Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bird Sigthings...and Disappearings(?)

This morning, my eldest monkey, who is in charge of keeping care of our flock of ducks and quail, asked me if I would mind taking care of her ducks for her this morning, which is a rather unusual request. Our conversation:

Kid: "Mom, can you let my ducks out of their house later?"

Me: "Of course. Why don't you just let them out now though?"

Kid: "I want to wait because I saw and heard a spotted owl come out of the woods and fly over the bog. It was so cool, Mom!"

Indeed, that does sound cool. We often hear, if not actually see, barred owls calling back and forth in our woods, but a spotted owl is rare.

If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, then you are probably very familiar with the spotted owl as an enormous thorn in the side of the local logging industry. The owls were driven to near endangered status as a result of habitat loss from massive clear-cuts and harvesting of old-growth forests. When the US Fish and Wildlife Service put extreme restrictions on logging in order to help restore the spotted owl population, the logging industry was hit hard. Displaced, laid-off loggers were infuriated, countering with a macabre campaign to kill the owls and have done with it.

These and other catchy slogans were the logging industry's reply to the USFWS's 1991 court order to prohibit logging in national forests.

I digress, but the point I'm trying to underscore here is how extremely rare and magnificent a sight that a spotted owl, swooping low over our mist-covered bog, must have been for my kiddo to have beheld.

The reason that I suspect that the owl chose our farm for his morning fly-by is slightly less magical - breakfast.

The night preceding, we had a quail jailbreak of epic proportions. Someone didn't latch the door on the hutch and our quail decided to go on a walkabout. By the time the breach was noted, approximately three quarters of our flock were out and about, well distributed throughout our acreage. We literally beat the bushes and climbed through thickets and brambles to try to recapture as many as we could before dusk fell. Upon final head count, we were still 15-20 birds short. Somewhere in the hay field and bog, the little rogues bedded down for the night.

Enter the owl.

The Boggy Hollow breakfast buffet was just too tasty for him to pass up.

At least our loss was a gain for a critter that really needed the help. Not to mention, my kid got what is very possibly a once-in-a-lifetime bird sighting, in her own backyard no less.

So thanks, Mr. Owl, for choosing us for your dining needs. May I recommend a hearty dessert of Norway rat and field mouse?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Autumn in the Hollow

Fall has very belated and abruptly, finally fallen on Boggy Hollow. The garden is very nearly wrapped up for the year, though not put to bed yet, that being a ginormous task unto itself. 

The temperature gauge on my car's dashboard read 39 degrees at 7:00 this morning, so I guess I'd better make it a priority to harvest the last of my hoop-house pimento and jalapeƱo peppers this afternoon before Jack Frost gets them. We also have a few scraggling pumpkins left out there, but - being volunteer mystery mixes - they're all destined to be chicken and turkey food anyway, so their cosmetic condition is not quite so important. To be honest, I'll be relieved when everything is buttoned up for the season.

I've been keeping fairly good track of our garden's productivity this year, but, as always tends to happen, I slacken off as the growing season progresses. Back in March/April, if we brought in a quarter pound of snap peas, it was written up in the log straight away. Now? We'll weigh one pumpkin and just assume the the rest of roughly the same size weigh roughly the same thing, and scratch it in the journal (maybe) when/if I remember to.

But anyway - I was talking of embracing the falling of Fall. Apparently a switch flipped and now I'm in hardcore Cozy Mode. In the past few days, I've suddenly rediscovered my love of knitting and have had my food dehydrator running 24/7, trying to put up one last jar/bag of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, calendula, spearmint, chamomile... etc. You name it, I'm drying it out and squirreling it away.

A new addition to my squirrelin' repertoire this year - wild mushrooms. Bill and I have always loved foraging, but were extremely intimidated about the idea of venturing into the world of mushrooms, as there is basically no room for error in identification. After reading half a dozen mushroom-specific guides and psyching ourselves up, a friend finally talked us into giving mushroom hunting a try by giving us the directions to his 'never fail' spot for lobster mushies. It was a bust for us. We've gone on hunts for morels, chanterelles, chicken of the woods and lobster mushrooms, all with ZERO luck. How bizarre it was then, to finally positively i.d. a much sought-after edible, the King Bolete (aka Porcino) mushroom growing in our very own yard!

Teeny-Weeny Porcini!
A very good day's haul
And to think that these have been growing there for years and we never realized - d'oh!

Apparently, they usually wrap up their Autumn flush in November, so I don't know how many more of these lovelies that I'll get before they're gone for the year, so I've been furiously hunting/cleaning/processing/drying them these past few weeks, trying to them all in while the gettin's still good.

