Check It Out: Storey Publishing

Sometimes, you stumble across a great resource out in the wilds of the interwebs.

Imagine my joy at discovering the Storey Publishing website, where you can purchase books, informational "booklets"'s the exciting bit...find a free ebook every month!

Check out their Fresh Picks area for a great free ebook (this month it's all about Braiding Rugs), as well as links to purchase other titles that might be handy.  At $2.99 each, that's a great bargain for anybody's library.

Speaking of free things, you have just two more days to enter the drawing for a copy of Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens!  So, head on over to the blog post from Tuesday by clicking RIGHT HERE and leave a comment.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ode to Bechamel

courtesy of

I love a good sauce, particularly one that just might include some cheese.

Ahh, cheese.  How I love thee.

This brings up a great topic:  how to make a good, simple bechamel sauce.  This indispensable white sauce can do pretty much anything, from making a classic childhood treat to a decadent four cheese caloric nightmare of deliciousness to pour over your noodle of choice.

Here's my version of how to make bechamel:

You'll need: a couple tablespoons of butter; a couple tablespoons of flour; a cup and a half of milk; salt and pepper to taste.

In a saucepan, melt your butter.  Once it is melted, whisk in the flour and let it cook for just a few seconds--don't let it burn.  Congratulations!  You have now made a roux.

Whisking constantly, slowly add your milk.  Whisk until all the roux is incorporated and there are no lumps.  Slowly heat your sauce--I recommend doing all steps on medium low, but you can live dangerously if you want to and try it on medium.  Stir constantly, because you do NOT want this to burn.  If it burns, toss it as you can't save it.

When the sauce thickens, add a dab of salt and pepper to give it some flavor.  Purists would say you need to use white pepper to maintain the lovely whiteness of the bechamel, but I say ahh heck, just use what you've got in the pantry.  It's your sauce, do what you want.

So now you have a veritable blank slate to paint your culinary palate upon.  Depending on what herbs or cheese or other additions you choose, you can make this an entirely new sauce.

For example, add a can of drained, flaked white albacore tuna and serve over saltines.  You now have my most cherished from childhood comfort food of choice: Creamed Tuna on Saltines.  Whenever I am feeling blue, I'll have this for lunch and suddenly, all is right with the world once more.  I know, it sounds kinda horrible, but trust me when I say this is right up there with Welsh Rarebit and Sh*t on a Shingle.  One of those you had to have it by a certain age to appreciate it things, I guess.

Add, instead, some shredded Asiago cheese, dehydrated minced garlic, and Italian Herbs seasoning blend, and you have yourself a really wonderful sauce to top pasta, or slap it on a pizza that will bring even the most devoted red sauce fan to their knees.

If you want to make the best macaroni and cheese casserole you'll ever eat, add shredded sharp white Cheddar, Asiago, Gruyere and Monterey Jack cheeses, a dash of hot pepper sauce, and an teeny bit of extra salt and pepper to your basic bechamel.  (You can also go over the top and use heavy cream instead of milk in the bechamel making--really really fantastic, but not so easy on the waistline so proceed cautiously.)  Fold sauce into cooked and drained fusili pasta, pour it all into a greased casserole dish, and top with Parmesan-cheese-and-olive-oil-mixed-Panko-bread crumbs.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes and prepare to be dazzled...or at least be the most popular of all the macaroni bringers at your next potluck event.

Julia Childs may never have said it, but I believe that mastering one good sauce recipe could, perhaps, help you to eventually rule the world. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's a Give-Away!

In honor of the Spring season that is (finally!) upon us, and the launch of my new Facebook page, it's a book give-away!

One lucky reader will be chosen on Saturday, March 30, 2013, with the winner receiving their very own copy of the newest edition of  Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens.  If you don't have a copy of this great reference yet, you'll love it.  It is chock full of great tips on how to raise happy, healthy chickens, what to expect at various stages of chicken development, and some handy ideas for what kind of housing you need to keep your lovely ladies healthy and producing your own delicious backyard eggs for years to come.

Here's how to enter:  Leave a comment on this post in the form below, telling me who you are, where you are from, and what has you excited about keeping chickens.  If you already have a flock, tell us about them!  Everyone loves a good chicken story, am I right?  All comments must be received by 6 PM Central Time on Friday, March 29, 2013 to be eligible for the drawing.

