Tag Archives: eggs

From Farm to Table

Years ago, when I taught Biology on the high school level, I was often reminded that our society of city dwellers are so far removed from the production of our food, that most of my students had no idea that their food was grown by people, harvested and processed into the canned and frozen products on the grocery shelves.  The idea that their meat had been a living animal and that someone had to raise, feed, and have it slaughtered and butchered to be put on the styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic in the meat case was so foreign to them that they would argue with me over it. Truly a sad state of affairs.

Though they visited farms in Florida, I think it has been a good experience for my grand children to see that the chickens that I raise produce our eggs.  That the chicken we put on the table was grown here on the farm, killed, cleaned and prepared here.  The plants in the garden produce the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, squash, popcorn, peas and beans that they eat. They like helping out in the garden and pulling weeds to feed the chickens.  To see the chicks hatch and know that they are being raised to produce the chicken and eggs we eat.

It is wonderful that there are cities that have started community gardens and schools that have gardens to teach children about food production and nutrition, but it needs to go farther.  Watching chicks hatch in an incubator in a second grade classroom doesn’t really tell them from where their eggs and chicken come.

N and her mom went with me to an alpaca sheering and she sees me spinning yarn and knitting them hats, mittens, and sweaters from yarn, so she also has some realization that clothing doesn’t just come from a store.

Though I haven’t convinced them that homemade bread is better than factory produced balloon bread, they do love my corn bread, biscuits, scones, and made from scratch pancakes.

This has been a week of illness at our house.  N was sick on Sunday, ok on Monday, sick again on Tuesday, ok on Wednesday and sick again yesterday.  Today she seems ok again and started eating again last night.  Daughter is in her first week of her new job and she has the stuffies, maybe from pollen that is increasing each day. One evening, I felt the virus that N had, but fortunately it was very short lived, only the one afternoon and evening, never like N.

Last night, two of my spinning friends came to our house to learn to make soap.  In the frenzy of giving them the hands on experience, each making a batch with the other looking on and me on the sidelines coaching, I failed to take a single picture.  They each left with a full mold of soap they made, one 3 pound batch of Lavender Rose and one of Bergamot Lemongrass and some palm oil to help them get started on their own.  The only photo are the little muffin tins of overflow.

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Both of these ladies are fiber artists, animal raisers, spinners, knitters and I was gifted with fiber to spin and knit in thanks, a great gift.  What a great feeling to help others learn a skill and send them home with some of what they need to get started.

These two friends attend the spinning retreat that I attend, and one of them mentioned that she was selling her Strauch Petit Drum Carder to get a mechanized one. Once home, I talked with Jim about it and last night, she brought it to me as I decided to purchase it from her.  I am excited.  I will be able to blend fibers and fiber colors now. If I finally get brave enough to attempt to dye the fibers myself, I will increase my fun some more.

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With Easter coming up this weekend, I was asked by K to hard cook some eggs for the kiddos to dye before Sunday.

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Farm fresh eggs won’t peel if boiled, so I learned after starting to raise my own eggs, to steam them for 20 minutes.  They cook perfectly, no green ring around the yolk and peel like a charm.  This is the batch I did second, when the first batch had three cracked eggs in it and I knew not to let them dye them.  I’m not a fan of the commercial dyes, but they are easiest and most child friendly, so they will dye the dozen eggs with their Mom and Dad tonight or tomorrow.

I didn’t want to be left out of the natural dye method this year, so while their eggs were steaming, I did three with yellow onion skins, three in beets, and one each of my Americaunas’ eggs as one lays blue eggs and the other green.

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Later I am going to do a few with red cabbage, both brown eggs and Americaunas to see what shades of blue I get.  The beet dyed ones surprised me, instead of the pink I expected, it turned the brown eggs more yellow.  I know that these won’t be peel-able for deviled eggs as they had to be boiled with the natural dyes to get their color, but for breakfast or egg salad, they will be fine.  Since 4 of the 20 eggs cracked during cooking, I enjoyed a couple for my breakfast.  The kids were fascinated with the natural dyed eggs, but it just wouldn’t be as much fun for them as once you put them on the stove to boil with their dye, they just cook. They will have their fun later.

I love the rich brown of the onion skin dyed eggs.  Maybe I should start saving more of the skins and see what color it dyes yarn.

