Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ground turkey? Yes, you can!

I spent last week gaming the grocery system and scored some sweet deals. Including two frozen turkeys - a total of 38 pounds for about $9.

That's about $0.31 pound. Not as great as last years, $0.29/pound steal... but still pretty good.  What did we do with all that turkey-liciousness? Well. We didn't roast it for one meal. We used my tried and true method of parting up the turkeys and using just about every ounce to stock up our larder. Yes, we made meat balls, yes, we made stock...and yes.... we canned ground turkey.

Canning meat? What? Am I crazy? Nope. Actually its one of our best projects and I can't believe I didn't do this earlier.

You really don't want to thaw out, grind, and refreeze meat. The most reasonable solution is to cook it and then store it. Looking down the barrel of our upcoming Hog Harvest, we really won't have a square inch of freezer space to spare. So we tried canning cooked ground meat. It rocks.

The process is easy peasy. Cook it, cover with boiling water or broth, and process in your pressure canner. Then you're ready for easy and quick dinners. How great is that?

In total we 'harvested' 5 or 6 quarts of rich stock, a tub of rendered fat, 9 pints of ground meat, 5 pints of shredded meat from making stock, two bags of meatballs, and several tubs of cat food. And one roasted breast for supper one nite. For $9.  "Fast food is cheaper" my left foot! Get down to the store right now and snatch up the cheap turkeys before they get away.

How about you? Anybody else spend the weekend canning? And whats with all this rain?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, November 28, 2011


Does it look like these meat chickens doubled in size from just last week?

Wow these house meats are growing like weeds! We really need to get them out of the basement- and get the Paws of Doom in there to get rid of the mice that have appeared.  I checked my notes and we actually had meat chickens until January last year. I know that some folks are wondering if having this late-in-the-season meat chickens works....and it does. We'll move them out into the turkey house as soon as we can get Debbie, our last dairy goat, dried out.

Today was the last morning I milked Debbie all the way out. She gave a beautiful bucket of milk and just as I turned to take it out to the chickens.... I dropped it and her precious milk went all over the floor. Ugh! And yes, you can cry over spilled milk. I ended up calling the hens in so at least it wasn't such a waste.

In other news, the pigz are huge. We'll have some cold days coming up.....right after three days of straight rain. Timing is not on our side. Butchering pigs is enough work without having to do it in the mud.

That's the news here - did everyone survive the holiday? No Black Friday for us we have enough craziness in our own barnyard. Altho Nibbles did present to me a detailed list of her Christmas demands. Ha! She'll get  some coal in her stocking if she keeps it up.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gobble Gobble!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Remember to eat lots of pie. Hope everyone has a great day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good thing we've got chickens

All I'm sayin' about the SuperFail is... good thing we've got chickens. Jerks. The not-so-super-duper-committee, not the chickens. But hey - look at the meat chickens!

The meats are stinkin' up the house and they need to be moved out to one side of the turkey house. However, Debbie the goat is in there right now. Its the barnyard shuffle.

Debbie is being sequestered because we are trying to "dry her out." That's goat speak for getting her to stop making milk. Its actually kinda hard. There are a couple different theories. One is to just stop milking "cold turkey." But that kinda seems mean... and some people think it can lead to mastisis.

Another approach is to gradually dry her off by milking less. Since milk production is an "on demand" process... if you milk less then your lady goat should produce less milk. Sounds about right to me. And it worked for Nibbles. I stopped milking Nibbles at night a while ago. Then I only milked her a little bit in the morning and left most of her milk. After about a week her udder wasn't refilling at all. Then I only milked a little bit every other day. Then I just stopped.

We're working on milking Debbie less which is thats why she's in the turkey house. We especially need to keep her separated Dahlia, her doeling from this spring, so she won't try and nurse of Debbie.

Technically you can milk a goat up until six weeks before she has her babies. But we don't believe in doing that. First because milking is only fun on a nice spring day, not when its -30* with the windchill. Also we just think that its too hard on her system. We'd like her to concentrate on growing her babies not producing milk. Finally, we don't have to keep feeding her the best quality hay if we dry her out. At some point she just won't produce enough milk to justify expensive, best quality hay. She's at that point so its time to shut her down.

But Debbie had better hurry up and dry out. Those meat chickens are getting stinkier by the day.

