Friday, January 31, 2014

Doris' New Friends

Doris the Duck has been alone for awhile now.

Doris used to have a good friend named Bruno the Goose.

Well, I'm not sure how great a friend Bruno really was, since she was kind of mean to Doris. But Doris hung around her all the time and followed her and generally didn't let Bruno out of her sight.

But Bruno died some time ago, and while Doris has been in with the chickens ever since, she's never really fit in. They don't like her much.

She spends a lot of time muttering to herself, all alone.

It's made me sad to see her alone and lonely. I've wanted her to find her place. To find a friend.

And, now, she has a chance to change her stars.

Tonight, the boys went over to pick up four new ducks that we're getting from a family who is moving, and now, Doris will have friends.

We hope.

The boys put the new ducks into a building adjoining the chicken coop, and after dark, they put Doris in with them. Hopefully, they'll wake up tomorrow and find themselves fast friends.

That's the plan, anyway. We'll see how it goes.

By the way, now we may actually have a flock of ducks. Five qualifies, right? As I learned tonight, a group of ducks is actually called a "bunch" or a "raft," when they're paddling on the water. If they're in flight (which I hope will never be the case), they'd be called a "skein" or a "string." Just waddling around the farm? I have no idea what they'll be called.

Ooooo, we'll have to come up with a fun name for a group of farm wandering ducks. I love a creative challenge.

I'll meet the new ducks tomorrow, since I wasn't here before they were closed up for the night. I'll see how they're doing, get some pictures and check back in with you to let you know how I've decided to refer to them.

I'll also let you know whether it looks like Doris is going to accept her new pals.

Fingers crossed on the farm,

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Pot of Yum

Before I started trippin' the other day, I had planned to tell you all about the veggie concoction I had simmering on the stove top while I was wreaking havoc in the chicken pen, and how it was a delightfully fresh taste of the garden amidst the heavy foods of winter.

I was going to tell you about how, yes, I was silly and bought "summer" squash in January, along with eggplant, but I balanced it with the robustly flavorful tomatoes I canned from our very own vines, and zucchini I decided to freeze from the garden this year. Let's face it, "fresh" tomatoes make up for just about anything, so this ended up being super flavorful.

Now, before you look at the ingredients and think, "I could never get my family to eat this -- too many weirdly colored vegetables," I have to tell you, I know of only one kid of the 40 or so people I've made this dish for who hasn't loved it. Somehow, all the flavors magically come together for yum in this recipe.

Usually, I bake this dish, but I needed to throw together a quick meal for Mike before he headed out one night to work, so I made this on the stove top and it was still fantastic.

1 large eggplant
4 small/medium summer squash
3.5 cups of zucchini (probably 3-4 small/medium)
1 large onion
1 qt crushed tomatoes*
3 T olive oil
4 cloves fresh garlic
Lots of:

Parmesan cheese (when serving)
Mostaccioli or penne pasta

Slice or cube squash and eggplant, dice onion. Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and parmesan cheese in a heavy pot. Cook over medium high until vegetables begin to soften (about 10-15 minutes). Pour in tomatoes and simmer for 30-45 minutes, depending on desired crispness of vegetables. 

Serve over al dente pasta and sprinkle generously with grated parmesan cheese.

Oven variation: Bake covered at 375 F for 45 min - 1 hr.

* In summer, I bake this dish, and the last 15 minutes, I remove the foil and cover the surface with a layer of slightly overlapping thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. (Omit crushed tomatoes from recipe.) My husband and kids don't like fresh tomatoes (WHAT?!?) but all agree this MAKES the dish.

Oh, and Macy says "Hi."

Love from the farm,

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Farm Casualty

So, I just smashed my chicken bucket.

With my face.

I suppose you want to hear the story.

It all started in the house, where I was chopping up zucchini and eggplant and onions and squash for a crude ratatouille, wishing I could chop faster and hurry and get the pan on the stove so I could get to what I REALLY wanted to do, which was go outside and visit the chickens.

I got the food on the stove, grabbed the scraps and peels, threw them in my watering bucket and filled the bucket with water, then eagerly bounced outside to go check on the chickens. (I only bounced once, actually, because the water sloshed and I realized I better keep things level, all things considered. Ahh, the irony, as you'll soon learn.)

I made it to the chicken coop, fished the scraps out of the water and scattered them for the waiting hens and Wyatt the Rooster. Emptied the metal waterer and refilled it from the bucket. Then, after I discovered the hose wasn't frozen this warm afternoon, I dumped Doris the Duck's pool, rinsed it out and began refilling it with fresh well water.

I took my empty bucket into the coop where I discovered a new nest the girls had hidden and dug out 12 eggs. Sneaky hens! I made a mental note to test the eggs for freshness when I got back to the house, since I didn't know how long the girls had been working on this nest. After my surprise find, I headed over to the feed shed where some of the ladies have been laying recently, and that's where it all went wrong.

As I walked to the shed, I spied a stray object on the ground and thought, "How'd that get here?" Then, I lifted my eyes toward the shed, took another step and tripped on that very object, catching my foot and sending me flying forward. The bucket flew up from my grip just before my face slammed into it full force, breaking through it and pulverizing the eggs it held before smashing through to the wire bed frame covering a straw bale on my way down. I felt the bed frame fly up, adding even more of a smack to my forehead before I tumbled sideways, then landed on my back.

It was a few seconds before I could convince myself to open my eyes. My forehead was already hurting, I could feel the egg yolks dripping from my face and hands, and the pain from my forearm, knees and forehead immediately made an appearance. I lay there a few minutes, and I'm fairly certain from the crusty feeling at the corners of my eyes that I may have shed a tear or two. Of course, that could be egg whites. In which case I'm getting a little firming facial out of the whole deal, and that's good, I suppose.

