Salsa in Spite of the Hungry Chicken

Anger is a brief madness”    Horace

The chickens have been banished to the hen house for the duration (they have a great big run and it is cool in there) because it was discovered that they have discovered the Tomato Garden.  Some naughty chooks have been feasting on big fat  tomatoes.   Very Wayward behaviour.  I think we have already established that these chickens are NOT ALWAYS NICE.

So they were not let out yesterday at lunchtime and retaliated by only laying 5 eggs. Though I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt with the eggs because yesterday we were over 100F/38C again and that was the 7th day in a row. The humidity is sitting at around 80 percent + all day and night. And the thunder storms are lighting the skies every night but NOT A drop of rain for me.  Over a month with no rain now. But there you are. I wanted to have a lifestyle with no roof.

Our John  was cross as two sticks when he saw the damage to his crop. ( Is anyone else  interested in the world-wide tendency for tomatoes to be a MANS crop?) Anyway every year he carefully times the planting of sweet white onions, cilantro and jalapeno so that they all start to ripen together then he can make his fresh SALSA every day.

THE  SALSA.

Peeled and chopped Tomatoes, Cilantro, Squeeze of Lime, White Onions finely diced, Jalapeno deseeded and finely chopped, crushed garlic clove,  salt and pepper

You and I will have to decide how much of what. I have gleaned the above ingredients with careful spying. I will go out and pick it all shortly and then we can have a go at making it.

Oh, as I was writing it slowly got darker and darker and now after all my complaining about no rain we are overcome by quite a powerful little storm.  Fingers crossed for precipitation. So here it is 8.30 am,  quite dark with massive thunder and lightening and very strong winds. The screen door swung open in the wind and TonTon took this as an invitation to come in, and who should stumble in on his heels but Mary’s Cat, looking quite surprised to have discovered ‘inside.’  Hey, it has started to rain now. Excellent.  Anyway kittens are not allowed in the house until they are 6 months old and even then only for the occasional supervised visit so Mary’s Cat has been placed back out in the lovely dry cats corner  under the hammock where the others are sheltering on their bright red blankie. She is fine!

Rain through my study window. So cool how it catches in the screen outside the glass. 

Well,  I cannot go and pick all our ingredients now,  so lets look at making CROSTINI to go with the Salsa.  You saw a picture of crostini on an earlier page. If I could work out this link thing I could show you, lots to learn.

Crostini can be made like a ciabatta, just smaller grilled toasts. But I make it in the oven so that we can store it in a jar and eat it for days like crackers.  I have been making it like this for so many years that have NO idea who taught me.

If you see some tasty long french sticks at the supermarket grab them and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil in a glass bottle.. no cheap stuff.  Let the bread sit for a day or so.  We only make this crostini out of stale bread.

Turn oven on to a medium heat.

Slice your french sticks about 1/4 inch thick. Or at least slice them all the same width so they cook evenly. I pour oil into a big plate and very quickly dip the bread  on one side, then I pile the little crostini up so a wet side is sat above a dry side, osmosis  and gravity does the rest.  You may choose to brush the oil on.  Spread the little breads out on baking sheets.

Place in the oven and TURN THE TEMP DOWN TO LOW.  Turn over when one side is golden. They will take a good 30 minutes or so to bake until crunchy. Raise the temp a little if they are not browning.  Cool on paper towels.  You may choose to shake a little salt on them when they are still hot.  Just a little.  I have no problems with  a little added salt from my kitchen. 

Well, I am going out into the rain to  gather the ingredients for Salsa and talk Our John into making some for lunch.   I will be watching. Domestic espionage!  Still dark and stormy.  I love thunder and lightening.  And Rain.

c. 

Sustainable in the city, while making cream cheese.

My beautiful daughter who lives and works in London called me the other day. She wanted to remind me very gently that not everyone who wants to live a sustainable life lives on a farm.  Could I maybe write something that  she and her friends would find applicable to their lives too. And she is absolutely right. Even though I would like you all to rush out and buy an old house with a barn and a couple of acres and get to it. Most of you just cannot do that.  I cannot believe MY luck having an old house, a barn and a few acres.  So I am thinking of you guys in your apartments, sometimes without even a doorstep to put a pot of rosemary on. Oh no that is so sad!

As I am thinking( out loud) I am making yoghurt.  So excuse any mistakes today, i am multi tasking. But sustainable.  I think it comes down to how my children and I used to live when we were young. We worked hard and our life was more subsistence that sustainable. But I think there is one big similarity. Sustainable lifestyles do not waste anything. Subsistence lifestyles cannot afford to waste anything.

