Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Exploring Edible Flowers, and our Memorial Day weekend food fest

Our friend Crystal spent the holiday weekend with us, and loves natural "whole" food as much as we do. On Friday, Darrell made his fabulous Stir-Fried Rice with chunks of ham from one of the Berkshires, carrots, peas, and substituted chives and chive blossoms for the normal white onion. 


While obtaining the chive blossoms for the stir fry, we were observing and investigating other herbs. The thyme is blooming as well, and we discovered what look like flower bud stalks on the sage. Crystal is an inveterate Internet researcher, so when we got back into the house, she looked up sage blossoms and discovered a delightful site all about "edible flowers", which include chive blossoms, sage blossoms, thyme blossoms, dandelions and many others, including one of my favorite wild flowers, the beautiful little johnny-jump-up. Here's an interesting site to investigate should you be interested in flowers as part of cooking. You may be surprised about what's listed there!

On Saturday, we finally got our act together and went out and got a new grill to replace the one that was wrecked as a result of last summer's tornado (that's right - only as a "result of", not "during" - it survived the tons of elm wood that thundered down on the roofs and deck somehow, only to be taken out by the roofers shoving shingles off the upper story during repair - splat!). Anyway, we got a grill that will burn lump charcoal and do direct grilling or indirect cooking/smoking, and we felt the need to inaugurate it. We grilled some NY strip steaks, red potatoes and asparagus from the garden. Quite yummy!




Sunday found us cooking lamb chops, more asparagus (close to the end of the season, I'm afraid!), and frozen corn from the garden last year. Sunday also we prep'd for Memorial Day feasting - deviled eggs from our hens, eggs cooked for making potato salad on Monday, plus Darrell did a cooked custard base and made homemade French Vanilla ice cream and an angel food cake. (Hey, if you make that ice cream, you use a dozen egg yolks . . . you gotta do something with the egg whites, right?)



Monday, the potato salad went together with redskin potatoes, carrots, celery, white onion, a little more of those great chive blossoms, dill, homemade mayo, yellow mustard, and some seasonings. I had thawed out one of our chickens, and about 5 p.m. that went on the cooker/smoker shelf in the new grill. We're still learning about "best practices" with this new grill, so some adaptations and adjustments had to be made to the original plan, but we had thought it would take about 2 hours, and it took only a little more. Fabulous flavor! The ice cream and cake were dessert - we all felt stuffed to the gills.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Piggies love the mud!

It's a good thing they do, because the rest of us are heartily sick of it. We opened up a new pasture area this weekend for the feeder pigs, as they had turned their previous area into nothing but mud because of all the rain and the fact that pigs root constantly. So yesterday, our friend Crystal, who is staying with us for the holiday weekend, took these photos of them turned out on new grass - note the area they'd already started turning up! One of the piggies came over to investigate her boot.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Once again, pickled asparagus!

Put up several jars of pickled asparagus tonight - we loved it so much, we hope to put up more this year than last . . . see post from last year for info and a link to the recipe.

I cut the sugar in half this year, as we found the original recipe a little too sweet. Hopefully, I didn't cut too much out! I also remembered that the recipe did not provide quite enough pickling liquid for the jars, so I doubled it. I got three jars instead of two, but my liquid was nearly gone. So increase the recipe amounts on everything.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spring has finally sprung - asparagus, strawberries, garden prep & dandelions

Here in West Michigan we are finally getting spring-like weather . . . everything seems to be running a few weeks behind the norm . . . the swallows came back later than usual, asparagus started coming in a week or two after the norm, garden was too wet to till until last week . . .

However, we had asparagus, some pork loin, and then strawberry shortcake for supper last night. The berries were from 2010 . . . our strawberry patch had to be replanted this year, so we won't be harvesting our own. And the asparagus patch is in serious need of weeding - the aftermath of the tornado last summer totally interfered with available time to keep on top of that, and I think some of the crowns have been choked out and will need to be replaced.

Oh, and spring has also brought the dandelions out in force - I don't believe I have ever seen such healthy, huge flowers - most of these measure at least 2.25" across, and a few are 3" in diameter! Yowza! Wish they stayed pretty like this and didn't end up blowing away, leaving those ugly, naked stalks behind . . . dandelion wine, anyone?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Barn Swallows are back!

Early this past week, the first week of May, the barn swallows finally returned. They come back every year between mid-April and early May. This year, the cold probably kept them away, as there were no insects to feed on. They are busy swooping and capturing mosquitos and flies and whatever else they come across. They help us so much on insect control, it is unbelievable. We used to be swarmed with mosquitos whenever and wherever we went outside. Now, the swallows and the bats keep them under control.

There are a number of pairs that come here every year, and they're busy exploring all the existing nests, refurbishing or building new ones. Soon, we'll have cute baby swallows like these peering over the edges of nests looking at us down below . . . love those little faces - like little alien beings, somehow!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Photos of spring on the farm!

Finally got some decent weather - not raining, sun out - so I took some photos of some of our new feeder pigs, the three piglets born to one of our sows, and our flock of ewes with their lambs enjoying grass and sunshine!