Saturday, January 2, 2010


I realize that I write about my chickens and their eggs way too much. But this is what passes for excitement 'round here -

One of these things is not like the others...

Do you see the super-jumbo egg? The thing was literally so big that we couldn't close the carton. The kids were unbelievably excited about the "super egg".

We weighed it before cracking it open - with much ceremony - to make cookies. Eggzilla weighed in at 4 ounces. A QUARTER-POUNDER EGG, PEOPLE. It turned out to be a double yolker, much to the girlies' delight.

Yes, my friends, this is what we now consider newsworthy in these parts. What a wild and crazy life we lead.

Walter, the $170 clam

Say hello to Walter.

Walter and his elusive brethren, the pacific razor clam, once again lured our family out to the wind-whipped Washington coast for a nighttime dig in the dead of winter. The siren song of a fresh, hot bowl of razor clam chowder had even the littlest members of our family suited up and ready for a freezing, wet battle on the beach.

An hour and a half's driving, a spendy-ish hotel stay, a decent case of clam-gunner's bursitis and a touch of windburn (for good measure) yielded us naught but a lone clam. Such are the risks taken by a modern-day forager. A whole lot of planning, driving and specialized gear guarantee you exactly nothing. We weren't the only folks striking out though, and something about failure on a large scale lessens the sting of being outwitted by a 4 inch bivalve.

And so, our proposed dinner of razor clam chowder was instead, demoted to potato soup. Walter alone was sauteed and eaten by Billy, our resident shellfish stalker.

He was reportedly "clamtastic".

Welcome Home (Yeastitarium)

Just back from our all too brief, and nearly fruitless expedition to the coast to dig clams, the hubby and I find ourselves scrambling to catch up on all of those little projects and chores which have fallen by the wayside during the holidays. Always first on Billy's list, his beer.

Here we have a montage of Bill's brewing efforts to date, minus the ill-fated brown ale.

L to R - 5 gallons "Amber Honey Lager", 1 gallon "Imperial Stout", 1 gallon "Blueberry Honey Ale"

Bill is bottling all 5 gallons of the Amber Honey Lager tonight. Good thing we've been saving our beer bottles and mooching would-be recycled glass vessels from our friends too, because this batch will yield approximately 4 cases of beer, aka 48 bottles of bubbly happiness.

Besides the beerfest, we've also got a few wines still going. The 5 gallons of grape wine (we're not sure of the variety, but are assuming it's something in the vein of "Concord") made from our own homegrown grapes, is about 3 months old now. Taste-wise, it is still in the "hooch" phase, as in, technically alcoholic, but not exactly pleasant to drink. From what I've read about concord grape wine, it takes at least a year to be decent, and is actually quite respectable by two years old. We'll see...

We've also got one gallon of blackberry wine working and whoa nelly is that stuff strong! Like strip the paint off your walls strong. I'm not sure if that one is going to ever be potable or if it's headed toward vinegar or maybe cooking wine.

We bottled the rhubarb and cherry wines a few months back and have been drinking them and sharing them with friends. They are pretty darn good, in my biased and inexpert opinion, especially the rhubarb, which is essentially a dessert wine. We'll be sure to make more of that next year, since we have a HUGE rhubarb plant that provides us with more fruit than we've ever known what to do with.

Besides all of the alcohol, we have the ever-present Amish bread starter on the counter, fermenting away. I popped the lid off this afternoon to give it a stir and accidentally inhaled a bit of the escaping gasses. My head swam! And I feed this stuff to my kids?

The end result of this ferment-a-thon (besides the smell of hops, malt & yeast snaking their way through the main floor of our house) is tasty organic wines & beers that cost just pennies per serving and come in wild and crazy flavors that you probably couldn't find anywhere else. We have really enjoyed this home brewing experiment and look forward to spring and summer, and turning all of the fruits & flowers that we can lay our hands on into still more tasty beverages. We're thinking of attempting to add mead or melomel to our repertoire next. YUM.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Knitting Project: The Market Bag

As I am prone to do at this time of year, I have been starting knitting projects left and right, with nowhere near enough time or energy to finish them all before my crafty energy exhausts itself. Amazingly enough, I actually started and finished and even liked my latest project - The Market Bag.

