Although we are not technically on summer vacation yet, we still tried to enjoy the first official weekend of summer to its fullest.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
We heard the puppies over at Juniper Moon Farm were getting bigger by the second so we had to rush right over and get some cuddles!
Oona is completely in love. She begged and begged to bring one home RIGHT NOW.
I can’t believe how fast they are growing! They are making adorable puppy sounds now – barking and growling as the play.
I am in love with the two biggest, fattest ones. They were totally chill, happy to be snuggled.
We’ve decided to call ours “Orzo”, once we have him picked out.
Much to Oona’s disappointment it will be quite awhile before a puppy comes home with us; he has to stay with his brothers and father as long as we can let him to learn how to be a good guard dog.
Not that Susan, Zac or Caroline are complaining. More time for puppy love for them!
Today I gave the kids a break from math and spelling, packed them into the car and drove an hour away for our yearly spring tradition – cherry picking!
It’s a beautiful drive out to the mountains and the girls oohed and aahhed at all the big old historic estates in Albemarle County that we passed on the way.
It’s perfect timing, too, because we just ran out of our last jar of Brandied Cherry Jam that I made last year. And, like last year, we picked waaaaaaaaay more than planned.
In all, we came home with just under 20 pounds of cherries. At $3.99 a pound…….you do the math. Every year it’s the same. We plan to not spend too much, and we pick too many. I gripe about it as I am paying for them, I gripe about it all the way home. I gripe about it as I stand and wash them for what seems like hours.
Then, after we’ve eaten our fill and I am planning out what to make with them I always say “We didn’t pick enough cherries!”
I washed, de-stemmed, and packed into ziploc freezer bags about 13 pounds of cherries. They’re dead easy to freeze, and this way I don’t have to make jam right this second. I am, in fact, waiting until I can order some Weck jars this year.
Because Weck jars are prettier that’s why. And yes, they are ALL going to become jam.
It was THAT good.
Okay, you can file this in the “Better Late Than Never” category. It’s been busy around here! There’s LAND CLEARING going on!
It’s been a bit slow going, but it’s been good because our landscaper is really looking out for how the land will look and how best to use it without working against what we’ve got. The good news is there’s a lot of really good trees (read: really old, tall, straight, hardwood trees). Enough, in fact, that we can sell some to pay for clearing the land and have some left to look nice and provide shade during the heat of summer. It’s going to be great, y’all!
We did take a break from land and house work Saturday to go to Juniper Moon Farm’s Spring 2012 Shearing Party.
And I am so glad we did! We got to see so many friends that don’t live close enough and spend some time with the animals.
Maddie provided face painting fun for the kids.
The geese behaved themselves quite well.
We also got to meet Susan’s new cow, Luna!
She’s ridiculously sweet.
Our friend Michelle was there with her adorable baby. Hi Michelle!!!!
Paul and Erin. He was probably talking about buses. That’s pretty much what he does these days.
Emily got to talk about her crazy mad skills as a shearer in between working the sheep. She’s only recently back from a stint at the shearing olympics in New Zealand. (Seriously, google “Golden Shears”).
We all got some Jerry love.
Some more than others.
I’m not sure, but I think Jerry remembers Paul.
He spent a good five minutes trying to pull Paul’s shirt off. Neve thought Jerry either really liked or really hated that red shirt.
But after he spent an equal amount of time trying to tear off Paul’s ears I decided he definitely remembers Paul.
I sort of finished a sweater for Oona.
As in, it’s done but she won’t let me have it back long enough to properly block it.
The pattern is called Boheme, and I used Juniper Moon Farm’s Sabine. It knit up super fast, and I added two little i-cord flowers, similar to the Boheme sweater that was gifted to Oona in December by our friend Suzy Q.
The buttons were some adorable Jemima Puddleduck ones I found at JoAnns ages ago, and was thrilled to finally have something that matched so perfectly!
Hopefully at some point it will get blocked so I can get a decent picture of the lace portion on the bottom.
Right now the garden is bursting with all manner of leafy greens. Lettuces, kale, spinach. Even the beet greens are beginning to cry for picking. SO many greens, so little time!
