"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Makin' That Jam...(More Good Neighbors)

Today the kids and I went over to Boxx Berry Farms (on Northwest Road) and picked 25 pounds of strawberries in about twenty minutes. I've been working at the migrant worker camps lately interpreting for some folks, and so I knew that the strawberry harvest officially began on monday. And some of the people I spoke to told me that it's always best to harvest strawberries at the beginning of the season rather than waiting. The quality is much higher. I would have gone yesterday, but it was raining.

Boxx's U-pick strawberries are all organic, and the price is $1.75 a pound - up from $1.50 last year, but still a pretty good deal. There were plenty of beautiful, perfectly ripe berries. The 25 pounds we picked was about three full flats. After eating as many as we could all stomach, Rowan and I lightly washed them - just to get the dust off. These organic berries don't need much scrubbing. Nor can they stand it; anything more than a quick shower and they would turn to mush. Then we de-stemmed them, laid them on cookie sheets, and froze them solid in the chest freezer. I still have to bag the frozen berries. If you are in a major hurry, you can simply bag and freeze, but then they will lose coherence and freeze in one solid lump, which you will later have to break up with a hammer and chisel. Discrete berries are much nicer.

Between eating and freezing, we polished off a flat and a half. We can't eat the rest of them before they deliquesce, so I am making some jam. I've never had much luck with jellies or jam. I just can't get it to jell. I've tried pectin, low sugar pectin, cut up unripe apples, just about everything, and I end up with syrup with fruit chunks in it. This time I am sticking with the good old Joy of Cooking recipe, which calls for strawberries and sugar and nothing else. If it fails to jell, I'll simply turn it into strawberry cordial by the judicious addition of 100 proof vodka and bottle it in small corked bottles for Christmas presents.

Oh I just realized I utterly forgot to write about my good neighbor Mrs. B. She and her husband live down the road and are an old time local farming family, mostly beef cattle. Last fall we bought a half steer from them and were delighted with the quality. Mrs. B. is a fine seamstress as well as a farm wife, a pillar of the local community, and a very nice lady.

This morning she stopped by for a dozen eggs. Normally she has her own, of course, but as it happens this year she started over with new chicks and they won't be laying until about September. I only had about eight eggs, for reasons I shall enumerate in another post (damn broody hens!), and so I just gave them to her. "Take them," I said, "there aren't enough to charge you for."

"Are you sure," she asked, "won't you be short?"

"No, no," I said, "I haven't gathered yet today. I'll have plenty."

"Well allright then," she said, and headed out the door. But she turned back on the porch and asked me, "would you like some canning jars? I have a big box in my garage that I'm not using."

Well, a lady can never have too many canning jars. I have a fair supply, mostly wide-mouth quarts, but like I said, there's no such thing as too many. I accepted with gratitude and now I am the proud owner of some forty small-mouth pint jars. Which is great! Especially for today - you can't can jam in quart jars. Well, I suppose you can, but pints are much nicer.

Now if my jam will ever thicken, I'll be in business.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things That Are Going Well

Reading back over the last month or so of blog posts, I noticed that it seems as though life on the farm has been one long bummer lately. That is not the case. It's actually been pretty nice around here, and for everything that has been going wrong, there are at least two things going right. So to set the record straight, here's a list of things that have been doing quite well, thank you:

1) The weather: The weather has been idyllic lately - ranging from the high sixties to the mid seventies, with an occasional foray into actual "hot" territory of nearly eighty. Light breezes waft the puffy clouds about the blue sky, and the mountains have made several stunning appearances on the northern horizon. It's warm enough that the kids have spent a lot of time splashing about in our inflatable pool, and I have enjoyed watching them and reading a book while I herd the goats.

2) Flowers: The blackberries are in blossom. The white clover is in full bloom and the red clover is just beginning to open. The tall buttercup is everywhere, and the lupins, california poppies, and shasta daisies cover the roadsides. Bees are everywhere. It makes me ridiculously happy to see bees - bumble, honey and mason - crawling drunkenly from blossom to blossom.