Besides knitting and fiddling with mushrooms, I've finally got my baking groove back! Today's bake - a triple batch of Gingerbread biscotti. I've made this recipe several times and it always goes over big with anyone who has tried it. The smell of this in the oven will kick you into Cozy Mode lickity-split!

Lightly sweet and satisfyingly crunchy, Gingerbread Biscotti.

Gingerbread Biscotti 
Recipe courtesy of
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 12 large biscotti
Crunchy Gingerbread Biscotti is easy to make and delicious too. Have your coffee ready!
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 cube Dorot crushed ginger (or 1 tsp), thawed*
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sparkling white sugar
  • 4 oz vanilla candy coating, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar until combined. Add in eggs and molasses. Beat in spices, flour, and baking powder.
  3. On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, shape dough into a 12x4 inch rectangle, patting evenly. Sprinkle with sparkling white sugar. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes. Slice biscotti into 12, one inch wide slices. Arrange biscotti onto sides, separating them on the baking sheet. Return to oven and bake an additional 6 minutes. Remove and turn them to opposite side, bake another 6 minutes.
  4. Remove biscotti and cool completely.
  5. Once cooled, dip bottom of biscotti in melted vanilla candy coating. Set back on parchment paper until set, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container. ENJOY.
For the crushed ginger, thaw on counter while getting ingredients and baking sheet ready. OR, place in a small glass bowl and microwave for 5-10 seconds.
*I (Michelle) actually used fresh grated ginger instead, as that is what I had on-hand.

Happy fall, y'all! :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Tale of Two Roos: The Superhero Edition

Major drama in the chicken yard a few nights past - Spiderman vs Batman (seriously). Batman is our mellow old black Cochin roo (pictured below) and Spiderman is our newest roo, who seems determined to climb the pecking order by any means necessary, up to and including the beating-down of his brother birds.
Our sweet Batty-boy

Why on earth would you have two roos? you say. Actually, we have four roosters! Darth Vader (a Black-laced Red Wyandotte/Australorp mix) is the king of the chicken yard, followed by the sweet and humble Batman, and lastly, Godzilla, a young Cuckoo Marans. Everyone got along just fine until Spiderman entered the mix.

Spiderman came along with four hand-me-down hennies that were gifted to us. Being that we'd had multiple roos already who managed to live relatively drama-free, we thought we'd attempt to gently work Spiderman into the mix. We're a few weeks in, and thought that things were progressing slowly but well in the right direction, until the other night.

When it was time to lock the chickens up for the night, Scarlet came upon a rattled, bloodied Batman cowering in a corner of the coop, not willing or able to hop up to his usual roost. He wasn't badly hurt - just his comb - but it was enough to get our attention. At that time, however, we didn't know who had done the damage - a fellow roo or an incompetent predator. The answer came the next morning, when Scarlet interrupted Spiderman trying it on again with poor Batty. Scarlet shooed Spiderman away and closed Batman up in the coop for his own safety, until we could figure out our game plan for restoring peace to the chicken yard.

Having got his little butt whooped twice in less than 24 hours, Batman was pretty traumatized, though, thankfully, not seriously hurt. We set him and his main laydie, Louise, up in a extra large pet carrier inside the coop.

It has been my experience that injured/shocked/recovering critters - especially poultry - feel better, heal better and plain-ol' survive better if they have a buddy with them during their convalescence. I also decided to keep the "private room" as it were in the coop and around the other birds (but out of reach of would-be attackers) to further lessen the trauma of the change. Two days later, Batman & Weezer are right as rain and back in the mix with the rest of the flock. Spiderman was swiftly removed to freezer camp, and all was made right again in the Yard.

The End

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Flower Under-Powered: A Tale of Woe

The poppy seed harvest (such as it is) is now in, and the results are underwhelming, to say the least.

The borage took over the pollinator/botanical beds this year and squeezed out all but 4 poppy plants. I should have knocked the borage back a peg - or five - but just didn't have the heart to do it since our honeybees LOVE the stuff.

Our pollinator bed - borage, poppies, calendula and bachelor buttons.

It's a trade off, I guess.

Sorry, Ukrainian Grammies. I wanted to attempt makivynk this Christmas with all homegrown poppy seeds, but it was not to be. While the recipe calls for a staggering three cups(!) of poppy seeds, I managed to grow just a scant half cup this year.