So  sustainable really is available to everyone.  We all need to think about making sure we can use the majority of what we bring  into our homes and properties.  That includes the packaging.  I buy a laundry powder that comes in a big bucket because the bucket can be re-used.  Old tins for nails and flowers. Yes, yes we all know about recycling.  I won’t lecture.  Mostly I think we need to somehow find local growers and eat that fresh food.  And arrange our lives so that we have time to cook and eat it.

If you don’t have a garden which is growing food for you. Go to the markets and see what is fresh and cook that, instead of taking a list and buying imported out of season foods.  Throw the hamster out of its cage and put a chook in there instead, she will eat all your food scraps and give you an egg each day.   Actually a lot of those little London gardens are a perfect size for a couple of hens when you think about it. You can have chickens up in Chicago but not roosters which seems fair.  Or have a worm farm in the carpark of your building to gobble up all the paper packaging.  Hang your knickers to dry on the shower rail instead of using the dryer – that always pleases the flat mates!!  Wear gumboots when you go shopping.! Hitch your pants up with baling twine!. Cut the sleeves out of your winter Tshirts for the summer and no hemming! Live for a day as though you are your grandfather. Only buy stuff grown or made in the country you live in! (Maybe that one is a bit difficult.)

Mostly slow down. Some things take a few days to make, like yoghurt. Let yourself take a break and get back to what is important to you. Decide what is important to you.

Now here is something you all can make.. it is very slow, very good for you and it takes two days to make so plan ahead. Lovely creamy cheese.

Making cream cheese is actually pretty easy to do in any kitchen. You can even make it with the pasteurised organic whole milk you buy at the supermarket. Try not to buy anything that says Ultra Pasteurised though.

Today I am making the first step which is the yoghurt.  We will be eating our creamy yoghurt cheese tomorrow. This is why I do not have a photo of that yet, I will do that tomorrow. If all goes well. because sometimes it doesn’t.

Heat 4 cups of milk  to 185F /85C (almost boiling) then cool to 115F/46C (warm).  Cool it properly, any hotter than 115F will kill the culture, so sometimes it is a good idea to have a thermometer handy. I pour my mixture into a jug, fill the pot with ice and cool it that way. I know, I know, I am not supposed to be impatient.

Now,  stir in 1/4 cup of fresh organic, plain Greek yoghurt (I use Danon). Mix a little of the warm milk with the yoghurt then pour back in and stir for one minute until thoroughly mixed in. Pour into  very clean glass jars with lids. Place the jars into a chilli bin (cooler)  with hot water in the bottom  and close the lid.  OR on a day like today (very hot again), wrap the jar in a little blankie and stand somewhere warm out of the sun.  OR if you have a yoghurt maker, then do what it says to do. 

After about 6 hours it should be thickened, after about 12 hours it will be set and a little tart.

The next step will turn your yoghurt into a very tasty creamy cheese dip or spread. Now, empty your jar of  yoghurt into a bowl and stir in 1 tsp of salt.

Line a colander with muslin, or an old pillow case, or a big piece of very clean very white very thin fabric and pour your mixture in.  Careful, pour slowly.  Gather the fabric up making a bag for your mixture, tie it at the top  and secure it above something so it can drain into a bowl.  After most of the fluid is through I drain overnight in the fridge.  The left over fluid is whey which is loaded with protein.  Mary’s Cat will have that.   Tomorrow -scrape the cheese from the fabric and EAT! You can store it in a container in the fridge for a few days as well if you like. 

I add pepper, a little chili, finely chopped onions, or spring onions, maybe salami and onions. My mother would have put in chopped apricots and walnuts and sometimes dates I think.  Eat with crostini or crackers or lovely fresh slices of cucumber.  It is also a great top layer for your quiche, or middle layer in the lasagne.

Remind me to give you the lasagne recipe.

Now that my yoghurt is working I will go back out and slowly check on the fencer.  He prefers to work by himself.. Well he does!!

c

Murder in the Chook House

I am going to tell you a gruesome tale. But not quite yet. Nice story first.

Your Kitty has been named. Her name is Mary’s Cat.  We know a little more of her story now after talking to the neighbours. So a few days ago this fellow and his wife were working on their house over a mile away as the crow flies,  and this wee bundle of misty fur wobbled up their drive and presented itself at their feet. They were leaving for Texas in a few hours  (they will be away for two weeks) so they gave it a bit of their lunch and then went back to shutting everything up and could not find it again.  So they left. 

This was the afternoon of the hottest day this year. To get from their house to ours Mary’s Cat must have walked down this road, then  turned the corner and walked half a mile down another road and then all the way down our lane.  (A total of well over a mile)  Or it walked through two 40 acre corn fields. Which ever way you look at it this tiny cat who sleeps  stretched out on my hand walked a terribly  long way in one night on those tiny little paws. Its legs are about four inches long.  In the middle of a heatwave.  Do you think cats have angels?

