Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Country pleasures

Is there anything prettier than an apple tree in full bloom ?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Wild Life

Sometimes people ask me " What do you do all day in the country ?" , implying that they would die of boredom if they were to live out here in the country, far away from friends, neighbors and people generally. Actually,we have lots of unusual neighbors and quite a lot of excitement.Here's what's been happening the last few days :
the swallows have returned , filling the barn with their chatter and their amazing aerial acrobatics. I am greeted by them every morning when I go to feed, and suddenly the quiet barn is filled with excitement and life once again.

This is not a swallow, as you may have guessed, but a wild turkey, who was strolling on the front lawn the other morning, just sightseeing. He inspected the pen where the guineas live and both turkey and guineas stared at each other in amazement for a long time. I wonder what went through their little birdie brains ?

And then there's Mr. Fox, who hangs out under the birdfeeder in the backyard. I think he may be the rascal who is emptying the suet cage every night, but we have yet to catch him at it. Or maybe he's just dropped by for a little swinging ?

Next up are the snapping turtles, sunning themselves on a log in the pond. Mamma Turtle is the big one on the left and then come all the babies lined up neatly in a row.

In a tree above the pond, I spied this handsome fellow - or possibly madam. There's a nest in the tree and a baby eagle has been seen !

We also have less exotic neighbors who drop by for a little slurp on the cheek once in a while !

And tonight, while I was having a last walk around the house, I saw the first hummingbird of the season. It makes me so happy to greet the swallows and hummingbirds after a long winter's absence and to realize that once again they have found their way back to the farm where they spent last summer.
It's deeply comforting to realize that we are all part of the great wheel of the seasons , which is at once familiar and predictable in its regularity and fascinating and exciting as each detail unfolds in turn.
So what do we do all day ? We open our eyes and pay attention to what is happening all round us and appreciate the incredible things we can discover by doing so.

Back in business

Pour yourself some iced tea, grab a good book and join me on the porch for some summertime relaxation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fowl Play !

It was a beautiful spring day yesterday - sunshine, green grass, bugs and worms crawling happily in the dirt - just the perfect day to let the chickens out of their pen and go on a little adventure.
Little did we realize what an adventure it would be. When I came home after running errands all afternoon, I went to shut the chickens in for the night and as I passed the pasture, here's what I saw :

One of the chickens was swimming in the horse watering trough, surrounded by a few feathers ! What crazy circumstance had deposited here there ? Chickens don't do water ! All kinds of scenarios crossed my head :
a triple dare by another hen? Go on, I bet you can't stay afloat ! Certification for the Red Cross Swimmers Badge ? Deadman's Float - 5 minutes minimum . Extreme Chicken Sports ? Fly as high as you can, fold wings and plummet into the tub or some horrible catastrophe ? Eagle attack !!!! well, more probably chicken hawk attack .Or possibly suicide ??

I plucked out the exhausted bird and placed her gently into the chicken house with her compatriots who were already on their roosts for the night. She seemed fine, if somewhat subdued and very clean, but this morning, alas, she was dead.

And the moral of the story is : overreaching has bad consequences, stick to your area of expertise and definitely don't take your chicken swimming.

Monday, April 20, 2009

By request

I seem to have become a vegetarian quite by accident. This didn't happen out of some moral imperative not to eat our fellow creatures, but because I just didn't feel like eating meat any more.
So now everyone wants to know , what do you eat ? Well, here's the lunch I had yesterday :

Carrot patties with a mixed salad and a strawberry dessert - looks good, doesn't it ? And it tastes even better than it looks.

Carrot Patties
( serves 1 since Mr. RFD still eats meat, see previous post )
1 small carrot
1 small potato
1 T whole wheat flour
1 egg
fresh lovage and chives, chopped fine
a grating of nutmeg ( don't even think about using pre-grated, powdered ,in a box nutmeg !)
salt & pepper
1 t olive oil
Grate the carrot and potato and mix with the flour and egg.
Mix in the herbs and the salt and pepper. Shape small patties and saute in the olive oil until golden brown.I actually made just one huge patty and it fit my little no-stick pan perfectly.
Serve with a lovely , fresh salad of mixed greens, some sliced radishes, a chopped tomato, some sliced carrot, a little minced onion - whatever you have that's fresh and looks pretty. Add lots of fresh chopped herbs and dress with a simple vinaigrette.