 

 

Olio – March 15, 2016

Olio:  a miscellaneous collection of things.

Yesterday did end up a dirt play day after all.  Between the heavy rain of Sunday night and the heavier rain and thunder storms of Monday afternoon and night, we had beautiful clear skies and delightful spring temperatures.  On our way home from errands in town, we drove past our driveway, along the top of our property to go down and see if there were any more new calves on the next farm.  We saw no calves, not even any of her cows, they must have been over one of the hills we can’t see from the road, but I spotted large patches of ditch lilies (the tall orange day lilies) up and thriving by the run off creek along the top of our property.  After we bought the land, before we started building, we would come up on weekends every few weeks and clean up trash and plant trees in the rocky area that we would never be able to graze animals or hay.  Along the creek, we planted River birch trees, they like the damp of the creek and along the creek edges, I put in 3 or 4 small clumps of lilies that I had brought up from my Dad’s garden.  Last summer, I wanted to dig some of them to put in the bed that has other day lilies in it down at the house, but the weeds and blackberries had gotten too big for me to want to walk into that area.  The weeds haven’t grown up yet, so with bucket and shovel, I went up and dug a good sized clump.

After walking them back down the drive to the house, I debated where to plant them.  I have had bronze fennel beside the side garage door on the east side of the house and on the other side of the door, is a bed with Dutch iris, day lilies, and lavender.  The chick weed has begun and is growing and spreading like wild fire in that bed.  I decided to make a little tribute garden to the man who loved his gardens and flowers.  The bronze fennel was dug up, a trench dug from the stoop to the south wall of the garage, a good layer of compost dug in and the shovel full of day lilies planted there, the bed edged with stone from our property and mulched down heavily with spoiled and rotting hay.

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Since that looked so good and the soil was damp enough to make weeding not too onerous, I tackled the other side, finding the sprouting iris and day lilies and weeding around them, taking buckets of weeds and grubs to the chickens.  A thick layer of newspaper was laid down around each plant and a hefty coat of hay added.

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I still have about 3 feet of that bed to do, but I am waiting to see if the perennial sunflower is going to come up. It started raining before I could finish even the part I started, but it will also have a trench dug and stone edge put in place.  We aren’t wanting for stone of this property.  All of the foundation and chimney stone came off our land.

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While pulling back the chickweed, this little lizard climbed the stone and tried to hide. I love finding the lizard’s and toads that eat the insects and show that the gardens are healthy and unsprayed. It will be happy with the thick layer of spoiled hay that replaced the chickweed.

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a link to a T-shirt that amused me.  I showed it to Mountaingdad and asked if he would wear it and he said yes.  It came today…

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I’m glad he has a sense of humor, he didn’t even give me a hard time when I had him put it on and model.

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The chickens relished the buckets of goodies that I gave them yesterday and so far, they haven’t flown over the low fence around the bed in the middle of the garden.  It amuses me that all 8 of the hens will take turns using the same nesting box in the coop.  There are 6 nesting boxes and it is rare to find eggs in any except the right hand most box, sometimes just outside of it.

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This may be a problem when one or more gets broody, as they will lay eggs in the broody hen’s nest.  Last year, I marked the eggs under the broody hen and checked every couple of days to remove any not marked ones.  This year, we hope to have a brooder coop to separate them.  When one goes broody, she will be moved to the brooder coop and over a couple of days, given a dozen eggs to hatch.  The brooder coop will have a floor this year, so hopefully, the chicks will survive whatever predator was getting under it last year and doing the damage.  I don’t want to lose 50 chicks again this year, I would rather increase my flock and have some for the freezer instead.

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About 20 years ago, my Dad made himself a little wooden wheelbarrow to fill with potted flowers in his garden. I commented on it and a couple years later, he gifted me with one he had made just for me. That little barrow has lived at 3 houses, the one we raised our children in, the one year rental after we sold our house and started this one, and here. One of the handles was broken in the move and I  did a makeshift repair on it. A year or so ago, the broomstick axle broke and the little barrow sat forlorn and damaged by the garden. Today, I am going to refurbish it and it will have a place in the breezeway perennial garden filled with shade loving flowers this summer.

