We have two dogs. Ivory (see "the land provides! part 1") has been with us since forever, but Lancelot is a new addition. Rowan wanted a pet of her very own so badly, and he was so beautiful, and so cheap! Of course, he had no training whatsoever that we could detect, although it's possible he knew a few words in Russian, and had never set paw in a house before. We didn't care; we were captivated. One evening before he acquired a permanent name, Homero and I were watching one of those ridiculous cable shows, "Hotties of the 90's: where are they now?" or something like that, and as a result, the dog very narrowly escaped being named Fabio. Rowan wouldn't allow it, but I stand by my assertion that the resemblance is uncanny.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Will I never learn? I am a terrible chick-killer. See black mama? She hatched out three lovely little black and white chicks today, two of whom are visible in the picture above. Also visible in the picture above is a dish of water, in which chick number three drowned this afternoon, after only a few hours of life outside the shell. It was a pretty gross discovery. Oh well, not all little fluffy chicks are meant to live, I guess. Now yellow mama has two and black mama has two. So may it remain!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Today I visited the noxious weed board of our county with a sample of a particularly annoying weed that is rapidly proliferating on my land. It starts out very small and feathery, innocent-looking, with a sharp, half-familiar, not unpleasant smell. But pretty soon it is seven feet tall, growing in thick hedges, stinking to high heaven with a rank, foul odor, and giving me hives whenever I brush against it. The goats, naturally enough, won't touch the stuff, with the result that it is spreading.
Years ago, when my Dad lived with me in my old house in the city, we used to play a game called "can you be self sufficient on five acres?" Or more realistically, "how close to self sufficiency can you get with five acres?" The rules were fluid, but they assumed our regional climate. We were only trying to get total food self-sufficiency, not clothing or energy, although if by-products of food production turned out useful for those purposes, it would be a plus.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
My attempts at cheesemaking have been hit or miss, a little. I was constrained by several factors, the main one being that my only lactating goat, Iris, was feeding twins and had only a pint a day or so left over for me. It takes a gallon of milk to make 12 ounces or so of cheese, so I seldom had enough milk to even try. I used half and half goat milk and supermarket cow's milk. Also, my recipes would say things like "hold the milk at 72 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 hours" without any suggestions about how to do that. A yogurt-maker sprang to mind, but finding one in my town proved impossible. I resorted to bain-maries and the oven light, but I'm sure that the resulting temperature fluctuations had adverse effects on the cheese. As you can see from the picture, my equipment is pretty rudimentary. Joann, my step-grandmother (?) gave me an old fashioned food mill, which I found works perfectly well for draining fresh curds, especially when lined with a cut-up clean cotton pillowcase. Some of the cheese was okay. Some of it was pretty darn good, but even when it turned out well, I couldn't duplicate the result.
Friday, June 20, 2008
The yellow mama has hatched out two chicks. There are four more eggs, but I don't think they're going to hatch. I only just discovered the chicks when I went into the mama barn - that's the small barn where I milk the goats, keep the feed, and put any prospective mothers to hatch/birth their babies - to feed the chickens their afternoon ration. Both yellow mama and black mama (my sister says these names are racist) are brooding in there, but yellow mama has been on her eggs for about a week longer than black mama. I had settles them in their own boxes up on the shelf, but when I went in, yellow mama was on the floor and her eggs were uncovered in their box on the shelf.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
4 large fresh poblano peppers
12 ounces queso fresco or monterrey jack
4 large eggs
6 to 8 roma tomatoes
one smallish yellow onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic
2 allspice berries
large pinch cumin
2 cups chicken stock or canned broth
salt and pepper
roast poblanos under the broiler, 3 inches from heat, turning frequently until blistered all over, about 8 minutes. Place in a paper bag, twist shut, and let cool. When cool, peel the peppers, make a small slit in the side and carefully remove the seeds and ribs. Don't worry if some remains. Stuff each pepper with a 2-3 ounce piece of cheese. Set aside.
