Monthly Archives: June 2014

5 Things You Shouldn’t Admit After Buying Chickens

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Raising chickens is a growing trend across the country.  They are popping up in barnyards, backyards, and urban homesteads.  From retirees to hipsters, people are jumping on the chicken bandwagon.  We tell ourselves that we want to know where our food comes from, bringing us closer to the source.  Or perhaps we want to explore our ancestral roots or developing homesteading skills?

Americana chick on my shoulder

Americana chick on my shoulder

Once you bring home those cute balls of fluff, you want to learn what you can.   Sure, you can go online and read through chicken forums.    Maybe you will subscribe to various poultry magazines for the articles?  What about joining a chicken club?  Or perhaps you chat up friends or neighbors who keep chickens?  There is a mountain of information out there.  Soon you will find yourself wanting to share your new-found knowledge with others.  But there maybe a few things you aren’t willing to admit.

5 Thing You Shouldn’t Admit After Buying Chickens

  1. You have a favorite livestock/feed store.  Yes, after getting chickens you will spend lots of time there.  Maybe it begins with just a few basic questions about chick starter or layer mash, but then you progress to benefits of various types of bedding.  In fact, you will become a regular and frequent customer to the point that you will be on a first name basis with the guy behind the counter.
  2. Raising chickens is addicting.  Over time, the size of your flock increases.  Perhaps you can’t help yourself when stopping by the livestock/feed stores in February or March.  You hear the peeping coming from the brooders and so you tell yourself that you are just going to take a quick peek at the chicks.  Next thing you know, your spouse is asking you if the flock is bigger?
  3. You will take pictures of your chickens and share them online.  While friends and family send you photos of the kids, you’re the one who has a selfie with your favorite hen or newest member of the flock.
  4. You will spend more on organic feed and chicken treats than you do on fresh produce for your family.  You start off telling yourself it’s because you are doing it for the eggs.  But after a while, you drop the facade because you just like spoiling them (your chickens, not your family).
  5. Your chickens are your pets.  Sure, you initially tell yourself they are animals, but soon you have given them cute names.  This is then followed by allowing one (or more) into the house and watching them explore.  From there it is just a matter of time before you have a ‘lap chicken’ who waits patiently for some cuddle time.
backyard chickens

backyard chickens

Chickens are a growing trend.  We learn what we can and share that information with others.  But maybe there are a few things that we should just keep to ourselves.

 

Garlic Scapes: A Hardneck Delight

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In the world of garlic, hardnecks provide a sublime treat that softnecks just can’t provide.  This early summer delight can be harvested well in advance of the bulbs.  What are they you ask?  Garlic scapes!

These scapes are the ‘flower stalks’.  Now while they don’t produce a flower, they will eventually form bulbils (if the scapes are left on the plant).  These bulbils can be planted to grow more garlic, but it will take several years for them to create a large bulb.  If scapes are left on the plant, please note that they will divert energy from the bulb.  As a result, it is good practice to remove the scape.  But for a true treat, don’t toss them in the compost, cook with them instead.  If you leave the scape on, you will still be able to harvest garlic, but the bulbs will be smaller.

harvested garlic scapes

harvested garlic scapes

Harvesting scapes is all about timing.  They will rise up above the leaves and begin to curl in early spring.  As with most produce, if harvested early, they will be tender enough to eat fresh.  They will also have a very mild garlic flavor.  But keep in mind that the longer you wait to harvest, the stronger the flavor and the more fibrous the scape becomes.  (If you harvest later, you can peel the scape, though it is time-consuming and some find it difficult to peel something so small.)  To harvest simply pull on the top of the scape and it should pull up and out of the garlic plant.  If the scape does not easily release from the plant, you can snap it off, just above the leaves.

If you harvest the scapes early in the season, you can treat them like fresh chives.  Just snip into small pieces and add to mashed potatoes, various egg dishes, casseroles, and even salad dressings.  Their mild garlic flavor provides a nice addition to spring dishes.

However, scapes beg to be turned into pesto.  A good food processor or blender like a Vitamix can easily turn scapes into a paste.  To ease the work of the blender as well as add flavor to the pesto, add a good quality olive oil.  Add this slowly so it becomes well incorporated.  Season with kosher salt.  If the garlic flavor is a little too intense for you, feel free to add other fresh ingredients to your garlic scape pesto.  Good additions include: fresh lemon juice, parmesan cheese, toasted nuts such as walnuts, and even other fresh herbs such as parsley.

If you do not have hardneck garlic growing in your own garden, don’t fret.  Scapes are a specialty crop that grace farmers’ market from spring through early summer as well as some grocery stores that specialize in artisanal foods.

Add hardneck garlic to your garden. For no more effort than softneck, you can enjoy two unique harvests of both scapes and bulbs.  What other garden crop can promise that?  Garlic scapes are truly a hardneck delight.

 

Homemade Olive Sandwich Spread

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Sandwiches are a perennial favorite.  They are portable, easy to prepare, and are so versatile… served hot or cold, fresh or fried, but always a crowd-pleaser.  But let’s break away from grilled cheese, luncheon meat or peanut butter and jelly and expand the sandwich filling options.

From the 1920’s – 1950’s, sandwich fillings were commonly prepared at home rather than purchased from a grocery store.  Resourceful housewives used what they had on hand, coming up with some unique, yet tasty results.

A favorite in our household is a vintage spin on the modern olive tapenade.  But rather than using capers, anchovies, and black olives… we added some ingredients fresh from our garden.

olive, garlic, and parsley paste with mayonnaise to be stirred in

olive, garlic, and parsley paste with mayonnaise to be stirred in

Olive Sandwich Spread

  • 2 C. olives, pitted (assorted varieties)
  • 4 – 6 large cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 C. fresh parsley, loosely packed
  • 1/2 C. mayonnaise (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place first three ingredients in a food processor or vintage food chopper.  Mix until a medium paste is formed.  Place the paste into a bowl and then stir in mayonnaise, lemon juice, as well as salt and pepper.  (For a lighter flavor skip the mayonnaise and mix the rest of the ingredients together.  In this recipe, the mayonnaise provides both flavor and acts as a binder.)  Spread as thickly as you like on bread.   The sandwich is extra special with fresh lettuce and a slice of tomato.  Makes an excellent light lunch or supper.  To make it a meal, serve with a fresh green salad.

Refrigerate any leftovers.  Feel free to adjust the types of olives to suit your own personal taste.  This spread does not last long in our house and is savory break from sweet jams and jellies.  Enjoy!