I can't wait to hear from each of you.  Good luck!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Now You Can Really, Really Like Me.

I've taken the plunge and created a Page on Facebook, so all my many, many fans (you may be few in number right now, but I love you all!) can "like" the Chicken Lady's Farmlette and receive a daily dose of witticisms, odd news updates, and occasional PSAs in your Facebook News Feed.

So if you'd like a direct dose of Chicken Lady appearing on your Facebook, click on the link that now appears at the top of the blog.  Or, next time you are in Facebook-Land, search for The Chicken Lady's Farmlette and like us there. 

Thanks for "liking" us!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Even Prettier in Person

Darn blurry phone camera doesn't do it justice.

I feel just like the Dad in A Christmas Story:  "I won, I won, hot damn I won!"

It may not be a major award, but I love this necklace I won in a recent drawing hosted by MaryJanes Farm.  It is made of heirloom seeds and the prettiest stones I have ever seen--I didn't even know there were rocks in such a lovely shaded rust-and-green!

Made by Debbie Groat, Jewelry Designer of Saverine Creek Heirlooms, this is a gorgeous bit of bling. Oaxacan Green Dent corn with unakite stones...gosh, that sounds like poetry, doesn't it?  I just love the idea of wearing seeds around my neck.  And I have to tell you, this is an incredibly warm and comfortable necklace to wear.  It's light, doesn't grab my hair, and it just feels really, really good.

Good vibes, man.  Good vibes.

(Check out more of Debbie's creations at Saverine Creek Heirlooms--they are simply beautiful!)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies!

It's another Saturday night, which means:  yes, another fun documentary! 

Wheee!  (I know, I can hardly stand the excitement, either.)

This week's viewing pleasure will be this new-to-Netflix-streaming selection:

I like how it is billed as "uplifting" and "positive", because some of the ones I've watched lately have been anything but.  Take, for example, this one:

Gahh.  Enough to give you nightmares, ain't it?

After that lead balloon clip, I'm willing to bet that you need a little cheering up.  So we'll end this week's Saturday Night movie previews with a fun little gem of a film.

Happy night at the movies, all!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Weekend Projects

photo from

It is Spring, sort of, which means the Time of Lists is upon us.

Lists for things to get done indoors before life heads joyfully outside.

Lists of things to purchase, in order to do things outside, once the snow is gone.

Lists of things to get done immediately after the snow departs, and then lists of things to do after those things are done.

I do like my lists, don't I?  I may not get everything done, but it sure is nice to have a list and see what I accomplish.  Remember last year's inspired list?  You can check it out here, if you want to see a flashback.  For as long as it was, I actually got quite a lot of it done.  And what didn't get done, obviously didn't need to be done, right?

Part of this weekend may well be spent in making a few lists of upcoming projects.  I'll likely continue with my spring cleaning, and a little more seed starting is in order as well.  Mostly, I hope to catch up on a little sleep (it's been a long, busy week) and spend some time visiting with good friends.  As long as we don't get another snowstorm, I may just be able to go visiting, or host some people here.  (I really hope the snow is done, don't you?!?  Enough already!)

Maybe I'll even get around to brewing some more beer...or shelling those dry beans that have been waiting in the car hut...or clearing more ice around the coop doors...or maybe not.  Happy Weekend to All!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Humble Egg

So simple, yet so deliciously complex.

Lucky me, I have a lot of eggs right now.  As in, seven dozen in the fridge "a lot right now".  This means not only do I have some to give, some to sell, and plenty to eat, but I also have little room for anything else in the icebox!  (What a lucky problem, right?)

I eat lots of eggs, in various forms--boiled, baked, fried, in frittata, in omelet, you name it.  On a busy day that runs long, an egg or two is my go-to fast dinner comfort food of choice.  Take this gem of a recipe, for example:

Baked Eggs with Brussel Sprouts (adapted from brooklyn supper blog)

You'll need:   three fresh eggs; a nice handful of fresh brussel sprouts, trimmed and sliced thinly; a third of an onion, chopped finely; a nice big handful of fresh mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thinly; a fat strip of smoky bacon, cubed; a bit of butter; a slosh of cream or milk, your choice; a little bit of grated Gruyere or other cheese of your choice--I've used asiago with great success--and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat a cast iron skillet and add your bacon, cooking over medium heat and stirring to render out the fat.  Once the pan is greasy, toss in your brussel sprouts and onion and saute for a couple of minutes until nice and wilted.  Add the mushrooms, and reduce heat a little.  Cook, stirring around often, until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned.  I generally add some salt and pepper here, but you can wait to season until the end if you like.

