Chickens on Vacation

So what happened to our flock of chickens while we were neglecting our urban farm this year? Our friends (thanks Ed and Suzy) took them to southwest Oregon for a vacation. Lucky chickens! Apparently they’ve learned to forage in the woods, fight off coyotes, and generally revert back to the jungle fowl they descended from. When they come back to Seattle, they face being butchered by me, so no one is in a hurry to return to the urban jungle.

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October Tomatoes

Our neighbor’s tomatoes as of October 1. Aren’t they amazing? You gotta love Seattle. My mom put up 65 quarts of juice, but her Indiana tomatoes were basically finished by mid-September.

Our urban farm was cr*p this year–all my fault. I planted, watered, weeded and then left for two months, touring to Indiana with Tom in our 1929 Model A Ford. It was interesting to discover what vegetables survive such cavalier treatment. Kale, of course. It appears to be indestructible. We had adequate sweet corn, wonderful cabbages (white and purple), and great peppers (bell and Jalapeno). I’m still hoping for Brussels sprouts, which I plan to roast with olive oil, sea salt, and garlic for Thanksgiving.

As you can see from this picture of our hanging tomatoes, when we returned home, all the other vegies were begging to be put out of their misery. There should be a moral to this story–maybe it’s best to relish each individual step (planting, weeding, watering) for itself without needing the reward of an abundant harvest.

Although, frankly, like that great urban farmer, Vince Lombardi, I’ll always be an end-game girl.

 

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Is This Your Grandmother’s Quilt?

On my last trip home, my mother gave me this beautiful quilt she bought years ago. The center of each star is embroidered with the name of the woman who made it. The date of the quilt is 2/12/1937. All of the women, except one, appear to have lived in north central Indiana. Here is the complete list of names and towns (if available), although I can’t guarantee I read each one correctly. Please contact me if you recognize any of these women by writing a comment on this post. Thank you!

Sally Angela, Peru. Mrs. Clara Arndt, La Roy. Marcella Benedict, Logansport. Mary Benedict, Logansport. Roxie Boldry, Logansport. Mrs. Joe Buskirk, Logansport. Tressa Buskirk, Logansport. Connie Ella Carr (from Texas). Emma Cook, Mexico, IN. Laura Davis. Lola Davis, Bunker Hill. May Flora, Elkhart. Pearl Griffith, Peru. Emma Griswald, Muncie. Laura Harter, Flora. Thelma Hartleroad. Mrs. John Mast, Bunker Hill. Mrs. Miles, Muncie. Amy Miller, Bunker Hill. Nellie Oritz, Peru. Gladys Patton, Logansport. Marjarit Robbins, Logansport. Averill See. Mabel Singleton, La Crosse. Mrs. Willard Sommers, La Roy. Hester Sommerville. Mrs. Stuber, Logansport Be Stuber, Twelve Mile. Opal Stuber, Peru. Sadie Stuber, Peru. Julia Sullivan. Noramae Teal, Peru. Blanche Tiller, Peru. Dora Whitehill.

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Robin Rescue

Yesterday I found this juvenile robin in the gutter being dive-bombed by a trio of crows. A pair of adult robins were trying to fight off the crows, but they were too small and ineffective. I picked up the robin, which had several deep  bloody peck wounds under his wings and took him home. I gave him water and Tom fed him a worm from our worm bin. When PAWS wildlife rescue opened at 8:00 am, we dropped him off. PAWS is wonderful! They will take care of him while he heals and then return him to my neighborhood and his flock family. I’ve learned my lesson from last summer’s baby crow. Injured birds go to the experts. To learn more, check out PAWS’s website www.paws.org/wildlife.html.

NOTE to Seattle drivers–don’t follow the directions to PAWS on Google Maps. Instead going north on I-99 (Aurora) from Lynnwood, turn left across Aurora on 44th Avenue West (not well marked). Follow 44th half a mile to the PAWS compound.

