Sunday, April 23, 2006

No Rest For The Weary

The rain finally let up yesterday afternoon. Today I prepped the tomato rows, although it will be a few more weeks before I can put them in the ground. I'm planning on Mother's Day. We've been pulling radishes out of the ground and I harvested a bowl of baby lettuce and spinach today. The rather warm weather is pushing up the asparagus before I was prepared to eat it, but I'm not complaining. If this rather warm weather continues, it will be time to plant beans, corn and squash soon.

A Little Barnyard Tragedy

There is a dark cloud over the henhouse tonight. Although they could be celebrating for all we know - who really understands the avian brain? We were all down by the henhouse this afternoon - Big Daddy was working on the Turkey Extension, I was cleaning the coop, and Monkey was picking flowers. All was sweet and country heaven-like. The chicks were outside enjoying the sunshine. The grownup birds were free-ranging. Biscuit was laying on the sprouting carrots, Chelsea was soaking up sun in the middle of the yard, Gigi was whining because I was in the henhouse and she couldn't see me...

Mooney the Rooster made a fatal mistake. He attacked the Monkey. We're not talking a slight peck. He flew at her, scratched her arm, her neck, her nose and cut her lip. There was terrified screaming. It was not a sound I (or probably any mother) want to hear. Ever.

When Big Daddy rushed to get him off of her, he flew at B.D. I took Monkey to comfort her and told B.D. to catch the rooster and I would end it right then and there. (Big Daddy can be a little sqeamish about the whole killing thing... Well, B.D. threw his hammer and hit the foul bird in the head. It was the end of Mooney. Rest In Peace. (I have to add that while Mooney frequently was aggressive to others, he hadn't attacked Monkey before and never attacked me.) Like I said, who understands the avian mind? I don't know why Mooney would attack and continue to attack one small little girl picking flowers. I felt some remorse, but nobody messes with my Monkey. Nobody.

We weren't feeling that practical nor farmerly (I know it's not a word, but I'm using it anyway). No one wanted to stop what they were doing to clean and process the dead wacko rooster, so B.D. took him into the woods to bury him. That's when he discovered these...

Morrel mushrooms. Springtime Woodland's heavenly treat. I'm so excited. I'm just upset that for two years, they've been there and we didn't know it. Lost a rooster, gained some mushrooms. I'll call it a fair trade. And I'll be spending a lot of time in the woods for the next several days.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Drip, Drip, Drop Little April Showers...

The thunder woke me at 5:00 this morning. We had a nice long rain, which was much needed. I've been hand-watering the garden everyday. I hate watering, although it does give me time to stand and ponder what to stick in the ground next. This week I've transplanted lettuce, planted potatoes, english peas, snow peas, carrots and shallots. I spent a lot of time lining the aisles with layers of newspaper (which I've been hoarding all winter) and then adding a layer of mulch. The corn area is primed and waiting, as is the first row for green beans and Jacob's Cattle beans. My next chore is prepping the tomato beds. I don't yet trust the weather with those little babies. They are hanging out in the garage under lights and have all been transplanted into larger pots (styrofoam cups!)


The Eat Local Challenge is in May. Jamie got me hooked last year. May is a little early in the mountains to find all our usual favorites, but we are game to try. Big Daddy and I decided we would aim for one meal a day to be totally local and try to search out other local fare as our schedules allow. This will be a wonderful challenge to find things in their season to munch on. Luckily, the farmers' and tailgate markets are all starting up and we will be able to locate lots of goodies. We are lucky that Asheville and the surrounding areas have some wonderful growers. Last year the Challenge really encouraged me to locate food grown in my area. It also inspired me to grow even more varied produce, can and store more of my own food. I've met some fascinating people that I probably wouldn't have had the chance to meet, had I not been looking for local farmers and food artisans.

We will mainly be focusing on Western North Carolina, but will get some things from the rest of the state and South Carolina. We are also including Bath County, Virginia. Big Daddy is working on a rather large project up there and has been spending at least half of the week up there. He's located some really good sources for locally grown foods and for us it's semi-local. I was thinking awfully hard about coffee. I am addicted to caffeine and need that morning cup. Big Daddy saved the day. He's also working on a project in Cherokee, NC with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee and he came across Tribal Grounds Coffee. There's another reason to love the man...

The sun has come out and I must get back into the garden for awhile. I just finished baking a lovely blueberry/blackberry cobbler made with the last of last summer's berries and two loaves of Oatmeal Porter Bread to take to dinner with the Bishop tonight. "Dinner with the Bishop" sounds so hoity toity, but it's me. Oh and I have to go keep Monkey under control as it is spring break and she's itching to get into trouble...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

At Last!

Here it is - ta da! The first spear of the year. There are three more. Should I be patient and wait for Big Daddy to come home on Friday to share, or should I keep this our little secret and gobble them up myself? Decisions, decisions....

And on another note. I picked up these two girls yesterday. They are Partridge Cochins. They are nine weeks old. By the time they mature they will weigh close to 10 pounds. Now that's a big chicken! Look at the feathers on their feet. Odd. But they are rather sweet and quiet. They don't seem as haughty as the Uppity Chickens. Today they had a brief visit (in the photo they are in a dog ex-pen) with the Uppity Chickens. The Uppity Chickens were not so pleased. Mean old biddies...

Monkey named them Belle and Chicken. Belle is the one on the left in case you were wondering.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Tulips and one naughty duck-eating dog.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What's That Smell?

