Friday, November 13, 2020

Monday, November 9, 2020

I got a Paddling

I bought some ducklings about, uhm, a while ago. On a whim, of course. Saw an ad in the local paper & I'm like, I'M ON IT!

About an hour later, $27 lighter, and nine ducklings heavier, I was home with my new Pekin charges.

We had hatched out two mallard drakes from the neighbor's duck eggs earlier this spring and I was hoping to get some duck eggs for eating / incubating. Not so much happening with two males. So at least now I had the missing female piece of the future duck eggs puzzle.

We raised Pekin ducks about 12 or so years ago. I remember them fondly. Well, I was fond of the way they tasted. Smoked duck with an orange / cranberry sauce is absolutely delectable. I think I ate the entire crispy smoked skin from one of them myself. Heaven. Wonderful. Lip-smacking good.

So you may ask why, if they were in fact so delicious, that I waited 12 years to grow out more Pekins?

Because they are freaks.

That first batch of ten Pekins were hand raised by yours truly. I didn't bring them in bed with me, or have tea parties with them, but I was nice to them, even tried (unsuccessfully) to win their affection with special treats. But they hated me. Absolutely, positively, undeniably hated me. Every time I went into their outdoor enclosure they would run as fast as their little flappy feet would take them, right into the corner of the fence, all ten of them vying for the place farthest away from me.....and practically sufficating each other in the process. I fed them. I watered them. I brough them fancy snackies. But they were just the most nervous, noisy, scardy-ducks I have ever seen.

So I was hoping that THIS batch of Pekins would be different. I don't know why I bother hoping for anything. Because they are just as excitable, freaked out and neurotic as those first birds. Except these guys (and hopefully gals) have the run of the entire farm. Paul let them out of their outdoor enclousre one day and they never went back in. How they've escaped becoming coyote or hawk or bobcat meals, I have no idea. We've never had a white hen last more than a few months here.

But all nine of them have survived from Spring, to Summer and into Fall. And they are still freaks.

They do, however, provide a very nice lawn-keeping service. I haven't seen a cricket or grasshopper in any area that they have access to. Not a one. I've watched them for some time and they all stick together and waddle, bills down, across the lawn and suck up anyting that is moving. And they don't scratch up the plants like the chickens do nor crow all freaking day like the roosters. When they get spooked they make Crazy-Kazoo noises, but not so often that it becomes a migraine. Four of the nine ducks are drakes, so all but one of them will become the centerpiece of the upcoming Holiday Dinners. The lucky survivor will have the five Pekin females to look after and hopefully be Ducky Daddy to more ducklings in the near future.

I don't think that we will switch over from chicken to duck (for eggs & meat), but I'd like to keep them around if only to give the gardens an all natural, organic, flappy-footed and kinda-cute insect control team.

By the way, if you're still confused about the title of today's blog post, a "Paddling" is a group of ducks in the water. You're welcome.

Monday, November 2, 2020

The Flavor of Fall

If I were to ask someone what Fall “tastes” like, no doubt the number one answer would be, “Pumpkin-Spiced-Such-n-Such”, closely followed by, “Apple Cider”. I strongly disagree. My immediate answer would be, “Persimmons!” as I rolled my eyes back in my head, made a faintly erotic sounding “mmmmmm” noise while dreaming of the taste on my tongue and licking the sticky sweetness from my fingers.

Wow. That was a little weird.

Moving on......

Persimmons are what Fall would taste like, at least in my tiny corner of the Ozarks. But not the store-bought persimmons; Oh no, no, no. Those huge, shiny, perfect looking persimmons that you find at your local grocer are not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about those squishy, rotten looking orange and brown’ish globs of goodness that you find on the ground underneath the holiest of holy fruit trees.

My first encounter with a persimmon was about 20 years ago, off an old dirt road in the Missouri Ozarks. We were driving along with our friends, Mark & Rita, and they suddenly swerve over to the side of the road and Rita tells me to follow her out of the car. She is picking up a bunch of dark orange, squishy golf ball looking things and popping them into her mouth and then hands me one. She is the person who introduced me to poke weed (and I didn’t die), so I trusted her. But if it were anyone else but her handing me one of those things, I likely would have recoiled from them thinking they were trying to poison me or something. So I follow my mentor’s lead.

