After experiencing the most lovely, cool spring I can remember (God truly is gracious in our time of need) I believe summer has arrived. The first clue is that everyone in the house is “dewy” by early afternoon, except David who is generally drenched and salt encrusted. Temperatures have been in the mid 90’s, but that’s better than 110.
As many of you know I’ve struggled lately with concentrating well enough to make good, informative single subject posts. When I first started blogging my posts were often filled with snippets of what was going on here and there on our homestead, much like my journal is (was?). I believe you may see more of this type of post for a while. I admit to feeling a tad guilty when I don’t post wonderful picture-filled tutorials, but I suspect that points to a bit of pride and competitiveness with the other wonderful homestead bloggers out there and that’s something I don’t want to encourage in myself. So, expect to see quite a few multi-topic posts, hopefully more in the example of Herrick Kimball’s Deliberate Agrarian blog when he was only posting once monthly than just incoherent rambling.
The Garden. . .
Not particularly impressive right now, but again God in His providence has done some planting for us. David counted, I believe, 30-something volunteer tomato plants in last year’s tomato patch. Another garden sprouted quite a few turnips, from which we’ll save seed for the fall. Also there is volunteer wheat in the yard (we mow around it like little grain islands) along with volunteer rye and oats that probably came out of bales of hay and chicken scratch. We’ll save seed from all of these. The things we actually got planted are suffering a bit, but we continue to pray for rain. There is a good sized potato patch, a good sized corn patch, a weedy couple of rows of chard and collards and a 1/10th acre or so patch of mixed southern peas, sorghum, sunflowers and watermelon. Yesterday the UPS man brought 500 sweet potato slips, of which we’ll plant about half in the next couple of days and the rest will go to our friends John Henry and Carla in eastern Oklahoma. By now it’s time to start thinking towards a fall garden, but we’ll go ahead and plant okra, peppers, tomatoes and squash and hope for a late enough freeze to get a good harvest on these warm-season vegetables.
Our two does, Lemmie and Rosie, are collectively producing around 2 gallons a day. We had 5 kids this spring, 4 bucklings and a doeling. The doeling is part of Lemmie’s set of triplets and we’ll keep her at least a year or so as a potential milker. At 4 months she’ll already get up on the stanchion and allow us to work with her little udder. Of the 4 bucklings the nicest went with a local homesteading friend and the other 3 are slated for “kitchen duty.”
Our rabbits have been very productive with a litter of 9 almost ready for butchering, a younger litter of 5 and a new litter of 5. Here is one of the very best rabbit recipes I’ve ever found and is a hit even with skeptics:
Rabbit Stew With Coconut Cream (allrecipes.com) paraphrased by me
Cut a young rabbit in to serving pieces. Brown in 1/4 cup oil. Transfer to a soup pot, stove top casserole, etc. In the browning skillet fry 1 large chopped onion, 1 green and 1 red bell pepper seeded and sliced into strips and 1 bird’s eye chile seeded and minced. Cook and stir until the onion is transparent. Transfer to the pan containing the rabbit. Add 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped, 1 3/4 cups chicken stock, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper, bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat for about 2 hours. Remove the rabbit pieces and keep warm. Increase the heat under the pan and boil the liquid down by half. Stir in 2/3 cup cream of coconut and return the rabbit to the pan. Heat through and serve over rice.
I am a believer that cooking is one of those wonderful melds of both science and art and to learn to cook well involves learning to improvise. Here are some of my improvisations for this recipe, based on what was in the pantry and what wasn’t in the garden.
- Replace fresh tomato with a can or jar of diced tomatoes, draining them and and incorporating the juice into the quantity of chicken stock.
- Replace fresh peppers with dried peppers or even course ground sweet paprika. Add a little Tabasco if more heat is desired.
- Use whatever fresh peppers you have, noting that the bulk of the peppers called for are sweet with a bit of hot pepper added for bite.
- Add green onion tops during the final warm up to replace the green of the missing fresh peppers visually.
- Coconut cream can be either the canned kind or the dried kind. Packets of dried coconut cream are available at many Asian markets and are a wonderful storage item. The reconstituted cream isn’t too sweet and the the packets seem to last forever even in less than ideal storage conditions. I like closer to 1 cup of coconut cream in the recipe and you’ll be surprised at how subtle the flavor is.
- 1 teaspoon salt might be a bit much so season to your own tastes.
- This recipe could as easily be stewed in the oven as on the stovetop, except for the final reduction of the gravy. An afternoon in a good solar oven would be another option.
Our chickens are laying well. Our flock consists of a group of one-year-old hens and a group of almost three-old-hens. We’re not getting as many eggs daily as we have hens (not unusual) but we have come up with a way to identify the layers to prepare for the inevitable culling. We use small, bright colored zip ties as leg bands to identify various characteristics in our birds and some birds get multiple bands. Black is for the old girls. Blue is for layers. Pink is for proven brooders. The zip ties stay in the hen house along with a pair of scissors for trimming off the long ends so we are ready when we catch a questionable hen on the nest laying to mark her as a layer. One of our two banty hens has gone broody and has 9 eggs due to hatch in a little more than a week. The little Silver Duckwing Old English Game Bantam (what a mouthful!) rooster that she’s penned with has been interestingly protective of her as she sits (sets?).
David has started building the last section of deck that surrounds the new cabin addition and will lead to a step down into the summer kitchen deck. He’s scheduled for shoulder surgery next week, so the entire project won’t be complete until fall but the deck should be done in a few days. We moved our vintage Maytag Dutch Oven stove onto the summer kitchen deck and I guess now while he recuperates David will talk me through framing the summer kitchen walls and we’ll top it with a tarp until we can finish it with a real roof, half walls and wrap around screening. Yesterday grandson Oran, who’s 9, was introduced to the cutting torch and the welder. I thought he did a fine job on a sort of modernistic sculpture thing-y and I believe I’ll commission him to build me a set or two of rustic bookends.
I’m glad to be back, my friends. Thank you all for your generous support.