So I guess it is no wonder that it has ruined feet, messy lungs, no voice left and just sleeps all day long. But today it walked with only a little limp, actually walked across the verandah and sat like a proper cat, without laying its head flat on the ground.  It is a strange silent watchful cat, Mary’s Cat. So as soon as it is quicker on its feet we will let it join the barnyard.  Yes, I will keep it.

Now for the breaking news.  Do not read this to your children.

Last night I was in the chook house gathering the eggs. I croon a lot in the chook house to the chickens because often I have to lift them gently off the eggs, and set them on the ground so that I can steal all the eggs they are sat upon.  We have to be calm during this exercise because they do not want me to have their eggs at all. And mishandling a layer can cause problems internally so I am gentle.  All the other  chickens were puddling about, looking sweet and fat, and clucking around scratching in the dirt.  Doing what they do. So I am leaning over this fat chook  in the nesting box lifting it out with two hands telling it gently, now no pecking me,  it’s OK. When I hear this absolute ruckus behind me.  This terrible escalating whirlwind of sound.

I turn and see all the hens in the chook house in a tight circle attacking something they have on the ground,  hens all pecking and ripping and shrieking at something I cannot see for the hysteria.   Dust was flying, feathers and claws flying. The noise and frenzy was straight from a horror movie. I can only describe it as hackling and reeking and shrawking.  And loud!.   They had caught a pigeon stealing their food  –  the pigeon did not have a chance, it was killed very fast  and very bloodily with no hesitation, by a gang of sweet fat chickens! Who I treat so GENTLY!

I have to say that I got such a fright that  I dropped the wriggling  chicken I was holding, grabbed my bowl of  eggs and RAN out of the henhouse at top speed. Slammed the door and latched it firmly. Then rushed  back to the house.

Now I know that I am developing a wee barnyard thing here. And I have to be OK with a little survival of the fittest.  But THAT was just NOT NICE BEHAVIOUR!

Here is a nice picture of a weed to take our minds off it.  The only thing I can find this afternoon is a weed! Everything else is sleeping in some shady hollow.

Hope you don’t get nightmares!.  We will be fencing this weekend. Joy!

c

Dairy = Daisy and the Bees are Swimming.

This is not my barn. It is an empty barn down the road. It is waiting for a cow.  It has been waiting for a long time. A sleeping beauty. We have many abandoned barns around here.

I decided to buy Daisy because she was pretty, had big brown eyes and long, long legs. Also she was an Ayrshire, a breed of Scottish origin, known for its ability to give good creamy milk on forage.  I want to make my own tasty cheese and butter and drink my own milk.    I cannot support those big dairy farms where the cows never even SEE grass standing on their carousels and being milked three times a day. So we needed our own gentle pasture raised  milk cow.

We decided not to feed her or our beef cows bulk feed field corn. They may have sweetcorn  grown on our land in the season but only if they eat their greens first! Corn is too acidic for a cows stomach. They cannot digest it. And yes most of the industrially grown  field corn  is genetically modified.  (Here she goes again).  Also as it has been engineered for maximum yield per acre the corn has lost a frightening amount of protein over the last few years, this has been replaced by starchy sugars. ie fat, sick cows. So we decided – no field corn for our cows. Which means we needs lots and lots of grass and hay.

Here is baby Daisy at 5 days old.

So sweet.. look at her skinny wee legs.

Now leap forward Two years and this is Daisy this morning.  As I got the shot she galloped straight at me and skidded to a stop just short of my head.   Like some cartoon cow, you can almost hear the pretend screeching and skidding sounds.  She was probably making them under her breath. You know how cows are! She does this all the time trying to scare an apple up out of my pockets!

She still is a cute cow though.  Big and tall. She is a nuzzly cow.  Always looking for treats. Beautiful big healthy grass-fed cow.  I am hoping that she is pregnant too. A few weeks ago she had a visit from the vet. We are hoping for  a virgin birth in March.  The vet will visit in a few weeks to see if she is enciente. So stay tuned.

So we have chickens, cows (one dairy cow, one beef heifer and one beef steer) and the sheep, ( Mama and her progeny – Mia and the two Murphys who are destined for christmas dinners – and Hairy MacLairy the ram)  All of whom eat a variety of grasses and legumes and forbes ( a fancy name for weeds! Don’t you love it).  When you get down to it we are grass farmers. Weed farmers.  Worm growers. Lovely.

An important element of a  sustainable outfit is diversity, both animals and plants, so that one metaphorically and sometimes literally feeds the other. It is all intertwined.   As long as you are growing what grows naturally.  But everything depends on the ground.  The ground we walk on. The earth from which all things should grow. The fundamental building block  of a good property is good SOIL.

