Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Heart Chicken Heart, kind of

Yes, yes I did.  I made pate with chicken hearts.  After cooking all the chicken hearts, gizzard, and necks for stock, that I had from our big chicken day, I thought I might be able to further utilize the hearts by making chicken heart pate.  I cooked up some onions, garlic, and celery and put it with the hearts and some capers in the food processor.  

Then I put little dabs of the pate, with cheese and parsley, on some toasted hamburger buns.  Hey, nothing says classy like toasted hamburger buns.  "Brandon, pose with the pate".  Uh... not quite what I envisioned.  Turns out, a photo that includes a mustache on a plate is not appetizing. 

Final verdict - it's okay.  It's a little bland, and a little mushy.  It's best with Swiss cheese and a cracker, a glass of red wine, and when you are practically starving. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Unexpected Farm Visit

For the past few weeks I've been working in the field doing plant surveys.  The surveys have all been on private property in an agricultural area.  This means I've been chatting it up with farmers as I get permission to get on their land.  In general, the farmers have all been elderly gentlemen, who are raising beef cows, and lots of hay.   And, as I'm sure Joe, who has been my primary field partner for this project, can confirm, I'm a little nervous around herds of large animals.   Don't get me wrong, I like to see a field of large herbivores as much as the next guy, but walking among them is a whole other thing.  Especially when there are bulls.  I've heard too many stories about mean bulls to feel like introducing myself to any I come across while working.  

So, after days of having to put on a brave face and boldly enter cow territory, it was such a nice break to meet a lady farmer who had animals more my size.  The first thing she told us was that she had new baby pigs, and new baby goats.  Please, please may I see them?   She was nice enough to give us a full tour of her pot bellied pig operation.  A half dozen pigs may not seem like an operation to most, but I thought it was perfect.  The babies were kitten sized, and I had to hold myself back from asking to hold one.  I wasn't sure if asking to hold someones pig was crossing the line with someone you just met.  

When she gave permission for us to survey her back fields she warned us there were cows, and a potentially mean Jersey bull.  Other than the Jersey bull, she said the rest were spoiled and liked to eat white bread.  She said they would do anything for white bread.  I almost told her we would be right back after I went to the store for some cow bait, but we had work to do. 

On our hike to the back forty, Joe coached me on how to run around a tree should the Jersey bull come after us.  For some reason he didn't think trying to climb a tree was going to be my best option.  Something about low center of gravity and unreliable arm strength.  This was not helping me feel better about cows in general.  Then, we saw the herd in the distance.  "What's on their heads!?"  Giant horns, that's what.  These were highland cattle, and they were impressive! 

We steered clear of the Jersey bull, but we couldn't resist these big shaggy dinosaurs.  The white one in the photo above is a bull, and he didn't even try to skewer us.    

On our way back we met a skittish white mule and two very friendly donkeys.  

Adorable, smaller than me, with no skewers on their heads, fuzzy donkeys.

Donkeys may be my new favorite animal. 

One of my long time favorites is goats.  Not only did this farm have a momma goat with two new born babies, but there were two big baby goats who were being trained as pack animals.

The older babies followed us like puppies through the fields, munching on the tops of clover and other weeds.  When we would get very far ahead of them and they thought we were gone they would cry loudly until we waved our arms to get their attention.  Then they would bound through the tall grass toward us.  I felt just like Heidi. 

The momma goat thought my clip board was tasty, and enjoyed a fun game of pushing with Joe.  He started it by putting his hand on her forehead and pushing against her while she pushed toward him.   I'm pretty sure he lost since he ran from the goat stall yelling "stop it!".   She didn't know when the game was over, and now I know that's why you don't push on a goats forehead.   It's all fun and games until someone gets rammed in the knee. 

We were told the horses in the next field were friendly.  I know from experience that this means they are not going to respect my personal space, are going to crowd around me vying for attention, and generally make me nervous when their hot breath is on the back of my neck while I'm trying to work.  They did all those things, but they were well behaved and it was great fun to have horse companions. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maraschino Millipede and How Does My Garden Grow

I see these millipedes frequently when working outside, not outside at my house, but doing field work in the forests.  At first I was afraid to touch them because their bright yellow stripes and legs seemed to be a warning that they might not be something fun for a predator, or a lady with a cell phone, to tangle with.  But, now I know that their only defense strategy is to excrete some cyanide from their glands, which makes them smell just like maraschino cherries.  Yum! 

