My chicken surprised me

First, let me apologize for my absence. I got sick on December 28, a mere cold supposedly, but it laid me low for two months. And being old, I also had visits to my GP, urgent care, the ER, and the dentist for one thing or another in the last two and a half months. The result was that my energy has been sapped and my garden neglected. It has been all I can do to just maintain our four hens, and keep up with composting chores.

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Princess Ariel is the white hen in front, with Dino-peep (a barred rock) right behind her. The two black ones in back are Princess Aurora and old Chicken Little, both Black Sex-linked hens. We are getting three eggs a day, almost every day. Can’t keep up with them!

It is spring, and three out of four of our chickens are now laying. We are awash in eggs. I devil some of them, make 5-egg frittatas and 6-egg German pancakes, and even freeze some of them for use during the winter when my hens stop laying. (To freeze eggs, break them into a bowl, then break the yokes and mix them slightly with a dash of salt. Pour the eggs into a small Ziploc bag, squeeze out the air, and freeze them flat. I freeze them four to a baggie for our winter scrambled eggs. Or two to a baggie for use in baking.)

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This is Huevos Rancheros season as well. I melt grated Mexican cheese onto a corn tortilla, and top with a fried egg and salsa. That orange is from our tree. I LOVE springtime here on our little urban farmlet.

But how did my new hen surprise me? Well, I thought Princess Aurora, my white hen with black tail and wing feathers, was an Americauna (or however that is spelled), and I was expecting her to lay blue- or green-colored eggs. Nope. They are light brown.

Back to the internet I went, where I figured out that Princess Ariel is a Light Sussex breed of hen. They are a nice meat and egg breed, although we don’t eat our chickens. Our spoiled girls get laying pellets, and a daily feeding of scratch to give them something to do, plus mealworms and an assortment of seasonal organic greens. They have a nice enclosed cage that keeps them safe at night, plus an open run for daytime use. They have a good life, I think, plus a very generous vacation and retirement package.

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The nest box of our chicken coop is decorated with art on the outside, and the cage is lit with a solar light. They can roost inside or outside the nest box at night. Chicken Little is old and prefers the shelter of the nest box these days. The area to the left of the cage is fenced, but open on the top for daytime use. If the girls ran free in the yard, there would one NO greenery left. And there would be chicken poop on my pathways. So they have their part of the yard, and I have mine.

The Light Sussex is a friendly breed, and Princess Ariel seems very people oriented. She tries to follow me as best she can inside her cage and run, always interested in where I am more than where her fellow hens are. I suspect that she associates me with getting fed, and that she is more food focused than the others, but who knows.

Despite my neglect of the vegetable garden, the fruit orchard is providing. The number of lines this year is astounding. These are Bearrs limes, which turn yellow and fall from the tree when ripe. This is about a third of what is on the counter now, awaiting squeezing and freezing.

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This is about five pounds of limes.

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I squeeze the limes and pour the juice into ice cube trays for freezing. When the juice is frozen, I pop the cubes into a Ziploc freezer bag. When we want some limeade, we just put a couple of cubes into a glass of water and add a teaspoon of sugar, plus regular ice cubes when the lime cubes have melted.

 

It is also navel orange season. But we have rats in the yard, and they like oranges too.

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I would go out to get an orange for breakfast only to find that the rats had beaten me to it.

Sadly, the rats got more than half of my orange crop, and it wasn’t a particularly large crop with year. I did manage to trap one in a snap trap, but I haven’t been diligent about my trapping.

The rats also ate ALL of my snow pea crop as soon as the seeds sprouted, all of the bok choy and komatsuna, and all of my Lacinato kale. It seems that they don’t like leeks, so I do have a dozen leeks that are nearly ready to harvest. I have given up on my winter garden and am about to plant my summer garden of tomatoes and bell peppers. Unless I give up on that too before planting. Between being constantly sick, and the ongoing rat problem, I am pretty depressed about gardening. Encouragement would be appreciated.