This week we are still enjoying an overabundance of kale but also we are able to mix things up with the spinach that is beginning to take over. I am rather fond of spinach myself: for all my talk of loving growing and picking kale, I think I may actually prefer the spinach! There’s an unending variety of things you can do with spinach: soups, dips, Spanakopita! I like to use fresh spinach in place of shredded lettuce in my tacos. It does well in a regular ol’ salad, and even better in one with strawberries!
This week I made my go -to dish for any vegetable for which I have too much: risotto. I am a sucker for risottos of all kinds, but my favorite is just a simple white wine and parmesan, plain – as – they- come risotto with some chopped up and sauteed veg thrown in.
To start I gathered a large bunch of spinach from the garden – around the same size as those bundles you see in the produce section of the supermarket. They weigh probably around a pound. It looks like too much, but it cooks down and reduces A LOT.
I like to thoroughly wash my greens, and not because they are dirty. In fact, I am completely sure the greens from my garden are far cleaner than those that have been picked in some other state, loaded onto a truck, driven for miles and miles, loaded onto display and handled by various shoppers.
I clean each leaf because of this:
I don’t want to eat bug litter. You know, if a few little bugs escape my notice and get cooked up, so be it. But wads of webbing? No thank you. A hidden chrysalis? Even worse. But worst of all, this bit of webbing could (and did) conceal this:
Yeah, you’d notice that big guy in your finished meal.
(The risotto I make is pretty common, and a good, detailed recipe can be found HERE.)
So – I thoroughly wash my spinach, and then chop it up with half a yellow onion.
I saute the onion and some garlic in a bit of olive oil until the onion starts to become translucent, and then I add the spinach.
I don’t want to cook the spinach too long – just long enough to wilt it a bit and reduce it somewhat – then I remove it from the heat and transfer the onions and spinach to a warm plate. You don’t want to leave the vegetables in for the entire cooking time or they will overcook and lose a lot of their texture and character. We’ll throw them back in at the end.
Meanwhile, I have a pan of vegetable or chicken stock simmering on the stove on low heat, waiting for its turn to be added to the pot. You want it to be hot when it is added to the rice or it will slow down your cooking time dramatically.
You can use either kind of stock for this recipe – I prefer the richness of the chicken stock, but since my oldest is a vegetarian I tend to use vegetable stock whenever I can.
Next I add a touch more olive oil to the pan that the spinach has just vacated and I add the dry, uncooked rice. The idea is to get it coated in oil and saute it for about 3 or 4 minutes – until it starts to become translucent-ish. Then I give it a good splash of white wine. I tend to be generous here.
Here’s the thing about wine in cooking: I don’t use “cooking wine”. I use straight up, run of the mill, whatever’s on sale wine. I cook with wine fairly frequently so I always keep a couple of bottles of cheap whites and reds around. You don’t have to be as picky with it as you would if you were going to drink it (although sometimes even that super cheap stuff can be very drinkable!).
Once the wine has mostly been absorbed into the rice you can start adding a bit of the simmering broth, a little at a time, waiting for it to be almost all absorbed before adding more.
It should take around a half an hour to use up all of your stock and for the rice to become soft. It will start to look almost creamy, and then you know you are ready to finish it up.
At this point you’ll throw your spinach and onions back in along with some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Honestly, I tend to add extra parmesan and leave out the salt. If you wanted to you could throw in some steamed and chopped asparagus at this point as well. Artichokes also make a nice addition. Okay, I am making myself very very hungry right now.
Once everything is mixed in and heated through you are ready to serve.
A nice and simple risotto like this can make a fine meal all on its own. Or you can add a fried egg with a runny yolk right on top and make it extra special!
And now, instead of the “In the Garden” post I was going to do, I had to share puppy pics instead. I put them up on Facebook and realized I couldn’t not share them here as well.
For those of you who hadn’t heard, this past Saturday was Maryland Sheep & Wool. Susan, Caroline and I drive all the way up there to meet some friends and partake in the wooliness. Three hours in the car. We no sooner got there than Zac called and announced that one of Susan’s Maremmas, Lucy, had just had a litter of 7 puppies. Needless to say we did not stay in Maryland very long. Which is why I have next to no pictures of the event to post here.
Instead I have adorable puppies to show you:
Maremmas are a livestock guard dog breed that hails from the Maremma region of Tuscany in Italy. They are big, friendly working dogs that live their whole lives with the livestock they guard.
The best news?
We got to reserve one for us!!!!
