Monday, July 31, 2006

Farm News July 31, 2006

What horrible heat we lived through for 2 weeks! JUST AWFUL!!! These past 2 weeks have been tough.

We had our own version of the biblical Cain and Abel played out in our own back yard a couple of weeks ago. Farmer Jeff and I were out in the backyard with the dogs, when little, sweet, feral Chloe decided to jump into the yard to visit. Well, India ran towards her, as we all did, but then clamped down on her leg and began tossing her around, as she naturally would do to any intruder. We screamed and shouted and India dropped her. Chloe took off over the fence, how I am not quite sure, and then disappeared under the neighbors fence and shrubs. This was just as the heat was climbing. We put water out all around the yard and I kept the food bowl full. I know that I was feeding everyone in the area, including the racoons, but I needed to make sure Chloe could eat when she could get to the food.

A full week passed with no sighting of Chloe. Last Saturday Farmer Jeff and I went down to the Central Valley to attend a party and to help his mom to move. I can't even begin to tell you how hot it was! At midnight, it was 98 degrees!!! Yes, there was a pool, but it was 94 degrees!!! Anyway, Saturday morning we received a call that Chloe had been spotted around our house and was eating. I just broke down and sobbed. She is such a darling kitty, and is my favorite of all of the porch kitties, as hard as I try NOT to have favorites.

We didn't see her again until Tuesday afternoon. She was lounging in the grass in front of the house under the shade of our massive tree. I brought the food to her so she wouldn't have to climb the stairs to get it. Then I didn't see her again until Saturday morning. All the while we had the heat wave. I was shocked to see her still alive. She came crawling out of the drainage ditch, under the parked pick up truck and crying all the way. Her sisters ran up to her, touching noses and sniffing. Mama Joleen slowly strolled up to her and then charged her, chasing her off while nipping at her. I couldn't believe it! Her own mother chasing her off!!! I think this answered why we hadn't seen her.

I had to take Tyner, the hen, in to the vet and mentioned this behavior to the vet and vet assistant, Marilyn. Marilyn is known as the cat whisperer. She suggested I set a trap and catch Chloe. It seemed so obvious, yet was so brilliant. I happened to have a trap, so I baited it with salmon and watched.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Jammin' on Sunday

Farmer Jeff and I have been accused of not knowing how to relax. I think it all depends on how you look at it. When you have a farm with animals and crops that depend on constant attention, you need to give it. A plain and simple fact.

Yesterday Farmer Jeff and I were food participants in the Sonoma Showcase at McMurray Ranch on Westside Road. We were told to provide between 700 and 800 tastes for the anticipated crowd of 1,000. Slightly mind-boggling. Farmer/Chef Jeff prepared Falls Mill, Tennessee stone ground creamy corn grits topped with a warm cherry tomato and house-cured and smoked bacon with a basil vinaigrette. was SO GOOD!!! The folks at the showcase loved it too! We served over 900 servings!!! Yikes!!! We have done this event before and have fun every year! The only hard part is that it is usually somewhere around 95-100 degrees every year and it really gets to you after a while!!!

Today we decided to abandon our plans to work on the chicken coop and just have fun. What is fun for us? Making Jam!!! Yesterday we picked 12 pounds of our Santa Rosa plums off the tree. They were all ripe or darned close and we couldn't wait for either the birds or the dogs to get to them before us! We coralled all of our canning jars and jar tongs and lids in preparation. Farmer Jeff was so excited by the thought of making the plum jam that he went out and picked 6 pounds of blackberries, all from our backyard! Is this the best thing about summer or what???

We have been approached about making jams and preserves, so we are getting serious about testing recipes. We are dreaming of other flavors based upon what we are already growing. Our fruits are: figs, plums, peaches, nectarines, pears, zinfandel grapes (enough for jam, not enough for wine!), apples, raspberries and LOTS of blackberries! Oh...I forgot watermelon, cantelope, honeydew, and casaba melon! Our veggies are: 5 varieties of zucchini-like squash, 23 varieties of tomato, peppers, green beans, corn, pickling cucumbers, collard greens, swiss chard and tons of mint and basil. We ought to be able to come up with some other fun combinations of sauces to can with all of those choices!

This is my kinda fun!

Monday, July 10, 2006

REALLY Crazy about Chickens!!!

Sometimes we fall so deeply in love with something that we don't know when we have gone off the deep end. I am sure my husband believes I fall into that category with the now 38 birds that we have, but I have seen evidence of far crazier folks than I!!!

One of our family members gave us a quirky DVD of a National Geographic special on chickens. The special has several vignettes on life with chickens. One involved a rural community whose peace and quiet was disturbed by one man raising 100 roosters, and the din it created. Lawsuits ensued, and the man was ordered by the courts to limit his rooster population to 5. We only have 2 roosters, and they are still figuring out how to crow!

The next segment was on a pragmatic woman in Maine (aren't they all supposed to be pragmatic in Maine?) that found one of her chickens frozen solid under the house, set it on a hot water bottle after seeing a flicker of life, and went so far as to give it MOUTH TO BEAK resuscitation. Okay, now, I would do that. I held one of my little bantams and stroked her as she "passed". At least that was before putting her on ice and shipping her off to UC Davis for a necropsy to figure out why my bantams were dying. (It was determined that the cause of death was Marek's disease, against which they have not been inoculated).

Another segment featured a kind of back to nature kind of guy. He and his family fed the chickens, fattened them up, then butchered and ate them. The father believed the kids should understand where food "comes from". I am a firm believer in this but can't bring myself to kill and eat my own birds. They have names!

One of my favorite "kooky" features was of a rather stout man in overalls doing rooster imitations. That was pretty classic to see. What was slightly un-nerving was how accurate he was!

What really took the cake was the VERY WHACKY woman from Florida. Thank GOD she was from Florida...everyone always assumes all of the nutty folks are in California! This is evidence that is NOT the case!!! Anyway, this crazy gal takes her chicken into the pool (I think the gal AND the chicken were naked but it was hard to tell!). After the swim in the pool the chicken gets its daily bath and then is fluffed dry with a blow dryer. I can almost understand that considering it is a very fluffy white silkie hen.

This gal drove the chicken around in her car in a little seat as though for tiny dogs, bought it burgers at the drive in and even fashioned little diapers so the chicken could be in the house without any unfortunate accidents.

I kept wanting to wake up Farmer Jeff, asleep next to me on the couch, and say...SEE, there are folks out there crazier about chickens than me!!! At least I don't try to make clothes for them (although I DID consider knitting them all sweaters in the winter) or kiss them, or bring them in to watch TV, as crazy Florida woman does. Ultimately, it was rather endearing.

It reminded me of when I was a little girl and I spied a sweet, little old lady in her car, sharing her ice cream cone, lick for lick, with her little Pommeranian dog. Both were intimately bonded with ice cream. I believe I saw that same bond with the Silkie and the woman in Florida. May all of us be so lucky!