3) Fruits and Veggies: After a long cold spring in which the only thing on offer at local farmer's markets was some anemic salad greens, there is suddenly a profusion of produce. Last saturday, I observed with great joy that the first strawberries were on offer. There were also snap peas, greens of all descriptions, carrots, baby beets, and various fresh leafy herbs. One of the locals at the farmer's market in Ferndale is a new trade partner this year, and I brought her some delicious cheese in exchange for a bagful of goodies, including something new to me: garlic scapes.
I was thrilled to discover these beautiful and scrumptious vegetables, which I sauteed in butter and tossed with pasta and goat cheese. Speaking of goat cheese:

4) Cheesemaking: I have enjoyed a series of successes lately. I bought some new cheese culture and it is terrific, making a very creamy and tangy chevre. My trade partners love the red pepper chevre with basil, and so I've been making a lot of that. Other notable triumphs include dill and caraway seeded cheddar and a mistake-made-good that resulted in a wonderful smooth-textured white stretchy cheese. I have been enjoying the beautiful cheese press my husband made me for mother's day.

5) Animals: with the single exception of Django, who had to be put down for a positive CAE test and general ill health, all my animals are in tip-top condition. The other does are plump and glossy, pooping pellets and giving enormous quantities of milk. The baby goats are growing like weeds and spend their time head-butting and describing fabulous arcs across the landscape. Rosie and Poppy are in perfect health, getting just the tiniest bit fat on all the green grass. They have their sleek summer coats on and shine mellowly in the sun. Poppy has started ground training with a local girl and hopefully soon will be better mannered.

6) The Kids: Are off to a good start on summer vacation - running around like wild animals, climbing trees, digging for worms in the garden, and playing with their new bunnies (bought as a consolation after Django's demise). I have deliberately left summer fairly unplanned, and so with the exception of swimming lessons and one long-weekend trip to Victoria, we are looking forward to an extremely lazy summer vacation, with nothing more strenuous than perhaps a day of clamming down at the beach, barbecues with friends, and afternoons at the U-pick farms gathering berries.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Goats Take Revenge

The other day I was terribly sad that we had to put a goat down due to illness. Today, I wish we'd shot the lot of them. The young goats can squeeze out the gate, and yesterday they got I to the orchard and did horrifying damage. It looks like they may have killed all four of the smallest fruit trees - which would mean a 100% loss of the six we Planted two years ago ( one died mysteriously and I ran over one with the mower). They also ate the raspberry canes that my sister gave me and which I planted this spring. The raspberries might come back, but anyway there was a nice little crop on them which is gone now.

I think it's time to plan the summer barbecue party.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Very Sad Day (Goodbye, Django)

Django in happier days

This morning the results of my herd testing for CAE and CL came in. All my goats are negative for CL (so the hole in the goat was not a CL abscess), and all goats but one are negative for CAE. The positive result was, of course, Django. Django hasn't been a really healthy goat in a few years, and I attributed that to the aftereffects of her severe overeating illness - and I'm sure that played a part. But the other part is that she has a chronic debilitating disease.

In some ways, this actually makes me feel a little bit better. It may seem strange but now I know that her consistently below-par condition was not the result of below-par care on my part. It explains her thinness despite excellent forage, her slowness, her poor coat, all of it. It may even, indirectly, explain the abscess: goats with CAE spend a great deal of time lying down, which would naturally tend to cause a pressure ulcer in that location over time. Poor Django! She really has been a valiant goat - the energy it must have taken her to throw triplets year after year and produce for them, all while battling a nasty virus like CAE!

Well, she will soon be out of her pain. Homero is out digging a hole right now, and when it is deep enough, we will shoot her and put her in it. It's sad, actually sadder and more difficult than I thought it would be, but it's absolutely necessary. Transmission of CAE is almost exclusively vertical from dam to kid in the colostrum. Lateral transmission of CAE from adult to adult is very rare (which explains why my other does are negative after living with Django in close quarters for years) but it can happen. But even if I were assured it were impossible, I would still put her down. She is uncomfortable now, but soon she would be in pain every day. Also, of course, all of her kids would be CAE positive, and nobody would want to buy any kid from my farm - a position I totally agree with. I intend to maintain a clean herd, by any means necessary.

Damn it smarts, though. Even Homero, normally quite unemotional when it comes to life and death questions about animals, is feeling it. He calls Django "Cirquera," or Circus Goat, and liked to hold up food and have her stand up and follow him on two legs.