While you are cooking the veg, heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Find a handy ramekin or small oven-proof dish (I use my go-to vintage Pyrex for this purpose), and once your oven has reached temp, put a tablespoon of butter in the dish and pop it in the oven to melt the butter.

Once the butter is melted, remove the dish and swirl it around to get the butter to coat the sides and bottom nicely.  Crack your eggs into the dish, top with the sauted veg, and add your dollop of milk or cream.  Pop your Pyrex back into the oven and bake for 5 minutes.

When the timer dings, slide the dish out just far enough to sprinkle on your cheese of choice.  Put back into the oven and bake fo another 1-2 minutes until the eggs are set.  When the final time is up, take out your delicious egg dish, salt and pepper if you haven't already, and grab a fork to dig in.

Simple, seasonal, and a great way to enjoy the humble egg.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

History on the Farm

I am a fan of pretty much anything BBC.  Well, perhaps not some of the "reality" TV, but the good documentaries, dramas and sci-fi programming, certainly.  And who doesn't love a little Upstairs Downstairs now and then?  (Don't get me started on my love of all things The Good Life!)

I came across this gem perusing YouTube one evening.  It is amazing what you can find on there, amidst all the strange homemade mash-ups and poorly video'd tours of peoples homes (clean first, people, clean first).

That must have been such a fun project to be part of!  Hard work, certainly, but fun and interesting and not at all lacking in daily drama.  I'm looking forward to watching another episode or two this weekend.

BBC and the farm life?  Yippee!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Unsubtle Message.

"Get off the computer..."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Wear Your Green

It's the day we all pretend that we are Irish and can drink like fishes.  Wahoo!

Just kidding.   I don't drink like a fish.

I do like to pretend that I am more Irish than I am in reality, however.  On this day, the French-Canadian dilution does not count and my Irish roots show beautifully.  It is a good thing, then, that I have a little collection of Irish- or Irish-inspired recipes to work from.

This year, I am making a brave attempt at a River Cottage recipe:  Apple-Cheddar Guinness Soda Bread.  Doesn't it sound delicious?  It looked good when Hugh made it on TV, and the reviews online of the recipe were overwhelmingly positive, so I have high hopes that it will perform as expected.  It seemed such a nice, savory twist on the traditional raisin-currant sweet variety that I simply have to try it.

Besides, any excuse to bring home a pack of Guinness Extra Stout works in my book.  Beer that has hints of coffee in it?  Oh, yes please!

Hugh's Apple, Guinness and Cheese Soda Bread

You'll need: 1 cup white bread flour; 3/4 cup whole wheat or spelt flour; 1/3 cup old fashioned oatmeal; 1 tsp. salt; 2  teaspoons baking soda; 1 large dessert apple, roughly chopped (I like Granny Smith); 1 cup grated good cheese (a sharp white cheddar works, and I cut it into tiny chunks for more texture); 2 Tbsp. sunflower or rapeseed oil (I had neither, used olive oil and it was fine); Guinness beer-about two slurps short of one bottle.

Combine the flours, oats, salt and baking soda, stir well to combine and add in the apple and cheese.  Mix again to distribute all ingredients, and make a well in the middle.  This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 450 degrees, and get a baking sheet ready to go by lining it with parchment paper.

Pour in the oil and Guinness into the well in your dry ingredients.  Using your hand, gently fold the ingredients together until it just comes together and forms a dough.  Don't over mix or handle the dough too much, or it will be tough.  You want it to lightly come together and be happy just combined.

Put some flour onto your work space and tip the dough out onto it.  Gently shape the dough into a rough round-shaped loaf.   You're basically just patting it into shape, not kneading it.  Move your loaf onto the prepared baking sheet and slide it into the oven.  You can sprinkle some extra cheese on top, if you like.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Your loaf should rise up nicely as it bakes, too.