I plan to enjoy every rain free daylight hour for the next few days. Monday we are going to see another stint of winter, snow flurries and freezing nights and all. Soon it will really be spring and the Camelot like days of warmth, the evening rain showers will return.

 

Olio – February 20, 2016

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

On this day 29 years ago, my youngest was born.  He was 11 days late, I thought he would never enter this world, and when he did decide to come, he was presented sunnyside up, with a huge head, and weighing in at a whopping 11+ pounds.  We didn’t have to have a C section, but almost.  We are extremely proud of him as he became an EMT at 18 and has volunteered with it ever since.  He moved on to earn his Paramedic certification with Advanced Life Support and has worked in that field most of his adult life.  He recently has started his own transport company and is awaiting the final inspections to start moving with his two ambulances at the ready.  Happy birthday, son.

The snow from last week finally is gone except for a few sheltered places in the woods and on the north side of the house and barn.  There is a coastal storm that is threatening us next week, hopefully not to interfere with my friend’s and my drive to the spinning retreat on Thursday.  The forcasters can’t decide if it is going to be snow, ice, or rain, we are hoping it is only rain or if the snow or ice is on the earlier end, coming on Tuesday.

I am packed for the retreat and ready to go as compactly as I can be.  Since, I am only taking soaps, lotion bars and salves, I have packed it all into one large wicker lidded basket, instead of the usual 5 or 6 wooden crates when I also have yarn and knit wear. This retreat is for fiber folks, they make their own yarn and knit wear.

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The only items that didn’t fit were my cash box and my business cards.

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They will fit into the red and blue plaid bag on the floor.  The group has a nightly happy hour, and the bag will also carry the snacks and snack dishes for the items I will be contributing.  We do a gift raffle and as a vendor, I must supply one gift of $20 value or more and will as a participant, provide a second.  They will go into that bag as well.  That leaves only my clothes, spinning wheel and fiber to put together.  That won’t be done until Wednesday night, unless we are going to get snow and ice, requiring my car to be put at the top of the driveway or even up at the paved road, in which case I will pack it all before moving the car.

Today was a beautiful spring like day.  The melting snow finally allowed the Buffys to venture over into the garden area to scratch and search for goodies.  With the longer days, I am generally getting 3 to 5 eggs a day.  Interestingly, the two Americauna have produced more than half of the eggs produced in the past three days.  This puts the 6 Buffys to shame.

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One of the Americauna’s eggs are blue, the other more olive.  The Buffys eggs vary from pink to darker brown and from tiny like the top right to giant like the bottom right.  It is nice to have fresh eggs for breakfast and for baking with the bonus of having enough to share with some of my friends.  The girls will be cared for in my absence by Mountaingdad and daughter.

The house is quiet tonight.  Daughter and family went out to dinner and to a movie for the kids.  It is strange to cook just for two after 13 months of having a house full.  As I was food shopping today, I found a grass finished New York strip steak, so Mountaingdad got a treat tonight.  Risotto and sugar snap peas rounded it out and provided my dinner along with a glass of the Merlot that my brother made last summer.

At the Christmas party for my spinning group, I scored 12 ounces of California red wool. I started spinning it recently and have fallen in love with the fiber.  It is a natural white color and spins like a dream.  I have one bobbin full and it looks like it is going to fill 4 bobbins once done.  Once I see how many yards it is once spun, I will decide what it will become.  I definitely won’t sell this yarn.

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Our local Barnes and Noble sells Harney and Son teas.  A year or so ago, I went on their website to buy one of my favorites, Autumn Cranberry as a bulk loose tea and received a travel sample of Valentine Blend, a chocolate with rose bud black tea.  I savored that delicious, fragrant tea, hoping that it would be carried by Barnes and Noble around Valentine’s day.  They did not get it in, so again I visited the website and today, my 4 ounce tin and one pound bag arrived, just in time to tuck some into my luggage to go with me to the retreat.

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We are hoping that this week’s weather does not produce more school outage.  Grandson has only been in school a few days in the past two weeks due to snow, ice or extreme cold.

Tomorrow, I hope to enjoy the warm day to finally weed the asparagus bed before the new shoots begin to emerge.