Django Today

Well. I can't think of much more to say. Django was a great goat and she gave us many dozens of gallons of milk over the years. I enjoyed watching her antics, and I loved watching her kids gallivanting around. Luckily, most of those kids were meat animals. I can only think of one doeling that we sold of hers that might still be alive. If I can find that person's number (doubtful) I will call her and warn her not to breed that baby.

It's all part of farming. That's what Homero says.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Late Potatoes and Neighborly Relations

I just spent the last twenty minutes searching my blog for a picture of our neighbor's house and couldn't find one. Such is the result of sloppy cataloguing. I know for a fact I took several pictures of the neighbor's house in various states of construction and also that I complained mightily about it. The house they built is approximately 7,000 square feet. It looks more like a Holiday Inn than an ordinary house. And of course they chose the one building site that would entirely block our gorgeous view of Mt. Baker. I spent a fair amount of verbiage kvetching about McMansions and bemoaning our fate as the land around us got built up.

As it turns out, however, the new neighbors are totally delightful people. They are an older couple, semi-retired and with a few children in university who are semi-moved out but who spend a fair amount of time at home still. They are immigrants from India, Sikhs, and similarly to ourselves, are interested in creating a homestead to provide a significant portion of their gustatory needs.

Though our motives are similar, it's clear that they are pursuing similar goals with considerably greater financial resources than our own. The house they built demonstrates that, for one thing. Shortly after they moved in, I rang their doorbell with a dozen eggs and a jar of cajeta in hand. I was treated to a tour of their home, which included two indoor and one outdoor kitchens; a sauna; a wine cellar; and vast expanses of hardwood flooring and granite countertops. Everywhere was the gleam of stainless steel and the mellow shine of slate. Two story windows frame the beautiful view of Mt. Baker - the view we had until last fall.

Give me a minute to swallow my gall.

I was greatly mollified by my neighbor's warm welcome and standing invitation to come on over for tea anytime. They also invited me to pasture my goats on their five acres, at least until they were fully moved in. They came by regularly to buy eggs and always brought large jars and egg cartons. Really they are sweet, friendly people and I have no complaints about them whatsoever.

Last week, my neighbor bought himself something that we covet so dearly it made us literally drool. He bought a brand new Kubota tractor with a front loader and a tiller. The only thing that kept us from spontaneously combusting with envy is that it doesn't have a monkey paw. Obviously entranced with his new toy, our neighbor has been spending several hours of every day out plowing his fields. Five acres really isn't so big, and he quickly ran out of land to plow. Soon he was knocking on our door, asking if we would like him to do some work on our property.

I must have been confused: I somehow got the idea that he was going to mow the tall grass on the border of our land. I said Great! Thanks! The grass was way too tall for our poor old 11 HP Murray lawntractor (Once again - a quick search of the blog has not turned up the series of posts relating to the ongoing SAAAGA of the lawnmower. It is the bane of my husband's existence.). I eagerly accepted what I thought was my neighbor's offer to mow down the tall grass and thistles.

When I got home in the early evening, I saw that I had been sadly mistaken. My neighbor has tilled the ground, not mowed the grass. That meant that if I didn't want that ground to become a large patch of evil weeds, I would need to sow grass seed - quickly. And perhaps in vain - mid June is pretty darn late to plant grass. I did buy a 50 pound sack of horse pasture grass mix (for $55), sowed it, and watered it well. Then we enjoyed the good luck of a couple of days of soaking rain. I think we have a pretty good chance of the grass seed sprouting before the natural weeds take over.

Today, however, I found myself eyeing the freshly turned ground with another plan. Several weeks ago, I used a regular shovel to turn over a 40 foot long trench of ground in which to plant potatoes. It took me a good two hours to turn the ground, and then to chop up the clumps with a hoe and finally to rake the dirt relatively smooth. After all that, it was another couple of hours to actually plant the potatoes. I had bought several pounds of seed potatoes - russets, red bliss, yukon golds, and russian banana fingerings. As it turned out, a forty foot trench is not long enough to plant several pounds of seed potatoes. About half of them stayed in their brown paper bags in the greenhouse, awaiting the unlikely event of my turning over another forty feet of virgin ground.

