Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Sing For Your Supper

Last night we had a nearly-full moon, and the sky was unusually clear. What this tends to mean here in Boggy Hollow is - Predator Fest.

Luckily, the coyotes seem to have taken the night off, so we all slept mostly soundly. Having a pair of livestock guardian dogs in the house at night makes for a rough one when the coyotes are on the prowl. Our fellas pace and whine, and will occasionally growl or bark if they feel like the 'yotes are getting too close.

Instead of yips and howls, the night sounds were the hoots and calls of owls... and some other, less enjoyable, noises. But I'll get to that.

We have several Barred owls who visit/live in our cedar trees, just a few feet from our bedroom window. So hearing Who cooks? Who cooks? Who cooks for you? as we're falling asleep is a fairly regular occurrence. Last night though, another owl joined the chorus. I think it was a Great Horned owl. It's call was so much deeper and softer than the Barred. It was lovely to fall asleep to. With one, rather large exception.

A bit of prologue: The reason that the predators love a full moon is because it makes hunting so much easier. (This is the part where the not-so-nice sounds come in.) You see, we have a rabbit problem. At least we view it as a problem. It's more of an attraction to the wild things in our woods.

So, even though we were being serenaded to sleep by owl song, and even though the pups were uncharacteristically chill for a night with a near-full moon, the night did not sail along altogether undisturbed.

At about 12:30, all of the dogs suddenly perked up their heads and let out a series of soft whines. Not the usual ballyhoo for a coyote's yip, but an alert nonetheless. Bill got up to investigate. He popped his head out the front door for a listen, came back and crawled in to bed. 

Me: Well, what was it?
Bill: An owl got a bunny. The bunny is screaming.
Me: :(

Now, there is no love lost between either of us and these wild rabbits. They are a bloody plague on my garden and flower beds, and I would *love* for them to just disappear overnight. Maybe not like that though? 

Anyway - thanks (I guess?) to the assorted owls for taking care of business, and thanks, especially, for the lovely songs. Tonight is the full moon, so we may be experiencing round two this evening. 


A Barred owl seen on a walk near our farm. Photo credit: Billy Jackson 2020

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

High Summer in Olympia

 'Maters in the window sill. The Black Crims and Black Sea Man tomatoes (both "Russian" in origin) have outdone themselves for us this year! Tomato sandwiches and salads galore. It seems that the recipe for success in the Pacific Northwest is to grow a variety of tomato, melon, etc. that was designed to survive in Canada, Minnesota or Russia. 😄 




Saturday, August 31, 2019

Oh-ne-oh-ne-owns...

....or onions, however you prefer to say it. This year, we've got 'em.

We had to harvest our onions and shallots earlier than planned this year, primarily because we have some very hungry bunnies who have infiltrated our garden and have completely destroyed the carrots, peas, beets and beans, nibbled the potatoes down to a nub and might have claimed our precious onions next. Sure, people say that they won't eat alliums (garlic, onions, chives, etc.), but let me just tell you, these bunnies will! In fact, they slayed my first planting of garlic chives (and my hostas, pineapple sage, parsley) before I replanted them in a very tall pot that they cannot access. I am being undone by 4-ounce fluff balls, and that is annoying.

So today I started processing some of our onions and shallots. Whoa, Nelly! My house smells.... pungent.

Half of the onions are getting chopped and frozen, just under half are being dehydrated for seasoning and soup bases, likewise the shallots. The funk coming out of my dehydrator right now is eye-watering.

Up next, Padron peppers! I don't especially look forward to the resultant air quality that their processing will produce either, but there are bigger issues here - the "spicy hands". If you've ever prepared hot peppers at home, I know you know what I'm talking about. The capsaicin gets on your hands and anything you touch with your hands - eyeballs, nose - not mention when you visit the bathroom. IT IS BAD NEWS.

Gloves are an absolute must to avoid the spicy hands because no amount of soap & water, baking soda, milk, yogurt, vinegar or anything else will completely remove the oils. My hands were so fiery last time I processed Anaheim peppers (which aren't even that dang spicy) that I literally couldn't sleep.

So, learn from my fail and proceed with caution, fellow kitchen garden geeks! Happy harvest!


Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer Catch-up

It has been another strange Summer here in Western Washington. We've had a few 90+ degree days, quite a few 80+ degree days, and as of late, a lot of meh 70ish-degree days with overcast skies and relatively high humidity. The garden is as confused as I am.

We've been fairly fortunate so far this season, in terms of wildfires and the resultant smoke and pollution. They have been fewer and smaller in our state this year, which is a huge relief to everybody.

So the air quality is decent, but the humidity/heat/rainfall has been all over the map. Add to that that we've had a massive wild rabbit boom this year, and the sad state of my garden and it's output are thus explained. Even the zucchinis are under-performing this year. What the....???

The plants that are providing for us this year are our two remaining apple trees (two were lost in "snowmageddon"), our pear tree, the Himalayan blackberries that have enveloped the chicken yard, the pumpkins, the rhubarb, my porch-pot herbs (assorted thyme, chives, oregano, rosemary and pineapple sage) and the weeds, both good and bad.

Scabby Apples, variety unknown
A *volunteer* rhubarb!

