Sunday, June 3, 2012

Poppies Dancing in the Gentle Breeze

After several days of hot and very humid weather, the air was crisp yesterday morning as I walked out to the garden. A breeze, crisp and almost cool seemed to make everything brighter and a deeper color. For the first time in weeks some of the garden chores did not seem overwhelming! The air was light, and not longer heavy on my shoulders. As I was cutting flowers for bouquets I noticed the leaves low to the ground had captured the heat and the humidity. There was a distinct change about 6 inches from the ground. (CLICK on the photo to make it bigger, and like you are here!)

The earth continually amazes me. The soil that sustains us, also filters the water, and along with diverse organisms decomposes and starts new life. Yesterday as I was digging a grave in the pasture for a hen who was victim of a hawk attack I was struck with the balance provided by the earth and the soil. So simple it seems, and taken for granted....yet complex and vital for our lives. Soil, a perfect creation.

Every year, I like to try a new type of flower or vegetable. This year one of my new trials is Poppies. I sowed about a cup of seeds in a new little field in the Kitchen Garden. After adding composed chicken manure, tilling it in well, and raking it smooth it looked perfect. I surround all my plots, and add thin string "guide lines" to row crops so Emmy will know not to walk on them. I call them Dog Lines. The string is old tobacco twine cotton string (I have no idea how I came to this huge spool of was from one many parents things after they passed). After stopping Emmy a few times when she touches the string, she now understands, and will jump over the row, or go around the stringed plot. She is so smart.  BACK to the Poppies. They are beautiful dancing on delicately thin stems. Like wild flower plots the grass grows among the poppies, as the poppy plant is very delicate and weeding would destroy more than it would help....but they seem to be thriving. I hope next year the seeds will have scattered with the wind and volunteers will be all over the farm. I do love a volunteer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Sun Came out just for a second and I dashed out with my camera

For the first time in several days the gray disappeared when the sun showed it's face for a few minutes today. I dashed outside with my camera to try to capture some of the beautiful sights for you to see. The roses are continuing to open more each day, and the gardens are coming up from seed. According to the weather forecast, there will be a big rain beginning Saturday night into Sunday. This pleases me as there are many, many little seed under the ground waiting. The big vegetable and flower garden are planted in long rows, quiet until the rain comes. Watching as the wonder of a seed erupting into a plant never ceases to amaze me. Such a miracle really....a wonderful design.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How DO you cook Kale and bisquits

I was thinking tonight as I was cooking Kale that many people do not know how to cook fresh greens! I cook them this way partly from watching my mother cook turnip greens and partly from reading cook books. I hope this helps you enjoy one of the joys of keeping a kitchen garden.

Pick the greens just before cooking, careful to avoid weeds, and heavy stems. Put them in a clean sink, and fill with cold water. Swish in the water, and pick up small bunches loosely to allow the water to drip from the leaves as you put them into a clean bowl or pot. Empty the water, rinse the sink, and rewash. Do this at least 3 times, or until the water is perfectly clear when you are finished. Amazing how much pollen is on the leaves. Set the washed greens aside.

In a heavy big stock pot pour 1/4 cup good olive oil, 1 large yellow onion chopped, 1 slice dry rubbed black forest bacon (no nitrates) chopped, sea salt 1/2t. cook on medium until onions translucent. Add 2 cups chicken broth (or veg. organic, or made from scratch) bring to low simmer, add greens. Turn once to coat and bring onions on top. Cover with lid, and simmer 20 min. Add more salt, fresh ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.Reduce broth if desired by simmering more. Cut up greens with 2 knives if desired before serving in a bowl with biscuits or cornbread. A Meal!

Biscuits: Preheat oven 425F. In large wide bowl put 2 cups unbleached flour (I use King Arthur), 1 t. seasalt, 1/2 baking soda, 2.5 t. baking powder(be sure no aluminum in it, I use wholefoods brand) and mix well with wire whisk; cut in 3 T. butter until size of small peas; add 1 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once; stir from outside of bowl towards center, like folding until dough comes together. Will be wet. Heavily butter a pyrex, pottery, or ceramic baking pan. Add 1/2 cup of dry flour along side of the moist biscuit mixture. Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop up biscuits with the dry flour to keep it from sticking. With your hands softly form by rolling in your palms round balls. Add one at a time to the pan until all dough is used. Flatten each with your knuckles and flour. Bake at 425F 10 min. then lower heat to 405F for another 15 or until lightly golden brown, do not over cook. Remove from oven and brush with butter. Good even on the second day if kept in the frig.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kale is Out of Control

The Kale I planted last fall is absolutely out of control in the one raised bed in the kitchen garden. I have eaten kale almost everyday for weeks, and now I am begging people to take some home with them!