Until today. I looked at the well tilled ground and it suddenly occurred to me that I could plant the leftover potatoes in it. Yes, it is quite late for potatoes. There is such a thing as late-variety potatoes, but I haven't the vaguest idea which varieties they are. Most likely they aren't russian bananas. But what the hell- the russian bananas have a better chance of growing in my recently tilled mid-June earth than they do of growing in paper bags in the greenhouse. The worst that can happen is that they utterly fail to thrive. That's not such a big deal.

The best that can happen is that they do excellently, that I dig them up sometime in late August, that I make a magnificent Indian spiced potato salad, and bring them to a barbecue at my neighbor's house, and that our families become fast friends and enjoy many happy culinary occasions together over the years.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Broiler Report (Caldo de Pollo and Liver Pate)

Back in late March, my sister and I decided to go in on a dozen broiler chicks. Homero and I had been trying - unsuccessfully - to eat one of our layers once in a while, and had found them to be inedibly tough, no matter how they were cooked. Long boiling? nope. Marinated in wine, like coq au vin? Huh-uh. Pressure cooker? Not even that. Layer hens are simply not food for humans - the best I could do was freeze the broth and throw the carcasses to the dogs. And even the dogs tended to ignore the rubbery lumps.

We love chicken around here - who doesn't? Chicken is the backbone of the American diet! Mexicans eat chicken like it's going out of style. I am accustomed to roasting a chicken about once a week for dinner, and then using the leftover scraps for either soup or - if there's enough meat leftover - enchiladas, chicken salad, or a casserole of some kind. Chicken is not something we can eliminate from our diet. Yet, I really don't want to eat commercially raised poultry. I won't go into a rant here - I'm sure everyone here already knows about the conditions in factory farming. Just one image ought to suffice:

People who want to know more about the consequences of factory farming on the animal, human, and planetary health are advised to watch Food, inc., or to read The Future of Food, The Omnivore's Dilemma, or any of a number of excellent books on the subject. While I make no pretense that I will entirely avoid commercial chicken (I may order it in a restaurant, for example) I decided that at least I should make provisions for my home cooked birds. With that in mind, my sis and I decided to raise some of our own. The meat chicks available at the local feed store were Cornish Crosses.

This is the same breed as commercially raised meat birds. That is rather troublesome in itself - these birds are bred to grow so quickly that their body weight often outstrips their legs ability to support it, and they break their legs. They are also prone to heart attacks. They must be slaughtered by ten weeks of age to avoid these and other issues. I had my doubts about supporting the breeding of animal so unnatural that it can't survive for anything like a natural lifespan, but I decided that raising my own Cornish Crosses was the lesser evil. My sister and I bought a dozen, with the understanding that I would care for them and she would provide a greater share of the feed (organic.). Then at slaughter time, we'd split them, six for her, six for us.

Slaughter time has come and gone. Sister's six were sent to a slaughterhouse, because she wanted them to be professionally processed. Homero killed and cleaned our six. I can't see any difference, myself. The first application of the chickens was Chicken Liver Pate - as Homero handed the freshly cleaned and plucked chickens in through the kitchen window, I washed them, wrapped them in plastic bags, and threw the livers into a pan of foaming butter. The second application was Mexican Caldo de Pollo. Recipes for both follow.

The report on the quality of the chicken is mixed: Homero is delighted with them. They do indeed yield a rich, golden, chickeny broth with tons of flavor. However, they are still tough compared to supermarket birds. This may be because we slaughtered them a little late - about 11 weeks instead of 8 to 10 - but I think the sad fact is that supermarket chicken is so tender because it spends it's life in a 12 by 12 inch box. Like the tender, succulent, pale meat of veal calves - cruel, unjustifiable, and oh so delicious. However, compared to layer hens, these chickens (which dressed out at about five and a half pounds each) are perfect. They are an excellent compromise between quality and conscience.

Aimee's Liver Pate

6 large chicken livers
1/2 stick butter
1 large sweet yellow onion, such as Walla Walla
one sage leaf
1 pinch rosemary leaves
1 jigger bourbon, or if unavailable sherry, or even white wine.
1/2 bunch parsley
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a skillet. Add chopped onion, raise heat to medium, and stir until onion is wilted, translucent. Add livers and herbs. When livers are firm but still pink inside, add bourbon and raise heat to simmer. When liquid is reduced (5 minutes) pour all contents into a blender canister, add parsley and salt and pepper, and blend until quite smooth. Scrape into a bowl, top off with melted butter and refrigerate. Serve with water crackers and crudites. Unbelievably delicious!

