March 2010



If you have been following the story of Mrs. Cheever and her chickens (first brought to you in Which came first, the rooster or the neighbor?, I discussed the saga between local Mrs. Cheever and her neighbors who didn’t like the noise from Mrs. Cheever’s roosters. Well, the case has been settled.

She volunteered to give up her two roosters if she could keep her hens and that is what the court decided to go with. 

Cheever was ordered by a Rockingham Superior Court judge to remove her two roosters, but will be able to keep her hens based on a March 23 decision by the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment. The ZBA case involved complaints that Cheever had more chickens on her Atlantic Avenue property than were allowed by town ordinances.

The ZBA dismissed Cheever’s case after deciding that chickens, being fowl and not livestock, were not covered by the agriculture zoning ordinance that restricted the number of animals allowed on a property. Fullerton and other neighbors had argued that under that ordinance chickens were considered livestock and, therefore, Cheever was limited to having just four on her property. source: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20100326-NEWS-3260319

So, it boils down to the fact that chickens are not livestock, but…Roosters are so they have to go? Ok that’s not right. Let’s try again. Chickens aren’t livestock, Roosters aren’t either, but since the neighbors bitched so much, she has to give them up? Ok, that doesn’t seem right either, but that is pretty much what happened.

Let’s ponder this…We live next to a log yard landing. NEXT to it. We hear chainsaws in the early morning and all weekend when the weather is decent. Trucks haul in and out of there several times a day. On the other side of us, the neighbor has a dumpster (not garbage cans, a dumpster, don’t ask.) That dumpster gets dumped every once in a while. Not often, but I heard it this morning. It was loud. Very loud. So, why haven’t Keith and I complained?

It is simple really. Because we want to be good neighbors. The log yard is the guy’s business. He needs to make an income. Who are we to stop him? Besides the fact that we like him, the log yard was there when we bought the property. We have no right to complain and if we want to complain, we could risk becoming bad neighbors.

We don’t want that. Who WOULD want that? I mean, brotherly love and all that, sure, but it is for selfish reasons really. I want our neighbors to call the fire department if they see a fire and I want them to call the police if they see a stranger. It is a simple concept really. Neighbors taking care of neighbors – wasn’t there a Neighborhood Watch movement or something? I recall seeing some stickers of that dark guy with the cape.

Now, Mrs. Cheever sounds like a nice person, I’ve never run into her at Joe’s Meat Market or the post office (that I know of). I guess I should have attended the zoning board meetings since we’re planning on having chickens on the homestead. I am not trying to come close to insinuating that she’s NOT going to call the police or fire department should she see something of concern. After all she’s been through, if it were me…I would still be a good neighbor and dial… slowly.


Current DaisyPatch stats:  1 gallon maple syrup, 199 plants, 0 mushrooms and I started the Edamame this morning. Wish us luck with that.

**

Things have been a bit crazy. Our friend, Popper, invited us to dinner last week. He’s planning to open a deli/local food marketplace in Dover in the next few months which is very exciting for him. Funny, I am usually detail oriented, but the days up to the dinner were very rushed and I didn’t even get to read the directions to where we were having dinner until our car was speeding a mile a minute in the rain. (New Hampshire has been seeing record rainfall amounts, the President just declared disaster relief funds due to all the flooding.) Keith was driving while I was juggling my blackberry and using the travel lint-rolleron my Daisy-hair-covered black pants.

Dinner was fantastic. For appetizers, Popper laid out some Mortadella, Summer Sausage and Proscuitto along with some homemade bread slices and yummy cheese. There were some unique beers and about 8 bottles of wine (glad we brought one, my mother said to never arrive empty-handed). At this old NH farmstead, they raised pig, chicken, duck, and I think I heard turkey and guinea fowl. Give me a glass of wine and an audience and I’m just fine so while snacking and trying to not look like I was inhaling the food (that proscuitto was to die for) we learned about the other dinner guests.

This was a crowd I could relate to, or aspire to relate to. Several grew their own food and had read my two fave food-movement books, Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle so there was plenty to discuss. One was a food writer and the other a web designer. Two were chefs (one of whom was Popper). All were good folk. I admired the frut-and-flower-covered lemon and lime trees in the living room and chatted with Maria, the homeowner, and got some growing tips.