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Hope springs eternal in the garden, and this August Price peach flower bud holds out hope of a peach crop down the road. There are about 80 blossoms on this semi-dwarf tree, the most ever. The abundant rain this fall has been a boon to my mini-orchard.

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The tiny Garden Gold dwarf peach tree in a pot is blooming nicely this spring. I never get any peaches from it, but I am hopeful this year.

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The Florida Prince peach tree is loaded with fruit, despite having been attacked by shot hole borer beetles. It seems to have fought off the infestation and is bearing a bumper crop. Maybe all the water helped.

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Our Katy apricot was LOADED with blossoms last week. I am hoping to get some apricots, unless the birds get them all.

With rats, birds, possums, and pests, it is hard to get a crop these days. A changing climate isn’t helping either, what with weather that is too warm, too dry, or just unpredictable. But I keep trying.

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A volunteer tomato plant is growing nicely in my Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. So far the nights have been too cool for it to set fruit, but look–tomato flowers in March!

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Deer Tongue and Black-seeded Simpson lettuces have self-seeded themselves in some of my little garden boxes. I see a salad in our future.

And so my garden and I struggle on. Best wishes for your spring garden!

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Making pork pibil

I have made pork pibil before, using my Sun Oven to cook it. A Sun Oven is a solar oven that uses only the power of the sun; it is a great way to save energy. But given the short days in January and limited sunlight, I made a modified pork pibil in the crockpot.

I started with a recipe from the New York Times, and modified it. I didn’t use banana leaves and I couldn’t find my package of achiote paste. I swear I have some in my cupboard somewhere. But God only knows where. So is it really pork pibil without the achiote paste? No clue. Also, I added carrots. Why? Again, no clue. “I had carrots” is as good a reason as any.

Another variation is that I added a bit of honey because standard pork pibil is a bit too sour. I don’t like black pepper at all, nor spicy hot foods. So I left out the black pepper and reduced the amount of chile powder from 1 T to 1/2 tsp. If you look at the original recipe from the NY Times, you will see that it calls for marinating the pork in a rub. I didn’t do that either.

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I served the pork pibil with corn tortillas and lime wedges.

Here is what I did.

Pork Pibil, aka Mexican-style pork tenderloin

1 pork tenderloin (1.5 lbs)

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 yellow onion, cut in half and sliced thinly

1 T honey

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch long chunks

juice and grated rind from two oranges

juice from two limes

1/2 C water

Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook for 6 hours on high. Serve the pork and onions with corn tortillas and lime wedges, with the carrots on the side.

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The orange and lime juices were from my mini-orchard. I used juice that I froze from last year’s crop. Here is a shot of this year’s crop of oranges, with the first one ready to harvest. It sure is fun cooking with things I grow in my garden.

 

 

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Morning Glory muffins–Where have you been all my life?

Morning Glory muffins have been around since 1978, but I just heard about them. They are my new favorite thing. So easy, so nutritious. I modified a recipe from the New York Times; their version was a modification of the original recipe, published by Earthbound Farms.

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Yes, this is my photograph. It was also my breakfast!

The original Earthbound recipe had pineapple and grated coconut in it, and a whopping 1 and 1/4 C of sugar. The New York Times version had some whole wheat flour and coconut oil in it, and 3/4 C sugar, but no pineapple or vanilla. Both versions had way too much sugar for my taste, and I don’t care much for coconut. I also thought a tablespoon of cinnamon would be overwhelming. So here is my take on Morning Glory muffins. They are just right for me.

MORNING GLORY MUFFINS

Dry Ingredients

1 C all purpose flour

3/4 C whole wheat flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 C brown sugar

1 medium apple, peeled and grated

2 medium carrots, scraped and grated

3/4 C walnut pieces

3/4 C raisins

1/2 C melted butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in a 12-muffin tin.

Stir together the dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix together the “wet ingredients” in the order given in a second bowl.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until moistened.

Divide the thick batter into the 12 cups and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. After five minutes, remove muffins from the tin. Store in a container at room temperature for up to three days. Betcha they won’t last that long.