Mexican Caldo de Pollo:

Soup ingredients:
One chicken, cut into serving pieces
1 small onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, chopped
4-6 allspice berries
2-4 cloves
2 carrots, chopped
pinch cumin seed
1 chayote squash, peeled and chopped (optional)

cilantro, minced
jalapeno, minced
avocado, cubed
limes, quartered

hot tortillas

Combine soup ingredients in a kettle and bring to a fast simmer. Cover. Cook one hour or more, until chicken very tender. Salt to taste. Ladle into serving bowls, adding one good piece of chicken to each bowl. Set out garnishes on table in attractive bowls. Serve with plenty of hot corn tortillas. And plain boiled rice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hole in the Goat Update (When to Cull?)

The vet finally called me back. He said that while it was hard to tell from just a photo, the wound did not look like CL. Just as some of my readers commented, the lack of pus and the location both argued against it. He suggested, just as some of you did, that it was most likely a splinter of some sort that became infected and formed an abscess. He told me that that particular spot, at the end of the breastbone, is where the goat puts the most pressure when she lays down. He said that older goats or thin goats often wear down that spot and get pressure wounds. Most likely, my middle aged, thin goat laid on something sharp.

Nonetheless, I've decided I should have my entire herd tested for CAE and CL. Although I bought goats from tested herds, I have not done any testing myself and it's been over four years now. I can't advertise anything about the CAE or CL status of my goats truthfully at this point, and I do want to be able to say I have a clean herd. So, it's time to test. The vet is coming on thursday to take blood samples and at that time he will look at Django's chest as well. In the meantime, I am washing it out twice a day with a dilute iodine solution. It's pretty gross. We are also not using any of her milk at least until we know what we are dealing with.

Assuming that Django (and the rest) come back negative for CAE and CL, I still have a decision to make. Django is not a robust goat. She was perfectly healthy until, three years ago, she got into the grain and ate herself so sick that she almost died. Goats can quite easily die from overeating carbohydrate rich food - grains of any kind but most especially chicken food. Django was at death's door, and only recovered very slowly. For a whole year, she was very ill. She had a severely damaged rumen and was almost blind from the vitamin B deficiency that resulted. She became prone to infections and more vulnerable to worms. She hobbled slowly about, not keeping up with the herd and barely keeping herself alive.

I should have culled her.

I should have culled her then. I felt so guilty for leaving the grain unsecured, for not taking good care of her, for letting her get sick. The least I could do was give her a decent chance to recover... right? And she did recover, not wholly, and not quickly, but she came back. Her vision returned, with daily vitamin B shots. She keeps up with the herd now. And she has thrown triplets and successfully raised them two years in a row, which is not something a very weak goat can do. But she is not and never will be the glossy, plump, energetic animal she was before she got sick.

And now she has this ugly wound, which has clearly been around for a long time without healing. Again - she's not actually sick - no fever, no infection - but she isn't healthy, either. She could probably limp along for the natural lifespan of a goat, some six to eight more years, and have a middling quality of life. She would even continue to provide me with the benefit of more kids and more milk. But should she?

Or should she be culled? My herd would be healthier without her. Removing her would relieve some stress on the pasture. It's one less animal to buy hay, grain and medicine for. And there's another, unpleasant reason. She's embarrassing. Her gimpy, straggly presence in my herd is embarrassing. She makes it look like I don't have healthy animals, like I don't care well for them. This is an ego thing, I guess, but when people visit my far, (especially if they are coming to look at an animal I have for sale) I don't want them to see an old, skinny, scraggly goat. I want them to see a lot of fat, sassy, shiny animals leaping about.

When is it the right time to cull an animal? Is there ever a right time if the animal in question is not suffering? Should animals only be put down to put them out of misery, or does the goal of improving the herd justify the culling of any substandard animal?

