Friday, August 29, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A new Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions - capturing moments from the week. 
Simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember. 
Feel free to share [a link to] yours via comment section!

{inspired by}

First day of Fourth Grade

Our first hatch ... Peep #1

Hangin' out at the bonfire, Old Timers Reunion 2014, West Virginia.

Speleo Olympics Obstacle Course - OTR 2014 ... first place!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our first hatch!

August 5, 2014 ... Gandie sets up camp on 9 eggs

On August 5, we embarked on our first adventure in hatching eggs using a broody hen. See "Our first attempt" Blog post

Today's anticipated hatch day, Tuesday, August 26, came before we knew it, and lo and behold, as we approached the door of the "Doghouse Coop/Nursery Coop" this evening, we could hear sweet little peeps.

August 26 ... meet the peeps!

We opened the door to discover three beautiful chicks. Another egg was partly zipped (mid-hatch) and four eggs remain intact. There was also an additional 'dummy' egg (infertile) that was still intact.

The chicks are adorably fluffy, ducking in and out from under their mama, Gandie, for protection and warmth. One has subtle brown stripes, just like the Sex Link chicks we got in the Spring. The other two are plain yellow fuzzballs, much like the Tetra Tint chicks. They are already starting to mimick some pecking and scratching behavior! The kids had to, of course, have a little cuddle with each one!

We are not going to name them for at least 2 months, by which time we should be able to decipher boys from girls. So for now they are Peep #1, Peep #2 and Peep #3.

Peep #1 (with stripes)

Peep #2

Peep #3

Unfortunately, we have a 5-day trip planned to West Virginia, leaving in two days, so I hope mama Gandie takes good care of them while we are gone (and Grandma will check on them too.) We know there are eager and watchful hawks on our property.

Peep #1 (stripey) & mama Gandie

We are going to let Gandie raise these little ones with minimal interference, apart from daily visits that is :) Although we are eager to hatch more, she will be busy with these chicks for at least 6-8 weeks, and by then, it may be too late to initiate another hatch (if she is even interested) due to the approaching winter. So we will wait until late winter/early spring to try again.

Update: Egg #4 did not finish hatching. Another egg (#5) partly hatched overnight but Gandie left the nest with the other three and abandoned it. We tried to assist, but it did not make it (after 8 hours out of the shell.) The other eggs were discarded. I did not check to see if they had developed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A new Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions - capturing moments from the week. 
Simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember. 
Feel free to share [a link to] yours via comment section!

{inspired by}

Summer Preserved
Peach, Raspberry, Strawberry, and Cherry Jams; Tomato Relish, Peach & Ginger Relish

Master Builder ... 3 LEGO kits = 4 hours of focused concentration & building!

WARNING: Graphic image below, but it's MAKE UP!!

It's all FAKE!! Grandma played a "victim" for a National Guard drill in a terrorist attack scenario.
Pretty awesome huh??!!

Friday, August 15, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A new Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions - capturing moments from the week. 
Simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember. 
Feel free to share [a link to] yours via comment section!

{inspired by}

Removing the old garage roof - front side

Installing new metal roof panels

It takes two ...

Celebrating our colors

Homegrown goodness

"Laing's Award-Winning Apple Pie" made with homegrown apples :) Y.U.M.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Homegrown goodness

Our garden is something of an oasis in our neighborhood; a suburban, one-eighth acre, lot.

Our veggie garden is a loose interpretation of "Square Foot Gardening" ... our 20ft x 20ft garden has six 4ft x 4ft raised beds, two 2ft x 6ft raised beds, a couple raised round containers, and a flat area overtaken by weeds, rogue tomatoes, and rambling strawberries! I threw in a couple hay bales this year as an experimental planting medium too!

The boxes are filled with free compost from our township (composted leaves), fortified with home-made compost from lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, and shredded paper, with mulching layers of grass clippings (fresh from the lawnmower) & chicken manure+sawdust or scratchings from our chicken coop & run. 

Early Spring: Lettuce, Broccoli & Kale ... Rainbow Swiss Chard at right

In April (pre-spring) we directly planted and seeded cool crops: three varieties of kale, three varieties of lettuce, onions, broccoli, spinach, peas, Swiss chard, parsley, garlic & mustard greens. In May I started seeds indoors for some of the summer crops like zucchini, melons, basil, green beans, and about six varieties of heirloom tomatoes. In mid-May we planted our seedlings and some peppers from a nursery in a little 12ft x 7ft greenhouse set up over a couple of the beds,  ... which gave them a head start during our unseasonably cool spring. And eventually (with the help of a couple windy storms) removed the greenhouse to let the sun and rain do their work. 