The other reason for having cows is that cows are brilliant players in the game of soil health. As long as they have access to  good food they give the good straight back, with a big plop.  Cows merrily drop all the components for good soil all over the fields all day long, and then lift their tails and water it in! Later my feathered manure spreaders peck at the manure and scatter it all about and drop a bit of their own in there as well.  After a few years of this all those lovely worms, and soil creatures (I am desperate to see a dung beetle or a mole – both of whom are great signs of soil health) and most especially those micro organisms that promote soil and plant health, will return.  It will take some time though. I am trying to be patient.

We love to see people catch the self-sufficiency, sustainably managed, small holding, lifestyle block, homesteading, getting back to nature, whatever you want to call it, bug. Save the Barns.   Feed themselves. Mitigate the  destructive monoculture industrial growing. Go and find an old house with a broken down barn and three or four acres and get out a hammer and  a shovel and a dog and start making a go of it.  It can be done and it is immensely satisfying.  Instantly satisfying.  But GO SLOW. Do not overstock. If you overstock you are becoming like THEM!  Have more grass than you need. Plan for your lambs and calves to be born  outside when you have lots of grass and before the flies. Milk during the summer. Fatten your pig on your milk.  Plant a fattening field to fatten lambs and steers in the late summer. Take your stock to the abattoir when the grass starts to die off.  Plan according to your climate.  It is all so sensible really this way. Plant your flowers and trees every year and make sure you sit on your verandah and admire them every evening. It is about living the life. The easy way.   There is no destination. We are not going to get rich. We just want to live like rich people, eating good food.

Here is the barn my new neighbours, who are retiring from the city, are fixing up.

I will keep you updated.  Because it can be done, he said. He is also rebuilding the old house and his wife is having air conditioning no matter what! She cannot believe that I refuse to turn our air on.

Well, I have a chook standing around in the chook house just not looking happy. I cannot see anything wrong with her except for this lethargy and loss of appetite.  I will isolate her in the hospital wing ( an old dog crate in the run) Then I will dose her and the whole flock with extra garlic,  and yoghurt and thyme (I just mix it with their food) .. then I will give the same to the cows and the sheep.  Twice a day for a few days actually.  All water barrels will be emptied scrubbed and refilled fresh with cider vinegar in them, just to be sure.  It may just be the heat. Bit of a bore but there you are. Speaking of water. i popped outside to get your last shot of the day: Look!

The thing about raising animals and plants  and bees using sensible organic methods is to pay attention and ignore nothing.  Observe. Did you just see a bee swimming?

Why I believe you did.   Hot day I guess when the bees start swimming.! Now watch her climb out. Clever wee bee.  Later my friends,  c

Puss and Gumboots

Well your kitty survived the night and here he/she is with a wet little nose and a bowl of milk and honey.  Still limping and slow but at least it has given up on  that piteous crying. And yes – ( thank you for all your heart-wrenching messages ..) she is kind of cute I guess. 

Today I have to drive up to the airport (about two hours) to pick up The Matriarch, my mother in law, great friend and chief taster.  But before I go I wanted to show you what I picked this morning. 

Very very early this morning because it is terribly hot today already. But that is Ok as I am going to spend most of today  driving The Matriarchs’  refrigerator on wheels with the air conditioning ON, up to Chicago and then back again.

Anyway so I pulled up these  beetroot. I Love beetroot. Here they calls them Beets. I am growing a fair few because this year I want to put some in  jars and store them.

I will  quickly tell you my favorite way to prepare beetroot as a side dish. The tang of the beets and sweetness of the balsamic are just great. If you are drinking a corona and have a lime on the counter just a tiny squeeze of lime at the end is lovely too.

Wash Beets, trim leaves off, leaving about an inch of stalk on. Boil until soft but not too soft. Cool. Slice about 1/4 inch thick. Heat a cast iron pan then melt a good tablespoon of butter, throw in a few  dill seeds and grind in some pepper and a pinch of sea salt, toss for a few seconds. Add your sliced beetroot and cook through quickly  turning until they are sizzling in the hot butter. Barely cover in balsamic vinegar, turn the heat down and cook gently until the balsamic is a heavy sheen on the beets. It will evaporate quite quickly so pay attention. No wandering outside to sit on the swing chair with that Corona until you are done! Remove from heat, cool and serve at room temperature topped with chopped fresh dill.

DIVINE.  My beets are  in the pot  and when I get back from the airport I will go to the second stage.

You will also see that behind the Beets is a pile of  Sweetcorn. (yes sweetcorn season is here and it will be a short one because of this massive heat.) Sweetcorn pleases everyone.

