Tuesday, October 26, 2010

W(h)ine and cheese

This is the part of blogging that is totally self-indulgent.  Probably a bore to the reader, but very cathartic for the writer.  Tuesdays are my late day at the clinic.  Sometimes I get out by 6pm, but often it is later.  Today I had the extra pleasure of having to run to the grocery store after work.  A short trip, but still it had me getting home at around 7:45pm.  After being gone for 11-12 hours, the first thing I want to do when I get home is sit.  Oh sitting sounds so good.  But I know me and I know if I sit, I am done for the evening.  Animals come first.  Every Tuesday it is the same.  I come home and inside my head is this incredibly whiny voice that is complaining about having to do evening chores.  It is funny how I struggle with this every Tuesday.  Seems as though being tired = being whiny inside my brain.  In the summer it is a little easier because it is warm and light outside.  But today, it was chilly and rainy and dark.  But I went outside to feed and water the chickens because I have to.  Because they can't take care of themselves.  Doing the chores in the morning is way more distasteful to me then just getting them done in the evening.  My brain says "just get it done".

And every Tuesday it is the same.  I get home from work.  I want to sit. But I go out to do chores.  And when I get into the chicken pen and it is dark and quiet, I hear this quiet cooing from the roost.  It is one of the most beautiful of all sounds.  It is the sound of contentment.  To know that the animals you care for are content is a beautiful feeling.  My soul is healed and the whining is gone.

So to celebrate my incredibly whiny voice that was mellowed out by the simple purring of chickens on the roost, I decided to open a bottle of wine to have with my 8:30pm dinner.  River Rouge from Chalet Debonne winery.  Here's a trivia question for you: how many wineries are  there in Ashtabula County?  There are 17.  Or least according the visitashtabulacounty.com web page.  All along the south shore of Lakes Erie and Ontario is winery country.  It's not like California wine.  But whenever possible, I like to support the local wineries.  I just don't advertise it much because even though I love a glass of wine with dinner, I am no wine connoisseur.  Tonight's pairing with the wine was leftover chicken taco burgers with pepper jack cheese.  They were entirely homemade chicken taco burgers starting with butchering my own chicken, but for some reason that pairing just seems odd.  It works for me though and in the end, that is what counts.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And the growing season goes on.... and on...... and on......

As October draws to an end, it is hard to believe we have not had a killing frost yet.  Average for this area is the first week of October and some years, we have one in late September.  Many of our farmer friends in counties south of us have had one, two or even three killing frosts.  Of course, only the first one counts.  We have had a couple of close calls, but yet the growing season goes on.  We are not complaining.  Just amused.

Today Ed picked a goodly amount of green bell peppers and hot peppers and Mike took them to the produce auction in Middlefield.  This is the last week of the auction with Friday being the last auction of the season.  We still have lots of cabbage and cauliflower coming on too.  Just amazing.  We even picked some of the last picking of green beans last week.  The sales at the farmer's markets have been way over the comparable weeks from last year because we have so much more produce to sell.

I have actually taken the last 6 days off of work at the clinic just because.  I have had a lot of play time in the woods, but I've done a few barn chores such as getting new plastic up on some of the old broken windows on our old bank barn and cleaning out the culvert drain in the ditch in front of the barns.  Sounds like fun!  I still need to butcher the last 8 laying hens which I should have done this past weekend while the weather was so nice, but that was just not a job I could bring myself to do while on vacation.  In my final vacation evening, I took the beagles out for a spin.  They had fun tracking a rabbit round and round the woods until I had to put an end to their fun and call them in for supper. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

And then there were eight

The final eight laying hens.  The pens look so empty with just eight hens.  Normally I keep about 35-40 hens in this barn.  Last Sunday, I butchered another group consisting of 8 hens and 1 rooster.  Instead of keeping these birds whole, I deboned all the thigh, leg and breast meat and stored it in the refrigerator until I had more time to work on it, which turned out to be today. 

