Archive for June, 2011

Monster Chickens!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

A couple of days ago we had some visitors show up on the property, and they’ve decided to stick around.  The first evening they roosted in the rafters of our barn.

Today after work I went out to check on the girls, and discovered my little  flock had expanded.

These guys are VERY skittish, and I’m not able to get very close to take pictures.  I had to crop the pictures very close to give you a good view. I’m not sure if this is aggression, or if this peacock thinks he’s courting.  We think these pretty birds have wandered from one of our neighboring Amish farms, and will probably start trying to find the owners this weekend.

Husbands & Vermin (or Rats in the Chicken Coop)

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Isn’t my husband a funny man?  See what he left on the nest boxes out in the chicken coop?  Just after dark last night he reminded me to go out and shut the chickens in for the night.  I always grab a flashlight before I head out to any of our barns after dark.  I’ve run into far too many skunks over the years.  Imagine my reaction as I was reaching for the handle of the coop door, and the beam of my flashlight swept over this. The door handle is about 8 inches from this little guy’s position. It’s a good thing I’m not a screamer, or the neighbors would be deaf this morning, judging by the way my heart almost leapt out of my chest.  Any suggestions as to how I should even the score?

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad with Snow Peas & Orzo

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

This recipe was born out of an overabundance of snow peas and cilantro in my garden, although I’m positive I can’t have been the first to throw these flavors together.  My guys were gone, and I wanted a quick, light summer meal for one.  They wouldn’t eat this in a million years…. even if they were starving. Bart won’t eat cilantro or raw snow peas, Kelie won’t eat anything that swims, and I’m positive Kuyler would have a problem with the whole combination. Thank heavens they leave me from time to time, so I can eat foods I like.

I get raw shrimp in the shell and cook it myself.  I think the flavor is far superior, and it only takes a couple of minutes to dunk them in boiling water until they begin to curl and turn pink, then toss them in a bowl of ice water to chill. Feel free to use your favorite shrimp.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad with Snow Peas & Orzo
1/2 cup orzo, cooked according to package directions
3 to 4 ounces cooked and chilled shrimp (6 to 8 shrimp depending on size)
3/4 cup raw snow peas, cut in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk together olive oil and lime juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  In a bowl, toss vinaigrette together with orzo, shrimp, snow peas, and cilantro.  The amount of cilantro is entirely up to personal taste.  Serves one as a meal, or two if serving as a side dish.

Chickens & Coop Update

Friday, June 17th, 2011

A few weeks ago, I shared the beginning of construction on my new chicken coop.  As you can see, it’s done and we now have chickens in residence.  The gate of the pen opens along the edge of a small meadow behind our place. In the evenings and on the weekends I’ve been opening the gate and letting the chickens wander into the meadow for some prime bug hunting and foraging.

Here’s the inside of the coop. My oldest son finished putting up the hardware cloth after my husband had put up the frame.  There are my metal can for storing the chicken feed, grit, and such. My hubby still has a little work to do on the roof, and will be adding some insulation to the ceiling. We still haven’t hung the UV light fixture for this winter, but there’s still plenty of time.

And, there are eggs! Beautiful, fresh eggs! I’ve only got 4 birds of egg laying age, and laying is sporadic since they’re still settling into their new home.  The rest of the birds are 3 months old and won’t begin laying until around the beginning of September.  Call me silly, but you wouldn’t believe how satisfying it is to open the nest box lid and find eggs waiting for me.

An added bonus to keeping chickens is the entertainment factor. It’s been so many years since I had chickens that I had forgotten how fun they are to watch.  Here’s one gal who found a cool spot to give herself a dirt bath while keeping an eye out for any passing bugs. It’s also fun to watch the young birds run across the yard, wings flapping, while chasing flying insects.

Gingered Rhubarb Conserve

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I adore rhubarb.  But, I think my youngest son might love it even more than I do.  Each spring he starts begging me to make rhubarb crisp… almost every single day!

Most rhubarb recipes that I’ve run across over the years call for far, far too much sugar for my taste. I’ve tweaked my rhubarb conserve recipe until I ended up with a proportion of 1 part sugar to 3 parts rhubarb. It’s enough sugar to balance the high acidity of the rhubarb, but not so much that it prevents the flavor of the rhubarb from shining through. My family loves this sweet treat rolled up in Icelandic Crepes served with freshly whipped cream. I’ve even been know to place a big dollop of this rhubarb yummy-ness in bowl, throw in a small handful of hazelnuts and a splash of cream, and eat the whole mess with a spoon. It’s also divine as an ice cream topping.

Gingered Rhubarb Conserve
6 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive, heavy bottomed pan.