Here's a picture of my bag next to the photo of what it would have looked like had I followed the pattern to a "t", which I never do.

In case you're a knitting knerd and want the deets - I scrapped the pattern for the main body of the bag (but kept the stitch count and measurements the same) and replaced it with the trusty-dusty ol' trinity stitch. I also improvised a bit on the handle, giving it two small handles instead of a single shoulder strap. After all, this puppy is going to need to carry some serious goods home from the farmers market.

I actually really enjoyed making this bag, and as soon as I finally finish the scarves that I had to give IOU's to folks for (oops), I think I'll try another of these.

Name the Fungus!

Lately, I have acquired an interest in mushrooming and foraging in general. As is typical for me when first diving into a new hobby, I have amassed stack of books nearly up to my chin on foraging, plant identification, field guides, mushroom hunting, etc., all which I have been reading (and attempting to commit to memory) night and day. I've also taken to trying to i.d. each and every 'shroom that crosses my path.

However, I have a healthy sense of caution when it comes to ingesting/using anything that might be potentially harmful, and am therefore looking for a little help in determining whether or not the following 'shrooms are of an edible variety.

Might these be Chicken of the Woods?

I have no idea what these are, but they're growing on my nearly-dead mountain ash trees.

If you have a knack for shroomery, please feel free to weigh in!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Free Chocolate!?!

The folks over at Chocolate-Covered Katie are giving away a BOX of "Wild Bars". Scoot on over to check it out and enter to win some healthy goodies!

Thanks to Amy @ Life in the Slow Lane for the link!

Strawberry Surprise

With each hen that has commenced to lay, I have been delighted anew by the pride that I feel in my healthy, happy bird, and in the comfort of the forthcoming abundance of the near-perfect food that is an organic egg.

Having three hens that were laying fairly regularly, we've been "in the eggs", reaping on average about a dozen and a half per week. Enough to meet our holiday baking needs and still give some away to friends & family. All of our girls were up and running, with the exception of one.

Strawberry, an Americauna hen, was our lone holdout. She was by far the gangliest and most high-strung of our flock, and the very last to show signs of maturity or maternity. Frankly, she had me a little worried that she was either infertile or unwell in some capacity. That is until last week, when she started exhibiting a few of the behaviors that I have noted in our hens that are laying, namely, a heightened startle response and a LOT more vocalization. Sure enough, a few days after the onset of "the signs", the girls went out to feed the chicks and said that Strawberry was in the nest box. Hurrah!

Alas, poor Strawberry labored and clucked for the better part of the day, with nothing to show for it by day's end. The next morning though, upon letting the chickies out of the hen house, I find 2 eggs in the nest box - both brown. Ok, this was weird. We have 4 hens, three of whom are Americaunas and one Silver-Laced Wyandotte. Americaunas are a favorite chicken to keep because they lay beautiful and unusually colored eggs - light olive green to sky blue. The Wyandottes lay a lovely pinkish-brown egg. So, I should have 3 blue/green and one brown per day. How in the heck had I ended up with 2 brown?

Well, as it turns out, the chicks sold to me as Americaunas, were in fact, actually "Easter Eggers". Essentially, they are mutts, but with a large enough slice of the Americauna/Aracauna features to be sold as such. Though she looks every bit an Americauna externally, Strawberry's mixed heritage was outed upon her laying her first milk-chocolate colored egg. Easter Eggers, it turns out, can lay just about any color egg - brown, white, olive, pink, blue or green.

Though we were surprised by her eggs, we were not in the least disappointed by them. After all, our family are essentially mutts as well - Ukrainian, German, Welsh, Scottish, Cherokee and English, among others - and are better for having so many varied and rich influences in our blood and in our traditions.

We now can expect in the neighborhood of 2 dozen eggs per week! Besides giving some of our surplus away, and perhaps letting the girls sell a few for pocket money, I'm hoping to find a beekeeper or orchard owner who wouldn't mind swapping some eggs for honey or fruit, to be made into jams, wines, ciders & meads. Oh the possibilities!