Our John cooks it on the grill. Gently peel the green husks back, do not rip off, extract all the sticky silks, re-wrap in its green, soak for a while in cold water, (now you can sit in the swing chair) then onto the grill for however long it takes depending on the heat of your fire, we do this every night while there is corn. 

But wait there is more to the corn story. After I have finished picking  enough for us for a meal,  I  haul the entire corn-stalk out of the ground and throw it over the fence to the cows and sheep.  They love sweetcorn stalks.  Especially now that the grass is turning to upright hay in the fields. I used to chop the stalks  up for the young ones but then I got lazy one day and just yanked them out hurled them over the fence and to my delight the animals  just gnawed away for hours eventually consuming everything.   So there you are laziness has its own reward! Of course when the chickens get in on the act,  it is quite the free for all.

Just now I took the camera out to grab a few shots for you  and look at this sad shot of my grapevines.  All the upper third of the vines look like this.  The Aftermath of the Beetle. However as I said before we will not have to summer prune that much this year.   And with it being so hot and dry.  Well, Maybe we will get some grapes.  And then a few bottles of wine. Maybe? Poor poor vine.

And here are a couple of the bee  hives. With their lids propped open to help the bees cool inside their hives a little. It must be SO hot in there.  It is over 100 degrees out there now.  The topmost supers on these hives are smaller because they are for gathering honey.  We have high hopes for these little boxes. I will take you out in a few weeks and we will see how they are doing!

You will remember that both these hives lost a swarm (about half their bees ran off!). I did capture these swarms and they were returned to new hives, one of which is your Blog hive. But with the loss of so many bees it will be interesting to see what honey production we do get.

Here is your Blog hive. Living the best bee life as it is still under a tree! Note that it now has it’s second story. They seem happy and are very busy.

You all have a good day.

I am off  onto the Highways.

c

I am not keeping it

Well I came back from walking the dogs down the creek path early this morning and look what I found trying to haul its miserable  limping cobweb covered self, up my verandah steps. Crying piteously. With all its fluff stuck up on end and such a big sad look.  Where did this come from? And no,  I am NOT keeping it.  I do not do strays. I am NOT a cat person.   NO.  I told you.  I did give it milk and then a wee bit of my breakfast. Well it was staring at me through the screen what was I to do? But I am NOT keeping it. That is quite enough of that talk.  Anyway it appears to be a little girl cat and you know how girl cats multiply!

No. We are here today to talk about Quiche. Because I really want to share this with you. Quiche is a seasonal dish in that the filling is determined by the gardens. At the moment we have piles of zuchinni and onions. Sometimes I use butternuts and sweet potatoes.  Or mushrooms and spinach with feta.  I have also made a quiche with feta, avocado and spinach. So use what you have. But with spinach and mushrooms and any wet vegetables make sure you get the excess moisture out first.  The Best part of this Quiche is this base. It is so easy and crunchy.  have fun with your flavours. 

Everyone's a critic!

QUICHE

Heat oven to 375F

The BASE

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup flour

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup water

Fresh herbs.  Today I added rosemary.

Mix altogether until it is firm and will form a soft ball.  With fingertips pat gently into greased  quiche dish covering  the base and sides of the dish.   

THE FILLING

Beat 4 or 5 fresh eggs with a little fresh cream or milk.  Salt and pepper to taste.

 1 thinly sliced onion

1 thinly sliced zuchinni  

About 6 thinly sliced mushrooms (dry sauté the mushrooms in a pan first to extract the moisture. )

Alternate layers of vegetables onto the base. Divide 1 Cup grated tasty/sharp cheese and ½ cup parmesan cheese throughout the layers, leave some for the top. 

In between layers I added the egg mixture until it was all poured through.

Top with cheese.

Cook for about 50 – 60  minutes until golden brown.  Cool in its dish on a cake rack.

Perfect for lunch today.  And so that is what I am going to do. Have lunch.

Have fun with your cooking.  What are you having for lunch?. Don’t eat anything you can’t recognise as food!   Well I had better go and check on the little interloper.  Cooder is probably looking after it!  See you again soon.   c

 


Real Hens Eat Quiche.

Hey it just started to rain.  Oh no, its gone. Well there was a wee bit of something. It was spitting. Though the sky spitting on me is not a sweet analogy. We have not had rain  since the middle of June so I guess even those few spits are welcome.  Shortly we are going to have to resort to some kind of rain dance. And that is not a picture I want anyone carrying around  in their heads for the day. And yes it is still hot, but there is a wee breeze, so all is not lost. This is a chook photo from my archives.  I will tell you about it soon. 

