Saturday, April 27, 2013

Out like a Lamb...

After a wild start where the month roared in like a lion as March is supposed to do, it's difficult to believe it is almost the end of April.  It seems as though it should already be mid-May.

Only a few days more than three weeks ago we were having snow and now the trees are all leafed out as you can see in this picture of the chickens taken this afternoon.   It was around 70 degrees though our new outdoor thermometer (purchased for only $2.00!) said it was over 80.  Wonder where the artist came up with the wild comb on this rooster :)

The weather earlier in the day was gorgeous for the Powhatan TSC swap.   We met lots of nice people and a few new Basque enthusiasts.  One of them was the lady who purchased hatching eggs from us.  Her little peepers are doing well.   Our chicks are growing fast too.  Here is one bunch in one of the grow-out pens.

The sizzles are getting quite pretty too.  I sold one this morning and retained two for my flock.   We should be hatching more soon.   One has smooth feathers and will be bred back to a silkie to improve skin color before crossing back to a frizzle again for the curled feathers.  The sizzle in the back is just too cute and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the red frizzle is a female so I can cross "her" with one of my silkie roosters; perhaps the white Hattrick boy.

 And for the foodies among you, I just enjoyed a plate of fresh asparagus - the first of the season from our gardens.    Delicious poached to fork tender and drizzled with a simple lemon butter (melted butter, grated lemon peel, the juice of half a lemon and fresh ground pepper.)  I personally prefer this lightly emulsified dressing to the richer hollandaise, but for those who like the creamier dressing, nothing beats a free range and fresh egg which we now have in abundance!

We also have two new additions to the farm.   I am sad to say our livestock guardian of ten years crossed the rainbow bridge two weeks ago and we are now training up this little ball of fluff.   Ensign is badger marked Great Pyrenees.  He was born and raised with chickens (from Avery's Branch Farm) and is beginning to guard his charges here.

Our second addition is a handsome young Swedish Flower Hen rooster.   I am still trying to decide on a name for him while he waits in quarantine.  It will either be Erik the Red for his red mille pattern (and something Scandinavianish) or Ambrose.  Do you have any preferences?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Time for Spring Greens....

We've been busy cleaning out the greenhouse and setting up for seed starting time.   With spring around the corner, it's time to start thinking of all the delicious dishes we can make with fresh spring greens.

Here's one of my favorites.... Spinach Lasagna.

First cook 30 ounces of fresh spinach (or frozen works too), squeeze dry, chop in a food processor until pieces are very small, but don't puree.  Set aside.   Set salted water to boil for the noodles (fresh or boxed dry.)  If using no back noodles, add extra liquid to the sauce.

Heat up your favorite tomato sauce and divide in half.  To one half add 1/2 cup of the processed spinach and set aside.

Add 1.5 cups of fresh grated parmesan to 3 cups of ricotta and two fresh eggs and mix with the remaining spinach.   Place in fridge.  You will also need 2 cups of grated mozzarella.   Cook the noodles.

When first batch of noodles are cooked, coat the bottom of your baking dish with the spinach sauce mixture, add layer of noodles, top with cheese mix followed by some grated mozzarella.  Top with plain sauce and more noodles.  Continue layering cheese, followed by spinach  tomato sauce, alternating until all the fillings and noodles are used up.   Top with slices of fresh mozzarella or plenty of the grated stuff.    Cook with aluminum foil cover on 375 degrees for 40 minutes remove foil and cook an additional 10 minutes until cheese on top is golden brown.   Fresh basil can be added to the processed spinach or added to the layers.  Mange!

More Signs of SPRING!!!

Look what I found in the barn today!   This hen has been hiding quietly behind some crates and an old bicycle for the past three weeks.  Today I went out to get feed and heard peeping...
I dare you to take one step closer!  Paparrazi are not welcome.
Momma Broody with chicks coming out to investigate food and water bowls.


 I'd also like to thank Brick Cottage Farm for this beautiful white Hattrick Silkie cockerel.   He is just sooooo full of floof with beautiful turquoise ears.   I can;'t wait to see how he matures.   Really need to get a better picture of him.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

They're Finally Here!

The first signs and SPRING, our NPIP Clean Certifidate and the lost Rutgers tomatoes!

 I love when the first crocus and daffodils begin to appear.  It means spring is finally on its way.

Even the hens are gearing up.  Looks like we'll have plenty of eggs in time for Easter.

But the best arrival of all contained the three packets of Rutgers tomato seeds.    Though the seeds are hybrids, they do have an interesting and very short history.  For anyone that grew up in New Jersey during the 70s and 80s as we did, they are THE Flavor of Summer.

Both Ramapo and Moreton were developed by the Rutgers Experimental Agricultural Station for the Campbell's Soup Company.  They wanted a tender, easy to process tomato packed with flavor.  Unfortunately these tomatoes didn't last beyond the arrival of the firm (i.e. cardboard flavored) shipping varieties we see today.

