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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Summer Solstice!

Little Bear, all decked out
 Bonfires. Singing and dancing. Drum circles. Trekking to Stonehenge to join in chants of "All Hail the Sun!" All common ways to celebrate the summer solstice, but slush and dogs? 

Slush and dogs is exactly how our newly-made dog park family decided to celebrate the day of birth, sunlight, growth, and joy: the summer solstice. Our dogs played fetch, while we sipped slush, conversed, and even sang a few tunes.

Dogs enjoying dog slush

The slush was really the star of the show. People got creative. The slush menu included brandy slush, watermelon slush, a banana-berry mix slush, a slush for the doggies (made of Braunschweiger and milk), and our rhubarb-strawberry slush. Turns out making slush is pretty easy, and when we returned from the festivities, we made a peach-pluot slush.

Peach-pluot slush



To make this summer slush concoction for yourself, you need the following:

  •  8 cups water
  • 4 cups fruit (or to taste)
  • 2 packages of gelatin
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1.5 cups of sugar (or to taste)
  • vodka to taste
  • 7-up to taste

1. Boil water with fruit until fruit turns to mush. Lower heat.

2. Scoop out mush (and save it for breakfast fruit, to add to yogurt, or to give to your chickens!)
3. Return water to boil.  Add sugar and gelatin.  Boil until sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Add vodka and freeze. We started with 2 cups of vodka, but you could easily add more or less, if desired.
To serve: scoop out desired amount into cup. Top off with 7-up or like soda.

My friend Jennie and I also made dog treats for our best friends.
Za tries to take his treats early

Jennie received the recipes from a friend, and the dogs LOVED them. Here they are:

Cheese And Garlic Dog Cookies :
• 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
• 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese --grated
• 1/4 pound margarine -- corn oil
• 1 clove garlic --crushed
• 1 Pinch salt
Cream the cheese with the softened margarine, garlic, salt, and flour. Add enough milk to form into a ball. Chill for 1/2 hour. Roll onto floured board. Cut into shapes and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until slightly brown, and firm.
MAKES 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size.

Peanut Butter Puppy Poppers :
• 2 cups whole-wheat flour
• 1 tbsp. baking powder
•1 cup peanut butter
• 1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, and then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly-floured surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes (actually we just made them into balls and pressed them with a fork, like peanut butter cookies). Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown. Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eggs for a Later Date

I'm sitting on my living room floor, eating frozen grapes, drinking iced tea, and enjoying the breeze of a fan. I love heat, so I am not complaining, but when the cooking muse visited me tonight, I had to ponder what I could do in the kitchen without turning on the oven or stove. After all, I didn't want Franklin, the dog, or Carmencita, my kitty-cat to decide to pack his/her bags and hit the road for a house with air conditioning.

I looked in the fridge and realized it was holding 10 dozen eggs. Granted, we'll be making ice cream soon, and we do enjoy the occasional egg scramble, but 10 DOZEN EGGS! I decided that tonight was the night that I would freeze some for later use. In the winter, despite having five hens, I usually have to run to the store for eggs because my ladies are molting. A goal of mine is to never hardly buy eggs from the store. This should help me on my way.

I did some research and found that freezing eggs is really quite simple. I chose to use Ball jars to freeze four or six eggs per jar. All you need to do is:
1. Crack the desired number of eggs into a bowl.
2. Mix until the yolks and whites are indistinguishalbe from one another.
3. Pour into jars. Be sure there is a 1" or more head space. I tended to go with more head space just to be safe and because I like the 4-6 egg quantity per jar.
4. Label jars with the number of eggs and date.
5. Put in the freezer for up to one year.

In total, I froze 40 eggs tonight. I would have kept going, but I ran out of small jars.

The chickens will be excited to get all of those shells in the morning, too!

Easy Peasy!!! Jars of eggs for the winter. Hallelujah!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cocky Rocky, the Rooster

Rocky and Spinderella (pic from last fall)
Rocky, the rooster, is exhibiting his cockiness a little too frequently. The moment one of us opens the coop door for the hens in the morning, Rocky hops out and waits to say hello to his hens. Each lady peeks out and ponders whether or not the joy of the outdoors is worth risking being Rocky's favorite gal of the A.M. Eventually, each of our lovelies decides she'll face the danger, but what a way to start the day...every day.

Lucy-poo has never fully gotten her feathers back from last fall's molting. Unfortunately, I don't see her feathers growing back anytime soon. Rocky's feet grab onto her sides, exactly where her bare skin is already showing. Her neck is also nearly featherless. And I think her skin is getting sun-burned.

Check our her  neck too.

Up close. Poor Lucy!
What to do?  I called our chicken doctor, and she assured me this is all natural. I guess so, but I wonder if this is really too much. Do I need more hens? Should I separate the hens from Rocky for a while? I've hesitated in doing that because it is summertime, and there is not a lot of shade on either parts of our run.And after all, despite Rocky's exploits, I really do love the guy.

Chicken people and non-chicken people, help! Am I being too sensitive, or should I protect my ladies from their overzealous roo? 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Gardening: Good for the Soul

I'm not going to lie. I had a hard week. Those that know me personally know that I had invested a lot of time and energy in a little Wisconsin election held recently. My side didn't win, and it hit me hard. The first few days afterward, I walked around aimlessly, trying to fight back a sense of hopelessness. Today, I bounced back. I attribute it to the black dirt underneath my fingernails and the farmer's tan I'm currently (proudly) sporting. Today, I realized just how good gardening is for the soul. And as the saying goes, "Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes."

Because of the aforementioned election, I've gotten a bit behind in the garden (and on this blog). Despite our wonderfully early spring, tasks were not getting completed. Nature did not make this any easier: our new soil quickly filled with weeds, transplants got eaten by our resident ground squirrels, and wind gusts knocked out several of our stronger plants. Today, we started many projects anew. 

The silver lining of having some of our planned gardens end up with only withered transplants is that we have FREEDOM to plant whatever we want. I took our large bag of seeds outside and sort of randomly picked what to plant. A lot of my favorites are currently happily germinating. Dry bean plants will soon be crawling up our chicken run netting, and I'll be making kale chips galore.

I recently read a book about the experience of "flow" ~ a state of complete immersion in an experience -- time passes quickly, and despite being tired, you happily persist. I experienced this state today. Pulling weeds, watering, hoeing the soil, planting seeds, pulling, watering, planting, pulling, watering, planting. Finally, twelve garden beds later, I looked up, saw Andy immersed in his own work, and I went in for a glass of iced tea. Content. Free. Peaceful. 

This post is not to over-dramatize this day or experience; rather, I believe quite often harmony comes to us when we simply sit back and do what nature intended. Could another activity bring me so close to the earth? My undergraduate class which involved reading only Thoreau and Emerson is soaring back to me...I think those transcendentalists really were onto something.