I think this might be a perfect accompaniment to an Irish stew, don't you?  Or a good roast, cooked slowly with a bottle of Guinness and some sliced onion, and a side of classic Colcannon (otherwise known as mashed potato with cabbage). 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Power of the H!

This past week, I fell into a time warp and was blasted back to my childhood years.

Or so it felt.

In the early evening, I found myself sitting in a former one-room school house watching a crowd of excited children who were rolling around like puppies on Smarties.  It was the monthly meeting of the Peppy Pals 4H Club and they were happy to be there.  After a brief business meeting (I was amazed that I still remembered the 4H pledge) and a handful of demonstrations, the most notable of which involved a pair of girls dressing each other in a horse harness complete with reins, I was on.

To help spread the word about the Community Garden and get a little help starting some plants, I taught the kids how to make a recycled newspaper plant pot and to plant seeds.  They were most impressed with all the toilet paper rolls we had collected, and the news that compost was formerly poop had them giggling like manic bunnies.  Once unleashed, it was a sea of 4Hers swarming the project table. 

They made some really interesting looking seed pots, and I think they got most of the seeds in the right spots.

Nah, I jest.  They did a great!  I am very proud of them, and with any luck the pepper and tomato seeds will sprout and grow strong.  Eventually, maybe they will produce some lovely veg to feed some families in our community.  That's 4H for you:  Unstoppable!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Super Easy & Tastes Great!

How do they do this, anyway?

My friend Nicole gifted me an incredibly easy pizza dough recipe.  It tastes as though it did a slow rise time, but it only takes about 10 minutes to pull together. This fact alone makes it a wonderment, because in the amount of time it would take to preheat, unwrap and bake a tasteless frozen pizza, you can make a homemade pizza any day of the week.  It is, quite simply, the best dough recipe I've ever come across and it tastes fantastic.

Really really.

Nicole's Awesome Pizza Dough (makes enough for a large pizza or a nice thick pan pizza)

You'll need:  2 1/2 teaspoons active yeast; 1 cup warm water; 1 Tablespoon honey or 1 teaspoon sugar; 2 1/2 cups flour; 1 teaspoon salt; 2 Tablespoons olive oil.

Combine the water and honey/sugar and yeast in a large bowl.  Stir to combine and allow to proof (about 5 minutes).  I use this time to start the oven preheating to 450 degrees, and then go gather eggs.

Add the flour and the salt, stir until just combined.  Then reach in with your hands and smash it a little until it makes a sticky ball.  Leave this alone now for about seven to ten minutes or so.  I use this time to go feed the rabbits and then come back in and start chopping toppings. My current favorites: Baby Bella mushrooms, sundried tomatoes from my garden, a little garlic, and lots of mozzarella.  Manga, baby!

Slosh in the olive oil, and smush the dough to mix in the oil.  Your dough is now ready to spread out on a pizza pan, stretch and lay on a pizza board for transfer to a preheated pizza stone, or (my personal favorite) to smash into a large cast iron frying pan to be baked into a wonderful deep dish pizza.  Top with your sauce and meats or veg of choice, bake in a 450 degree oven until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and gooey-licious and the crust has puffed and lightly browned.

Speaking from experience:  If you opt to make a pan pizza, let it cool for five minutes before removing from the pan.  Your taste buds will thank you for not incinerating them, and the toppings stay on better, too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Little Spring Music

This time next week, it will officially be spring.  It may not look like it, but hey, a little musical celebration is in order!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

There's an App For That...

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that I am a fan of a publication called Mother Earth News.  I get so excited when I find my copy waiting for me in the mailbox (almost as excited as when I find a copy of MaryJanes Farm waiting!)  Each bimonthly copy is loaded with all kinds of interesting articles, helpful advice, and updates on current events in the sustainable living world.

Wouldn't you know that they'd come up with a useful iTunes App for all of us chicken lovers out there?  It works on the iPad or iPhone, and it lets you sort chicken breeds by use (meat, eggs, or dual purpose), as well as egg color and productivity.  Read more about the App at their website.  While I love reading about different breeds of chickens (and have a whole host of great books on the topic), this might be a good resource for folks who don't have their own chicken library to peruse and who have been pondering what kind of chicken might meet their needs.  Its a bit of a bummer that it won't work on non-Apple technology currently, but for those of you out there with i-whatevers, you might get a kick out of trying out this app on your own!