I'm pretty sure they don't taste like cherries, but now that I know they smell like cherries when they feel threatened I like to harass them buy picking them up and taking a sniff.  It's fun to coax other people into smelling my millipede too.  Everybody tries it, even if they think I'm crazy and they can't stand to put a creepy bug next to their nose. 

Despite my neglect, the garden is growing and growing.  In the photo above is the thyme in the foreground, the oregano in the mid ground, and the purple blooms of the sage behind Helen.   I planted basil, dill, and rosemary in the same bed, but they aren't worthy of photographs yet. 


The surviving peas, that didn't get eaten by chickens like the rest of their kind, in front of the ever growing garlic.  

And an entire bed of kale.  Sigh.  Kale is good for me.  Kale is healthy.  I like kale.  I repeat this mantra the entire time I pull weeds from this bed.  I think it's working, sort of.  

Only two Swiss chard and five heads of lettuce.  I got a really early start on the greens this year and most of them didn't make it.  It's amazing how much greens you can get from just a few plants.  

The hops are out of control!  The wimpy supports we made would have worked for last years hops, but this year they are bending the boards they are so heavy.  Mmmm... beer plants.  What a great idea.  

I'm getting strawberries too.  The chickens are jealous, and I think they spend most of their spare time plotting how to break through my strawberry chicken wire fortress.  Bad chickens. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wall Snakes and Fast Grass

When we started tearing out the old plaster in the house we are working on, we would occasionally find snake skins that had been shed in crevices and in the drilled holes in the wall studs where the electric wires ran through them.  When Brandon finally found the live snake, not just his shed skin, he said he jumped back ten feet before his brain really understood what he was looking at.  Snakes just do that to people, even when you know they are there.  The snake crawled away before I could get a good look at him and figure out what kind of snake he was, but we were pretty sure he was a black rat snake or a king snake, which are not venomous, and are common in old buildings.  Brandon finally got a good look at him when he took the picture above as the snake was wedged along a rafter in the ceiling.  It seems like he's balancing on his head, doesn't it?  

I wasn't there to witness the snake wrangling, but Brandon relocated the snake, who he named Carlos in reference to the baby that was found in the Hangover movie, and moved him out the the barn.  The barn which is less than twenty paces from the house.  So, it wasn't a big surprise that the snake just crawled back home.  Brandon's second encounter with the snake happened when he was standing on a ladder pulling down plaster and dislodged the snake from near the ceiling and it fell on his shoulder.  Thank goodness Brandon was there to break Carlos's fall so he didn't hurt himself when he fell to the floor.  I mean, thank goodness Brandon didn't fall off the ladder.  

Brandon must have been much more calm for the second relocation because he was able to take the picture above while he was taking the snake back to the barn.  I expect by the forth or fifth time he has to move the snake he will just pick him up with his hands since I'm sure Carlos relocation is going to become common until we get all the holes in the house plugged up.    


In addition to finding wildlife in the walls, Brandon has been making good progress on the floor in the living room and dining room of the house.  The floor joists that were tilted due to the termite damage have been straightened out as much as we could manage.  It's not perfectly level, but it's so much better than it was.  The fun part was putting the floor boards back, and patching in new boards where there were holes and where the floorboards couldn't be salvaged.  We took one of the original boards to a flooring place and they told us it was hard yellow pine, which isn't easy to come by.  So, we used oak and poplar boards and since our plan is to paint the floors, I think it will be just fine.  After stepping over holes and looking at the dirt under the house it's wonderful to have floor, so I'm not going to be picky about what type of tree was used.  

We even have some insulation installed in the wall behind the stair well.  We are trying to finish this wall now so we can build some stairs to the second floor.  Ever since the old stairs were cut down with a chainsaw and carried out to the barn, we haven't be able to go upstairs.  I'm excited about building stairs.  Considering our inability to do math, make anything square or level, or cut anything to the right length until the second or third try, building a staircase promises to be super fun.  Oh boy.  

Ten acres of grass is quite daunting to us.  Even considering all the work that is planned to make the house livable, we seemed to get most overwhelmed when considering the grass.  It just keeps growing! Fast!  Brandon spent nearly four hours push mowing the extra long grass to create a little border around the house.  Luckily, our neighbor volunteered to cut the rest of the property for us if we would supply him with fuel for his tractor.  What a great deal.  I think he was afraid we were going to let it grow into a forest and it was messing with his aesthetic sensibilities.  He seemed quite alarmed when we told him we didn't have any way to mow it right now.  While I was admiring the newly cut grass in the field in front of the house a horse drawn tour carriage went by on the road.  Who are these people?  Thank goodness our grass got cut since we are on some sort of tour route. 

