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.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Putting the Laydies to Work

Need a bit of soil weeded and turned over? Sic your hens on it!

Eight hungry hennies in the tractor, day 1

I have a long-disused bed that I needed to start clearing out to prepare for an April/May/June planting of flowers. This bed is far removed from (and less protected than) our veggie garden, and as such, has been sort of ignored since we moved in almost 5 years(!) ago.

With weeds and reed canary grass getting that long and strong of a foothold, I knew that weeding this bed wasn't going to be easy. So I recruited some hard working gals to help get me started. As you can see in the photo below, they've made a decent job of it on their first pass.

The tractor, day 3, and it's path of destruction improvement.

All this, and eggs too!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sneaky Peepers!

You know that feeling you get when, as a parent, your kids' behavior catches your attention because they're acting too casual?

Our Brahma-Cauna (Buff Brahma/Ameracauna) hen, Pegleg Peggy, (owing to her once spraddle-legged gait) was straight-up busted today, trying to zip back into the chicken yard through a hole in the fence.

The guilty party is the girl in back, fleeing from justice.

That was enough to pique my curiosity, warranting a stroll along the fence line. And whattaya know?

I knew it!

Can you see it?


Bill and I had installed some new "upcycled" recycling bin nest boxes in the coop on Saturday, and we got two eggs that same evening, raising my suspicion that our hennies had already started up laying again after their long Winter's nap, but laying the eggs somewhere different and weird instead of, you know, somewhere that we could actually find them. IwasrightIwasrightIwasright!

Our repurposed recycling bin nest boxes.

We ended up with a dozen eggs from the stash spot. I've collected them and brought them in for further investigation into their possible edibility. If they check out ok, it'll be breakfast for dinner tomorrow night. If not, next stop - compost bin.

Either way, it sure is nice to know that our laydies are back up and running and that Spring is definitely, finally on its way back.