 

 

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Rabbit-Proof Fence

Okay, it’s not really rabbit-proof. Maybe rabbit-deterrent fence would be more accurate. Mom’s garden is in the middle of a huge field, next to a meadow and near a forest. Bunnies are more than cute–they are destructive. Last year she planted a dense row of onion sets around her lettuce crop (Grandpa Admire’s organic and heirloom from Uprising Seeds (www.uprisingorganics.com) . The onions, as you can see, effectively protected her lettuce from those pesky rabbits. This spring, I’m trying the same strategy in my garden to see if it works against slugs.

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No Fail Bread Part 2

I posted earlier about my bread recipe that seems to work no matter what. Last night we had dinner with the only professional chef I know (hey Kal!) and he complimented me on my bread–a gold star event. So I thought I’d mention the latest refinement to the recipe: a heavy lidded casserole from the 1970′s or 1980′s I bought at St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift store for $2.99. It is amazing for baking bread. I heat the casserole in the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, put in the bread dough on parchment paper, put the lid on, turn the temperature down to 425 degrees, bake 30 minutes, take the lid off, bake another 20 minutes, and the bread is perfect. That’s professional chef perfect!

The recipe is: Mix together 6 c. flour, 1 tbls. salt, 1 tbls. yeast, 1 3/4 c. water, 1/4 c. beer, 2 tbls. white vinegar until dough is shaggy. Let sit overnight. Cut into 2 balls, knead for a while, put on parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and let rest 2 hours. Bake the loaves one at a time in the casserole.

 

 

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Ice-Cold Brew

Tom brews beer, generally an amber near-ale with ingredients and recipes from Bob’s Homebrew Supply in Seattle (www.bobshomebrew.com). Of the 25 steps, the most important one after sterilizing your equipment is to rapidly cool the wort. Tom uses an immersion wort chiller (thanks Tori!), which goes into the vat of wort. Cold water goes in one end and boiling hot water comes out the other, although the runoff water cools as it draws the heat from the wort. As you can imagine, it’s the kind of project with all the potential for a gigantic, marriage-destroying mess. He moved the whole operation outside during one of our rare snow storms this winter, which worked great to chill the beer. In terms of cost, once you have the equipment, the ingredients are about $50 per brew, which makes 5 gallons, or about $2.99 a quart. We aren’t saving a huge amount of money by brewing our own beer, but now we always have a couple of bottles on hand when friends drop by.

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Looking for Lunch in All the Wrong Places

Our newest neighbor is, I think, a Cooper’s Hawk, which feeds mainly on small birds and mammals according to the Audubon Society. I’m not sure our full-grown hens qualify as small birds, but he seems willing to try–and our girls certainly puffed up in that bravely hysterical way that chickens do when they feel threatened.  Tom always puts a chicken-wire roof on their run, which stops talons but not the calculating glare.

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Fall Forage Chop-Chop

We had the wettest September in Seattle’s history this year, so I didn’t garden much. (Some days I could hardly FIND the garden.) This month, I’ve been foraging for salad greens among the muddy leftovers–and look what I found!

A green pepper from the hanging pots, baby carrots (so small because they were planted next to Mike’s squash, which completely took over that part of the garden), leaf lettuce and cilantro planted in August, green onion, Swiss chard, spinach, and one last beautiful tomato from seeds Suzy gave us.

A dash of olive oil, one of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and chop chop!

 

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Writer’s Retreat

How lucky can a person be? I’m in Indiana at my parents’ farm, living in their log cabin, and working on my next book, tentatively titled “Murder Gets Your Goat.” The cabin was built in 1870 when Indiana was covered with forests of oak, walnut and poplar. The original owners kept adding on and built a house that totally enclosed the cabin. The next owners discovered it when they decided to remodel. My folks moved it to their farm about 30 years ago. Best of all, Mary-Faye’s goats are only a couple of miles down the road. Life is sweet.

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