Sunday, November 25, 2007

Night, Night, Garden...Sleep tight

Farmer Jeff put the garden to bed today. He has been spending the last few days cleaning out the various irrigation systems, the green plastic mulch, the tubing we used for growing green beans and anything else that needed to be removed. As you can see in the photo above, he is roto-tilling the earth and tomorrow will plant "green manure", which is a nitrogen fixer.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the last of the peppers, chiles, and tomatoes were picked. Farmer Jeff carried bags of peppers to the outdoor kitchen where they were sorted for either grilled, sauces or pepper jelly.

Starting 4 years ago we have been making a fiery Salsa Ranchero with the last of the tomatoes, peppers and chiles. The very first batch was roasted in our oven but all subsequent batches have been roasted in the wood burning oven. I think Farmer Chef Jeff gets the biggest thrill when harnessing fire to cook with. What a guy thing!

Once all of the items were roasted together, he took them to work where he pureed them and added some seasonings. He called to tell me this was a fiery batch. NO KIDDING. We poached eggs in them this morning and boy, howdy! Talk about hot!!! For those of you wondering, we also had whole grain pancakes and Farmer Chef Jeff's Molasses Cured/House Smoked Ham!

We grilled/roasted the anaheim chiles on our big grill and then we peeled them. We will freeze them and use them through out the year, until we have next years harvest. Yesterday Farmer Chef Jeff made 5 cases of pepper jelly, in his spare time, of course!

We have been so pleased with ourselves this week. Not only did we plant and grow a bigger than usual garden, we have done everything we could, and have succeeded, in preserving the harvest!Before we let any more time pass, we would like to formally introduce Erik, the Sebright Rooster, to you. He used to be a hen named Lacey. Isn't he darling?

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Follow up to the Big Move

Our little girls have made the move from the garage to the big pen with the big kids. I think they are little confused, a little scared and totally in awe. The are talking up a storm to anyone that will listen.

The big girls are checking them out, all the while doing their hunting and pecking thing. Life will settle down for everyone soon. Because the little girls are not so little, we think they might be able to hold their own, therefore will try to let them out sooner than the normal week waiting period.

I'll give you the updates as they occur! In the meantime, we are getting ready for Thanksgiving. That is a whole 'nother blog!

Labels: ,

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ready for the Big Move

We have 7 pullets (female chickens that have yet to lay eggs) that we have raised from 3 day old babies and now they are almost big enough to move into the main chicken population. Farmer Jeff has been after me to move them for a while. As the protective Chicken Mama that I am, I have had a time letting them grow up and leave the nest/garage...sigh...

The one above that is peering into the camera lens is the one that I have bonded with. She is a young Buff Orpington Hen. Once she is full grown she should look like this:

Right now all of the little kids are in 2 cages in the garage. We have 6 Ameraucanas and the one Buff Orpington. When I go into the garage twice a day to feed, water and check on the girls, I make a little clicking sound with my mouth. The Buff O always moves right up to the cage and sticks out her neck, just like she does in the picture above! She has really endeared herself to me!

In order to mix in with the other grown-up hens, they have to be at least 8 weeks old and big enough to defend themselves. Pecking order is a reality in the chicken coop and pen. The last 5 chicks we introduced were almost killed by Napoleon's gang. They are mean on his side of the pen. The side with all of the other chickens, the side with the 5 roosters (*%*#(@@#!!!) actually is a bit kinder.

I don't think I have mentioned that of the 3 bantam hens we have, one of them, Lacey, turned out to be ...GRrrrrrrrrrrrrr...another ROOSTER!!! I can't believe our luck!!! I couldn't have picked a cuter chicken to be a rooster. Lacey has now become Eric (a good friend of Farmer Jeff's in high school) but I keep thinking of Erik the Viking movie from Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. *Eric is the black and white one, a Seabright. The one right next to Eric is Sarah, another favorite. She is an "Old English Game Bird".

Tomorrow we will begin the slow introduction of the kids to the other chickens. Don't worry, we will leave them in their safety cages for 7 days or so, or until they are big enough to take care of themselves. I think this is going to need to correspond with the exit of the roosters formerly known as hens, Duke/Duchess and Sophia. I never came up with a good boys name derived from Sophia! These guys have gotten HUGE.

I hope you are getting a good night's sleep, girls. Tomorrow is going to be a big day!

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chicken Mama Dreamin'

I love my dreams. They are so entertaining. Entertaining and strange, weird, creative and fun. My brother, Chris, is envious of my dreams. When we were living at home, upon waking we would stumble into the dining room and share our dreams. My mother was notorious for flying in her dreams. For this I was envious.

