Saturday, August 6, 2016

Miss Jean Louis' resume prior to her immigration to the United States remains a bit of a mystery.  Though it cannot be confirmed, there are creditable rumors that she served for some time as chief courtesan to His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei.  In that capacity she not only satisfied the standard duties of her position, but was also known as the power behind the throne, brokering such landmark agreements as The Great Winter-Hardy Greens Accord, the Sock Monkey Amnesty Arrangement, and the Trans-Fandom International Trade Partnership.  It seems that this decades long relationship came to a bitter end when Miss Jean Louis chanced to see an episode of the American television programme Supernatural while on her annual rejuvenating trek to the hot springs of Southwest Canada.  She was transfixed by the visage of actor Misha Collins, and knew in that moment that the next stage in her career hinged on meeting him and getting his ridiculous life in order so that he could more fully focus on spreading his ridiculous aura hither and yon.  Extrication from the court of Sultan Bolkiah took several years after this initial revelation.  He was understandably reluctant to lose such a vibrant in irreplaceable creature.  In the end though, Miss Jean Louis' was not to be dissuaded, and she set sail for America in June of 2010.

Monday, April 13, 2015

My life as a chicken pedicurist

Tonight we treated our chickens for scaly leg mites.  The general procedure is to dip their legs in oil to smother the mites, but I had the bright thought that a solid oil, like coconut, would be even better because it would form a thick layer on their legs that would last for a while.  And while we're at it, why not throw in a little essential oil to soothe the scales and irritate the mites?

This is how I came to be massaging lavender/tea tree scented coconut oil into the feet of 15 nervous chickens.

It went pretty well.  We came by night, when the chickens were all asleep and docile, and manflesh pulled them down one by one.  It was interesting, because they all started off anxious and pulled their feet away from my touch, but as soon as I started really massaging the oil into their scales they all stopped fighting and even seemed to enjoy it.  I really felt like I was giving them a bit of a luxury treatment, which, maybe I was.  The mites live under their scales and make everything kind of inflamed and icky, so a gentle oil massage probably felt pretty good.

We'll need to do it a few more times, so I'm interested to see if they remember that it's a good thing and are a little more receptive when we do it again.  We'll also be dusting the whole coop with diatomaceous earth to knock the buggers out in the bedding and on the perches.


Earlier today, one of our cats was super interested in a cardboard box near the front door.  I thought he was just being a weird cat until Babby said, "What's that on the ground?"  I looked closer, and a sad, hard done by alligator lizard was desperately trying to limp away from the cat.  He was already missing his tail and sporting some other wounds, but his drive to keep running away gave me hope that he might make it.  We threw him into a terrarium we had sitting vacant, filled with soil and leaves from the woods.  He sat really still for a while, but has now disappeared, so maybe that's a good sign?  Ooooor he's slunk off to die.  I suppose we'll find out soon.

We do like our little native lizards, so I'm hoping he makes it and goes on to eat bugs out of our garden for many years.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

I'm Back!

I'm sure all three followers of the blog were really distressed by my absence over the summer (and fall, and most of the winter).  What can I say?  Summer started, both farm work and office work picked up, and blog posts fell by the wayside.

We vacationed with my mom and stepdad on Maui last month, and while we were there paid a visit to John at Rancho Relaxzo.  That visit, and the time spent in a place where things were actually *growing*, really reinvigorated my passion for permaculture and got me excited about this spring and the many springs to come.

To that end, Manflesh has enrolled in Geoff Lawton's online PDC course.  The idea is that we'll both watch all the materials, so really we'll both have all the knowledge, but he'll be getting the certificate.  He's planning to do an overall design for our land as his final project, which we'll start putting into practice this year.  After that, we're hoping he'll be able to find some small projects with which to build his portfolio, leading to this being a nice little side business for him.

In other news, I've got a perfect raisin-sweetened oatmeal cookie recipe to share as soon as I get around to making another batch and taking pictures.

I'm stoked for spring and ready to blog the excitement!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lost Chicken

We've been missing one of the Rhode Island reds since we got home from an overnight visit almost two weeks ago.  After quite a bit of searching, we'd more or less given her up as a lost cause, assuming she jumped the fence and fell victim to one of the many predators out in the woods.