The dinner was to die for. Confit-stuffed farm-raised chicken, rustic bread, vegetable Quark, roasted parsnips, a delish rice dish and chocolate/bacon ice cream. Let me break it all down for you. I thought it would have been rude to take pictures of the meal, so I’ll do my best to describe it (see if I have what it takes to be a food writer myself…)

First, the chicken. The white meat was obviously pounded, then stuffed with the most moist, flavorful duck stuffing, rolled up and cooked. It was juicy when I cut it, and I didn’t need a knife. The stuffing had an earthy, twinge-the-back-of-the-jaw taste that can only be described as Umami. Let’s take a side-road for a second and describe Umami, the story of Umami and how it came to be in my vocabulary – not necessarily in that order.

Remember in school, we were taught the senses of taste? Bitter, sweet, salty, sour. Can you see the drawing of the tongue with the locations of each taste buds? I can remember, I think it was in Ms. Black’s 4th grade. (Ms. Black’s name changed from Mrs. BiglongnamethatbeginswithD to Ms. Black sometime in the middle of the school year. I guess I also learned about divorce while  learning about the senses of taste.) Well, in 1908, a Japanese scientist discovered a 5th sense of taste called Umami. It is the sense of Savory. Keith and I discovered it quite by accident.

We attended a destination wedding in the Albany, New York area a few years ago. In our room were menus to local restaurants. One of the restaurants was called Umami Cafe. The Truffle Mac and Cheese caught Keith’s eye. We ordered take out via the phone and I went to the restaurant to pick up our order. I called a few minutes before closing and they were nice enough to put in the order for me. I waited in the lobby area while it was being prepared and, as is my nature, I sought something to read. (I’ll read anything. I once read everything on a  jar of Comet – ingredients and all. Don’t think I’m strange, this bathroom had no reading material and it was the only thing under the counter that was within reach.)

The restaurant menu explained the history of Umami and how it is used in all the foods at the restaurant. Umami can be described as  savory, meatiness, brothiness or “mommy food,” meaning, “comfort food.” We LOVED the Truffled Mac and Cheese. I have since purchased The Fifth Taste cookbook  as well as some truffle oil – an expensive splurge.

I hope you enjoyed my little scenic detour. Back to the main road – the dinner. The bread was obviously homemade and cut into slices on to which I spread generous amounts of the thick, cottagy quark. (I doubt “cottagy” is a word, but it wasn’t creamy, it was like super, super thick cottage cheese, hence “cottagy.” Don’t fight me, just go with it.  Accept “cottagy” into your life.) Oh look, honey, another scenic route, this time to “Cottagy Quark.”  Can we go see what’s there? Yes, dear.

I discovered Quark at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market last Summer. One of the famers, I am so sorry I do not remember which one as I would like to give credit, had Quark. It looked like chunky cream cheese. It was “cottagy.” One was herbed and the other was plain. They had it out for sampling. Yuh-umm. Quark is an un-aged fresh curd cheese. It is much lower in fat than cottage cheese, but to me, had that nice little sour bite that cream cheese has.  I bought a jar, (wait, 9 bucks!, oh, jar deposit) and brought it home. Keith didn’t want any. All for me. I brought that jar back during a market visit a few weeks later and picked up some more. I didn’t try to cook with it, I just spread it on low-sodium Ritz crackers. Gosh, I could have lived on low-sodium Ritz and Quark last Summer. I think I’m going to try to make Quark this year.

Meanwhile, back at dinner, (please tell me if you read that in your best Ted Knight voice I need to know I am not alone), I have to fill you in on the rice. I can not accurately describe the rice dish. I think it was Forbidden Rice. I am unsure, but will definitely be asking for the recipe. The rice was black/purple and had popped open during cooking. I think it was made in a risotto style. Here’s what I know was in it – duck fat, thyme and crisped chicken skin.  It was so flavorful and so savory and just damned bloody good. (I am not british and I do not mean there was blood in it, but the term “bloody good” seemed very appropriate right there.) Keith made chicken for dinner last night and I saved the skin from mine. It is crisping in the oven right now. I can’t eat it just yet due to restricted diet, more on that later.

