Monthly Archives: May 2013

Rainy Days/Happy places

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Drum roll . . . TaDah! Now presenting the new Quackadoodle logo.

Quackadoodle \logo

The QuackaDoodle Farm Logo ~ everyone wanted to get in on the act

Yes,  I know, it’s kinda’ hokey but at least it doesn’t give any false impressions. In truth I was purposely aiming for something with that inimitable ‘hand-drawn’ look because slick and perfect is so not us. We’re a farm, for heaven’s sake and  a very muddy one at that, after what seems like a month (although it’s actually more like week) of rain.

Le Roi insists the 'mural' doesn't do him justice
Le Roi insists the ‘mural’ doesn’t do him justice

We did have one sunny day, (can’t quite remember when) and I was able to take a picture of Le Roi, pronounced Lee Roy, strutting  his stuff in the chicken tractor he calls home. He’s a Leghorn and when the sun hits his feathers at just the right angle his colours truly are magnificent . . . and he knows it. What attitude!

TRUE OR FALSE ?

a.) A chicken tractor is a piece of farm equipment that is pulled by several chickens wearing specially designed harnesses.

b.) A chicken tractor is a moveable chicken coop, complete with its own fenced-in run.

If you picked b. you might agree that chicken tractors are great for housing a small flock and getting the garden beds fluffed up, de-bugged and fertilized by a crew of diligent ditch diggers who’ll work for chicken feed. And they’ll provide breakfast.

My Happy Place

 

I was sitting by the goat shed having my hair chewed on by now not-so-baby Stanley when I realized that I was in my perfectly, in fact supremely, happy place. This got me thinking about what it takes to be happy and if there is a correlation between simplicity and happiness. I really do believe there is and that as a society the further we removed ourselves from the natural world, the less contented we become. 

The garden centres around these parts (Nova Scotia) are warning their clients not to plant out any frost sensitive plants as it’s just too darn’ cold! Frost warnings in the middle of May, no less.My spinach, tatsoi and other hardy greens are peeking up out of the ground and we’re anticipated this year’s first feed of rhubarb any day soon but generally I believe most things in the garden are quite a ways behind the norm.

pickled eggs in jars

Pickled Eggs – ready for market

The eggs however just keep coming and coming. I have been pickling some for sale in our wonderful general store which sells just about everything from djembes to live bait, blown glass, cedar mulch, skeins of wool, silver jewelry and yes, pickled eggs. Theresa and Heather’s Country Store is the hub of our community, proof positive that it pays to shop local and well worth a visit, if only for an ice cream or a copy of my children’s book Gully Goes To Halifax.

SOME EGG TRIVIA

Who lays white eggs?

Chickens with white ears. Only chickens with red ears lay brown eggs.

(It took me a while to believe this was not a joke but is in fact true)

When hard boiling eggs, why do some peel so much easier and ‘cleaner’ than others?

 
The fresher the egg the more difficult it is to peel. Commercially produced eggs will usually peel more easily because they are older. The inside of an egg shrinks away from the shell as it ages and therefore the shell peels away cleanly. Dipping the egg in icy cold water while peeling also helps.

And who’s too cute not to have the last word?

baby goat running

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Strange Surprizes

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This soil, untouched since it was tucked away under a blanket of straw is rich and friable; ready to plant

This soil, untouched since it was tucked away under a blanket of straw is rich and friable; ready to plant

It’s finally time to plant! Spring warmth has been slow coming to the Maritimes this year and because of the abnormally high temperatures last March and April the stubborn chill has been particularly noticable. The lack of warmth has not deterred the garlic, planted last Fall, which is poking up through the mulch with great enthusiasm. Daffodills are just flowering, which must seem like a bit of a joke to other parts of this great land where they’ve already bloomed and died off. Living here (east coast of Nova Scotia) simply requires a slight shift in perception, an understanding and acceptance that things, just about all things, come later. No need to get impatient . . . but of course I do. Who am I trying to fool!

Lobster season is well under way and the morning bird song is backed by the steady drone of Cape Islanders bringing home the day’s catch. A feed of lobster is a two minute walk away but in truth, being so close to the source has made us somewhat ambivalant about such treats. Actually, eggs in every conceivable form are presently topping the menu, given the mountain of eggs coming into the kitchen on a daily basis.

Jenni and The Giant Parsnip! This guy overwintered and was over sixteen inches long!

Jenni and The Giant Parsnip!
This guy overwintered and was over sixteen inches long!

And then, there’s The Giant Parsnip. I discovered this guy the other day while uncovered my raised beds for some early seeding. He was over sixteen inches long and surprisingly not at all ‘woody’. Here he is gently steamed, then breaded in Panko crumbs and served on a bed of arugula from the cold frame (sweated in a little balsamic vinegar and drizzled with maple syrup) along with some spicy pickled carrots and pickled beets from last season. And, of course, eggs. Pickled ones this time! Eating local can mean tasty, even at this time of year!

