Sunday, January 30, 2011


With days  getting longer, the hens have begun laying in earnest. In the past few weeks we have gone from an almost manageable 3 or 4 eggs a day to an overwhelming 20-24 eggs a day.

I just finished washing the eggs from past few days -- 9 dozen, not counting the rejects. Any eggs that have hairline cracks because I didn't gather them in time and they were beginning to freeze or that are soiled (from chicken poo or a broken egg) become dog and cat treats.

I love the assortment of sizes and colors - huge eggs from our older chickens and duck,  petite eggs from the first time layers, and cute tiny eggs from the banty.
Let me know if you are in the market for some SBF eggs...please!

Chickens, Cows and a Rabbit

The past couple of days have have been overcast and pretty mild, so some of the chickens have been venturing out into the snow. This morning, some of Lacey's kids  tentatively exited the coop. These are the chicks that Lacey secretly hatched out at the end of October, much to my dismay. Nine of the ten survived and are growing into the craziest-looking chickens.
Lacey, in the bottom right corner, with a few of her offspring.  No two chicks look the same, and they seem to have gotten the wackiest possible combinations of their parents' traits.
As I was filling the cows' watering tank, I noticed a rabbit nestled next to the barn.  Nutmeg was on his trail, sniffing closer, but still oblivious to the rabbit only a few feet away, so I quickly called her out through the gate. The rabbit stayed motionless while I got my camera.
I think this is the rabbit that lives in the loafing shed and leads the dogs on so many merry chases.  He is often  around during chore time.
When I got too close he leaped across the snow, scurried under the fence and hopped off on a path through the woods. The dogs are still off tracking him now, an hour later.

Victims of the Melting

I guess we won't be grilling out tonight.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gardening in the Snow

Ever since we moved here my dream has been to create a sort-of-formal, raised -bed, mostly-perennial  garden outside our dining room window. Looking out, one would see drifts of colorful flowers in the foreground, then the large expanse of lawn (studded with cows grazing peaceably), and beyond, that the pastoral view.

Other projects have taken precedence the past two summers, so this garden hasn't happened yet, but for Christmas Rog gave me the promise of helping me build the garden this spring. (He knows the way to my heart!)

With each fresh snowfall I have been taking the opportunity to tramp a garden layout in the snow.  The raised beds will be contained by local Winona stone and there will be brick paver paths.  Tracking it out in the snow gives me a pretty good sense of how it will look from inside the house. This square plan looks a bit too geometric to me, but would be softened considerably by my eclectic gardening style.  I want to be able to expand the design in the future if I feel the need to plant more flowers!

What would you do? Your garden design ideas are welcomed. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Farm Critters as Quilts

My friend Enid is an avid and awesome quilter, and I have been tickled that she has immortalized some of our Squash Blossom Farm  animals  in her quilts. 

Last spring she created a wall quilt featuring my dear Dexter cow Lariat. 
Another of her farm quilts stars one of my first hens, Hawk.  This small quilt incorporates the techniques of glue fusing, glue resist, sticker resist and painting, machine applique, machine quilting using batiks, hand-dyed cottons and silk fabrics.
(Enid has written  a book on these quilting techniques!)

But now Enid is tackling the most most ambitious farm quilt project yet: a life-sized appliqued quilt  of LaFonda, our Jersey mix milk cow.  The quilt measures 6 feet tall!  If you click to enlarge the photo of the quilt top in progress, you can see the many prints  making up the cow's spots.  

Enid explained she is now bleaching various red fabrics to "age" them and use as the boards she will construct as a barn background  behind LaFonda.  It promises to be will be very graphic - and stunning! Enid's goal is to complete the quilt by April first and enter it in the International Quilt competition.  
Here is the photo of LaFonda that inspired Enid's large quilt. Little does LaFonda know, she might become an international quilting sensation!

I will post a photo of the completed  quilt when Enid is done. I cannot wait to see it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Art Is Going to the Dogs These Days

In December, I ended my part-time job in order to focus on making art and  farming.  It was a tough decision to leave a wonderfully flexible job with great people and a noble mission--for the unknown.  After all, I do need to make an income to support my farming habit!

Amazingly, no sooner did I give  my notice than I got requests to create a bunch of paintings! Currently, I am working on a set of large, whimsical dog portraits for a senior care facility. The nine dogs (plus one parrot) are the nursing home's therapy dogs.
This is Juda, the beagle.
Dickens is a little fuzz-ball shi tzu pomeranian. (I am more of a big  dog person - not very good with little dog breeds.) It was tricky to capture his canine-ness; he looks a bit like my big fluffy cat Orange.
Bea is the most adorable  dachshund puppy.

Six more pooches to go.  This is so much fun! By the time I complete all nine, I may be the official dog-portrait artist of my community!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Murder After Murder

Nutmeg and Cocoa spend hours a day on the trail of rabbits.  Usually, we see a rabbit run by along the edge of the woods, followed a few minutes later by the dogs  hot on its trail, and a few minutes after that, the saucy rabbit has circled back, successfully eluding them.

Yesterday, one of the dogs had a rare hunting success and killed a young rabbit.  I hate that, but I admit that the garden will fare better with some rabbit population control.