I cannot tell you how absolutely thrilled I am and how excited we all are.
Especially the chickens. They’ll have a full time guardian!
PS – for more puppy pics, click here for Susan’s blog.
All of our hard work creating the chicken prison?
The foxes (or foxen, as Jenny Lawson hilariously calls them) laughed at us.
This past Tuesday we awoke to fresh carnage. Something had obviously made a grab at the chickens as they slept on the perches (which were long sticks hanging in the corner of the chicken prison). You could tell by the feathers all stuck to the wire at that spot.
Then that same something dug under the wire and crawled under the two feet it extended along the ground into the prison. This was also the point where it dragged out Prim, as evidenced by all of her feathers left behind:
Everyone else was present and accounted for, but unfortunately Fleur was badly hurt. At first I thought she was just a bit torn open under her wing, and sprayed her with Blue Kote thinking she’d be fine, since Tevye had similar wounds after his foxen encounter.
Then we noticed under neck. And down into her breast. All. Torn. Open. Her crop was even torn open. You could see her dinner still in it, dropping out in clumps whenever she’d move. Not something Blue Kote was going to fix.
I told Emily things didn’t look good and we should keep her comfortable as best we could until…..you know.
Emily didn’t take it well. SHe sat in the garage with Fleur and cried as Paul and I tried to figure out what the #$*% to do next (the chicken proceeded to poop all over Emily AND lay an egg on her).
First off: no sleeping perched in the corners. Second: secure the ground wire better.
Paul wanted to line the entire ground area with wire so nothing could tunnel in. I was worried about the chickens not being able to scratch the dirt if we did that.
While he brainstormed that, I looked up “torn hen crop”on the internet. Turns out, incredibly, it is totally survivable. With surgery.
Because you know I had to give this hen a fighting chance at least.
In related news: can you believe most pharmacies do NOT carry dissolving sutures? In fact, every pharmacy I called acted like I was looking for contraband. I joked with the nurse at the local doctor’s office later that it’s like they thought I was doing open – heart surgery on my four year old.
I managed to get some dissolving sutures from the local dentist (shout out here to Dr. Mera – thank you for helping me save my chicken. You are my daughter’s hero!).
Then EMily and I went to work.
Blindly. Completely, “I have no idea how to do what I am doing” blindly. All I knew is her crop needed to be sewn shut, and it was now or never.
No, I did not take pictures.
Emily held her while I used a lot of saline to clean it out, sewed up what I thought needed to be sewn, stitched her breast skin back together, sprayed a shit – ton of antibacterial wound spray on her, gave her antibiotics, and set her up in a clean space in the garage.
That was Tuesday.
This is today:
She is still eating, drinking and pooping (which I hope means I didn’t actually sew her crop completely wrong, thereby preventing the food from ever leaving it) but she is not making much effort to leave the box . My guess is having your chest stitched back together without anesthetic makes you pretty damn sore and you don’t want to move much afterwards. The skin at least does not look puffy or swollen, and it looks to be healing over.
She also gets upset when she sees the neighbor’s outdoor cat wandering around (the cat has adopted us, apparently, and has no interest in chickens) and she bawks madly, puffing up and pacing around frantically. She has also started fighting me when I go to give her her antibiotics. I think she may actually make it.
As for the prison – Paul decided yes on the welded wire covering the ground, except at the very center. Where he made them a sandbox to scratch in. Then he built a frame for perches over top of it.
I am not saying nothing will get in. I will not tempt fate again. I also don’t know if I will ever be able to free – range them again either. Which is sad, because i will miss those dark orange yolks from all the grass.
They come at too steep a price, though.
Well, it’s done! And I am pretty darn happy with the results.
The pattern is Sew Lisette’s Traveler Dress, with mods. The shirt dress pattern was the closest I could find style – wise to what I had in mind, but the skirt wasn’t quite full enough. I didn’t want a straight shirt – style, nor did I want a too – full skirt, so I added a slightly flared panel on the sides.
My only complaints are that I made it not – quite long enough (another inch would have been my perfect length) and the top isn’t quite as fitted as I’d like around the collar and underarms. Otherwise I am quite pleased with it.
It’s darn comfortable and I adore the fabric, so I think it will get plenty of wear this summer, especially as it works well with my farm boots!
Then again, Hunter boots do look good with just about anything!