Today's project was to get all the meat run through the grinder and then packaged into either 1 lb. packages of ground chicken or into packages of four 1/4 lb. chicken burgers.  Funny how colorful the ground chicken meat is with both white and dark meat all mixed together.  The leg and thigh meat of those old hens is particularly dark in color especially compared to the 9 week old meat chickens.

I love having these pre-made patties to throw on the grill at a moment's notice.  They only have to thaw enough to separate which isn't very much since I pack them with wax paper in between the patties.  These make such a nice healthy burger and it's a good way to use the meat from those old hens.  I believe I put 7 packages of chicken burger in the freezer today.  I had a pound and a half left over that I made into chicken taco burgers and cooked them on the grill tonight for dinner.  Mike told me tonight he really likes these chicken taco burgers.  Thanks honey!

The other part of dinner was some homemade cream of veggies soup.  Mike had brought some celery root up from the garden a couple days ago.  I have never ever made anything with celery root before and since it is soup season, I thought soup seemed appropriate.  I very loosely followed this Food Network recipe for Cream of Celery Root Soup.  I cut up four approximately 1/2 lb. celery roots although after peeling, I'm sure there was a bit less.  I also had 6 small leftover potatoes from our garden that I wanted to use up. so I cut those up too.  The potatoes are on the left in the picture and the celery root is on the right.

Then some celery, onion and garlic.  I only had one quart of homemade chicken broth in the freezer so that is all I used.  I did use the amount of celery salt called for, but did not have any white wine so I left that out.  I cooked the cut up vegetables in the broth in the crockpot on low all day. 

When cooked, I ran the veggies through the food processor, added them back to the broth, added the cream and turned the crockpot on high for about 30-40 minutes.  It tasted pretty darn good, but both Mike and I decided it needed more salt and we are not big salt users.  The final amount of soup was probably more than in the recipe due to the extra potatoes and extra celery I added so needing a little more salt would make sense.  Perhaps if I had used regular salt rather than celery salt, that would have been enough.

While I was inside cooking and staying warm, Mike continued picking and boxing produce for today's Fresh Fork order.  Yes, we are still picking.  We have just barely avoided two frosts in the last couple weeks.  Lots of other farms that sell at the farmer's markets we go to have got hit by the frost, but not us.  Yet.  Only a matter of time, but we will count our blessings that we are still able to pick produce this late into October.  Today's order was 140 lbs. of Brussels sprouts, 180ish turnips, 280ish celery roots, 20 heads of red cabbage and 20 bunches of golden beets.  The garage served as temporary storage until Trevor showed up with the truck.  Nothing like loading the truck in 45 degrees and rain.  Such is October in northeast Ohio.  Tomorrow the weather should be more of the same.  Mike and Ed get to pick for Saturday's market.  Have fun fellas! 

As a side note, I can hear ice pellets hitting the window as I sit here and type this blog.  Won't be long until the "s" word creeps into the forecast.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kicking off soup season

Definitely one of those days that I was thankful to be working inside at the clinic.  I got home from work and Mike was sitting in his easy chair with a big mug of hot tea and told me he had changed clothes three times during the day.  Picking produce most of the day in 55 degrees and rain is not pleasant.  But the show must go on.  Nice order to Fresh Fork this week.  Golden beets, cucumbers, green cauliflower, Swiss chard, and summer squash. 

I was a little luckier doing evening chores outside and came through without having to change my clothes even once.  Then I decided to walk the two beagles back to the garden and pick some broccoli to steam for dinner.  I almost made it to the culvert over the creek behind the house when a loud clap of thunder sounded off.  Oh boy!  Nothing like heading back to a wide open field with a thundershower looming overhead.  But the dinner show must go on too and I needed broccoli so I quickened my pace, picked some broccoli without hesitation and back to the house.  Just a bit more interesting than shopping for broccoli at the grocery store.