Good modifications of my recipe would be substituting golden raisins for regular raisins, topping each muffin with a walnut half, or using pecans instead of walnuts.

The only ingredients in these muffins that were from my garden were the eggs. Princess Aurora, our Black Sex-linked hen, has been laying steadily since late December. Princess Ariel, our white Ameraucuna, is still growing up, but at 7 months, she should start laying at any time.

 

 

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A new start in a new year

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? My husband and I caught colds on a trip to Cambria before Christmas and I am just now getting around to my list of resolutions. It is pretty much the same list every year. You know: lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, keep the garden tended, conserve natural resources, live a green life, etc. This year, I am taking a short-cut and just making a simple resolution. “Do Better.”

Naturally, I have subheadings under that. For one, I plan to be a better follower of the Slow Food movement. That means choosing local foods as much as possible and cooking things from scratch. It also means learning about and promoting endangered local foods on the Ark of Taste. To that end, I renewed my membership in Slow Food, USA. You can join at slowfoodusa.org.

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I have vowed that I going to eat locally grown foods and also try to have something from my garden every day, as much as possible. That includes homegrown eggs from my tiny flock of four hens. Princess Aurora, my 7-month-old Black Sex-linked hen, began laying the last week of December. Right now, she is my only laying hen. Princess Ariel, the white Ameraucuna, is still a pullet and not laying yet. But her comb and wattles finally seem to be growing and turning red, so I am hoping that she will come “online” sometime this month. Din0-peep, our nasty-tempered Barred Rock, is still molting. Chickens don’t lay when they molt. It will probably be February or even March  before she lays again. Old Chicken Little, a Black Sex-linked hen, is an elderly bird at this point. If we get any eggs at all from her this spring, I will be happy. She is enjoying her retirement.

With two brand new hens and two older birds, I expect production to top 500 eggs this year, possibly as many as 700. A chicken of these breeds in their first laying year should be able to produce 300-350 for Aurora and maybe 250-300 for Ariel. I would think that Dino-peep is capable of producing 200 eggs, with maybe a couple of dozen from Chicken Little. Time will tell.

One area of my life in which I would like to do better is logging in my produce harvests. I do an excellent job of record-keeping in terms of weighing the harvests and writing them down in a weekly engagement calendar. But I do a horrible job of transferring that data to Excel and then putting the totals on the sidebar to this blog. You will see that I did NO harvest updates in 2016. There is a lot of room for improvement in this area.

As far as green living goes, my rain barrels are full and my compost bin is well managed. By composting, I am able to keep a LOT of kitchen waste out of the sewer and about 10 big trash bags of leaves a year out of the landfill. The chickens are able to dispose of some of my kitchen and garden waste. They like peelings. So to myself I say, “Keep up the good work.”

After my surgery in early May for endometrial cancer, I decided to retire from my teaching job at the Orange County Conservation Corps. But we all need something meaningful to do to be happy. I have decided that my new “job” will be to cook more from scratch. This year is only 5 days old, but I already have made rye bread and bagels from scratch.

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This delicious ham sandwich was made with homemade rye bread, red oak leaf lettuce from our garden, and leftover Christmas ham.

After we had made all of the ham sandwiches that we could from our Christmas ham, the hambone went into soup. I made the bean soup in the crockpot using an heirloom bean mix (Tom’s Mix of 14 heirloom bean varieties) that I bought from Native Seed Search on our trip to Arizona last summer. This mix contains at least 14 of the following 23 bean varieties:

Anasazi

Aztec black (aka black turtle)

scarlet runner

Aztec white runner

Maicoba

Rio Zape (aka Hopi purple string)

moon bean (soldier)

yellow-eye (butterscotch calypso)

Four Corners gold (Zuni gold)

bolita

Colorado River (cut-short bean)

cranberry bean

yellow Indian woman

appaloosa

flor de mayo

Hopi traditional lima

cannelini

ojo de cabra

Christmas lima

pebble bean

Tohono O’odam pink

purple calypso

Dos Mesas

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I soaked the beans overnight in the crockpot and rinsed them well the next day.