1. Take the top cap off & toss it away
2. Pick off any obvious dirt or debris
3. Pop the entire thing in your mouth
4. Squish it around in your mouth to extract the pulp while taking care not to swallow the large seeds
5. Swallow the good stuff
6. Unceremoniously spit the mass of seeds out onto the ground (hopefully away from everyone)
7. Lick fingers clean
8. Repeat

And from that day forward I looked forward to freezing nights and falling leaves.

Persimmon trees are not uncommon around here, but there are only a few large trees that I know of that produce the largest fruits and biggest yields…none of which are on our property. We have several younger trees in the goat yard, and a dozen or so in the woods that I have found, but none that are really my go-to harvesting tree. And the trees that the goats have access to are pretty much a zero-yield for me as they know exactly where those trees are and congregate around them waiting for the fruit to drop. Besides shaking the bucket of grain, the other sure fire way to get the goats to come a-running is to shake a persimmon tree and they are on it like fruit flies on your kitchen compost bucket.
So how did I acquire my latest haul? I left the woods and went to Taco Bell.

A friend and I went into town this weekend to do some thrifting. On the way out of the parking lot, she tells me to pull over towards the road (but still safely in the parking lot). In the narrow grass strip between the road and the lot there is a large persimmon tree just filled with persimmons. I almost pee’d myself I was so happy. I jumped out of the car and proceeded to pick up as many fallen persimmons that I could cram into my Salvation Army plastic bag and shoveled no fewer than ten ripe fruits into my maw. What a scene for the line of cars in the Taco Bell across the street to behold! Slightly overweight, pony-tailed, middle-aged lady in barn-chore jeans and t-shirt, squatting & waddling underneath tree on the side of main road, tossing squishy & sticky overripe fruits into plastic bag and licking her fingers. My friend stayed in the car and opted for a more civilized lunch from Taco Bell. So while she ran in to get a chicken taco thingy, I sat in the car…..eating more persimmons. When we pulled out of the parking lot, the spot next to me was heavily littered with persimmon seeds. And I had a bellyache. But oh sooooo worth it.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Save a Life. Buy a Donut.

Occasionally I will drive into town before work to get donuts for the office.  Well, more than occasionally.  But not like every week.  Maybe twice a month if I'm in the mood and not running late.  Today was one of those days when I was actually up and around earlier than normal so I thought I'd make a run to procure some diabetes inducing snacks.

The road into town is a two lane state highway.  And when I say highway, it's not crazy-city-madness highway, just the main thoroughfare.  Houses on the side of the road, businesses as you get closer to the town center, and cattle pasture with wooded acreage scattered throughout.  

I got my twelve-pack of glazed goodness and proceeded to work.  On the right side of the road, just on the line between shoulder (btw, our road "shoulders" are more like a 4" strip of crumbly gravel) and main strip, is a hunched up lump of floof.  That almost gets blown over when the cars in front of me blow past it.  I know what the lump of floof is.  Don't ask me how, but I can pick out the type of creature with surprising accuracy even at 55 mph.

An, "OMG!" immediately passed my lips and I pulled into the first spot on the side of the road that wasn't 1) a cliff 2) occupied by a large brahman bull or 3) a farm pond.  I jam the car into park, fling the door open and run like a crazed maniac down the side of the road, hoping that I do not end up like the carcass of the long deceased deer in the ditch.....down the hill....probably hit by a car....while running like a crazed deer-maniac down the side of the road.  

There, sitting hunched up, and still as could be, is a barred owl.  There was a pellet next to her, as well as some poop.  I'm assuming that she got hit by a car during a "swoop" and managed not to get run over.  Yet.

I slowly put my hands around her wings just in case she wanted to flap away, but she offered zero resistance.  I went back to the car as quickly as one possibly could with a small raptor in one's hands while trying to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic or slipping down the embankment.

