ALL THE THINGS!

TODAY:

  • Dig out all the weeds growing in the lettuce bed.
  • Steam some green beans for Willem’s lunch.
  • Cut back the blackberries.
  • Pull ALL THE WEEDS.
  • Lay down plastic to KILL ALL FUTURE WEEDS.
  • Mow.
  • Buy winter rye for cover cropping (and a bunch of other seeds) from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
  • Update a website and track the produce from our last CSA of the summer.
  • Get some more work done on our family portrait.

Family.

  • Make rosemary-lavender simple syrup.
  • Go buy some fixings to make a pumpkin pie. I need some pumpkin pie like whoa.
  • Play with, feed, talk to, smile at, put down for naps, read to, and change the Willem.

This guy.

  • Take at least two showers.
  • Drink ice water, eat ice cream, watch the series finale of The Killing, and drink pumpkin beer in our underwear under the fan once all of the above is complete.

Also? It is stupid hot and humid out there. STUPID.

Covered Rows and a Blanket of Sunshine to Keep Me Warm

What a day, people! WHAT. A. DAY. For the first time since I can’t even remember when, I was able to be outside all day in a t-shirt and corduroys. Well, okay, if I stood still for too long and the sun dipped behind a cloud, I began to think longingly of cozy old man wool sweater (you know, the one with the leather patches on the elbows), lying on the couch being a louse. But I refused to put that damn thing on, just on the principle of the thing.

Hello, spring! I’ve missed you! In no particular order and in reverence to the beautiful day, today I have:

  • Drafted and submitted my proposal to my employer for a part-time sabbatical for 10 weeks this summer to allow me to participate in the Growing Places Indy Summer Apprenticeship Program. That’s right, folks – I’ve been accepted! Please, please, please, employer – let me do this. This is one of those once in a lifetime/dream experiences, for goodness sakes.
  • Took Birdie on a long walk of the neighborhood, pausing to sniff grass, sign posts, and sometimes just the sidewalk.
  • Did laundry! Really, this is notable.
  • Ate fried eggs a la Chris and toast with blueberry-cinnamon jam a la me.
  • Scrambled some eggs for the chickens. We ran out of chicken feed, and the girls needed something first thing before we could pick up a new bag!
  • Went grocery shopping for such amazing things as ingredients to make banana pudding poke cake and egg casserole with sausage and peppers. It is a comfort food kind of weekend.
  • Planted two flats of lettuces and spinach in my covered row in back, threw a few more in with the garlic, then plunked the last four into the front yard bed, which I hope to turn into a PRETTY edible garden this year. Think chard, artichokes, beets, and kale mixed in with the perennials. 
  • Planted a metric butt-ton of beet, turnip, and chard seeds across the front beds and in a few of the back beds. What? I like root vegetables.
  • Got super excited upon realizing my sweet potatoes are FINALLY sprouting! We just might have sweet potatoes in the garden again this year.
  • Watched as Chris put in two more posts for our brand new, Birdie- and chicken-proof garden fence! Go, Chris, go.
  • Purchased a copy of Indianapolis Monthly, featuring an article on backyard chicken keepers this month, including MOI and the girls.

Evidence of the above, also in no particular order:

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly collage.

The Indianapolis Monthly spread – at least, the important parts (i.e. the ones that include ME and MY CHICKENS).

20130330. Putting posts in for the garden fence.

Those posts on the left? We are going to have the most awesome Birdie- and chicken-proof garden fence ever. This is a very good thing.

20130330. Putting posts in for the garden fence.

Work that post hole, Chris! Hmmm… that doesn’t sound too good…

20130330. Baby garlic!

Baby garlics!!!

20130330. The sweet potatoes finally started sprouting.

Thank goodness the sweet potatoes started sprouting. This was one of the funnest things to grow last year, and I really wanted a redo. Part deux.

20130330. Indianapolis Monthly's April edition includes an article of backyard chickens. We're (in)famous!

And, just in case you couldn’t read my words of wisdom in the collage above, here is my sage advice for Indianapolis – and the WORLD – at large.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Curried Egg Salad!

Isn’t that  how the saying goes? What? Huh? Not quite right? Oh, whatever, you know what I mean.