Note:  I'm not getting a kick-back for endorsing this product, I just think it is cool.  Besides, it's chicken related and I am the Chicken Lady.  A chicken App!  Who wouldn't love that?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making Hash

Ahh, the humble sweet potato.  Possibly one of my most favorite root vegetables, next to the beet.

I'm attempting to grow my own sweet potato slips, by soaking an organic sweet potato I purchased at the market in a mason jar filled with water.  With any luck, it will produce some roots and start sprouting a green vine from the top.  And once that's grown a bit, you apparently pick off the individual "slips" and let them soak in some water, where they will grow roots and then be able to be planted in the garden.  It's an intriguing garden experiment, and if it works, I'll be really excited when fall rolls around and I have some delicious roots to cure and store.  (Incidentally, those decorative sweet potato vines will grow the occasional tuber--which unfortunately taste fairly awful, and even the chickens wouldn't eat them.)

One of my favorite things to do when I am faced with a delicious sweet potato is to make a batch of homemade Sweet Potato Hash.  It's easy, it's good, and I haven't found anybody yet who doesn't seem to like it.

You'll need: one sweet potato of fairly good size; half of a Granny Smith apple; half of a yellow onion; olive oil or cooking fat of your choice (I am still on my lard kick, so used a tablespoon of that); salt and pepper to taste.

Peel the sweet potato, and cut into smallish cubes.  Don't be all anal about it, it's homemade hash for goodness sake.  You also need to chop up the apple into dices, and chop your onion as well.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and warm up your cooking fat.  Not too much, it's a fairly moist dish so you don't need too much grease.  I used a scant tablespoon of lard.

Toss in your chopped sweet potato, apple and onions and give them a good stir.  Top with a lid or piece of foil (I don't have lidded frying pans, so the foil works great pushed down gently on top of the food) and allow to cook for 5-7 minutes on medium low heat.  Remove the foil after that time, give the veg a stir, and recover for another couple of minutes.  By now, the sweet potato should have softened and the flavors are all coming together.

Remove the foil, and stirring frequently allow the hash to brown up and the moisture to evaporate a little.  This is a good time to season with a little salt and pepper.  Once everything is browned to your liking, serve hash warm with a good scrambled egg or as an accompaniment to a nice bit of roasted chicken or pork.  This makes a great alternative to breakfast potatoes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ewoks Among Us

I don't know why, but lately I've been remembering ewoks.

Yes, those little furry guys who helped the rebels in one of the Star Wars movies.  What can I say--I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek.  Am I the only one who remember this made for TV gem?

There certainly were quite a lot of things that wanted to eat those poor ewoks, wasn't there?  And somehow, that little Shirley Temple-eque girl never gets dirty or loses her headband.  I think we might have recorded it on our high tech Betamax video recorder, because who wouldn't want to watch it over and over again?

It's a fine example of sci-fi greatness, isn't it?  Still, you gotta love an ewok.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Joys of Learning Online

In addition to the books I love, I've been having a fine time checking out the webinars offered by one of my favorite resources, Seed Savers Exchange.  You might remember a post from last month about the course I took then.  Lucky for all of us, there are more yet to come!

The next webinar is offered on March 19th and will be about Seed Starting.  You can find out more information, or register for this free webinar, by looking here.  Speaking from experience, it is good to register early, and on the day of the event, be prepared to try logging in a good ten minutes before the start time.  It gets full quickly, and there is only space for 100 participants.  (For the last one, they offered a second chance course an hour later, and I was able to get into that one.  Marvelous!)

Just think, soon my little seed starting set-up will be looking like this:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Whatcha reading?"

I am one of those readers who has three or four books going at once.

One upstairs to read before bed.

Three in the living room, to page through and peruse and pick up whenever.

Two or so on the kitchen table, to read while cooking.  There is just something about reading a bit of literary goodness while stirring a pot of warming soup, isn't there?

I have one (plus a copy of the current Farmers Almanac) in the bathroom, just in case I find myself with a little time to linger.

I even have a couple in the truck.  No, I don't read and drive at the same time.  I listen to knitting podcasts or enjoy the silence during my extended days of driving hither and thither, instead.

So, what are my book selections of late?

You could call them "variations on a theme".