Yesterday, though, manflesh noticed one of the little ornamental trees twitching.  On further investigation, he found a chicken inside, with her clutch of 17 eggs.  Someone else must have been helping her by laying there as well, because she hasn't been gone long enough to lay 17 eggs by herself.

We've moved the fence to include her little nesting area in the general chicken enclosure, and the extra traffic seems to have cured her of her broodiness... at least for the moment.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Caramel Apple Bars

I am an unabashed lover of chocolate.  Still, there are other types of sweets I can appreciate, like a nice salted caramel.  Sadly, caramel IS sugar, so a no-refined-sugar version of most caramel desserts is out of the question.  Lately though, I've come across a few recipes using a date puree as a sort of caramel stand in.  It won't work for every application, but dates are sweet, and they puree up soft and creamy, so I could see how it might work.

These bars were inspired by a caramel craving, and the fact that we had apples in the fridge and a party to go to.  They're soft and gooey, and very sweet without being cloying.  Just the thing for a light dessert or an after school snack.


Shortbread Layer:
1/3 cup (about 6) pitted medjool dates
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups (about 20) pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

1 tart apple
1 tsp coconut oil
a sprinkle of cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Start by kneading the 1/3 cup of dates into the flour.  Do this by tossing the dates with the flour, then squeezing and smearing date chunks and flour between your fingers until you have a fairly homogenous mix.  You can make this step quicker by mixing a little with your hands and then whizzing the flour and dates in the blender, but it can all be done by hand without too much trouble.  Mix the butter in with the dates and flour, and pat the resulting dough into a 9x9 baking dish.  Prick the dough all over with a fork, and bake in a 300 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until just lightly browned.

While the shortbread is baking, prepare the caramel and apples.

Core the apple and cut into uniform thin slices.  Melt the coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat, then lay the apple slices in the pan in a single layer.  Sprinkle the apple slices with a light dusting of cinnamon, and place a lid on the pan.  Allow the apples to steam in their own juices for about 8 minutes, then flip the slices and put the lid back on to allow them to steam for about 8 minutes more.  When done, remove from heat and set aside for assembly.

For the caramel, place the remaining dates, butter, and milk in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments, stirring each time, until the butter is melted and the milk is steaming.  Puree the date mixture with an immersion blender (or transfer to a conventional blender if that's all you have).  When smooth, stir in the vanilla and salt.

Finally, assemble the bars by spreading a small amount of caramel onto the baked shortbread (this acts as a glue to hold the apples in place).  Cover the bars with an even layer of apple slices, then spread the rest of the caramel.  Top the bars with the chopped walnuts, and press them in firmly to avoid runaways when the bars are cut.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mini Chocolate Pudding Cakes

Sometimes, you just get a craving.  Friday night was one of those nights.  It had been a long work week.  I was tired, my blood sugar was low, and I just wanted a yummy little *something*.  So, I did what you do, and started monkeying around in the kitchen.

The result was exactly what I had in mind.  Rich, dense, decadent.  Hot from the oven, these little cakes were the perfect match for the last of the coconut vanilla ice cream I made for Manflesh's birthday last week.  Tonight, after a couple of days on the counter, they were still almost as good after a 5 minute warmup in the oven.

See that fudgey, pudding-ey middle?

You need:

1/2 cup (one stick) softened buter
a heaping half-cup of Medjool dates (10-12 big dates), pits removed - measure the fruit by packing it into the cup
3 eggs
a dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 tablespoons whole wheat flour

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Put the butter, dates, and eggs in a small bowl.  Attack with the immersion blender until the dates are ground smooth.  You will need to stir the chunks up from the bottom and re-blend a few times.  Add the salt and vanilla and mix thoroughly, then mix in the cocoa, and finally the flour.

Spoon the batter into 8 silicone muffin cups.  I have, and love, these, from Chicago Metallic. You can probably get away with well greased metal pans as well, but release will be trickier.

Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the middles are not quite set.  Remove from the oven, and allow to cool just enough to handle.  Turn the cakes out onto a plate alongside some vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or some other tasty white creamy thing.

To re-heat leftover cakes, try 5 minutes at 350.