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The result was a great soup, enough for four days.

The package came with several recipes. I modified the one called Southwest Heritage Bean Soup. Here is what I did.

1 C dry beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained.

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 stalks of celery, finely sliced

4 carrots, sliced

2 potatoes, diced

1 hambone

1 C cubed ham

1 T chile powder, optional (I left it out)

2 bay leaves

1 qt water or chicken broth (I used water, but chicken broth would have added more flavor)

1 can diced tomatoes

Put all ingredients into the crockpot in the order given and cook for about 8-10 hours on high. (At the end, you can add a tsp of salt if you want. Don’t add the salt in the beginning or it will toughen the beans.) Serve with cornbread. I like to put a cup of cranberries into my winter cornbread, either fresh, frozen or dried. This soup really stretches out the meat.

Nothing in my bean soup was homegrown, but we gathered the bay leaves from the wild on a recent trip to Cambria, CA. The carrots and celery were organic.

By making this delicious soup, I also helping to support dry land farmers of the Southwest. And by posting this recipe, I am promoting the use of heirloom varieties of beans, some of which are disappearing from grocery store shelves. If you don’t happen to be driving through Tucson where Native Seed Search is located, you can buy these beans via the internet at nativeseedsearch.org or flordemayoarts.org. They suggest saving some of the beans to plant in your own garden, but I just don’t have the room.

Today I am making a modified pork pibil in the crockpot using homegrown orange and lime juice. I have plans for making a homemade apple pie this afternoon, using the last of the apples from my tiny orchard. But that is another post.

Eat local. Grow your own. Keep yourself and the environment healthy. Happy 2017.

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Egg production on our urban “farmlet” over time

Aw, who else graphs out the egg production of their chicken flock? Only an uber-nerd would do that. Guilty as charged!

I keep a tiny flock of chickens in our tiny southern California yard. Our entire yard is 4,500 sq ft, with house, 3-car garage, driveway and sidewalk occupying most of the land. I have a license from the city to keep up to 6 chickens. I have never had that many at one time, though. Three or four chickens is the right number for us. I try to replace chickens as they leave us through attrition–they die from old age, disease, or predators–to keep my egg production at around 350-500 eggs a year.

Back in early 2010, I got three adult hens from a farmer in San Diego. Over time, I acquired three more from Centennial Farm in Orange County, and I raised two from day-old chicks. So I have had a total of eight chickens.

2016–279 EGGS

Here is an Excel chart showing our 2016 egg production.

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The vertical axis is number of eggs that we got per month. The horizontal axis is the number of the month, where 1 = Jan., 2 = Feb., etc. Series 1 is # of eggs. The table just below the month # is the number of eggs produced that month. For example, we produced 54 eggs in April, the 4th month.

As you can see, production peaked for us in April, held fairly steady in May, then dropped off sharply after August, when we lost Miss Hillary to a marauding opossum. That left me with 4-yr-old Dino-Peep (a Barred Rock) and 7-yr-old Chicken Little(a Black Sex-linked cross), who isn’t laying much. I think she laid only in April and May this year. Egg production stopped after November because Dino-peep, my only laying hen, went into molt. Unless Princess Aurora (my new Black Sex-linked pullet) goes “on-line” in the remaining two weeks of December, this will be it for egg production for 2016, a paltry 279 eggs.

2015–466 EGGS

Compare 2016, above, to egg production in 2015, below. In 2015, I had Chicken Little, Miss Hillary (a Barred Rock), Dino-Peep, and Cheep (another Barred Rock), four laying hens. Both Dino-peep and Cheep were still in their prime, but we lost Cheep in June.

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In 2015, instead of egg production peaking in April-May as it did in 2016, it peaked sharply in May, falling off rapidly in June when Cheep died of cancer. (I know, because I had her necropsied by a veterinary pathologist. I didn’t think a 3-year-old chicken should have died. Turns out that it is common for chickens to get cancer after the age of two.)

