Wednesday, February 22, 2012

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in't

                                             Shakespeare - The Tempest 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.  
                      ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cauliflower and Pumpkin Caserole

This was a recipe I discovered a few years ago and really liked.  Now that we are in winter, most of us are looking for something new to do with our veggies.  You will find this quite simple and a nice break from your regular flavor profile. This is unique comfort food.

  • 1 c bread crumbs
  • 1/2 hulled toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 3/4 c crumbled goat cheese
  • 2-3 lb pumpkin peeled, seeded and quartered
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • t tbs flour
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 c half and half
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine pumpkin seeds, bread crumbs, butter, and half of the thyme in a bowl.  Stir the goat cheese making sure not to over blend, leaving the goat cheese chunky. In a separate bowl combine the flour and the spices.  Cut the pumpkin into 1/4 inch strips and the cauliflower as well.  Place one third of the pumpkin in a buttered 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and sprinkle with 2 tsp of flour mixture. Continue by layering a third of the cauliflower and 3 tsp of flour mixture, third of the pumpkin, etc. Pour the cream over the entire casserole.  Bake in the oven on a cookie sheet for 35 minutes.

Cooks Note
  • use those left over bread ends going bad for your bread crumbs.  Just crumble by hand.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tips for building a chicken coop...

It is the time of year for building your chicken run in anticipation of spring chicks.  Here are some tips I gathered from my friends at TEG!
  • super nifty idea- Build a brooder/nest so you can lock a hen in there if you want to.  It can come in handy  for different reasons.  It just adds flexibility to your ability to manage your hens.  You can build with a space between where you can lock a hen in the nest and give her food, 
  • water, and some room to go poop.    This has also can come in handy for a few things, a broody while hatching, a place to isolate an injured chicken, a broody buster, many different uses. The builder of this brooder said they would build it bigger if they were to do it again.
  • If you elevate something, elevate it enough for the chickens to get under it.  This applies to an elevated coop or things inside the coop like nest boxes or maybe waterers and feeders.  And in the coop, consider the height of the bedding if you use any.  If chickens cannot get under anything, it becomes a great place for Mommy Mouse to raise a family, or possibly rats, snakes, or other things you don't want around can hide under there.  Also consider that you might need to get an injured or sick chicken that does not want to be caught from under a coop or somewhere inside your coop.  Also, they can lay eggs anywhere.  You need access and chickens need access.
  • Size of the coop and run matters.  There is no one answer for everyone on how big the coop and run need to be because we all have different climates and different management techniques, but build it bigger than you think you need to.  It gives you more flexibility in how you manage your chickens, it allows you to possibly expand the number of chickens, it helps reduce the chances of social problems from overcrowding like featherpicking and cannibalism, and the bigger it is the less work I have to do.  If you squeeze them in a small space, you probably have to do a lot more poop management, for example.  
  • Most building material comes in 4' and 8' dimensions.  If you size your coop in increments of 4' and 8', you can use the material more efficiently.  For example, you can probably build an 8' x 12' for about the same price as a 7' x 11' and have less waste and cutting.  

  • Chickens prefer low nesting boxes.  My hens all used the same box on the ground. On the left they have created several nesting boxes for a larger pen.
  • If you have the slope of the roof on the north and south then you can have a steep pitch on the south facing roof and cover the roof with *corrugated pvc then have as many windows as possible on the south wall you really only need lights for for when you go in at night.
  • Slope any roof, whether in the coop or the run, so the water flows away from the run, not into the run.  Sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people don't do this.  Also when positioning your coop and run, locate them where water does not run into them.  Build them on slight rises or divert rainwater run-off with a ditch or, my preference, a berm.  And try to position you run where any water that does get in drains.   This is super important here in the NW!
  • Keep any width that you're going to cover, coop or run, to 8' maximum.  The wider you make it, the stronger and more expensive the material to support snow, ice or wind load will be.  8' is plenty wide enough for you to be able to work inside if you have a walk-in coop and does not really waste space.  You can span that width reasonably.
  • Ventilation is extremely important in the coop, but you don't want drafts directly on the chickens if you have cold winters.  Wind chill can be an issue, but your big risk in cold weather is moisture build-up in the coop.  That can cause frostbite.  Chickens handle cold much better than heat, so you really need a lot of ventilation in the summer if you are in a hot climate, but they need ventilation in the winter too.  The way I recommend getting around the draft versus ventilation issue is to have overhangs on your roof and leave pretty large openings up there.  As long as the openings are over their heads when they are roosting, they are out of drafts.  A cross breeze over their heads won't hurt them.  The overhangs will help keep rain out.  In the summer, openings low to let in more ventilation is great, but you need to be able to block off any low ventilation openings in cold winter weather to avoid drafts directly in them.  Cover any opening with hardware cloth or chicken wire so predators cannot climb in.  
  • You can put in doors so you can collect the eggs without going in the coop.  They can be drafty, may let in rainwater, and may be weak spots that can allow predators access, depending on how you build them.  It is important to look in the coop when you collect eggs. Folks have  found  possums, snakes, and dead or injured chickens in the coop when they looked inside.  You can see the back side nest opening to the left