So sweet!  An indulgence from across the pond, this is a series of letters written between godfather and niece about gardening, with plenty of delicious village gossip!

I am such a fan of Baker Creek Seeds!  Find out about them at

I've been waiting until the weekend to dive into this one.  I have a feeling I might not surface for a while...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Homegrown Meals

I find it soul-satisfying to whip up a good dinner on things that I grew last summer, when it is snowing and blowing outside.  It may be weeks yet before my garden will be producing anything fresh, but because I planned ahead and stocked up when I had more than I needed on hand I can make a delicious meal that tastes garden fresh.

Now, I call that joyful.  Wouldn't you?

Take this for example:  a simple ratatouille made up in my old cast iron dutch oven.  From the pantry, I pulled canned tomatoes and green beans.  Then came an onion and the last of the garlic from the "root cellar" in my bedroom closet.  A rummage through the freezer unearthed peas, shredded zuchinni, and kale--all ready to be popped into the pot, brought to a low boil, and heated until slightly thick.  A bit of olive oil, a slosh of aged balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and it was ready.  I served it over some steamed whole grain rice, and finished it off with just a few shreds of asiago cheese.

Simple, delicious, hot and savory.  Exactly what a chilly late winter evening called for.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Back to the Good Life?

I have been watching past episodes of River Cottage on YouTube for days now.  I just love them, and the recipes that are discussed are simply amazing:  fresh, local and fantastically delicious.

Imagine my joy when I found this episode!  I am a huge fan of The Good Life, an old 1970s era BBC program about a couple living in the suburbs of London who decide to become self-sustainable in their backyard.  I have watched all the seasons over and over--in fact, I wore out one set of DVDs because I watched them so much!  Anyway, Felicity Kendall, the actress who played Barbara Good, appears in this episode of River Cottage: Three Go Mad.  It's back to the farm, and into the kitchen, and very funny (with good recipes too).

Isn't she just adorable?

I think I might need to go watch some Good Life again...

If you're interested in seeing The Good Life for yourself, you can likely find it through your local library system or by renting DVDs through Netflix.  In the US, the show went by the name "Good Neighbours" so check under both titles.  It's well worth seeking out!

Just a side note regarding comments:  I love reading your comments!  But, sometimes I get spam.  So, I'm going to be moderating comments for a bit to see if that helps weed them out.  Post those comments, and I'll read 'em and add 'em.  Except for you creepy spammer types--you'll get the boot!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Start Your Seeds!

It is that time of year again!  The snow may still be thick on the ground (well, at least until this weekend's warmer temperatures arrive), but inside, the lights are up, the peat pellets are soaked, and seeds are getting ready to shake themselves awake.

After the past couple of years struggling with a set up that either was too humid (causing mold issues) or too dark (not enough light from teeny fluorescent strips), I think I may have hit on the next greatest solution:

Two inexpensive greenhouse racks (roughly $22 each, but one I had already so I just had to buy the other), four inexpensive 4-foot plug in shop lights (about $10 each), and eight "daylight" bulbs (on sale for $6 per two pack--waaaaay less expensive than the fancy grow-light bulbs, which were on sale for $9.95 per bulb, sold individually), and one surge strip with built in timer ($15).  So that's just around one hundred bucks spent to make what should be one heck of a grow station. 

As you can see from the picture, it is really bright.  The rest of my house is really dark, or so it would seem from this!  Once my little seeds start poking their heads above the soil, I'll turn on these bright lights and we'll see how fast things grow. 

I'll be planting onions first, followed by tomatoes and peppers in another couple of weeks.  After that, it will be some flowers, possibly some kale or lettuces that I want to have a jump start on, and just a month before I put them outside, my watermelon.

This will be the year I get watermelon.  I mean it.  It's either this year, or never again.

(I think I said that last year, too, but this year, I really mean it.)

My heart is so happy to have these little spring rituals to observe!  There is nothing quite like the scent of fresh growing things in the house, either.  It gives you hope that soon, the snow will melt and the ground will thaw and I can once again be up to my elbows in soft, warm dirt, spending the days in my lovely garden.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Healthy Indulgence

Some weekend mornings, I actually am able to be a bit lazy.  I might have a bit of a lie-in and stay in bed for an extra hour.  Then comes the coffee, rich and dark and smelling of chickory.  And since I woke late, I usually figure it is time for a breakfast-brunch of sorts, with all the fixings.