The nettle harvest was decent, and made a good dozen jars of nettle pesto for the freezer. The broad-leaf plantain has also given plenty of itself for use in our soaps. The not-so-helpful weeds have been working overtime to try and take over the pasture - Canada thistle, tansy ragwort, and, my frenemy, the Himalayan blackberry, are trying the hubs' patience and doing a number on his scythe.

We've been getting about a five gallon bucket's worth of apples daily in the form of windfalls alone. The piggos are very much enjoying the bounty. Just the thought of trying to process those apples into something like juice, cider or jam wears me out, so I've more been more than happy to pass them along to the pigs, who will magically transform them in to bacon and chops for me instead.

Kevin Bacon, Hereford/Berkshire, 220ish #
 Jimmy Dean, Gloucester Old Spots, 190ish #
Both approx 7 mos.

Kev-Kev and Jimbo scarfing some apples

Our neighboring blueberry farms are having a great season, and I need to stock up before they're done for the year, but I just haven't mustered the energy to get myself down there yet. I know the window of opportunity on nabbing a lot of these fleeting harvesting and foraging opportunities is closing, so I need to hustle my bustle and get those goods socked away before this Summer officially peters out.

Blarg! Time to get out there and get 'er done. :P




Sunday, April 21, 2019

Recipe: Duck Egg Noodles

These simple and delicious, homemade egg noodles, made using our Muscovy and Black Swedish duck eggs, were a hit with the whole family! I added 1/4 cup of blanched, finely chopped stinging nettles to this batch as well, as I had them on hand. You can take or leave the addition, or substitute your family's favorite fresh herbs, kale, citrus zest or a bit of beet or pumpkin puree to mix things up a bit. 

Fresh duck egg and stinging nettle noodles.


An eggy windfall - where it all begins!
Duck Egg Noodles

-3 cups all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out)
-2 whole eggs
-4 egg yolks
-2 tsps salt
-2-3 tbsps water, more or less*
-1/4 cup blanched, well drained, chopped stinging nettles (or chopped herbs, kale, etc.) *optional*

Start with your flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle for your eggs & yolks. Gently scramble the eggs with a fork, slowly beginning to incorporate the flour/salt mixture. Once the eggs and dry ingredients are well mixed, begin adding water in small increments, kneading and squeezing the dough together after each addition. Continue adding water as needed to the dough to reach your desired consistency. Now it's time to fold in the nettles. Knead them into the dough well, until the are mixed evenly throughout. Allow the dough to rest for at least 10 or 15 minutes before rolling out. I run my dough through the pasta roller attachment on my Kitchenaid mixer, rather than rolling the dough out by hand.** 


After rolling out into sheets, I let the dough rest/dry again for at least 10 minutes or so before cutting into individual noodles.

I most often use the fettuccine attachment to make the final cuts, but rolling and cutting by hand with the kiddos is just as good a method (if a slightly messier one) for getting 'er done. 

I freeze any pasta that I don't use immediately by laying the finished (uncooked) noodles in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and popping them in the freezer until thoroughly frozen, then transferring them to gallon freezer bags for storage. If you skip the cookie sheet step, and put them straight into the bag, you may end up with a giant noodle octopus rather than nice, individual noodles. ;)  I've had mixed success with drying them, but you're welcome to give that a go if your freezer space is at a premium.
*Because duck egg whites are significantly more viscous than chicken egg whites. You will likely need more water (or other optional liquid/puree, if using) than the 2-3 tbsps called for here.

**If you'll be using a similar pasta making attachment, I recommend starting at thickness setting #1, and running the dough through again on setting #3, and lastly, #5. Eggs noodles are meant to me a little beefy and chewy, so thinning them out further is just not necessary, and makes a lot more work, in my humble opinion. ;)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Spring Foraging Begins!


Spring is a wee bit late in coming this year, thanks to a mamma-jamma of a snow fall in February burying everything for a week. But it's here now - better late than never!

Last year was a whirlwind, so I didn't get around to many of the springtime activities that I/we usually do - fishing, mushroom hunting, wandering through the woods, and picking stinging nettles. I more than exhausted my cache of nettles - and the two whole morels we found last year - so I had to, had to get 'er done this year.

This is today's haul, from the southern side of our property. Eight ounces of delciousness!

Do you suffer for your art? Well, my fingers feel weird, if that's what you mean. 
Half-a-pound isn't a bad afternoon's take. I have my eye on another nettle patch down the road a piece that looks pretty promising. Believe it or not, it's entirely possible that someone will have already nabbed them by the time I get down there with my trusty scissors. Olympians are nuts for wild foods!

If you're unfamiliar with the many uses of the humble stinging nettle, please check out my blog post from a few years back about making nettle pesto & nettle egg noodles. This year's leaves will probably end up as both of those things, plus I may dry and powder some to use as colorant in our homemade soaps. It depends on both my ongoing energy level and whether or not someone has already hit that patch I've been scoping out.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The New Pigs On The Block - 2019

So begins the saga of Jimmy Dean and Kevin Bacon.



Jimmy is an 8 week-old Gloucestershire Old Spots barrow, weighing in at a solid 30 pounds. His likes are bossing his brother around, eating slops and pooping profusely when being held.




Kevin is also 8 weeks old, a Hereford/Berkshire mix, also 30ish pounds. His hobbies include napping in heaps of straw with his bro, having his chin scratched and pooping profusely while being held.


These two.

More adventures with Jimbo & Kev coming soon.