Anybody else got chickens in their basement?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"G" is for love.....

Actually "G" is for gingerbread. Dontcha just loooooooove gingerbread? I found a new recipe and you just have to try it - look what you get...

For the life of me I can't remember what I was doing looking at this blog.  But I started clicking around and I found this recipe for Marion's Gingerbread.  I don't know who Marion is, but wow does she have some ass kickin' gingerbread!

This isn't the sticky gooey melty topped gingerbread that I sometimes make.  Its more cakelike but the addition of black pepper really puts some pep in your step. I can't find Chinese Five Spice around here but I made do with what I had and added some cloves and more cinnamon. Instead of the black strap molasses you can find at the store I used Mr. Miller's fresh from the farm sorghum molasses. Just heavenly.

Of course the afternoon I made this fine gingerbread I couldn't just let it be lonely in the bowl so I added some caramel sauce and plopped on some fresh whipped cream. But in the mornings I just heated up a slice of this gingerbread and poured on the fresh milk. Any way you slice it, this gingerbread is a taste sensation. But whatever you do don't skimp on the black pepper - you'll thank me.

Speaking of love, does everyone know my friend Kris? She had such a beautiful story the other day I just had to give her a shout out. Kris is very very funny and she is very smart. She really knows her "heritage skills" and she can make do with just about nothing. She always has a good word and is a wonderful example of a Godly woman. Thanks, Kris for this remarkable post.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

How "Occupy The Barnyard" Ended Around Here

Lately The Mob has been giving me grief. You remember this batch of chicks that hatched one at a time over the course of almost 3 weeks?

Pretty much they have decided they don't like being oppressed by "the man" and have refused to go into their coop at nite. Every nite its a chase to get them all locked up tight and safe from the yowling coyotes and foxes that we've been hearing. The Mob had decided to stage and protest and set up camp in the lower goat yard. That's right, its the Occupy the Barnyard protest.

The other night, tired from doin' stuff all day I tried to reason with them and shouted, "Hey, you chickens! Get up here, find a roost, and put you butt on it!"

Mocking jeers were their only reply. I marched down there.

After a chase, some swearing, and a whole lotta "Why you, I oughta's" I got most of them into the coop and on a roost. They forgot about their protest once they saw their feed. All but one were safely tucked in and ready for bed. A lone rooster from the lineage of Mr. Noodles, that beautiful blue roo we had a while back, refused to come in for the right.

I stomped back down to their now empty camp in the lower goat yard. There was a chase. About the fourth time around the goat yard I was getting frustrated. The sun was going down and there were others to take care of so I got the dogs.

"You can't do that!" Shouted the lone rooster.

"Do what? Quit being so ridiculous and go to bed! Now." I was getting steamed. Kai and Titan, positioned behind me, were starting to paw around eager to get into the fray.

"This is a non-violent protest and you can't just bring in the brute squad! I speak for the people. I am the 99%!"  The little rooster crowed. He had stopped running and decided to stand his ground. He put his wings around a tree and hugged it.

"For the love of Pete, get up here and go to bed!"

He hugged the tree tighter.

"Titan," I commanded, "Get down there and get me that rooster!" The big dog took off with a mighty bound. Seeing the enormous dog coming for him the little rooster's courage broke and he started to run with Ti right behind him. Normally the chickens will just get scared and run up to the hen house. And Titan knows how to herd them up there.

"Help! Help!" Cried the little rooster.

"Are you being repressed by the violence inherent in the system?" I yelled back, watching the chase.

"That's not funny!" He was just plain mad now. And slowing down as he was getting tired from running in wild circles.

"Sure it is." I said as he made another lap around the big pine tree. Then I made a series of clicking noises to get Ti's attention to signal him to back off from his pursuit. I was pretty sure that little rooster was heading toward the hen house. They never keep this up for too long.

But the little rooster came over and stood at my feet. "Look," he said shaking his fist at me, "we're mad as hell and we aren't gonna take it anymore!  This whole 'barnyard' system is totally unfair. Your greed is ruining everything. We're having a revolution and it starts now."

I folded my arms across my chest and raised an eyebrow, "Is that right?"

"Yes." Said my little protester, "I am a male-bodied chicken and I demand...."

"You're a WHAT?"

"I said I'm a male-bodied chicken..."

