Sunday, September 19, 2010

You've heard of Christmas in July?

How about Easter in September?

While harvesting sugarcane the other day, I found this.

You can just make out a white chicken behind the canes, next to the old soda bottle. Fluffy didn't want to move, so I left her alone for an hour. When I came back later, found this.

THAT's where the chicks have been laying! I was getting rather annoyed at them for being fully 5 months old and not pulling their weight in the egg department.

A Buff Orpington hen
There was a second surprise in the discovery, though. All of those eggs are blue-green, even though fluffy is supposed to be a cream-colored egg-layer, a Buff Orpington. Well, she never did look like the Buff Orp pictures, or like her Buff Orp year-mate (whose eggs I have yet to find).
An Ameraucana hen

I checked the charts on what other breeds lay blue egs. Only Araucanas, their cross-bred cousin the ameraucana (we have two of these this year, which look just like the picture at right), and some other rare breed that basically looks like an ameraucana have blue eggs. But there is such a thing as a white araucana, and fluffy is a dead ringer for the photos I found of those.

A White Araucana hen

 Fluffy must have gotten mixed in with the Buff orps as a chick because she was pale yellow, rather than brown-and-tan striped like all of the other araucana chicks the feed store had. It's our own little family ugly duckling story.

Friday, September 17, 2010

But When Life Hands You Sugarcane...

SOL, buddy. If you search the internet for "sugarcane recipe," Google will just keep trying to give you recipes for candy cane sugar cookies. Oh, and sugarcane shrimp, which I expect I will eventually try to make. 
Yes, I know, I actually planted these things on purpose. I guess I didn't realize I would have to cut them with branch loppers. Or at least that once I got the outer foliage off I would need loppers to chop them into pieces small enough to peel. 
Or that even once they were peeled, I would STILL need loppers to cut the stalks into pieces small enough to boil. 

I'm pretty sure I have never had my loppers in the kitchen before.

By the way, granulated white sugar is waaaay under-priced. 

The chunks of sugarcane are boiling in water now, the house smells like brown sugar, and I think we will be having some unusual lemonade this weekend. That's the only pragmatic way to use this stuff that I can think of. Got any other ideas?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When Life Hands you Quinces

You turn to Google. Because somebody out there must know what to do with a fruit that looks like this.

This isn't actually one of mine. I cut mine up before realizing I really should get a picture. This is the first year I have gotten a crop (we'll use that term very loosely) of quinces from my young quince tree. But these are mine, stewing in a pot with water and lemon peel. 

I used an organic spray on the tree early in the season (Surround tm, a kaolin clay that is supposed to repulse hungry insects), but I guess I should have repeated it around the beginning of August. I lost a lot of fruit flesh to what looked like apple maggots (quinces are cousins to apples and pears, as well as roses). But hey, using up blemished fruit is what making preserves is all about.

So this is what my preserves looked like after I pureed the above mixture, added an equal volume of sugar, simmered it for an hour and a half, and then let is set up in a warm oven (however warm it is when I leave the light on) overnight.

I give you- membrillo! Well, my pathetic version of it anyway. It's apparently the national snack of Spain, and I must say, it is tasty. I don't happen to have any manchego cheese, which is traditionally eaten with it, but cream cheese and toast seem to go well with it.

I would describe the flavor as "floral honey"- very much like the wild honey I got from my bees before the neighbors made me get rid of them. The texture was a bit gritty, but that may be because I picked the fruit while it was still green. Hey, I had to pick it before the maggots got it all!

Tonight's adventure: convincing my children to eat it. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

When Life Hands You Prickly Pears

You make prickly pear puree. I have no idea why various websites give elaborate directions for removing prickly pear spines (which are called glochids, and are not to be sneezed at- and heaven help you if you do sneeze at then, you'll never get the pokey little buggers out of your nose) before slicing the fruit and steaming it to get out the juice. All I do is pick the fruit with a pair of tongs, then cut them in chunks (holding them on the cutting board with tongs) and run them through my KitchenAid juicer. It takes care of the skin, seeds, and spines all at once, and gives a nice thick puree with a scent reminiscent of melon.

From the puree you make prickly pear punch (made with puree, sugar, lemon juice and carbonated water, it tastes a bit like a citrus soda punch), and prickly pear syrup (strained puree boiled with sugar).

Also prickly pear muffins, and prickly pear gelatin. The muffins are quite good, but I should have strained the puree before making it into gelatin. The texture of the puree doesn't bother me, the kids find it a bit off-putting.

I still have puree left, and more pears on the cactus that aren't ripe yet. What shall I try next?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Polygyny is sooooo last century!

In the past, Jillian has told me that she wants to grow up and have children "and just be a Mom." So of course I've had the discussion with her that she should get an education first, and then prepare for a career, because things may not work out that way. She may decide she wants to work (I keep telling her she should be a doctor, as she is bright and completely unfazed by chicken blood/innards), or she may not find a spouse whose income would allow her to stay at home with their kids. It takes quite a bit of money to support a family, I have explained. (And yes, she knows that staying at home with your kids still means you work.)

Jillian told me this morning that I wanted her and her brothers to grow up and have children so that I could have grandchildren when I was old. I told her that I hoped she would have a few children, because I enjoyed having children and I thought she would, too. "But it's not like I expect you to have a dozen." Her reply was "Yeah, you'd have to marry a LOT of husbands to have that many kids!"

Polyandry. It's the new dual income family.