I spent some time with a machete cutting down tall poison hemlock, which is an invasive species that produces millions of seeds and grows to over eight feet tall.  I would hate for it to spread farther that it already has.  While I was cutting around the mailbox I realized that what I thought were two old cedar posts that held the mailbox, is actually a cut cedar tree with two trunks.  It's a unique solution for holding up the mailbox. 

The old locust tree in the front of the house, with only one branch, is in full bloom right now.  The flowers smell great and the bees are loving it.  Even with lovely flowers it's a funny looking tree.  

 The pear tree has little fruits all over it.  I so hope it makes hundreds of pears!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Joe's Chicks, Box of Turkeys, Curly's Acne, and a Tiny Egg

Can you imagine having over two hundred chicks?  Joe has officially begun his foray into raising poultry for profit, not just for feeding his family.  He ordered a hundred egg layers, a mix of black Australorps and Rhode Island reds.  These are colorful and energetic chicks, shown in the photo above.  They seem to act like the chicks I've hatched, which were heritage breeds too.  

They hop all over the brooder and get easily frightened by looming humans who try to take their pictures with their scary cell phones.  I'm sure being easily frightened is a good survival tactic if you are a chick who is born under a hen, who must forage for your food and avoid being prey in the first few days of life. 

The chicks he has in the brooder that are destined to be meat birds are called Cornish cross rocks, which have been bred to be fast growing and have the thick breast meat that we've all come to expect from chickens.  These guys may be ready to butcher in as little as eight weeks.  I can really see a difference in these chicks when compared to the other breeds.  Not only are they huge compared to the baby egg layers, but they are very sedentary.  They don't waste any energy by moving around or freaking out just because a stranger is taking their picture.  Some of them just sit with their faces over the food, so they don't even have to walk to get a bite.  Joe said he raised the feeders so they at least have to stand up to eat.  He also takes the food away for parts of the day so they don't gain weight too fast.  I wish someone would do that for me.  The brooder light gives them a satanic glow in the photo above, but in truth they are the fluffy yellowish chicks that most of us have in mind when buying Easter candy. 

These are the turkey poults that arrived in the mail.  In the photo they are still in the box that they were shipped in.  I love the idea of going to pick up a box of chirping babies from the post office.   Joe ordered an assortment, sort of like a box of chocolates I guess, so he has at least four different kinds of turkeys.  It will be a good experiment to see which kind he likes to raise on his farm.  It takes longer to raise a meat turkey than a chicken, so the plan is to have these ready by Thanksgiving. 

This is a recent photo of the chicks I hatched in the incubator -  Curly, Beardy, and the newly named Sissy, in their small brooder at mom's house.  Sissy got her name because I always referred to her as Curly's sister.  It's a terrible thing to do to a chicken, I know.  After seeing all of Joe's hundreds of chicks, I felt quite overwhelmed when trying to think of names for them all, and trying to tell them apart.  I don't know how he's going to do it.

Speaking of Curly, this chick has some very unattractive comb development.  I'm hoping it's just a normal part of growing into a rooster, and that it will work it's self out in time.  Sort of like teenage acne, maybe? At least he doesn't have to go to school looking like this.   

The young hens that Joe raised at his farm, which we split for our chicken partnership, are beginning to lay eggs.  Mom added three of the hens to her flock, and I've given some of my share of the hens to friends, just like Johny Appleseed, I'm spreading the love of chickens throughout the land.  The tiny green egg in the photo is one of the first eggs from one of these young hens.  The rest are from mom's older hens.  So tiny!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Things I Saw

 Some things I saw at work today:

  1. An itchy baby donkey that likes to have his nosed kissed and his forehead scratched
  2. An entire donkey family that lives on the river bank
  3. An old ship lock on the river
  4. A Danger Dam
  5. Hissing geese defending their family
  6. Three four-leaf clovers
  7. A tiny snapping turtle
  8. The view from the ferry as we crossed the river
  9. An intimidating white horse, with ice blue eyes
  10. The white horse's two brown companions
  11. A coworker with wet feet

Can you see all three?

 Pretty good for a days work. 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...