A couple of Easters ago, I dyed a dozen eggs just so I could pretend to be a kid for a half-hour. I like egg salad all right, but I wanted something different. With some consultation of recipes on the internet, combined with consultation of my spice cabinet and fridge to see what I had on hand, I made this up: curried egg salad (that, at Easter time, has the added bonus of looking like confetti cake with its pink and blue and purple bits of egg where the dye leaked through).

20110410. easter eggs!

With how colorful our backyard eggs are, I don’t think we’ll be dying them this year! These ones from a couple of years back were gorgeous, though.

With our current egg overload, this recipe has come in handy. Without further ado…

CURRIED EGG SALAD, A LA SPACE-FARM (modified from Epicurious’ version)

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise, nayonnaise, or plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 hardboiled large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

In a small bowl, mix the curry powder and cayenne with the mayo/nayo/yogurt and set aside. Using a fork, mash the hardboiled eggs until they are at a chunky consistency (you know, not too finely mashed, not too many big pieces left). Dump in the onion, celery, and optional additions (I LOVE dried cranberries in this!). Stir in the spiced yogurt until everything is well-combined.

Chill, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with lettuce on nice, crusty bread or on a bed of fresh spinach. ENJOY!

You Know, Just Your Typical Long Weekend

This weekend in no particular order, I have:

    • Planted the first seeds in our new growing setup. So far, we’ve got the first round of peas, spinach, lettuce, cauliflower, and artichokes planted.

20130121. The inauspicious beginnings of garden v.2013!

      • Ordered free seeds from this place: WinterSown. Free seeds? Too good to be true? I’ll let you know how it works out!
      • Signed up for a free, online course, “An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health.” It starts in two days, if anyone wants to join me!
      • Smeared Vaseline on a chicken’s comb for the first time. Nothing kinky here, I swear. Our Mediterranean sweetie, Boo, already has a touch of frostbite on one of her spikes, and this is supposed to help.
      • Set up possibly the KLASSIEST (yes, with a capital “K”) wind break ever. The wind chill is supposed to get down to -10 to -20 tonight, and with Boo’s frostbite, we are NOT PLAYING, winter. We also added a 60-watt bulb light fixture to the inside of the coop for a little warmth boost.
20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures.

Paneling ripped off the walls of our office + lawn chairs = totally awesome chicken windbreak.

20130121. Wind chills of -10 to -20 call for extreme measures: a light in the coop to keep things warm(er)!

Did you know that your typical chicken produces 10W of heat? So this 60W bulb will almost double the chickens’ natural heat.

    • Created – and accidentally exploded – a sourdough starter bomb. Ignore the picture of the large Ball jar in that recipe, just ignore it. When they say to start it in a large bowl, LEAVE IT in the glass bowl while it sits and ferments. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT put it in the glass jar, covered with a tea towel screwed down with a jar ring. It will seal up, and you WILL shoot a flour-water mixture 20′ across the room and all over the ceiling when you finally cut a hole in your dead grandmother’s tea towel out of sheer desperation.
20130120. Post-sourdough starter bomb.

It looks so harmless, doesn’t it?

20130118. Oh, sourdough... how I've missed you.

The reason I had to create a new batch of sourdough starter, which you should really never have to do – I used it all up making two loaves of delicious bread. Really, though, sourdough starter should last you your whole life if you take care of it.

On Saturday, we made the brilliant decision to ignore our obligations and to do lists and instead took Birdie to Holliday Park, a most bizarre place just five minutes from our house. It was 50 degrees and wonderful out. Today, faced with snow and chicken waterers that just will not stay unfrozen, I am so glad we took some time to be outdoors together.
20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Warm January day at Holliday Park.

20130119. Bianca's Jacket.

CALIENTE! Posts from the Vault

EDITOR’S NOTE (aka words from MOI): In doing a little blog cleanup, I noticed we have 10, count ’em, 10 out-standing draft posts! They’re just sitting there behind the scenes, collecting dust on their little periods and exclamation points. One of them is this gem, which I wrote out specifically so I could re-create my favorite canning recipe of the past two summers. Read on and savor the mental image of a balmy late-September day, when this post was initially drafted!