I looked at him incredulously. "You are a rooster not a 'male-bodied chicken'. Now go to bed."

All of a sudden he started wiggling his wing feathers at me in a weird way. "What the heck is that, Little Rooster?" I asked totally confused.

"Its our way of saying that I don't agree with you." He carefully explained.

"Get in the hen house." I told him sternly.

"You're not the boss of me! We want a new economy here where everyone is equal and everyone can do whatever they want!" He was starry-eyed imagining the new world order.

"Well you can't just do whatever you want," I whipped out a picture of the great philosopher, Spock, and stuck it in the Little Rooster's face. "Do you see this? Don't you understand the concept that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?  Everyone has their place and everyone works for the good of all not just the one.  You're not just gonna stay out here and be coyote bait. Don't you see its all part of the circle of life and it spins mighty tightly around here?  So fall in line and get in that hen house!"

"This is what a police state looks like! This is what a police state looks like!" He yelled pumping his fist in the air. Then he turned and waggled his bottom at me, then smirked "Kiss it copper! Talk to the tail feathers!" And then he ran off again toward the bottom of the goat yard.

"Kai!" I commanded and the young curly tailed dog sprang to attention. This was it. This was the first time she was asked to be part of the barnyard round up. This was her chance to prove to Titan that she could be a Hard Working Farm Dog and not just a huntress. My Fighting Uruk-hai verily quivered with anticipation as she awaited her assignment.

I nodded in the direction that the Little Rooster ran off and said, "Get me that rooster." And she was off. Ti and I watched as she thundered down the hillside, muscles bunching to hurl her huge body forward, eyes focused like lasers on the rooster, ears pitched forward...she was magnificent. She zigged when he did, zagged when he did, and never broke her line of sight or concentration. And never going for the kill.

"Not bad" I said to Ti who, watching Kai, nodded his approval.

Suddenly the Little Rooster panicked. Instead of heading back up the hill to the hen house he turned and darted thru the fence into the no man's land - Fox Central - the brambles between us and the neighbor's property. He disappeared into the underbrush.

Kai hit the electric fence like a freight train. From our vantage point up on the hill both Titan and I cringed waiting for her screams of pain. But she'd managed to avoid getting zapped by the powerful charge that will leave a burn on your arm and give you a twitch in your eye for two days. Don't ask me how I know this.

Unfortunately Kai was now "out of bounds" which is a hanging offense especially since she was all amped up on her prey drive and heading towards the neighbors goat yard. I shouted the series of commands instructing Kai to "stop what you're doing", "look at me", and "come here right now!"

The big curly tailed huntress pulled up short, turned, and trotted her victory lap up the hillside.

Well. That Little Rooster was on his own. In this barnyard we'll do what's reasonably necessary to bring in the stragglers. But unfortunately for him we don't have a "no rooster left behind" policy. The dogs and I gave one last look for that Little Rooster and then turned to go inside just as it was getting too dark to see.

Early the next morning, well before sunrise I took Zander the pup out for a quick walk. He and I stumbled around in the dark until suddenly we both turned toward the far side of the goat yard. We heard a series of tiny screams and the snickering of a hundred foxes closing in on their prey.  The horror...the horror.

The barnyard was a little sullen that morning during chores. But you can bet your bottom dollar that most of The Mob were already inside with their butts on roosts when I went out for evening chores. All but a few who stood just inside the hen house door shouting their thanks and well wishes. "Thanks for keeping us safe!  Great work securing the borders!" They all applauded and smiled as the big dog and I walked up to close the door.

So ended the Occupy the Barnyard protests in our neck of the woods. Everything seems to have gotten back to normal. The other morning I overheard one of the older hens explaining to a younger hen that, "Look. Around here their are winners and there are losers. You're gonna feed her one way or another so you might as well lay an egg."

I smiled and nodded to myself. And so it goes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Commander Zander weighs in

We took the pup to the vet on Monday for a recheck and more puppy shots. They couldn't believe it was the same pup - he's gained TEN POUNDS since they saw him just a two weeks ago. Zander now weighs in at 28 pounds. He's ten and a half weeks old. Wow!

Zander loves to sleep in funny ways. We can almost see him growing.

He's had some important milestones lately. He can now go up and down the stairs by himself - thank heaven. He was getting too heavy to carry!

