Following the recipe of my friend Cassandra, I made roasted chicken today for Zoe and my mom since they both love chicken! This is one of the birds we got from Deo Volente Farm.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, rinsed, gutted, cleaned
3 potatoes, quartered
3 small sweet onions, quartered
cloves from 1 head of garlic, peeled
rosemary
salt, pepper, paprika
butter

Directions

Use butter to rub the bird, putting blobs under the skin and in the cavity. Salt and pepper the bird, sprinkle with paprika, and put fresh rosemary on top of it and some in the cavity.
Place garlic, onions, and potatoes (and other veggies you happen to have on hand) in a 9 x 13″ pan and plop your bird on top of the veggies. Cook in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 for as long as it takes to cook (20 mins per lb total cooking time).
Turn off the oven and let it rest a few minutes with the oven door ajar.

I tried to hold off on picking them, so I could share the joy of ripe figs right off the tree with my mom who loves figs and is coming to visit soon, but alas, the figs had their own schedule and ripened already. I picked a big bowl today and made a 6 pint batch of low sugar jam that I am not sure will set right even though I did add pectin. We shall see, I guess.

I also made 3 pints of walnut pesto since our CSA gave us a pound and a half of delicious smelling basil. That went in the freezer for later use along with the previous pint I had made.

Tomorrow is my turn to host dinner club. We will be having raw(ish) tacos inspired by a recipe for “Solar Tacos” that came from Alexandra Demetro, a wonderful ND and midwife. I made the taco “meat” out of sunflower seeds and cashews from Azure Standard mixed together with some home made salsa using local, organic yellow tomatoes from Organically Grown Company, onions from our CSA and Anaheim peppers grown by yours truly in our very own backyard. I also made extra salsa, and have a big bowl of pinto beans soaking on the counter for making refried beans tomorrow. I will shred some raw Wisconsin cheese, make some guacamole, cut up some lettuce, and call it a meal. Easy and almost no cooking required!

Summer is wonderful with so many local options. I am waiting for tomatoes to be in full season so I can make a bunch of pasta sauces or at least just can a whole bunch of tomatoes. I really don’t want to buy more canned tomatoes after learning about the ridiculously high levels of BPA in the lining of the cans… Peaches are also in season, and I should probably freeze a bunch for use later in smoothies, peach cobbler and other yummy goodness.

I know eating locally and in season is important for the environment, the economy, and for health reasons, but I am wondering about putting up food for the winter… I am concerned about cost, but mainly about the destruction of enzymes and vitamins during the canning process. Does anyone know what the nutritional value is of canned foods compared to frozen or fresh? And also, adding all that sugar to the fruit and berries still has me feeling ill at ease– all that sugar just can’t be healthy. So is it better to freeze or can? From a nutrition stand point, is it more economical to buy locally when food is cheap and in season, and preserve it for later use? Or is it better to buy fresh food year round, but at a greater expense and from a reasonably farther location? What would you do? I am obviously confused…

New addition.

Our friend Ellen gave us one of her 10 week old hens– a pretty Silver Laced Wyandotte named Persephone. I was a bit worried about introducing her to our flock of (now just 4) 20 week old, fully grown girls, but so far, all is well.

When we brought her home yesterday evening, the other hens were already roosting in the coop. I let Persephone walk around the yard alone for a bit. She was definitely lost and just stood there not knowing where to go or what to do. I then put her inside the coop, on the lower rung, and waited to see what would happen. Blackie, our alpha chicken dominatrix of a hen, cocked her head and looked angrily at me, but didn’t move. (They are so funny when they sleep– kinda temporarily lobotomized, I think.)

A few minutes later we heard a small clucking, and we realized Persephone had hopped to the upper roost next to the others and was looking out the window. The night passed uneventfully.

This morning, I checked on the girls and the 4 older ones were in the run wanting to get out while Persephone was still just sitting there on the upper roost. I put water and food inside the coop for her, and left her there while I let the others out for a bit. I don’t think Persephone can be let out unsupervised until she knows that the coop is her new home. I doubt she’d know to put herself to bed like the others when dusk comes…

I did let her out for a bit in the afternoon, and she wandered aimlessly around the yard and under the deck for a bit. We held her and she seemed OK with that, but wouldn’t really eat any of the treats I put out. Whenever she got too close to another hen, they’d chase her off, but not really peck at her. I am thinking she must seem like less of a threat since she is so much smaller than the other girls… I actually wonder if they even recognize her as a fellow chicken… maybe they just see her as a crow or overgrown sparrow or something because they have pretty much been ignoring her.

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She sure is a pretty hen though, and we are so happy to give her a new home! “The yewwow one,” our Buff Orpington, has been demoted, and the new one is now Munchkie’s “shavorite.” (She still can’t say “ell” or “eff.”)

P.S. I am now pretty sure our red chicken is a Red Star and not a Rhode Island Red. What do you think?

Sad day.

Well, we had a death among our hennies.

One of our Rhode Island Reds was acting a bit weird yesterday. She didn’t come to me with the others when I called them to put them away for the night, and first we thought she had jumped the fence… but when we searched for her Dan found her under the hedge in the driveway, just laying there really still. Dan picked her up and put her in the run, and she just stood there… I commented, “I wonder if she is sick,” but didn’t think much of it cause she had seemed totally normal earlier in the day…

Today, when I went to let the chickens out of the run, a bit later than normal (I am trying to limit their time in the yard since they are wrecking it) and check the egg situation, she was inside the coop, dead on the nest. I was such a sad sight. She just laid there with her head drooping. I picked her up and it looked like she had had some runny diarrhea…

I am really sad. She was one of our friendliest hens too.

