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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Garlic Planting

A bed of garlic deliciousness
Today, this year's saved garlic cloves are resting snugly in the ground, covered by chicken litter and leaves.

Looking back, we increase the number of plantings by about 10-20 each year.
In 2008, we planted 8.
In 2009, we planted 26.
In 2010, we planted 45.
In 2011, we planted 64
In 2012, we planted 82.
In 2013, we planted 90....

And today, November 2, we planted 110!  We should probably buy the Co-op out of toothpaste and breath mints!

If you're new to planting garlic, click on the links above. You'll find some pretty good explanations, if I do say so myself.

Happy  Fall!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Stuff...and stuff

Over the past week, I've heard a common theme in a variety of non-similar situations from crowds who seemingly have not much in common. Maybe as the holiday season picks up or as I find myself locked into a maddening schedule of commitments, I am just more intune. But the ever-present idea that I heard over and over this week was one of simplicity.

The first, and perhaps least surprising, place this week in which I heard a message of simplicity was at my Wednesday night yoga class. As we stretched out our stress-ridden muscles, our instructor spoke about letting go of internal stress, of avoiding meaningless holiday stress, of just enjoying life, being in the moment, being simple, and --in a sense--being free. On the car ride home, Andy and I talked about ways that we could incorporate the sereneness that presented itself with that discussion, in that moment, throughout our winter.

Days later, we attended our niece's birthday party. A different crowd for sure -- but amidst the bustling children and cake, I overheard a conversation that resonated the same idea with me. A friend of the family is moving to New Mexico. Because of that, a major rummage sale was had, and a major epiphany delivered itself. The couple moving talked about how they realized how pointless stuff was -- how they never considered themselves people who were very into stuff, but how much they had accumulated in such a short amount of time, and then how little it sells for, and how letting go of it really has no negative effect. In fact, to them, it felt a bit cleansing -- freeing.

And then, that evening, at a friend's dinner party, among a group of bicultural folks, who passionately discussed Mexican, South American, and American politics, the same idea emerged. This time, in terms of food, but nonetheless, it was one of simplicity.  One of our friends reminisced about his days in Mexico, before NAFTA and before Wal-mart began its destruction in his hometown, when his mother could go to the market, gather a basket of simple foods, bring it back and cook for his large family for days. We don't need to line our cupboards and shelves with endless cans and boxes of foods which we'll most likely never eat, yet we do.

At the same time, a facebook friend and former classmate started a blog called Naturally Adventurous in which she chronicles her experiences following the principles of a book entitled 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  The first step of this is eating only 7 foods for a month. Why is she doing this? In her words, " Life has gotten so busy and distracting that I find myself with little time to, well, actually live. I feel disconnected and stressed and need to set the reset button...I am hopeful that this experiment will provide the opportunity" 

These four separate instances, all different, but with a similar message has made me take a good, reflective pause.  Why do we as humans feel the need to consume so much? Food. Toys. Trinkets. Gadgets. Clothing. DVDs. Hair products. Lotions and creams. Countless kitchen gadgets that serve only one purpose. And, how many of us make the connection between all of this stuff and the ever-rising power of corporations?  When will we see that with Wal-mart and the other big box shops we lose small-business, mom-and-pop flavor, and we lose the ability to truly keep our money localized?  When will we realize that the food we buy impacts so many facets?  Workers' conditions. The environment. Immigration. Our bodies. Our health.

What we buy and don't buy matters.

Today, I felt a bit inspired. With the rain ruining any chance of outside work, I grabbed some food and began a cooking frenzy.  A dozen pluots from last week's CSA box were looking like a day away from decay. So, I made some jam. I didn't have a few ingredients, but I didn't go buy any. I scavenged through the cupboard to find something suitable to use instead. My husband whipped up a good, fall soup using escarole, onions, carrots, herbs, and beans.  I bagged up clothing that I haven't worn in a while to take it to Goodwill. And I talked to Andy about trying to give Christmas gifts this year that are meaningful and not just more stuff that our family and friends will have to figure out what to do with until the inevitable day this trinket and that one end up getting sold for a nickle at a rummage sale.

And so, these are my reflections today. As the school week winds back up and commitments continue to present themselves and the holiday spirit starts to infect everyone around me (including myself), I hope I can resist the temptation to become unaware and to continue working towards living simply and presently.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sweet Pepper Soup

We grew a lot of peppers this year. A lot. I remember earlier in the season, someone asked me how many peppers we usually received on each plant. Curious myself, I said I thought maybe four.

