Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's Up?

It's the time of year when winter's few appeals have long worn thin. All the major celebrations of the season are over (hubby's birthday was on Sunday - more on that soon), and spring seems a long way off. It even snowed here yesterday. I am obviously suffering from February funk. In an attempt to shake off the blahs I've been trying to spend some time outside. Today I went out to see what was happening in our garden. I was surprised to see what was up.

One brave strawberry plant.

A blackberry vine. This one is a volunteer. I'm not sure if we'll keep it. Blackberry vines grow like mad here. Once they start there is a danger that they will completely take over the yard.

Sage. This one grows in a very sheltered spot, so we have sage all year.

Oregano, or possibly marjoram is starting to reappear.

The first sprigs of mint.

Chives are making a comeback.

Snowdrops and crocuses are also starting to bloom, and the first green blades of tulips, daffodils and bluebells are poking through the earth.

Our garden consists mostly of perennials. We'd like to have a vegetable garden, but past experiments have been less than successful. Poor soil and urban wildlife make growing veggies a challenge. (We have deer, rabbits, raccoons, rats and a huge assortment of birds.) We do keep trying though. I can't quite decide what to experiment with this year. Maybe greens if I can think of a way to keep the wildlife out. Or more herbs. They seem particularly promising after what I saw out in the garden today.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Taking it slow

I stumbled to my computer last Thursday morning, logged onto my email, and found a message from Monna over at Slow Blogs. She was letting me know that she had written about Elusive Onions in her Valentines Day Edition. I was surprised beyond words. In fact, I was so stunned I almost forgot to submit last Thursday’s post.

Hubby had nominated Elusive Onions as his favourite slow blog back in December. Finding out I was going to be included in Monna’s post was the perfect Valentines’ gift. And yes, I know that everyone who got nominated got mentioned, but what a wonderful group to be mentioned with.

I’ve been spending so much of my spare time this week enjoying these other blogs that I’ve put little thought into my own. Hence the complete lack of food-related writing. But don’t fret. Food writers are well represented over at Slow Blogs. Wander on over and have a look. And while there, check out Monna’s Slow Blog Manifesto and the post “Read Slowly“. I’ve consulted them frequently since I discovered Slow Blogs back in November. I find her tips on “blogging to make yourself happy” to be particularly reassuring. She outlines what I’m aiming for, but she says it in a much more concise way than I ever could. Hope you enjoy these other writers as much as I do. See you back here next week. I should have something cooked up for you by then.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Helloooo Honey

My immune system seems to have gone on holiday and forgotten to take the rest of me with it. I hope it comes back relaxed, refreshed and ready to work soon, as I have yet another cold. Blech.

This time around, instead of Chinese mandarins, I have discovered a local comfort food. Blackberry honey. It’s from a farm just north of town, and it’s wonderful. It’s warming and soothing and expensive and addictive. I’ve eaten an obscene amount of it this week. Well, it’s an obscene amount for me. Honey usually lingers in our cupboard for months. Not this stuff. I’ve had it in tea, on muffins, in smoothies, in hot toddies and in chicken soup. That last one was an accident. There was a cup of soup and a cup of tea on the counter. I plopped the spoonful of honey in the wrong cup before I noticed it was the wrong cup. I blame it on the fever.

We would occasionally get honey from a farm when I was a kid. I’d forgotten how superior it is to the stuff that is available in the store. I can’t imagine ever going back to supermarket honey. My only concern is that I’ve eaten so much blackberry honey while sick that I won’t be able to stand the stuff when I’m well. Fortunately, these bees also produce other kinds of honey, and I’m told they all taste different. Smart bees. I’m glad I found them.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chickens and Eggs

I am not a farm girl. I have never been a farm girl. My mother was a farm girl, but prefers not to discuss it. As a result I am fairly clueless about farm animals. I know eggs come from chickens, and vice versa, but that’s about the sum of my poultry knowledge. It’s quite embarrassing reall
y. I find myself spending far too much time in the supermarket’s dairy aisle trying to decide what the description on the egg carton really means. Should I go with free-range, or free-run, or organic? Does the producer's interpretation of these terms match my interpretation? Am I really buying eggs that are best for me, the environment and the chicken? How on earth do I know? I’ll tell you how I know. I’ve recently stopped buying eggs at the supermarket and have started buying them directly from the farm. In fact, I've had the good fortune of meeting the chickens that provide my eggs, as I know their 10-year-old owner.

This young farm girl has been quite patient in answering my questions about her chickens, and even allowed me to take a few photos for the blog. My list of questions and her answers are below.

What do you feed your chickens? 16% layer pellets. I feed them two 40kg bags a week plus all our house scraps (but no meat)

How many chickens do you have? 43 chickens

What are you saving your money for? What have you used the money for so far? I don't know what I am saving for. I am just saving. I only use the money for chicken feed.

How many eggs do you get each week? I get 26 to 30 eggs each day.

Don't you sell some of your eggs to a restaurant? Where do the rest go? 10 to 12 dozen go to the restaurant. The rest go to customers.

Other than feeding them, what else do you have to do to look after chickens? Change their water, clean the coop, give them fresh nest hay, put them in each night and cover the food so no animals get the food and close their door so they’re safe.

Can you imagine getting this kind of service or knowledge at the grocery store? I emailed the questions to her and had an answer the same day. She even took the trouble to answer my follow-up question in a timely manner. (Apparently a layer pellet is “is kinda like grain but it is a little thicker and for chickens.”) I was impressed, but this girl really cares about her chickens, and that’s what will keep me coming back. Remember those ads that promoted milk from contented cows? Well, I know these eggs are coming from happy, well cared for chickens, and being able to support this local, responsible farmer makes me happy too.