I *might* be able to eek a lemon poppy seed loaf or two out of this, with a dash leftover to throw in a batch of soap (poppy seeds are the best exfoliants ever), but the makivynk - she will have to wait a while longer.

On the plus side, other Ukrainian favorites grew well this year - beets, cabbage, tomatillos... ok, well pretty much just beets and cabbage. Borshch and holubtsi for everyone! 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Pitter-Patter of Little (webbed) Feet

After what seemed like eons, Blueberry the Muscovy finally hatched out her clutch of eggs. We ended up with 5 adorable, feisty little babies. She and her sister, Drusilla, seem to be co-parenting the brood. It takes a village, peeps.

It's hard for me to believe that almost a year ago to the day, Dru & Blue were the day-old fuzzballs. They grow up so fast!

For your squeeing viewing pleasure -

Proud Mama Blue and her bitty babies, out for a stroll

Mama Blue and Auntie Dru watching over the littles

Blueberry and two of her day-old hatchlings
And last but not least, Mama and Auntie taking the kiddos on a grand tour of the Hollow. Absolute sweetness.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Growing Container Potatoes

Our Porch Taters, Day 45

Somehow or other, I got the bright idea to try growing two mostly-the-same-but-slightly-different batches of spuds this year. Picture #1 are the "Porch Taters". They differ from our "Garden Spudz" (pic #2) by location as well as the fertilizer that was used at planting time. We have an unofficial growing contest going between the two plots.

The Garden Spudz, day 45

The differences between the two groups are -

The Porch Taters
* Fertilized with fresh bunny poo at planting time.
* Planted in "Smart Pots" recycled grow bags
* Sitting directly on a concrete porch (receives more radiant heat?)
* Gets Southern sun in the morning thru early afternoon

The Garden Spudz
* Fertilized with well-rotted homemade compost (Goat/chicken/duck manure and bedding, plus some kitchen scraps) at planting time
* Planted in "Root Pouch" recycled grow bags
* Sitting on a wooden pallet against the Northernmost wall of our garden
* Gets high noon thru late evening sun.

Both groups were started on 4/4/15 with organic certified, disease-free, well-chitted seed potatoes from the same batch (Irish Eyes Garden Seeds), in Gardner & Bloome's Organic Raised Bed Soil mixed with a handful of Dr. Earth's Kelp Meal.

Based on the above-ground growth alone, the Purple Majesty potatoes seem to be the happiest and healthiest. I've been surprised and disappointed by the slow growth of the Yukon Gold, considering that they are the earliest maturing variety that I planted. They are supposed to have a 65 day (more or less) growing season, 45 of which have already passed. Yikes. I hope they can ketchup catch up! ;)

More updates to follow...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When Presented with a Landslide of Eggs... my hens and ducks are wont to do, hot on the heels of 3-4 months of relative egglessness, you seek out egg-intensive recipes. These are some of the goodies that my girls and I are making this week -

* Coconut Macaroons (Note that these are the good old fashioned macaroons from your childhood, not the uber-trendy, rainbow colored macarons.) A single batch uses 4 egg whites (save those yolks!), which isn't even a day's worth of eggs. None the less, these are delish and easy enough for a 12 year old kidlet to take the lead in making them.

Ina Garten's Lemon Bars These call for 6 extra large eggs. I'll use 4 of our biggest whole eggs and the 4 yolks left over from making the macaroons. Who doesn't love Ina's cooking? Never trust a skinny chef! ;)

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Mousse This recipe is the closest one to the recipe I use from Mah-tha's Cookbook, where it is listed as Chocolate Mousse 2. It's my go-to egg intensive dessert, because it's so super easy (only 4 ingredients!), uses a ton of eggs, and tastes amazing. I always make a double batch of this because it is simply heaven in a bowl.

Homemade Egg Noodles Be they in the form of plain old fettuccine, stinging nettle linguine, or traditional Ukrainian pita-ha (pirogis), homemade egg noodles are one of the ultimate comfort foods. While they don't use more than 2 or 3 eggs per batch, the recipe, when doubled or tripled, will keep you in tender, hearty pasta for a while. The noodles can be dried or frozen for later use, making a giant batch or two well worth the trouble.

* Breakfast for Dinner - Either a huge pan of scrambled eggs with a side of Aunt Alice's homegrown bacon, a towering stack of cinnamon-raisin french toast, or a deep dish veggie and cheese-filled frittata will use the better part of a dozen eggs, if not more, for feeding a stick-to-your-ribs meal to a family of four.

Our "Chuck" eggs - a joint effort between our chickens and ducks.