Total egg production in 2015, with four chickens for the first half of the year and three the rest of the year, was 466. We gave away a lot of eggs that spring. This helps me adjust my production goals. I think 450 eggs is a good number to shoot for, with a minimum of 350. Our production in 2016 didn’t meet our needs, even using frozen eggs, and I had to buy eggs when we had company.

2014–530 EGGS

We got 530 eggs in 2014, but I don’t seem to have saved data on how many we got each month. We seem to have harvested 86 lbs of fruit and 167 lbs of vegetables that year for a total of 253 lbs of produce. I still haven’t logged my harvests from 2015 or 2016 into Excel.

2013–770 EGGS

In 2013, Dino-peep and Cheep were new hens in their prime. We also had Miss Hillary and Chicken Little. We got a whopping 770 eggs that year. We were awash in eggs. Again, I didn’t save the monthly data.

I harvested 92 lbs of fruit and 74 lbs of vegetables, for a total of 166 lbs of produce.

2012–320 EGGS

I saved monthly egg production data from 2012, and logged it into Excel. Assuming that production was actually zero in November and December (versus me just forgetting to complete my annual log), we got a modest 320 eggs in 2012.

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March, April and May were peak months, with (presumably) no eggs in November or December. The birds tend to molt in the winter, and egg production ceases then, so it is logical that we got no eggs versus me just forgetting to complete my annual log. Also, egg production slacks off with decreasing day length. This is why I freeze eggs during the surplus months of April-June, so we can have some during the slow period in winter. I suspect that this is the year that I raised Peep, Cheep, and Cluck (who got eaten as a chick) from day-old chicks. My laying hens would have been Miss Hillary, Chicken Little, and Henrietta.

We got 73 lbs of fruit and 292 lbs of vegetables in 2012, for a total of 365 lbs of produce. I must have had my plot at the community garden that year.

2011–313 EGGS

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I have no explanation for why production went down in March. Egg production peaked in May, and dipped sharply in June, with a slight rebound in July, then a long slide into non-production. Our egg production total for 2011 was a modest 313 eggs. This was the year I acquired Miss Hillary as a 2-yr-old hen. I named her after a hurricane that came up from Mexico that year. She went broody on me almost immediately, so we got few eggs from her. In fact, she went broody most summers and was never a very good layer. If I had a real farm, she would have gone into the stewpot. But our lucky hens enjoy unlimited vacation and retirement benefits.

We harvested 46 lbs of fruit and 187 lbs of vegetables that year. My fruit trees were still fairly young.

2010–463 EGGS

I acquired my first three hens from a farmer in San Diego in February, 2010. Henrietta, a Black Australorp, and my favorite hen. She would let us pick her up and pet her. She traveled to my husband’s bird class a couple of times to demonstrate feathers. Henny Penny was a Black-sex-linked hen. They were hatched in 2008, and are both gone now. We lost Henny Penny fairly soon after getting her, sometime in 2011, and replaced her with Miss Hillary, a Barred Rock.

Chicken Little (a Black Sex-linked), was a mere pullet when I got her, hatched in 2009. Chicken Little is still with us, and still laying, but only in the spring.

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What the heck was going on in June to result in that big drop in production? Did we go on vacation and not log in the eggs? Probably. We have people come take care of our chickens while we are gone and they don’t always let us know how many eggs they got. That is my best explanation.

BACK to the PRESENT

 

Now we have four hens: six-yr-old Chicken Little (a Black Sex-linked), a nasty-tempered Barred Rock named Dino-peep, and the two new girls, Princess Aurora (another Black Sex-linked), and aloof Princess Ariel (a white and black Ameraucuna). Could we be looking at another 700+ egg year? Maybe it is bad luck to count your eggs before they are laid.

Putting all of that data together, we get a total of 3,141 eggs produced to date over seven years. Not too shabby. Here is what it looks like graphed out.

