Thursday, November 22, 2012

Keeping chickens

"Keeping" describes exactly what we try to do with chickens. Not that chickens are difficult to care for: they aren't, but they are hard to hold on to. Two weeks ago, I heard an acquaintance lost all of her chickens except the rooster, and I saw this post on my facebook newsfeed this week:
I question why four people "like" this.
Watson does an admirable job keeping hawks away, so we haven't really had too much trouble with predators until this week.

Monday morning about 3 am, the dog must have heard something in the yard.  His whining woke Abe. Fortunately for our chickens, Abe is a light sleeper and got up with a sense that something was amiss. He went outside and sure enough, found a possum had been in the chicken coop.  Friendly (one of our very first chickens and a very sweet Rhode Island Red) had been frightened into a corner, wedged under some pressure washing equipment. That rotten possum had torn her tail feathers and left a serious wound on her (you know what?) chicken butt.

So Abe shot the possum with a BB gun, shushed the other hens and herded them as best he could back to their roost.  It turns out that our kitten-harassin' boot-lickin', chicken-chasin' coon hound loves our hens after all, and I am so thankful for my light-sleepin', BB-gun-shootin', possum-killin', chicken-protectin' husband. I don't even mind how redneck I sound to tell about it.

Friendly seems to be pulling through. So if I can have another moral to this story, it's to raise fat chickens.
  • Fat chickens are harder for hawks to carry.
  • Fat chickens can't easily fly or fit through fences (which, unless you leave the gate open - not that we know anything about that at our house - is how chickens encounter possums in the first place).
  • Fat chickens don't have as many places to hide if they scatter at night and you have to search the yard in the cold looking for them.
  • By the way, having a fat kitty has most of the same advantages. Get one!

Friday, November 9, 2012

the cold and catching up

Did I miss fall entirely?  Stores are pushing Christmas decorations but I feel like we hardly even had zucchini this year.  September, October and nine days of November have gone by while I've been all wrapped up in work. It's time for me to find a balance.

preparing for our winter gardenThe greenhouse is re-insulated and sealed for winter weather just in time for the two freezes we've had this week.  I'm grateful that somehow the baby lettuces in our raised bed seem to have survived.

raised bed gardening

Thursday, October 4, 2012

a meal most satisfying & how to roast a butternut squash

grown from scratch
and garlic butter naan
On Monday it rained all day. It was the first cool day in Charlotte that really felt like winter. It was kind of a bummer.

So Monday afternoon Abe roasted the butternut squash that we grew accidentally from a seed in our compost.

There are two ways to roast a butternut squash, and if you don't know about them, you should, because butternut squash is delicious and inexpensive (or free! Grow your own for next year by accident):
  1. The Fancy Way, where you take the time to peel and chop the squash before you roast it, therefore producing beautiful, perfect bright orange cubes like they would serve you in an expensive restaurant, and 
  2. My Lazy Messy Way, which involves cutting the squash once from top to bottom, rubbing it with a bit of oil inside and out and roasting it whole face-down in a pan. The squash cavity can also be a good place to roast a bit of garlic, but only if you have a good pan: otherwise the garlic will burn and your squash will taste foul. Oh, and don't forget to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits -- that would be after you cut, and before you oil.
I'm a lazy messy kind of girl (no sense denying it). I'm ashamed to admit how my arms ache after cutting up an entire butternut squash, and also because the skin does come off easily and nicely after it's roasted.

Anyway, on Monday Abe roasted the butternut squash The Fancy Way with olive oil, Herbes de Provence and love. When I got home, dinner was simple:  We caramelized an onion and sauteed garlic, then added the butternut squash, a pinch of marjoram and vegetable stock. A quick turn with the immersion blender, and we had the best butternut squash soup I've ever tasted.

Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life.
-Wendell Berry, "The Pleasures of Eating." Please read the whole essay here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

We're jammin'

North Carolina figs
I can neither confirm nor deny whether my glasses have been cleaned since this picture was taken.
Yesterday these figs became jam with a little sugar, a little honey bourbon, and a little orange cognac liqueur.