In addition to drinking beer in the fall sunshine with friends and hanging with the chickens, I also canned a couple more jars of hot peppers today. Since I talk so much about how freaking amazing they are (and since I’d like to have a good record of the actual recipe I use), here’s the secret recipe. Shhh… don’t tell.

HONEYED HOT PEPPERS OF MAGIC AND DOOM
– 1-1.5 pounds hot green peppers (cayenne, jalapeno work well) or a mix of hot and not-hot
– 3 cups cider vinegar (sometimes I do half and half with white vinegar)
– 1 cup water
– 1 tbpsn kosher salt
– 1 tbpsn honey
– 1 bay leaf per jar
– 1 clove of garlic per jar
– a dash of whole peppercorns per jar
– a dash of whole allspice per jar (if you’ve got ’em)

Slice peppers into 1/4″ to 1/2″ rounds and set aside. Dissolve honey and salt in vinegar and water and bring just to a boil. Prepare water bath canner and 1/2-pint jars. Once all is good to go with your canning setup, put 1 clove garlic, 1 bay leaf, dash of peppercorns, and dash of allspice in each jar, stuff with peppers, then ladle vinegar mixture in to 1/2″ headspace. Repeat until all your peppers are gone. Then bring water bath canner to a boil, boil for 10 minutes, let sit for 5 minutes in water bath canner, remove to towel, let sit overnight… then SCARF THEM DOWN.

20111029. final harvest!

Mmm… Tastes Like FALL Up in This Piece!

I don’t know about you, but I love rediscovering fall/winter favorite food-stuffs. You’ve just spent the long, hot, dry summer sweating it out, caring for sick chickens, watering garden plants just enough to keep them alive, brown dead lawns crunching under your feet, and sucking on cheapo generic Popsicles all summer just to keep your brain liquids from boiling.

Suddenly, almost inexplicably, the temperatures start shifting. The sun drops lower on the horizon. Frost revisits your backyard and your breath each morning. And suddenly – MIRACULOUSLY! – hot tea and slippers replace generic Popsicles and sweaty cutoffs.

Therefore, it is with great joy that I have found the need to write this blog post. Yes, NEED. I needed to write this entry to document some of the amazing fall recipes I’ve found – and want to be able to RE-find this time next year.

First up: two words. SCALLOPED TURNIPS. I grew both beets and turnips for the first time ever this year. The beets were an immediate win. The turnips, however, required a little more work to fix up in a tasty, non-bitter fashion.

20120811. Mutant turnips!

20120825. TURNIPS.

But oh, people, I have found the most magical turnips recipe ever, courtesy of Simple Recipes. The only substitutes I made were to use soy milk instead of milk, layer on a whole lot more turnips and onions, and add a nice cushion of shredded cheese (YUM).

Next on the list: the best drink to sip in front of a toasty fire. THE NOR’EASTER. Here’s how the magic happens: Combine 2 oz. bourbon, 1/2-oz. maple syrup, and 1/2-oz. lime juice in a shaker. Fill with ice, shake, strain. Top with ginger beer. Drink. Make another.

NOR'EASTER, the best fall drink ever.

And finally… ROASTED CAULIFLOWER. This is a winter staple. Sometimes, roasted cauliflower and a beer = dinner. This time around, it was roasted cauliflower with an orange pepper that wasn’t doing so hot and a little dried rosemary from the garden.

20121113. Tastes like fall.

In short… HAPPY FROSTY BREATH-TIME, BITCHES! Snuggle up in a handknit sweater with a doggie on your lap, and let’s all hunker down for the winter together.

20121104. We are the best snugglers.

Beets: Making Everything Better at the Space-Farm Since 2012

Last year, okra was our big sleeper veggie. We planted them on a whim, not really knowing what to expect (or how to eat it), and by the end of the summer, we had six plants ranging in height from 6′ to a whopping 12′. And then the gumbo! Oh, the gumbo. Okra + andouille + chicken + hot peppers + a bunch of other deliciousness thrown in a crockpot = pure gumbo magic.

This year, I discovered the awesomeness of beets. For real, I love them. If you have some preconceived, long-seated notion about beets, I think you need to come over to my house and let me cook you up some roasted beets and sweet potatoes with a starter of pickled beets. Plus, they make everything a beautiful shade of fuchsia (EVERYTHING – your hands, the counter top, a nice little trail across the floor where you dropped one and it went rolling away, etc.).