  • You can make roosting perches removable by drilling a hole slightly larger than the large nail you drive through your roosting perch.  You can remove perches for cleaning and greater mobility in the coup.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Italian Sausage Shepherd's Pie

This is a wonderful meal that is really quite easy to prepare.  Everyone will be impressed by the twist on this old classic.
  • 4 carrots chopped bite sized
  • 2 parsnips chopped bite sized
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 Italian Sausages Sliced into 1 inch Pieces
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 tbs soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • leftover mashed potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl toss parsnips and carrots with 2 Tbs olive oil.  Sprinkle vegetables with salt and bake on a cookie sheet until fork-tender; about 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until just tender and then add sausage. Cook sausage until browned and onions are caramelized.  Add flour and stir for 1 minute on medium heat. Add wet ingredients and stir until bubbling. Add roasted veggies and stir.

Pour into baking dish and cover with mashed potatoes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown..

Cooking definitions:
saute- To cook food quickly, using a small amount of fat/oil  without browning.  It helps cook flavors together. It is important not to over crowd ingredients when sauteing. 
fork-tender- When something is cooked to the point that a fork easily penetrates it all the way through.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Our Fruit is for Others

We all know that when you plant an apple seed you do not get carrots. What you sew is what you reap and metaphorically each of us is like an garden.

Each piece of us is like a tree or plant producing fruit.  Here I am with all my aspects and these aspects are producing fruit in my life.  The thing is, our fruit is not for us!  Our fruit is for others.

What are you producing?  Is there unforgiveness in your life?  Did you plant it and a bitter tree has sprung up?  Bitter fruit is not what we want to pass out to friends and family--let alone be known for.

Are you sewing seeds of anger in yourself and others?  Those are fruits no one wants to eat.

Maybe you have been raised on a diet of yucky fruits, and you don't even know what sweet luscious fruit there is to be partaking of.

Well, you don't have to worry.  If you need some good seed, just ask.  Go to the source.  Love is right where you are right now waiting to show up in technicolor.  No longer do you need to live in the black and white and gray of Kansas, but rather OZ is ready and waiting.  The Kingdom of Heaven is here!

Maybe you feel as far from Heaven as you can get.  No matter, ask.  Ask with an open heart that the One who gives all good and perfect gifts would give you fresh ??? (help, direction, purpose, healing, etc.)

After you ask listen for love.  Maybe it is a feeling that overcomes you.  Maybe it will show up as a picture in your head.  Maybe it will show up as one word you hear in your head or even audibly.  Maybe a letter, phone call, or? Wait for it.  Expect it.  Believe in it. Let it be beyond your ability to ask imagine or dream.  Don't box love up and tell the Divine how it's going to be.

Relax knowing that Love has your best interest at heart.  Love sees all and knows all.  Let love serve you in ways you don't dictate.  Get excited to see it show up.  Remove all your ideas of it and let the Divine be fresh and wonderful.

Letting go is so refreshing.  Trust is so much better than struggling against reality.  Trust Love.  Make it your purpose every day, every minute.  Soon you will have a bumper crop and folks will be flocking for another taste of the goodness you produce!