Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Duck from Daisy and Buck

Local Tom Struttin' His Stuff(ing) on the Arcata Bottoms


Thanksgiving has come and gone and there is much to be thankful for. A house full of family, good food, and many hands keeping the woodstove aflame, making the bread, dressing the turkey, and making emergency trips to the store for last minute (for)gets.

We dined on organic turkey but the big fun was a locally raised duck from a neat young couple, Ash and David, otherwise known as Buck and Daisy (, who are making a go of raising ducks and rabbits. The duck was hands down the crown jewel of the feast. Pekin (as opposed to Muscovy) is the fatty duck most of us novice duck devourers are acquainted with. We stuffed her full of oranges, onions, and herbs from the garden and made a l'orange sauce that made the duck dance in our mouths. It was out-o-this world.

So this holiday gave me pause to consider not only what I'm grateful for (that was easy, they were all around me) but also the thought that next year we will have our own Naragansett turkey raised with our second batch of chicks. Per Ash and David, they are the sweetest of fowl...the only ones that didn't run or hide upon first encounters with human touch. Now one of us has to get OK with the "processing" part. It probably won't come easy, but studying under Ash and David may help to cushion the impact.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fruits of the Forest, Feast For the Family

The illusive bloom
The transportation
The bounty
Chanterelle, goat cheese, carmelized onion pizza
chanterelles in creme sauce with pasta, parmesan, chicken

Last week we hit the jackpot in our newfound hobby, foraging for fungi. We found enough to enjoy two meals of which chanterelles were the centerpiece. Night #1 they were sauteed in butter, wine and finished off with heavy cream, added to pasta with carmelized onions and grilled free range organic chicken. Night #2 got even better: pizza topped with olive oil, chanterelles sauteed with thyme, butter, olive oil and again carmelized onions, a smattering of roasted red bell peppers, and local favorite, Cypress Grove goat cheese. One reviewer claims it was "de best pizza ever" :-). Apparently the delicate chanterelles are best sauteed in fats like butter and creme...brings out their unforgettable forest floor flavor. I can't decide which was more enjoyable, the hunt or the feast.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nesting Boxes in the Nick of Time?

Long Overdue Nesting Box Partitions

Ironically, Eggs in the Woodshed

Today I happened to be inspired to finish the nesting boxes for the girls. To date we have had only one big long nesting box without dividers. While combing through the shed for spare plywood to finish the job, I came across this egg-citing (maybe two) of our California Whites, aka Leghorns, aka our current favs, has begun laying. Too cool! Like the woman who delivers on the way to the hospital, the poor girl had to lay her eggs in the woodshed on a tarp because the nesting box was just not finished. No wonder Chicken Little and Snow White were closely inspecting the box building today, remaining in the boxes even as the noisy screwdriver did it's thing...must have sounded like a jackhammer to them. Nonetheless, they remained constant companions throughout the blaring affair. Now I understand a bit better their motivation, and it was not just the possibility that I might possess food, rather a comfy secluded place to nest. Coincidence that after months and months of not finishing the nesting boxes that the hens lay and the nest day I build nexting boxes? I think not. I prefer to believe I am becoming one with the chickens, highly in tune with their needs.

This egg laying confirms our sneaking suspicion that the four little white hens, sold to us as Americaunas are actually a horse of another color...or at least the eggs are. They were de best eggs ever with the most orange yolk.

Today I also installed a light and set a timer up to have it go on at 4 am. None of the hens seems to be molting anymore so hopefully they won't mind.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

...And Speaking of Farming

Here's the latest addition to our homesteading efforts, a rain catchment barrel, otherwise affectionately known as "poop water" since we've added some of our high-in-nitrogen stinky stuff to it. The addition of an aerator has made a remarkable difference in the olfactory factor (i.e. our back deck no longer smells like it is located next to the sewage treatment plant). Now nothing emanating from our chickens will go to waste, not even theirs.

Farming & Foraging

The last couple of weeks have been prime mushroom weather here on the Northcoast. The fever hit us shortly after a friend dropped by a bag full of freshly plucked chanterelles. At $13.45 a pound at the local Coop, we decided it was high time we get out there and learn for ourselves where to find these tasty forest nypmhs. Our first attempt a couple of weekends ago netted us nothing. Between cloudbursts we trekked up the hill a few miles, tromped through the forest and found fungi of many shapes sizes. Soaked, cold, and disappointed, we headed home chanterelle-less (or is that chanterelless?).

This past week however we decided to try closer to home on the local bike path we frequent. Within a few feet of the well-trodden trail, we uncovered our first patch! Tiny little baby fruits peeked out from under the forest duff. Here, there, practically everywhere. Mostly they are still very teeny so we are monitoring them regularly as if they were a new brood of hopes that someone else isn't doing the same. It is inexplicably satisfying to farm and now forage for food locally, bring the bounty still damp with dirt into the kitchen and dream up an epicurean delight based on our harvested.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why The White Bird Has Become My Friend

The latest weekend morning grub for the girls is a mix of 1 part organic oat groats, 1 part organic plain yogurt and 1 part shredded apple. The reason for the recipe: One of the Blue Laced Red Wyandottes took her molt to an extreme which made her look 1/3 her original size and worried me a little since this is my first fall for fowl and not completely knowing what to expect. The absence of eggs clued me in and although I continued my daily egg hunt for weeks, I still came up empty. Egg laying ceased some time in September which seemed way too early, but when one of the (affectionately named) evil step sisters became a shadow of her former self I finally came to understand that the change in season has a profound effect on these ladies. Long story short, after googling (new word for researching) molting, chicken dietary needs, etc. I learned that they need extra protein to create new feathers which are pretty much all protein. Yogurt is a good and much appreciated source and the reason why our 4 beautiful white, formerly shy skittish ladies are now flying atop the gate within inches of our countenance looking for their porridge in the whites of our eyes. Even the blessed blueberries didn't have this effect. Extreme molts call for extreme measures.

3 Speed Cheekens

Our adventurous white ( breed as yet unidentified) hens have taken a shining to the ancient 3 speed yard ornament. They say that kids take after their parents, however I think this picture goes a long way toward answering the age-old question "Why did the chicken cross the road?" Same reason she climbed the bike and jumped up on the see what was on the other side.