We make it to the car and lucky for me, there is a donation bag sitting there.  My procrastination in getting to The Salvation Army paid off!  I hurriedly grab the first soft item in there and wrap the owl up in a pair of sweat pants.  Since my vehicle is in a relatively safe spot, I gave her a quick once-over and there did not appear to be any broken bones, blood or missing chunks of flesh or feathers.  She was quite still, blinked at me a few times, but not once tried to claw or bite.  I wrapped her back up and put her on the front seat while I called the local vet that takes in wildlife.

A little dazed.  See those talons gripping at the fabric??
Is that look a "Thank you" or "I'm about to rip your face off" ??
Luckily, they were going to be open in just twenty minutes so we drove over there.  As I was waiting for the vet's office to open, she slowly righted herself and just kind'a stared at me.  Of course, I couldn't help but do the babytalk crap all humans do to cute little creatures and pet her sooooo very, very soft feathers.  

Once the office opened, I brought her in, but not before she gave me a good "Clack-clacking" of her beak.   I "relinquished" her to the vet and made my way back to the office, donuts in hand. 

What a great morning.

I'm kind'a hoping that Karma recognizes this small act of kindness by negating the calories in my donut.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Little Steps & Little Chicks

We ran out of the Creepy Meats in the freezer about three months ago.  Dad comes over for Sunday Supper every week and roast chicken is by far his favorite meal.  We’ve hatched out two batches of chicks from our flock and we butchered the roosters for the freezer, but they are nowhere near as fleshy or large as those Cornish cross meat birds.  But you know what?  We’ll survive.

I won’t lie.  I love to have a big chonk’n bird on the table with gravy made from the oh-so-yummy drippings.  But I also love knowing that I can raise my own suppers without having to rely on a hatchery to provide me with those chicks.  And if you purchase chicks yourselves, you are well aware of the fact that they are getting pricier each year.  So this Fall, we decided not to place our normal September order for fifty Cornish Cross chicks and will instead make do with hatching out our own.  Will they be as plump and juicy as those from Cackle Hatchery?  Of course not.  But they will be good nonetheless and we will appreciate each bite even more so knowing that we raised it from the incubator to supper plate.

Speaking of raising chicks…….

That is Pirate (named for the fact that she survived an opossum attach, sans one eye).  She hatched out a single chick last year (Sparkle) from her nest oh-so-inconveniently-placed in the bulldozer seat.  And she managed to hatch out another single chick this year plus was kind enough to do so in the nesting box.  Hen & chick will stay in the pen for another few weeks then be let out into the Great Wild Open of the barnyard.

Earlier this year, in the cold months of January, we were gifted some hatching eggs from the neighbor down the road.  I believe there were about twenty live hatches.  We butchered and ate the roosters and just recently started getting eggs from the ladies.   


Green eggs!  


 And an occasional double-yolker!!

It’s the little things that make me smile :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Eating the lawn again

Yes, I’m cooking up stuff normally thought of as landscape weeds. 

There is a lot of plantain in our yard and mostly year round.  In the spring, you can gather the smaller leaves for a salad or cook them like spinach.  The older the leaves get, the tougher they are and they develop several fibrous veins that are pretty much impossible to chew up without looking like a goat eating bailing twine. 

Instead of using the leaves, last week’s dish was young plantain seed stalks (or whatever they are called) and seed heads.  The younger seed stalks were much softer and I could nip them off with my fingernail.  The older seed stalks I snapped off at the bottom and “zipped” off the seeds by running my thumb and forefinger down the stalk and letting the seeds fall to a bowl sitting below.

I boiled up the younger stalks for a few minutes, drained them and then sautéed for a minute in butter & salt. 

They were not my favorite.  I was hoping that the younger part of the plant would not be bitter, but alas, it was.  But that’s fine.  There weren’t nearly as many younger shoots as there were older seed stalks so it’s not like I’d be picking many of them anyhow.

I boiled the plantain seeds for about five minutes, drained, rinsed, then sautéed them with a bit of butter & salt.  They were much more palatable than the younger stalks.  I ate them stand-alone, but they would be good to toss into a soup, or maybe with a rice dish or anything that called for “greens”. 

Sprinkle them here, sprinkle them there, sprinkle those things everywhere!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Yucca Yucca Yummy!

