Monday, June 25, 2012

Looking forward

There is a part of me that is ready to throw in the towel and call it a year.

It is hard for not to be discouraged by mother nature's lack of cooperation.  It is 108 on our back deck and just going outside after 9am is a chore.

The lone Burgundy Okra
Two of our Easter fruit trees turned out to be too close to dead when planted.  I replanted cucumber starts after the hail killed the first ones (they also died) The replacement planting of bush beans seems to have cooked in the ground.  The Nasturtiums starts we planted before we left have not grown at all, the ones from seed never came up.  1/2 of the pumpkins and butternut have died (planted from starts) and all of the watermelon.  One lone okra stands (what do I do with one okra?)  Only a 1/2 dozen Amaranth plants have sprouted.  The tomatoes that survived the hail and the heat are maybe a foot tall and spindly.  The potatoes are the same.  Climbing summer squash is stunted with white veins on the leaves.  All the lettuce bolted before we left, none of the sweet peas grew taller than 4 inches.  None of our pollinator flowers came up at all.

The weeds, however, seem to be thriving.  We have been watering and weeding daily since we came home.

But there has been small successes.

A meal with shelled peas and 1/2 a dozen new potatoes our first night back.  The heirloom melon that is persevering through the heat.  Radishes & carrots in the girls' garden beds.  All of our onions & mammoth sunflowers came up.  Last years carrots have flowered (they look kinda cool)  Cilantro available all spring.

I will take these meager blessings and move forward.

I will plant (from seed) short seasoned melons, popcorn, potatoes and winter squash .  I will plant more sunflowers and bush beans.  I will plant all the seeds that I have except tomatoes and peppers.

I will plant a fall garden with brassica and peas and greens.  I will plant garlic, onions and cilantro for next year.

I will not let this stumble turn into a fail.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Raising chickens for food

First - a warning.

There are photos.

Meat chickens are not like egg chickens.  They are bred for large breasts and have a mere 4 month life span.  (Heart attacks are usually the cause.)  They just eat and grow and poop.  Repeat.  Last year we were a little grossed out by our birds but realized that they were bred to be quick meat production.

We came home from vacation to all of our Noms the right size, even a little big, for the freezer.  Aaron & I did the first 4 last Friday (they were 6-7 lbs each) but today it was just the family.  The girls had watched last year, and had a intimate chicken anatomy lesson but had not been involved before.

We set up on our back porch while the neighbors were at work and split the duties.  One parent and the kids killed and plucked, while the other parent cleaned the bird and removed the organs.  Juju found the warm blood disconcerting, but Mesha just insisted that any bird she pluck she gets BOTH drumsticks.

This group of Cornish Cross chickens were much less freaky than our previous group.  They did not grow so fast that they had areas bald of feathers.  They walked around more and took dust baths, flapping their wings enthusiastically.  They had a higher meat to fat ratio.  They even seemed to have more of a "chickeness" about them.  But a couple had lime green meat along the tenderloins caused (we found out) by deep pectoral myopathy.

To quote a contributor at "The condition is caused by intense exercise of this muscle in meat birds ( flapping hard, trying to fly).  Meat birds are being bred to have bigger and bigger breast meat and because the tenderloin is so far down in the muscle it is enclosed in a relatively unyielding membrane, any swelling of the muscle tends to cut off the blood supply. Without adequate blood supply the tissue of the muscle begins to die, or suffer necrosis. There is no way to know that it is there before hand. The rest of the chicken is fine to eat, If you ate the green it shouldn't hurt you, however it probably will not taste very good."

This is called a disease by the poultry agribusiness and they are currently researching a vaccine.  To me it is bad breeding, that this chicken can't even live in comfort as a chicken.  It makes me sad that I caused pain to these two animals by just letting them live as they should.  I will move on to heritage or dual purpose breeds from here on out.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Souvenir Honey

Top Row: Orange Blossom FL,  Raw Orange FL, Saw Palmetto FL, Tupelo

Bottom Row: Tame Sunflower AR, Crooked Creek Wildflower AR, Sourwood NC, Wildflower LA

Ever since reading American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen last year I have been mildly fascinated by honey.  My goal was to get local honey from each state we visited - and specifically Tupelo from Florida and Huajilla from Texas.  I got the first but not the second, as that was being collected as we were driving and was not yet available.

The orange blossom I got at a Florida grocery store - although it was the 5th one I went to, the other stores having only imported honey.  It's flavor is light with a faint blossomy aftertaste.

The raw orange honey we got on the side of the road in Florida after a hasty U-turn after seeing a large sign.  It was a family business and the honey was sold on the honor system.  This honey is more bold than its more marketed counterpart.  The blossom flavor is more pronounced.

The Saw Palmetto and Tupelo were purchased at an orange grove although not made there.  I haven't tried them yet.

Tame Sunflower and  Crooked Creek Wildflower were also from grocery stores.  This time in Arkansas. The Sunflower is mild, with a slight hint of nuttiness.  The wildflower has a mild spice to it that came through when baked in muffins.

I cheated with the sourwood, as we never went to North Carolina (it was at the orange grove)  But I was so enthralled by the mason jar packaging that I had to have it,.  It is a full flavored honey that starts out smooth, starts to get sour before smoothing out with a pine sap tang.

All these flavors makes me want to get bees even more.

We're back!

We got into town to find that the Cornish are ready to be butchered & hail destroyed about 1/2 the garden space and made a mess of the yard.  It is in the 90's daily, so the bulk of the work needs to be done in the early morning and early evening.  It is going to be slow going.

I think we should take all future vacations in the winter.

We are so happy to be home.