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Gardening is hard work– emotionally, more so than physically, for me at least. You invest so much energy and time and love, getting these little seeds to sprout and grow… and then the heat comes and your lettuce and broccoli and chard bolts practically overnight, becoming bitter and inedible. You nurture your onions– water, weed, and add lovingly add compost… and then your chickens decide to trample and dust bathe on top of them! And eat all your cabbage sprouts and carrot tops, and digging up your blueberry plants’ roots.

And then… then you take a workshop, and realize the weed cloth you thought you so cleverly added underneath your vegetable boxes to prevent weeds from growing into the veggies is actually preventing your tomatoes from rooting deeply like they like to do. Mystery of the stunted tomato plants solved!

So you, on a whim, decide to pull everything out as gently as you can, remove all the weed cloth and replant your tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and a 6 foot tall mammoth sunflower (does this equate a momentary bout of insanity??) hoping that this will help them mature before summer is over….

It’s all very disheartening to realize that I basically have no clue about any of this gardening business… but at least I can say I am learning, right? And maybe next year will be better and easier?

I am going to plant some winter crops and just see what happens. I have some nice organic fingerling potatoes that are sprouting in my pantry– those should be good to go. I am not sure exactly how to grow potatoes, but I know we don’t have enough room in the ground, so I am thinking of doing the bag (or possibly more attractive barrel) method. Should make harvesting (if we get that far) easy at the very least!

July Recap.

I am not sure if our food bill is going down or not… I am obviously not buying a lot of grains, legumes, or nuts anymore because we are still stocked up, but I seem to find other little extras to splurge on all the time. Last month it was ice cream, this month it’s Kettle chips and coconut juice that cost me about $50 unnecessarily…

Azure Standard
Sweet Cream Butter, Salted 5 x 1 lb. $12.35
Seafood Producers Salmon COHO Fillets 10 lbs. $80.35
Natural Value Tongol Tuna, Salted 24 x 6 ozs. $31.65
FFL 7-Sprouted Grain English Muffins, Organic CASE of 12 $26.00
OV Feta Cheese (ORGANIC) 8 ozs. $3.46
Omega 3 Eggs, Large Brown, Organic 1 dozen $3.77 (I think this will be the last eggs we buy for a while!)
Turbinado Sugar (DEMERARA Raw) 5 lbs. $4.95
Rumiano Jack, Raw, Jalapeno (random wt) 5 lbs. $29.79
Kettle POTATO Chips Lt. Salt (KING SIZE) 2 x 16 ozs. $6.66
Amy & Brian Coconut Juice with Lime 36 x 17.5 ozs. $42.30
TOTAL: $241.28

Other food spendings:
$14 raw milk (We are only getting half a gallon a week since I *still* haven’t gotten around to making my own yogurt.)
$99 meat from Thundering Hooves (We had a $90 credit from the last delivery, so we really only paid $9.)
$140 CSA share (This has been pre-paid, but we should really find a way to split this with someone else because we can’t keep up with all the lettuce and greens…)
$100 estimate for “left over” produce from OGC (paid for with my labor)
$18.50 cukes and other supplies for pickling party
$16.25 u-pick blueberries 6.5 lbs
$30 u-pick raspberries
$30 4th of July BBQ
TOTAL: $347.75 (- $330 for prepaid amount and credit = $117.75)

And now for the hall of shame….
EATING OUT: $250 estimated

We did bad this month and ate out a few times and somewhat expensive restaurants: Pambiche (YUMM!) and Farm Café (good, but expensive for such small portions) and at Widmer where Dan gets a 50% employee discount, but it really seems steep to think this part of our food spendings only gave us 6 or so meals…

Today I found 7, yes seven!!! eggs. Three of them were in the driveway, where I found one egg yesterday as well, and 4 of them were in the nests. I’m assuming the ones in the driveway were at least partially laid yesterday since there is no way (is there??) that 5 hens can lay 7 eggs in one day… Speaking of, I’m not sure why our girls like the driveway so much– it’s just a bunch of gravel, but they seem to enjoy dust bathing in it, and maybe also eating some of it as grit?

So anyway, the egg abundance is awesome! Kinda makes up for the whole chicken poop everywhere aspect of having 5 heavy breed hens free ranging in a very small back yard… I traded our next door neighbor half a dozen eggs for some rhubarb for some yummy rhubarb crisp. I just realized I ran out of sugar at the pickling party, so I plan to substitute honey instead. Should be good. It’s been years since I had rhubarb (and since I didn’t know how to pronounce it in English…. I used to think it was “rubberb”– haha!)

Ingredients

1 cup honey
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup honey
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

In mixing bowl, combine honey, flour, oats, butter and cinnamon; mix together until crumbly. Press half of the crumb mixture into a buttered 8-inch square baking dish. Top with the sliced rhubarb.
In a saucepan combine 1 cup granulated sugar, arrowroot powder, and the 1 cup of water and vanilla. Cook together until clear, then pour over rhubarb.
Top rhubarb with remaining crumb mixture and bake at 350° for 45 to 55 minutes.