I will readily admit that I am a lazy gardener and that finding any sort of wild edible makes my heat sing (and my stomach growl).  I love the fact that I can just go over there and yank something or other and put it in a pot and have something yummy to eat without having to plant, water, weed or otherwise care for said yummy thing.

This is the view outside my office window…..

Yuccas to the right
No, Fozzie, it's Yucca Yucca Yucca! 
I’ve been looking at those yuccas for five years now.  And just now realized that I could eat them.
They started blooming in early June and I would snack on the flowers back and forth from the car to the office.  I meant to gather more for putting in a salad, but always forget to do so (i.e. lazy).

So now I’ve noticed that the seed pods have formed and I did one of my usual internet searches, “Can I eat this thing?” and came up with enough “Yes” posts that I thought I'd have a go at it. 

I picked one off the stalk and took it into the office, washed it off a bit, plunked it into a coffee cup with water & boiled it for a few minutes.  Drained, salted and proceeded to take a bite.  Not bad!  Kinda like a green bean exterior taste, a wee-bit mucilaginous like okra, and the seeds were still forming so they were soft like okra seeds as well.  On my way to the car after quitting time, I stuffed the remaining ripe pods into my bag and headed home to cook them up as well.

And on my way home, I spied more yucca plants!  I pilfered a few more plants (yes, I had permission!) and added them to my sack.  I bet I had over five pounds of yucca pods.   

Took them home and boiled up a few more, lightly salted & buttered them and proceeded to munch away.  But this time there were some that were over-ripe, at least for eating.
Pod on the left, not good.  Pod on the right, excellent!
Getting too old to eat.  Notice black shells forming on the seeds.
Younger and yummier!
Yummy seed pod showing tough, center thingy.
The ones that started getting black seeds were definitely not worth eating, although I did try my darndest to do so.  You could choke through it, but it was very, very fibrous and the black seed coverings were a bit much to swallow.  There is also a center vein in all of the pods, but I just yanked those out or chewed around them.  Seeing as this is my first time harvesting the seed pods, I will definitely make sure I get to them earlier in the season as to avoid those tougher, more mature seeds.

You can eat the entire pod as is, just kind’a using your teeth to peel the three sections off and leave the stem in your fingers, or I suppose you could just cook them, then separate the sections off and then butter & salt them for a more “normal” looking side dish.  Either way, I’m glad I found out about these and I’m already driving around looking for more yucca bushes for next year’s harvest.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Driveway Garlic

There is a patch of wild garlic up by the front gate.  I pass by it at least twice a day on my way to work.   

I watch it start greening up in the spring, getting taller & taller.  Then the scapes start forming.  Then the scapes are ready to harvest.  Then they are past harvest.  Then the seeds pop out of what could have been a bunch of scapes on my dinner plate.   Because even though I pass that spot every stinking day, I just can’t manage to get my lazy bum out of the car to pick them.

Rhiannon started milking one of our dairy goats last week and accumulated enough milk to make some fresh cheese.  Hmmmm, some fresh basil and garlic would be perfect for an herbed cheese.  I don’t have any garlic in the pantry, but there is that patch up by the gate!  So I schlop my flip-flop wearing behind up the driveway with a trowel in my hand and proceed to dig up some garlic bulbs.  Then disappointment sets in.  They are smaller than I recall, and a bit dry.  Not sure if it’s because all the energy went into making the seed heads (and those lovely scapes I missed picking) or I just need to wait until fall to dig them up.  Regardless, I wanted - no NEEDED - some garlic in that goat cheese.

I plucked a half-dozen seed heads, shoved them in my pocket and flip-flopped my way back down the driveway, snipped several basil leaves from the herb garden and made my way into the kitchen.
Getting the husks off the tiny seed heads wasn’t difficult, but was time consuming.  Or at least took more time that I would have liked.  You know, more time than it would have taken had I properly stocked and stored garlic in the pantry.  But I did what I had to. 

I diced the peeled garlic seeds and added it to the basil and cheese and put it in the fridge for several hours to set up a bit. 

It was divine.  

And all gone.