The turnip greens are blossoming beautifully for the bees, so will leave it for a week longer before taking up to make room for asparagus crowns. Putting in 40 more soon.

English Peas, and multicolored beans are up, waiting for a trellis. Oh yes, and the Horse Radish root I put in just last year is up and beautifully lush on the south side of the Pullet House. I do love a Perennial vegetable (is horse radish a veg, or a herb...not sure). The idea of having Asparagus and horse radish for years to come is comforting. A sense of permanence.

Thinking of comfort, I have been struck again by the beauty of this place. It is gorgeous: Bright, bright green, with roses and bachelor buttons just starting. And the Bird Song is like a symphony. In early morning I am awakened by the birds singing and the soft light as it filters through the branches into the house.

Walking outside in early morn to see what the night has given, the "sound of quiet" is profound. Only the Gentle Breeze, Bird Song, the Hum of the Bees, and Silence. I take the quiet for granted, as it is normal here...but often visitors say, "Listen". "To What?" I Say...."to the silence" the visitor says as we stand still. And with a sigh they say, "I have not heard that in a long, long time".

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So Much Happening...The Day is a Whirl of Activity

Not sure where to start, as so much is going on at the same time!

Spring is a frantic time. Getting all the seed into the ground in front of the next rain; Repairing fences; Mowing and trimming paths and grass; Putting up new bluebird houses; Watching over a hen with chicks; Planning for the name a few! Last night I was exhausted, and this morning I was expecting to be stiff and sore, but was really fine. I think I have gained amazing strength and endurance from farming full time for the past 3 years!

Life is so uncertain. All we REALLY have is the day in front of us, minute by minute. I greet the new day with a cup of steaming coffee and quiet with the dogs to sit or stand in awe of the miracle of the morning light. Never old, no matter how many times I see it. It is a miracle. It is magic. It is perfectly designed. The freshness, and promise of things to come. I hungrily breath it in. I am so humbled and so grateful. This time of solitude, and meditation is priceless for me.

A list on paper some days, and in my minds eye others. Yesterday, with the help of a wonderful man with a bobcat moved several stacks of rocks to a new wall I am putting up; moved a cast iron bathtub to the pasture; and generally did work that would take many people several hours in less than 5 minutes! A dry stacked rock wall along the side garden is growing out of the mountain of field rock. Rocks so intricately fit together. A wonder of physics, and a beautiful sight. I love spending time putting these rocks together...the process, and the outcome is gratifying.

Then later in the day, a neighbor farmer and good friend came over with a 1942 Farm All tractor to furrow up my big vegetable/flower garden. Then we spent at least a half hour picking up rocks...again. (this is the 3rd year now that we thought we had them ALL!) A beautiful sight...a freshly plowed and furrowed garden spot. Lovely...the promise of new beginnings. I was able to put in a long, long row of beets before the storm clouds, grey and blue gathered over us, and the wind suddenly picked up and started throwing branches everywhere. Mac became frantic, as he is terrified of storms, and Emmy thought it was a game and did not want to go inside! Oh me, what a sight we were as I was trying to get inside, and Emmy wanted to play...and run in the whirling wind!

The flower gardens are doing well. Time soon for close up tiny weeding...very time consuming and detailed work, but well worth it. The tiny flowers, and herb boom afterwards. Then in another week I will mulch them..this makes the rest of the summer fairly easy, so far as preventing weeds. I have several varieties of zinnias, cosmos, batchelor buttons, english roses, larkspur, bee balm, hydrangeas, confederate jasmine, and many herbs. Many volunteers..and you know I do love a volunteer, often re-routing the entire garden path around a volunteer.

The Java Chosen Ones selected from the flock as the best so far as breed standard are back with me again! The lovely couple who bought them last fall, are moving out of state and could not take they have come home. So funny to watch them, go into their old hen house,and immediately go back on the roost poles...they knew they were home! The first day out of 9 hens I had 6 eggs, and the next day 3 eggs, so I know they are happy. So happy to have them back!

It is raining now a steady soft rain. The temperature has dropped into the 50's. The dogs are sleeping a sweet dreamy dog sleep with legs running in a dream field and whimpering softly. The house is quiet. The tick of the clocks the only other sound. Life is wonderfully good. It is a great adventure and I am grateful to have become who I am...a mother, a farmer, a artist, a steward, a nurse, and a dreamer.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Springish midday Dinner

My plate today was so, well..."Spring-ish"...I thought I would show it to you!