Parsnips. I never met a parsnip I liked. Yuck and double yuck. Bitter (thanks Ms. Black, I know what that means), awful stuff. What person in his/her right mind would Eh-VER eat a parsnip? Dare I say my tastes are changing as I get older (gracefully) or were previously attempted parsnips not cooked correctly? Methinks both. I tentatively put two small ones on my plate in that, “I guess I should be polite and try everything since I am at someone else’s house and they made me dinner but if I put just one it’ll look like I don’t like it and am just being polite, so I had better put two, but I’ll make them small ones so they’re less conspicuous” sort of  fashion. They were whole and off-white, looking like a carrot that didn’t get any sun. Butter and a little rosemary can make styrofoam packing peanuts palatable, and neither were detected in the serving dish, increasing my sense of dread.

I have gotten more adventurous in the last few years when it comes to new food. About 12 years ago, I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian.  While wandering in the bookstore for something completely unrelated, I saw a book with a title akin to, “So, You’re Thinking About Becoming a Vegetarian?”, bought it and went cold turkey. No turkey, actually, and that was the problem. I stopped after 6 months – I just wasn’t getting it right. I didn’t like a lot of vegetables and I really missed turkey. I would say that now, I could be a successful vegetarian if I wanted to be, since I have tried and learned to like many different kinds of vegetables, but I don’t plan on it.  Turkey and I can never be parted again.

I hope you’re still with me, we’re talking about dreaded parsnips. Here goes. I loved them and went back for more. I can’t explain them. They were sweet. Not as sweet as cooked carrots, but a nice mild sweetness with a tone of what can only be described as earthy. It is obvious the trick is in the preparation. If you know a good parsnip recipe, please share. They will be on the DaisyPatch this year.

Onto the ice cream. The latest bacon craze has people putting bacon in everything. Keith saw a t-shirt that said, “Bacon is the new Jesus.” (Actually, I think the shirt will be arriving in the mail any day.) I think it is true. Maxim magazine (we get it for the articles) mentions a new bacon product every now and then, including bacon-flavored lollipops. We bought bacon band-aids for our friend, Jenny. Her gifts get wrapped in bacon-printed gift wrap. Get it? Having Popper for a good friend means that sausage and bacon, the good stuff, not the sodium-laden, bacon-favored, sizzle strips sold in your megamart, but the real stuff from a local chemical-free pig, is in our larder at all times. Yup, I said larder. Homestead word. Just trying it on for size.

This ice cream sounded weird, but then I thought about it. Insert bacon thought bubble.

My chocolate chip cookies have sweet milk chocolate chips in them. What brings out the sweetness of the chocolate? That extra pinch of kosher salt that I add. Why should it be any different in this ice cream? Picture tasting the duskiest, most chocolatey cocoa you’ve ever tried. Put that in a frozen sweet cream base. Now, at the exact moment that flavor is being deposited from the spoon into your mouth and you’re detecting the sweetness, you can sense, I thought I smelled it before I tasted it, the smoke from a bbq. Then, the saltiness from miniscule bits of bacon hit you, while your sweet taste receptors are still going off. (Despite what Ms. Black told us, you don’t just taste sweet on the front of your tongue, there are taste receptors for all senses throughout your mouth.) The saltiness, the smoky aroma, the dark, almost savory, chocolate and the sweet cream all mixed together into a little tiny dish of delight. I was not given enough, but after my gluttony with the rice dish, did not ask for more. The ice cream was paired with a little ginger shortbread cookie. It was good, but only got in the way really. I had to eat it just to get it out of the dish so my spoon could attempt to scrape up more of the ice cream.