The other part of dinner was some homemade chicken and noodle soup.  This is a very easy process, but it is spread out over several days.  Ok, maybe the VERY first part is not that easy.  Well actually it is easy once you have done it a few times, but you have to have a live old laying hen on hand.  Most will probably just purchase an already butchered chicken at the store.  Monday I started butchering my old laying hens.  I let them lay for three lay cycles (approximately 3 years) and then butcher them and replace them with younger hens.  So Monday I butchered a hen (actually 9 of them, but it only takes one to make soup).  Tuesday was my long day at work so the chicken just sat in the refrigerator waiting.  Wednesday I put the chicken in the crockpot with veggies and seasoning and covered with water.  Cooked it all day.  Removed the chicken and deboned it.  Poured the homemade chicken stock into a large pot and put into the refrigerator.  Today,Thursday, I took the pot of stock out of the fridge, skimmed off fat and then strained the stock through some cheesecloth to take out all the dirty looking particles left behind from cooking the chicken.  Brought the pot of stock to a boil.  Added noodles of choice to cook.  Added cut up deboned chicken into the pot of cooked noodles and stock and presto!  Homemade chicken noodle soup.  Mike said having hot soup for dinner was perfect after spending the day outside in the cold rain.  Soup and chili season has officially begun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

That was a close one

Has it actually been 9 days since I have written in my blog???  Holy freakin' cow!!!  Well, all I can say in my defense is that first me and then Mike, picked up the cold virus flavor of the month.  I've been totally wiped out and just trying to hang on to everything that needs to be done at both the clinic and at home.  All is better now though and we are both feeling our old selves again.  Maybe I should say our middle aged selves.

This is the time of year that us farmer's watch the forecast like hawks.  One day we are picking produce and the next day the growing season is done.  Literally.  Our first frost warning was last night.  At 9pm it was 40 degrees, the sky was crystal clear filled with stars and there was not a breath of wind to be had.  You could just feel the cold bite to the air.  When I got up at 5:30am, I took the dogs out for a walk and went back to check the thermometer on the maple tree behind the house.  32 degrees.  There was ice on the windshields of our vehicles.  Right before sunrise as the first light is breaking, that is when the temperature often drops to its lowest point.  We were both wondering what was happening in the garden.  Fingers crossed that the black plastic that is underneath most of the plants would hold some heat.

This is how the back yard looked when I left for work.  The sun had been up an hour so there was only frost in the grass in the low spot down by the creek.  The hillside in the sun was free of frost.  Had it melted?  Or did the frost not touch the higher ground?  Well what do you know? The garden looks pretty much unscathed.  Just a little bit of frost nip on a few of the peppers and a few of the eggplant, but the rest looks very much unharmed.  Whew!  Next chance for frost is looking like this coming Saturday night.  Actually this is quite good for us because our average first frost date is the first week of October.  Every day that goes by without frost is a blessing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Eat Local Challenge Day 3

Well fall is surely here.  The weather theme for the past 3 days was cool and wet.  It's not so bad when cool and wet fall on days I have to work, but it is down right annoying when they fall on my 3 day weekend.  There was a brief break this morning so I spent about 3 hours hiking around the Dorset Wildlife Area near our house.  Exploring these woods is something I have wanted to do for some time and since the wet made outdoor chores like lawn mowing impossible, I decided to grab the opportunity to go for a walk.  When I got back to the house, the rain started up again and so I did the next best thing which is to start making food.  We were almost out of cookies so a batch of chocolate chip cookies came first.

Then batch number two of apples from the farmer's market went into the crockpot to make applesauce.  These were Jonagold apples this time, a much firmer variety than the McIntosh.  They went through the peeler, corer, slicer contraption in record time.  I love when things work like they should!  Even the finished product looked better than the first batch. 