This morning a bunch of crows were in the yard, feasting on the frozen rabbit remains.  A group of crows is called a "murder of crows."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Upscale Scale

Introducing our newest tool: a digital scale, which is NSF-approved for use in a commercial kitchen.

This little baby will get lots of use. Rog weighs his ingredients when he bakes bread and I weigh my sprouts when packaging them.  Occasionally we need to weigh a cut of beef or a chicken.

This scale has a rechargeable battery so we can also take it to the Farmers Market to weigh produce.  The built-in calculator will even figure out the price! 

Monday, January 17, 2011

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Another show-and-tell, our second attempt at carving spoons.

On the left is Rog's wonderful thin spoon. It looks delicate, but the buckthorn is very strong, hard wood. The end of the handle flattens out vertically (like  a muskrat tail, my friend Vera exclaimed) but you can't really see that in the photo.

The sturdy spoon on the right with the undulating handle is mine. I am very pleased  by how it fits my hand, not to mention the sensually smooth texture of the wood.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Bit of Sunshine (Finally)

As I went out to do chores late yesterday I regretted that I hadn't spent the entire afternoon outside -- the sun was shining and there were long shadows on the snow.  At least I caught the last half hour of sunshine.  It's a scarce commodity these days.
Wovel, lying in wait for its next tour of duty.
The pasture, striped by tree shadows.
Nutmeg wants in through this gate.
Cocoa wants out through that gate.
The cows waiting  for supper. The barn looks so naked now without the huge old silver maple tree at the corner.
Aren't you going to put that camera away and feed us? This thing is empty!

The cows used to stretch their necks up to pull out bits of hay to munch. Now the snow, hay and frozen manure have built up so much around the feeder the cows must reach down to browse.  I'm eagerly awaiting a January thaw in order to shovel it out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lovably Wovel-able Snow

Another 3 inches of snow this morning.  Rog didn't have time to clear snow before leaving for work, but he used the wovel (shovel on a wheel) to  make two tire tread paths out to the road. He came in and said the snow was perfectly wovelable today.  So, after chores and coffee, I went back out to deal with the snow and I decided to wovel rather than snowblow.

Most of our snowfalls this year have been too deep, densely-packed, or icy   for easy woveling or the weather has been bitterly cold and we wanted the fastest result, so we have resorted to the snowblower. To use the wovel, you wheel the blade along the ground scooping up snow, then push the handle down to flick the snow off.  Today's snow is a bit heavier than powder and our tall snowbanks have receded enough that it is now easy to flip the snow up onto them.

I bought the wovel because shoveling is so hard on my back. The wovel is comparatively effortless, altho of course doesn't work on the steps.  It took me about  45 minutes to wovel out our long driveway and parking areas--maybe 10-15minutes longer than snowblowing would have, but the wovel is quiet, you don't have to wrestle a heavy snowblower around, it uses no gasoline and emits no carbon, and best of all, does not  make snow blow in your face and down your neck.  Plus, it is an aesthetically pleasing tool to use.

If you are a more obsessive person who desires machine-perfect snowbank edges, the wovel is not for you. A driveway  cleared by a wovel is a bit more handcrafted, like a sweater made with hand-spun yarn.

When I got this wovel I loved it so much I interviewed the guy who invented it for a newspaper story.  I told him they needed to invent a wovel-rake (a wrake?), and he said they were working on it.  Now if only he could invent a wovel-manure-fork, my back would be so happy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cats Sawing Logs and Catalogs

A good afternoon for a little catnap.  Weasel and Orange are so darn sweet, when they are asleep.
Seed catalogs started arriving at the beginning of December, so we spent many hours leafing through them over the holidays. But today, my favorite Wishbook arrived - the Murray McMurray chick catalog.  We already have more laying hens than we really need, so I don't want to order the minimum of 25 chicks, but I hope I can find somebody nearby who has room to let me order just a couple chicks on their order. I think our little flock could use a couple Blue Cochins...or black Jersey Giants...or maybe a fancy crested Polish...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Creme Brulee' Brouhaha

It was a  brisk, but sunny winter day. Rog worked on the two big downed trees with the chainsaw. Cocoa rolled around in the snow happily, apparently working up an appetite.

Tonight for dinner I roasted a chicken on a bed of rice with herbs and corn. I also made creme brulee'  - a simple but decadent dessert I have been looking forward to all week. The Joy of Cooking recipe calls for  2 cups of  heavy cream (organic), and 4  eggs (from our own chickens). You heat the cream in a double boiler, add the beaten eggs, and stir over heat until it coats a spoon, then pour into ramekins and cool. I placed the 6 ramekins in a cake box, covered loosely with a lid and set out on the back step to cool (I love that winter gives us extra refrigeration).
After supper when I opened the door to get the creme brulees, I was dismayed to discover 5 of the 6 dishes were empty!  Not realizing I was cooling our dessert on the steps, Rog had let Cocoa out, and she had scarfed them down!  I guess she could only eat 5; they are extremely rich.
I spread a layer of brown sugar on top of the one remaining ramekin and caramelized with a torch.  We shared it and it was delicious.

Cocoa is still outside in the snow in the dark--looking very guilty.  And very well-fed.