20121005. Root veggie backyard (ad front yard) haul.

The last big root veggie haul from the back and front yards.

The secret: boil them ’til they’re soft, wipe the skins off, then throw them in for another 10 minutes with your already roasting root vegetables. Yum.

20121011. Last of the beets.

20121005. Beets, sweet potatoes, and yellow carrots, all from the garden.

Everything in this pan was produced in our yard (except for the olive oil)! Yellow carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and herbs – all of it grew up roughly 50′ from where it was eaten.

So, garden friends, what was your favorite surprise in the garden this year? What can you not wait to plant next year?

Canning Report, July 2012: Non-Stop Jam Action

Confession: I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of jam or jelly. Oh, I like a good PB&J just as much as the next person, and there’s nothing like toast with some lemon curd or apple butter smeared on it. But jam? I just don’t eat it that often.

So what the hell was I doing this morning, canning three different types of jams and jellies? Apparently, I don’t like STORE-BOUGHT jams. Homemade jams turn out to be the bomb.

Without further ado, then, here is the July canning report – heavy on the sweets.

July:

    • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars) – With a healthy infusion of cinnamon and cloves, this jam smelled divine while it was cooking – almost like summertime Thanksgiving. The recipe came from a booklet Chris’ aunt and uncle sent us as a housewarming present: a canning magazine from Taste of Home.
20120714. A little army of cinnamon blueberry jam.

A little army of jams.

    • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars) – Can you tell we came into a LOT of blueberries recently? Five pounds for $10 at the store! We froze a lot for the chickens, we’ve eaten a lot, and there was still plenty of room for jam. I used the same recipe as above but used dried basil, oregano, and rosemary from the garden in place of the cinnamon and cloves. Muy interesante, si?
20120714. Blueberry jam with oregano, basil, and rosemary.

Those little stick-looking things in the jam are rosemary… I hope.

    • Rosemary Jelly (3 half-pint jars) – I love incongruous flavors, so when I saw this recipe (minus the green food coloring, that is), I knew I had to try it. And, OHMYGOODNESS, it is so so good, y’all! It’s sweet, a little tangy, with a warm spicy rosemary undertone.
20120714. Rosemary jam - a serious winner.

Rosemary jelly sans insane green food dye.

20120714. Rosemary jam and cream cheese - OMGYUM.

Fancy Saturday Breakfast: English muffin, cream cheese, and rosemary jelly.

    • Tomato Sauce (1 jar) – This was my first attempt at tomato sauce. I was a little disheartened to see how many tomatoes it took to make just one jar of somewhat watery sauce! I will keep trying, though. I’m thinking this stuff might actually make a delicious bloody Mary!
    • Easy Pickles (3 jars) – Since I didn’t really have enough cucumbers on hand to do full-blown pickles (and it was so stinking hot I couldn’t imagine getting the water bath canner going), I gave an easy refrigerator pickle recipe a try. This was also from the Taste of Home; can you see a pattern here?
20120710. Pickles and tomato sauce.

My first jar of something resembling tomato sauce (and some more pickles).

  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

How to Do Nearly Everything Wrong

I’m pretty convinced that we have been doing everything wrong this year. There is really no reason to try to comfort us and tell us we haven’t. This probably says more about my own chronic self-doubt and second guessing than anything (weird when you compare that to my general must act now/impulsive attitude), although re: chicken raising, I’m pretty certain we have, in fact, done everything wrong.

I just hope we make it to the other side to write an undoubtedly HIGH-LARIOUS book about how wrong we are. As it is, we have an upper respiratory thing going on right now with the chickens because we were idiots who thought Beaker needed a flock more than she needed quarantined, healthy chickies to join her.

And that’s just the start of How We Have Done Things Wrong.

I can’t think of that now, however. We did things wrong, we will learn from it, and now we just have to make the best of it and hope that all of our chickens end up being strong and tough and full of spunk. So far, they are all hanging in there famously and, aside from a few runny noses and a LOT of chicken disease research, they all seem fairly happy with each other and in general.