Next dinner and the eat local challenge meal.  Once again, not 100% perfect, but pretty close.  Mike took some bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, hot and semi hot peppers over to the Middlefield Produce Auction this afternoon and when he got home it was getting dark.  And raining.  So I sent him out to the garden to get some sweet corn and bell peppers for dinner.  What a good sport!  One dozen ears of sweet corn were picked, husked, kernels cut off the cob and put into a pan to make a new recipe from the Southern Ground Cookbook called "Heavenly Creamed Corn".  Then I cut up a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts from the chickens we butchered last weekend.  Stir fried the chicken and set aside.  Then I stir fried the red, yellow and green bell peppers that Mike had picked.  Added the chicken back in along with some pineapple and sweet & sour sauce.  Served the stir fry over some brown rice.  Dessert was apple crisp made with apples from the local farmer's market.  Mike said that even though the rice wasn't local, it was wet enough outside that it looked like we could grow rice.  Sounds good to me.

Tomorrow's eat local challenge might be a challenge.  We have some leftovers that have to be eaten tomorrow, but it does include some potatoes from our farm.  I wanted to make some homemade wheat wraps for my sandwich tomorrow, but with the cookies and the applesauce and the creamed corn and the stir fry, well for some reason I just didn't get it done.  I'll see what I can come up with when I wake up and start fussing around the kitchen tomorrow.  No need to be too prepared.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Eat Local Challenge October 2-8

The Ohio Department of Agriculture is sponsoring the "Eat Local Challenge" this week.  It started yesterday and runs through October 8th.  The goal of the challenge is to  "plan and prepare one meal every day using foods that are made, grown or raised in Ohio".  Being generally out of the news loop as usual, I just found out about the challenge in the middle of last week.  No matter, I decided to jump right in and take the challenge.  So here I am on day 2 and having mixed results.

Yesterday I had plans to go to a dinner to benefit the local humane society so I decided to choose breakfast as my challenge meal.  I did pretty good, but not 100%.  I made an egg sandwich using one egg from our own hens.  The cheese and the bread were both purchased at the Howe Meadow Farmer's Market in Peninsula, OH.  The orange juice I had was sadly not from Ohio.  If I had time to think ahead, I should have gone out to one of our local orchards and bought some apple cider.  So not too bad, but not perfect.

So day 1 of the challenge got me to thinking a lot about where our food comes from.  I have decided that it is going to be nearly impossible for me to make a complete meal just from Ohio products.  Oh I could do it I suppose, but the meal would be pretty bland.  Back in the summer, I had a source of fresh herbs and since I didn't know about the challenge then, I made no preparations to dry herbs for later use.  So if I made a meal today, I could not use any herbs, spices, salt, pepper, etc.  How about baking powder or baking soda that I use for my baked goods?  Nope, couldn't use any of that.  It would be a very basic meal using just local products.  I couldn't use my normal olive oil for stir fry.  And while there are some Ohio companies that make their own chocolate, I would waste a whole lot of gas to buy some.  But I guess when it comes down to it, all this thinking is the point of the challenge.  It makes you really appreciated the food system we have in place. 

Back to the challenge.  Day 2 was a mixed results day.  I did not prepare one meal with local food, but instead had at least one or two items each meal that were locally grown or made.  For breakfast, the eggs came from our farm and Mike made toast with bread from the farmer's market.  For lunch, I had a BBQ squirrel wrap sandwich (ok weird, I admit, but true and tasty) with squirrel from our farm.  I also had some watermelon from our garden.  Mike made a toasted cheese sandwich with farmer's market bread.  For dinner, we ate fried chicken made with chicken from our farm, the salad had tomatoes and cucumbers from our garden and farmer's market cheese.  The milk I drank came from United Dairy which is an Ohio company I am pretty sure.  Homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  I'm not really sure though if homemade cookies count though as the only ingredient that was local were the eggs.  Everything else came from the grocery store.  Although I if had purchased homemade cookies from a baker at the farmer's market that would count.  So I am going to count my own.  *grin*  Overall, not bad, but I could have done much better.

Depending on how my day goes tomorrow, I may take a drive through the county and see what goodies I can find to add to the challenge.