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What The @$&! is That? (WARNING-graphic picture)

My doe Django has something horribly, horribly wrong with her. You are all going to judge me for letting something so terrible go on for so long, but I swear I knew nothing about it until yesterday. In my defense, it is in a very difficult place to see - on her chest, low down between her front legs. This spot is not visible with a goat in any normal goat-postures. I even trimmed her hooves last week without seeing this awful thing. Homero is the one that finally noticed it.

Here ya go - if anyone has the faintest inkling what the heck is wrong with my goat, please let me know!

I e-mailed this photo to my vet, along with the information that Django is eating and behaving normally, nursing 12 week old twins, afebrile, apparently not in any pain, and five years old. The wound itself has clearly been there for a while - it has thick, indurated edges and is non-tender. Django didn't move a muscle even when I stuck a q-tip a full inch inside her chest and wiggled it around to get a sample of exudate for the vet. There pretty much isn't any exudate - neither blood nor pus. Nor is there any smell.

It's just a great bloody baffling hole right in the middle of the goat.

So far no word from the vet. I think I'll call.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Massive Milk Overload (How to Make Paneer)!

I sent all my non-lactating goats to a friend's house to clean up her yard, and so for the next week or so I will be collecting nearly three gallons of milk a day. Probably that means it's time to can the year's supply of cajeta (goat's milk caramel sauce). I am actually all out of cheese making supplies - culture and rennet - so I'm going to order some more. It will take three days for the supplies to arrive in the mail, but in the meanwhile I can always make paneer - vinegar soured cheese.

Most of you are probably familiar with paneer from your local Indian restaurant - Saag Paneer is the famous pureed spiced spinach with cubed cheese dish. However, Paneer is used in any number of ways in Indian cooking, both sweet and savory. I tend to be lazy, which means I simply toss cubed panner into whatever type of curry I am currently simmering on the stovetop - peas and potatoes are popular, as are tomato based curries or chickpea or lentil stews. In my wonderful cookbook "660 Curries" by Raghavan Iyer, there are some thirty recipes for Paneer utilizing everything from cashews to cabbage. Most of them call for the paneer to be fried in shallow oil until golden beore being added to the curries, but you can skip this step if you want. Paneer is also great tucked into a hot folded tortilla or crumbled into a pan full of scrambled eggs. In fact, Paneer can be used pretty much any way you would use a fresh farmer's cheese or queso fresco. It works in quesadillas, for example. Indians use it in desserts, but I can't offer any recipes because I've never tried that.

What I love about it is that Paneer is "easy cheese." It requires almost nothing in the way of equipment or supplies. If you have a colander and some clean cloth, you can make paneer.


1 gallon milk (fresh raw milk will have the most flavor, but plain store bought cow's milk will work as well)
2-4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Heat milk in a large pot to near boiling - about 180 degrees if you have a thermometer, or until it begins to rise up if you don't. Remove from heat. Drizzle in vinegar, stirring, until you see curds separate from whey - this will take about 1 minute.

Line a colander with a triple thickness of cheesecloth or with a section of plain cotton cloth cut from a pillowcase or sheet. Pour the contents of the pot into colander, slowly enough to let whey drain and curds be caught. Fold clean cloth over the top and let sit overnight.

In the morning, cut cheese into 1/2" cubes and salt heavily. Use in Indian or Mexican recipes or in grilled cheese sandwiches, or as you like.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Latest Craigslist Posting

Free Chicken Livers - Lots! (Ferndale)

Date: 2011-06-07, 4:38PM PDT
Reply to: your anonymous craigslist address will appear here

I have fifteen pounds of chicken livers in my freezer. Nothing wrong with them - these are commercially purchased, grade A chicken livers meant for an event that never happened. I like liver just fine, but there's no way I want to wrangle with fifteen pounds of them, so they are yours if you do.

What, you don't know what to do with fifteen pounds of chicken livers either? Okay, here's a couple of ideas off the top of my head:

1) Throw an ironic, retro Trader Vic's style tiki party and make 500 rumaki appetizers. Add a bunch of pineapples, Rum based brightly colored drinks, and a hundred paper umbrellas. If you can swing it, have a Las Vegas style erupting volcano, too.

2) Pretend you are Alice Waters or somebody like that and make 18 subtly different liver terrines based on the 18 provinces of France (or however many there are). Invite forty five of the most pretentious people you know. Have several gallons of rustic but amusing red wine and many loaves of crusty peasant bread. Try to arrange your yard to look like Languedoc in August of 1931.