Fall Generosity

Saturday mornings are Farmers’ Market mornings and we drifted in to see what we could score to add to our own garden produce.  Most of my flowers are perennials and they are fading this late in the season as are the sunflowers, so I purchased a bouquet of annuals from our favorite county organic farmers, Stonecrop Farm.  Their flowers and produce are always superior.  Beets and cucumbers were also acquired from their weekend offerings.

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Some lamb chops, beef, eggplant, salad mix and corn were added at other stalls to provide us with fresh local food goodness this week.  We got home with it after a stop for dog food in time to put it away and venture back out just a bit later to meet my 92 year old Dad and Stepmom for lunch.  They drove up yesterday to attend the wedding of one of my cousins this afternoon.  It was great to see him, his health improved from a couple of months ago, when we last saw him for a short 24 hours.

While we were out, we left the hens free ranging as there was no fear of the dogs being accidentally let out.  We came home to find they had breached the low fence around one of my perennial beds, digging in the spoiled straw bedding from the chicklets brooder that I had tossed around them as mulch.

This morning I realized that the Asian pears and apples were beginning to drop from the trees, so it was time to harvest them.  The handmade basket is 22 X 10 X 7″ and the fledgling orchard rewarded us well.

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This is the first year that we have allowed fruit to set on the trees and though the apples were scarce, the Asian pears were generous.  We have harvested another large basket previously, many of which were taken to Northern Virginia with grandson #1 as he loves them.  I will make chutney, ginger pear sauce and perhaps freeze a few.  That will be tomorrow’s task.

While doing a bit of weeding in the vegetable garden, I picked an ear of popcorn to see how it was doing.  Looks like we will be enjoying homegrown popcorn this winter.

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There was another colored egg this afternoon, each day the size is getting more average and bluer in color.  I still don’t know how many of the Americaunas are laying, but as I am getting only one per day, I guess it is only one.  With the summer visitors gone and with daughter’s family not really being egg eaters, I am going to have to get eating or sell a couple of dozen to friends who like the fresh eggs.

When I arrived back from Northern Virginia yesterday, I realized that we are entering Stink Bug battle time.  I collected more than a dozen inside the house, found dozens more outside the screens.  Winter before last, they were horrible, last year not as bad.  It looks like this may be another bad year.  It is unfortunate that they want to come in just as the weather is right to have the windows open to enjoy the beautiful weather.

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What a nasty pest they are.  None of the homemade or commercial traps really seem to reduce their presence.  Any suggestions other than poisons?

 

 

Is It Contagious

We have gone from 10 laying hens and 3 Middles too young to lay, one Rooster and one Cockrell to contagious broodiness and few eggs.  First one of last year’s hens started sitting 10 eggs and hatched 6 chicks, adorable little fluff balls who are getting more active each day, wandering between the two runs, checking out what everyone else is eating and doing.  On May 29, another hen started sitting a nest and over two days, we put 10 eggs under her.  She rarely leaves the nest even to eat and is a feisty Mom, pecking at me if I intrude on her space.  On May 30, a third hen started sitting a nest and over a couple of days, we put 9 eggs under her and though she will leave the nest to eat and puffs up if I come near, I can move her or pick her up without harm.  Today a fourth hen started showing signs of broodiness, sitting on a single egg in an adjoining nest.  She was removed and the egg removed, but when I went to lock them up tonight, she was trying to share the nest with Mom #3.  I moved her away and she literally crawled on top of Mom #3.  I picked her up and put her on a perch and she immediately tried to get on the nest again.

I guess tomorrow, I will build two more nesting boxes to put in the chicken tractor and move the two sitting Moms with their nest and eggs and hope they will stay on the nest, or build a barrier around them in the coop and put their food and water inside. I need to break the broodiness of this 4th hen, I can’t house any more chicks than the potential I have, though another brood of chicks would be just that many more in the freezer this fall.  Our egg production is down to just a couple of eggs per day with all the sitting Moms.  We aren’t eating eggs each day like when I have a good laying flock, not collecting any to sell or give to neighbors.

Son #1 is going to try to come on a weekend soon to help make the chicken tractor a permanent coop of slightly larger size with low nesting boxes to use as a brooding coop that will later be the cull coop, once we can sex the chicks.

I am hoping the Americaunas start laying soon so that we have some eggs and need to figure out how to break the broodiness cycle with the laying hens.