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This is an average of about 450 eggs a year. Hope you enjoyed this nerdy review of our egg production over time. It was a valuable review for me, and helped me to adjust my expectations.

 

 

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Fall foliage and flowers in December, but no eggs.

December is an odd time in coastal southern California. We have autumn foliage on the trees, and our winter flowers are in bloom. It makes for an odd juxtaposition.

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Our Liquid Amber (aka Sweet Gum) trees are in colorful splendor, even though the sky was cloudy and gray today.

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Soon the leaves will fall. Then we rake them up and put them in plastic trash bags for later use in the compost bins. We compost 15-20 big bags of leaves a year, preventing them from going to the landfill. It is part of our green life-style.

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Our yard flowers are hardly at peak bloom in December, but we do have quite a few of them scattered here and there. This is an Osteospermum, aka Freeway Daisy.

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Gazania are a drought-tolerant flower that blooms year-round, peaking in the summer.

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Due to the drought, our little pond in the front yard is dry. I keep water in the fountain at the upper right to provide water for the lizards and birds.

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The lavender plant is coming into nice bloom now. I dried some blossoms once to make lavender sugar, but decided that I didn’t care much for the taste. 

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Mexican Sage provides a bit of nectar for hummingbirds.

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Geraniums bloom year-round here.

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Mother of Thousands blooms on 4 ft tall stalks. It self-sows like crazy, hence the name. We have a lot of these plants now. The hummingbirds like them.

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These little flowers are in my hummingbird, bee and butterfly garden. They are called Brachyostoma, I think, a genus name.

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Yarrow is native to California, a good plant for the pollinator garden.

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Irises bloom mainly in March and November here, but mine are lingering into December this year.

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This is my Garden of Perpetual Responsibility. It always needs weeding. I have artichokes, a Fuyu Persimmon tree and a semi-dwarf Gala Apple tree, as well as the pollinator garden. The boxes next to it have Redhead Radishes that I hope will bloom and go to seed so I can save the seeds. I also have strawberries in boxes, plus green onions in bowls.

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Another crop of Amish Deer-tongue Lettuce has self-seeded and is up and growing. I can see that I will need to do some thinning soon. This is a very tasty lettuce.

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The Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation needs to be replanted. The bell pepper yielded its last pepper this week. The basil has about one or two more batches of pesto left to be made. The arugula is too strong and bitter for us now, but is still good for the chickens. This has been a very productive component of my garden the past four months.

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Our Bloodflower Milkweed has provided food for a LOT of Monarch butterflies and caterpillars. But in December, we have no caterpillars.

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I can never remember the name of these pretty little orchids. They bloom year-round.

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I grow Allysum as a ground cover. Beneficial insects such as Hover Flies like it.

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Paperwhite Narcissus  are definitely seasonal, and this is their season. They just pop up out of the ground and bloom year after year from December into March.

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Jade is a drought-tolerant plant that blooms in December and January.

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These marigolds were a surprise. When the marigolds in my veggie beds were spent at the end of summer, I just tossed the seed heads outside of the raised bed on the ground. Viola, I got more marigolds! In December!!! Crazy.

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Nasturtiums self-seed in my yard. This is just about the first Nasturtium bloom of spring. They will bloom into June.

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Is this the first rose of summer or the last rose of the fall? Who can tell?

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Our rosemary bush blooms year-round. The bees love it.

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Here are some flower buds on our dwarf Eureka Lemon tree. The Valencia Orange just finished blooming and has set fruit. The oranges are ripening on the Navel Orange. It will bloom later. The lime, it seems, is always blooming and producing fruit. Love that tree.

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Here is a chicken update. Princess Aurora (on the far left) should start laying very soon as her comb and wattles seem grown and bright red now. Behind her, Chicken Little has finished her molt and her comb and wattles are red again. She may lay a few eggs this spring, but she is pretty old. Princess Aurora (the white Ameraucuna) is still a pullet, and not ready to lay yet, even though she is supposedly the same age as Aurora. Dino-peep, the Barred Rock on the right, has gone into molt and stopped laying.