The Chicken Pie, is actually called, "Moravian Chicken Pie" and is from the American Test Kitchen Magazine, "Cook's Country". It is a recipe from Winston Salem, NC, and really comes together nicely. Yes, yes, it IS a lot of trouble..but well worth it! The crust is perfect, and very brown underneath as well as on top. The chicken mixture is deliciously rich. It keeps well in the refrigerator, and can be eaten cold with one hand...much like pies I have seen in the UK. I found the recipe on another blog, Dark Side of the Frig, so here it is. I used fresh organic chicken. 3 thighs,3 legs, and 1 large breast, all with skin ON. Brown them in olive oil on all sides;take out of skillet/cool and remove the skin. When completely cool, remove all bones/skin etc. Same oil/chicken fat to use for the roux when making the gravy. It is RICH...but only about 3 T oil all together. If you have any questions can post exact recipe from Cook's Country. Email me!

The Quinoa Salad is fresh and great for several days in the refrigerator. Cook 1 cup of quinoa 1:1 with water 5 min. and put lid and wait 15 min. All water should be absorbed. Mix together: fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, fresh mint-all washed and chopped finely; 3 cloves fresh garlic finely choppped; 1/2 red onion finely chopped; fresh ground black pepper; 1 can (2 cups) garbanzo beans drained; the juice of 3 limes and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix well. Add liberal amounts of sea salt to taste. Very good salty.

English Peas and red onion- 2T. olive oil in skillet. 1/2 red onion chopped and heated until soft but not brown in pan. Add 2-3 cups frozen petit green peas. cook 3-4 min. do not over cook. Add sea salt /pepper/red pepper flakes to taste. This is one of my FAVORITE "Quick Meals".

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Correction...WOOD DUCK not a Mallard in March 2 post

I learn something new everyday!

My middle son Alex tells me the duck that came down the chimney a few weeks ago is a WOOD duck not a Mallard! He took ONE look at the photo, and said, "Wood Duck..look at the mask around the eyes". He is surely right. It is his field of study, and his business, Southern Wildlife and Land Management. As a young boy Alex roamed the beautiful woodlands here everyday. Soon he knew the forests, and waterways over most of the state, like most people know the streets and landmarks of their city!

So forgive me for incorrectly calling this beautiful duck a Mallard in the March 2 post!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Double Rainbow After a Early Morning Spring Rain

The rain came suddenly this morning. A strong downpour then as quickly as it came the sun came out. The light was bright as a crystal jewel...and arching North to South a dazzling rainbow! A faint second rainbow was just over the primary one. It was a precious gift ... the future holds such promise and I am humbly grateful.

Extremely broody Java Hen and her Chicks

This old white Java hen is a faithful mother to her brood of 8 chicks. She sat on the eggs in the nestbox daily, with me taking her off every night to remove any new laid eggs, and put her back. Not a sound from her, as if she understood I meant her no harm. Then after 4 chicks hatched over 2 days, one chick was cold and limp as it was outside of her warm feathers. I put this lifeless chick in the incubator. The next morning it was up and chirping! Because the hen usually will get off the nest to take her hatched chicks to food and water by the second day, leaving the eggs to die, I put the rest of the eggs in the incubator. The hen and 4 chicks went to the "pullet house" to stay inside with a light, water, and 24% chick feed. The hen kept them under her. Amazing to she showed them how to drink and eat. The cluck of a hen with chicks is unmistakeable. As the chicks in the incubator hatched out, I left each 1-2 days to gain strength. Then I took them one by one to the mother hen at night, and put them under her.

I have tried all sorts of ways to keep chicks with hens that hatch them...but this is the only way that has worked for me. Many times 2-3 would hatch, and the hen would take them off the nest and the other eggs abandoned.

Today I let them out into the wire lot (hardware cloth to keep out the snakes that LOVE to gobble up little chicks!). The mother is showing them how to scratch the dirt, and look for bugs. Lovely the way the mother shows them by doing. A lot like people. Children learn by what they see, not by what they are told.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mallard Hen in the House, Indeed Life in the Country

This morning as I was sitting at the table in the kitchen, having my coffee and toast, Emmy finished her breakfast and went into the front of the house (as is her normal routine) to wait for me to go outside. Suddenly she reappears running and barking at me. "What is it?" I said to her, knowing this girl does not speak unless she has something important to say. She runs back into the long hall towards the living room...and Oh my goodness, what a surprise greeted me! There on the floor beside the big dog bed was a small DUCK. Well, the duck was as shocked to see me, as I was to see her! She immediately started flying towards windows, and all over the room! Emmy, the good poultry guard that she is...just simply stood still. While Mac, seeing a time of chaos in which to mask his greediness, ran back to the kitchen to eat what was left of Emmy's breakfast. Knowing poultry all too well...I backed away and closed the door to stand a few seconds quietly, in disbelief, and come up with a plan. Out to the barn I flew to grab a long handled butterfly net, long ago cast off by one of my boys, but saved and hanging on a hook just for such occasions. With the dogs whimpering and pacing in the kitchen, I quietly and slowly entered the hall. There sat the little hen under the edge of a curtain in the living room. Seeing me she flew up and just missed the hanging blown glass hall light fixture and up the stairs. Quietly she settled again under a curtain edge with her face hidden. Scooping her up with the net, she did not struggle. A beautiful creature, with delicately webbed feet. I managed to hold her with one hand for a quick photo before taking her out the front door. The instant I opened my hand, she she was in flight. The next sight and sound was quite I released her, the high pitched notes of wings in flight came from the living room chimney top...a Mallard Drake as best I could tell, immediately joined her in flight in front of my eyes! He had been waiting for her perked on the chimney top. I DO love living deep in the country!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Signs of Spring, Broody Java Hens and Volunteers