The dessert is simply a few strawberries chopped up in the food processor with some yogurt of your choice - my choice is Greek yogurt . I drizzled a little maple syrup on top , decorated with an almond and enjoyed.
The whole meal was very quick to prepare and was really yummy. You can tell it was good since half of it was eaten before the camera came out and I remembered to take a picture !

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A rainy and slow day

After the excitement of a housefull of Easter guests, I had a lovely quiet day putting the house back together and just generally fooling around. No time or desire to spend hours in the kitchen - it was clearly time to inaugurate the new slow cooker.

I made Mahagony Glazed Pork from Beth Hensberger's excellent new cookbook . It was so incredibly easy and so good !

You simply put a piece of pork - in my case a shoulder roast which had been on sale cheap - into the slow cooker, pour on a marinade, plug the thing in and turn it on low and enjoy the yummy smells which slowly creep through the house.
The marinade was simplicity itself : soy sauce, orange marmelade, red pepper flakes , minced garlic and a little catsup. At the end of the day, throw in a handful of sugar snap peas and a sliced up red pepper, let it bubble a little longer and voila, dinner !

To make my no-work dinner complete, I cooked some brown rice in the rice cooker. This , however, was not a success with Mr. RFD who pronounced the meat delicious, but thought the rice was too " puffy " and weird. I liked it.
The slow cooker will definitely make many more appearances here at chez RFD ! And I'll probably try one of the recipes I found here.

Easter Week

Rhys came and visited for a few days before Easter and we had quite an adventure ! She had wished for a chicken, which " doesn't get big ," of her very own and being a good and dutiful grandmother I scoped out a place which had Bantam chickens for sale. Bantams are miniature chickens which won't " get big" - perfect.

We drove off to Amish country and saw the most wonderful sights - Amish buggies of all sorts and sizes clip-clopping down the road, a man plowing a field with a handheld plow while his wife was leading the big workhorse which pulled the plow, we even saw a team of 8 horses plowing.

We stopped to watch and were amazed at the intricate maneuver performed by 8 horses as they turned the plow at the end of the row. The horse on the inside of the turn stepped in place while the outside horse walked around 180 degrees and the rest all adjusted themselves so that the turn was perfectly in line with the next row of plowing. It was really a dressage move and I was amazed to see that the farmer had only one set of reins which communicated with one of the lead horses, the rest all took their cues from that one horse. What must it be like to train a large team like that ?

Sadly, the Amish do not want their pictures taken and we respected that, of course, so if you want to see what I'm describing, you will have to take a trip and come see for yourself.

We found the Amish farm where the chickens were for sale and had a great hunt for chickens all over the farm. They had a huge number of driving horses and when I expressed my amazemnt , the young girl who was taking us around said " I have a lot of brothers. When an Amish boy turns 16, he gets his own driving horse and buggy." Then she added " The girls don't." When I said " Oh, that doesn't seem fair." She smiled and said " Yes, but I know how to drive." And then we looked at each other and had, what I fancied was a small Women's Lib moment. And here is Rhys with Chicken No.1 - Chickadee.

Chicken No.2 - Chitterchet.
And then Easter started in earnest - lots of guests arrived, much food was consumed, every bed was full and yes, the Easter Bunny did come.

And those chickens settled right in and laid 6 eggs in 3 days. I guess you have to watch them carefully to make them produce such a splendid number.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Unintentional Impressionist Sunset

A beautiful but blurry sunset from Guttenberg - it's beginning to feel like allergy season again, i.e. Spring. Can't wait to come and visit you for Ister!!
xoxox Meg