Monday, July 26, 2010

Farmer's Market Day

2:16 PM
I'm a little late on the Farmer's Market Day blog, but I thought I would recap it.  Despite showing up a bit earlier for me, most of the cherries and whatnot got bought, so I had to skip that.  Instead, I picked up a small bit of salad to supplement the lettuce I'm getting from the garden, broccoli, potatoes, kale, cheese, butter, sugar snap peas, regular peas, cucumber and carrots. 

The heat has taken a hit on the garden.  Everything except the lettuce and herbs looks wilted, although the sugar snap peas are coming in.  The beans still haven't grown much, nor has the eggplant.  I've been trying to water every day, but it's an uphill battle.  Our humidity is around 20%. 

Next year I'm thinking the chicken poo composted will make a huge difference.  Right now, I need to stir it up a bit and try to get it to compost better.  I've been thinking about the cold frames and how I need to start planting stuff in August into them, but I think I'll need to get some compost into it.

Still no eggs from the chickens.  That should change, I should think.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


2:56 AM
One of the joys of shopping at the Farmer's Market is experiencing odd foods.  I say odd, because before the Farmer's Market, I would've never considered eating kale.  Kale was one of those foods everyone says you should eat but you never do because, well, it's odd.  Mom never cooked it, which I suspect was because she didn't like it.

I called a friend of mine who has since become my gourmet expert who told me how to cook kale.  She said it's so strong that blanching it would help the taste before cooking it.  She also recommended cooking it with something strong like bacon because it actually can hold its own.  Well, when I got home Tuesday, I decided to try it out.  I had a small disaster where the stove caught on fire (sigh), but after putting that out, I blanched the kale and made Scrambled Eggs and Kale for dinner.  I also added some sliced buffalo steak leftovers to the mix.  It was awesome, to say the least. 

Now, I'm not afraid of kale and I might just consider growing some in my garden. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

From the Garden and Geese Pictures

12:43 PM
I've been remiss posting about what I've gotten from the garden.  It's hard to keep up with it because so much is going on the bird front, but here goes.  Tonight, we had a salad made almost exclusively from lettuce in the garden and several ripe cherry tomatoes.  The peas are looking like I should pick them tomorrow.  The herbs in the garden are doing awesome as are the onions.  I'm not sure what's up with the cucumber or eggplant, because both seem a little slow to do anything.  It's halfway through the growing season, sadly, and I'll probably not have cucumbers from my garden this year.

Anyway this is an earlier shot of the kind of stuff I'm getting in a day.  Herbs are at the top, followed by green onion, and lettuce below.  Today this was the bag of lettuce and cherry tomatoes I picked. As you can see, it's quite a bit.  I've been take a couple leaves from my green leaf lettuce, my red leaf lettuce and my romaine lettuce to make salads.  The cherry tomatoes came from two different plants (one is a big producer!)

I've been meaning to post pictures of the geese.  I have two geese: an African and a Toulouse.  The African goose is the one with the black knobby bill; the Toulouse has an orange bill.  Both are production varieties without the huge dewlaps you see on the websites.

The Toulouse is named Louis and the African is named Ee-qua (sp?).  I don't know if they're geese or ganders and really won't until someone lays an egg. That won't be until next year.
I got geese because I wanted watch geese.  Geese are known to make better watch dogs than some dogs (perish the thought!).  Having watch geese makes it a little easier to hear if something is breaking into the barn or bothering the chickens.  The geese are unlikely to eat my chickens, so there is little fear of them hurting the chickens should they get out.  Geese, by the way, are very silly and not aggressive.  (At least mine aren't).  They bluff a good game, but in the end, they're big cowards.

I remember as a kid being frightened by geese or ducks as I was feeding them.  (I think many people have that happen.)  These geese have gotten me over my fear of birds completely and because they're so silly, they're easy to sit and watch.  One thing they will do is honk at me when it is late and I'm supposed to bring them in from the outside.  They'll peer over the barrier from the outside pen and honk at me as if to say "hurry up!!"  In the picture to the left you see the two geese and the turkey waiting to come into the barn.