He loves to destroy everything. Just like Kai did when she was younger.

Wow can he eat! He's gone from five or six small meals a day to more like 3 big meals and a couple snacks. He's learning to eat with Kai so he doesn't develop any of the food aggression behaviors. And he's gotten really snugly with me. His legs are getting really long so he's starting to run like a dog instead of that teeter-totter little puppy run-hop.

After an epic battle with a lot of wrestling.  And destroying everything.

Puppies go thru a development phase where they are really impressionable, as my friend SD says. We call it the scardy-pup phase. He'll come out of it really fast but we are being careful that nothing really bad happens to him or that he doesn't become frightened of anything. Mostly tho he's so good natured that he'll breeze right thru this.
Finally they both went to sleep, two peas in a pod.

Zander and Kai love playing together. Its hilarious to see him play-growling at her. He'll crawl up on her back and chew on her ears and pull at her mane. But she just shakes him off and starts the game again. The older dogs are getting tired of his constant playing. So we've been giving them a "reverse time out" and letting them be in the living room with us while Kai and Zander have epic play battles in the dog area.

In other news, we've had about 3 inches of rain in the last couple days. We're thrilled that our trenching project seems to be working. Now that the weather has passed we'll be back in the trenches.

Happy Thursday everyone! Can you believe its only a week until Thanksgiving!?!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Potstickers and ditches

Its a weird combination, I know. But I'm still on my kick to find new ways to fill the gaping void of ethnic food in this small town. So check it out, pot stickers:

Honestly I don't know the difference between pot stickers and gyoza, but wow these turned out great. I used (loosely, of course) this recipe. For the filling, I used the rest of the smoked duck from the other day along with carrot, garlic, ginger, cabbage, and soy sauce. Its probably 5 minutes of cooking and prep time longer than making eggrolls. Totally worth it.

So it turns out there's some other folks out there digging ditches so I guess we are all in this together. Today we worked on filling another downspout from the garage and also on a perpetually wet, low spot at the bottom of the hill. Luckily we were able to trolley several loads of gravel down in the cart pulled behind garden tractor that I'm forbidden to drive. But we are still pretty tired. We are supposed to get a lot of weather tonight/tomorrow so we'll see if our trenches are working.

One of the questions was "what do you do at the end of the trench?" Here's the end of one of our trenches, with Dog#1 for scale:
The drainage pipe will emerge here, and be above ground.

The theory is that, provided you are on a hill, you follow the desired slope with your trench until you get to a hillside. The trench ends at the point where the hillside meets your desired slope. Clear as mud? Of course, we are going to have to make provisions for this trench end. We need to make sure we aren't just creating a huge erosion problem.

For the last several weeks I've been watching a roadside project with a new big culvert. After they built the ditch and pipe to divert the water, they loaded up the slope where the culvert pipe emerges with big rocks. Then they filled in with regular gravel. We can do that. Or more likely we'll connect the drainage pipe with solid pipe and run it down the hill to where there is an actual gully.

Another question was about wrapping the perforated drainage pipe with that geotextile stuff (landscaping fabric). We researched and debated and thought about it and finally decided not to use it. The argument is that the fabric keeps the perforated pipe from getting filled up with silt and sand. The counter argument is that the gravel is really doing all the work.  We decided against the extra expense when we noticed that none of the farmers use anything but the black plastic perforated pipe when laying tile in their fields.

However, that doesn't mean its the right answer for everyone. For normal backyard projects I think its a good idea. But soil type and other factors will make the decision for your area and project.

We also realize that two days with a trencher and some gravel may not solve all our drainage problems. We aren't going to for the gold standard by any means, we just need to solve some immediate issues. So for heavens sakes if you are about to undertake digging your own ditches be sure to do your research. I thought this made it fairly simple and was a good explanation. And this guy made sense to me - but the ads on the site are pretty distracting.

But in the end I think that a lot of folks look at all the work that is required.... and then just decide to hire someone who knows what they are doing. Us? Well, we're doing what we can with what we have to work this. Until Santa brings me that tractor with the bucket on it, that is.

Happy Tuesday everyone! I'm hoping for rain so I can take a day off!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What work looks like

"Oh Lord, thank you for making me sturdy and not skinny."