Another reason, I think, for my vivid and wild dreams, was the stories my mother would read to me at bed time. Not only did she read from two fabulous children's books that were filled with all of the classic fairy tales, she also read from a collection of Myths and Legends collected from around the world. I can't look at a goat without wondering if it really is an enchanted boy that drank water from a goat hoof print or if a moth trapped in the house could be a princess hiding from an evil witch. *This is actually a picture of the book my mom read from!

Last night I had one of my classic fragmented dreams. I dreamed that Jeff and I were hosting my friends daughters in San Diego and had decided to treat them to a ride on a boat. We were out in the boat and then the big surprise appeared! We had hired Navy Seals to do a demonstration for the girls. Just as the Seals dove into the water, the girls squealed and ran for their history textbooks.

They kept saying, these guys go back to the Greek period. I didn't have a clue what they were talking about until I saw their textbook. On the cover was a piece of Greek pottery with Navy Seals on it!

I end this posting with a challenge to all of the brilliant inventors out there. PLEASE create a system that will enable me to watch my dreams again in the morning! They are too good to only see once!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, November 09, 2007

Remembrances of the South

We came back from Louisiana and Mississippi with a lot of great foods, books and stories. How can you not when going to such a rich place? Rich in history, rich in cultures, rich in the value they place on the people that have created the history and culture.

On our way from Vicksburg, MS to Oxford, MS, in the pouring rain, we made a detour to Greenville, MS to eat tamales at Doe's Eats Place. We had NO idea what to expect, other than fabulous local-style tamales. Somewhere back in the 40's a Mexican man shared his tamales with the local folks, and a phenomenon was born. Some folks make them with corn husks, like Miz Elizabeth Scott, honored at SFA and recipient of the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award. The folks at Doe's wrap their tamales in paper before steaming them. When you order them, they are sold by the half dozen or dozen. We got ours to go (they are only open for seating at night) and ate them in the car with the classic accompaniment of soda crackers. YUM. The rental car smelled like those tamales for the rest of the trip!

We landed at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi on Thursday and were treated to the experience of being in a live radio show audience. The Thacker Mountain Radio show broadcasts every Saturday night on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. This show really took advantage of the folks in town for the symposium. We heard several stories from the Kitchen Sisters.
We were also treated to stories, fables and ramblings from the likes of Roy Blount, Jr. If you aren't familiar with this delightful man, a real story teller, you MUST seek out a book or two. He is a real gem.

In between the radio show and the catfish dinner, Farmer Chef Jeff and I ran over to our favorite southern-style restaurant for a snack, Ajax Cafe. We were looking forward to a nice little dish of their smoked catfish pate, but alas, they have foolishly removed it from the menu!!! How can we be appeased??? Well...we could always get a side dish of their fabulous vegetables. we did! We almost got in a fight over which veg sides we would order and finally agreed upon: squash casserole, broccoli and rice casserole, butter beans and turnip greens. OH MY GOD...sublime!!!

The conference included such varied topics as Savage Barbecue, an oral history of the Plate, along with the State of the plate, with discussions on Fried Chicken, Greens, Cornbread and Coconut cake. Mind you, this is all presented in a very scholarly yet playful way. This discussion/presentation was followed by the State of the pour, including demonstrations on how to make and pour a proper Sazerac.

Later that night we all hopped on to the freezing double decker buses that haul us out to the amazing Taylor Grocery for Fried Catfish, hushpuppies, french fries and coleslaw...and all the tea you can drink! For those so inclined, there is a limitless supply of Jack Daniels, one of the many sponsors of the symposium.

The next day started rather early but it was so worth getting there on time. The invocation was presented by an amazing poet, Kevin Young. I can't begin to explain the power of his words. I told him that I would like to post one of his poems and but first I need to send him an email telling him which one I would like to post. Honestly, if you have even the slightest inclination, PLEASE find one or more of his books and treat yourself to a day filled with rapture. He is that good.

We listened to: One opinion on the State of American Food History, by Professor Sandy Oliver; Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah: Gender and Food, by Professor Psyche Williams-Forson.
We also heard from Professor Bernard Herman - Thoughts on Class and Consumption; followed by Professor Charles Joyner and his talk on the Creolization of Southern Foodways.

Don't get the idea that this was a dry/boring day of just sitting. NONE of this was EVER boring! We had wonderful meals prepared by the likes of Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank, who prepared Nuevo South Fiesta, the melding of Mexican and traditional Southern ingredients: The Tabasco Hot Links lunch with hot links from Elgin, Texas and then boudin from T-Boy Berzas, sides from Steven Barber; the Taylor Grocery catfish dinner, the Viking Range lunch prepared by Hugh Acheson, Edward Lee, and April McGregor; and then the all Pig dinner from Donald Link, Frank Stitt, Ed Mitchell, Steven Barber and Sean Brock.