This meal from heavenfarm occured one week ago today and I am still thinking about it. It is easy for me to understand why that is. I had my gall bladder taken out a few days ago, am home recovering and am restricted to a low-fat, bland diet (read: boring) during recovery. I asked the surgeon during the pre-surgery consult (which is basically the meeting where you hear all the ways you’re going to die on the table, then sign a sheet of paper to acknowledge you understand these risks), “Did I do this to myself? Did I eat wrong?” (thinking the Summer of Quark and Ritz sent my little gall bladder over the edge). He assured me that, no, gall bladder disease and gall stones are hereditary and quite common and I didn’t inflict this upon myself through my diet. I repeated this to myself during the farmstead dinner which was 36 hours before surgery. Perhaps the fact I knew I’d be in for flavorless meals for the next few weeks made me savor and appreciate every bite that much more.

I think it was more than that.  It wasn’t just the delicious new foods and flavors. It was new friends, new stories, and a newfound camaraderie as we all were there for one reason – to support our friend, Popper, and to support the idea that good food can come from our backyards.

***

Since you hung in this long, with only one picture, and a stupid one at that, here’s a little treat. Make sure you have the volume way up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTa3kfu4iRM


I realized it has been over a week since I posted. I’m feeling a bit under the weather – literally. It has been dumping rain for several days now with hurricane force winds and I haven’t been feeling like doing much at all. Bleh. On a calm morning last week, Keith put landscape fabric down in the greenhouse and small stone on top of that, we fastened the rails and would like to get the plastic up. The only way that is even a possibility is if the Wizard of Oz winds calm down or else I can just envision our little friend Jen just flying away as we’re trying to lift the plastic over the frame.

Sad news – we had crop failure. I was looking forward to trying the Arugula microgreens, however, we had them too wet and they turned to snot in the growing tray. I plan on trying again. Soon.

Why haven’t I replanted them? or planted the Edamame? or worked on where we’re going to plant the 50+ Husk Cherries? Bleh. The first day of Spring is Saturday, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen the sun in weeks (I did, last Saturday but that was SO long ago).  Bright clothes for Spring are blinding me as I turn the pages of magazines. No interest.

My girlfriend made me promise that, before we buy one piece of lumber for the chicken coop, Keith and I book a vacation. We haven’t even gotten around to doing that. My sweet husband bought me a little pot of Gerber Daisies. The flowers died and so did the flower buds. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!?

When I lived in Vermont, they called this, “Mud Season.” It is Bleh Season and I’m putting a stop to it. I’m taking back sunshine, taking back good mood. I’m leaving for the day job now and picking up some flowers on the way. Tomorrow, I wear pink…

and book a vacation.


If you have found the Daisy Patch using https://daisypatch.wordpress.com, please update the new link. We can now be found at:  www.daisypatchfarm.com

Thanks!

DaisyPatch


Yesterday, Keith and I attended the Homesteading Heritage Poultry class at Yellow House Farm in Barrington, NH. What an experience! Not all of it good. Let me walk you through the day.

Warning, I will bracket icky parts with ** so you can avoid them if you’re squeamish.

As we pulled up to Yellow House Farm, I noted they weren’t kidding. This place is YELLOW! Check out the link above. Class started at 9. We arrived a few minutes early, I grabbed my mittens, notebook, pen and camera, and followed Keith into the house. Joe, one of the owners, met us at the door and ushered us inside.  6 other people had already arrived and were sitting around the dining room table. We took our places and Joe indicated that 2 people were missing, but started to share some of the class logistics – bathroom here, coffee and tea there, don’t feel you need to ask, just go ahead and get up.  Then he started talking about something, but I missed it because I got up and went to the bathroom (small bladder, what can I say? The second he said, “Bathroom” I had to go. I hate that.)

When the last couple arrived, Joe had each of us introduce ourselves and explain why we were interested in the class. One woman was a vegetarian and wanted to learn how to keep chickens properly so she could teach her daughter. My inside voice told me to check on her facial expressions when the discussion turned to killing and eating the birds. (My inside voice is so snarky!)

It was immediately apparent that Joe was Italian. He kept saying, “How do you say…?” and what sounded to me like, “Ergo”   in between sentences. I liked him instantly. He talked about the human ability to not make something suffer. We can make the decision to stop life instantly.  *Coyotes and fisher cats will not humanely kill their dinner first, they just start eating and, during the process, the animal will die.* He told us to take what we think and release it – rethink the way you think. Farming is very natural. We can give the animals a wonderful life, a clean life and not make them suffer when it is time to end the life.