Now we were going to discuss chickens on the farm. They are pretty important.  Because they are the clean up guys. They are practically camped under the apple trees this week. When I weed the flower and vegetable gardens all the weeds that are deemed edible, which is most of them, are thrown into the chook run.  They eat left overs from the house kitchen. They turn over the hay in the barn every day looking for tasty morsels. they have dust baths in the most inconvenient places but what can you do. They work for free. They are my waste disposal units.

I have two flocks. One spends their morning in the chook house being good girls and laying their eggs before coming out in the afternoon to make trouble. The other flock is smaller and  sleeps in the rafters of the barn with the guineas.  See below: These are the guineas, these are not chickens. And yes these birds are really as ugly as they appear. Their job is to wander about and eat bugs. But they just wander about and make a sound similar to a bug that needs his bicycle chain oiled. They squeak about the property. And they don’t even eat Japanese Beetles! People say they are good watchdogs but they don’t do that either, more often than not they saunter slowly in front of the approaching car thinking squeaky thoughts.  TonTon used to herd them but he has given up on that because they take no notice of him anymore.

Anyway back to the chickens. Their eggs are fed to every animal on the property. The cats dogs, cows and sheep all line up for their daily eggs and milk.  I have tried every recipe known to man or woman that uses lots of eggs. I cannot wait to get a pig and then I can feed the little oink eggs and milk  as well and won’t he be YUM!  Here is Rooster 3.  Not pretty either really. 

And so to all those egg shells. These get crushed then thrown into the vegetable gardens.  Good for tomatoes evidently and a great deterrent  for  all manner of little crawlies in the soil. Calcium for the soil. I also put crushed shell into the worm farm.  I must tell you about the worm farm sometime soon.

The chickens are the manure spreaders in the fields. Now anyone with a weak stomach may not want to read this paragraph. But the moment the chook house flock is let out in the afternoon, they race each other to the cow pats. They jump into them and scratch about looking for seeds. Flicking clumps of cow poo in all directions.  It is quite revolting to watch but perfect for fertilising the fields.  Sometimes I feed Daisy oats (which pass right through her undigested), to encourage the chickens in their job as farm manure spreaders.  Isn’t that just awful!  I feel so bad. OK moving on. Here is a nice picture of lambs to take the nasty image of flying poo out of your head.

Hen Health. To raise animals naturally we must always be proactive about their health.  Cider vinegar in the water once a week. Yoghurt mixed into their feed once a week.   Garlic when you think about it.  Lots and lots of green.  Make sure they have oyster shell and a varied diet.  In the winter our girls will not take a step out that door, they HATE the snow, so sometimes I throw a slice of hay in for them to munch during the cold times. I used to give them a heat lamp when it was below freezing but the cats kept shuffling the chickens out of the way and sleeping under the lamp all day, so we gave up. (See First Image. Unless I tell you,  all photos are taken on the day I write , but I could not resist including this old one of Thing Two as a heat seeking cat.  Bad cat)

So there you are.  Chickens, chooks, hens. They are one of the pivots of my little farm system. Our attempt to live sustainably without waste.

Now I have started a flag counter on this page so we can see where our readers are visiting from as a  bit of interest.  So far though I have had 379 visits. Thank you so much for dropping by.  I am loving it.  And your comments are great.

Now, I am going to go and make quiche. I will use todays eggs, and zuchinni and onion from the garden.  This is a popular Buyswheeler recipe so I will write it  up for you tomorrow. Though I need to warn you that my recipes are of  the ‘a bit of this and a bit of that’ variety.

Talk to you again soon.

c

Ten Tips on surviving a Heatwave without Airconditioning.

I know I was going to talk with you about the chooks/chickens/hens. But before I go there:  I am sorry to do this to all my readers who are in the winter on the other side of the world shivering quietly in your corners but evidently it is going to be Really HOT here this week. Everyone is talking about the heat index here.  So I thought I would too. But I  was not sure what it means so I looked it up in good old Wikipedia:

The heat index (HI) is an index that combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature .. blah blah blah..

In other words : if you feel hot, the heat index tells you that you don’t feel hot enough yet and you should be feeling hotter!

(I thought I would add a few chook photos so you don’t feel sad  that I  am not giving you the chicken talk. This is my number one rooster. )

So, an Excessive Heat Warning is in effect for central Illinois from  today until Friday. They are predicting 115F (46C) or something.  Anyway it is going to be a wee bit Hot here for the next week, and we are all supposed to be scorched right into the ground if we go outside. We are to  make frequent checks on the elderly or people without airconditioning.  And that would be us without the air-conditioning.

So I thought I would share with you the 10 things I do to keep cool in a heatwave without airconditioning.