The gravel pile and the tools of the day

I would have never made it thru today if I was one of them skinny gals, for sure.  I used to have someone in my life who was one of those girls. I always thought she needed a sandwich and she always thought I should put mine down. She had the thinnest arms I'd ever seen - I don't rightly know how she could even lift a fork. But she could throw back a martini or two...or five. She could have never done the work we did today and that's why my thanksgiving tonite is for my sturdy, but short, body. I can do a hard days work.

Truth be told, I might actually be shorter right now - such was my toil. We got a lot done but I'm gonna pay for it as this night wears on. At this writing (Sunday nite) I'm basically snorting Advil and have a straw in a bottle of Two Buck Chuck. If I live my only reward will be going out there and doing more shoveling tomorrow.

We got about half the trenching done on Saturday. With my innate ability - some may call it a superpower - to break anything mechanical I was prohibited from touching the rented trencher. So I was on gravel duty while The Big Man finished the trenching. We're doing all the gravel by hand. Me a shovel and the good ol' wheelbarrow.

The Big Man running the trencher across the front of the house and turkey house

Our goal is to fix the drainage problems with the property - to keep the water out of the basement and from flooding the yard. To do this we need to dig deep trenches, lay some of that black bendy pipe stuff (called tile), and fill in the trenches with gravel. One wheelbarrow load at a time. And then we gotta move all the dirt that we dug up.

This is what I did all stinkin' day - filled the trenches with gravel
I breezed thru the first ton of 57 limestone like it was a cake walk. The second ton was like hitting your stride in a marathon. The third tons was starting to burn...By the fourth ton the chickens were throwing water on me and yelling "Go! Go! Go!"  I was actually seeing stars and wondering why we didn't have a tractor with a bucket on it when I hit the fifth ton. By 5.5 tons I was wondering why we didn't have a freakin' tractor. At 5.75 tons I decided that the best course of action was for The Big Man to sell a kidney so we buy a freakin' tractor. About that point I passed out and the dogs drug me to safety.

See those lines in the side of the trench? Thats from the trencher - can you believe it?

I always suspected we had bad soil and it was confirmed thru my gardening experience and when I took in my soil sample to the county extension office. But this was unprecedented. It was like sawing thru concrete. All I'm sayin' is - this had better work.

Happy Monday everyone! Anyone else diggin' ditches?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What $400 worth of fun looks like...

Behold. Gravel....
Does that look like 15 tons to you?

I tell you the truth. I've spent way more money on way more stupid stuff and my confession to you is this... I love gravel. Diamonds? Nope. The only rocks I want are 57 limestone dumped in a big pile. Whooot!

A rare self portrait of a girl and her gravel

We have a couple drainage projects that we need to work on.  The gravel guy finally showed up this  morning. The Big Man is on his way to get a trencher. I'm strengthening myself by eating a pan of brownies and a huge brunch of root veggies and smoked duck. As soon as he gets back the shoveling will commence. Of course this would be much easier if we had a loader but we'll make do with a whole lot of hard work and swearing. My arms may be too tired to post tomorrow but today we shovel!

Happy Saturday everyone! Are you all having a glorious sunny fall day like we are? Wow!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Checkin' out the hams

Would you just look at those hams.... come on colder weather... I need me some bacon!

The pigz still have a few pumpkins.. I mean.. "gourds" from our free score the other day. Those pigz just loved 'em.

I don't know about you but I'm glad this full moon has passed. Hopefully things will start settling down out there in the barnyard. Zander was on a rampage but we think he's going to have a "growing" day here soon and sleep a lot.

The goaties all seem to be bred - they are getting deeper in the body and are complaining about everything. We are starting the process of drying them out. Let's face it - milking is only fun on a fresh spring day. Not when there is snow on the ground.

We have a couple drainage projects we need to work on so today is all about gravel. I'll be shoveling a lot of gravel today. 

Happy Friday everyone! Whatcha shoveling today?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Democracy, Chicken Guts, and Asteroids

Was yesterday a great day or what? We had it all - democracy, chicken guts, and asteroids.

Last of the leaves are hanging on...

First, it was our last nice day - sunny and 70*, baby! But its gonna try and snow by the end of the week so summer is official over. Then we ran right down and voted.

I love voting in a small town. As soon as we walked in one of the poll workers shouted "Hey! Its Medium Hot Fudge and Peanut Butter Shakes!"