Did you know that geese live to about 25 years?  I didn't until I read it somewhre, but if these geese behave themselves (and lay eggs), they're likely to live a long and happy life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Farmer's Market Day

10:43 PM
Today was Farmer's Market Day once again.  I still had a lot of food leftover from last week, but this week, Page Bison was here, which meant I had to buy a bunch of bison for meals.  We eat a lot of bison when there is no game meat largely because it's better for you and we just like the taste.  I think it tastes better than beef.

Anyway, bison aside, I picked up some more sugar snap peas, snow peas, shell peas, garlic, cauliflower, salad mix, English cucumbers, regular cucumbers, basil, bread, and probably some other things, but I can't remember at the moment. One thing that's awesome is that the Flathead cherries are in!  Actually, it's early for Flathead cherries, but these cherries grow along the Flathead river in Paradise Valley.  And they're simply awesome cherries.

I picked up 3 pound of the cherries, which seems a bit extreme until you taste them.  They are awesome!
Made potato salad today.  The recipe I use mixes local herbs such as oregano and marjoram and uses local red, purple and Yukon gold potatoes.  Try it out.  It's really good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Just Ducky!

1:28 PM
I found an ad on Missoula Freecycle with two ducks. The person giving them away wasn't sure of the breed, but with the help of the people on the Backyard Chickens Forum, we were able to discern that they were Rouen ducks.  They're females and purportedly lay eggs.  Duck eggs are quite edible and I've used them in baking and even eating (good with stir fry rice).  Here are the two girls:

I'm thinking of naming them Millie and Tillie.  The names just popped into my head, so that may be their names.  The one in the foreground would be Millie.  Tillie has a smaller and thinner neck.

If you take a look at the duck below on the right, you can see this is Millie, because she's wider and thicker all around.  Tillie is smaller and lighter, and a little more skittish, probably because they belonged to a flock that had been hunted by a fox.  These two are survivors.

Tillie is the duck on the left.  You can really get a good view of the teal coloring on her wings.  Rouens aren't known to be particularly good egg layers (they were developed for meat), but these girls do lay and I promised they wouldn't go in the pot, so they're hanging out, getting used to their surroundings.  Eventually, I'll have them join the geese.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Recommended Reading

12:23 PM
I think I'm going to make recommendations on books that I find particularly useful in my endeavors.  They've been really helpful to get me on the right track on my various adventures.

I like Raising Chickens for Dummies. It's probably the easiest one to find information without a having to read the entire book.

An older book, but I bought and read it first when I was interested in chickens back in 2001.

I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening Book. Easy to do and simple to grow vegetables.

I like Dummies books. This one is on container gardening.

Another cool book on container gardens.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rooster Don Juans, Hot and Sour Soup and Cranberry Salad

12:19 PM
The other day, I heard a really odd noise coming from the barn.  Sort of an "urr-urrr-urrrrrh."  I listened and heard it several times.  It seems the evil tempered Crooked Toes, the rooster, has found his voice.

I have two roos.  One is Crooked Toes, because, well, he has some sort of foot deformity, but that doesn't stop him from running around, roosting, or pecking on every chicken.  The other rooster, named Robbie the Rooster, seems to be far milder in manners.  Right now, they both seem to get along.

What's more, now Crooked Toes seems to think he's Don Juan and can woo any hen he wants by jumping on her back.  (No gentle sweet nothings or even a rooster dance).  The hens find this a little too aggressive and have fled at the amorous attempts.  We shall see if Crooked Toes will be going to freezer camp a little early.

On another note, I made my hot and sour soup but used chicken broth instead of beef broth.  It's still awesomely wonderful, of course, and is good for lunch and several meals.  I also made my Cranberry Orange-Almond Salad, sans the oranges and had that as part of a dinner.  Click on the links above to get the recipes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Garden/Chicken Cycle

12:00 PM
I've been thinking about the entire garden/chicken cycle and how it all works.  I spent the other day taking stuff out of the refrigerator that was "slightly expired," but not so old as to make my chickens sick.  This expired stuff included some old hot and sour soup, cottage cheese, and salad that was on the rank side, but not really disgusting.  The chickens and geese had a hey-day. 