I found ramps at the Asheville Farmer's Market this morning. I was only going to buy one bunch to experiment with. However, we asked the vendor if you could plant these and she said, "yes." She said that's what she does with the ones that don't sell. She even told us what sort of location they thrive in and how to plant them. I bought 3 bunches! So one bunch will be cleaned and cooked tomorrow and the other two will go in my top secret woodland patch along with the ginseng and goldenseal. Sshhh... it's very top secret...

For those of you unfamiliar with ramps(and it is easy to be unfamiliar with this member of the lily family), it is a relative of onions and garlic and is native only to Southern Appalachia. It has been a local favorite for longer than those of us of European descent have been around. It is only available for a short time each spring because after it blooms the leaves die back down and there's nothing again until the following spring. Lately its fame has spread far from its native soil, which has lead to overharvesting in some areas. Some people, like the woman at the Farmer's Market, have started to cultivate it and protect it. It is rather strong in odor, tastes great fried, in grits (this is the south!), sauteed with potatoes, and if you are really brave - raw. However, I think it is at its most noble stuffed into a freshly caught brook trout and cooked over coals. Trout season opened last weekend and I am slightly bummed that we missed the trout and ramp festival down in Cherokee. I'm going to have to find some trout. I'm sure Big Daddy won't mind if I send him fishing...

If you are lucky enough to find ramps, go easy - If you eat too many of them, your skin will smell of them for days. The smell in the kitchen was so great, I had to move them to the back porch. The only other delicacy I've had to do that with is Morbier cheese.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Burning and Blooming

Yesterday evening we were on alert as there was a forest fire in our valley. They finally stopped it last night about a quarter mile from our house. "Let's see, it's dry and it's very windy - what shall we do? Oh, I know! Let's burn some brush." Not to mention that there is a fire ban in the county... A total of 10 acres burned. Did you catch the quarter mile from my house???

Today the inbred, erh, irritating individuals down the hill (you'll remember them, I've mentioned them frequently - Confederate flags, pit bulls, Trans Am on blocks, old washers tossed into the woods...) decided that it was perfect weather to burn trash - tires, mattresses, t.v.s... I'm really not making this up. I decided it was my civic duty (and the fact that fire tends to move uphill is a little frightening!) to call the fire department. They sent someone out right away and the bonfire of the vanities was extinguished.

In between the flames and smoke Spring is happening here. And now a few shots of spring for your viewing pleasure.

A Promise Of Apples



Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gigi Recommends

Will you throw the ball already???

Positive dog training involves plenty of rewards. Training Gigi in a positive way takes lots of rewards. I do mean lots of rewards. Luckily for me, Gigi is fascinated with her ball on a rope. However, I can't always toss a ball. Since it seems I'm spending most of my budget on waterfowl, I decided to come up with some tasty treats for the dogs that wouldn't empty my pocketbook. These have passed the Gigi Taste Test and she even prefers them over other treats. Biscuit likes them as well. She says they taste "better than duck". (Did I just actually write that???)

Little Creek Tasty Treats

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl; mix well. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter (my choice), cut into desired sizes (for training purposes, smaller is better). Bake for 15 minutes until just golden brown. Turn off oven. If you want crispy treats allow cookie sheet to remain in oven as it cools for an hour or so. I prefer softer treats that I can break apart, so I leave the sheet in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Break them apart and you're ready to treat the dog. I keep them in the freezer and thaw them before training sessions, as I've found they don't have a real long shelf-life.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Gobble Gobble Hey!

The turkeys have decided to make their first appearance to the world today. I hope this in no way places a jinx on them. The demise of their web-footed comrades seems to have had little to no effect on their tender young psyches. Baby turkeys are inquisitive critters. They greet me every morning. The little toms are already (!) puffing themselves up and strutting around the brooder cage.

I ordered more ducks and geese yesterday. This time I picked breeds (and spent more money). For the ducks - Buff Orpingtons, Cayugas and White Pekins; for the geese - one pair of Toulouse and one pair of Brown Chinese. They arrive the week after Easter. I will be training the geese in the art of dog intimidation.

Garden Update:

I planted two grapes yesterday - a Niagra and a Concord. There are now a hundred some onions (red and white) in the ground, as well as cabbage and broccoli. On Friday I planted some Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. I planned on planting more today, but we had a giant thunderstorm last night and the ground is a little too wet to play in today. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Heart broken. Utterly, completely, incapacitatingly heart broken. Yesterday morning, under the inattentive watch of Big Daddy, Biscuit (who is now dead to me for at least a week) got into the ducklings' pen and slaughtered everyone in a matter of seconds. Eight ducklings and two goslings gone in the blink of an eye. I couldn't even write about it yesterday and now really can't say much. I haven't even been able to pet or look at the dog. She has always been trustworthy, but I think the fuzzy vulnerability of those little birds was too much for her terrier heart. She is on my shit list and she knows it. Big Daddy is as well. He knows it. He even tried to find me replacements locally yesterday...

I can't let this tragedy set me back and will be ordering more. The next batch will have a pen with full out defenses against marauding little mongrels.

Last night was Chickapalooza One. The party was a huge success and we had a moment of silence for our web-footed friends. Our friend, Father Brian blessed the birds and threw in something about them all being good laying hens. I was a little sad through it all. Over half of the chicks went to their new homes and it's much quieter in my studio. I need my ducks back...