Archive for May, 2011

The Year of Poultry

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I marvel at all the people raising chickens…in the city. My food colleague, Janice Cole, has written a lovely book about it: Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes (Chronicle Books, 2011). More about that in another post. Back to the actual animals.

Up to the 1960s and 70s in chickens were raised for what was called, ‘egg money.’ Farm wives sold eggs to have a little more money for groceries, things for their kids, and maybe a bit for themselves. Eggs were 30 cents a dozen. I rode my bike a half mile into the country from Irene, South Dakota, to Gladys and Edwin Larson’s farm to pick up  cartons for my mom.

Gladys and I walked into the hen house, the chickens scattering out of our way, as we picked the warm eggs, sometimes marked with a light smear of feces. All this seemed only natural. Though it was natural, as well, that we didn’t raise chickens ourselves.

I won’t be joining the ranks of chicken keepers in Minnesota. However, I do have a duck. I’d noticed a Mallard pair in my garden in early April. I’m a block from a pond, only accessible by crossing two streets. Didn’t think they’d find my yard very hospitable. And, then, there is the neighborhood coyote (I pronounce it ‘KY-yote.) But, last week, I saw the ducks quite close to the house and not particularly concerned that I was nearby:

Yesterday, I saw her, the hen, nesting in a pile of last fall’s maple leaves. She’s made a thick nest of those neglected leaves between a peony and the brick planter wall.

Today, the male was watching from further out in the yard. I understand that duck gestation is 28 days. We’ll see.



Oh, Fiddle(head)!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A plateful of fiddlehead ferns is the ultimate in local and seasonal food. I have a nice stand of ferns, especially thriving this year’s  cool, damp-enough spring. Last evening, I broke off as many of the cobra-headed spirals as I could find.  It came to about three cups of trimmed fiddleheads, all about the size of a quarter:

The harvest came to about three cups of trimmed fiddleheads. They have to be rinsed several times to get rid of the grit.

Blot the curls dry and then saute in a little butter.

And get out the forks!



Raised Gardens and a Chicken-Wire Memory

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

I started gardening in raised beds last year. Special thanks to my neighbor Terry who built them for me! This year I’m adding four more beds.

Simple raised bed tips:  1)  Use screws, not nails, to connect the boards. They’ll hold together longer.

2) Brace the corners.

Before filling with 1/3 peat moss-1/3 vermiculite-1/3 mixed variety compost, I lined the beds with newspapers to discourage weeds and chicken wire to discourage burrowing animals.

(A side note on the chicken wire: Always reminds me of  homecoming parades in our small town in South Dakota. Instead of flowers as they use for the renowned Rose Bowl parade, we stuffed fluffed-up paper table napkins in the chicken wire to create our creations.

Coming up with the design was great fun! Really!)

But, I digress. Gardening season is here and I’m ready!