Fingers and all other pink parts are crossed (along with electrolytes and yogurt and frequent/obsessive checking) that we didn’t set these girls up for failure and doom. I hope I’m not reading this entry in another month and kicking myself for not DOING MORE (see? there’s that good old self-doubt and second guessing coming in).

In keeping with this whole half-empty/half-full theme I’ve got going tonight…

Sad Trombone
My pitiful little carrot (note that it is supposed to be that color… just not that misshapen and totally squishy).
20120712. Carrots are not my strong suit.

Dying yellow squash plants, which is heartbreaking since the cumin-pickled squash I made a few weeks ago is THE MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER (along with pickled beets… they can share the title, right?).
20120711. State of the garden address.

And… our absolutely Swiss-cheesed green beans. This is the second year in a row they succumbed to some unseen pest long before I got anywhere near sick of green beans. Boo, bugs! Boo, I say.
20120711. State of the garden address.

Walking on Sunshine!
However, as per usual, the good things outweigh the bad by so very much. For instance, we have a perennial garden in front that attracts bees and birds and my own two eyes all the time.
20120706. Sunset sunlight.

We have a cat named Boombox, who I am convinced is the most awesome cat in the universe.
20120705. Stoic Boombox knows this (heat wave) too shall pass.

We have chickens who, diseased or not, are both gorgeous and friendly.They even get along with each other now, just a week and a half after first meeting.
20120706. Beaker, new gray Easter Egger, and the three wees.

We have dragonflies and tomatoes out the wazoo. I’m thinking there are so many dragonflies this year because we have been watering the garden on occasion through this drought (it hasn’t been this bad in 104 years, I was informed by the radio today) and because we keep a low water dish out amidst the perennials in front of the house. Bees, wasps, birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and dragonflies love us this summer.
20120711. State of the garden address.

We also have the “three wees…”
20120706. Chris and the three wees.

And tomatoes like stoplights.
20120711. State of the garden address.

We also have an amazing way to eat up my proliferation of cucumbers: Adrienne’s Cucumber Salad. The cukes are finally coming back after the 100+-degree temps killed off most of their blooms. Also, sometimes you just have to pair your cucumber salad from the garden with square burgers from the freezer. It’s like when you have a nice steak, and all you’ve got on hand to pair it with is Carlo Rossi. Don’t judge.
20120711. Sometimes, you just have to pair that deilicous garden cuke salad with nasty square burgers.

Long live the cuke!
20120711. State of the garden address.

Finally, I’m super excited to pair edibles with our inedible landscaping. I ran out of room in the garden, and after pickling my first beets earlier this summer, I decided I needed moremoreMORE beets… and turnips, as long as I was at it. Here are the rings of turnips and beets on the front of the house.
20120711. State of the garden address.

How’s that for the most roller coaster-y, bipolar entry ever? It’s been a wild ride this summer, and I’m just holding on.

Canning Report, July 2012

After heading out of town for five days, there was some garden tending and harvesting in my very-near future. This morning’s haul – fennel bulbs (no idea what the hell I’m going to do with these things, but I will soon learn!), summer squash, pickling cucumbers, a handful of grape tomatoes, and a few (blossom-rotted) Romas. I need to get that under control for sure.
20120704. Garden haul.

July:

  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars) – Cumin and summer squash? What’s not to love? This recipe is from Canning for a New Generation. The author uses a LOT of apple cider vinegar in her recipes, which I am just not a huge fan of. Basically, I end up cutting the cider vinegar in half and using plain white vinegar to get to the correct total required.
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars) – Again, this recipe is from Canning for a New Generation, based on the Persian Tarragon Pickle recipe. Since I didn’t have tarragon, I used my nose to make some spice modifications and added turmeric and celery seed to the called-for garlic, coriander seeds, and hot chiles. I didn’t read through the recipe when I chose it, but I was happy when I discovered they were refrigerator pickles. No need to open up the pores this morning over a boiling, bubbly water bath canning setup! I also decided to slice them thinly into rounds, like the delicious side of pickles you get with your meal at Twenty Tap, one of the best little spots in Indianapolis (particularly if you like beer and fried cheese curds).
20120704. Turmeric refrigerator pickles.

Turmeric refrigerator pickles.

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)