3) Throw a birthday party for your dog. Invite all his doggie friends. Stuff a pinata full of lightly boiled chicken livers. Laugh at all the dogs trying to hold sticks between their front paws.

4) If you are a science nerd, and have a lot of geeky science nerd-type friends, arrange a liver-hurling contest to see who can build the trebouchet or catapult that hurls a chicken liver the farthest. I suggest a minimum of twenty feet, and that there is a spending limit of $100 in parts. Maybe the prize could be season passes to your local Observatory or Space-atorium or whatever the hell sciency-type stuff you all like.

5) Conversely, if you are a frat-boy, you could stage a re-enactment of the famous scene from Cool Hand Luke. "No Man Can Eat Fifty Raw Chicken Livers!" I'll lay down fifty bucks here and now that that there is a true statement. Videographic proof required to collect.

I'm sure now that I've primed the pump, you can think of many more ways to use fifteen pounds of chicken liver. Delivery can be arranged, but I'm not going to walk into any frat houses with a big bag of liver over my shoulder. What do you think I am, stupid?

Location: Ferndale
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 2427232630

Friday, June 3, 2011

Goats Do My Landscaping

I'm not saying that goats are GOOD landscapers; but they do work cheap. Why, some people are even villifying goats as "undocumented workers" taking American jobs! Check out the link if you don't believe me - Stephen Colbert does a great expose.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Garden Update

I think we will have a pretty good garden this year! The greenhouse has made the most enormous difference. This spring being as cold and nasty as it was (and still is) without the greenhouse I'd be at a dead loss.

Here's what I have going on:

snap peas (beginning to harvest)

spinach, lettuces, and arugula (mostly harvested already)

radishes (harvested)

pole beans (just getting started)

cucumbers (in the greenhouse still)

cantaloupe (greenhouse - still quite small, not really growing like I'd like)

chiles - TONS, from jalapenos to cayennes to habaneros to poblanos. Some still in the greenhouse, some already transplanted out. None are really going hog wild - the plants stay mostly the same size. Wonder what I can do for them?

tomatoes - TONS of various kinds - romas, cherries, yellow pears, green zebras, cherokee purples. Some giant Amish varieties. Lots of heirlooms. Mostly still in the greenhouse - which is a problem. They are flowering, but no bees can get at them. May have to move outside today even though it is still cold. As long as it doesn't freeze they should be okay, right?

potatoes - after my first planting of potatoes rotted in the ground due to heavy rains, I waited three weeks and tried again just a few days ago. There is a forty-foot trench planted with yellow finns, and I still have a bag full of russian fingerlings and other heirloom varieties to plant as soon as I feel up to digging another forty foot trench.

broccoli - six plants, looking well chewed by some kind of bug or slug or something.

summer squash - six hills - three green zucchini and three yellow crookneck. All look pretty good.

winter squash - planted twelve seeds from a packet of mixed heirloom varieties - cinderella pumpkin; blue hubbard; turban... etc. We'll see how they come out.

GIANT pumpkin - the feed store is having a biggest pumpkin competition for kids and was giving away free giant pumpkin plants. We planted ours right on top of the oldest portion of the compost pile. I'm hoping for a monster.

eggplants - never tried these before, but the two plants I bought are looking very well in the greenhouse, getting big and bushy. I love eggplants - hope we get lots.

tomatillos - just two plants, to see what happens. Still in the greenhouse.

herbs - cilantro, parsley, chives, rosemary, sage, oregano, mint, lavender. All containerized and doing nicely.

This is my most ambitious garden to date - or at least since my first couple of years in the Ballard house. There are still a few things I'd like to plant from seed - more pole beans, for one. Fresh green beans are one of the loveliest products of the garden. I would love to plant sweet corn, but I can't dig up and prepare a big enough piece of dirt with my hurt shoulder. I will tell Homero that if he wants to plant corn this year, we have about one week to prepare a bed.

Oh and then of course later on I will plant my fall crops of kale, collards and overwintering carrots, turnips, and beets.

I haven't covered the orchard, but it is looking quite nice as well. Photos to follow.