Parsnips aren’t a super popular vegetable for home gardens, perhaps because they are slow and erratic to germinate but they are prodigious seed producers, so there’s plenty of seed to save. They are biennials; they only produce seed in their second year and it’s important to note that the seed is only good for one year. I think these two reasons, slow germination and outdated seed, might have given parsnips a bad rap, but in fact they are easy enough to grow, are rugged and very tasty, especially when touched with frost . . . or over-wintered as I’ve just discovered. When saving seed it’s important to think ahead, to tag and leave a couple of roots in the ground when harvesting in the Fall. The seed heads are quite attractive, looking a lot like giant dill plants and easy to gather. But enough about parsnips….

This meal was all home-grown Tthe breaded parsnip and arugula were harvested in April. The Beets and carrots pickled llast Fall and the eggs pickled this Spring

This meal was all home-grown Tthe breaded parsnip and arugula were harvested in April. The Beets and carrots pickled llast Fall and the eggs pickled this Spring

I’ve been planting early greens such as spinach, tatsoi, chard and lettuce in the raised beds. Foolishly I had left one bed unmulched through the winter and it had already sprouted a substantial crop of deep rooted dandelions needing to be pulled. The other beds, that had been covered with straw through the winter, were so much easier to deal with. Just a matter of moving back the straw to find beautiful, friable soil all ready to plant. I also planted carrots, beets, parsnips and radishes. Perhaps a little early for carrots but I expect they’ll be okay. I have peas planted and I’m sure they’ll be fine as they like it cool but the ground is definitely too cold for beans yet. . . except for broad beans which don’t seem to mind the cold ground and definitely need the extra time to mature.

Broad beans are the most ungainly plants which need a solid frame to support them. I’ve learnt the hard way to have that frame in place before I plant the beans. If I don’t force myself to have the frames in place before I plant I know I’ll leave it too late and end up wrestling a matt of mammoth plants that have fallen on top of the rest of my crop. Peas aren’t as cumbersome or clumsy but they will tangle tightly around each other, making it hard to train them upwards on strings or trellis. I’ve done enough damage to the tender, quite brittle pea-vines to know that I must install the support, which in my garden is four by eight foot sheets of reinforcing mesh, before I plant the peas. I don’t allow myself to ‘do it soon but not now’ because I know that my sooner is always later . . . most often too late. Forcing myself to learn by my mistakes is hard; a lot like herding cats, I believe.

The Slug Patrol - hard at work. And thanks to them I haven't yet seen a trace of my erstwhile nemesis

The Slug Patrol – hard at work. And thanks to them I haven’t yet seen a trace of my erstwhile nemesis

The resident slug patrol, ducks who have not been segregated for breeding purposes, have been hard at work for several weeks now and although I hesitate to say it, I have not seen a single slug yet. Yeah! Slugs were my nemesis for many years and in fact got us wandering along the Permaculture Path to begin with. First step was the acquisition of some chickens, who despite what we had been told to the contrary, flatly refused to eat slugs. However, we were delighted to discover that slugs are to ducks as chocolate is to chocoholics. We have Khaki Cambell and Indian Runner ducks, both of which are excellent layers. Duck eggs contain more protein than chicken eggs and professional bakers prefer them for baking. I like them simply for their rich, buttery taste. Ducklings are also the cutest of all the hatchlings we incubate but the drakes are brutal lovers and by about the third week of mating season I’ve grown tired of running out with a broom to rescue some poor duck in distress. We usually have to load up on Polysporin eye drops because the drakes peck at the females around the eyes and force them down by pecking at their heads. Those ladies who attract the most ‘action’, (and although all ducks look a lot alike to us some are obviously considered to be ‘babes’ by the drakes) are practically bald around the head and neck by the end of mating season. They don’t seem to mind all the attention they get but I’m glad when it’s all over.

It's hard to image that these timid babies have become such brutal lovers

It’s hard to image that these timid babies have become such brutal lovers

Perhaps the corollary to the aphorism about needing to break eggs to make an omelette states that you can’t have eggs without losing a few feathers, spoken with a ducky dialect of course. Even though the constant influx of eggs can seem a little overwhelming at times, espescially as they greet me every morning by the basket full all needing to be scrubbed clean, I am quick to remind myself how thrilled we were with that very first egg, not so many years ago. Eggs are amazing; such a perfect food, so versatile, so cleverly packaged and so symbolic of the great promise this wonderful world has for those of us who care to put in the time to tend and nurture it.

Eggs, eggs and eggs to eggsess

Eggs, eggs and eggs to eggsess