So, there I lay, staring up at the blue sky, just kind of pondering the whole scene.  I wondered what the chances were that anyone would come looking for me from the house and decided they were relatively slim. Me disappearing outside for stretches at a time isn't all that unusual, tho it's less frequent during winter months.

I closed my eyes again and considered staying there on the soft bed of straw I landed on indefinitely, noticing it really is unseasonably warm and it was actually pretty comfortable in that spot.

My sweet Otis discovered me within a couple of minutes, and I wasn't surprised. I'm his favorite person; he knew something was amiss. What he isn't, tho, is very intuitive as it relates to injury, because his reaction was to lick my face, of course, then sprawl across my throat and face, rolling, trying to get me moving or to respond to him. I endured him for a little while then wryly said, "Otis, go get help...go get help," knowing full well he wasn't going anywhere and had no idea what I was saying. Sure enough, he just kept licking my face. Then he noticed the egg, and started licking that. Figuring he didn't need to profit from my misadventure, I feebly shooed him away. He had already forgotten his concern for me. Once he got the scent of raw egg he noticed the bucket next to me and the smashed eggs by the straw bale. At least it got him off my throat.

I opened my eyes again and watched a plane pass high overhead. I thought about the water still filling Doris's pool. I thought about the veggies simmering on the stove and wondered if anyone would think to stir them. I wiggled my toes and wondered where my shoe was. I wondered whether my hair was laying in chicken poo. I noticed the chickens were nowhere near me. I didn't blame them. I had created quite a ruckus falling and shrieking and landing. I briefly wondered whether the trauma of my shenanigans would cause a drop in egg production for a day or two. Then I decided I probably better give a try at getting up.

I wasn't really sure what kind of damage I'd done so I took it slow. It hurt like a booger rolling over to my knees and pushing up. I was glad I've dropped some weight recently because it means hefting less on my way up. I surveyed the smashed bucket and eggs -- I'd broken every single one. An entire dozen. What a waste.

I made it to my feet, looked around and found my shoe, slid it on, picked up what was left of the bucket and shuffled back to the house.

When I walked through the doors, the kids looked up and registered surprise before trying to hold back their laughter at the sight I presented. To their credit, they asked with real concern whether I was OK and what had happened. Mike helped me peel off my sweatshirt so I wouldn't scatter straw across the just swept floors and everyone inspected the cuts and bumps on my forehead and the scrapes and bruises elsewhere that were already looking angry.

Now, here I sit on the couch, sharing this little tale with you. Judging by the stiffening and swelling, I've done a nice little number to my arm, knees, and ankle, and boy, does my face, head and neck hurt. Broke my darn glasses, too.

So, I'm off to the shower for a nice, hot steam. Then I think I'll pop a few Ibuprofen and call it a day.

Hope you don't trip and face smash a bucket.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Balmy Winter Day

It feels like spring here in the Arizona high desert and it's lovely, but you can't enjoy these warm, sunny days without having that slightly anxious voice at the back of your mind saying, "Yes, this is nice, but it's not normal...and what we really need is deep, dark winter storms to quench the earth before the spring winds parch it even more."

I am nervous about the lack of moisture and am genuinely praying we'll see lots of snow and rain in February and March. Since there's absolutely nothing I can do about the precip situation, however, I decided to say, "Shhh!" to that anxious voice and spend some time outside on our little farm today.

After I'd taken a treat of fresh herbs and popcorn to the chickens and sleuthed around for their eggs, I was walking back to the house when I looked towards the alfalfa fields adjoining our property and saw this.


This is a portion of our little asparagus patch. The same asparagus patch I had planned to cut back in the fall so it would come back fresh and abundant in the spring.

I forgot.

Being a balmy day, I decided to take the matter in hand. After locating some rusty pruning shears, I went to town on these dried and dormant stalks, and was left with this.

It may not look like much now, but trust me, this is now the spot I will be watching most anxiously come spring, because asparagus is among the first crops to arrive when the weather warms, and definitely among my Top 5 Favorites. And, this year, we get to harvest, so I'm extra excited. (Wondering why that even bears mentioning? Read here.)
Being outside and puttering around the place was so good for the soul, it almost made up for what happened when I clenched the pruning shears a bit too hard.

I say almost only because I JUST had my nail appointment yesterday and I won't be going back for another two weeks, and really, who wants to deal with a cracked nail snagging hair and fabric and everything else it comes in contact with for two weeks? (I may be losing farm girl cred for whining about this. That's OK; I prefer to think of myself as multi-dimensional -- farm girl is not my only identity; prissy and professional can also co-exist.)

Since the asparagus photos are as dry and dull as the surrounding landscape during winter, I'll leave you with this picture that shows proof of life on the farm. And I vow to quit taking photos during the noon hour, on my phone, so you aren't looking at these washed out images.

Vow may be a strong word, but, I'll try. Promise.

Here's one of our Henny Pennies, looking extra shiny because she and her friends have been free ranging the past several days, eating lots of protein-filled bugs.  She's even prettier when there isn't a high noon glare washing out the lustre of her feathers. Seriously, I'll try to time my photo captures better.

Before I go, I want to leave you with a little story and a lesson:

When I went outside to see the chickens, I didn't know I would be doing yard work so I didn't put on an apron and I didn't have anything on with pockets. Well, I needed to put the pruning shears somewhere while I carried the asparagus stalks to the garden to compost. Being a girl with a perfectly sturdy (sorry male readers) bra on, I figured what's good enough for an iPhone is good enough for pruning shears. 

Actually, not so much.

I didn't need a Band-Aid, but ow, nonetheless.

Lesson: There is absolutely no reason to ever, ever be without an apron whilst wandering one's property.

OK, go think moist thoughts for Arizona, please.

Love from the farm,