1.Get up really, really early and do as much as you can BEFORE the sun comes up. It is always cooler in the dark.  Carry a torch.  Work in your nightie. Wear your gumboots. Do not leap with fright when a heavy breathing sheep appears out of the dark to see what you are doing filling up the water troughs at 4 am in the morning and dumping loose salt into buckets. Open all the gates that lead into the shade. Do not let the ram in with your ewes by mistake though and then run around in the dark without a torch, wishing you had put on your gumboots and trying to sort it all out again before something dreadful occurs.

2. As the day goes on do NOT look at the temperature. Turn off any media devices that may shout out the temperature. Banish all temperature guages.  If you are surprised by a weather report put your hands over your ears and makes loud mumbly noises. Knowing it is hot makes you hotter. You do NOT want to know!

3. Put the sprinkler on TOP of your house and make some rain. Just the sound of rain on your roof makes you cooler.

4. Eat really COLD watermelon, on the verandah, sweating gently in front of a fan.  The fan cools the sweat on your miserable body.  You may idly spit the seeds into the garden to amuse yourself.

(For those of you with short attention spans here is a picture of the cock fighting rooster. He is as mean as he looks, he eats mice and other roosters.) 

5. Avoid any alcoholic drink unless it is really cold beer. Put an UMBRELLA in it. An umbrella makes the drink taste colder. However if your husband comes in with the last pick of the peaches and begs you to drink fresh  peach daiquiri’s you may have one or maybe two. You do not need an umbrella for the daiquiri.  Though a lime is nice.

6. Embrace the heat, think of it as an extended  steam treatment for your skin. Sweating is good. Think of the impurities you are sweating out and the weight loss. There has to be weight loss.  I am sure I read that somewhere. Maybe you could wrap yourself up in rags like a mummy or smear yourself in mud or something and pretend you are at a spa.  Or do that mad yoga thing that they do in really hot rooms! Please check with your doctor first. My doctor, who I have not seen now for twenty years or something, said NO.

7. Take any footwear off your feet – that includes the heels. (What were you thinking?) Take  all your closefitting clothing OFF and put on a really big bad taste Hawaiian shirt, (ask your brother-in-law for one I bet he has dozens hidden in the back of his wardrobe) then suitably attired, go and lie in the hammock, under a mosquito net and refer to line 1 of Instruction 6.

8. Drink water. Tons of it. The loo is usually the coolest spot in the house anyway, so pour that water down your throat! If you have not peed for an hour you are dehydrating. Your brain is beginning to shrivel up. Your skin is beginning to sag. Drink more! I drink my water out of a wine glass, for some reason I drink more when it is in a wine glass.

9. Lay about in the pool.  Pretend you are cleaning it for the whole afternoon. If you don’t have a pool – SHIFT!  Wear suntan lotion, a sunhat and sunglasses IN the pool.  Remember NO suntan lotion is waterproof that is a lie! Or better still float a really big sun umbrella (not the umbrella from your drink) in the pool.  I am  not sure exactly how you should do this but I think it is a great idea! Oh and do NOT dry off after a swim, this is always a mistake.

10. DO NOT SAY.. “God, I am hot” because The Gods will make it hotter just where you are sitting.  You will be in an oozing  puddle of hotness.  Instead say, ” you know I think it is starting to cool off.” and if anyone says anything to the contrary refer to Instruction 2.

There. Don’t we all feel better already.

(Here is a picture of some little chicks for you. These guys will hang out under the big trees all day with their mama.  They are part of the barn flock.  Very sadly their daddy  (Rooster 3 who is camera shy) has feathers on his feet, so they will eventually have feathers on their feet too,  which will make them look a bit silly. So far they are just cute.) 

OK I am going to have another go at making mint sauce. The last one did not work.  I will let you know when I find a recipe that is simple enough for me! Nothing like a hot kitchen on a hot day.  Good for the skin. Actually I think it is cooling off already!!.

If you are in a hot place : well you know what to do. If you are in a cold place: thinking of US being  in the hot place may or may not make you feel better about being in a cold place.

OK, now I promise I will start thinking about writing about the chickens, chooks and hens for next time.

‘Til then.

c

PS If you want the recipes for anything I talk about leave me a comment and I will pop it in a Post for you!

First : plant flowers for the bees and butterflies

 First:  When we began to develop  the place I planted flowers. The flower garden is such an important part of ANY property.  Especially any place that I am. I was new here so I had to do my  homework and find the flowers that LOVE neglect and love to live right HERE. I had to  find plants that were  native to our environment. Among others – Coneflowers are one of the natives that grow really happily around here. And the label said native and invasive and it has a bright juicy flower –  so I bought one of each and then divided them  and just let them have at it!

