The day we got home from Boston, we didn’t pull into the driveway until 10PM. Too late to have a look see around the homestead. As I’ve mentioned before, every time I leave home, something dies, and in this case, Denver had already told me one of the ducks went mysteriously missing the second day we were away. I suppose a opossum got ’em. Denver was diligent about protecting the others however, and I was happy to see all five remaining ducks in the headlights of my car as I passed by coming home.
At 6am the next morning, while Mark was happily snoring, I popped out of bed to visit my much missed animals and to check out how things fared in our absence. It was a rather exciting walk. First, I went to say hello to the ducks and to determine which one was gone. They had completely feathered out now, and looked like entirely new creatures. They have black heads and a white ring around their neck. Their bodies are beautifully decorated, looking not unlike leopards. Their voices have all dropped and they have this raspy quack in place of the former peeping. Cool.
I next went to visit the chickens. I didn’t think to tell Denver to look for eggs, because my one surviving egg-layer is sitting on some eggs now. But my other eleven chickens are expected to begin laying any day now. Every day I check with anticipation to see if anyone new is laying. I went into the chicken house, and don’t ya know, I find 8 eggs – and THEY ARE GREEN. They are super green, like in “green eggs and ham” green. I am beside myself with glee, both because it means that after months of raising these chickens my egg avalanche is now on it’s way, and because I am fascinated by the color of these eggs. When Easter comes, I won’t even have to dye this lot. They are gorgeous. I can figure out who is laying by the color of the prize in the nest- several of the chickens lay white eggs, others lay brown. The green egg layers are Ariel, Oreo and Casper. Finally, they are doing their job. Good girls!
The problem was, I didn’t know how long those eggs had been there, considering how busy I was the days before I left. So, I brought them back to the house and told Neva we could put them in the incubator if she wanted. That is where they are now, cooking for the next 21 days and then we will see what hatches. Once we get some birds, depending on if they are red or black or white, I’ll have a good idea of just who the mother is. The next day, I collected some fresh green eggs for breakfast. For the record, green eggs taste exactly like white ones, only I consider them even better because I have personal knowledge of a home grown egg’s higher health quality and I am partial to the shell color.
Next, I took a spin on the four wheeler through the garden. It is overrun by weeds. Eeek. But, there on the ground was something huge. I thought, “Gee, is that a zucchini or is that plant happy to see me?’ Sure enough, there was our first homegrown vegetable. It was 14 inches long (not that size counts – but hey, what girl isn’t impressed with something that prominent poking out at ya?) I also picked up a yellow squash, a more normal sized zucchini and some banana peppers and zipped home to show Mark. He wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was, insisting lots of zucchini come that big. Well, none I’ve seen in the market. I don’t care what he says, I think this big veg is special.
I know lots of people garden, but this is a first for me and gosh, but I was delighted to be outside picking the bounty of the earth in my own backyard. I couldn’t help but prance around doing the “I grew a veggie” dance. Then I sat down at my computer to visit epicurious.com and spent a half hour looking at the 271 zucchini recipes available. I ended up putting my first round of produce into a veggie chili that day – dieting, don’t ya know. But it felt as if that chili was rather special due to the origin of the contents. I suppose people who grow things all the time would laugh at my romanticism over this normal phenomenon, but honestly, it is remarkable to be intimately involved with the production of your food source. Makes you feel connected to the earth.
(The eggs don’t look nearly as green lying on the oversized red plate beside the green zucchini, but they are. Furthermore, my veggies don’t look nearly as big as they look in real life – but try to consider them in relation to the eggs. Whatever – trust me, this may not look spectacular, BUT IT IS.)
Next, I gave a carrot to the horses, patted donkey on the nose, said hello to the angoras, and went to visit the peacock. He is looking bigger – splendid actually – but I must say his chicken buddy is outgrowing him. For all that peacock eggs are bigger than other eggs, the actual bird that results is rather delicate. My ducks and chickens are all more robust and remain faster growing. Ah well, sometimes a masterpiece takes time to grow into itself. But Early does spread his tail, which looks somewhat like a hand spread out behind him, a hint of what’s to come. I can’t tell you how much I adore this bird.
All things were in order, so I stole off to pick some blackberries. I’ve discovered it takes 30 pounds of blackberries for one batch of wine. Eee-gad, that is a lot more than required for cobbler or jam. I laugh when I think of how people living in areas without wild blackberries must pay 3.00 for ¼ pound. I once did. That would be an expensive wine! Feeling gratitude for the massive free fruit available to me, I spent the day picking. First I went alone. Then I convinced Neva to join me, and in the afternoon I even talked Kent and Mark into offering a hand. You can bet my fingertips will be blue all month. I won’t stop until the berries are gone and the larder is full.
I am in cooking mode now, sort of as if I want to celebrate my liberty from school in the kitchen. I made pickles today for the first time from a bunch of cucumbers I bought at the farmer’s market. I’ve decided that I don’t have to wait until my garden is thriving – especially since I’m not sure everything we planted will grow. Why not just pick up the local produce from my neighbors and support small American farms and help fight global warming by cutting back on the fuel use required to ship produce from California just so we can get it out of season? (Soapbox from my current read, don’t ya know.) Pickles are so easy to make I can’t help but wonder why I’ve never tried it before. I got rather excited looking at various recipes.
I called out to Mark, “Hey honey, want to try picked watermelon rind? I can make that, ya know. This book explains how, and I have a watermelon in the fridge as we speak.”
“I don’t like watermelon rind,” he said.
“Even if it is pickled?”
“ESPECIALLY if it is pickled.”
“When have you tried it?”
“I haven’t tried it. But I know I don’t like it. I don’t like the idea of it. Don’t go there, please. Stick with pickles.”
“You can’t say you don’t like something if you never tried it.”
“I can. I just did. I won’t try it. But I do like pickles. Make lots of pickles. Go pickle crazy, I’ll keep up.”
Well, so much for counting on your spouse to be a palate guinea pig. Just goes to show that love has its limits.
After browsing my new preserving cook book, I’ve found about a dozen things I want to pickle – none of which I will probably like or have ever had a hankering to try. But I can’t resist the recipes, because they are all so unusual. Like garlic dill carrots. Or pickled beets. I hate beets. But that doesn’t mean I can’t play with them. I think I will pickle some beets when they go in season and force feed them on unsuspecting family members.
I am making several batches of wine this week and some jam. I’m producing gourmet (diet) dinners, and my kitchen counter is filled with whole grain baked bread and muffins. Someone slap me – I can’t stop cooking. I think it is the influence of this remarkable book I’m reading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Makes me want to celebrate locally grown foods and the bounty of the season. Makes me proud to be a cook in a world where people are slowly moving towards convenience foods too. Great book. A real eye opener. Kind of unnerving, however, because you see yourself in all the unbecoming descriptions of how people unwittingly harm the earth today.
Anyway, I’m happy to be home. Happy to be in the kitchen. Happy to be experimenting with new cooking techniques, flavors and food concepts. If it’s something I’ve never made it before, all the better. Discovery is fun.
Amazing what great adventures can be had without having to leave your own kitchen.