Now that it is December and Dino-peep is molting, we are getting no eggs. We are now relying on eggs that we froze during the surplus of last May. I like to get 450 – 550 eggs a year, but this year we got a mere 290 eggs from three hens. Most of those were from Dino-peep. Poor Miss Hillary was eaten by an opossum in August, dropping us down to two hens, and that certainly affected egg production.

Here is hoping for a more productive 2017! With two young hens, that shouldn’t be a problem. I expect the new girls to lay 250-300 eggs each. Chicken Little is a senior citizen and I don’t expect more than a couple of dozen eggs from her. Who can tell with Dino-peep. She is a nasty bird, but a really good layer. She might be able to produce 150-200  eggs.

I hope that these cheerful flower pictures lifted the spirits of those of you who are snowed in until mid-March.

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Review of our “Slow Food” Thanksgiving

I know that Thanksgiving is over and we are now in December, but I wanted to post some photos of our lovely dinner. While turkey is, of course, the centerpiece, our dinner featured apple and pumpkin pies that were made with homegrown, organic apples and a pumpkin.

Like many of my meals, this was a Slow Food dinner. I belong to Slow Food USA, a group that promotes cooking from scratch with locally and ethically raised food. Can’t get much more local than my own yard!

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This is one of the sugar pumpkins that grew in our new Garden Box of Joyous Anticipation. The apples are from our semi-dwarf Granny Smith apple tree.

To make a pie from a whole pumpkin, cut off the stem, then cut the raw pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and strings. I use a serrated grapefruit spoon for that task.

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I put some of the seeds on a paper towel to dry. Once they are dry, which takes a couple of weeks, I put the seeds into a labeled ziploc baggie for planting the next summer. 

I bake the pumpkin halves at 350 degrees F for about an hour, or until the pumpkin is fork tender. After it has cooked, I use a soup spoon to scrape out the baked pumpkin, leaving the shell behind. I put the pumpkin through a ricer to mash it up and make sure there are no strings. Then it can be used in any pumpkin pie recipe. One small sugar pumpkin makes one pie.

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Here are the finished pies–a pumpkin pie and a crumb top apple pie, both made from scratch.

Some years we have purchased a heritage breed turkey, one of the old time breeds that can still reproduce naturally. Did you know that today’s big white turkeys are too heavy to reproduce naturally? The females have to be artificially inseminated. They get so big and heavy that they often have orthopedic problems, and have difficulty walking. Those heritage breed turkeys are truly delicious, and are certainly ethical. They are a great Slow Food choice. But they can be pricey, about $189 per 18-20 lb bird. So we don’t do that very often. This is a regular grocery store bird, a modest 12-lb turkey.

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The secret to a perfectly roasted turkey is to put a couple of stalks of celery, half an onion, several leaves of sage and 3/4 C good white wine into the body cavity. Pour some melted butter over the turkey breast and rub it all over. Then grate some Himalayan pink salt over the bird. Pop it into the oven at 325 degrees uncovered until the meat pulls away from the bone on the legs. The broth that forms in the pan is heavenly, and becomes the base for the best turkey gravy ever. Pour the broth into a separate pan, add an appropriate amount of flour and stir constantly until thickened.

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This is how my husband plates the carved turkey. We use rosemary from our herb garden as a garnish . I usually add fresh cranberries for additional garnish, but I used them all in the homemade cranberry sauce this year.

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This is a place setting for our Thanksgiving table. The china was my maternal grandmother’s china. She bought it in the early 1940s, I think, or possibly the late 1930s. We ate Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner on these plates for many, many years at her house. Now I continue the tradition.

The other dishes were stuffing in a casserole, baked yams, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and basalmic vinegar, cauliflower au gratin, and homemade cranberry sauce. Oh my, was it ever delicious.

Even the bones from our turkeys don’t go to waste. Once the meat has gone into an endless number of turkey leftover dishes (esp turkey sandwiches), we turn the carcass into soup. Hope you enjoyed this review of our Thanksgiving dinner.

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