I had also pulled out some lettuce mix that was going to seed and gave them that too along with some of the bread I got for them from the bakery outlet.  They get cucumber and carrot peelings, old tortellini, nearly expired peaches, strawberry tops, cantaloupe rinds and seeds, and other things.  They're my recyclers.  Rather than throw it in the garbage, I have to remember that the chickens can eat most anything.  The food becomes bigger chickens, eventual eggs, and poop.  I've taken the litter and poop out to the back, behind the barn, where I am stirring it up and adding tea leaves to compost it.  The compost will go onto the garden in the fall and hopefully in the cold frames for vegetables.  Do you see a cycle with this?

The more I work with my chickens, the more I realize what wonderful animals they are.  They provide very useful manure, eggs, and meat.  They dispose of waste food products.  Once they start laying, I'll be able to sell eggs, which will help pay for their feed and start up costs.  Not a bad thing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Farmer's Market Day

11:09 PM
Today was Farmer's Market day, so I went into town to buy groceries. There are four farmer's markets in Missoula, of which, three are on Saturday. One market is a crafts market, but the other two are food related.  Here's what I bought:
  • Salad mix (to go with the lettuce I'm getting from my garden)
  • Heirloom cherry tomatoes (to go with the cherry tomatoes)
  • Red potatoes
  • Purple potatoes
  • Fingerling Yukon Gold potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Regular peas
  • Carrots (both white and orange)
  • Daikon
  • Kale
  • Basil (for pesto!)
  • Onions (yeah, I said I wouldn't, but I did)
  • Zucchini 
  • Strawberries (dessert)
  • Cucumbers
  • Morel mushrooms
  • Bok Choy
  • Fennel
  • Special made sweet tea (actually good -- not the sickening stuff)
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Slab bacon
  • 2 loaves of bread (French and Spinach/Feta)
Wow, that's a lot of food!  The good news is that it cost less than $80 and will make a lot of meals.  The most expensive stuff was the cheese, bacon, butter and bread.  The sweet tea was pricey too, but I liked the sample.  For dinner we had buffalo steaks with slab bacon, salad (made with the lettuce, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, cucumbers and carrots) and corn that I bought earlier.  We had strawberries and cream for dessert.

At this stage, you may be wondering where the cost cutting is going on.  Well, look at what I bought.  All of it  is local and most of it is organic.  The food will help feed two people over two weeks.  That's about $20 a person a week.  When you throw in the other foods, I'm probably feeding us for about $60 a week.  That's what I was spending when we were first married some 25 years ago.

Tomorrow, I'll be making chicken and dumplings with my own chicken and food from the market.  I'll also be making a yummy potato salad.  Can't beat that.

Friday, July 9, 2010

From the Garden and a Japanese Cucumber Salad

1:07 PM
Summer has finally arrived, and I'm none too thrilled.  Yesterday, I took a look at the garden and discovered the squash needed water ASAP.  The peppers were wilting.  And it was HOT.  Nasty hot.  92F hot.  Yeah, I know you southerners laugh, but if you're not used to heat, it gets nasty.

I'm going to the Farmer's Market on Saturday and I was thinking how I should buy more green onions, but then, I remembered I have onions growing right here.  So, I picked a couple of onions and replaced them with a couple more of the onions from the onion sets so I could have my own green onions.  Yeah, it cost me nothing other than the cost of the sets, but I can keep replenishing my onions.  (The onion sets cost me about $2.35 for 50 bulbs.  It costs me $1-$2 to buy a bunch of green onions.  So, if I get my cooking green onions from the garden twice, I've made up the money I spent on the sets.  I can get 10 bunches of green onions per set, so I have saved $8 to $16 on green onions.  It's not a lot, but it's a cumulative thing.  If I don't have to buy quite as much food, then that is a savings.I also picked some oregano from the garden because I keep forgetting to do so and run out of the fresh stuff while I cook.