It was the lady from the family run ice cream stand. The woman next to her leaned over and said, "Who?" The ice cream lady said, "That's Mr. and Mrs. The Big Man."

"Oh. You mean the one with the goat?"

I stood a little taller in my fame. The first thing we were told when we moved to this small town was not to tell anyone our business so's folks wouldn't talk. I immediately started making up wild tales just to watch the rumor mill churn. Some folks may have been led to believe that I'm ex-DEA and currently in witness protection. I don't know how they got that idea. (Ha!)

The full moon is coming on - keep an eye on the barnyard for malfeasance.

After that we loaded up at the feedstore we went home and took care of a couple troublesome roosters. I mean to do a post called "Life is too short for a mean rooster" but pretty much I can't keep a straight face and the whole thing degrades into a bunch of stupid jokes. But we had a couple mean roosters and I wasn't fixin' to feed them one more minute. So they are going to their glory in a pot of noodles. The hens cheered as that big light brahma mix got a good pluckin'. He dressed out beautifully. You can't go wrong with a big old coc... I mean.. rooster for the pot. *snicker*

And then we all survived "Asteroid Near Miss 2011." Thank heaven. Me and the dogs went out to watch the going's on but pretty much all we saw where a bunch of stars. At one point we thought we saw something but it turned out to be an airplane. Defeated, we all just went back into the house.

That's the doin's here. We have a couple hours before the rain comes on. Heaven knows I need an inside day but we are about to run right out and rake up as many leaves as we can for the compost pile.

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Did anyone actually see Asteroid 2005 YU55?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm voting for....


Firmly in the category of "It never hurts to ask..." Wow! I got two shopping carts full of pumpkins at the grocery store yesterday. For FREE!

As I walked in I noticed two carts full of various and sundry gourds, pumpkins, and squash. They obviously didn't belong there so I moseyed over to the Customer Service Desk and asked if they were giving them away? The "customer service" person sneered at me and told me I was out of my mind (in not so many words). So I moved on..

And then I saw the produce guy. "Say friend, what's with the carts of pumpkins out there?" I casually asked.

"Well, they are gourds and they are free."

I tried to to remain calm and then asked, "Really?  Can I have them....all?"

Completely unconcerned he just said, "Yep. Take them all."

Of course my eyes bugged right out of my head because:

1. They were FREE. Two shopping carts worth!

2. I was a little dubious of a produce guy who didn't know the difference between a stupid gourd and prize winning, pie making blue hubbard squash!

But I wasn't about to correct him so I ran right out there and pushed the carts over to the big truck and loaded them all up.

Talk about a great day! Not only did a score several free meals for them pigs - I also now have a huge supply of seeds just for the scooping. Not to mention I have some fabulous blue hubbard squash that have "pie" written all over them. What could be better?

I'll tell you what's better...... the puppy is so darn cute. Check him out sitting in the sunshine:

So is everyone voting? Doesn't matter what side you're on, get right out there.  Don't think for a second that your vote doesn't count. Take the time to stop by your local polling place and cast your vote.  If anything you're making it known that We The People want to be heard.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Great Escape: Nicholas's Hard Day #6

I tell you the truth, I am good in a crisis. Its a family trait.  My people are all handy in the face of adversity, calamity, or general mayhem.

We don't flap, flinch, or stand there gawking when action is required. And I'm bossy so that helps too.  I tend to think quickly and I figured out a long time ago that people respond if you talk fast and with authority. So if you find yourself in a crisis, I'm the kind of person you want running up on the scene evaluating the situation, barking orders and springing to action.


So there I was fresh from town where I had lunch with my pal, L. last week. I was ambling along out to close the gate,  happy as could be. Until....I heard before I saw our inside-only cat, Nicholas. Outside. In the yard. Yowling and coming right to me.

I completely freaked out.

Not "oh golly would you look at that" or "wow how'd that happen"....I mean to tell you I completely became unglued and started screaming hysterically. And I did absolutely everything wrong for that situation. Not only was I screaming hysterically but I started running at him. A cat. I can tell you this for a fact, no cat will ever come to anyone who is screaming at them.  Least of all if they are screaming and running right at them.