Mustard Greens, Kale, Onions & Lettuce

Lettuce & Spinach

And somewhere in there I bought a couple of hay bales, one of which fills half a 4ft x 4ft square, and into which we planted zucchini, while the other hay bale was placed over a bare patch in our lawn (where a blueberry didn't grow) into which we planted melons.

Haybale experiment ... Melons

Honeydew Melons

The greens have been wonderful ... we ate salads three to four times a week all Spring and into early summer until the lettuce & spinach bolted (went to flower). And the kale, oh the kale! It is my new favorite veggie! Easy to grow. Slow to bolt. Can survive/grow in winter. Versatile — salads, cooked, smoothies... 

Kale variety #1

We have been drinking green smoothies (kale/spinach/chard/parsley, fruit & juice) almost every day since spring. My seasonal allergies have been minimal, my immune system maximal (haven't had a cold since winter!), and I feel pretty great! A green smoothie makes a great. and quick, breakfast!

Kale variety #2

Every couple weeks I feed the garden with manure tea. Using a five-gallon bucket, I fill it about 1/4 with sawdust/manure fresh from the chicken coop. Then I fill it to the top with water and stir. It sits for three days to steep, and then it just needs to be watered down 1:1 before your pour it on. The sawdust doesn't break down, so it becomes a protective, water retaining mulch around the plants base, and will eventually compost. 

In addition to the "squares" I have a/an herb garden (depends how you say herb!) with chives, green, variegated & pineapple sages, thyme, cilantro, dill, parsley, marjoram, oregano and basil, plus a couple of rogue tomatoes that grew from seeds in the compost! Also a perennial rhubarb; peach, apple and cherry trees, and a lot of pollinator-friendly perennials and shrubs.

Herbs: Basil, Sage, Marjoram & Chives ...

Flowers to attract the pollinators

I am so looking forward to expanding our garden at our new house, with about about 2.5 acres of cleared property (4.5 acres total) ... though, I will need to figure out how to deer-proof it first!! I think the garden will likely be well-established before the house is finished being renovated!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Summer means mouth-watering bruschetta

So, I may have mentioned that tomatoes are in season here, and that our garden is finally (after a couple of unsuccessful years) producing a decent crop of this heavenly, taste-of-sunshine, fruit. Yes, tomatoes are fruit. Anyways, for the first time in years I also have a nice crop of basil growing under the tomatoes. Have you ever breathed in the aroma of fresh cut basil?? W.O.W. So what is one glorious way to combine these two summer flavors??

My Aussie sister-in-law is a vegetarian, and once when I was visiting — many moons ago — she made some fresh bruschetta. It was DE.LISH. Given there is no recipe per se, but rather a handful of ingredients, it was easy to tuck these away in the recesses of my mind to recall later — like every summer since that visit!

So, here's the list of ingredients:
  • Fresh, sun-ripe tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Generous bunch of fresh basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
Optional extras:

  • A stick of bread (French baguette, Portuguese saloio, ciabatta ...)
  • Feta cheese
  • Fresh parsley

NOTE: 1 baguette + 2 large tomatoes + 1 onion + a handful of basil leaves fed 2 adults and one child (the other was at summer camp) as a hearty appetizer.

This can be prepared two main ways: raw or partially cooked. I make the partially cooked version, as my husband's digestive system has an aversion to raw onion.

Method 1: Raw
Dice the tomatoes and onions and toss to combine. Cut a generous bunch of basil leaves into 1/4 inch strips with kitchen shears, a sharp knife, or you can tear them. Combine with tomato & onion mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Now splash on olive oil and balsamic vinegar, tossing and tasting. Add crumbled feta cheese, and/or chopped fresh parsley, if it floats your boat! Let sit at room temperature so flavors meld.

Method 2: Partially Cooked
Dice the tomatoes and onions. Cut/tear a generous bunch of basil leaves into 1/4 inch strips. Put tomatoes & basil in a bowl and lightly toss. Saute the onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until translucent, but not browned. Remove from heat. Add tomato & basil to hot onions and stir until basil wilts. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Add optional extras if you want to. Splash on balsamic vinegar, and extra olive oil if you want to, but there is already some in with the onions! Toss lightly. Let sit at room temperature so flavors meld.