I use my 5 quart Update International stainless sauté pan, which is perfect for small batches of cooked jams and conserves. It’s a heavy duty commercial quality pan that I picked up at a restaurant supply store for $59.  It has a 3/4″ thick aluminum bottom, and is 12 ” in diameter and about 3″ deep. This pan makes my top 10 kitchen tools list, and is every bit as good as an equivalent sized All Clad pan that retails for around $250.

Back to our regularly scheduled rhubarb recipe.  Bring ingredients up to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the rhubarb reaches a thick jam like consistency.  Remove the vanilla bean and cool, or can.

Hazelnut Grape Salad with Cilantro

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

This week’s weather has been insanely, prematurely HOT! I wasn’t quite prepared for this kind of heat, and have been trying to quickly shift into summer cooking gear. To make matters more difficult, my guys are on a big painting job this week.  After a full day in the blazing heat they’re not craving hearty meat and potato dishes.  This evening’s dinner will be grilled shrimp marinated in a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt, Old Bay seasoning, and served over a bed of crisp greens from the garden. I’m also planning to serve this quick grape salad which took me all of 5 minutes to prepare.

Hazelnut Grape Salad with Cilantro
3 cups halved red grapes
1/2 cup hazelnuts
Handful of chopped cilantro
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Tablespoon good olive oil
Sprinkling of salt

Toss all ingredients together and it’s ready to serve.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

I spent some time early this morning weeding and thinning the greens in my garden.  As I was weeding, I was struck by how new the garden felt. I plant many of the same things each year, and you would think the garden would be the same old, same old, year in, and year out.  Somehow it’s not. How is that?

Each year I watch the new seedlings begin to pop out of the ground and grow.  As they begin to reach their full size, I suddenly have the urge to start showing everyone their progress.  I feel like I’ve somehow achieved some sort of greatness.  It’s just plain weird.

The greens in my salad spinner above (from left to right) are Summer Perfection spinach (very heat tolerant), Petite Rouge lettuce (baby red romaine), Italian Arugula, and Tom Thumb lettuce (grows into tiny cabbage like heads). The lettuces are heirloom varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Needless to say, my family will be having a large colorful salad with dinner this evening.

I’m also very excited that I will be able to pick peas shortly.  My Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas began blooming a couple of days ago.

I would love to show you my whole garden, but realize that it would be overkill, and this is meant to be a short post. I’ll just be happy with showing you the little Chelsea Prize English cucumber seedlings coming up among the volunteer dill plants.  What a perfect pairing! So tell me, how does your garden grow?

Saturday Morning at the Giant Swap Meet

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

My husband, youngest son, and I got up at 5 am, before the sun was up, to make a trip to Northern Indiana’s Giant Swap Meet.  The swap meet is a summer time tradition for me and I’ve been visiting it off and on since I was 12 years old. I love that my dad took me as a kid, and now I have the opportunity to pass the tradition on to my own kids.  The purpose for my visit this year was to pick up a few odd laying hens to round out the six Delaware hens I’ll be getting in the next couple of weeks. The Delawares won’t start laying eggs until the end of summer. Being impatient for fresh eggs, I decided to pick up a few hens that were already laying.

Be forewarned, this post contains lots of pictures.  Also, I’m issuing a cute puppies and kids alert.  The swap meet takes place on the first Saturday of the month for 4 months during the summer, and always contains an eclectic array of birds, cats, dogs, exotic pets, and small livestock. One of our first cute puppy encounters resulted in Bart, my husband, longing to take this little guy home with us.

I’m surprised I didn’t have to pry the beagle out of Bart’s arms. Before we had our kids, Bart and I used to raise beagles, so we have a bit of a soft spot for them.

These folks had rabbits that are used in a petting farm, so the very tame bunnies were out in tubs for the kids to pet.

I was given permission to snap a couple of shots of this little Mennonite girl who was petting the rabbits.

The next few shots are of some of the more exotic offerings we saw. This is an Egyptian Goose.

Deer fawns.


This fox was not for sale, but was a pet along for the ride. His owners showed us pictures of one of their pet fox that was featured in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine as part of an article titled , Designing the Perfect Pet.

One of the fox’s owners. He was a really likable, fun guy!


More kids with rabbits. Somehow I couldn’t resist taking these pictures.

This tiny pup was hitching a ride with his Amish owner. The “awww! factor” here is completely off the charts.

Miniature donkeys.

Pink piggie!

I used to raise a few Toggenburg dairy goats, and just had to stop to have a conversation with this girl and give her a good scratching between the eyes.  I asked her if she would be willing to give me a little extra attitude for the camera, but she told me “nah”.

More obscene cuteness.


I’m not sure why, but I connected with this dog.  If he had been for sale I’m pretty sure he would have come home with me.

This was my favorite kid for the day.  She didn’t realize I was going to take her picture until the moment right before the shutter clicked.