Especially if there are three huge dogs and a puppy also running right at them. Nicholas took off like a shot. It was total chaos. There was running and a lot more screaming.  And then even more running and screaming while carrying a puppy. It was so bad that Dog#1 practically had to shake me by the shoulders and slap me to get me to pull myself together.

At one point I actually ran into the house and started screaming for Nicholas just in case there happened to be another distinctively marked 18 pound Maine coon x raccoon in the county - and our Nicholas was actually in the house. He wasn't and that was no impostor outside.  I ran, screaming, back outside. This time without the puppy.

Just to add a little color to this discussion, the inside cats never go outside. Ever. There are a lot of reasons for this - coyotes, disease, that mean gander. So the last time any of the inside cats were actually outside was the second before I scooped them up and saved them from a life of vagrancy. In fact, I had just smirkily told our Good Vet that our inside cats never EVER go outside. I was very proud of myself. Until.. you know.. there was Nicholas out in the yard.

Meanwhile, outside, the hens had started to gather to watch the fracas. After a couple laps around the garage Nicholas darted under the big sliding door. I locked down all the doors and ran into the garage just in time to see the barncats, Shine and Bobbi, corner him.

Nicholas dove for cover behind the haybales and promptly got wedged in between the hay and the wall. Stuck. Like a cork. A screaming, growling, hissing hell bent on killing someone or something cork...that is, if he could have gotten free. But he was stuck.

All kidding aside, Nicholas is pretty big. And fiesty. I've had a cat bite before and I know they can be nasty business. So I really wasn't looking forward to reaching into the blender that was a huge hysterical cat wedged in a dark and scary place.

Having regained some command of my facilities I turned to reason and decided to ratchet it down a few clicks. I started talking to the enormous frightened cat in my singsong voice. He stopped yowling when I sang "...and I'll give you all the tuna in the world if you just calm down...."  That got his attention.

I reached in and pulled the great cat free. And ran with him directly into the house.

Of course I did the obvious "next step" which was to call up The Big Man at work and scream at him hysterically. Then hang up. We all felt much better after that. Being a brave man he called back in about an hour to make sure everyone was OK. We were.

After the promised tuna I carefully checked Nicholas all over for bites or scratches. In truth, he probably was just out laying in the sun in the garden. He was fine but I kept him in the bedroom for a while just to make sure.

However once Nicholas figured out that a dramatic performance leads to more tuna he really worked it. Several cans of "the finest white albacore money can buy" later he stretched out his great frame and went to sleep. That's the way Nicholas.... sleep there on the comfy bed and dream no more of the Whole Wide World. All the activity made for a hard day indeed. The sixth of such.

Nicholas's Hard Day #1
Nicholas's Hard Day #2
Nicholas's Hard Day #3
Nicholas's Hard Day #4
Nicholas's Hard Day #5
Nicholas's Hard Day #6 
Nicholas's Hard Day #7
Nicholas's Hard Day#8
Nicholas's Hard Day #9 
Nicholas's Hard Day #10
 Happy Monday everyone! Now, who can top that hard day?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Duck Eggrolls. Fill it. Roll it. Fry it up in a pan.

Can you believe you can make eggrolls AT HOME? Just like this? Duck eggrolls? For heavens sakes.

One thing that is sorely lacking in The Flyover is good international fare. Sure you can get the best fried or broasted chicken in the world - but real Chinese food? Forget it. And no, that crap they serve in the mall isn't real Chinese food. Coming from the West Coast where you can get all the dim sum or black bean chicken you can carry... the total lack of good quality Thai, Chinese, or Japanese food just about makes me weep. Don't even get me started on sushi from the Kroger.

So basically I've been hungry for eggrolls for about 6 years. Sitting there reading my pal D's new blog - my source for 'how to' make all kinds of ethnic food - it occurred to me that an eggroll would be the best place for my pile of shredded duck meat. I went to Kroger and paid $2.99 for eggroll wrappers and branded myself as some kind of wacko by the checker.

Then I went home, cleared off the counters, prepared all my cooking implements, took a deep breath, and sat down to research the intricacies of making eggrolls at home. I was stunned. Pretty much this is it:

Fill it.

Roll it.

Fry it up in a pan.

That's it. No big ordeal, no special equipment, no 3 days of prep. That's it. I stood there slack jawed and buggy eyed. Here I've been denied the subtle flavors of eggroll goodness for six freakin' years - and that was it!?!