We were treated (yes, yet another treat!) to a drum and fife ensemble. I will add the name once I find it...the young lady playing the flute/fife and leading the drumming procession is the granddaughter of the man that started this tradition in Mississippi. The sound of the drums and flute woke up my heart...I found myself on the edge of tears and many folks were swept up into the rhythm and were dancing with wild abandon. It was incredible.

Before the incredible Saturday night pork fest, we were at a book signing reception. Farmer Chef Jeff and I did some serious damage there (and at a couple of other stops along the way) but I just couldn't pass up having my books signed.

We were a little surprised, okay, VERY surprised that the featured speaker the next morning, the last day, was none other than Alice Waters. Alice is credited with bringing the concept of seasonal and locally grown to the US after traveling around France after college. She has had very good luck with hiring chefs, such as Jeremiah Tower, Paul Bertolli and David Lebovitz. She presented her plan of the Edible Schoolyard to the gathered clan of SFA and she came off a bit like Alice in Waterland. I believe in teaching kids how to grow vegetables, in teaching them how to eat properly to avoid a disaster of an obese population, but I kinda have to draw the line when Alice thinks is it is the sole responsibility of the schools to teach kids about food. What about the parents? What about other parts of the community, such as farmers markets, their churches, the community at large. Okay...enough of my soap box. Needless to say, it provided a lively discussion at brunch!

I will close with a picture of my button haul. I found these buttons tucked away in a bin in the antique store in Pontchatoula.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eating in New Orleans

What you see in the picture above is the perfectly fried chicken and glorious side dishes served at Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans. This is a monument to what the Southern Foodways Alliance stands for. Willie Mae ran and owned the Scotch House, a neighborhood restaurant with amazing food. It was all but ruined after Hurricane Katrina. John Currence, chef/owner of City Grocery in Oxford, MS, and active member of SFA, spear headed the restorations efforts along with other SFA members who dedicated the last 1.5 years of of weekends to the restoration of Willie Mae's. She was able to see it reopen, but at 91 years of age, is now in a rest home. Willie Mae's grand-daughter has taken over the day to day operations and the kitchen is putting out exceptional food. You simply MUST go there if you are ever in New Orleans.

After stuffing ourselves to the gills, we then, of course, had a marvelous dinner at Rio Mar. We had met the chef, Adolfo Garcia, last year at the SFA symposium. He is so talented and puts out such pure and clean flavors of seafood. We were lucky enough to rendezvous with our friend, Seth Honeyman of Albany, New York, who, along with his pals, the Ecumenical Misfits of New York, are working on repairing a house for a family of 4. Seth donates his time, hard work, good humor and good cheer to the people of New Orleans, and we adore him!

The next day found us on the road, taking our lunch break in Ponchatoulas, Louisiana. It was far enough away from New Orleans to make it feel like we had left the big city, but happily it was still Louisiana. We selected a restaurant based upon the number of cars parked out front and totally lucked out! The restaurant, O'Donnell's, turned out some great food! We shared a tasty little cup of gumbo (the color of a deep browned nut) I had fried catfish (one of my all time favorite dishes!) with heavenly gulf shrimp strewn over it and Farmer Chef Jeff had a perfectly cooked piece of fish with
crab meat.

After we were done eating, feeling VERY full and sassy, we asked our server, April, what there was to do in town. She said, "There's not much to do here...go see the antique stores and visit the live we did both! Here is the alligator.

We had seen signs all over this little town indicating it was the strawberry center of Louisiana. October isn't exactly strawberry season, so there were no fresh strawberries to be found. We did go to a farm produce stand called the Berry Stand. They had lots of canned items, such as chow chow, bread and butter pickles, local honey and their own strawberry jam. They also had a large freezer section with such a bean selection it made Farmer Jeff swoon with envy. We bought some local honey, a jar of strawberry preserves, some hot sauce, some freshly roasted peanuts (YUM!) and some boiled green peanuts. You can fully comprehend that a peanut is a legume when eating boiled green peanuts. They taste like and have the consistency of beans. Why was I so surprised?

Once we left Ponchatoulas, LA, we turned on our directional device, Maggie, and she delivered us safely to the Duff Green Mansion in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was a pretty new house when the Civil War (known down in this south as the "War between the States") broke out and the owners realized the best idea to save the house was to declare it a hospital. Luckily we didn't stay in the room that was once the surgery. Apparently there are some ghosts/spirits that visit that room. Hm...not the experience I was looking for. The house itself is beautiful and we loved staying there.

The next posting will include our dinner in Vicksburg and then the SFA Symposium. So much to write about, so little time!

Labels: , , , ,