I don't eat like this every day, nor every weekend.  But when I do, I like to make it a bit fancy-schmancy pants.  Homemade biscuits from scratch, the double smoked Amish bacon I covet, a couple of fresh eggs from the ladies, and perhaps some homemade, chunky breakfast potatoes.  Cooked in a bit of the rendered duck fat that my friend gifted me for my birthday, and tossed with red and yellow onion and a bit of freshly minced garlic, they are out of this world good.  Flavorful without being greasy, it is my breakfast potato cookery of choice.

In the middle of a busy work week, having something like this to look forward to on a lazy weekend morning is simply wonderful.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Finding Our Place

I watched a new documentary released this past weekend, A Place at the Table, which discussed the impact of hunger in America.  It was eye-opening and very discouraging.  Here we are, in the Land of Plenty, and millions of people don't have enough to eat.  Or if they do have stuff to eat, it is absolute junk as that is all that the teeny amount of money provided through "the program formerly known as food stamps" will allow.  Food deserts, hungry kids, working parents who can't afford groceries, communities reeling from illness and poverty.

This makes me even more determined to develop a solid partnership between the Food Pantry and the Community Garden.  Food donations are wonderful, and so generous, but so much of what is donated is boxed, processed starches.  A steady influx of fresh vegetables late spring through late fall will be such a gift for our families who need assistance.

Watching this movie, I wish I could do more.  But, as I keep reminding myself, I can't fix the world.  I can only try to "fix" a problem in my community.  It may be a small step, but at least it is in the right direction.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Been Learned.

Yesterday was the Third Annual Traditional & Green Skills Day, held annually at the local high school.  It's a day-long event celebrating all things country skill:  bee keeping, solar energy, raise your own goat, save those seeds!  The past couple of years I have taught classes, but this year, I was a carefree student.  It was glorious.  I took a morning of seed saving classes, and have plans to go for some more studies this summer.  After a delicious lunch, it was on to backyard mushroom culture and vermicomposting.

I now need to order some spawn and round up some cut trees, so I can have a little mushroom growth in the shady spots of the yard.  And, I finally have that worm bin I've been meaning to make for months now.  It was a super deal, following a really fun class taught by my friend Jake who is starting a red wiggler sales business.  I now have a tub filled with wet smushy cardboard, some food scraps from my fridge, and a pound of happily squirming red worms digging in to their new home.  They are residing in the bathroom next to the washing machine.

The cats aren't really sure what is happening, but seem to like jumping on top to make the second short leap to their food.

It was a really nice day, not just for the classes but also for seeing some old friends and meeting new ones.  I'm really excited about the reaction to the Seed Bank project I am organizing.  Borne out of my becoming the keeper of the spare seeds by default, following the annual Seed Swap, I am hoping that the donated seeds from Herman's Garden (Seed Savers Exchange) will have a good growing season out in area gardens and then come back, to build our stash of seeds.  Currently, some seem to have "grown legs" and are missing in action, but I will hopefully be able to track them down.  It helps to know who to call at the end of the summer, so I can maybe get some seeds back.

Anyway, it was a really good day.  I am looking forward to a lazy Sunday at home, to digest all that learning.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Night Movie

I usually try to watch something fun over the weekend.  Sometimes a romantic comedy, sometimes a freakishly scary horror film that makes it hard to sleep.  This weekend, I am feeling the allure of a quirky foreign film:

Subtitles and food and France.  What's not to love?

Friday, March 1, 2013


I volunteered to bake some "muffins" for the morning gathering at the Traditional Skills Day on Saturday.  I have been wanting to try a gluten-free breakfast bar recipe from my friend Kathie at Two Frog Home, involving seeds and some squash and all sorts of other goodness. 

But then I had an idea that maybe I should make something more friendly to the non-seed-loving-yet-gluten-free set.  So I started to ponder what I had in the cupboard, and thought:  If I leave out the flour from my favorite brownie recipe, it would be'll hold together if I just add more cocoa powder, right?  And then I thought:  Well heck.  Who doesn't like a brownie for breakfast?

This may not be your average adult's idea of a breakfast muffin, but I have a feeling the kids will think it is fabulous.