I got to work. I loosely used this recipe - except who would ruin a perfectly good eggroll with water chestnuts (blech!).

My list of ingredients was this:

* shredded duck (from the other nite)
* shredded cabbage
* a shredded carrot
* a little minced garlic.

I stir fried it all together until the cabbage was a little wilted. Then I slapped out one of them wrappers on my work surface, plopped a small scoop of the filling on the wrapper, and rolled as instructed on the back of the wrapper package. A quick brush of water to seal it and voila. That was it.

Of course I used tallow melted in a frying pan - just enough to cover the bottom. Then I fried 'em up a couple at a time and let them dry on paper towels.

They were heavenly. The duck added a richness that played off the snappiness of the cabbage. When the duck filling was gone we used ham. We ate them all in two sittings. And they are so quick to make! And so fun. Who wouldn't want to make eggrolls at home?

The local Kroger is gonna have to order more eggroll wrappers. We're about to march out there and get a bigger pile of duck - if you know what I mean - and then there will be eggrolls for all my friends!

Happy Saturday everyone! Now run right out and get you some eggroll wrappers! Now if I can only figure out how to make a proper pad see ew......

Friday, November 4, 2011

Free Advice

Here's some free advice for ya.....

If, after unloading a ton of gravel each for two days in a row....then pulling huge weeds all afternoon..... don't mash and pack sauerkraut all afternoon. It just makes your arms hurt. I can't even type today.

So here is some Friday cute - my two curly tailed pups being very very good.  By the way... we took Zander to the vet earlier this week. That little lump on the floor weighs 18 pounds. He's gonna be a king-sized dog for sure.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Roast Duck for a Happy Birthday

I know that bad food photography is a sin (the lighting in my kitchen is just terrible) but I just gotta show you what's cookin' here....

Prep is just cutting up some veggies, put in the oven, and that is all there is too it.

We are still in duck heaven around here. Yesterday I fixed up a roast duck that is perfect for a birthday celebration. Who's birthday? Our pal D, from the Gastronomic Gardener!  Unfortunately, he lives hours away so it was a virtual party - so we got all the food! By the way - has everyone seen his great new site? Wow what an inspiration!  And check out the food pix done right. I love D's approach - he's a regular guy with a job and family but he uses every inch of his in-city yard to grow fabulous produce. Then he cooks it up in a pan, deliciously.

There has been a rumor since the '70s that duck is greasy and hard to fix. Nothing could be further from the truth. This approachable roast duck is easy peasy and almost entirely hands free. I got this recipe from my pal Bourbon Red who really knows how to set out a supper fit for a king.

First, go and get your duck. If they aren't out there in the yard then check the freezer section of your grocery store.  Salt the duck inside and out and flop it into a baking pan. You should also prick the skin (not into the meat) all over so the fat can drain out.

Next, cut up some veggies. I used onions, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then add in some fruit - you heard me fruit - pears, apples, prunes if you got 'em. I used dried mission figs. Pile the fruit and veggies all around the duck - and put an onion or whatever you got inside the cavity. Then spice it up the whole mess with thyme and marjoram - a few hearty grindings of pepper and voila. That's it.

Here's the trick to roasting it... low and slow for a couple hours. I know. Can you believe it? Just have your oven heated to 275-300* and leave it be for a 2 or 3 hours depending on the size of the duck. Mine took about 2.5 hours.  When one of the legs wiggled easily I took it out. At first I was so disappointed!  I was sure I'd over cooked it. But nope. This foolproof method will get you an entirely cooked duck with very little chance of messing it up. The meat was tender and delicious and the veggies were out of this world.

Tender and delicious...and oh the veggies...

Normally I like duck rare - like a steak. But this easy peasy method had me sold by the first bite. I'll try more complicated cooking techniques in the future but I'm coming back to this prize winning preparation for sure.

As I sat down to this superb supper (and was promptly surrounded by a bunch of over interested cats....) I raised a glass to my pal D.... to a good health, good gardening, and a very Happy Birthday!

Happy Thursday everyone! Now get out there and find yourself a duck to roast!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

That's one crazy parsnip

Vegetables.  Some of them are crazy.  What are you gonna do?

Happy Wednesday Everyone!
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