The Good and the Bad of Spring

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Forsythia blooming, Lilac leaves unfurling.  Frightful and her sisters have found the perches in the chicken tractor and instead of being Frightful, she should be Frightened as they won’t come out and play in the yard.  Apples, Asian Pears and Peaches are blooming.  The Buffys are being generous.  The Maples are all lime green with flowers and oh the pollen.

The dogs are shedding fiercely requiring daily vacuuming.  The garden is going to require some sort of major rework to keep the Buffys and Romeo from scratching up every seedling that is emerging.

I am in a fog.  Though I was never allergic to things growing up, I seem to be developing more and more allergies as I age.  It started about a dozen years ago with my first and major case of poison ivy, followed by more and more serious reactions to paper wasp stings and this year my eyes are gritty and my head stuffed full from the indoor and outdoor spring allergens.

Because of the reactions to stings, our youngest son with funds we fronted has established a bee hive in his yard in Virginia Beach and applied for a grant that will refund part of what was invested and with that he hopes to get a second hive.  He will maintain the hives and we will enjoy our share of the honey they produce.  That is a win/win as far that they and we are concerned.  I wish the hives could be here to benefit our garden and flowers, but it is not a risk I am willing to take with the nearest medical facility at least 20 minutes away.  The same son is a Paramedic and he said that most Doctors won’t prescribe an Epi Pen to seniors due to other risks.  I guess I should visit our Doc and inquire.

Things I don’t buy anymore

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Tortilla’s for tacos and enchiladas
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Ricotta cheese
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Mozzarella cheese
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Pasta noodles
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Bar soap, shampoo, laundry detergent
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Eggs
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Chicken
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Tomato products, salsas, jams, chutney
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Mustard
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Yogurt and cream cheese
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Hand and body lotion

The longer we homestead, the more products have been eliminated from our shopping list, more products are made at home.  As the garden and orchard grow and my desire to be more aware of what goes on and into my body, the more items are removed.  Hopefully, the day will come when we are growing a couple of pigs on our land and at least some of the lard will replace the oils that I buy for cooking and soap making.  If Son #1 or 2 raise bees, we will be able to have honey and beeswax too (I am allergic to bee stings, so I can’t tackle that task.)

I love being able to make these items, our bread and chicken feed, grow most of our vegetables and have the health and time to do it.

Effort, Disappointment, and a Delicious Surprise

Mountaingdad and I began our morning with a group of others from our county to form the core group of Preserve Giles County to oppose and fight the proposed pipeline.  We met for two hours, introduced ourselves and I found that this made me very emotional as we each spent about 5 minutes giving our name and why we were there.  It was the first time I have introduced myself to these people and talking about the fact that I was born here, my grandfather was born here and though I grew up in the eastern coastal Virginia, retired here.  That our home is a labor of love, Son 1 spending two years of his life doing carpentry and stone work on our house. I installing wood siding, beadboard, cedar and doing flooring and baseboards.  That we are invested financially, physically and emotionally in the home we built.  The meeting was productive and will move on to a point where we feel we are fighting as a group, not as individuals with a common goal.

The disappointment came when I realized that of the 5 1/2 quarts of broth that I made with the turkey carcass, even though they were chilled overnight in the refrigerator with plenty of head room in wide mouth jars, all 4 that I put in the freezer, broke the jars and all 4 quarts of turkey broth are ruined.  The remaining quart and a half were used to make gravy for turkey we have eaten since Thanksgiving.  To try to salve a disaster, the remnants of the thighs and the meatier parts of the wings that weren’t really done enough to suit me are currently simmering in another 3 quarts of water.  The meat will be made into pot pies and casseroles, the broth frozen in vacuum sealing bags this time for use in soups and future gravies.

The delicious surprise came just a few minutes ago as I went to collect eggs and do a quick survey of the garden plot after last week’s 20 something degrees and the wet snow.  The row cover over the garlic had blown free from one end and I wanted to re-secure it.  There was kale that had perked back up, not a lot, but certainly enough for a meal, maybe my favorite African Chicken with Hot Greens.  And a berry bucket of turnips that weren’t large enough to harvest a few weeks ago.  I’ll bet they are as sweet as honey after last week.  We will enjoy them within the next day or two as well.  The chard is gone, the wormy cabbages went to the chooks with the turnip tops that were too wilted to try to cook.  With any luck, we will get one or two more meals of kale, then I guess it too will be pulled for the chickens or heavily mulched with hay for maybe some spring regrowth.