For sauce: in a large, dry skillet (If you don't have a comal, use cast iron) dry roast tomatoes and roughly chopped onions until blistered and blackened in spots. Add garlic, roughly chopped jalapenos, and spices. As soon as
spices give off a roasted smell, scrape everything into a blender. Blend with chicken stock. Pour into a saucepan and keep warm, adding salt and pepper as desired.
Back to the chiles:
Heat 2 cups vegetable oil in a large skillet to deep-fat frying temperature, until a cube of bread browns nicely.
separate the eggs. In a large bowl, beat the whites until soft peaks form. add the yolks and blend gently. Now, carefully take up a chile, slit side up, and pass it through the eggs mixture, coating it, and slide into hot oil. Use a spoon to flick oil over the chile and seal the seam. Fry about two minutes on each side, then place in a large baking dish (I use a lasagna pan.). Repeat with other chiles. Pour tomato sauce over the chiles and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve with white rice and fresh hot corn tortillas.
When we moved here, we spent all our money fixing up the old house; the leaky roof, the leaky plumbing, the snarly old electrical system from 1958 (with real fuses, yet). And the rot. Oh yes, the rot. This is western washington, probably the grayest and wettest part of western washington, and this house has been rained on continuously for 50 years. It took one whole summer and most of our funds to make it habitable (of course, this is why we were able to afford such a gorgeous piece of land. So don't think I'm complaining.). We had to try and conserve. So we got our first animals, the chickens, free off of Craig's List.
The hardest part of making this dish is getting your hands on some posole. You COULD use canned hominy, but I'd pretend I'm not related to you. I use a brand called "los chileros," which has a website (loschileros.com) where you can order posole by mail. It comes in blue and white varieties; use whatever you think is prettier.
Posole can be made with pork (the pot I have on the stove is made with pork spareribs; the first use of our hog) or chicken. If you use pork, use about two pounds of meaty, cartilaginous cut like ribs or shoulder blade. If you use chicken, use a whole one.
Put posole to soak in cold water the night before. Even two days isn't too much.
Three hours before dinnertime, bring meat and water to cover to a boil with three or four cloves, three or four allspice berries, a two inch piece of cinnamon stick, several black peppercorns, a teaspoon or so of cvuminseed, and three unpeeled cloves of garlic. Tear open and shake the seeds out of six to nine (depending how hot you like it) dried guajillo chiles. If you can't find guajillos, new mexico or california chiles will do. Add to pot. Skim scum.
Rinse and add soaked posole. Keep at a fast simmer, covered, for about two hours, until meat is falling off bones and posole kernels have "bloomed."
Use a fork to fish out the chiles, let cool on a plate, then use your fingers to "scrape" the flesh off the papery skin and back into the pot. Discard the skin. If you care about such things, or have company coming, you can debone the meat at this time. (this is one of the reasons I like to use ribs. Easy deboning.)
Serve posole with a platter of the following condiments, attractively arranged:
Finely shredded green cabbage
Finely chopped white onion
finely chopped red radishes
This is a very filling meal, good for an unseasonably cold and rainy late spring day in the Pacific Northwest.
Well, I know the Day boys grew up out in the country, and Dad tells me that you guys went shooting sometimes, but not really hunting for food. Darn. I was hoping he could tell me the best way to treat a wild rabbit.
Ivory, my dog (see photo gallery) is part whippet, and she is quick, but not, until yesterday, quick enough to catch one of the abundant wild rabbits on the property. Yesterday evening I was working in the garden when Ivory comes prancing by with a large brown rabbit dangling loosely from her mouth. I took it from her, praising her lavishly, inspected it, and found that it was quite surely dead, but also warm as life, and not a mark on it. Must have died of fright, or a broken neck. I brought it in to show to Homero, and told him that if he wanted to clean it, I'd cook it. He hesitated and asked, didn't I think Ivory deserved it for herself? After all, it was her first rabbit. Okay, I said, if you don't want to do it...but didn't you say you were going to butcher the next pig? And I haven't even seen you kill a chicken yet. So he took a quick look at YouTube and then skinned and gutted it quite neatly. Currently I have it marinating in red wine, olive oil, and garlic in the fridge. It's not much more than mouthful for each of us, but I figure it'll stretch out in a stew. Anyone got a recipe?
marinate overnight in 1/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup dry red wine, two cloves garlic, crushed, a couple of peppercorns, a couple of cloves, a couple of allspice berries.