Today, I decided to make a cucumber salad with the leftover cucumbers from the Farmer's Market two weeks ago.  The type of salad is sunomono, which is a Japanese cucumber salad.  It's very good.  My recipe is a variation of sunomono that I adapted from one of my Japanese cookbooks.  Check it out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

From the Garden and Today's Meals

2:09 AM
Today wasn't a particularly bountiful day with the garden, but only because I've been picking lettuce leaves for salads every other day.  The salad mix greens have gone to seed with this sudden bout of warm weather.  Because of it, I pulled them out and fed them to the chickens.  The chickens were thankful.  In their place, I planted the lilac peppers in my square foot garden. (By the way, you can check out: All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space!  I have an earlier copy of this book that I've followed to make my garden.

I checked the strawberries that have been growing more or less wild out in the front of my house.  While I do have a strawberry container, the "wild" ones have enough of a start to where I can pick them.  Lastly, the chamomile in my garden has blossomed again, so I picked the flowers.

If you look at the plate, you'll see the lettuce I picked in the bag, a cherry tomato, my free strawberries, and the chamomile flowers.  I looked at the fruit in the fridge and decided to make a breakfast fruit salad for tomorrow. I had originally gotten the idea when I saw that my sister had made my dad fruit salad for breakfast.  I realized that this was an easy way to get fruit in my diet while still maintaining a fair amount of convenience.  As I raided the fridge, I realized I had organic blueberries, half of an organic cantaloupe, some organic peaches that were trying to die on the counter and, of course, strawberries.  So, I whipped up a quick fruit salad and you can now see the results:

Looks pretty tasty, doesn't it?  Now, I have fruit to go with my yogurt or granola.  Follow the link for breakfast fruit salad for a slightly bigger and more interesting salad.

Dinner tonight required me making risotto. I had sugar snap peas from the farmer's market that needed to be used up.  I used that plus marjoram, oregano and parsley from my garden and green onion and bacon from the farmer's market.  Here's the bacon and sugar snap pea recipe.  If you're looking for something a little healthier, check out my healthy risotto recipes here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Meet the Chickens!

10:59 PM
I am now officially up to 24 chickens, 2 geese and 1 turkey. Originally I had gotten 2 turkeys, but one was a failure to thrive and therefore had to be put down. I originally had about 25 chickens, of which 6 were Cornish Rock meat crosses. These birds are currently in “freezer camp.” Anyway, the chickens I have include Easter Eggers/Ameraucanas, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Brown Leghorns, Golden Sex-links (hybrid), Black Sex-links (hybrid) and Buff Orpingtons.

Almost all the chickens are close to laying age. I figure within a month or so, I will have fresh eggs. How cool will that be?

This is Watcher, my Barred Rock hen.

 This is Hawk, my Easter Egger.

 Oops, I see a Rooster among the Rhode Island Reds!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bargain Day in Missoula

10:31 PM
Today was bargain day. I went to town because I had to purchase food. I first went to the bakery outlet where you can buy a whole cart of expired bakery products for $6 that’s specially cut and mashed for animal feed. The chickens are going to eat well! The clerk offered me three carts, but honestly, I don’t have the room and it filled up the back of my SUV.

Then, I went to the garden store where I had $7 off in coupons. It gives 50% off per coupon up to $1, so with my 7, I got to buy $14 worth of plants for a mere $7. To top that off, the tomato and squash plants (including pumpkin) were a mere 4 plants for $1. I’ve got plenty of tomato plants now, but I figure I can plant the squash over by the west window where I’ve planted summer squash. I’m not a big winter squash fan, but I’ve tasted some soups that are pretty darn good. And I like pumpkin, so I think I’m going to try my hand at that. I bought 4 squash/pumpkin, 2 lilac sweet peppers, 1 lavender, and 4 steel plant supports. Cost was $7 and some change. Awesome!