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The chooks laid just enough eggs while the kids were here to provide us with a delicious breakfast each morning and to make the pumpkin pies.  Yesterday there were only 3 and today 6.  It seems that the dozen hens are not really going to be laying enough for me to sell many this winter, but should keep us fulfilled.

Love our life on our mountain farm.

Dreariness

It is cold and raining.  Not the biting cold of last week, that is due again tomorrow, but cold enough to make procrastination on outdoor chores inevitable.  I cuddled in bed with my book until the Shadow, the German Shepherd was dancing cross legged by my side of the bed, Ranger, the big guy still lazing on his pad on the floor by Mountaingdad.

It is wet enough that the pups didn’t want to stay outside very long, not long enough for me to finish prepping their eggs, so they hovered around and behind me while I cooked.  The recalcitrant hens producing barely enough eggs to have for home use and as I used one of yesterday’s 3 eggs to make cornbread last night for a meal we shared with our recently widowed neighbor after the Pipeline Opposition meeting, there were only two to cook this morning.  Once I carton a dozen and put them in the refrigerator for neighbors or friends, I leave them alone and only use from the bowl on the counter. This left me with no egg today, but I had leftover cornbread, a wedge lightly buttered and toasted in a cast iron skillet is a treat to be savored, with or without an egg.  The pan was heating to cook the pups eggs, so I got my cornbread first.

With the house critters (including me) fed, it was getting harder to stall about layering up in gumboots, coat and gloves and finally making the wet, chilly walk over to let the chooks out and to feed and water them.  Their sloped run, bare of a single blade of grass and with the hay scratched and washed off was as slick as ice.  It is too wet to uncover the big round bale of hay to throw more down at the gate, hopefully later it will quit raining long enough to accomplish that task.  Their coop hay tossed to loosen it up for insulation and turned to facilitate the deep litter composting that produces heat for them, their feed served in two metal dog bowls to keep it from being trampled into the mud and a quick check of nesting boxes for cleanliness and I found a surprise.

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Three fresh, warm eggs to keep my hands warm as I slogged back to the house.  I haven’t seen morning eggs in weeks and am luck to find 3 or 4 cold eggs in the evenings.  It would be nice to get back to going out and finding more than I can carry in without a basket, but maybe not until springtime.

If it is going to be wet and cold, it should at least be white.  I’d settle for the mountain snow flurries that fall for days on end with no real accumulation, just the dusting on gardens, roofs and cars.  Cold, rainy winters remind me of winters on the coast, you are supposed to have snow in the mountains. I know, I should be careful of what I wish for, we may find ourselves snowed in without power later in the winter and we haven’t laid in wood for the stove and fireplace, having only a bit left over from last year.  I suppose we should set in an emergency supply at least.

Garden’s Swan Song

We are past our “Frost Date” and have had mild nights except a couple of weeks ago.  The garden survived those two nights with row cover fabric draped over the peppers and tomatillos.  We are expecting two nights in the 30’s tonight and tomorrow night and nothing is going to be done to protect what is left.  If the plants survive, great, we might get a few more tomatillos and peppers, the greens will be fine for a while.  If they freeze, it has been a good year.

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To prepare, a harvest of 5 types of peppers, a basket of tomatillos, a handful of bush beans and two golfball sized turnips were brought in.  The Jalapeños were pickled into two more pints for winter.  The bell peppers sliced and frozen except for a few to stuff tomorrow.  The Anchos have been put in the window sill hoping they will turn red and can then be dried for Enchilada sauce.  The tomatillos and habeneros will be cooked down with onion and garlic for more of Son #1’s favorite XXX sauce.

With the garden waning, the chickens get to visit, eating bugs, weed seed and scratching around leaving chicken fertilizer.  When they aren’t in the garden, they wander around the orchard, the yards and out into the fields, but not too far from the house.

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They are healthy, producing plenty of eggs each day and live a good life.

On Saturdays, we generally go to town, have breakfast at the local diner then shop the Farmers’ Market.  We came home with some beef and pork for the freezer, a peck of eating apples and some carrots and onions.

Between our garden goodness and the Farmers’ Market take, we will eat well.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.