Mini-sweets getting all nice and sauteed, before blending
Well, I was wrong! Peppers, both sweet and hot, both king-sized and mini, flourished. We made a quart of hot sauce. We pickled some hot peppers. We froze some sweet peppers. And then we made this delicious soup. I got the idea here, but we changed it up quite a bit. I think our recipe is pretty darn good, and I'm sure we'll make it time and time again. 

Most of the peppers we used are called mini-sweets. We saved some seeds from a bag we had in our CSA box this year. If anyone would like a seed or two, let us know. They're as sweet as candy, but a lot better for you.

We made a bit batch....17 cups to be exact. If you don't want that much, cut the recipe in half. We're taking it for lunches all week long. 

5 medium-sized potatoes
9 cups of sweet peppers
3.5 Tbs. of butter
8 cups of vegetable broth
6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of half and half
4 cups of diced tomatoes

1. Heat butter in the pan. Saute onions, garlic, potatoes, and peppers until the potatoes begin to brown.
2. Add the tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.
3. Blend in a food processor (or with whatever tool you use) until smooth.
4. Return to pan. Add cream. Mix.

Done! To serve tonight, we added a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy! Super easy! Super healthy, as evidenced here:
Nutrition Facts
Sweet Pepper Soup
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
Total Fat3.6g
      Saturated Fat1.8g
      Trans Fat0g
      Dietary Fiber3.6g
Vitamin A 65%Vitamin C 285%
Calcium    4%Iron 7%

Lucy in the Sky

Lucy passed on last night, warm in a kitty cage in the house. One week ago, she began acting a bit unlike herself. Twice, she perched in a tree and wouldn't go into roost without some human intervention. Last night,  all the chickens ventured safely inside the coop, but she resting right by the coop door, apparently unable to make the jump. So, we brought her in.

The dazed look she exhibited struck an immediate cord with us. We've lost several hens to Marek's, and this is a common symptom. When she was hatched, she received the Marek's vaccination, but we're wondering if it is not a 100% guarantee.  Recently, she had a terrible molt. We're curious if this stressed her body out so much that she was more vulnerable.

Now, we've only three hens and one rooster left. Something that is stressing both of us is the question of whether or not to get more hens. Neither of us grew up with any sort of farm animal, so we're curious if this much loss is normal. In our three-year stint with chickens, we've had 13, and now we have 4. Is this much loss expected? Rocky, the rooster is a big guy, and I'm concerned three hens (one of them a Bantam) are not enough. Thoughts? Experience? Any help or advice is appreciated (except to cull the other birds; two are vaccinated, and two are just carriers).

For now...enjoy the biography I wrote 1.5 weeks ago for our wonderful pet-sitter, who wanted to know everything about all of the pets, including the pet birds.

Name: Lucy
Nicknames: Lucy-Poo, Lucy in the sky
Hatch Date: 23 March 2011
Breed: Easter Egger
Eggs: Pinkish-white, medium
Second hen in the pecking order

          Lucy arrived in the same box as Rocky, the rooster, and Sadie, the hen.  If you close your eyes and think of a baby chick, she looked exactly like the picture you most likely conjured up in your head. Fluffy, yellow, and peeping.  Like this . . .
Lucy’s always been a bit standoffish, not into being held for long. When she was a pullet, she’d wonder away from her flock. She’s her own lady. Unfortunately for her, she is one of Rocky’s favorite ladies. For a while, she was losing feathers like mad, and we’re still not entirely certain if it was a molt, damage from Rocky’s spurs and beak, or a combination of the two. She looked pretty ragged.
          Lucy had a bit of a raggedy situation as a little chick, too. She pasted up, which happens to chicks when too much of their doo is sticking to their rumps. It can be deadly if their humans aren’t taking care to look at their tuckuses.  Luckily for Lucy, her humans were paying attention. One night we found ourselves in the bathroom, under dim light, wiping our little chick’s butt. Never would have imagined that scene when I was 18…
          Lucy is impossible to catch…probably because of her sort of anti-human sentiments. I’ve watched Andy chase her around the same tree for 15 minutes, and I’ve done the same. Solely because of her, I wouldn’t recommend free-ranging the hens until you’ve had some experience handling them. The skill of Lucy=catching might take some time to develop!
          You’ll observe Lucy to this day sort of doing her own thing. Yell out, “Chickie, chickies, chickies,’ offer a treat, and she’ll come a-waddling to greet you. She’s pretty darn cute.