See what I mean by, “Not all of it good”?  GRUMBLE. I just wanted to see baby chicks and within 15 minutes, and I should have expected this, I’m struggling with my inner nature as human predator and the morality of killing a living creature for my food.

I’m being melodromatic (you, Jenn? NO!) We did expect this. There is a distinct possibility that we will eventually want them for dinner, but we learned a new term at Cluck U, “Broody Hen.” A Broody Hen is a very protective mother hen that hovers and fusses over her chicks. When Joe explained what that was, Keith tapped my leg and whispered, “That’s you.” I am a caretaker, I fuss, I overprotect. I (s)mother and can’t imagine NOT naming chickens if we get them and trying to turn them into pets. This weighed on me.

Back to Cluck U. After about 2.5 hours of  learning the history of jungle fowl, then onto early domestication, chickens in Egypt, Greece, and ancient Rome, then the Fall of Rome, the opening of China and the Industrial revolution and what all these events in history meant for the chicken (and several bathroom breaks on my part), I was starting to wonder what we signed up for. Where are the frikkin chickens, buddy? Don’t get me wrong, I instantly loved Joe, but I am admittedly impatient. If I didn’t get to see a chicken pretty soon, I was going to muck the fuck out to the coops all by myself. Capiche?

Just a half-hour later, after discussing industrial farming and the reliance upon the oil industry, Joe said it was time to discuss chicken care.  He brought us into the basement where we got to see 9 day old chicks and 2 week old chicks that had hatched in the incubator.

9 day old chicks

They’re all huddled together, Joe said, because they see us as danger from above so they’re hiding in one area for protection. Yup, we’re hawks to them.

Keith with a 2 week old chick.

In the basement, we learned about how to raise them for the first several weeks of their lives, how, when and what to feed them, general care, etc. I took a zillion notes while juggling the camera. We then broke for lunch and were to reconvene 40 minutes later to spend the rest of the day outside and see the coops. Keith and I had brought sandwiches and pears for lunch. I did not have a chicken sandwich, but instead, a deli turkey sandwich. I could only eat half. As I chewed, I thought about the morning’s session and sort of skeeved myself out a little bit. *Do they really spray the meat with bleach before packing?* I sniffed my sandwich and put it in the wrapper. I don’t like to waste, but I just didn’t want any more.

We reported back after lunch and Joe said it was time to go outside. The day was gorgeous. I am glad I brought my mittens though. Teensy bit on the chilly side in the shade. Oh, so, mucks. Muck is mud. Muck boots are boots to withstand mud. Nickname – mucks. I didn’t have any. Joe happened to have some plastic boot covers which I wore over my winter boots when we FINALLY went outside 5 hours after class began (did I mention I was impatient). Style!

Thanks, Keith, for the surprise snap!

Here’s a coop with Heritage Breed Ancona chickens inside (I think they were Anconas, I tried my best to pay attention – he was giving us a lot of information.)

Coop with three or so chickens and a rooster inside.

If you look closely at the right side of the coop, you can see a wooden box (unpainted wood) hanging off the side. That is the nest box where they lay their eggs. Joe lifted it up. Eggs! Here we all are, crowding to check it out.

Note Keith in in proper muck attire (center, leaning to peer in).

Nest box open, showing entrance to coop.

Very cool.

Joe explains how to build the nest box while Keith looks on. Note the handmade scarf! I forgot to ask him who made it.

 

King of the coop.

Houdan hen. I thought this little gal was cool.

 Then we got to a Dorking coop and Joe pulled out a hen to show us body structure. It got pretty graphic. He was polite, he used the word, “Vent” for her laying “bits.”

Dorking Hens are very calm, Joe said. It fussed a little, but didn't peck at him at all.

What a good girl.

The Houdan originated from Normandy sometime during the French Renaissance.

Joe was great! While Rob was raking the gardens, Joe showed us and let us feel the body structure of the chickens, explaining what makes a good layer, what makes a good roaster, details on their combs (which can get frost-bitten, I had no idea) and more.