The next day, pat pieces dry and saute in small amount olive oil, along with:
one large thinly sliced yellow onion, a three inch branch of rosemary, two minced cloves garlic, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, lightly crushed.
Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a small pot and bring to a simmer.
When onions are wilted and meat is browned, stir in a tablespoon tomato paste, and add the simmering marinade, a handful of chopped kalamata or other black olives, a couple of teaspoons of capers, and salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Keep at a fast simmer for a good hour. Add water when needed.
Separately, boil some pasta. I used penne, but bowtie or large elbow macaroni would be fine. Or tortellini.
When meat is tender and beginning to shred from bone, serve over pasta. Shower generously with finely minced parsley.
It was really good. The dog got the bones.
Monday, June 16, 2008
When I scheduled the pig for butchering last friday, I didn't know I was going to have houseguests.
My dear friend Charlotte, my best friend since we were both sixteen, came up to visit with her husband during spring break. She is a teacher in Glenwood, washington, which is so far out in the boonies that you probably won't know where it is even when I tell you the name of the nearest decent sized town, which is White Salmon. Hood River Oregon is the closest real town. It takes her about seven hours to drive here from there, so I was flattered, and exited to see her, as she is eight months pregnant with her first baby.
But I couldn't put off the farm chores. I had already rescheduled the pig's d-day once. And the baby goats needed to be taken to the vet for dehorning and castration. Some people do these jobs themselves, but I'm just not quite there yet. For a while, I had thought I would dehorn them myself, but then I checked out the instructions on the internet, with graphic pictures. It's a red hot iron procedure. And castration is way beyond my comfort zone. I know I'm probably too soft for farm life, but I decided I could be conveniently absent when the knackerman came for the pig, and the baby goats could have their various operations under anaesthesia. My guests were coming with me to the vet. (Aren't I a great hostess? I really know how to entertain.) So we were loading the babies into the dog crate when the pig killers showed up in their large and very businesslike white panel truck. I pointed them towards the pig and they walked right up and shot him in the head with a rifle. We turned away quickly. It took us about another five minutes or so to get all organized and belted in the car, and I thought I'd just ask the men if they needed a check or something before I left. But as soon as I looked in that direction, what I saw made me change my mind rather quickly. The pig was being dragged along the ground towards the truck, still flopping around violently.
Well, I was sorry my guests had to see that. I was sorry I had to see it. We all wondered aloud why they didn't just shoot him again. Then we went and had the babies' heads burned and balls cut off. I was feeling very barbaric. I was questioning why I couldn't be content eating plastic wrapped mystery meat like everyone else in the world. What odd brand of masochism made me decide that I should confront the realities of omniverousness? This feeling passed; realistically I know that my pig enjoyed a quality of life undreamt of by those pigs that provide grocery store pork. He was allowed to wander and root around, and generally behave in a natural piggish manner. He was healthy and relatively free. I don't have any guilt on that count.
But it did continue to bother me that he wasn't killed quickly. So much so, that I decided to risk embarrassment and call the meat company. "Why didn't they just shoot him again?" I asked.
"Oh, he was dead," the lady told me. "I promise you, he was dead. They shot him point blank, they can't miss, and then they immediately cut his throat and stab him in the heart. He was dead. All animals that have nerves flop around like that," she said. "Even people do, but they don't show that on TV."
"I guess not," I said. "Well, that makes me feel better."