I don't can often enough to remember what needs to be done: most importantly, to calm down. Part of it's the heat (stirring ten boiling pints of fruit pulp next to a vat of boiling water), part of it's the uncertainty (Why Will It Not Thicken?!), part of it's the frustration that I never wrote down how I did it last year. All of it is taken out on Abe. Poor Abe.

So this year while I tore out my hair with one hand (um, not the same hand I was stirring with) and yelled at Abe to sterilize the jars, I scribbled some messy notes on how to make fig jam:

I Wanna Jam It With Figs
makes 10 pints
5 lb. 4 oz. of figs (cleaned, with stems removed)
1/2 c. Grand Marnier/La Belle Orange
1/3 c. honey bourbon (obviously)
3 c. sugar
1 lemon
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the yellow zest from the lemon in strips, then dice. Chop or smash the figs, then let them mascerate with all the other ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot for at least an hour. Use this time to sterilize your jars and lids and sample the honey bourbon (if anyone asks, you're doing quality control). Bring the fig mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Wait for it to thicken. (This takes forever, at least an hour, or possibly not - but I can say that because these are messy notes, not an official "recipe.") Once it thickens to a jammy consistency, it's ready to go into jars. I leave about 1/4" of head space before capping. I use a hot water bath canning method and leave the jars in for 10 minutes.

And I always freak out over the ones that don't instantly seal when they come out of the water. But unless you did it all wrong, they just need time (up to 24 hours), and if I've never managed to mess it all up, your jams will be okay too.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I feel like I've been caught in a whirlwind the past few weeks - finishing up at two jobs, hosting a (wonderful!) new friend during the DNC and starting in my new position. Abe and I are figuring out how to do life from what feels like the beginning. New hours mean new bedtimes and setting new alarms, new work locations mean new traffic jams and new routines for everything: when and where to grocery shop, who starts supper and who feeds the animals. (Cash suggests having Watson for dinner.)

duckling and dog

I'm still in the middle of my first week at my new position, so I'm really just ducking in. I don't think I'm quite ready to come back to a regular or frequent blog posting schedule.

This afternoon we're starting the fall garden, so I will try to get back soon with pictures and at least a brief update.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

About a duck

baby duck swimming

Here is the thing about a pet baby duck: he is equal parts terrified of you and desperately in need of your constant company. And he's obsessed with feet. So you have to be very, very careful where you walk to avoid having a duckling literally underfoot.

bird not to scale: that is, he looks much taller in this picture than he does in real life.
We've only been together two days, but I'm very quick to make a list.

Things a duckling will do to your delight:
  • Paddle his little feet in your bathtub
  • Wiggle his little tail
  • Flap his little wings (They are so little! Sometimes he tips over and needs help getting up.)
  • Cuddle
  • Eat bugs right out of the air as they fly by
  • Provide hours of entertainment much cheaper than cable
Things a duckling will do to your dismay:
  • Poop his little turds in your bathtub
  • Poop his little turds in your kitchen
  • Poop his little turds in your lap
  • Poop his little turds on the stuffed bear that you got for him to cuddle.
  • This is serious. There are a lot of little turds.

Here is some advice before you get a duck:
  • Get a box for your duck. Make sure it's a box you don't care about because it will soon be full of poop. Even if you think you're a free-range duck kind of household, find a box. In the last 24 hours, I have learned that there is no such thing as a full-time free-range duck kind of household.
  • Buy stock in paper towels. (*Not sustainable, but like I said, there are a lot of little turds. Almost enough to order these duck diapers.) (About duck diapers: you might think they're a joke like I did... until I got a duck.)
  • Feed the cat. You don't want him getting any ideas.
cat thinks baby duck is dinner

You can see a tiny clip of Watson here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Watson, I presume

I was feeling wistful about how grown-up Peso is getting and worrying for You, Internet, since this blog is so much more entertaining with baby animals around. Then I got a text from our friend Hannah, who was offering us her duck.

Abe said heck no, saw a picture and promptly recanted (Isn't that how everyone gets their pets?).

Watson, our baby quacker
ohmygoodness, he snuggles!!!
If Abe had needed more convincing, this duckling's name is Watson, as in "Wat, Son, could be cuter than this face?"

Hannah dropped him off yesterday, so today I have a memory card full of duck pictures and Watson poop all over my floors.