It has been a mild winter this year...but a long one in many ways other than the weather. This morning the feel of spring was unmistakeable. The air cool, and the sun, bright and crystalline; New tender volunteer shoots of Catnip, Peppermint, and Bee Balm are peeping out of the damp earth in the pasture, and along the rock walls. I tend to leave "volunteers" where they spring up, knowing they will be happy and do well there.

The big seed packets of flowers are waiting on the kitchen bench for the right weather to plant. The old favorites: Cosmos, Zinnias, Larkspur, and Sunflowers, but trying Indigo for the first time, and excited about this link to history, and the potential for dyeing new spun wool.

This year I will be selling nice big cut Farm Flower Bouquets at Whole Foods Market in Cary, NC. I hope these will be available by the middle of April. I will mix together what is blossoming in the gardens, including herbs. These bouquets are what I have cut for my farmhouse for years. English Roses, Hydrangeas, Larkspur, Cosmos, Zinnias, Catnip, Mint, Oregano, Bay...and what ever else is beautiful that day. Seasonal cut flowers, Locally grown, Organically nurtured. I am excited and honored to share what God has given me. Fresh flowers on the kitchen is a way of life.

I have 2 huge rock piles waiting for me to put into the rock walls. This is a several day job, and I will pencil it into my week. "Good exercise", I tell myself when I get tired. And, I do like to see the result.

I have a Old Mama Java Hen who wants to set all the time. She is devoted, and tenacious with her mothering duties. I identify with her, and understand her. She is a Java and a sweet hen. She is setting on 12 eggs. I mark each egg with a pencil X, so I can check the nest daily and take out any eggs the other hens lay in her nest that day. I plan to move her out during the night with her eggs to the "Pullet House" so she will have the necessary isolation to devote to her brood. If left in the main hen house, the hens and the rooster will likely kill the chicks, either by mistake, or with purpose thinking they are a threat. Either way, the hen will be much less nervous, and take better care of her brood if she has a quiet, safe place without chaos....much like human mothers.

The Periwinkle Meadow is awash with violet blue blossoms scattered on the verdant ground cover vines. The honeybees were humming softly as I walked by. Spring is surely around the corner.

I am a steward of this beautiful place. The woods are ALIVE this time of year. This morning the mosses and lichens were ablaze in the barren forests. With everything brown and gray...the bright lime greens, and dusty green shine like jewels as I walk with the dogs through the old growth forest. A Cathedral. A Church.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cookies...and Cold Milk...what could be better?

Could not get these cookies out of my made up a batch for supper! The perfect recipe, crispy outside,with a soft rich chocolate inside. From American Test Kitchen, how could it be bad?
Absolutely delicious with cold milk. Mac was going crazy while they were cooking. He does not understand that chocolate is not for dogs.

A Hearty Winter Green Stew ...High Ground Farm in Slumber

The air is cold and crisp. The wind a fierce gust that takes my breath, as I walk the dogs this morning. But in its sleep, there is a nice surprise in the garden. Bright green Turnip, Mustard and Kale tops that have thrived through the hot summer, the fall and now winter. These made for a hearty stew of winter greens,potatoes, mushrooms, fresh thyme and ham. What a delight to eat by the fire. Complete with crispy cornbread! All from the Harnett County soil...what more could one want?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Java Chick Order List

There will be a limited number of the rare Java day old chicks for sale this year. White, Black, or Auburn. The Java Chicken is on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy list as threatened,with less than 1000 breeding pairs,and 5000 birds in the world.

Not only are they a wonderful dual purpose bird, they are sweet spirited, and beautiful!

Email me now to be placed on the "Wait List" for the number of UNSEXED day old chicks you would like. I will have a very limited number this year, so act fast. I will contact you as the eggs are confirmed viable, then again as soon as the chicks hatch.

Pick up from the farm within 36 hours of hatch is required, as I do not ship chicks.

Black Java Chicks, unsexed-25.00 each
White Java Chicks, unsexed-30.00 each
Auburn Java Chicks, unsexed-40.00 each