Once I  had my flowers then I got hordes of these guys flying about.  I have a number of flower gardens that are getting bigger every year, well Our John was sick of mowing grass  anyway.   And of course our bees need millions of  flowers.
 And yes the gardens are all about the bees. However sometimes other insect life creates problems. We are in a land of extremes. Here the pests come in droves, stay awhile and then leave just as suddenly. The year before last we had a plague of aphids – you could not breathe, they just stopped everything, the air was dark with them, it was so bizarre and deeply unsettling.  Almost biblical except they were APHIDS!  We had to hold cloths over our faces as we ran through these immense clouds of migrating aphids to and from the barn to the house.  The animals were almost driven mad, these tiny tiny bugs took up all the air.  They were coughing desperately trying to take a breath without inhaling the little buggers. They were here two days in a row then gone.

And look below for pest of the week, an introduced pest – this guy is not a native and  he does not take up my air but this Japanese Beetle eats tons and tons of leaves. He eats everything in sight, silently. We have had trees stripped of all the green in their leaves, just left with these miserable skeletal leaves.  He is voracious, greedy and my ENEMY!

 This year they landed in the asparagus and then decimated the grape vine.   In a day.  I was appalled. I do not use pesticides. But you can kill them as long as you get the timing right. When they are really dense. Get the dishwashing liquid, (I use Dawn – I know it is not natural but something had to be done) water it down a bit, load up a wee sprayer and SOAK them.  Just douse them in the stuff. I stood out there two nights in a row (after all good self respecting bees and butterflies and husbands were in bed) and sprayed with my little hand sprayer until my little hand about dropped off.  Slowly working up and down the rows. And they DIED!  I was thrilled.  I was cackling with delight. Doing a little murderous caper. I was the sweet old lady knitting at the guillitine.

Though we are a wee bit worried that the wine will taste soapy this year. And there is no need for a summer prune just yet as most of the leaves have gone.. eaten in just a few hours. But fingers crossed.  No other insects were harmed.  And maybe we will still get grapes for the wine. Our first iddy biddy vintage this year so stay posted for that.

But I have digressed.  Back to the journey into the cycle of sustainable farming.   (I am still not happy with the label) But as I said: The first thing I did when I began to develop our little property was plant flowers,  (and now I have this wonderful insect life for my birds and flowers for the bees and me) and after the flowers came the vegetable gardens and next I got a box of chickens delivered in the mail, then we bought Daisy.

Tomorrow I will tell you about the chickens and how they fit in. They do more than lay eggs you know.  I will go out and take some shots of them now.  Then I will make another batch of pickles.   And maybe some crostini to go with the pickles. And what are we  going to have for dinner?.  I had better go out into the garden and see what is ready!

Well, I guess it is crostini and pickles and cheese for dinner. Did I tell you that I made that pound cake?  It did not make it to the camera though.. got pounced on!

Talk to you soon.

c

Sunday Brunch – cooking in your pajamas

Bad bugs eating my vines.  Pesticide Free is such a Chore sometimes . I am whining about the threat to my wine….. Japanese Beetles but there is a way to deter them. I will tell you about that next time. For now Sunday Brunch:

Breakfast Potato Cakes.  (for two and a half).. I am usually one and a half when it comes to these. This is really my daughters recipe and I have not asked her permission so HUSH! But I told you I would do breakfast.!

Grate two potatoes, finely chop one small onion, add a sprinkle of salt,  wrap in an old thin tea towel and wring all the water out of it. Give it all you got! Get as much moisture out as you can.  Empty  the potato and onion mixture into a bowl. Sops adds finely sliced bacon  now too but you can choose.

Add one egg,  tblsp finely chopped fresh herbs of choice (I use parsley or thyme or basil or coriander).  Pepper.  I am big on pepper less on salt.

Mix. So simple I can’t bear it!!

Heat cast iron skillet, or electric frypan. When it is HOT add a tablespoon of butter. Melt. Place a  good spoonful of the mixture at a time into the pan, making about 6 little potato cakes.  Now, turn your heat low and let them cook. No poking, no turning. Do not harrass the potato cake! When you can see the sides crinkling up and browning (about 5 minutes).  Carefully flip each one over, press gently with your egg slice to flatten slightly and cook the other side for another 5 minutes.  Take your time, keep the heat on  medium-low and let the cake really cook and get nice a crispy.   Both onions and potatoes need to be well cooked.  About 10 minutes should do it.

Serve hot, hot. With fresh parsley  or chopped chives tucked in.

Tonight we had these potato cakes for dinner ( I added cilantro and lime)  with freshly picked beans in a red curry sauce. This is why the photo is so rubbish, we were desperate to eat them while they were hot!

YUM! let me know how they turn out.

c