I believe every good bruschetta needs some freshly toasted bread to carry it, but bruschetta can also be used as a condiment for fish, chicken, and steak... however, my favorite is the finger-food variety that I can eat while watching a family movie! So, while bruschetta flavors are melding, slice bread into half-inch slices, and brush one side with olive oil. Place slices on a cookie sheet, or two, and broil until light golden brown ... watch it very closely! Flip and broil the undersides.

Pile a generous spoonful of bruschetta onto a toastie. Garnish with fresh basil or parsley if you wish. Eat. Repeat. Mmmmm ...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Our first attempt ...

So in the process of building chicken coop number two, I actually ended up building chicken coop number three, affectionately known as the "Dog House Coop." Coop number two remains unfinished as yet.

The "Dog House Coop"
Weather-proofed with vinyl banners & rubber roofing 

This one was built out of wood pallets and every scrap of plywood — any wood — that I could find! Why? Well, I wanted to create a nursery for our broody hen Gandie (flock #1). She's been broody for nearly a month, but her/our suburban flock is rooster-less, so I left an egg under her a week ago to keep her happy. 

In the meantime, I have been collecting [assumed] fertile eggs from our more rural flock #2 (6 hens, 4 roosters) and with the Dog House Coop complete, it was time to move Gandie to her very own nursery, and give her a go at incubating and hatching some fertile eggs, and maybe raising the chicks. This is our first attempt at hatching chicks!

The nursery is ready ... filled with pine shavings.
Eight, we-hope-fertile, eggs collected last week (you can see the date written on them!)
ready for incubation
Gandie settled right in on top of all nine eggs (eight plus the one she had already been sitting on)

The countdown is on ... August 26-27 should be hatch day!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Welsh Rarebit

It's summer ... at least where I live it is!! And summer means home-grown veggies ... at least where I live it does! And right now it is peak tomato season. If sunshine has a flavor, I think it's that of homegrown, sun-ripened, tomatoes! Store-bought tomatoes do not even begin to compare.

After a couple of disappointing years of growing tomatoes (for us), this year we are experiencing a lovely crop. Not an over abundance, but just enough that we are now eating tomatoes 4-5 times a week. I think all our tomatoes this year are heirloom varieties, many of which I grew from seeds I collected last summer from tomatoes bought from local growers and farm stands. Our garden includes little yellow pear-shaped tomatoes, Red Brandywine, Roma, Mortgage Lifter (if only!), German Johnston, and Cherokee Purple to name a few ...

So, when there are ripe tomatoes at hand my husband always requests a meal he enjoyed many summers as a kid ... Welsh Rarebit. What? In a nutshell it's a cheese sauce traditionally served on toast. But my husband grew up eating it drizzled over toast, fresh sliced tomatoes & crispy bacon! Doesn't that sound divine?! Thanks to a wonderful thing called the Internet (pre-Google!!) I searched and found a variety of recipes for Welsh Rarebit or "Welsh Rabbit." After a few experiments, I think I have found the one I like best, and it gets a solid thumbs up from my dear hubby, and kids, too!

Doesn't that look totally scrumptious??!! I think I filled this plate four or five times! I only stopped because the bacon, and the tomatoes, and the bread, and the Rabbit ran out :(

So here's the recipe:

Welsh Rarebit

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup beer (stout, ale, or your fave brew)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon yellow or dijon mustard (dry or liquid)
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1 egg yolk

Any bread that slices, toasts and holds together well - we like French baguettes/bread sticks, Portuguese Salaio bread, Ciabatta ... slightly dense breads.
Olive oil

Optional extras:
Tomatoes, sliced.
Bacon, cooked to your liking.

Melt butter in a saucepan, add flour and whisk to mix with butter. Add beer & whisk until a smooth roux forms. Add milk and keep whisking until smooth. Add mustard and a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce and stir. Add cheese and stir until it is melted and smooth. Season with pepper and paprika to taste. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolk. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 5 days (reheat to serve.)

Slice the bread stick to your liking and place on cookie sheet. Brush tops with olive oil and lightly toast under broiler. Flip over slices and lightly toast the other side.

Top toasted slices of bread with tomato slices & cooked bacon, then drizzle with cheese sauce. 

Now savor and enjoy every bite, quickly, so you can get some more before it's all gone!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

{Foto Friday}

A new Friday ritual.
A couple photos - simple captions - capturing moments from the week. 
Simple, special, extraordinary moments. 
Moments for which to pause, savor and remember. 
Feel free to share [a link to] yours via comment section!

{inspired by}

Refreshingly Cool!

Fresh from the Nest

Pollinators Welcome Here!

Curious about Cicadas

• Rescued • Rehabilitated • Released •