I couldn’t stop giggling, and this shows my 1) inexperience and my 2) maturity, but a male Dorking chicken is a Dorking cock. Yup. Ok, I just giggled to myself as I typed this.

*He didn’t talk very much about slaughter, but explained a few fine points about culling. What is culling? Selection for killing, basically. Pick out the weakest or less desirable chickens so they don’t breed. It was here the vegetarian started to make noises like she was being squeezed. Little groans were coming from her direction as Joe described how to use your hands to snap the chicken’s neck. His advice, make it quick. If you’re going to do it, do it, don’t try to do it. No suffering.*

We walked past the slaughter station on the way back into the house. Joe didn’t make mention of it. I did. *Oh, so that’s the slaughter station?” Feathers were all over the ground. Joe mentioned they had to slaughter right before the snow flew, so snow covered the ground before they could clean up the feathers.* Keith missed it completely. It actually didn’t bother me. I don’t know why.

We learned a lot.  I had a lot of questions.

  • “Um, I have day job, are the eggs going to spoil on a hot summer day if I don’t get to them until 7PM?”
  • “Um, how long before I move them from the basement to their coop?”
  • “And when do they start to fly?”
  • “SO, they can fly while they’re in the basement?”
  • “With the rooster in the coop WITH the hens, isn’t he fertilizing the eggs? “
  • “So, you’re eating fertilized eggs?”
  • “Um, you can eat fertilized eggs?”
  • “I heard you say chickens can handle certain levels of inbreeding, but can you repeat what you said after? Sons on mothers, fathers on daughters. Ok, got it.”

I also contributed too…

  • “You said that the prettier the chicken, the less tasty the meat. So, it’s kind of like us – beauty pageant contestants usually aren’t the smartest humans.”
  • “You said ‘Bathroom.’ Sorry, I’m back.”
  • You said, “Dorking cocks” (snicker)

We ended the seminar back in our seats around the farmhouse dining room table. Joe gave us magazines and a few web sites to which to refer and explained the current homestead movement, how, if we don’t save some of the heritage breeds, which have adapted to humans for thousands of years, they’ll be gone.

As other people left (it was just before 6PM and a few folks had come from very far away), Keith stayed behind to talk to Joe about ducks, wondering if we could buy a duck (the ready to defrost kind, not the still swimming kind), but all the ones they had were pre-sold, so he’ll email us this week after inventory and if he finds one available, we’ll head to the Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers’ Market  next weekend to pick one up.

She's holding a duck egg. Notice everyone in the barn is wearing hoods.

This is why they were wearing hoods. Ducks in the barn rafters.

While Keith talked to Joe, I chatted with Rob a bit. He’s a veterinary microbiologist and a really nice guy. He and Joe are moving the coops this year, building new runs for each coop to give the chickens more room to get out and exercise, expanding the garden, remodeling the farmhouse with salvaged items…he went on. They sound busy, as they both have day jobs.

That got me thinking, Keith and I both have day jobs too. If Rob and Joe can go through the process of preserving heritage breeds of chickens, turkeys and ducks – having upwards of 600 birds on the farm sometimes, I’m not going to be intimidated by what seemed to me to be a lot of work.

So, we are deciding which breed we want and discussed today where the coops would go. Besides, how can you resist this face?


I often take a tour of the little-garden-that could as it comes to life in our basement. I visit it before leaving for DJ (day job) in the morning and I visit it when I get home at night.

A week or so ago, we noticed a few seedlings were yellowing. Are they gonna die? I was concerned. On a recent garden stroll, Keith pointed out the once-yellow-now-green plants and said just two words, “Bat shit.” Apparently the Guano is working.

Tomorrow, we head to Farm School. http://yellowhousefarmnh.com/content/2346  Homesteading Heritage Poultry seminar. I’ve decided to call it Chicken Class. No, wait, Cluck U.  I like that better. I was told we should bring a sandwich and wear mucks. What the hell is a muck? I think it is a boot. I will know tomorrow and needless to say, I’m excited for it and a little bit scared. I do not want to fail Cluck U.