Ramapo was developed by Dr. Bernard Pollack in 1968 and was soon a Jersey gardeners favorite. Ramapo is characterized by its deep red color, classic tomato shape, abundant harvest and of course, that wonderful tangy flavor that makes the mouth water.  Ramapo has all the best qualities of the heirlooms (except for open pollination) and the disease resistance and productivity of a hybrid.

Moreton is another Jersey tomato whose heyday was the 60s and 70s.   This tomato has a more rounded shape than Ramapo and and orange color.  It is an early season tomato bearing tender skinned fruits packed with flavor.   As stated on the NJAES tomato project website:

"Tomato growers referred to [Moreton]  as “the July 4th tomato”. The Moreton F-1 tomato was Harris Seeds’ first F-1 hybrid release in 1953. “For 6 to 10 years”, says Musumeci “it was Moreton – probably the first hybrid grown on a large scale in New Jersey. Moreton was a soft tomato and was eventually replaced by Red Pack which was later renamed Pik-Red which had less cracking, but didn’t have the flavor of Moreton.”

 We are sooooo looking forward to our first harvests of the Jersey Classics.   Ah yes, the taste of summer, hot dogs at the Long Branch Pier and Seaside Heights boardwalk vendors, Federicis pizza, Jersey Freeze at Freehold Raceway...and biting into a succulent, tangy tomato fresh off the vine with just a pinch of salt!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Finally had our flock tested last weekend for the NPIP certification - 53 birds completed in one and half hours - and everyone was clean.   The paperwork was completed and mailed today and AI testing is next.  I collected the last of the 30 eggs we need to submit for testing this morning.  It's off to the post office on Monday for shipping.

Lovely day today.  Started out foggy but saw the sunshine by 2:00.  Tomorrow is supposed to be around 74 degrees.  Yup, Virginia weather can be crazy.  I hope the peach trees don't start setting their blossoms too soon.   The daffodils are already poking their green little heads above the soil.

The onion seeds have also begun to sprout in the greenhouse and soon it will be time to start seeds.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

On-line Garden Planner

It's that time of year again when the garden slumbers and the seed catalogs arrive full of hope and promises.   So many choices and so little space and money.  If you are like me, it is always a chore to figure out what to plant and how much of it will fit.  This year is different!

Southern Seed Exchange has developed a fantastic on-line garden planner.  By using this planner, I can change my plans, plan successions, choose varieties and change my mind, all with the click of a button.  Best of all, I can get a color printout by month or season, with quantities shown.  I can even fast order or print out the plant list, which also includes quantities, time to sow and times to harvest.

Give it a try...the thirty day test drive is free.

Southern Seed Exchange Garden Planner

Monday, December 24, 2012

And what to my wondering eyes should appear....

But some creamy, dreamy Fluffy Butt eggs!   Yes, that's right.  My young Silkie bantams have finally grown up and begun laying.  I am so excited.  This will be my first generation of carefully selected and bred Silkie chickens.  I am so hoping one of the girls will go broody and hatch a batch of New Year babies, but if not, I will be gathering them all up for a New Year incubator hatch.

Here are the parents to be...Chardonnay the rooster, Priscilla and Snowflake.  Please pardon the muddy feetsies, it's been raining off and on all week.  This picture was taken yesterday and today it is raining/sleeting again.  Wish it were light fluffy snow instead!

Out in the run-in, the October and November hatches are growing out nicely.  Love this little Legbar roo.  He looks most promising of all with minimal chestnut far.  He's also very inquisitive and friendly.

And FINALLY, I have two crested Legbar pullets (the orange chicks are German New Hampshires).  Can't wait for these girls to grow up and produce more cresties.

Other cresties include my Swedish Flower Hens.  The three I have were added to the Greenfire order of Breda Fowl as filler chicks, but I'm so glad they were.  So far it looks like my three are girls.  If they are, we'll be looking for a nice rooster in the Spring.  These girls are predominantly buff, blue and black with the mottling mille-fleur pattern.

The Breda they arrived with are also doing well.  Unfortunately, we lost one of the black young'uns to a particularly nasty cold snap.  I had to take their sleeping box away so there would be no more pileups.    The chick I'd hoped was a splash looks line a nicely laced blue.  Can't wait to find out if it's a boy or a girl.  So difficult to tell with a combless breed.

In spite of the fact that it's Christmas Eve and three days past the official start of winter (and the non-apocolyse), I'm already anticipating the first fluffballs of Spring and the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones at the swaps.  Please stop by and visit us at the Powhatan Tractor Supply on March 23rd.  We may have some chicks for sale and will definitely have some young Netherland Dwarf rabbits available.

And with that, I'll wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!