And it did, despite also making me feel a little foolish. I'm a nurse; when people die of natural causes in the hospital they don't flop around. Anyway, I was relieved. I was starting to actually question whether or not I'd be able to enjoy the meat. I'd just about decided that if I can't enjoy this pork, then I'll just have to stop eating pork altogether. I still don't know what strange breed of masochism it is, but if I can't face my meat with my eyes wide open, then I got no business eating it. I'll let you know.
The black hen finally hatched out her babies...well, three of them, anyway. Three cute little black and yellow chicks, and seven more eggs. Maybe there would have been more. But somebody left the barn door open and the pig got in. Bye bye baby birdies.
The poor momma chicken was running around looking for them all afternoon. When she settled down in the evening, I put a new egg next to her, and she rolled it underneath herself and sat on it, so I'm hoping that if I can buy a few new hatched chicks and slip them under her while she's sleeping, she'll adopt them. The book says you can do that sometimes.
Today I'm calling Kaiser Meats to come get the pig.
Posted by Aimee at 10:59 AM
Hi all, I'm sending you an e-mail I wrote to a friend, because reading over it, I realized it's funny. I guess it's been long enough now.
oh PHEW!!!!! (wiping beads of sweat off forehead). I
> was so worried about J***, not knowing if chicken
> pox might be more dangerous for her because of her
> heart condition.
> You would absolutely not believe the weekend I've
> had. On Fridays my husband stays down in Seattle so
> he can work a long day Saturday, so I was by myself.
> I had 1) a dog who just had surgery, 2) a couple of
> kids with the sniffles (so I thought), and then 3)
> Rowan, my 14 year old, ate a kiwi fruit - which she
> has had before, mind you - and has an anaphylactic
> reaction. She's never had an allergic reaction to
> anything before. Suddenly, her face looks like an
> inner tube, she's totally flaming scarlet red, even
> the whites of her eyes, and she says "mom, I can't
> swallow right." I dump some liquid benadryl down her
> throat and call 911. Within ten minutes the house is
> full of firemen. They sent three ambulances. But the
> benadryl has kicked in, the swelling is going down,
> and I'm a nurse, so they say they don't have to take
> her in to ER. Shhesh. Okay, things are calming down,
> I'm getting the kids ready for bed, they are in the
> tub, Rowan is sacked out on the couch wheezing, and
> the post-surgery dog comes in with foam pouring out
> of his mouth, hacking and clawing at his face. At
> this point I want to just start running in circles
> with my hands up in the air. I haven't got the
> vaguest idea what I should do. I don't even know
> where there is a 24 hour vet hospital. The dog
> appears to be dying right in front of me, and I
> can't leave Rowan alone, even if I decided to chuck
> two naked toddlers into the car and peal out without
> a clue where I was headed. Thank god the dog
> suddenly chucks up a hair scrunchie and is instantly
> fine. It was midnight before my adrenaline level
> went down enough for me to sleep. Speaking of which,
> I need to get an epi-pen for Rowan.
> Then this morning, Paloma breaks out in spots and
> it's chicken pox. Well, the good news is I don't
> have to drive a hundred miles at the crack of dawn
> tomorrow to go have easter morning at my mom's
> house. We can have a nice leisurely breakfast right
> here at home.
> Here's hoping your easter is uneventful and peaceful
> and just the way you like it.
Posted by Aimee at 10:54 AM
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Wow. Never thought this technophobe would be blogging. I'm so technophobe that I actually moved to a small farm so I could make my own cheese and brew my own beer. I'm beyond technophobe, I'm certifiably luddite. So why am I doing this? Well, I kept e-mailing farm stories to my family and friends and they kept sending me back messages like "ROFL...why don't you publish this stuff?" Publishing is not in my likely future; I'm too busy taking care of teenagers and toddlers, not to mention all the cheesemaking and brewing. But when my fourteen year old daughter explained to me just how very simple it is to start a blog, and how even a total feeb like her mother could probably do it if she helped me, I decided that I could probably push my frontiers this far.